Voices from the Arab Press: Egypt at forefront of Arab anti-colonialism

A weekly selection of opinions and analyses from the Arab media around the world

PILGRIMS MAINTAIN social distance as they mark the end of the Haj, in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, on August 2. (photo credit: SULTAN AL-MASOUDI/HANDOUT VIA REUTERS)
PILGRIMS MAINTAIN social distance as they mark the end of the Haj, in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, on August 2.
Al-Etihad, UAE, July 31
The statements made by Libya’s eastern-based parliament regarding the “welcoming” of Egyptian military intervention in the country’s civil war to counter breaches of Libya’s sovereignty brings back memories from the era of national liberation. The use of this anti-imperial rhetoric – statements like “defeating the occupiers,” “confronting the invaders,” or “liberating the country” – were commonly used during the decolonization era of the 1940s and 1950s, when Arab countries began fighting their foreign occupiers.
Egypt played a central role in supporting national liberation movements around the Arab world; a historical fact that makes this current development in Libya extremely symbolic. Perhaps it is a matter of historical coincidence that Libya was the first Arab country that Egypt supported in gaining independence following World War II.
It was Egyptian diplomatic assistance to Libya that eventually forced European powers to grant it independence. Italy, which had colonized Libya since 1911, in cooperation with Britain in March 1949, tried to convince the United Nations to accept the Bevin-Sforza Plan, which would have granted trusteeships over Libya to Britain, Italy, and France for a 10-year period. However, Egypt supported the efforts of the Libyan people to oppose this plan, succeeding in convincing the General Assembly to reject it and thwart the attempt to prolong the colonial regime in the country.
This gave birth to a landmark decision in November 1949 to grant Libya independence no later than January 1, 1952. As soon as Libya gained its independence, other liberation movements reared their heads elsewhere in the Maghreb region, and Egypt rushed to support the Moroccan people in their exiling of King Mohammed V to Corsica in 1953. Cairo then expanded its support to Algeria and Tunisia with the formation of the Arab Maghreb Liberation Committee that emerged from a conference to which the Maghreb parties were invited and hosted by the Arab League in April 1954.
Therefore, it seems inconceivable that, given its historical experiences, Libya would once again find itself fighting against foreign invaders. However, Turkey, which has become a major source of tension and unrest in the region in recent years wanted to exploit the plight of the Libyan people in order to impose its control over the country and exploit its rich natural resources.
It is only fitting for Libyan national forces that fear the armed takeover of their country to turn to Egypt for help. Similarly, it is only natural for Egypt to positively respond to this request and demonstrate its full preparedness to stand by the Libyan people in their war against Erdogan and his mercenaries.
Egypt has historically stood at the forefront of the battle against colonial powers in the Middle East. It supported local liberation movements in the Arab world militarily, through the provision of weapons and trained fighters, but also politically, through negotiations and shuttle diplomacy. This support even extended to African liberation movements elsewhere in the continent – including in places like Kenya, Angola, Mozambique, Rhodesia, Cameroon, and South Africa – whose opposition groups established headquarters in Cairo, where they could successfully and freely operate. This was the case several decades ago and it continues to be the case today.
–Waheed Abdul Majeed

Al-Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, July 31
Saudi authorities, together with more than 1,200 Islamic figures and scholars around the world, recently announced guidelines for holding pilgrimage to Mecca this season in light of COVID-19. These measures, which aim at enabling worshipers to fulfill the noblest religious duty of the Hajj, stems from Saudi Arabia’s commitment and duty to the Muslim world.
For over 80 years, the kingdom upheld its lofty mission of servicing the two holy mosques while guaranteeing that they remain accessible and well-preserved for decades to come. The recent remarks made by the Iranian leadership and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan calling to commercialize and internationalize the Hajj are nothing but a deplorable attempt to undermine Saudi Arabia’s longstanding commitment to Muslim worshipers around the world.
The Iranians and Turks hoped that Riyadh would announce the suspension of the pilgrimage this year, only to be able to bash and deride the Saudi royal family. But Saudi Arabia broke its expectations as usual by devising a plan to accept pilgrims even during a global pandemic. The calls to remove the cities of Mecca and Medina from Saudi Arabia in an effort to “internationalize” them is nothing more than an Iranian and Turkish political plot meant to weaken Saudi Arabia.
These two cities are part of sovereign Saudi territory and they shall remain that way. Any attempt to change this status quo would constitute a gross infringement of international laws and norms. The fact that the Saudi authorities decided to continue enabling the Hajj is a demonstration of the lengths to which the kingdom will go in order to preserve and protect Muslims’ freedom of worship. Muslim worshipers from over 170 countries submitted their pilgrimage requests directly through an online portal of the Saudi Ministry of Hajj and Umrah without any interference from political entities.
Instead of bothering itself with petty regional politics, Saudi authorities continue to work night and day to ensure that Mecca and Medina continue to be accessible to Muslim worshipers around the world. God willing, Saudi Arabia will continue to open its borders in months to come, making the Grand Mosque even more accessible to Muslim worshipers while protecting their health and the health of our community.
 –Badr Bin Saud
Al-Mada, Iraq, July 31
Over the course of this month and the next one, Iraqis will commemorate the anniversary of two monumental events in their national history: The first is the 30th anniversary of the August 2, 1990, Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, and the second is the 40th anniversary of the September 22, 1980, Iraqi invasion of Iran. Both were carried out by Iraq’s autocratic regime led by Saddam Hussein.
What is interesting about these two invasions is that both countries, Kuwait and Iran, succeeded in recovering from the destruction of these wars and ended up building a better future for themselves. In contrast, Iraq only continued to suffer following these wars. In addition to the high cost paid by ordinary Iraqi citizens for the military adventures of their despot leader, Iraqis also lost their dignity and normal life. Saddam Hussein’s actions left Iraq as a pariah state that is alienated from the international system.
The psychological effects of these two wars and their consequences followed the people of Iraq for many years. The biggest lesson we learned from these two invasions is that they were both characterized by foolishness, arrogance, shortsightedness and even stupidity. They reminded us that acting without any foresight can often lead to the downfall of a nation.
Today, Iraq is less preoccupied with foreign adventures, but it is still caught up in foolish domestic campaigns. These domestic actions are fueled by narrow interest and ideological predispositions. Iraq, its people, and its new government face difficult situations, severe crises and troubled and complicated social and political conditions, both internally and externally. This inevitably requires our leaders to make informed strategic decisions that place the supreme national interests of Iraq and its people above any other consideration.
At the top of Iraq’s agenda should be the commitment to protect Iraq’s sovereignty while distancing us from any regional and international conflicts in which we have no interest. We deserve to step away from these irrational wars in which we have no stake.
–Abdul Halim Al-Rahimi
Translated by Asaf Zilberfarb.