WHILE EGYPT’S RELATIONS WITH ISRAEL & SUEZ EXPANSION ARE ENCOURAGING, IT’S ECONOMY, & ISLAMIST VIOLENCE, WORSEN

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Egyptians and Their Leaders are Warming to Jews, Israel: Times of Israel, Aug. 6, 2015 — It’s been a particularly challenging summer for Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi.

Suez Canal Upgrade May Not Ease Egypt’s Economic Journey: David D. Kirkpatrick, New York Times, Aug. 6, 2015 — “Egypt Rejoices,” the television networks and newspapers declared, announcing “Egypt’s gift to the world.”

The Sinai – An Epicenter of a Mounting Islamist Insurgency: Dr. Shaul Shay, Israel Defense, July 20, 2015 — A recent attack on a military vessel north to Rafah is the second attack against a maritime Egyptian target in the Mediterranean, conducted by ISIS affiliated group and a part of the group's initiative to extend the theaters of conflict beyond the territory of Sinai.

3 U.S. Defeats: Vietnam, Iraq and Now Iran: David Brooks, New York Times, Aug. 7, 2015  — The purpose of war, military or economic, is to get your enemy to do something it would rather not do.

 

On Topic Links

 

Arabs Eye Iran Nuclear Deal With Distrust, Disapproval: Brennan Weiss, Washington Times, Aug. 5, 2015

US Sending Eight F-16 Fighter Jets To Egyptian Military: Tim Marcin, International Business Times, July 30, 2015

The U.S.-Egypt Strategic Dialogue: Drift Along the Nile: Amy Hawthorne, Council on Foreign Relations, July 29, 2015

Israel 'Forgotten' by Egypt Yet Again: Ynet, Aug. 10, 2015

Egyptian Show That’s Flattering to Jews is a Surprise Hit Among Palestinians: William Booth & Sufian Taha, Washington Post, July 17, 2015

 

         

EGYPTIANS AND THEIR LEADERS ARE WARMING TO JEWS, ISRAEL                                             

Times of Israel, Aug. 6, 2015

 

It’s been a particularly challenging summer for Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi. Within one week in late June and early July, his attorney general was assassinated in the upscale Cairo suburb of Heliopolis and an Islamic State affiliate launched a two-day siege in the North Sinai town of Sheikh Zuweid.

 

But just days after the bloody Sinai battle, Sissi put aside two hours to meet with a delegation from the American Jewish Committee, the global Jewish advocacy group, and then delivered a matter-of-fact account of the meeting to the state-run Middle East News Agency. The conversation revolved around regional terrorism threats, the stalled peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians, the nuclear deal with Iran and the preservation of Egyptian Jewish heritage, according to the AJC’s director of government and international affairs, Jason Isaacson, who coordinated the delegation.

 

The AJC meeting at the presidential palace came at a time when Egyptian attitudes about Jews are changing. Egyptians are reassessing 1950s-era nationalization policies that squeezed out the Jewish community and other ethnic minorities. The word “Jew” is used less frequently as a curse word, and the historical TV drama “Jewish Quarter” was a breakout hit during Ramadan. The series cast the Islamist group the Muslim Brotherhood as a greater threat to Egypt’s unity and security than the Jews and, sometimes, even the Zionists. (Past TV series during Ramadan have traded in negative tropes and stereotypes about Jewish “treachery” and hostility, so “Jewish Quarter” represented a major departure.)

 

“I find more tolerance,” said Isaacson, referring to the period since Sissi came to power in 2013. “I find more respect for Israel and more feeling of commonality between Egyptian and Israeli strategic concerns with common attitudes towards Hamas, especially toward the connections between Hamas and other extremist groups.”

 

Officially, fewer than eight Jews remain in this capital city — all of them elderly women. The community’s leader, Magda Haroun, last month opened the heavily guarded and rarely used Shaar Hashamayim synagogue in downtown Cairo for an interfaith Ramadan Iftar event, the daily break-fast meal during the holy month. (There were some 75,000 Jews in Egypt before 1948, but in the 1950s the Jewish population was largely stripped of citizenship and assets by then President Gamal Abdel Nasser.) The meeting also coincided with a warming trend between Sissi, the strongman who leads the world’s most populous Arab country, and Israel. In June, Egypt appointed Hazem Khairat as its new ambassador to Tel Aviv. Sissi’s predecessor, Mohamed Morsi, long affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood, had recalled the previous ambassador in November 2012 after the Israeli Air Force struck and killed a top Hamas military commander and launched an eight-day offensive in the Gaza Strip.

 

Israel’s war last summer in Gaza threw in sharp relief just how far from favor Hamas, founded as an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood, has fallen in official Cairo since Sissi’s ascent to power. (Morsi was removed in a 2013 military takeover orchestrated by Sissi, who became president the following year.) As Israel’s Operation Protective Edge unfolded, Egypt’s state-sanctioned TV stations specifically deployed the term “terrorist” to describe Hamas-launched missile attacks on Israel. And in the wake of increased activity in the Sinai by affiliates of the Islamic State, the Israel Defense Forces’ Southern Command and the Egyptian Army in Sinai are increasingly sharing intelligence on the movement of for-profit weapons smugglers and ideologically motivated militants.

 

Sissi’s administration has also been widely criticized in the West for clamping down on free speech and press freedoms, and for jailing political opponents. Washington withheld funds and equipment from Egypt after a particularly violent confrontation in August 2013 between government troops and supporters of Morsi, a clash that left more than 600 dead on the streets of Cairo. In March, President Obama restored most of the $1.3 billion in annual military funding, and the Pentagon resumed shipments of new Harpoon missiles, F-16 fighter jets and replacement kits for Abrams tanks. The Egyptian Air Force’s ability to deploy F-16s allowed government troops to beat back the assault against Sheik Zuweid by Ansar Beit Al Maqdis, an ISIS-affiliated group.

 

If any one figure in Egypt deserves credit for the contemporary shift in attitudes, perhaps it is Amir Ramses, whose recent two-part documentary project “The Jews of Egypt” and “End of a Journey” explores the rise and demise of the Jewish communities of Cairo and Alexandria between the late 19th century and the middle of the 20th century. Ramses, a middle-class Muslim from Cairo, battled official censors here under the administrations of both Morsi and Hosni Mubarak, and Islamists were particularly rankled by the documentary’s revisiting of the “Balfour Day” riots instigated by the Muslim Brotherhood in 1945. They coincided with the anniversary of the Balfour Declaration, the 1917 letter declaring Britain’s intention to set up a Jewish homeland in Palestine. Yet last year, Ramses’ films were screened in Egypt to critical acclaim.

 

Ramses said he was intrigued by stories from his grandparents about Jewish, Greek and Italian neighbors whose different foods and folkways added an international flair to the metropolis — a flair that is now decidedly absent. “The big picture I am trying to draw,” he said, “is an image of the pre-1952 society through the window of the diversity of a cosmopolitan way of living in Cairo.”

                                                                                   

                                                                       

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SUEZ CANAL UPGRADE MAY NOT EASE EGYPT’S ECONOMIC JOURNEY

David D. Kirkpatrick    

New York Times, Aug. 6, 2015

 

“Egypt Rejoices,” the television networks and newspapers declared, announcing “Egypt’s gift to the world.” Businesses were closed, the streets of Cairo were empty, and the airwaves were full of patriotic songs and music videos — all featuring adoring images of President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi interspersed with footage of cargo sailing toward the sea. With a pageant of soaring jets and singing schoolgirls that lasted hours, Mr. Sisi on Thursday inaugurated what he called “the new Suez Canal” and portrayed it as the cornerstone of his plans for an economic turnaround.

 

“Egyptians needed to confirm to themselves and the world that they still can,” Mr. Sisi declared to an audience of dignitaries assembled near the Suez Canal city of Ismailia for the opening. He called it “an additional artery of prosperity for the world.” On Friday, every imam in Egypt is expected to preach about its benefits and cite the example of a trench dug by the Prophet Muhammad that led to a battlefield victory, according to instructions from the religious authorities.

 

The “new canal,” however, is in reality a parallel side channel running about one-third the length of the existing waterway. And Mr. Sisi’s promises about its rewards, economists and businessmen say, will depend on the resolution of the same problems holding back the rest of Egypt’s economy, including poor government and a lack of transparency, dependability and public security. The hype about the canal, some analysts say, does little to ease the doubts of investors.

 

Mr. Sisi’s other signature development project — the construction of a new capital to partly replace Cairo — has fallen apart just months after its grand unveiling, in March. Moves to close the government’s yawning deficit and to stabilize the currency appear to have stalled. And energy shortages, foreign exchange restrictions and the growing threat of antigovernment violence are significant impediments to the kind of investments the government is forecasting, economists say. The real advantage of the new channel is that it is expected to lower the average transit time for ships, possibly by several hours. But Mr. Sisi’s government has told Egyptians that the canal’s expansion aims to add $100 million a year to the economy and create a million jobs, and “those numbers are just totally impossible,” said Reem Abdel Halim, an Egyptian economist.

 

The president set a one-year deadline for digging the new channel, greatly increasing the cost, which came in at more than $8 billion, according to Egyptian officials. But the rush provided only symbolism and no tangible payoff, economists said. The existing canal is operating well below maximum capacity, in part because shipping volumes remain below their peak eight years ago. Transport volumes are sagging again this year because of the economic downturn in China and reduced Western demand for Persian Gulf oil. “Three years would have been just as sound,” said Ragui Assaad, a fellow at the Economic Research Forum here and a professor at the University of Minnesota.

 

The ups and downs make any projections of future canal tolls highly speculative at best, said Peter Hinchliffe, the secretary general of the International Shipping Federation. His organization estimates that the total shipping volume will grow by more than 30 percent over 10 years, but Mr. Sisi’s government projects that the added channel will more than double the canal’s toll revenue by 2023, to $13.2 billion a year from about $5.3 billion. Mr. Hinchliffe recalled an old saying: “Predictions are great, until you start talking about the future.”

 

Completed in 1869, the original canal revolutionized international trade by connecting the Red Sea to the Mediterranean, a shortcut between East and West that spared ships the long journey around the southern tip of Africa. The canal stretched a hundred miles, and 20,000 conscripts a year worked 10 years digging it, according to the official history.

 

Parts of the canal are too narrow for two-way traffic. Canal authorities arrange for ships to take turns passing in convoys heading in alternate directions, and Egypt has been trying for decades to reduce the bottlenecks. The authorities added three side channels in 1955 and another three in 1980. The government has also worked in recent decades on dredging projects to deepen the canal for ever-larger ships.

 

The new side channel to open on Thursday adds 30 miles in an attempt to allow two-way traffic for more of the passage. Although the new channel will not yet allow two-way traffic for the full length of the canal, it will expedite passage by allowing longer or more frequent convoys to pass. That can help attract traffic. For shipping companies deciding between the Suez Canal and other routes, “it is all about time, and ‘how much time can I save?’ ” said Willy C. Shih, a professor at Harvard Business School who studies manufacturing and transportation.

 

The creation of jobs, however, will depend on attracting investors to build factories or logistics facilities in planned industrial zones around the canal. And experts said there was little reason to think that shorter transit time would attract investors put off by the other challenges of doing business in Egypt. “Sure, Egypt needs that kind of infrastructure to produce jobs, but, oh man, have they got a long way to go,” Professor Shih said.

 

Militant attacks in Cairo and North Sinai have scared away investors, economists said, and Mr. Sisi appears to be forgoing economic changes for short-term political stability. His government spent billions of dollars in aid from Persian Gulf monarchies to improve Egypt’s energy infrastructure and avoid recurring blackouts. But economists and business groups say the government has deprived industries of power to placate consumers. While blackouts have all but ceased for homes in Cairo, “the improvement in homes this year came partly at the expense of factories,” said Mohamed Hanafy, the executive director of the metal industries section of Egypt’s quasi-governmental industrial federation. “The halts and interruptions for factories have increased compared to last year.”…

[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]

                                   

                                                                       

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THE SINAI – AN EPICENTER OF A MOUNTING ISLAMIST INSURGENCY                                                             

Dr. Shaul Shay                                                                                                                             

Israel Defense, July 20, 2015

 

An Egyptian naval vessel has caught fire near Rafah in North Sinai during a clash with fighters affiliated with the Islamic State (Sinai Province). The patrol boat spotted the fighters from the Sinai Province group on the coast of Rafah on July 16, 2015, and engaged them. The boat went up in flames during an ensuing firefight. The Egyptian military said it suffered no casualties in the attack.

 

The Islamic State's Egypt affiliate, Sinai Province, has claimed responsibility for the attack on Twitter. Sinai Province released a statement saying its jihadists had carried out a rocket attack on a naval vessel belonging to the "apostasy army" in the eastern Mediterranean. A series of pictures released by the group, showed a missile approaching and striking the vessel, causing a large explosion. It is not clear how the boat was hit, but Sinai Province fighters have started to deploy wire-guided missiles against tanks and armored vehicles that could be used against the boat.

 

Egyptian officials said that the ship is a troop carrier that patrols territorial waters and has frequently been used to transport army and police personnel to mainland Egypt. The sea route avoids the overland journey through Sinai, where Islamic militants target government forces.  The vessel has the capacity to carry about 70 men but it is not clear how many people were onboard when it caught fire.

 

On November 12, 2014, an Egyptian Navy patrol boat came under attack in the Mediterranean. Military sources have reported that four officers and 13 soldiers were killed in the attack. The vessel was conducting a routine patrol when it was attacked at sea by armed men on four "fishing boats". The naval vessel had been set alight in an exchange of fire with assailants. The attack took place off the coast of the Damietta province in the country's north east, about 70km from Egypt's shore. Air and naval reinforcement forces were summoned to respond to the attack and rescue operations have evacuated the wounded servicemen to a military hospital.

 

Two days later, on November 14, 2014, a group calling itself the "Youth of the Land of Kenanah" (aka Egypt) claimed responsibility for the attack on the naval vessel, declaring that it had captured eight missing troops. The group made the announcement in a video recording featuring four masked men against the backdrop of a flag associated with the ISIS militant group. An Egyptian security official claimed that the perpetrators belonged to Ansar Beit al Maqdis (Sinai province) and they attacked the Egyptian naval vessel that they thought was carrying 200 soldiers to the Sinai Peninsula. The incident in the Mediterranean came days after Ansar Beit al-Maqdis pledged its allegiance to the Islamic State (ISIS).

 

The Egyptian government is fighting an insurgency that has killed scores of policemen and soldiers, against Ansar Beit al-Maqdis (Sinai Province) and other Sinai-based armed fighters who launched an insurgency after the army overthrew President Mohamed Morsi. The volatile North Sinai region, where Rafah is located, is an epicenter of a mounting Islamist insurgency. On July 1, 2015, large numbers of highly trained assault forces, many of them suicide bombers, backed by auxiliaries, staged several waves of attack in an attempt to seize control of military checkpoints. Simultaneous attacks were carried out in and around Sheikh Zuweid and Rafah, the area of heaviest military and police deployment. Twenty one Egyptian soldiers and over 200 militants were killed.

 

Hamas denied involvement in the Sinai attack. Yet Egyptian intelligence sources confirm that the Gaza continues to shelter hundreds, if not thousands, of potential terrorists. The attack on the military vessel north to Rafah is the second attack against a maritime Egyptian target in the Mediterranean, conducted by ISIS affiliated group and a part of the group's initiative to extend the theaters of conflict beyond the territory of Sinai. Israel has to take inconsideration that Islamic terror organizations like ISIS (Sinai Province), Hamas and other terror organizations can repeat this model of naval attack against Israeli vessels operating in the sea north to Gaza strip.                    

 

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3 U.S. DEFEATS: VIETNAM, IRAQ AND NOW IRAN                                                                         

David Brooks                                                                                                                                            

New York Times, Aug. 7, 2015

 

The purpose of war, military or economic, is to get your enemy to do something it would rather not do. Over the past several years the United States and other Western powers have engaged in an economic, clandestine and political war against Iran to force it to give up its nuclear program. Over the course of this siege, American policy makers have been very explicit about their goals. Foremost, to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear power. Second, as John Kerry has said, to force it to dismantle a large part of its nuclear infrastructure. Third, to take away its power to enrich uranium.

 

Fourth, as President Obama has said, to close the Fordo enrichment facility. Fifth, as the chief American negotiator, Wendy Sherman, recently testified, to force Iran to come clean on all past nuclear activities by the Iranian military. Sixth, to shut down Iran’s ballistic missile program. Seventh, to have “anywhere, anytime 24/7” access to any nuclear facilities Iran retains. Eighth, as Kerry put it, to not phase down sanctions until after Iran ends its nuclear bomb-making capabilities.

 

As a report from the Foreign Policy Initiative exhaustively details, the U.S. has not fully achieved any of these objectives. The agreement delays but does not end Iran’s nuclear program. It legitimizes Iran’s status as a nuclear state. Iran will mothball some of its centrifuges, but it will not dismantle or close any of its nuclear facilities. Nuclear research and development will continue. Iran wins the right to enrich uranium. The agreement does not include “anywhere, anytime” inspections; some inspections would require a 24-day waiting period, giving the Iranians plenty of time to clean things up. After eight years, all restrictions on ballistic missiles are lifted. Sanctions are lifted once Iran has taken its initial actions.

 

Wars, military or economic, are measured by whether you achieved your stated objectives. By this standard the U.S. and its allies lost the war against Iran, but we were able to negotiate terms that gave only our partial surrender, which forces Iran to at least delay its victory. There have now been three big U.S. strategic defeats over the past several decades: Vietnam, Iraq and now Iran. The big question is, Why did we lose? Why did the combined powers of the Western world lose to a ragtag regime with a crippled economy and without much popular support?

 

The first big answer is that the Iranians just wanted victory more than we did. They were willing to withstand the kind of punishment we were prepared to mete out. Further, the Iranians were confident in their power, while the Obama administration emphasized the limits of America’s ability to influence other nations. It’s striking how little President Obama thought of the tools at his disposal. He effectively took the military option off the table. He didn’t believe much in economic sanctions. “Nothing we know about the Iranian government suggests that it would simply capitulate under that kind of pressure,” he argued.

 

The president concluded early on that Iran would simply not budge on fundamental things. As he argued in his highhanded and counterproductive speech Wednesday, Iran was never going to compromise its sovereignty (which is the whole point of military or economic warfare). The president hoped that a deal would change the moral nature of the regime, so he had an extra incentive to reach a deal. And the Western, Russian and Chinese sanctions regime was fragile while the Iranians were able to hang together.

 

This administration has given us a choice between two terrible options: accept the partial-surrender agreement that was negotiated or reject it and slide immediately into what is in effect our total surrender — a collapsed sanctions regime and a booming Iranian nuclear program. Many members of Congress will be tempted to accept the terms of our partial surrender as the least bad option in the wake of our defeat. I get that. But in voting for this deal they may be affixing their names to an arrangement that will increase the chance of more comprehensive war further down the road.

 

Iran is a fanatical, hegemonic, hate-filled regime. If you think its radicalism is going to be softened by a few global trade opportunities, you really haven’t been paying attention to the Middle East over the past four decades. Iran will use its $150 billion windfall to spread terror around the region and exert its power. It will incrementally but dangerously cheat on the accord. Armed with money, ballistic weapons and an eventual nuclear breakout, it will become more aggressive. As the end of the nuclear delay comes into view, the 45th or 46th president will decide that action must be taken. Economic and political defeats can be as bad as military ones. Sometimes when you surrender to a tyranny you lay the groundwork for a more cataclysmic conflict to come.                                                    

           

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On Topic

                                                                                                        

Arabs Eye Iran Nuclear Deal With Distrust, Disapproval: Brennan Weiss, Washington Times, Aug. 5, 2015—The Iran nuclear deal is proving a difficult sell to Congress, but it may be a harder pitch to people across the Arab world who are increasingly suspicious of Tehran as a regional power.

US Sending Eight F-16 Fighter Jets To Egyptian Military: Tim Marcin, International Business Times, July 30, 2015 —  The United States will deliver eight F-16 fighter jets to Egypt in an effort to help the country fight extremism and to bolster security in the region, according to a statement on Thursday from the U.S. Embassy in Cairo. The aircraft are part of a $1.3 billion plan to upgrade Egypt's military amid increased extremist threats.

The U.S.-Egypt Strategic Dialogue: Drift Along the Nile: Amy Hawthorne, Council on Foreign Relations, July 29, 2015—On August 2, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry will visit Cairo for the first U.S.-Egypt “strategic dialogue” since 2009. The high-level forum has been held on and off since the Clinton administration as part of the still-unmet goal of expanding the relationship beyond security issues into more robust trade, investment, and educational ties.

Israel 'Forgotten' by Egypt Yet Again: Ynet, Aug. 10, 2015—With all honesty, Egypt's 90 million residents deserve the great joy that flooded the squares and three canal cities over the weekend, when President

Egyptian Show That’s Flattering to Jews is a Surprise Hit Among Palestinians: William Booth & Sufian Taha, Washington Post, July 17, 2015 —A dozen Palestinian Muslim men gathered after midnight at an isolated farm house this week to indulge in a new delight. They were going to watch a soap opera about Jews. “Hush, hush. It’s starting!” someone said. The group settled down, sipped fresh lemonade, nibbled sweets, sucked on water pipes and then cranked up the volume for the opening credits of “Haret al-Yahud,” or “The Jewish Quarter.”