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Middle East and North Africa Update

Middle East and North Africa report 22
covering events in March 2012
NOREF_ARI MENA newsletter 22_March 2011_FINAL-WEB.pdf
12 April 2012, application/pdf, 376 Kb
Shater, speaking to the demonstrators in Tahrir Square by Ahmed Abd el-Fatah
Contents in brief:

Egypt: growing confusion and escalating tensions between the Muslim Brotherhood and the military
On March 31st the Muslim Brotherhood nominated Khayrat al-Shater as its presidential candidate. By doing so, it broke its often-reiterated pledge not to seek the top national office and monopolise power. The announcement added confusion to an increasingly chaotic transition process and raised speculations about open confrontation between the Islamist heavyweight and the military.

In the previous weeks the Brotherhood had taken steps towards confrontation with the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces by threatening to withdraw Parliament’s confidence in the military-appointed cabinet. It had also dealt with the formation of the Constituent Assembly in such a way that most non-Islamist members decided to withdraw.

For many analysts and political activists, the Brotherhood’s strategy increasingly looks like a very risky gamble, both for Egypt’s transition and for the organisation itself.

Arab Spring Summit in Baghdad: a disappointing transitional milestone
On March 29th-30th the Iraqi government managed to fulfil its political and diplomatic aspirations by organising the Arab League Summit in Baghdad for the first time in 22 years. Yet discussions on the Syrian crisis only resulted in the adoption of a resolution urging Assad’s government to adhere to the six-point ceasefire proposal brokered by the United Nations. As often, the summit ended in disappointment and revealed the persistent divisions among Arabs.

Yet the dramatic changes that have occurred on the Arab scene over the last year have left their imprint on the organisation, as illustrated by the presence of the new Tunisian and Libyan presidents, which marked the beginning of a new era.

Qatar’s support of Arab revolutions under fire
By reporting the refusal of the Tunisian ambassador to shake hands with his Qatari counterpart a few weeks ago, the Algerian and Tunisian press shed light on the growing resentment towards Qatar in many Arab countries.

The criticisms directed at the emirate vary according to who formulates them: secularists in Egypt and Tunisia say it supports the Islamists, while anti-imperialists in Lebanon and Palestine argue it is serving the interests of the U.S. and Israel, among others. Yet most experts consider that Qatar’s diplomatic activism is motivated by pragmatism more than ideology.

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