Sunday, July 17, 2011

Egypt's foreign minister resigns; Syrian opposition creates National Salvation Council

In the framework of the new pressure put by the protesters of Tahrir Square on the militairy leaders of  the SCAF and on the Egyptian government, minister of foreign affairs, Mohammed El-Orabi has resigned after a period of less than a month in function. El-Orabi previously served in the Egyptian embassy in Israel and as chief of the cabinet of the foreign minister in 2000 with Amr Moussa, currently a possible candidate for the presidency. He was also Egypt's ambassador of Egypt to Germany for six years.
Orabi's resignation does not come as a surprise as his nomination had been criticized from the beginning, because of the close ties he used to have with the regime of Mubarak. The writer Alaa al-Aswani earlier wrote about Al-Orabi (see this blog): 
Al-Orabi was one of the people closest to Mubarak and his family in whose honor he has articulated quite a collection of panegyrics and elegies. According to Al-Wafd newspaper, al-Orabi, while he was Egypt’s ambassador to Germany, stated: “I believe that Mubarak is an unprecedented leader, and that Egyptian history will not witness another leader like him.” He also said: “God favors Egypt because He gave her an extraordinary talent named Gamal Mubarak.” Al-Orabi is now minister of foreign affairs in the government of the revolution that has ousted his “unprecedented leader” and thrown the “extraordinary talent” Gamal Mubarak in prison. And al-Orabi is not an exceptional case within the current Egyptian government. Many of the current ministers were big supporters of Mubarak and they now make decisions in the new revolutionary government.
Orabi's resignation comes at a moment that prime minister Essam al-Sharaf is still consulting with various parties about more changes of his cabinet. Al-Ahram Online wrote that the official media said up to 15 ministers may be replaced in the cabinet reshuffle, with a focus on those with ties to Mubarak's three-decade rule. A few days ago already deputy prime minister Yehia Gamal resigned. And hours before Orabi's resignation Sharaf appointed veteran economist Hazem Beblawi (74) and Ali al-Silmi (75), a leader of the liberal Wafd party, as deputy prime ministers. Beblawi will now become finance minister, replacing Samir Radwan. Radwan, who resigned on Sunday, together with trade and industry Minister Samir el-Sayyad. Beblawi taught economics at several universities and is a banking expert. He also served as undersecretary of the UN's Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia. He is a champion of free trade and one of the founding members of the new Social Democratic Party (which in fact is a liberal party). Beblawi will oversee economic policy in the new cabinet, while Silmi will handle 'democratic transition' matters, state media said.

About 350 exiled Syrian activists meeting in Istanbul on Saturday elected a 25-member council as they sought to declare unity in their intention to oust the regime of President Bashar al-Assad.This National Salvation Council, composed of independents, liberals, Islamists and members of other parties, will serve as an umbrella organization representing various factions of the Syrian opposition -- sometimes seen as fractured in their demands. It is yet not completely clear what the relationship is bewteen this council and the various opposition groups in Syria. A meeting of opponents of the regime that was planned to be held simultaneously in Damascus had to be cancelled as the meeting place a attacked by securituy forces.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Syrian forces kill 32 protesters, most of them in Damascus

The video, taken by protesters and put on Facebook, shows a large demonstration on 15 July in Aleppo. 

Syrian forces killed at least 32 civilians on Friday, Reuters reports, 23 of them in the capital Damascus. It was the highest death toll in the central neighborhoods of Damascus since the uprising erupted four months ago.
"Tens of thousands of Damascenes took to the streets in the main districts for the first time today, that is why the regime resorted to more killings," said one activist by telephone from Damascus. All in all this last Friday showed an increase in the protests, in spite of the fact that the Syrian securitry forces and the army sofar have killed more than 1400 people, wounded many more and arrested thousands..   
The killings prompted the opposition to cancel their planned National Salvation conference in Qaboun neighborhood of Damascus on Saturday after security forces killed 14 protesters outside a wedding hall where the conference had been due to take place, opposition leader Walid al-Bunni told Reuters. The rest of those killed in Damasacus were in Barzeh, where one protester had died, and in Rukn al-Din quarter of the city, where security forces fired protesters killing eight people.Four people were killed in the southern city of Deraa, where the uprising strated, four months ago. 
In the city of Hama, scene of a 1982 massacre by the military, live video footage filmed by residents showed a huge crowd in the main Orontos Square shouting "the people want the overthrow of the regime".
At least 350,000 people demonstrated in the eastern province of Deir al Zor, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. Syrian forces shot dead two pro-democracy protesters there on Thursday, residents said.
Three protesters were shot dead in the northwestern province of Idlib, near the Turkish border, where troops and tanks have attacked villages, the witnesses and activists said. Two people were also killed in the city of Homs.
The economy in Syria has all but come to a halt and the Syrian pound is losing much of its value. To counter  that, Syria's main ally, Iran, is considering offering $5.8 billion in financial help, including a three-month loan worth $1.5 billion to be made available immediately, French business newspaper Les Echos said, citing a report by a Tehran think-tank linked to Iran's leadership.

Friday, July 15, 2011

The Revolution is back on Tahrir and does not seem to go away soon

Tahrir on Friday 8 July ....

...and on Tuesday evening 12 July (pictures Lilian Wagdy).

It started last Friday, but it is far from over, the demonstration on Cairo's central square, Midan Tahrir, that was called for by 33 groups and political parties, because of the widely felt dissatisfaction with the performances of the government and the military of the SCAF. Hundreds of thousand came to Tahrir that Friday 8 July. Also the Muslim Brotherhood decided at thge eleevnth hour to take part, but the Brothers left the square just befor the evening fell. Thousands of others, however, stayed overnight for a sit-in, to be joined any more at daybreak and the other day that followd. Tent encampments  have been put up, traffic came to a halt and the square is firmly in the hands of the proteseters who have their own security, complete with body checks and a the necesity to show identity papers. Not in vain, some people in the possesion of weapons or drugs have been arrested, as well as a couple of thieves  At the first Friday there were also protests in Alexandria, Mansoura, Fayoum, and Assiut, and a sit-in in Suez that lik in Cairo is maintained to this day.
On day two common demands were formulated after some haggling between the various groups. According to Al-Ahram online the following seven points:    
 1)The immediate release of all civilians who have been sentenced by military court and their retrial before civilian courts. Military trials for civilians are to be totally banned.
2)A special court should be established to try those implicated in the killing of protesters and all implicated police officers are to be suspended immediately.
3)The sacking of the current minister of the interior and his replacement by a political civilian appointee, to be followed by declaration of a plan and time table for the full restructuring of the Ministry of the Interior, placing it under judicial oversight.
4)The sacking of the current Prosecutor General and the appointment of a well respected figure in his place.
5)Putting Mubarak and the members of his clique on trial for the political crimes they committed against Egypt and its people.
6)Revoking the current budget and the drawing up of a new draft budget that courageously acts to respond to the basic demands of the nation’s poor, and putting that draft budget to public debate before its adoption.
7)Clear and open delineation of the prerogatives of the Supreme Military Council in ways that do not infringe on the powers and prerogatives of the cabinet of ministers. The Prime Ministers should have full powers to appoint his aides and the members of his cabinet, once that cabinet is purged of the remnants of the old regime.
The SCAF racted with a statement read by general Al-Fangarii, one of its members, who reiterated that the SCAF is really committed to freedom of speech and to leading Egypt on the way to democracy, but who also threatened that severe measures would be taken against anyone who disrupted the peace. Prime minister Essam Sharaf held two televised speeches, in which he promised to speed up the cleansing of the police and  said that he would replace some ministers of his cabinet with people who were more to the liking of the protesters. Also he promised that te goverment would take care of the families of the martyrs who died in February or the ones that got wounded, and that he would put pressure to speed up the trials of the those who were guilty of the killings.
None of this was considered to be convincing by the people on Tahrir, who held a. large march on Tuesday evening towards the government buildings. But Wednesday the government was more forthcoming. Minister of the Interior Mansour Eissawi announced that day that 699 police offciers will be fired. Among them are 505 major-generals (10 of them belonging to the top functionaries of the ministry), 82 colonels and 82 brigadiers. Also all in all 4000 policemen will be transferred to other jobs, in what seems to be the largest reoganisation of the police ever. Of the fired policemen some 37 can expect to be indicted for their role in the killings. Eissawi said, however, that snipers who shot at the crowds at the time were not related to the ministry. That must have been the work of some other agency.
Meanwile news was spread that the SCAF now seems to be considering to postpone the parliamentary elections from September to October or November. The paper Al-Masry al-Youm reported that the SCAF also considers to lay down guidelines for the composition of the 100 men strong assemblee which will be charged with writing a new constitution, in order to avoid that islamists might gain too much influence in this body. Also a new electoral law seems to haven been finalized by the government, which has yet to be promulgated by the SCAF. It changes the system that used to be based on idividual canidates, to a system that depends half on electoral lists (party lists) , and half on the old system. Also the make up of the disticts system will be completely redrawn..
As far as the cabinet-reshuffle is concerned, there is no news yet, apart from the fact that Yehia Gamal, the vice-promineminister whose performance had been disappointing,  resigned. Prime minister Sharaf is said to be consulting with various parties about othr changes.

And in the menatime the Second Revolution as some call it, is continued. Tahrir is not satisfied.with the results sofar. The changes within the police are thought to be to shallow, as those who were repsonsble for the killings should be brought to justice. The same goes for Mubarak and friends and family, who still have not been heaqrd in court. The people who have been convicted by military courts are not free yet, and that are not even all the demands that have not yet been met.
On the square the protesters developed a hole new way of life, with electricity from lamp posts, a cinema, children's workshops and even a school. From the video below, made by Al Ahram English, you can get the idea. Today, Friday, Tahrir will be most probably become very crowded again. The protests, it seem, will not easily die away.    

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Yemen: clashes between Houthis and Islah party in the north

Twenty-three people have been killed and dozens injured in the northern province of Jawf since clashes broke out on Friday between members of Yemen's main opposition party Islah and northern Shi'ite rebels known as Houthis. The fighting started when Houthis refused to give up an army base they occupied after the governor of Jawf fled two months ago, an opposition source said.
Jawf lies along Yemen's northern border with Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia launched a military offensive against the Houthis after they briefly seized Saudi territory in late 2009. Houthi rebels have fought President Ali Abdullah Saleh's government on and off since 2004. Protests against Saleh's rule had united Houthis and protesters, including the Islah, but rifts have begun to appear as a political stalemate drags on.

In the city of Taiz at least two pro-opposition tribal gunmen were killed in clashes with forces loyal to Saleh, Al Jazeera television said. Heavy fighting continued late into the night, with pro-Saleh forces using mortars, artillery and tanks in the city, the site of large anti-government protests, it said.
Earlier, 11 militants were killed in military strikes in the south while clashes within the police force over delayed salary payments injured three. Five Islamist militants were killed in air strikes on Abyan province on Tuesday, where six were killed in a battle late on Monday, local government officials said.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Did the Egyptian revolution go wrong?

The article below is a translation from the newspaper al-Masry al-Youm, of  June 5th, 2011. Writer Alaa al-Aswani (photo) in it paints a dark picture of  what the revolution in Egypt so far achieved and - more importantly - did not achieve. In doing so he makes a strong case for the need of the new, big demonstration which will be held on Friday 8 July at Tahrir in Cairo (and also demonstrations in other cities) in order to  push a process that according to him is only halfway,  on to the next stage.  
(Translated by dr Noha Radwan, University of California Davis). 

The American Comedian, George Carlin (1938-2007) was known for his deeply sarcastic remarks and in one of his shows, he was asked what he would do if he were on a flight that was about to crash. Carlin’s response was that he would, of course, save himself, that he would shove women and kick children and disabled passengers out of his way with all his strength until he had reached the emergency exit. Afterwards, he would try to save the other passengers. This sarcastic remark demonstrates how some people would do anything to save themselves and their own interests. Every time I see the new Egyptian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Muhammad al-Urabi, I remember Carlin’s words. Al-Urabi was one of the people closest to Mubarak and his family in whose honor he has articulated quite a collection of panegyrics and elegies. According to Al-Wafd newspaper, al-Urabi, while he was Egypt’s ambassador to Germany, stated: “I believe that Mubarak is an unprecedented leader, and that Egyptian history will not witness another leader like him.” He also said: “God favors Egypt because He gave her an extraordinary talent named Gamal Mubarak.” Al-Urabi is now minister of foreign affairs in the government of the revolution that has ousted his “unprecedented leader” and thrown the “extraordinary talent” Gamal Mubarak in prison. And al-Urabi is not an exceptional case within the current Egyptian government. Many of the current ministers were big supporters of Mubarak and they now make decisions in the new revolutionary government. Minister of Finance, Samir Radwan, was a member of the National Democratic Party’s political committee and was close to Gamal Mubarak, who had recommended him to former minister Youssef Boutros Ghali who appointed him as his consultant in 2005. Later Mubarak appointed him to the Parliament. Minister Radwan was a participant in setting the economic policies of Mubarak’s regime. Now he wants to convince the public that he is adopting the ideology of the revolution and I can’t help but think of George’s Carlin’s means of escaping the crashing plane.
The problem here is not only these ministers’ amazing ability to defend one thing and its opposite with equal enthusiasm in order to save their positions. The problem is that the revolution has ousted President Mubarak but not his regime. The Generals of the Egyptian Police, who helped Habib al-Adly humiliate the Egyptians and torture them, still hold their positions. The media officials, who misinformed the public and fraudulently praised the dictator and justified his crimes, still hold theirs. The judges, who oversaw the rigging of the elections, are still active. Even the State Security officers who committed atrocious crimes have not lost their jobs, and some were even appointed governors. What can we expect from all those officials? Certainly, they will fail to understand the logic of the revolution, and probably they will conspire against it. The conspiracy against the Egyptian revolution has become quite obvious and its main characteristics can be summed as follows:
First: Slow trials of some for the icons of the former regime in order to gradually absorb the anger of the Egyptians until they forget about the matter as they return to their daily concerns and affairs. Why has Mubarak not been tried yet? And what is the secret behind all the conflicting reports about his health. Why isn't he treated like a normal prisoner? Where are Gamal and Alaa Mubarak and why do we not see photographs of them in prison? Why are formerly high officials receiving exceptional treatment in Tura prison? Who allowed Hussein Salem to escape (to Spain, TP). Why were Zakariyya Azmy, Fathy Sorour, and Safwat el-Sherif 1) only arrested two months after the revolution, a period long enough for them to sort their affairs, hide what might incriminate them and smuggle their embezzlements abroad? Why have those who were injured or killed in the revolution not received any attention from the government? How was the martyr Muhamad Qutb left in Nasser Hospital till his injuries worsened and insects ran in and out of his mouth while Sharm el-Shaykh hospital was evacuated for Suzanne Mubarak to receive dental care? Why does the Egyptian government put its best foot forward only to provide German specialists to check on Mubarak’s precious health? The questions are many and there is a single answer, known and upsetting.
Second: Causing a continuous state of insecurity and instability along with a failure of the police to carry out their duties, in order to terrorize the Egyptians and stall tourism and foreign investment so that the revolution appears to have ushered in our doom. This is going on along with a representation of the revolutionaries as thugs and the police officers as heroes who were defending their police stations. Additionally, the trails of the police officials until the defendants (who are still in the service) can pressure the victims to change their testimonies and allow them to remain unpunished.
Third: Polarizing the forces of the revolution and fueling the conflict between the Liberals and the Islamists, along with representing the country as if it has fallen into the hands of the fundamentalists. Don’t we still remember how al-Ahram newspaper carried on its front page a picture of a man with his ear chopped off with a headline about the Salafis having chopped off a Copt’s ear? Maybe we also still remember how the media celebrated Abud al-Zumur as if he were a national hero? Perhaps this would help us understand why churches and Copts are attacked almost on weekly basis without any police intervention. In effect it continuously discredits the Islamists and ruins the image of the Egyptian Revolution locally and abroad.
Fourth: Exaggerating the severity of the economic crises and continuously claiming that Egypt is close to bankruptcy because of the revolution. The misinformation in this account is doublefold . It is Mubarak who has left the country in despicable economic conditions.: 40% of Egyptians live below the poverty line, the rate of unemployment is unprecedented and one of every three residents of Cairo lives in vernacular housing slums. Mubarak’s regime, and not the revolution, is responsible for the misery of Egyptians. The revolution has not yet governed. If there are post-revolution crises, then they are the responsibility of the military council that has taken over the president’s responsibilities and the government that it has formed.
Rioting in front of the ministry of the interior, 29 June 2011.
What happened in Tahrir Square last week 2) has multiple implications. Thugs were given a free rein to create chaos and attack the ministry of interior in order to give the police a pretext for attacking the protesters. At that point it became clear how much rancor high-ranking police officers feel towards the revolution. For what else compels a police officer to carry a megaphone and ride around in his van swearing at the protestors and their mothers? What prompts the Intelligence officer in Abdin Police Station to insult the mother of Ahmad Zayn al-Abedin, who lost his life in the revolution, kick her in the stomach, assault her son and arrest him so that he faces a military tribunal. These shameful attacks by the police against the families of the revolution’s martyrs were accompanied by an old style defaming campaign by a number of journalists and media officials who still take their orders from the State Security, whose name has now changed into National Security. As for Mr. Mansour Eisawi, I believe that the conspirators against the revolution could not hope for a better minister of interior, for he believes that he should defend his officers no matter what they do. What happened in Tahrir last week was the dress rehearsal for a major conspiracy to completely abort the revolution.
The question here is: Has the Egyptian revolution gone wrong?
Yes, the revolution went wrong on February 11, when Mubarak was forced to step down and the Egyptians celebrated in their millions then went home. The revolution should have continued in the square and selected spokespeople to negotiate with the military council until its demands were met in full. Instead of announcing the annulment of Mubarak’s constitution and calling for drafting a new constitution, the military council preferred to accept Mubarak’s proposition to amend a few articles in the old constitution. A referendum was held for people to vote on a few amendments and after the results of the referendum were announced, the military council completely bypassed it and announced the activation of a transitional constitution of 63 articles. This useless referendum only divided the revolutionaries into two groups, Liberals and Islamists. The two groups entered into a long debate with liberals calling for a new constitution before the next elections and Islamists calling for the elections first. The two groups dedicated themselves to attacking each other. The two groups forgot that the regime that the revolution aimed to topple has not yet fallen. What good would new elections be if they are overseen by a ministry of interior staffed by Habib al-Adly’s assistants and disciples and by the same judges who participated in rigging previous elections and still hold their positions? And what good would a constitution be if it were written by legal experts who have repeatedly put their expertise in the service of a corrupt dictatorship?
The Egyptian revolution is now going through a critical moment, a real fork in the road. It can either win and accomplish its goals or (heavens forbid), it can also lose, leaving the old regime to return in a slightly different form. What is to done now? We have to remember Husni Mubarak and the enormous support he enjoyed, from Israel and from most Western states and Arab states. No one could imagine that he could be ousted. Yet the Egyptian people did it. Only those who made the revolution can protect it. This is why the demonstrations that have been called for next Friday are important. They have to correct what went wrong with the revolution. We should forget about our ideological differences and return to how we were during the revolution: Copts, Salafis, and Muslim Brothers together, and veiled next to non-veiled women. We will call for neither the elections nor the constitution. We will ask for purging the current government of the remnants of the old regime. We will demand fair and speedy trials for the killers of our martyrs. We will demand that civilians not have to face military tribunals under any circumstances. We will go to the square on Friday ready to pay the price of freedom. We will be like we were during the revolution, ready to die at any moment. Our lives cannot be more precious than the lives of those who were killed, who gave their lives for a better future for Egypt and a life with dignity for the Egyptians. 

1) Hussein Salem is a businessman with ties to the family Mubarak who has been accused of embezzlement and has been arrested in Spain; Zakariyya Azmi was chief of Mubarak's office; Safwar el-Sherif was the chairman of Mubarak's National Democratic Party, and Fathi Sorour was the chaiman of the Maglis as Shaab (the lower house of parliament). 
2) The events on Tahrir grew out of clashes between the families of the martyrs of the revolution and the security forces. The families had been camping for several days at the radio- and television building at Maspero demanding justice and compensation. On the evening of Tuesday 28 June there was a ceremony at the Balloon Theatre in Aguza in the honor of the martyrs, but the families appeared not to be welcome.That resulted in clashes which lasted for two days on Tahrir and in front of the ministry of the interrior. A semi official commission of inquiry established on Tuesday 5 July that the clashes most probably had been triggered by thugs and contra revolutionary forces.     

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Thousands in Morocco demonstrated on Sunday against insufficient reforms

Casablanca, Sunday 3 July. (Reuters)

Thousands have demonstrated on Sunday in the biggest Moroccan cities to demand reforms of the constitution, that went far beyond the ones that according to official Morocccan sources had been approved with 98,5% in a referendum on Friday. 
Big rallies were held in Casablanca, Rabat and Tanger after calls by the 20 February Movement, which is an important source of the protest demonstrations that have been held in the country since the beginning of the year. Also the islamist movement Al-Adl wal Ihsan (Justice and Charity), which is officially forbidden but de facto tolerated, took part. Slogans that were carried in the rally demanded 'dignity, freedom and social justice', also the slogan ''We don't give up' (ma mefakinsh), could be read.
The 20 February Movement considers that the reforms which have been approved in the referendum don't go far enough. In the new constitution the prime minister gets slightly more power than before, the king however does not give up any part of his psoition as absolute monarch and religious leader. The 20 February Movement wants a constitutional monarchy following the Spanish model. It also demands more social justice and an end to corruption. The movement consists of young people belonging to different political trends, leftists as well as islamists and Facebook and blog activists     

Sacked editor of Egyptian daily Al-Dostour, back with new newspaper

 Part of the Tahir-team. On the left, editor in chief Ibrahim Eissa, on the right publisher Ibrahim El Moellam. (Al Ahram online) 

Ibrahim Eissa, the former editor in chief of the independent Al-Dostour newspaper is back with a new daily newspaper, called Tahrir. And so are most of the journalists and columnists that used to work with him on Al-Dostour.. The new newspaper is published by media mogul Ibrahim El Moellam, who currently owns Shorouk daily newspaper. 
Tahrir was launched with an advertising campaign on TV and radio starring Ibrahim Eissa himself and his crew speaking about the new newspaper and how it will be the voice of the revolution of 25 January.
Eissa's former newspaper Al-Dostour was regarded as one of the better opposition newspapers to the Mubarak regime. It was first published in 1995, shut down in 1998 by the ministry of information, and reappeared in 2005. But then in 2010 it was acquired by businessman and media mogul Sayed El-Badawy, chairman of the Wafd party, and businessman Reda Edward for LE18 million, in one of the biggest acquisitions in the history of Egyptian press.Weeks after the acquisition Ibrahim Eissa was sacked by the new owners. Despite claims by Badawy and Edward that the sacking of Eissa was purely for management reasons, Eissa and his team of journalists insisted that the acquisition of the newspaper was an attempt by the Mubarak regime to close down one of the most effective opposition mouthpieces. After Eissa was sacked  many of his collegues left also. They staged a sit-in at the Press Syndicate that ran on and off for over two months. Badawy later sold his share to Edward after huge criticism in the media. After the departure of Eissa and most of his team the sales of the Al-Dostour dropped dramatically.
Eissa and his team have maintained the Dostour website, since Eissa owns the domain name. He is also
one of the the presenters of the daily night talk show Fil Midan (In the Square) on the channel he co-owns, Tahrir TV. Tahrir is the second daily newspaper publihsed in Egypt after the revolution. The first was Youm 7, which used to be a weekly.

Friday, July 1, 2011

U.S. will start contacts with Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood

The leadership of the new party of the Muslim Brotherhood, The Freedom and Justice Party. From the left: Mohammed al-Mursi, Essam al-Erian and Mohammed al-Katatni.

Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood says that it welcomes formal contacts with the United States as a way to clarify its institutional vision. But no such contacts have yet been made, a spokesman for the Islamist group said on Thursday.
A senior US official said on Wednesday that the United States had decided to resume formal contacts with the Brotherhood, a step that reflects its growing political weight but is almost certain to upset Israel and its US backers.
“We welcome such relationships with everyone because those relations will lead to clarifying our vision. But it won’t include or be based on any intervention in the internal affairs of the country,” a spokesman for the Brotherhood, Mohamed Saad el-Katatni, told Reuters.
“Until now no contacts have been made with the group or the party,” said Mr. Katatni, who is also secretary general of the Brotherhood’s new Freedom and Justice party. “This relationship will clarify our general views and our opinion about different issues.”
Under the previous policy, US diplomats were allowed to deal with Brotherhood members of parliament who had won seats as independents − a diplomatic strategy that allowed them to keep lines of communication open.
Former US officials and analysts said the Obama administration had little choice but to engage the Brotherhood directly, given its political prominence after the February 11 downfall of President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt.
“The political landscape in Egypt has changed, and is changing,” a senior US official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told Reuters in Washington. “It is in our interests to engage with all of the parties that are competing for parliament or the presidency.”
The new party of the Muslim Brotherhood, the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), will most probably get a leading role in the yet to be elected Egyptian parliament where it will contest 50% of the seats. That in itself is en good development, I think. In a democracy all parties and sections of society should have a say. The FJP no doubt will be a very conservative party and - used as it is to survive in quasi clandestine circumstances - it t has yet to prove that it is able to adapt itself to real democratic circumstances. That the U.S. now is ready to engage in contacts with the Ikhwan (Brotherhood) is a welcome development. It might even be a step on the way to more open dialogues with other islamic parties in the region, like for instance Hamas - although at present that may still seem a very unikely possibility.