Tag: Suez Canal


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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.”






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.]





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.                    




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.                                                    






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.”






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Sisi's Islamist Agenda for Egypt: The General's Radical Political Vision: Robert Springborg, Foreign Affairs, July 28, 2013—Addressing graduates of military academies is a standard responsibility for high-ranking military officers all over the world. But last week, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, the commander of Egypt’s armed forces, which recently deposed the country’s first freely elected president, went far beyond the conventions of the genre in a speech to graduates of Egypt’s Navy and Air Defense academies.

In Egypt’s Sinai, Insurgency Taking Root: Abigail Hauslohner, Washington Post, July 28, 2013—More than three weeks after the military coup that ousted this nation’s first democratically elected — and Islamist — president from power, the roots of a violent insurgency are burrowing fast into the sands of Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula.

Muslim Brotherhood Kills Its Own to Demonize Egyptian Military:Raymond Ibrahim, Gatestone Institute, July 25, 2013—Killing fellow Muslims, and even the most horrific crimes, are permissible so long as they are seen as ways of advancing and empowering Islam.


On Topic Links


Egypt’s Dilemma: Marcus Marktanner, Jerusalem Post, July 28, 2013

Egypt's Predictable Unrest: Vice Adm. (res.) Eliezer Marom, Israel Hayom, July 29, 2013

About That Coup: Never Mind: Elliot Abrams, Israel Hayom, July 29, 2013

Egypt's Sectarian Tensions Become Politicised: Dahlia Kholaif, Al Jazeera, July 26, 2013

A Familiar Role for Muslim Brotherhood: Opposition: Robert F. Worth, New York Times, July 28, 2013



Robert Springborg

Foreign Affairs, July 28, 2013


Addressing graduates of military academies is a standard responsibility for high-ranking military officers all over the world. But last week, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, the commander of Egypt’s armed forces, which recently deposed the country’s first freely elected president, went far beyond the conventions of the genre in a speech to graduates of Egypt’s Navy and Air Defense academies. Sisi’s true audience was the wider Egyptian public, and he presented himself less as a general in the armed forces than as a populist strongman. He urged Egyptians to take to the streets to show their support for the provisional government that he had installed after launching a coup to remove from power President Mohamed Morsi, a longtime leader of the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood. “I’ve never asked you for anything,” Sisi declared, before requesting a “mandate” to confront the Muslim Brotherhood, whose supporters have launched protests and sit-ins to denounce the new military-backed regime.


Sisi’s speech was only the latest suggestion that he will not be content to simply serve as the leader of Egypt’s military. Although he has vowed to lead Egypt through a democratic transition, there are plenty of indications that he is less than enthusiastic about democracy and that he intends to hold on to political power himself. But that’s not to say that he envisions a return to the secular authoritarianism of Egypt’s recent past. Given the details of Sisi’s biography and the content of his only published work, a thesis he wrote in 2006 while studying at the U.S. Army War College in Pennsylvania, it seems possible that he might have something altogether different in mind: a hybrid regime that would combine Islamism with militarism. To judge from the ideas about governance that he put forward in his thesis, Sisi might see himself less as a custodian of Egypt’s democratic future than as an Egyptian version of Muhammed Zia ul-Haq, the Pakistani general who seized power in 1977 and set about to “Islamicize” state and society in Pakistan.


Last summer, when Morsi tapped Sisi to replace Minister of Defense Muhammad Tantawi, Morsi clearly believed that he had chosen someone who was willing to subordinate himself to an elected government. Foreign observers also interpreted Sisi’s promotion as a signal that the military would finally be professionalized, beginning with a reduction of its role in politics and then, possibly, the economy. Sisi’s initial moves as defense minister reinforced this optimism. He immediately removed scores of older officers closely associated with his corrupt and unpopular predecessor. And he implicitly criticized the military’s involvement in politics after the ouster of Hosni Mubarak in 2011, warning that such “dangerous” interventions could turn Egypt into Afghanistan or Somalia and would not recur….


Throughout Sisi’s tenure as defense minister, the Brotherhood dismissed his political potential. Obviously, they underestimated him. That is not to say that he had been planning a coup the entire time; there is not enough evidence to determine that. But there is plenty of evidence that Sisi is not nearly as modest as he has always preferred Egyptians to believe. It is significant that he not only remained minister of defense in the new government but also took the post of first deputy prime minister.


Following the cabinet’s formation, Sisi’s spokesperson appeared on television to say that although the general was not running for the presidency, there was nothing to prevent him from so doing if he retired from the military. Sisi also had his spokesman release a 30-minute YouTube video glorifying the general and the military, taking particular care to illustrate the military’s provision of goods and services to civilians. Not long thereafter, demonstrators in Cairo and elsewhere were seen carrying large photos of Sisi.


As fears of the general’s political ambitions have intensified, so have concerns about the nature of his political views. Since deposing Morsi, Sisi has clearly been trying to give the impression that he is committed to democracy. He has taken pains to ensure that civilian political figures share the limelight with him. Hazem al-Beblawi, who was appointed as the prime minister of the transitional government, claimed in his first television interview after taking office that he had not met Sisi prior to the swearing-in ceremony and that the general had not intervened in any way in his choice of ministers….


Morsi likely also found much to admire in the thesis that Sisi produced at the U.S. Army War College, which, despite its innocuous title (“Democracy in the Middle East”), reads like a tract produced by the Muslim Brotherhood. In his opening paragraph, Sisi emphasizes the centrality of religion to the politics of the region, arguing that “for democracy to be successful in the Middle East,” it must show “respect to the religious nature of the culture” and seek “public support from religious leaders [who] can help build strong support for the establishment of democratic systems.”


Egyptians and other Arabs will view democracy positively, he wrote, only if it “sustains the religious base versus devaluing religion and creating instability.” Secularism, according to Sisi, “is unlikely to be favorably received by the vast majority of Middle Easterners, who are devout followers of the Islamic faith.” He condemns governments that “tend toward secular rule,” because they “disenfranchise large segments of the population who believe religion should not be excluded from government,” and because “they often send religious leaders to prison.”


But Sisi’s thesis goes beyond simply rejecting the idea of a secular state; it embraces a more radical view of the proper place of religion in an Islamic democracy. He writes: “Democracy cannot be understood in the Middle East without an understanding of the concept of El Kalafa,” or the caliphate, which Sisi defines as the 70-year period when Muslims were led by Muhammad and his immediate successors. Re-establishing this kind of leadership “is widely recognized as the goal for any new form of government” in the Middle East, he asserts. The central political mechanisms in such a system, he believes, are al-bi'ah (fealty to a ruler) and shura (a ruler’s consultation with his subjects). Apologists for Islamic rule sometimes suggest that these concepts are inherently democratic, but in reality they fall far short of the democratic mark.


Sisi concludes that a tripartite government would be acceptable only if the executive, legislative, and judicial branches are all sufficiently Islamic; otherwise, there must be an independent “religious” branch of government. He acknowledges that it will be a challenge to incorporate Islam into government, but concludes that there is no other choice. (As an afterthought, he adds that “there must be consideration given to non-Islamic beliefs.”)


If Sisi’s thesis truly reflects his thinking — and there is no reason to believe otherwise — it suggests not only that he might want to stay at the helm of the new Egyptian state but that his vision of how to steer Egyptian society differs markedly from those of the secular-nationalist military rulers who led Egypt for decades: Gamal Abdel al-Nasser, Anwar al-Sadat, and Mubarak. The ideas in Sisi’s thesis hew closer to those of Zia ul-Haq, who overthrew Pakistan’s democratically elected government in 1977 and soon began a campaign of “Islamicization” that included the introduction of some elements of sharia into Pakistani law, along with a state-subsidized boom in religious education….


If Sisi continues to seek legitimacy for military rule by associating it with Islamism, it could prove to be a disaster for Egypt. At the very least, it would set back the democratic cause immeasurably. It would also reinforce the military’s octopus-like hold on the economy, which is already one of the major obstacles to the country's economic development. And it would also pose new dilemmas for the military itself: somehow it would need to reconcile serving the strategic objectives of Islam and those of its American patrons. It’s not clear whether that circle could be squared. And the experiment would likely come at the expense of the Egyptian people.




Abigail Hauslohner
Washington Post, July 28, 2013


More than three weeks after the military coup that ousted this nation’s first democratically elected — and Islamist — president from power, the roots of a violent insurgency are burrowing fast into the sands of Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula. The rapid thud of machine-gun fire and the explosions of rocket-propelled grenades have begun to shatter the silence of the desert days and nights here with startling regularity, as militants assault the military and police forces stationed across this volatile territory that borders Israel and the Gaza Strip.The emerging Sinai crisis gives Egypt’s military a pretext to crack down on Islamist opponents across the country, including in Cairo, where at least 72 people were killed over the weekend when security forces opened fire on demonstrators rallying in support of ousted president Mohamed Morsi….

In the Sinai, long Egypt’s most elusive and neglected region, a familiar cycle of repression has already taken hold. The military has clamped down hard on all routes in and out. And Saturday, the armed forces launched Operation Desert Storm in the peninsula, ­according to the state-run al-Ahram newspaper. The operation got underway after millions of Egyptians took to the streets Friday to heed the military’s call to give it the popular “mandate” to crack down on violence and “terrorism.”

Interior Minister Mohamed Ibrahim said Egypt’s security forces have been given permission to confront those who threaten the state’s “stability.” “The people have given the army and the police a popular mandate to stand firmly against anyone who shakes the stability of the nation with terrorist or criminal acts,” Ibrahim said Sunday at a graduation ceremony for police recruits.

Bedouin leaders and Islamists in the Sinai say locals have been angered by the coup because it brought an end to Egypt’s nascent democracy — a concept that was slow to catch on in this deeply conservative territory that has long been suspicious of Cairo. Many others, particularly Bedouin smugglers, in a population long accustomed to sweeping arrests, state-sanctioned discrimination and torture under Mubarak, say that they tasted freedom in the anarchy that prevailed under Morsi and that they are determined to avoid a return to the past even if it costs them their lives….

Lawlessness, smuggling and militancy have thrived on the peninsula since the 2011 fall of Mubarak’s regime. Bedouin arms dealers who are sympathetic to the militants said in recent days that fighters have launched shoulder-fired anti­aircraft Stinger missiles (known to the U.S. intelligence community as MANPADs) at military aircraft, laid improvised bombs along roads traversed heavily by troops, and fired barrages of bullets and RPGs at security personnel stationed here.


On Sunday, a police commander who spoke on the condition of anonymity said police had located a fourth bomb outside the Sheik Zweid village police station in less than 48 hours. The first three exploded, injuring several police officers, the official said.


Both police commanders and Bedouin leaders say the militants are a minority in the desert peninsula; the latter group says the militants consist mostly of locals who operate in small cells, with little to no command structure. But Bedouin leaders fear that the territory’s population may soon get swept up in the military’s crackdown, escalating the conflict into a wider war.


On a night last week, militants struck the Hay al-Safa military base near Rafah with an RPG and then gunfire. Hours later, they struck again — with what local arms dealers said were armor-piercing bullets. Families living in the area said they have grown afraid to transit through security checkpoints at night, lest they get caught in the crossfire or get targeted by nervous troops. At least 10 civilians have died in the violence this month.


Unlike mainland Egypt, where Morsi supporters have staged thousands-strong protests that have shut down major roads and convulsed cities from Cairo to the Nile Delta, the Sinai has quickly taken its dissent to a more violent level. Local Bedouins say it is the route borne of the territory’s cyclical history of state repression and a natural response from a local population flush with weapons and budding extremist groups. “Protests aren’t really in our nature,” Abu Ashraf, a powerful tribal leader and smuggler in North Sinai, said last week using his nickname. “Our nature is…” he said, then stopped, smiled and pantomimed firing a gun.


In the wake of the coup, Egyptian security forces locked down the single bridge that connects the peninsula to the mainland and set up a battery of checkpoints along the highways that link Cairo to the Suez Canal, and onward across North Sinai, where soldiers check IDs and sift through luggage in the trunks of cars. They shine strobe lights into vehicles at night. The Sinai Bedouin feel as if the state is targeting them — again.


Analysts and local political leaders in North Sinai interpreted the call by Gen. Abdel Fatah al-Sissi, Egypt’s military commander, for a mandate to fight terrorism as a signal that a Mubarak-style crackdown was imminent. “I think Sissi wants public cover for his bloody work,” said Ahmed Salem, a spokesman for the Muslim Brotherhood in el-Arish, capital of North Sinai.


As much as the Sinai insurgency derives from militant anger at Morsi’s ouster, it is also a preemptive backlash rooted in fear, say Bedouin leaders who sympathize with the militants. “People here have gotten some freedoms, and they will not allow those to be taken away now,” said Mohamed, a fundamentalist sheik in North Sinai who requested that his last name not be used. “The coup took us back to square one,” he said, and the Sinai’s Islamists are expressing anger at the military “in any way they can.”


“If the state does not reverse al-Sissi’s mistake, there will be more for them to endure,” he said. Morsi’s rule offered some respite from the repression — a new kind of freedom, some Bedouin leaders said. He didn’t deliver the roads, schools or hospitals that local leaders say would help break the territory’s cycle of violent resistance. But he left them alone. “Nothing happened the year that Morsi was in power,” said one Bedouin smuggler who spent eight years in prison under Mubarak. “Morsi had no control here. But at least he didn’t insult or arrest anyone. When you would pass by the checkpoints, they would respect you. Now we’re back to the way it was before.”


The military says its crackdown is necessary to fight terror, but the Bedouin here say it only adds fuel to their rebellion, in a cycle that may soon spiral out of control. Security officials say they have seized Syrian, Palestinian and even Russian fighters in the Sinai since Morsi’s ouster. They have accused the Muslim Brotherhood, which backs Morsi, and the Islamist militant group Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, of orchestrating the violence, and say that many of the Sinai’s fighters are well-trained jihadists.


Last week, the Interior Ministry said a “car accident” in the South Sinai resort town of Sharm el-Sheikh led to the arrest of a jihadist who had fought in Syria. On Sunday, a police official said security forces had killed 10 “jihadists” and arrested 20 others over the weekend.The police also have blamed the Brotherhood for the deadly weekend clashes in the Egyptian capital, sparked by police attacks on demonstrators. The Brotherhood says it does not condone violence. “We do not support, and we do not accept it, even if it seems like the violence is in support of us,” said Salem, the spokesman. But the Sinai, he said, was beyond the group’s control. “We had tried to tell them that democracy would give them another chance to be good people and to be involved in society,” he said of the region’s smugglers and fugitives. “But this coup made them lose faith.”….





Raymond Ibrahim

Gatestone Institute, July 25, 2013


Killing fellow Muslims, and even the most horrific crimes, are permissible so long as they are seen as ways of advancing and empowering Islam. New evidence indicates that some of the pro-Morsi protesters reportedly killed by the Egyptian military, after the Muslim Brotherhood president's ouster, were actually killed by fellow pro-Morsi protesters. They did this, according to the report, to frame the military, incite more Islamist violence and unrest, and garner sympathy from America, which has been extremely critical of the military, especially in the context of the post-Morsi violence.


The Arabic satellite program, Al Dalil, ("The Evidence") recently showed the evidence, which consisted mostly of video recordings. One video records events on July 8, during pro-Morsi protests in front of the Republican Guard building in Cairo, where Morsi was being held, and where the bloodshed between the military and Brotherhood began. The video shows a young man with a shaven head and a Salafi-style beard approaching the Republican Guard barrier; he gets shot, collapses to the ground, and dies—as other protesters fly into a rage against the military. As the video plays, it seems clear that the military shot him.


However, watching the video in slow motion and in zoom clearly indicates that someone from behind him, from the pro-Morsi throng, shot him. The whole time he falls, in slow motion, he is still facing the Republican Guard. Yet when the camera zooms in, the bullet wound and blood are visibly at the back of his head; his front, facing the military even after he falls, does not appear to have a scratch. Considering that the military was facing him, it seems apparent that a fellow Morsi-supporter shot him from behind.


On the same day this man in the video and others were killed, Muhammad Mahsoub, a former Brotherhood member and politician tweeted the following: "The Brotherhood sacrifice their youth in the streets, even as the sons of their leaders are at the beach resorts… Allah curse the hypocrites [based on a Koran verse];" and "I repeatedly warned al-Baltagi against his plan to antagonize the military in order to implicate it an attack on the protesters, but he insists on his plan…"


Baltagi is a Brotherhood leader who has been especially vocal about "getting back" at the military; he apparently also enjoys close relations with the widely disliked U.S. ambassador to Egypt, Anne Patterson.

Another video shown on Al Dalil is even more obvious. An armored vehicle appears slowly driving by a group of pro-Morsi protesters, many easily discernible with their Salafi-style beards. A shot is heard and the man nearest the passing vehicle collapses. Again, at first it appears that the men in the armored vehicle shot him.


Played, again in slow motion, however, it becomes apparent that the man in a gilbab [long Muslim style robe] standing directly behind the murdered man is actually the one who shot him, then walked over to another man near him, gave him the weapon, and then quickly walked off the scene. Even the man on the roof who is taping this scene is heard to be asked, "Did the car [armored vehicle] shoot?" only to reply, "No, no."


Even so, the desired effect of all these "human sacrifices" by the Brotherhood was accomplished: as with the other man, shot in front of the Republican Guard, many other pro-Morsi protesters rushed to the fallen man, screaming Islamic slogans and vowing relentless war on the military, as it supposedly "shot first." This second incident prompted the Freedom and Justice Party, the Muslim Brotherhood's political arm, to call for "an uprising by the great people of Egypt against those trying to steal their revolution with tanks."


To many Islamists, killing an ally to empower Islam is legitimate, especially in the context of two Islamic ideas: 1) jihad [war in the service of Islam], in Islamic jurisprudence — for its function, under Muhammad, of making Islam supreme — is considered the "pinnacle" of Islam; and 2) Islam's overarching juridical idea that "necessity makes the prohibited permissible" – in other words, that a pious end, such as empowering Islam, justifies the use of forbidden means. All that matters is one's intention, or niyya.


Thus, killing fellow Muslims, lying, prostitution, even sodomy all become permissible, so long as they are seen as ways of advancing and empowering Islam. Those who commit or promote even the most horrific crimes are exonerated, and those "sacrificed" to empower Islam — as those pro-Morsi supporters killed by the Brotherhood — are deemed martyrs who will achieve the highest level of paradise. From an Islamist point of view, it is a win-win situation.


Raymond Ibrahim is a Middle East and Islam expert.  He is a Shillman Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center, associate fellow at the Middle East Forum.



A Familiar Role for Muslim Brotherhood: Opposition: Robert F. Worth, New York Times, July 28, 2013—Among the muddy, crowded tents where tens of thousands of Muslim Brotherhood members have been living for weeks in a vast sit-in protest, men in Islamic dress can still be seen carrying incongruous signs above the teeming crowd: “Liberals for Morsi,” “Christians for Morsi,” “Actors for Morsi.”


Egypt’s Dilemma: Marcus Marktanner, Jerusalem Post, July 28, 2013—Recent events in Egypt reveal the following dilemma: On the back of a powerless majority of moderate Egyptians who yearn for democracy, the country faces an epic battle between a secular military and a powerful Islamist movement, neither of which is deeply interested in democracy.


Egypt's Predictable Unrest: Vice Adm. (res.) Eliezer Marom, Israel Hayom, July 29, 2013—The unrest in Egypt in recent days shouldn't surprise anyone. Former President Mohammed Morsi's ouster after three days of demonstrations was no doubt a military coup — there is no other way to define it.


About That Coup: Never Mind: Elliot Abrams, Israel Hayom, July 29, 2013—There are many good reasons to maintain U.S. aid to Egypt under current circumstances, but American law presents a problem. Under the Foreign Assistance Act, "none of the funds appropriated or otherwise made available pursuant to this Act shall be obligated or expended to finance directly any assistance to any country whose duly elected head of government is deposed by a military coup or decree."


Egypt's Sectarian Tensions Become Politicised: Dahlia Kholaif, Al Jazeera, July 26, 2013—The army’s removal of Egypt’s first civilian elected president may have unleashed deadly clashes but for the country’s Coptic Christian minority it has brought relief.


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