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Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Mohammed Mursi visit Saudi Arabia, Mursi like 2008's Obama

Mohammed Mursi arrived in Saudi Arabia today on his first official international visit as President of Egypt.

President Mursi ─ who has also received an invitation from U.S. President Barak Obama to visit America when he attends the United Nations’ General Assembly (UNGA) in September ─ met with King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz.

According to analysts, the meeting was intended to imply the continuity of bilateral relations between the two states, regardless of who is in power.
Saudi Arabia and Egypt have been long-time regional allies during the reign of ousted President Hosni Mubarak; however, given the fact that the Brotherhood’s relations with Riyadh has had its ups and downs in the past, questions were raised around the future of relations between the two countries following the election of the Muslim Brotherhood-backed Mursi.

This is why opting to make his international debut as president from Saudi Arabia could be read on various levels.

Of course, the meeting will discuss bilateral relations and increasing cooperation and investment; but first and foremost, it remains a “let’s get to know each other” opportunity.

Mursi, now an undisputed head of state, needs to build strong personal relations with Egypt’s traditional allies; as such, he was quick to accept the Saudi invitation to visit the Kingdom.

Looking back at the Egyptian President’s first few days in office, it is interesting to note the significant resemblance between Mohammed Mursi of 2012 and Barak Obama of 2008.

Both successful presidential campaigns were preceded with much hype and were branded “historical”: Mursi is Egypt’s first-ever democratically-elected president; Obama was the United States’ first-ever African-American president.

Both elected presidents marked the end of a significant era: to many Egyptians, Mursi’s election is a “dream come true” as it suggests the success of the 2011 revolution which overthrew the Mubarak regime. For many Americans, Obama’s successful campaign was an “end of a nightmare” as it meant they finally saw the end of the disastrous era of George W. Bush.

As a result of this similar background, voters ended up having high expectations of both politicians.

Like Mursi, President Obama was also keen on building personal relations with traditional allies. He too stopped in Riyadh in June 2009 to meet and consult with the Saudi monarch before his magnificent Cairo speech which was intended to mark a “new beginning” between the U.S. and the Muslim world.

I remember being interviewed on CNN at the time to comment on Obama’s visit to Egypt; my opinion was that despite the favorable views the newly-elected president (at the time) enjoys in the Middle East, Arabs are now convinced that “actions speak louder than words” when it comes to American foreign policy.

Looking back at Obama’s presidency, it seems many analysts could argue the same when it comes to many of the campaign promises he made prior to his election.

One could always make excuses and argue that Obama faced (and still does) perhaps the most divisive Republican congress in recent American history. Not to mention the various and vicious pressure groups which resisted almost everything he wanted to achieve.

However, people don’t vote a president in just for the sake of winning an election and/or scoring a point against the other side; people vote and back a particular candidate because they expect him/her to deliver on his/her pledges ─ no matter what the obstacles.

This is why Obama, as noble and inspirational as his beliefs may be, is facing a real challenge to secure his re-election this year.

Mursi has been a very good Obama so far! He has made many impressive promises; such as the one where he says won’t allow corruption to spread in Egypt and when he insinuated that he will have several Vice-Presidents who will include a woman and a Christian Copt (a symbolic gesture which is meant to imply that he has no ideological issues with empowering women and Christians).

On a regional and international level, he has vowed not to “export” his country’s revolution, pledged to support Palestinians in their right to a state of their own while also emphasizing that Egypt will respect existing international treaties it is committed to.

This is all very good; however in four years time (which is more than enough for the public mood to dramatically change, more than once) people will not judge Mursi on what he pledged, but on what he delivered.

Let us face it: there is no Republican Party in Egypt to stand in his way, but he will have to deal with the realities of the political scene, namely the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF).

Of course, SCAF, representing the country’s military establishment, shouldn’t interfere in the day-to-day running of the country; but the fact remains that the military has been Egypt’s de facto ruler ever since the overthrow of King Farouq in 1952.

Mursi and SCAF should work together for the sake of the people and for the sake of the country’s safety and security.

Furthermore, Mursi should remember that unlike his predecessor, he is not above the law. This is why he must re-consider his position if the Egyptian judiciary finds that his decision to re-open the parliament is unlawful.

One extremely important lesson learned from the Obama experience ─ which Mursi should pay immediate attention to ─ is that he must quickly work towards reviving Egypt’s suffering economy.

Let us face it, slogans will fall and people will become less likely to believe that the “Muslim Brotherhood” is the solution if their economic remedies fail to put food on the tables of 80 million people.

This is why Mursi must act quickly to win the trust of his country’s long-standing allies; the world needs a strong and stable Egypt and Egypt needs the world’s confidence to boost its economy and regain stability.

Can this be done? 2008’s Obama would say “Yes, we can” – but 2012’s Mursi must remember that both his people and the world needs to see actions, not words.
Faisal J Abbas

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