May 07 2012
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Political Comment (7 May 2012)
Political Comment (7 May 2012)
In Egypt, the salafist (and sizeable) Al Nour party has decided to back the presidential campaign of independent 'Abd al-Mun'im Abu al-Futuh. The UN has given Sudan and South Sudan three months to resolve their differences. Senior Israeli intelligence and military officials are challenging Prime Minister Benjamin Natanyahu's apocalyptic Iranian nuclear scenario. The island of Abu Musa is once again at the heart of a row between Iran and the GCC.
Nour Backs Futuh
As official campaigning gets under way in what is expected to be the first round of Egypt's presidential elections on 23-24 May, the prospects of maverick Islamist candidate 'Abd al-Mun'im Abu al-Futuh, who quit the Ikhwan al-Muslimin (Muslim Brotherhood) last year to run as an independent, were given a major boost when the Salafist al-Nour party, whose own candidate was disqualified in April, decided to swing its considerable electoral clout – it won nearly 25% of the vote in last year's parliamentary elections – behind him rather than the Ikhwan's official candidate, Muhammad Mursi. According to Yasur Burhami, a senior member of the religious group the Salafi Call, on 28 April, "the Salafi Call has decided by majority vote to back 'Abd al-Mun'im Abu al-Futuh in the presidential elections. The Nour Party, the political wing of the Salafi Call, has also voted to back al-Futuh." A spokesman for Nour said the next day that "we see him as the most appropriate person for this period. He does not belong to any party and he adheres to principles and the project of Islamic civilization to a great extent. We will only pick someone who is the best for leading Egypt, even if we disagree with him in some ideological matters." Whatever the Salafists' motives and calculations, it looks (in the absence of anything resembling a reliable poll) as if their decision means that the election is now essentially a three man race between Mr Futuh, Mr Mursi and former foreign minister 'Amr Musa, and it is anyone's guess who will go through to the second round run-off – assuming no candidate receives 50% or more of the vote in the first round – in June. In the meantime, it would probably be as well to remember that Egyptian democracy is still very much a work in progress and that the powers of the presidency and its relationship to parliament (not to mention the armed forces) is still being decided by the Ikhwan-dominated committee which is supposed to be writing a new constitution.
UN Steps In In Sudan
Israel's Apocalyptic Nuclear Scenario Under Fire
The response from defense Minister Ehud Barak the next day was to reiterate the official line that Iranian leaders are not "rational in the western sense of the word – connoting the quest for status quo and the peaceful resolution of problems," and that to believe otherwise "borders on blindness or irresponsibility." This in turn appears to have provoked an extraordinary ad hominem attack on both Mr Barak and Mr Netanyahu by the former head of Israel's Shin Bet domestic intelligence service, Yuval Diskin. "I have no faith in the prime minister, nor in the defense minister," Mr Diskin said on 28 April. "I really don't have faith in a leadership that makes decisions out of messianic feelings." Specifically, "they're creating a false impression about the Iranian issue. They're appealing to the stupid public, if you'll pardon me for the phrasing, and telling them that if Israel acts there won't be an (Iranian) nuclear bomb… I have seen them up close. They are not messiahs, the two of them, and they are not people who I personally, at least, trust to be able to lead Israel into an event on such a scale, and to extricate it."
Ahmadinejad Visits Abu Musa
An 11 April visit to the tiny island of Abu Musa in the Gulf near the Strait of Hormuz by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad once again escalated a low-intensity but apparently insoluble dispute between Iran and the UAE and by extension the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) as a whole. Abu Musa, along with the even smaller islands of Greater and Lesser Tunb, is claimed by both the UAE and Iran and has been occupied by Iran since 1971, and the dispute is a regular feature of the GCC''s annual summit communiqués. However Mr Ahmadinejad's visit,, the first by an Iranian president, has elicited more than the usual restatement of the UAE's claim from the Saudi Interior Minister, Prince Nayif ibn 'Abd al-'Aziz, who linked it with the disturbances in Bahrain as an infringement on the security of the GCC as a whole. Speaking to a meeting of GCC ministers in Riyadh on 2 May, Prince Nayif condemned Iran's "occupation" of Abu Musa and its role in events in Bahrain, adding that "we stress that Saudi Arabia and the rest of the council countries are standing in unified line with Bahrain and the UAE to protect sovereignty and stability, considering their security as part of the council's security as a whole."
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