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July 31, 2012 Inquiry & Analysis Series No. 864

Mursi's Ascension To Egyptian Presidency: Reactions In Arab, Muslim World

July 31, 2012 | By H. Varulkar
Egypt | Inquiry & Analysis Series No. 864

Introduction

The Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood (MB) and its braches around the Arab world rejoiced in the election of the MB candidate, Muhammad Mursi, as Egypt's new president. The MB celebrated his election as a victory for the movement and as a validation of the rightness of its struggle and its course, and drew encouragement for its future activity. This sentiment was largely shared by the Syrian opposition, which has been fighting Assad's regime for a year and a half, and saw Mursi's victory as heralding its own.

Conversely, some of the Arab regimes in the Gulf, especially those of Saudi Arabia and the UAE, which have long-standing ideological and political differences with the MB, viewed Musri's victory with considerable apprehension. Their chief concerns are that the Egyptian MB might try to export its revolution to their territory; that local MB activists in the Gulf may be encouraged by it; and that an MB-led Egypt may draw close to the resistance axis headed by Iran. In Saudi Arabia, these concerns were expressed in harsh articles against the MB in the local press. However, the Gulf states know that they need Egypt as a strategic ally and partner in leading the Arab world; hence, they are evidently trying to turn over a new leaf in their relations with the MB, in order to preserve the historical alliance with Egypt.

Jordan, which for over a year and a half has seen a wave of protests by the MB-headed opposition in demand of reforms, likewise viewed Mursi's victory with concern, fearing an increase in the protests on its own soil and in the protesters' demands. King 'Abdallah hurried to take a series of measures to pacify the Jordanian MB, in a bid to prevent an exacerbation of the crisis between the movement and the regime.

Qatar, which has used Al-Jazeera TV to encourage the Arab spring revolutions in the Middle East and especially in Egypt, and which is notable in its support of the MB, reacted to Mursi's election with exuberance. If, during the Mubarak era, Qatar competed with Egypt for leadership of the region, today, following the MB's victory, its press is celebrating Egypt's return to a position of regional dominance.

As for the Iranian regime, it initially tried to persuade its public that MB-led Egypt was adopting the Islamic model of Iran, and hoped it would join Iran in an alliance against the Saudi-led Arab camp and the West. However, once it became clear that the Egyptian MB had no intention of emulating Iran or joining its axis, the Iranian press started to attack Mursi and present him as a collaborator with the West.

I. The MB Across The Arab World: We Have Entered A New Era

Branches of the MB across the Arab world celebrated Mursi's victory with an outburst of joy. They saw it as a triumph for their movement, which, since its founding in 1928, has usually been in the opposition, or worse: in many countries, the movement was outlawed and its members persecuted and jailed. With the announcement of Mursi's victory, celebrations broke out in Gaza and in the major cities of Jordan, Lebanon, the UAE, Morocco, Algeria, Mauritania, and many other countries. Marches and rallies were held, with shots fired in the air and sweets handed out in the streets and mosques.[1] The leaders of the MB movements congratulated Mursi and the Egyptian people, and the Arab and Muslim nation as a whole, on this "historical victory", which they described as the beginning of a brand new era.

Yousef Al-Qaradhawi: "This Is A [Great] Day For Allah"

Prominent Sheikh Yousef Al-Qaradhawi, head of the International Union of Muslim Scholars (IUMS), who is considered a prominent spiritual leader of the MB, congratulated Mursi and urged him to enact broad reforms in Egypt leading to "a comprehensive awakening [nahda] with a pure Islamic source of authority."[2] After attending Mursi's June 30, 2012 inauguration ceremony at Cairo University, Al-Qaradhawi said: "This is a [great] day for Allah... in which truth has triumphed over falsehood, and Allah has given Egypt an Egyptian leader who believes in Him and in His people."[3]

Hamas: This Is The Dawning Of A New Age, And A Defeat For The Plan Of Normalization With The Enemy

Hamas's top officials, led by Khaled Mash'al and Isma'il Haniya, likewise congratulated Mursi on his victory. Mahmoud Al-Zahhar spoke of "a historic moment and a great triumph, a new age in the history of Egypt that will correct [the mistakes of] the last 40 years, and a defeat for the plan of normalization with the enemy..."[4] Hamas Prime Minister Isma'il Haniya said: "It's time the [Muslim and Arab] nation took its rightful place as a leader of nations. Palestine will remain the shield protecting Egypt's eastern border..."[5]

Columnists in the Palestinian press devoted many articles to the implications of the MB's rise to power, and many of them spoke of Mursi with praise. Faiz Abu Shamala, a columnist on the Hamas website, wrote: "Dr. Muhammad Mursi, you are the elected president of the Palestinian people. In fact, you are the elected president of all the Arabs..."[6]


Haniya in celebration march following announcement of Mursi's victory[7]

Syrian MB Congratulates Mursi; Syrian National Council: His Victory Spells Hope For The Syrian People

The general supervisor of the MB in Syria, Muhammad Riyadh Al-Shaqfa, published a communiqué congratulating Mursi on his win. The Turkey-based Syrian National Council (SNC), which is the central organ of the Syrian opposition and which includes many members of the Syrian MB, also issued a congratulatory statement, saying: "[The] choice [of Mursi for president] is a resounding victory for the Egyptian people and the Egyptian revolution. It is one of the most important fruits of the Arab spring, and a great source of hope for the rebelling Syrian people... This choice means that Egypt, with its great nation, its historical value, and its political prominence that has now been restored, will be a pillar of support for the Syrian people, which is facing a war of oppression and extermination..."[8]

Jordanian MB: Mursi's Victory – A Moral Boost For Jordanians Demanding Reform

MB officials in Jordan, led by the movement's general supervisor, Dr. Hammam Sa'id, celebrated Mursi's election, and announced that a 100-member delegation from the movement would visit Egypt to congratulate him.[9] Dr. Hammam Sa'id called Mursi's election "a victory for all the Arab and Muslim countries," and his deputy, Zaki Bani Arshid, called it "the beginning of a momentous and profound turning point in the history of the nation," adding that "liberation from domestic tyranny heralds liberation from external imperialism."[10]

Mursi's victory was a shot in the arm for the Jordanian MB's struggle to promote reforms in Jordan – including restrictions on the authorities of the king – which has been ongoing for over 18 months. Zaki Bani Arshid said that Mursi's victory "might be a moral boost for those demanding reform in the kingdom," while clarifying that the MB does not mean to ratchet up its demands.[11] Hamza Mansour, secretary-general of the MB's Islamic Action Front party, said: "The Muslim nation regards Egypt as spearheading the transition to a new [stage]... in which the nation... will seize back its stolen rights... [Mursi's] victory is resounding proof that, when the entire people agrees on [the need for] reform and change, and when the [various popular] forces unite around a comprehensive national program, [the people] can take back its role as the source of authority..." Mansour said further that "the mighty Egyptian people is a [source of] inspiration for the masses of the [Muslim] nation..."[12]

Columnist In Jordanian MB Daily: "Oh Regimes, The MB Is Coming"

Articles in Al-Sabil, the daily of the MB in Jordan, attacked the Jordanian regime for its continued hostility towards the movement. In an article titled "Oh Regimes, the MB Is Coming," columnist Taisir Al-Ghoul described the persecution suffered by the Egyptian MB for many decades, and asked: "Will the results of the election in Egypt be a lesson for those [Arab] regimes that still survive and continue to show hostility to the MB...? Will the Egyptian people's election [of Mursi] encourage them to draw closer to the MB...?" He added: "It is time for the regimes to accept their fate and reassess their popularity among [the people]... We all understand that change is possible, and that a leader who chooses a peaceful [resolution] will surely save himself from the threat of elimination rapidly sweeping [through our countries] called 'the Arab spring'..."[13]

Another Al-Sabil columnist, 'Omar Al-'Ayasra, likewise condemned the Jordanian regime, which, he said, "has not yet realized the scope and nature of the changes that are happening in the region." He added: "It is time the [Jordanian] regime realized and recognized that the world has changed and that the peoples' will is the deciding [factor]..."[14]

Al-Jama'a Al-Islamiyya In Lebanon: Mursi's Victory Will Boost Our Status

The branch of the MB in Lebanon is called Al-Jama'a Al-Islamiyya. A member of its political bureau, Hajj 'Omar Al-Masri, predicted that Mursi's election would improve the movement's standing in Lebanon, which would serve as a liaison between the two countries.[15] Lebanese columnists and analysts expressed a similar belief, and predicted that in Lebanon's next parliamentary elections, slated for 2013, this movement will win more than the one seat it currently holds.[16] According to reports, Al-Jama'a Al-Islamiyya has decided, on the recommendation of the General Guide of the global MB, Muhammad Badi', to expand its membership and to establish a party ahead of the 2013 elections, and to act towards gathering more support.[17]

Al-Nahda Movement In Tunisia Congratulates The MB While Urging It To Avoid Monopolizing Power

Rashid Al-Ghannushi, chairman of Tunisia's Al-Nahda movement, which won the majority of seats in the country's October 2011 parliamentary elections, attended Mursi's inauguration ceremony in Tahrir Square and even gave a speech there. At the end of his visit, he said that "the rapprochement between the new Egyptian regime and the Tunisian regime is natural" because both regimes were the fruit of revolution. Moreover, he said, both "emanate from the people and [reflect] its identity, and both represent moderate movements."[18]

In an interview with the Egyptian daily Al-Ahram, Al-Ghannushi congratulated Mursi, but called on the Egyptian MB to find a model that would include all the political forces in Egypt and prevent the movement from monopolizing the revolution.[19] It should be mentioned that on June 9, 2012, about a week before the second round of elections in Egypt, Al-Ghannushi met with MB officials in Egypt and again urged them to reach understandings with all the political forces in the country, a call which aroused considerable resentment.[20]

Satisfaction was also expressed by the branches of the MB in other parts of North Africa.[21]

II. Reactions In Saudi Arabia: Concern Alongside Calls To Give The MB A Chance

The Saudi king and government congratulated Mursi and the Egyptian people,[22] but the formal greetings could not hide the Saudi concern and the years-long rivalry between the sides. The revolution in Egypt unsettled Saudi Arabia, which fears that it has lost its ally in leading the Arab world and in opposing Iran, and also that a revolution so close to home increases the chances of unrest within its own borders. The tension was exacerbated when the MB, which has long-standing ideological and political disagreements with Saudi Arabia and which had already risen to power in several Arab countries following the Arab spring revolutions, won the majority of seats in the Egyptian parliament, and later the Egyptian presidency.

Saudi Arabia's apprehensions were clearly reflected in numerous articles published in the Saudi press, which, following Mursi's victory, directed harsh criticism at the MB movement. Some Saudi columnists predicted a bleak future for Egypt and the region as a whole, for example Al-Sharq Al-Awsat editor Tariq Alhomayed, who said the region had entered a dangerous phase.[23] Others described the MB as a movement of opportunists, who crave absolute power and will do anything to achieve it, including harming and exploiting Islam. Yet others warned that the MB might join forces with Saudi Arabia's chief rival, Iran. Some attacked the U.S. as responsible for the MB's rise to power.[24]

For The Opportunist MB, Power Is The End And Islam Is Just A Means

Columnist Muhammad bin 'Abd al-Latif Aal Al-Sheikh wrote in the Saudi daily Al-Jazirah: "According to the [MB's] creed, revolution and democracy are just a 'ladder' or a means to reach the top, and once they reach it, they will break the ladder in order to keep the top to themselves. That is what Khomeini did in Iran, what Hamas did in Gaza, and what I predict the MB will do in Egypt...[25] In another article, he wrote that for the MB, "political interest is the end, while religion is only the means... They take from Islam [only] what suits their momentary political needs. When faith and interests clash, they disregard Islam... changing the faith and manipulating it, because their goal is to [attain] power... Once [they] attain it, [they] follow [their] personal interests rather than the dictates of Islam..."[26]

Al-Sharq Al-Awsat columnist Mashari Al-Dhaidi wrote in a similar vein: "In order to achieve victory at this historic juncture, [the MB] is toying with everyone. Sometimes it brandishes the slogan of a civil state and rights [for all], sometimes the slogan of 'the revolution continues,' and sometimes the slogan of the Islamic caliphate... all according to the place, the circumstances and the target audience..."[27]

Al-Sharq Al-Awsat columnist 'Abdallah bin Bajad Al-'Otaibi wrote that the Saudi kings always treated the MB with respect, supported it, and defended it, but the MB ultimately betrayed them by establishing clandestine cells of the movement in the Gulf states. He added that the MB has betrayed anyone who has ever formed an alliance with it, and that therefore one must "beware their promises, their desire for absolute power, and the possibility that they might stage a coup at any moment."[28]

Mursi Should Take Steps To Reassure The Gulf States

Some Saudi writers alluded to the ideological differences between Saudi Arabia and the MB. Muhammad Al-Mukhtar Al-Fal, columnist for the government daily Al-Watan, wrote that many Arab countries were disappointed by Mursi's election and concerned about the MB's rise to power, because of this movement's ideology and their bitter past experience with it. According to Al-Fal, one of the great challenges currently facing Mursi is the need to reassure the Gulf states, which "see the MB's ideology as a threat to their very existence."

He added: "It would be a harmful policy if the [Egyptian] MB tried to deepen its ties with those who espouse its ideology in [other] Arab states... This would be a provocation to the regimes [of these states], and a liability for the Egyptian government and presidency... The key question is this: Will the MB, with its vast experience... realize that brandishing the slogan of Islamizing the whole world and disregarding the interests of [other] countries will not lead it to its goals? Will President Mursi free himself from his movement's program? [Will he] realize that it was his country's interests that brought him to power, and that these interests compel him to allay fears [that his movement means to] spread the MB stream beyond Egypt's [borders]...?"[29]

Concern That Egypt Will Join Iranian Axis

As mentioned, some columnists expressed fear that Egypt, under MB leadership, might ally itself with Saudi Arabia's greatest rival, namely Iran. After the Iranian news agency Fars published a fake interview with Mursi on the day following his election, according to which he expressed an intention to tighten relations with Iran, the daily Al-Watan hurried to warn of a potential alliance between Iran and the MB. The daily stated in an editorial: "It is inconceivable that a call to reestablish relations between Egypt and Iran, which have been severed for 30 years, should be one of the first statements attributed to the elected [Egyptian] president...

"Iran will never stop [playing] these games as long as someone allows it to continue them... Even before the outbreak of the Egyptian revolution, it was clear that Iran was trying to infiltrate Egypt's society and government in various ways. Apparently, the election of a candidate from a religious party caused it to maximize these attempts and efforts, thinking that the new Egyptian regime should be easy prey..."[30]

Calls In Saudi Arabia To Accept MB Victory, Tighten Relations With Mursi's Egypt

Despite the fears and hostility in Saudi Arabia towards the MB, it seems that concern about Iran's nuclear program have prompted the Gulf states, headed by Saudi Arabia itself, to realize that they need Egypt as a strategic, political, and even military ally in the struggle against Iran. Hence, they are evidently attempting to maintain good relations with its new regime. Indeed, alongside the attacks on the MB, there were also calls in Saudi Arabia to recognize the new Egyptian regime and give the MB a chance, or even tighten relations with it, in order to maintain the alliance between the countries and prevent the MB from falling into the hands of Iran.[31]

Director of Al-Arabiya TV and former editor of Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, 'Abd Al-Rahman Al-Rashed, called to congratulate Mursi on his victory and not boycott Egypt under his presidency. He stressed that nobody has a right to question the legitimacy of Mursi's presidency, since he is the first modern Egyptian president who rose to power through real democratic elections. He added that the MB's victory – first in the parliamentary elections and then in the presidential ones – means that it has greater legitimacy than its predecessors, which will enable it to advance many processes, such as the negotiations with Israel, the promotion of human rights, and the economic and social rehabilitation of Egypt.

He emphasized: "By politically embracing the MB, [we] convey the right message, namely that nobody wants to impose any position on Egypt and the Egyptians, and that Egypt has a special place in the Arab world, which compels us to protect it and treat it as a big sister. The region is facing immense challenges, which Egypt cannot face alone, and which the Arabs cannot face without Egypt's [help]..."[32]

The MB: Mursi's Visit To Saudi Arabia – A Message To Iran

It seems that Mursi and the MB take a similar view of their relations with Saudi Arabia, as reflected by the choice of this country as the destination of Mursi's first official visit.[33] This decision is charged with many meanings and messages, as the MB itself admitted in an article posted on its website. According to the article, the visit reflects recognition of Saudi Arabia's status as the gate to the Arab and Muslim world, and appreciation of its spiritual role, its political and economic prominence, and its positions and status of leadership; the visit also emphasizes the character of the new Egypt, which champions a moderate Islam, compatible with a modern, democratic, and civil state; it reflects Egypt's and Saudi Arabia's status as the two leading powers in the region, and sends a message to the hostile forces, namely that their plan to fragment the Arab world has failed and that a new era of Arab accord and unity has dawned.

As for Iran, the visit sends this country a clear message that the Arab ranks are unified, and that, from now on, it will have to form alliances and partnerships with the Arab world as a unit, not with each country separately, based on mutual respect, the restoration of usurped rights, and non-interference in the domestic affairs of the Arab countries. Finally, the visit is also a message to the Syrian rebels and the Free Syrian Army (FSA) – that the Arab nation is defending them and supports their legitimate demands – and a message of support for the Gulf countries in the face of Iranian Israeli-American programs to take over the Gulf region.[34]

III. UAE Fears 'Export' Of Egyptian Revolution

Like Saudi Arabia, the UAE worries that the MB's growing power in many countries will inspire local MB activists, encouraging them to demand further reforms or even to act against the regime, thus bringing the Arab spring to the UAE. Accordingly, in the past year, the authorities have cracked down on Islamist activists from the local branch of the MB – called the Da'wat Al-Islah ("Reform Campaign") movement – which is demanding political reforms in the country. Thirteen of the movement's members have been arrested, including its head, Sultan bin Kaid Al-Qasimi (who is a cousin of the Emir of the Ras Al-Khaima emirate), and seven of them have had their citizenship revoked.[35]

The UAE's fear is also reflected in an anti-MB campaign waged by Dubai Police Chief Dahi Khalfan. In February-March 2012, he persistently attacked this movement on his Twitter page and in press interviews, and even threatened to issue an arrest warrant for Sheikh Yousef Al-Qaradhawi.[36] Speaking with unprecedented viciousness, Khalfan said that the MB is more dangerous than Iran, that its members are loyal to an "external" force, namely the MB general guide, and that "they wish to impose their agenda on us and rule [the country] through bloodshed..."[37]

He accused them of sexually attacking children and of involvement in prostitution,[38] of inciting demonstrations in Saudi universities,[39] and of planning coups in the Gulf states, starting with Kuwait.[40] He added that the Egyptian MB is encouraging MB activists in the Gulf to cause unrest, which is an act of interference in the domestic affairs of the Gulf countries, and warned the local activists that they will be treated as agents if they collaborate with the Egyptian MB.[41]


Dubai Police Chief Dahi Khalfan[42]

Following Mursi's victory, Khalfan resumed attacking the MB on Twitter. He rebuked the Egyptians for electing him, calling it "an inappropriate choice with complicated implications" for most of the Egyptian people.[43]

Khalfan is not the only one in the UAE worried about the MB's growing power. In an article titled "A Message to the MB in the UAE", journalist Salem Humayid slammed local MB activists for celebrating Mursi's victory, and, like Khalfan, accused them of being loyal to their parent movement in Egypt over the UAE: "There are people who live in the UAE... some of whom are even citizens, who praised Muhammad Mursi... They congratulated one another on the internet, and expressed their joy in an overt and exaggerated manner... so much so that I started to wonder if they were [really] citizens of the UAE. The only thing missing was for them to hang flags of Egypt and the MB over their homes. They have forgotten that their true affiliation is with the UAE, whose bounty they enjoy... Loyalty to the homeland cannot be relative, partial, or ambiguous. It [must be] a full and complete loyalty to the country's flag... There must not be people who place their loyalty to some group or stream... over their [loyalty] to the state.This is tantamount to treason..."[44]

Despite the concerns over the MB's growing power, regime officials in the UAE congratulated Mursi on his victory, in order to prevent Khalfan's statements from triggering a crisis between the two countries. An advisor to the Emir of Dubai visited Cairo, where he stressed to Egyptian officials the importance of UAE-Egypt relations.[45] In a communiqué, UAE Foreign Minister 'Abdallah bin Zaid Aal Nahyan stated that, in the coming period, the UAE aspires to "tighten the relations of historic brotherhood" between the UAE and Egypt, and praised Mursi's June 30 speech at Cairo University, in which he promised not to interfere in the affairs of others and not to export the revolution. The UAE's ambassador in Cairo, Muhammad bin Nakhira Al-Zahiri, clarified that Khalfan's statements reflected only his personal beliefs, and that the official position of the UAE is one of "respect for the people of Egypt and its president."[46]

IV. Jordanian Regime, Fearing MB's Growing Power, Takes Steps To Appease Jordanian Branch

The first official Jordanian reaction to Mursi's victory came from Information and Communications Minister and government spokesman Samih Al-Ma'ayta. He congratulated the Egyptian people for holding successful democratic elections, while utterly ignoring Mursi's victory.[47] This was interpreted in Jordan as reflecting the Amman regime's disappointment at Mursi's election. The Jordanian regime fears that the MB in Jordan – which is the largest political opposition in the kingdom, and which for over 18 months has led protests and demands for reform, including a demand to limit the king's authorities – may draw encouragement from Mursi's victory, and intensify its opposition and demands.[48]

The Jordanian regime has understood that it must find a way to deal with the new reality in the Middle East, which, in addition to Mursi's victory, has seen the ascendancy of the MB in other countries in the region. To this end, Jordan's King 'Abdallah II hastened to take a number of steps aimed at appeasing the MB in his country and reaching an agreement with it over disputed issues – chiefly the parliamentary election law – and also at seeking rapprochement with the MB in other countries.[49]

The king sent a note of congratulation to Mursi over his election, and expressed his desire to continue strengthening relations between the two countries.[50] In a more significant move, the king instructed the Jordanian parliament to convene an extraordinary session in order to amend Jordan's elections law, after the MB threatened to boycott the parliamentary elections in protest over the extant law.[51] In yet another move aimed at appeasing the MB, many of whose supporters are among the kingdom's Palestinian population, the Interior Ministry's right to revoke the citizenship of Palestinian Jordanians was canceled.[52] It was also reported that representatives of the king were holding secret talks with senior members of the Islamist movement in an attempt to strike a deal to ensure that the MB take part in the parliamentary elections and refrain from intensifying its protests, in exchange for amendments to the elections law.[53]

Another significant step was a visit to Jordan by the head of Hamas' Political Bureau, Khaled Mash'al, on June 28, 2012, at the head of a delegation of movement officials. During the visit, which lasted some ten days, Mash'al met with King 'Abdallah and the two discussed strengthening relations between the two sides. The atmosphere was reportedly very positive.[54] Several days prior to this visit, reports in Jordan mentioned that three MB officials in Syria, General Supervisor Riyadh Al-Shaqfa and his two deputies, 'Ali Sadr Al-Din Al-Bayanouni and Farouk Tayfour, were hosted in Jordan after being denied entry for years. The reports assess that Jordan is preparing for the post-Assad era and wishes to form ties with the Syrian opposition.[55]


Jordan's King 'Abdallah II with Hamas Leader Khaled Mash'al[56]

Reactions in the Jordanian press to Mursi's victory were mixed. Some articles expressed joy at Mursi's victory and called on the Jordanian regime to internalize the message and change its policy and treatment of the MB in Jordan.[57] Others hoped that following Mursi's victory, the Jordanian MB would decide not to boycott the parliamentary elections.[58] Some articles attacked the MB's opportunism and the celebrations they held in Jordan. These articles also warned the MB to not become drunk with power and try to export the revolution to other countries.[59]

Article In Jordanian Government Daily: Jordanian MB Are Held Hostage By The Global MB Movement

An example of harsh tones towards the MB came in an article published by Mahmoud Al-Rifa'i in the Jordanian government daily Al-Rai: "The [Jordanian] MB does not miss any opportunity to strengthen the impression that it has become hostage to the agenda of the global [MB], and no longer has a shred of independence in making decisions. It has become obedient, and its role is confined to echoing the Egyptian MB... [After Mursi's victory,] the MB in Amman was quick to hold a celebratory reception in its headquarters [in 'Abdali], which went beyond the boundaries of propriety and political custom... This is a grave error... which shows their connection to the external agenda led by the global [MB] organization, as part of its campaign to take over the rule of Arab countries at any cost..."[60]

V. Qatar Celebrates Victory Of Democracy And Fall Of Dictatorship

Qatar, which has used Al-Jazeera TV to encourage the Arab spring revolutions in the Middle East and especially in Egypt, and which is notable in its support of the MB, celebrated and lauded Mursi's victory. Mursi received letters of congratulation from the Emir of Qatar and its crown prince, as well as the prime minister. His victory put a final end to a period of strained relations between Qatar and Mubarak's Egypt, which stemmed from Qatar's support of the MB and its competition with Egypt for regional supremacy. Since Mursi's victory, Qatar has been praising "the restoration of Egypt's momentous historical role." The Qatari news agency reported that "Qatar congratulates Egypt and Mursi for the victory of the democratic system in the first presidential elections," adding that "the Egyptian people have paved the road to democracy."[61]

An editorial in the Qatari daily Al-Watan called Mursi's victory "the pinnacle of democracy."[62] Another editorial, in the daily Al-Raya, claimed that "the Egyptian people have fulfilled the dream of millions of Arabs, namely the right to choose their leaders by a ballot that [truly] represents the will of the people... Egypt is rewriting its history... [and writing] a new history for the region. The Egyptian people has succeeded in toppling the rule of dictatorship, tyranny, and corruption. This is the loftiest [act] of democracy, which will march Egypt and the region into a new era, where peoples rule and the just causes win."[63]

VI. In Syria, Government Publications Oppose MB; Rebels Expect Mursi's Support

In Syria, too, Mursi's victory met with mixed responses. Foreign Ministry Spokesman Jihad Al-Maqdisi congratulated Mursi and the Egyptian people, and said: "Syria will always support democratic elections by the people."[64] However, the Syrian government press featured articles attacking the MB and Mursi. In the daily Al-Ba'th, columnist Muhammad Al-Hassan dubbed the Egyptian and Syrian MB "Draculas," and claimed that they serve the interests of colonialism against the regimes in those countries. He attacked the actions of the Syrian MB in the last 18 months and threatened to hunt them to extinction.[65] An article in the daily Al-Thawra by columnist Nawwaf Abu Al-Haija claimed that Mursi's victory endangered Egypt, and that it was the beginning of the implementation of an American-Israeli-Qatari plan to cause anarchy there.[66]

According to the Al-Arabiya website, Assad regime supporters wrote on social networking sites that Mursi's victory was a loss for Egypt and its future, and that the MB rule would lead Egypt to the brink of disaster due to its Islamist extremism.[67]

Article On Syrian Oppositionist Website: Syrians Expect Mursi To Fund And Arm The Rebels

In contrast, Syrian oppositionists were pleased and inspired by Mursi's victory, which they saw as a victory of a popular revolution against dictatorship. According to the Al-Arabiya website, revolutionary forces in Syria and elements in the FSA expressed satisfaction with Mursi's victory. Syrian oppositionists uploaded a video to the internet in which Mursi shows support for the Syrian revolution. The Facebook page titled "The Syrian Revolution against Bashar Al-Assad" welcomed Mursi's election and stressed that the Syrians await a similar victory.[68]


A Syrian flag flies in Al-Tahrir Square during Mursi victory celebrations.[69]

'Awd Suleiman, a Syrian living in France, presented his expectations and demands of Mursi in an article published on a Syrian oppositionist website: "The Syrians pin their hopes on Mursi's success, due to his supportive stance on the Syrian revolution... Thousands of them knelt in thanks when the results were declared... and Egyptian flags were flown in Syria's squares, just as the flags of the Syrian revolution were flown in [Cairo's] Tahrir Square... We demand that [Mursi] close the Suez Canal to Russian and Iranian ships en route to the [ports of the] Assad regime... We also expect the new president to defend the Syrian people in regional and international forums, and to recognize the Syrian National Council [SNC]...

"We hope Egypt supports the Free [Syrian] Army with weapons and funds; improves treatment of Syrian refugees in its territory; banishes the eyes and spies of the [Syrian] regime, and hands the Syrian embassies over to the SNC... The Syrian people stand with Mr. Mursi as if he were the president of Syria and not just of Egypt... He should remember that we are rebelling against Bashar just as he rebelled against Mubarak, and that it is this revolution that brought him to power."[70]

VII. In Iran, Hopes Of Drawing Egypt Into Resistance Axis

As noted, Iran initially expressed satisfaction with Mursi's victory, with the expectation that an MB-led Egypt would grow closer to Iran and the resistance axis. When these expectations were not met, the responses grew cold and critical.

Alongside the official blessing sent by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to Mursi, which included a call to expand bilateral ties and maximize relations between the countries,[71] the Iranian regime initially wished to portray the MB as emulating the Islamic model of Iran. In addition, Iran hoped to establish close ties with an MB-led Egypt, thus distancing the latter from the Arab world and pulling it closer to the resistance axis, which Iran leads. A noteworthy example is the aforementioned fabricated interview with Mursi published by the Iranian news agency Fars on June 25, 2012, the day after he was declared the winner, in which Mursi expressed his desire to tighten relations with Iran.[72] Iran hoped to use the fake interview to portray Mursi as an Iranian supporter who chose to grant his first interview as president-elect to the Iranian media, and praise relations with Iran. Many countries in the Arab world, chiefly Saudi Arabia, were outraged by the interview before Mursi's spokesman declared that it never took place.[73]

Iran's hope to grow close to Egypt was also expressed in statements by Iranian officials regarding "the deepening relations between Iran and Egypt, which will leave a lasting impression on the region," and other statements in this vein.[74]

However, in light of Mursi's conduct and positions, the Iranian regime gradually understood that its attempts at rapprochement would not succeed, and took a more sober view, which recognizes the gaps in ideology, religion, and politics between Iran and the MB. The Iranian daily Jomhouri-ye Eslami gradually began attacking Mursi for his ties with the U.S. and Western countries, and for refusing to revoke the peace agreement with Israel. On July 1, 2012, the daily claimed that Mursi, who studied in the U.S., is part of the liberal stream of the MB, and his views are therefore non-revolutionary and his Islamic virtues merely for show.[75]

One week later, Jomhouri-ye Eslami called on Mursi to take a firm stance on the Egyptian-Israeli peace agreement, and claimed that his coordination with the U.S., U.K., France, Israel, and the moderate Arab bloc on the issue of Syria shows that he and his government will not stand against the current world order, but rather cooperate with it. The daily also claimed that Mursi's positions are at odds with the basic principles of MB founder Hassan Al-Bana, one of which was battling Zionism and imperialism. The daily called on the Iranian regime not to hasten to form ties with a new Egyptian regime that remains committed to the Camp David Accord.[76]

* H. Varulkar is Acting Director of Research at MEMRI.

Endnotes:

[1] Al-Mustaqbal (Lebanon), June 26, 2012; assabeel.net, alaahd.ps, June 24, 2012; alarabiyya.net, June 25, 2012.

[2] Islamtoday.net, June 25, 2012.

[3] Assabeel.net, July 3, 2012.

[4] Alaahd.ps, June 24, 2012.

[5] Maannews.net, June 27, 2012. Haniya's advisor Yousef Rizqa said that it was too early to talk of general political demands related to Jerusalem and the Palestinian cause, but called to improve the living conditions of the Gazans. Amad.ps, June 25, 2012.

[6] Almustaqbal-a.com, June 25, 2012.

[7] Image source: maannews.net, June 24, 2012.

[8] Ikhwansyria.com, June 25, 2012.

[9] Al-Dustour (Jordan), June 26, 2012.

[10] Ikhwanjo.com, June 25, 2012.

[11] Al-Dustour (Jordan), June 26, 2012.

[12] Albosala.com, June 26, 2012.

[13] Assabeel.net, June 26, 2012.

[14] Assabeel.net, June 26, 2012.

[15] Al-Mustaqbal (Lebanon), June 26, 2012.

[16] Al-Nahar (Lebanon), June 26, 2012; Al-Safir (Lebanon), June 29, 2012.

[17] Al-Safir (Lebanon), June 29, 2012.

[18] Al-Quds Al-Arabi (London), July 2, 2012.

[19] Al-Ahram (Egypt), July 4, 2012.

[20] According to reports, tension ensued after the MB officials rejected Al-Ghannushi's advice to guarantee the establishment of a democratic state, to reach understandings with all the political forces in the country, and even to make certain concessions to this end. Al-Ghannushi warned that, without reaching such understandings, the MB will lose power, and criticized its objection to letting Copts and women run for president. It was reported further that MB leaders resented Al-Ghannushi's efforts to mend the rift between the movement and its former member 'Abd Al-Mun'im Abu Al-Futouh, and to return him to the movement, as well as many young members who had left it. Al-Masri Al-Yawm, Al-Yawm Al-Sabi' (Egypt), June 12, 2012.

[21] In Morocco, congratulations were offered by 'Abdallah bin Kiran, head of the MB's Justice and Development party, which won the majority of seats in the 2011 parliamentary election. Al-Hayat (London), June 27, 2012. The Algerian MB congratulated Mursi on his "deserved success, which was the culmination of the decades-long struggle of the Islamic awakening [movement]." Al-Quds Al-Arabi (London), June 26, 2012. The general supervisor of the MB in Libya, Bashir Al-Kabti, congratulated the Egyptian people, as did the Al-Tawasul party, which represents the MB in Mauritania. The party chairman, Jamil Ould Mansour, said that the people of Mauritania "rejoice in the historic and justified victory of the [Islamic] stream, which put up with [years of] discrimination, injustice and tyranny..." He added that the disciples of MB founder Hassan Al-Bana had withstood this oppression, as he had instructed them to do, and have now finally reaped the fruits of their patience and struggle against tyranny. Arabic.upi.com, July 24, 2012; Alarabiya.net, June 25, 2012.

[22] Al-Watan (Saudi Arabia), June 26, 2012.

[23] See MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 4809, "Conflicting Reactions To Muslim Brotherhood Candidate Muhammad Mursi's Presidential Victory In Egypt By Editors Of Major London-Based Arab Dailies," June 26, 2012, Conflicting Reactions To Muslim Brotherhood Candidate Muhammad Mursi's Presidential Victory In Egypt By Editors Of Major London-Based Arab Dailies.

[24] Khaled Al-Sayf, columnist in the Saudi daily Al-Sharq, wrote under the headline "American Rain and the MB's Spring": "[Only] a few years before the revolution, the MB was at death's door... but the U.S. wanted something else: to snatch this movement from the jaws of death... Its efforts not only brought the movement back to life... [but] placed it on the thrones of Arab republics..." Al-Sharq (Saudi Arabia), June 28, 2012. Similar accusations were made by non-Saudi writers as well. Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), June 28, 2012.

[25] Al-Jazirah (Saudi Arabia), June 28, 2012.

[26] Al-Jazirah (Saudi Arabia), July 1, 2012.

[27] Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), June 26, 2012.

[28]Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), June 30, 2012.

[29] Al-Watan (Saudi Arabia), July 1, 2012.

[30] Al-Watan (Saudi Arabia), June 26, 2012. Khalaf Al-Harbi, a columnist for the Saudi daily 'Okaz, also evoked the possibility that Iran might try to form ties with the MB, and wrote that, if that happens, the MB must firmly refuse. 'Okaz (Saudi Arabia), June 26, 2012.

[31] Alarabiya.net, July 3, 2012.

[32] Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), June 26, 2012. In another article, Al-Rashed wrote that it would be political suicide for Mursi to ally himself with Iran, and that the MB is bound to discover that an alliance with the Gulf states is the most profitable course of action for Egypt. Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), June 28, 2012.

[33] Even before the visit took place, Saudi Arabia's ambassador in Cairo, Ahmad Qatan, said it would improve the relations between the countries and that Saudi investments in Egypt were expected to increase. Al-Watan (Saudi Arabia), July 7, 2012. As a message to Iran, he added that neither Saudi Arabia nor Egypt would allow anyone to cross red lines when it came to the security of Egypt and the Gulf. Gulfinthemedia.com, July 8, 2012.

[34] Ikhwanonline.com, July 8, 2012.

[35] Aleslaah.net, December 21, 2011; March 20, 2012; April 28, 2012; May 16, 2012; Emarat Al-Yawm (UAE), December 22, 2011; March 7, 2012; Elaph.com, December 22, 2011; Al-Yawm (Saudi Arabia), April 10, 2012; Al-Quds Al-Arabi (London), April 25, 2012; almoslim.net, April 26, 2012; Arabic.cnn.com, March 5, 2012.

[36] This was after Al-Qaradhawi made critical comments about the UAE leadership. Al-Quds Al-Arabi (London), March 11, 2012.

[37] Al-Quds Al-Arabi (London), March 11, 2012.

[38] Dp-news.com, March 5, 2012; Al-Ba'th (Syria), March 12, 2012.

[39] Factjo.com, March 11, 2012.

[40] Al-Qabas (Kuwait), March 25, 2012.

[41] Al-Watan (Kuwait), March 20, 2012.

[42] Image source: alwatanvoice.com, June 30, 2012.

[43] Anbacom.com, June 26, 2012. In response to these statements, the Egyptian Foreign Ministry summoned the UAE ambassador in Cairo for clarifications, but even this did not deter Khalfan from continuing his critical and derisive remarks about Mursi. Alarabiya.net, June 28, 2012; islammemo.cc, June 30, 2012. Khalfan said that his comments on Twitter caused him to receive over 1,500 threatening phone calls. Alwatanvoice.com, June 30, 2012.

[44] Midde-east-online.com, June 25, 2012.

[45] Islammemo.cc, June 30, 2012.

[46] Al-Quds Al-Arabi (London), July 3, 2012; Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), July 4, 2012.

[47] Albosala.com, June 24, 2012.

[48] Aljazeera.net, June 24, 2012.

[49]Al-Quds Al-Arabi (London), June 28-29, 2012.

[50]Al-Dustour (Jordan), June 26, 2012.

[51]Al-Rai (Jordan), June 29, 2012.

[52]Al-Quds Al-Arabi (London), June 29, 2012.

[53] According to reports, the talks also addressed other issues, such as Jordan's relations with Hamas and the Syrian opposition, including the FSA. Factjo.com, Al-Ghad (Jordan), June 28, 2012.

[54] Al-Rai (Jordan), Al-Quds Al-Arabi (London), June 29, 2012. See MEMRI Special Announcement No, 141, "In Wake of Arab Spring, Deadlock in Peace Process, Jordan Thaws Relations with Hamas," November 29, 2011, In Wake of Arab Spring, Deadlock in Peace Process, Jordan Thaws Relations with Hamas.

[55] Abosala.com, June 23, 2012.

[56] Al-Rai (Jordan), June 29, 2012.

[57] Al-Dustour (Jordan), June 29, 2012; Al-Ghad (Jordan), June 25, 2012.

[58] Al-Dustour, Al-Rai (Jordan), June 26, 2012.

[59] Al-Rai (Jordan), June 26, 2012.

[60] Al-Rai (Jordan), June 26, 2012.

[61] Al-Sharq (Qatar), June 24, 2012.

[62] Al-Watan (Qatar), June 25, 2012.

[63] Al-Raya (Qatar), June 25, 2012.

[64] Al-Quds Al-Arabi (London), June 26, 2012.

[65] Al-Ba'th (Syria), June 28, 2012.

[66] Al-Thawra (Syria), June 25, 2012.

[67] Alarabiya.net, June 25, 2012.

[68]Alarabiya.net, June 25, 2012.

[69] Aljazeera.net, June 24, 2012.

[70] Zaman-alwsl.net, June 25, 2012.

[71] President.ir, June 25, 2012.

[72] Fars (Iran), June 25, 2012.

[73] Alzazeera.net, June 27, 2012.

[74] IRNA (Iran), June 25, 2012.

[75] Jomhouri-ye Eslami (Iran), July 1, 2012.

[76] Jomhouri-ye Eslami (Iran), July 7, 2012.

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