Tag: Ethiopia

ALTHOUGH EGYPT TOTTERS ON BRINK OF COLLAPSE, DON’T COUNT ISLAMIST BRETHREN OUT


Contents:                          

 

Download a pdf version of today's Daily Briefing.

 

The Region: Passivity in the face of Islamism: Barry Rubin, Jerusalem Post, June 3, 2013—A colleague wrote me the following thoughts: “As the expert on this issue, may I pose a question to you? I accept the fact that the Muslim Brotherhood is messing up in Egypt – that they are suffering a credibility gap between promise and performance.

 

Egypt's Summer of Discontent: Eric Trager, Real Clear World, May 29, 2013—Due to a moribund economy, fuel and food shortages, and a lack of political opportunities, Egypt faces a tumultuous summer, and conditions will likely continue to deteriorate thereafter.

 

Mohamed Morsi’s Betrayal of Democracy: Editorial Board, Washington Post, May 13, 2013—Ahmed Maher, one of the leaders of Egypt’s 2011 revolution, supported Islamist Mohamed Morsi in last year’s presidential election because he believed Mr. Morsi’s victory over a military-backed candidate would be more likely to consolidate democracy in their country.

 

On Topic Links

 

Egypt’s Supreme Court Rules Against Shura Council: Zenobia Azeem, Al-Monitor, June 3, 2013

Monthly Infiltration from Sinai Drops from 2,000 to 2: Prime Minister's Office, June 2, 2013
Ethiopian Dam Project Raises Fears of Water Deficit in Egypt: Ahmad Mustafa, Al-Monitor, May 30, 2013

Jihad on Egypt's Christian Children: Raymond Ibrahim, Gatestone Institute, June 3, 2013

 

 

THE REGION: PASSIVITY IN THE FACE OF ISLAMISM

Barry Rubin

Jerusalem Post, June 3, 2013
 

A colleague wrote me the following thoughts: “As the expert on this issue, may I pose a question to you? I accept the fact that the Muslim Brotherhood is messing up in Egypt – that they are suffering a credibility gap between promise and performance. But could this not also be positive in that in the process political Islam itself gets discredited? You would recall the Islamist Revolution heralded by Hasan al-Turabi in Sudan. However when I [met some of them], Turabi’s own students [were] critical about the Islamist revolution and indeed told me there should now be a division between state and faith. Could a similar development not happen in Egypt?”

This is a clever point, and it could certainly happen. Yes, by mismanaging Egypt’s affairs the Brotherhood could become unpopular and be voted out of office. To put this idea another way: Might despair be moderation’s best friend? There are examples of such a phenomenon right now in Egypt: An anti-Islamist media now exists to point out this discontent, though the opposition’s power is sometimes overestimated. The mistaken lesson of the 2011 Egyptian revolution at the time was that a lot of people protesting or voting equals democracy.

 

Yet power balances still matter. The old regime only fell because the old ruling elite wouldn’t save it due to exhaustion and factional conflict. The new Islamist ruling elite won’t make that mistake, at least for decades to come. A recent poll shows how Egyptians are becoming understandably gloomy over the situation.

 

Now Egypt faces a huge economic crisis. The country has only about two months’ reserves to pay for imported food. Where is it going to get the around $5 billion a month it needs to pay this bill? A proposed loan from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) that would pay for one month or so is being held up by the Egyptian government’s refusal to sign the deal because the IMF’s conditions require cutting subsidies, and cutting subsidies on food could lead to massive riots.

 

Westerners generally believe that repression and suffering lead to angry responses by the masses. Yet institutions can control the situation, propaganda reshapes beliefs, repression stifles opposition. Moreover, in Third World countries, a predominantly poor people can – because they know they have no choice in economic, political and social terms – put up with a lot more unhappiness and suffering than do middle class Americans or Europeans who have the leisure, information, freedom, and luxury of acting (albeit not necessarily effectively) on even minor complaints.

 

In short, dissatisfaction in Egypt doesn’t necessarily mean change.  Despair usually leads to passivity. If the last revolution failed or was disappointing are people going to want to mobilize for another one? Isn’t the message that politics don’t work or the forces making the mess are too strong? Thirty-four years after Iran’s Islamist revolution a lot of despair has only led to two peaks of moderate activity there. The first was co-opted (the Khatami presidency which achieved nothing), and the second was put down through repression (the 2009 Green Movement after the regime stole an election).

 

The Arab nationalist regime in Egypt lasted for almost 60 years and involved a lot of suffering and four lost wars (Yemen, and against Israel in 1956, 1967, and 1973). By the time the Brotherhood is discredited it will be far more entrenched in power and therefore harder to remove. Perhaps future elections will be fixed, or not even held at all. The Brotherhood will, for example, control the court system in future – this is currently its highest priority – and thus can guarantee electoral victories. By then, repression will set in deeper, discouraging open dissent. Much of the time it is true that the heavier the penalty for speaking out, the fewer who will do so. Even if you have a lot of discontented people on your side it is not easy to moderate, much less, overturn an Islamist dictatorship.

 

Speaking of Iran (and this is quite interesting), in the past, especially in the 1990s, it was argued that the visible failures of Iran’s revolution would discourage other countries from having Islamist revolutions, and at the time that did seem quite logical. Around the year 2000 the Islamist movement was widely considered to have failed. Yet disastrous precedents don’t necessarily discourage revolutionary Islamists, who simply claim, “We can do it better.” And it doesn’t mean the masses necessarily will not believe them, especially since Islam is such a passionate, powerful force.

 

If the highest goal of the Middle East peoples is democracy, freedom, human rights and material progress, the argument that these forces will triumph might be plausible. But is that in fact true? Just because people in the West think that way doesn’t make it accurate. Ideological enthusiasm and religious passion may carry the day rather than the everyone-wants-their-kids-to-get-a-better-life-as-their-top-priority school believes.

 

Not every parent celebrates their kid becoming a suicide bomber, for example, but a large number do. And even though they might be angry about the children being misled by demagogues, they know well enough not to speak publicly about it. Attacking a Christian church also lets off a lot of steam, as does blaming the Jews. Many people give up, thinking (or knowing) that there is no real road immediately visible for transforming their societies into prosperous and democratic ones. Others benefit materially by supporting a dictatorial regime. The government better ensure that one of these groups are military officers.

 

It is also often true that outside observers look at every specific development in isolation, ignoring the revolutionary rulers’ ideology and blueprint. With the armed forces apparently determined to be passive, there is only one effective institution holding back the Brotherhood: the courts. Judges appointed under the old regime are largely secular, and many of them showed pro-democratic independence even under the Mubarak dictatorship. One way or another, however, the Brotherhood is moving toward replacing the judges by forcing them into retirement. And then the regime will name its own judges, who will interpret things the way the Brotherhood likes as well as putting a very high priority on making Sharia the law of the land. The same process will be happening in the schools, mass media, religious and other institutions, finally reaching the entrance and promotion of Brotherhood sympathizers in the officer corps….

 

Indeed, it is very sobering to consider the Sudan, my colleague’s example of anger at an Islamist government leading to moderation. While the extreme Islamists did become discredited there eventually, the process took almost 25 years. Even today, the country is under an authoritarian dictator. And it is very significant to note that Sharia law largely continues to rule the country. The current Sudanese dictatorship, which has been credibly accused of genocide against black Africans in the south, merely uses the pedestal provided by the Islamist predecessor. On its behalf, the Muslim clerical association has just called for jihad against anti-government rebels.

 

Egypt is a more advanced country than Sudan and the Islamists there are badly split. There are now four main Islamist parties in Egypt. Yet they can also work together and are all pushing in the same direction. The moderates are still weak even if you add in all the other non-Islamists (including radical nationalists and leftists). And the opposition to Islamism is more fragmented than the Islamists, lacking even an ideology or program….

 

Thus, while anger and despair are going to rise in Egypt these factors are not in themselves enough to bring down a regime. Unless the army is convinced that the country is going to fall apart – and perhaps not even then – the Brotherhood is going to be in power for a long time. And that also applies to everywhere else Islamists are ruling – in the Gaza Strip, Lebanon, Tunisia, Turkey, and perhaps soon in Syria.

 

The writer is the director of the Global Research in International Affairs (Gloria) Center.

 

Top of Page

 

 

EGYPT'S SUMMER OF DISCONTENT

Eric Trager

Real Clear World, May 29, 2013

 

Due to a moribund economy, fuel and food shortages, and a lack of political opportunities, Egypt faces a tumultuous summer, and conditions will likely continue to deteriorate thereafter. While Washington should encourage Cairo to undertake necessary political and economic reforms that might calm the situation and improve governance, the Obama administration should concentrate on preserving vital strategic interests in the event of renewed upheaval.

Since Egypt's 2011 revolution, persistent political uncertainty and plummeting domestic security have undermined foreign investment and harmed the country's once-vibrant tourism industry. According to the Interior Ministry, the past year has witnessed a 120 percent increase in murders, 350 percent increase in robberies, and 145 percent jump in kidnappings. Foreign currency reserves dropped from approximately $36 billion at the time of Hosni Mubarak's ouster to $14.42 billion at the end of April 2013, with a $2 billion Libyan cash deposit in late March inflating the latter figure. Meanwhile, according to the Financial Times, Egypt's public sector salary bill has risen by 80 percent since the uprising to $25 billion annually; 400,000 government jobs have been added, and an additional 400,000 will be made permanent by the end of June.

This combination of shrinking reserves and growing expenditures is threatening the government's ability to import wheat and fuel, which it sells at subsidized rates. Fuel and fertilizer shortages have also impacted domestic wheat production, which is unlikely to reach Cairo's goal of 9.5 million tons — a benchmark intended to reduce Egypt's dependence on foreign imports. The fuel shortages have also catalyzed regular electricity outages (including multiple times in one day at Cairo International Airport), and rural areas are reporting water outages. These problems are expected to worsen as Egyptians turn on their air conditioners during the summer; the situation will become especially uncomfortable once Ramadan begins in early July, when approximately 90 percent of the population will be observing the month-long fast during daylight hours.

Historically, wheat shortages and subsidy cuts have sparked mass protests in Egypt, such as the 1977 "Bread Riots" and the demonstrations that accompanied the 2008 global food crisis. Indeed, fuel shortages have already given rise to sporadic protests nationwide since March. Although these demonstrations have been relatively small thus far, summertime power outages that make it too uncomfortable to be indoors could force more people into the streets.

Since November 2012 — when President Muhammad Morsi asserted virtually unchecked executive authority and rushed an Islamist-dominated constitutional process to ratification — Egypt's non-Islamist opposition has protested the Muslim Brotherhood-led government's autocratic behavior and increasingly questioned its legitimacy. For many activists, the Brotherhood's use of violence against non-Islamist protesters on December 5 represented the point of no return; the group's subsequent assaults on media freedom (e.g., prosecuting journalists who criticize Morsi) have led some to call for the military to return to power.

The latest iteration of this movement is the "Tamarod" (rebellion) petition campaign, which opposition activists launched on May 1. The campaign seeks to "withdraw confidence" in Morsi and rally public support for early presidential elections by focusing on specific grievances, including the persistent lack of security, ongoing poverty, and Morsi's supposed "subservience to the Americans." While the petition will likely fall short of the 15 million signatures its supporters hope to collect by June 30 — the one-year anniversary of Morsi's inauguration — the fact that it has already collected 2 million indicates widespread frustration, and June 30 may emerge as a major protest date.

The Brotherhood's response to these political challenges has only exacerbated the situation and seemingly strengthened the opposition's resolve. Rather than engaging its opponents, the government is repressing them. Ahmed Maher, founder of the "April 6" opposition movement, was recently arrested after returning from a trip to the United States, charged with inciting protests outside the interior minister's house. The prosecutor-general is also investigating two prominent television hosts — Amr Adib and former parliamentarian Mohamed Sherdy — for supporting the Tamarod campaign.

Unfortunately, Egypt's political polarization will likely persist well beyond the summer. The opposition will probably continue to be excluded from the political process. The next parliamentary elections, which have not yet been scheduled, are unlikely to occur before September, leaving street protests as the only viable avenue for opposition dissent. Moreover, when elections finally do occur, the Brotherhood will likely win again: even if the main opposition bloc (the National Salvation Front) abandons its current boycott commitment, as many analysts expect, its late entry will complicate efforts to compete with the Brotherhood's nationwide network, which has been in campaign mode since the beginning of the year.

In the interim, the Brotherhood appears unlikely to abandon exclusivist rule. Morsi's latest round of cabinet appointments further expanded the number of Brotherhood-affiliated ministers without adding any from non-Islamist parties, and he has rebuffed opposition demands to remove the interior and information ministers. Moreover, the officials who will lead the negotiations with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for a $4.8 billion loan are all Muslim Brothers.

This polarization will significantly inhibit Egypt's economic recovery for the foreseeable future. Morsi's apparent focus on consolidating the Brotherhood's power is contrary to the IMF's insistence on more inclusive governance, which the agency views as necessary for ensuring broad political support for any loan. In addition, persistent political tension and civil strife will deter foreign investment and keep tourists away, leaving Egypt reliant on petrodollar infusions (e.g., from Qatar and Libya) that are unlikely to continue flowing indefinitely. The cash crunch will also complicate government efforts to restore security, further compounding lawlessness and economic woes.

Meanwhile, the military does not appear willing or able to steer the country in a more positive direction. Although the armed forces are generally considered Egypt's strongest institution, the generals have repeatedly signaled their lack of interest in returning to power. They recognize that they performed poorly when they ran the country prior to Morsi's election, and they seem to know they are no more likely to succeed in governing than the Brotherhood given the extent of Egypt's challenges. In addition, the military's undemocratic nature makes it incapable of engendering the kind of broad consensus needed for reform.

 

Egypt's worsening economic and political frustrations, coupled with the state's declining ability to maintain order, make upheaval a strong possibility this summer and beyond. Washington should therefore focus on two goals.

 

First, it should continue encouraging Egypt's political actors to dial down the tension. This means telling the opposition not to give up on politics, since participation in the current system provides a more likely path to power sharing than calling for a "rebellion" against Morsi, which would only exacerbate the country's instability and further damage the economy. As for the Muslim Brotherhood, Washington should tell Cairo that the painful choices required by necessary economic reform (e.g., tax increases and subsidy cuts) make including the opposition and forging political consensus vital. U.S. officials should also point out that Egypt cannot rely on petrodollar infusions to sustain its shrinking cash reserves indefinitely, and that failure to institute vital reforms will ultimately lead its benefactors to view it as a bad investment.

 

Second, Washington should prepare for the likelihood that the Brotherhood and opposition will reject this advice, and plan for potential instability. In particular, the administration should focus on the three strategic interests that could be jeopardized:

 

1. The Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty, which may come under pressure if turmoil leads to greater violence from Sinai or more hostile populist politics from Cairo

 

2. The security of the Suez Canal, which recent civil unrest has already put at risk

 

3. Counterterrorism cooperation, given the recent emergence of Salafist jihadists in Egypt

 

Since the Egyptian military is primarily responsible for each of these items, the Obama administration should work with the generals to ensure that contingency plans are in place if the country's summer of discontent boils over.

 

Eric Trager is the Next Generation fellow at The Washington Institute.

 

Top of Page

 

 

MOHAMED MORSI’S BETRAYAL OF DEMOCRACY

Editorial

Washington Post, May 13, 2013

 

Ahmed Maher, one of the leaders of Egypt’s 2011 revolution, supported Islamist Mohamed Morsi in last year’s presidential election because he believed Mr. Morsi’s victory over a military-backed candidate would be more likely to consolidate democracy in their country. But during a visit to Washington last week, Mr. Maher told us that Mr. Morsi had betrayed him and his April 6 Youth Movement. “They lied, they broke promises, they killed members of April 6,” Mr. Maher said. Mr. Morsi’s government, he said, increasingly resembled that of former strongman Hosni Mubarak: “They only seek power.”

 

Mr. Maher’s strong charges soon were substantiated by another transgression: Upon returning to Cairo from the United States on Friday, he was arrested at the airport. The 32-year-old, who founded the April 6 movement in 2008 to organize protests against the Mubarak regime, was charged with inciting a protest in March against Mr. Morsi’s interior minister. His transfer to a high-security prison quickly provoked a backlash both in Cairo and in Washington, and on Saturday authorities backed down. Mr. Maher was released, his case was transferred to a lower court and Mr. Morsi’s office and political party repudiated the airport arrest.

 

That retreat still left Mr. Maher facing charges, according to the state news agency, of “resisting the authorities, insulting the police, gathering and obstructing traffic” — counts frequently used by the former dictatorship against public demonstrations. It offered new cause for concern about a government that repeatedly has proclaimed its commitment to both democracy and compromise with its opponents even as it prosecutes critics and prepares repressive new laws.

 

Mr. Maher’s youth movement has resisted the polarization that has overtaken Egyptian politics in the past year. Though its leaders are secular liberal democrats with left-leaning views, they supported Mr. Morsi after obtaining direct assurances from him that he would seek consensus on the terms of a new constitution. The president broke that commitment in November, when he granted himself absolute power in order to force through a constitution favoured by the Muslim Brotherhood. Meanwhile, a state prosecutor Mr.Morsi appointed in what opponents contend was another illegal manoeuvre has been bringing charges against critics, including journalists and organizers of demonstrations. A legislative body dominated by the ruling party has given preliminary approval to a law that would eviscerate Egypt’s civil society, shutting down almost all government-watchdog and human rights groups.

 

Mr. Morsi’s spokesmen have asserted that he does not favour the political prosecutions and that the government is preparing a new version of the civil society law. But the president has not removed the prosecutor he appointed nor met other reasonable opposition demands, such as the correction of a gerrymander of electoral districts legislated by his party.

 

Mr. Maher opposes counterproductive strategies embraced by other opposition leaders, including a boycott of future elections or support for a military coup. But he warns that the United States is repeating past mistakes in Egypt by appearing to tolerate Mr. Morsi’s consolidation of power. “If you want to support democracy, say we are here in Egypt to support democracy, not whoever is in office,” Mr. Maher says. That’s advice the Obama administration should heed.

 

Top of Page

 

Egypt’s Supreme Court Rules Against Shura Council: Zenobia Azeem, Al-Monitor, June 3, 2013—In a surprising decision, Egypt’s Supreme Constitutional Court (SCC) ruled on June 2 that the Shura Council, currently the country’s only functioning legislative body, and the Constituent Assembly, which drafted the December 2012 Constitution, are unconstitutional.

 

Monthly Infiltration from Sinai Drops from 2,000 to 2: Prime Minister's Office, June 2, 2013—Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday, "The fence that we built in the south is achieving the result for which it was erected.

 

Ethiopian Dam Project Raises Fears of Water Deficit in Egypt: Ahmad Mustafa, Al-Monitor, May 30, 2013—Ethiopia's decision to begin diverting the course of the Blue Nile (the largest of the Nile river’s branches), as a prelude to the construction of the Renaissance Dam, put Egyptian diplomacy in a difficult position and stirred fears over Cairo’s declining share in the Nile waters, but the Egyptian presidency managed to tame these fears.

 

Jihad on Egypt's Christian Children: Raymond Ibrahim, Gatestone Institute, June 3, 2013—Attacks on Christian children in Egypt are on the rise. Earlier this week, a six-year-old Coptic Christian boy, Cyril Yusuf Sa'ad, was abducted and held for ransom. After his family paid the ransom, the Muslim kidnapper, Ahmed Abdel Moneim Abdel-Salam, killed the child and threw his body in the sewer of his house

Top of Page

 

 

Visit CIJR’s Bi-Weekly Webzine: Israzine.

CIJR’s ISRANET Daily Briefing is available by e-mail.
Please urge colleagues, friends, and family to visit our website for more information on our ISRANET series.
To join our distribution list, or to unsubscribe, visit us at http://www.isranet.org/.

The ISRANET Daily Briefing is a service of CIJR. We hope that you find it useful and that you will support it and our pro-Israel educational work by forwarding a minimum $90.00 tax-deductible contribution [please send a cheque or VISA/MasterCard information to CIJR (see cover page for address)]. All donations include a membership-subscription to our respected quarterly ISRAFAX print magazine, which will be mailed to your home.

CIJR’s ISRANET Daily Briefing attempts to convey a wide variety of opinions on Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish world for its readers’ educational and research purposes. Reprinted articles and documents express the opinions of their authors, and do not necessarily reflect the viewpoint of the Canadian Institute for Jewish Research.

 

 

Ber Lazarus, Publications Chairman, Canadian Institute for Jewish ResearchL'institut Canadien de recherches sur le Judaïsme, www.isranet.org

Tel: (514) 486-5544 – Fax:(514) 486-8284 ; ber@isranet.org

ARTIFICIAL PEARLS, REAL SWINE: AFRICAN “STATES” CONFRONT POST-LIBYA ISLAMISTS

Download Today's Isranet Daily Briefing.pdf 

 

Contents:                          

 

(Please Note: articles may have been shortened in the interest of space. Please click link for the complete article – Ed.)

 

In Mali, the Domino Theory is Real: Daniel Larison, The American Conservative, Jan. 23, 2013—As the French military intervention in Mali nears the end of its second week, French and Malian forces have begun making slow advances into the territory controlled by several different Islamist and separatist groups. What began a year ago as a Tuareg secessionist rebellion fuelled by weapons and mercenaries returning from Libya expanded into a larger war Jan. 11, when France attacked advancing Islamist forces that were moving towards Mali’s capital, Bamako.

 

Al-Qaeda's Soft Power Strategy in Yemen: Daniel Green, Washington Institute, Jan.24, 2013—Learning from jihadist mistakes in Iraq and Afghanistan, al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) has become adept at aligning with local political movements and building popular support in Yemen. In doing so, it has morphed into an insurgency while retaining its roots as a terrorist group.

 

Nigeria – Where Every Problem is Too Hard to Fix: Gwyne Dyer, The New Zealand Herald, Jan 2, 2013—It is not known if the word "dysfunctional" was invented specifically to describe the Nigerian state but the word certainly fills the bill. The political institutions of Africa's biggest country are incapable of dealing with even the smallest challenge.

 

On Topic Links

 

 

'Darker Sides': The Vast Islamist Sanctuary of 'Sahelistan': Paul Hyacinthe Mben, Jan Puhl, Thilo Thielke, Der Spiegel, Jan 28, 2013

Connecting the Dots in Somalia, Ethiopia and Kenya: Abukar Arman, The Commentator, Jan. 7 2013

The Mali Blowback: Patrick J. Buchanan, American Conservative, Jan. 18, 2013
Mali and the al-Qaeda Trap: Paul Rogers, Real Clear World, Jan. 25, 2013

 

 

IN MALI, THE DOMINO THEORY IS REAL

 

Daniel Larison

The American Conservative, Jan. 23, 2013

 

As the French military intervention in Mali nears the end of its second week, French and Malian forces have begun making slow advances into the territory controlled by several different Islamist and separatist groups. What began a year ago as a Tuareg secessionist rebellion fueled by weapons and mercenaries returning from Libya expanded into a larger war Jan. 11, when France attacked advancing Islamist forces that were moving towards Mali’s capital, Bamako. Unlike most previous Western interventions over the last two decades, France is here supporting the internationally recognized government of Mali, and its intervention has so far been welcomed by most Malians as necessary for the defense of their country. Unfortunately, French intervention now likely would not have been necessary had it not been for the intervention in Libya in 2011 that the last French president demanded and the U.S. backed. Had Western governments foreseen the possible consequences of toppling one government two years ago, there might be no need to rescue another one from disaster now.

 

France says it will continue fighting until the Malian government’s control over its northern territory is restored and Islamist groups are defeated, which promises to be a protracted, open-ended commitment for a nation that was already weary of its role in Afghanistan and unable to wage the war in Libya without substantial American help. The U.S. role in the conflict remains a minimal one, confined so far to intelligence assistance and logistical support. Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) does pose a real security threat to North and West Africa, and it could pose a threat to Europe, but the threat to the U.S. from AQIM is minimal, if it exists at all. The U.S. has far less at stake in this fight than France or the countries in the region, so it is appropriate that they bear the costs of countering that threat.

 

The Libyan war did not create Mali’s internal divisions, which have existed since independence, but the destabilizing effects of changing one regime in the region exacerbated many of the country’s political weaknesses. As a result, the country was effectively cut in half, its democratically-elected president was overthrown in a coup, and hundreds of thousands of its people have been forced to become refugees. Adding to the embarrassment of Western interventionists, up until then Mali had been something of the poster child for successful democratization and development in Africa. Now it is in danger of being reduced to an even more misleading caricature as “another Afghanistan” or “another Somalia.” But thinking in these terms is bound to fail. Mali’s predicament has to be understood on its own terms.

 

Despite broad French and Malian support for French intervention, it is far from obvious that President Hollande’s decision was a wise or well-considered one. One of the few prominent French opponents of that decision, Dominique de Villepin, voiced his doubts shortly after the intervention began:

 

In Mali, none of the conditions for success are met. We will fight blindfolded absent a clear objective for the war. Stopping the southward advance of the jihadists, and retaking the north, eradicating AQIM bases are all different wars. We will fight alone absent a reliable Malian partner. With the overthrow of the president in March and the prime minister in December, the collapse of the divided Malian army, and the overall state failure, on whom can we depend? We will fight in a void absent strong regional support. ECOWAS is in the rear and Algeria has signaled its reluctance.

 

Like Sarkozy’s decision to use force in Libya, Hollande’s decision to go to war in Mali has been a popular one and a much-needed political boost for his ailing government, but that popularity will disappear if French involvement becomes prolonged and costly. Unless Hollande limits French objectives to those that are realistic and obtainable, he will find that de Villepin was as prescient in his warnings about war in Mali as he was when he admonished the U.S. against invading Iraq.

 

As far as America is concerned, there is no compelling national interest that obliges the U.S. to become more involved in the conflict in Mali. One lesson of the Libyan war is that the U.S. shouldn’t join wars of choice that our allies insist on fighting. Americans should remember that one of the reasons the French are fighting in Mali is that our government agreed to support the last French-backed military adventure in Africa. What other countries in the region would suffer serious unintended consequences from doing the same thing in Mali? How many other countries have to be wrecked before American leaders acknowledge that their interventionist remedies often do more harm than good?

 

The Libyan intervention’s consequences in Mali tell a cautionary tale about the disaster that unnecessary war can unleash on an entire region, but most of the Obama administration’s opponents in the U.S. refuse to understand this. Instead of seeing Mali’s current woes as a warning against going to war too quickly, hawkish interventionists are already crafting a fantasy story that this is a result of excessive American passivity. This virtually guarantees that Republican hawks will keep attacking the administration for “inaction” when they could instead be trying to hold it accountable for its past recklessness in using force. Absent a credible opposition, the administration will keep receiving the benefit of the doubt from the public on foreign policy, even when it isn’t deserved.

 

If the U.S. learned anything from the Libyan war experience, it ought to be that our government should be far more cautious about resorting to force and much less willing to dismiss the importance of regional stability when considering how to respond to a brutal and abusive regime. Unfortunately, the bias in favor of (military) action in U.S. foreign-policy discourse makes it virtually impossible for these lessons to take hold.

Top of Page

 

 

 

AL-QAEDA'S SOFT POWER STRATEGY IN YEMEN
Daniel Green

Washington Institute, Jan.24, 2013
 

Learning from jihadist mistakes in Iraq and Afghanistan, al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) has become adept at aligning with local political movements and building popular support in Yemen. In doing so, it has morphed into an insurgency while retaining its roots as a terrorist group. To counter the group's political, legal, and social-welfare efforts in areas outside the capital, the Yemeni and U.S. governments must supplement their counterterrorism campaign by expanding services to the provinces in a decentralized fashion.
 

Since its founding in January 2009, AQAP has repeatedly attacked the United States and its interests. Washington has responded by significantly expanding its drone strikes in Yemen and bolstering the government's ability to fight AQAP itself through additional military aid and training.

 

When the Arab Spring began to sweep the region in 2011, a political crisis emerged in Yemen between then president Ali Saleh, who had ruled for over thirty years, and opponents who criticized the regime's corruption, lack of services, and leadership. As the crisis unfolded, Yemeni security forces became involved in political struggles in Sana, with many units moving from the south to the capital. Sensing a vacuum, AQAP launched a series of raids throughout the south that year, using conventional tactics to overrun large swathes of territory, including many districts and a provincial capital.
 

After seizing control of various southern Yemeni towns and districts, AQAP moved beyond its terrorist focus, adopting the characteristics of an insurgency and holding territory in order to create a nascent government. Its ability to do so was based not only on its enhanced military capabilities and the departure of government security forces, but also on its effective community engagement strategy.

 

Capitalizing on longstanding southern grievances regarding insufficient education, healthcare, security, rule of law, political representation, and economic development, AQAP sought to replicate the central government's functions throughout the region. Its political agents established a form of stability based on Islamic law, convening regular meetings with community leaders, solving local problems, and attempting to replace chaotic tribal feuds with a more ordered and religiously inspired justice system. This effort included mitigating tribal conflicts, protecting weaker tribes from stronger rivals, and creating opportunities for some ambitious locals, including weaker tribal factions, to rise beyond their social position and seize power in their communities. AQAP also provided humanitarian assistance such as fresh water and food for the indigent, basic healthcare, and educational opportunities (albeit only Quranic teachings).

 

Many of these efforts appealed to the population, not only because they were better than what the local government had provided, but also because many tribal sheiks had previously been discredited for not living up to their responsibilities. Additionally, Quran-based engagement was highly appealing to communities in which that book was often the only text residents knew.
 

Al-Qaeda's strategy in Yemen reflects many of the lessons it learned in Iraq and Afghanistan, where it frequently alienated locals through the brutality of its rule. In addition, Yemeni tribal structures are far stronger than in those two countries, and tribal leaders are much more adept at governing their traditional areas of control. AQAP has therefore pursued a softer approach not simply because it wants to, but because it must, since the tribes have far greater power than it currently wields.

AQAP has also been effective at joining its cause with local political movements in Yemen, as it did in Iraq with Sunni Arab nationalists. To date, it has aligned its interests with southern elements seeking greater autonomy from the central government or complete independence from Yemen (though it is probably not working with the longstanding Southern Mobility Movement).

 

Finally, al-Qaeda does not have as strong a foreign character in Yemen as it did in previous conflicts. This reduces Washington and Sana's ability to separate the population from the terrorist group by using national pride, ethnic/tribal differences, or simple xenophobia to rebuff AQAP's advances.

 

Last year, in response to AQAP's gains, the Yemeni military launched widespread operations against the group's forces in the south. Although these efforts were largely successful in pushing AQAP out of areas it overran in 2011, the group continues to pose a threat. Having retreated to its traditional safe havens in the interior, al-Qaeda has since undertaken a concerted assassination campaign against Yemeni security, military, and intelligence officials as it reconstitutes its forces.

 

In addition, the group still commands sympathy and influence in the south. To be sure, AQAP eventually reverted to harsh rule in many communities once it consolidated power there, alienating many locals and spurring the exodus of thousands from areas under its sway. Yet many others remain sympathetic to the group, not just for religious or culturally conservative reasons, but also out of a general feeling that al-Qaeda, with all its imperfections, is still a better alternative than the Yemeni government.

 

Although relief efforts for war refugees did much to improve Sana's image among southerners, only a sustained governance and development initiative — one highly synchronized with military clearing and holding operations against AQAP — will consolidate support for the central government. Yet this sort of initiative will not come naturally to Sana or Washington. The lack of such efforts following last year's clearing operations is already undermining popular support, creating another opportunity for a chastened but resilient AQAP to leverage the south against the central government. The group is already adapting its community engagement strategy by apologizing for the excesses of its recent rule and making overtures to key local leaders to lay the groundwork for reasserting control.

 

Thus far, most U.S. efforts against AQAP have been limited to counterterrorism operations, which are unable to address the fundamental issues prompting Yemenis to either tolerate the group's presence or actively support its goals. In fact, the heavy reliance on sometimes-inaccurate drone strikes has allowed AQAP to take advantage of U.S. and Yemeni mistakes and further bolster its support among the population…..

Top of Page

 

 

 

NIGERIA – WHERE EVERY PROBLEM IS TOO HARD TO FIX

Gwyne Dyer

The New Zealand Herald, Jan 2, 2013

 

It is not known if the word "dysfunctional" was invented specifically to describe the Nigerian state – several other candidates also come to mind – but the word certainly fills the bill. The political institutions of Africa's biggest country are incapable of dealing with even the smallest challenge. Indeed, they often make matters worse.

 

Consider, for example, the way that the Nigerian Government has dealt with the Islamist terrorists of Boko Haram. Or rather, how it has failed to deal with them. Boko Haram (the phrase means "Western education is sinful") began as a loony but not very dangerous group in the northern state of Bornu who rejected everything that they perceived as "Western" science. In a BBC interview in 2009 its founder, Mohammed Yusuf, claimed that the concept of a spherical Earth is against Islamic teaching. He also denied that rain came from water evaporated by the sun.

 

Bornu is a very poor state, however, and his preaching gave him enough of a following among the poor and ignorant to make him a political threat to the established order. So hundreds of his followers were killed in a huge military and police attack on the movement in 2009, and Mohammed Yusuf himself was murdered while in police custody. That was what triggered Boko Haram's terrorist campaign.

 

Its attacks grew rapidly: by early last year Boko Haram had killed 700 people in dozens of attacks against military, police, government and media organisations and against the Christian minorities living in northern Nigeria. So last March Nigeria's President, Goodluck Jonathan, promised that the security forces would end the insurgency by June. But the death toll just kept climbing.

 

In September, an official told the Guardian newspaper, "There is no sense that the Government has a real grip. The situation is not remotely under control." Last week alone, six people died in an attack on a church on Christmas Day, seven were killed in Maiduguri, the capital of Bornu state, on December 27 and 15 Christians were abducted and murdered, mostly by slitting their throats, in a town near Maiduguri on December 28.

 

President Jonathan's response was to visit a Christian church on Sunday and congratulate the security forces on preventing many more attacks during Christmas week: "Although we still recorded some incidents, the extent of attacks which [Boko Haram] planned was not allowed to be executed." If this is what success looks like, Nigeria is in very deep trouble.

 

Part of the reason is the "security forces", which are corrupt, incompetent, and brutal. In the murderous rampages that are their common response to Boko Haram's attacks, they have probably killed more innocent people than the terrorists, and have certainly stolen more property.

 

But it is the Government that raises, trains and pays these security forces, and even in a continent where many countries have problems with the professionalism of the army and police, Nigeria's are in a class by themselves. That is ultimately because its politicians are also in a class by themselves. There are some honest and serious men and women among them, but as a group they are spectacularly cynical and self-serving.

 

One reason is Nigeria's oil: 100 million Nigerians, two-thirds of the population, live on less than a dollar a day, but there is a lot of oil money around to steal, and politics is the best way to steal it. Another is the country's tribal, regional and religious divisions, which are extreme even by African standards. In the mainly Muslim north, 70 per cent of the population lives below the poverty line; in the mostly Christian south, only half do.

 

Now add a ruthless Islamist terrorist group to the mix, and stir. Boko Haram's support does not just come from a tiny minority of religious fanatics and from grieving and angry people turned against the Government by the brutality of the security forces. It also comes from a huge pool of unemployed and demoralised young men who have no hope of doing anything meaningful with their lives.

 

Democracy has not transformed politics dramatically anywhere in Nigeria, but the deficit is worst in the north, where the traditional rulers protected their power by making alliances with politicians who appealed to the population's Islamic sentiments.

 

That's why all the northern states introduced sharia law around the turn of the century: to stave off popular demands for more far-reaching reforms.

 

But that solution is now failing, for the cynical politicians who became Islamist merely for tactical reasons are being outflanked by genuine fanatics who reject not only science and religious freedom but democracy itself.

 

Nigeria only has an Islamist terrorist problem at the moment, mostly centred in the north and with sporadic attacks in the Christian-majority parts of the country. But it may be heading down the road recently taken by Mali, in which Islamist extremists seize control of the north of the country and divide it in two. And lots of people in the south wouldn't mind a bit. Just seal the new border and forget about the north.

Top of Page

 

 

 

 

'Darker Sides': The Vast Islamist Sanctuary of 'Sahelistan': Paul Hyacinthe Mben, Jan Puhl and Thilo Thielke, Der Spiegel, Jan 28, 2013—France is advancing quickly against the Islamists in northern Mali, having already made it to Timbuktu. But the Sahel offers a vast sanctuary for the extremists, complete with training camps, lawlessness and plenty of ways to make money.

 

Connecting the Dots in Somalia, Ethiopia and Kenya: Abukar Arman, The Commentator, Jan. 7 2013—Just as the temperature of ‘security threat’ slowly declines in Somalia, it rises in other parts of East Africa. Elements of mainly political, religious, and clan/ethnic nature continue to shift and create new volatile conditions. Though not entirely interdependent these conditions could create a ripple effect across different borders.  It is a high anxiety period in the region – especially the area that I would refer to as the triangle of threat: Somalia, Ethiopia and Kenya.
 

The Mali Blowback: Patrick J. Buchanan, American Conservative, Jan. 18, 2013—“For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction” is Newton’s third law of physics. Its counterpart in geopolitics is “blowback,” when military action in one sphere produces an unintended and undesirable consequence in another. September 11, 2001, was blowback.

Mali and the al-Qaeda Trap: Paul Rogers, Real Clear World, Jan. 25, 2013—A series of events and statements in the early weeks of 2013 suggests that the "war on terror" declared in 2001 is entering a new phase. The escalation of war in northern Mali and the siege of the In Amenas gas facility in Algeria, followed by the sudden advice from several European governments that their citizens in Benghazi should leave immediately, all focus security attention on northern Africa. At the same time, there are signs of an increase in Islamist influence among the opposition forces in Syria's ongoing war, and of an intensified bombing campaign against government and Shi'a sites in Iraq.

 

 

Visit CIJR’s Bi-Weekly Webzine: Israzine.

CIJR’s ISRANET Daily Briefing is available by e-mail.
Please urge colleagues, friends, and family to visit our website for more information on our ISRANET series.
To join our distribution list, or to unsubscribe, visit us at http://www.isranet.org/.

The ISRANET Daily Briefing is a service of CIJR. We hope that you find it useful and that you will support it and our pro-Israel educational work by forwarding a minimum $90.00 tax-deductible contribution [please send a cheque or VISA/MasterCard information to CIJR (see cover page for address)]. All donations include a membership-subscription to our respected quarterly ISRAFAX print magazine, which will be mailed to your home.

CIJR’s ISRANET Daily Briefing attempts to convey a wide variety of opinions on Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish world for its readers’ educational and research purposes. Reprinted articles and documents express the opinions of their authors, and do not necessarily reflect the viewpoint of the Canadian Institute for Jewish Research.

 

 

Ber Lazarus, Publications Editor, Canadian Institute for Jewish ResearchL'institut Canadien de recherches sur le Judaïsme, www.isranet.org

Tel: (514) 486-5544 – Fax:(514) 486-8284 ; ber@isranet.org