Saturday, July 27, 2013

Dozens of Muslim Brotherhood supporters killed in Cairo

Fireworks are set off near police and anti-Morsy protesters by supporters of deposed Egyptian President Mohamed Morsy during clashes in Nasr city area, east of Cairo July 27, 2013.
Supporters of Morsi set off fireworks during the clashes at Rabba al-Adawiya in Nasr City. (Egypt Independent). 

Again demonstratios in Cairo went completely out of hand, with dozens killed and more than 100 injured, and again there were two completely different versions of what happened. The only thing that seems to be sure is that most of the victims were supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood and the deposed president Morsi. That is extremely bad news, also from a political viewpoint, as it is bound to strengthen the Brotherhood in its resolve to continue the protests while claiming it is representing 'legitimacy' in Egypt.
 Violence erupted in the early hours of Saturday at the Memorial of the Unknown Soldier when police clashed with pro-Morsi protesters seeking to block the nearby 6 October Bridge. Interior ministry spokesman Hani Abdel-Latif said in on Saturday afternoon that protesters had started to block traffic, then "clashed with residents of the nearby working class distrcit of Mansheyet Nasr using live fire and birdshot, and this killed 21 people."
"The police moved to stop the clashes between the two groups and opened the road again," he added. Interior minister Mohamed Ibrahim also reiterated that the police had only used teargas in the clashes. Egypt's health ministry on Saturday morning announced that 28 dead had arrived at public hospitals, while 177 injuries had been recorded. In the afternoon, the ministry reported that 38 dead and 239 people injured had been recorded. Brotherhood figures have said the number of dead stands at at least 120.
A security source told MENA earlier that the police did not use live fire against protesters and said they only used teargas to disperse the crowds.
Meanwhile, the National Alliance to Support Legitimacy, a pro-Morsi coalition of mainly Islamist parties led by the Muslim Brotherhood, issued a statement describing what happened as a "massacre." In its account, it said that as the number of protesters at Rabaa Al-Adawiya increased, many moved through nearby roads. The statement claimed that police fired teargas at protesters and then started firing birdshot and live rounds. The alliance condemned the violence and vowed that it will continue its sit-in at Rabaa Al-Adawiya.
For weeks, thousands of pro-Morsi protesters have been staging a sit-in near Rabaa Al-Adawyia Mosque and another at Giza's Al-Nahda Square in front of Cairo University. They have also been organising marches across Egypt to demand the reinstatement of Morsi as president. The Muslim Brotherhood, from which Morsi hails, organised mass protests Friday in an attempt to counterbalance mass demonstrations called for by army chief Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi, aimed at providing the army and the police with "mandate to deal with violence and potential terrorism." Responding to El-Sisi's call, millions hit the streets across the country Friday, chanting against Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood and in support of the Egyptian army.

Meanwhile, the Ambulance Authority reported Friday that six men were killed in clashes in Alexandria as Egypt witnessed a day of protests in response to the Armed Forces Chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi's call for people to take to the streets. The men were killed as supporters of Morsi clashed with their opponents near the Qaed Ibrahim Mosque in central Alexandria. According to hospital authorities cited by the Middle East News Agency, dozens were injured in the clashes with birdshot and live ammunition. Eyewitnesses said Morsi's supporters kept some protesters from the other camp hostage inside the mosque, and the families of the hostages angrily surrounded the mosque.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Court orders detention of Morsi over accusations of collaboration with Hamas

president Mohamed Morsi (Photo: Reuters)

A top Egyptian court has ordered the detention of ousted president Mohamed Morsi for 15 days pending investigations into his suspected collaboration with Palestinian Islamist group Hamas. 
Morsi is accused of collaborating with Hamas to escape from Wadi El-Natroun Prison and destroy prison records during the 2011 uprising; collaborating with Hamas to attack police stations during the uprising; the intentional killing and abduction of police officers and prisoners during the uprising, and espionage.The alleged crimes are being investigated by a Cairo court that was tasked with determining how inmates – including Mohamed Morsi and other senior member of the Muslim Brotherhood – escaped from prison in late January 2011 during the uprising that toppled Hosni Mubarak.Brotherhood spokesman Ahmed Aref said the decision by the investigating judge to detain Morsi was at the behest of the armed forces due to the pressures they are facing to release Morsi. Leading Brotherhood member Essam El-Erian said the decision to detain Morsi showed Egypt has a true "fascist military regime."
 Hamas also criticised the decision to detain Morsi. "Hamas condemns this move since it is based on the premise that the Hamas movement is hostile," spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri told AFP. Mohamed Morsi has been held incommunicado at a secret location since he was removed from the presidency by the army on 3 July following mass nationwide protests.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Unrest in Tunisia after second political murder in less than half a year

People walk beside the ambulance carrying the body of assassinated Tunisian opposition politician Mohamed Brahmi in Tunis July 25, 2013. REUTERS-Zoubeir Souissi
 Angry crowds accompany the ambulance with the body of the murdered Brahmi. (Reuters).

Tunisian opposition politician Mohamed Brahmi, who belonged to the nationalist and secular Popular Party, was shot dead outside his house in the capital Tunis on Thursday. Brahmi's sister later accused the main Islamist Ennahda party of being behind the killing. "Ennahda killed my brother," Souhiba Brahmi said. Ennahda has condemned the murder. The politician's wife said Brahmi had left the house after receiving a telephone call. She heard shots and found his body lying on the ground outside as two men fled on a motorcycle. Brahmi belonged to the secular, Arab nationalist Popular Front party, whose then-leader, Chokri Belaid, was killed in a similar way on February 6. His death ignited the worst violence in Tunisia since President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali fell in 2011. Brahmi was a vocal critic of the Islamist-led government and a member of the Constituent Assembly charged with drawing up the North African country’s new constitution.
Thousands of people protested outside the Interior Ministry in Tunis and a hospital in the Ariana district where Brahmi's body had been taken. "Down with the rule of the Islamists," they chanted, and demanded that the government resign.
Big crowds accompanied Brahmi's body when it was taken later for autopsy at another Tunis hospital. Despite the presence of hundreds of soldiers and police, protesters smashed cars and broke some windows of the hospital in Ariana, witnesses said.
Similar demonstrations erupted in the southern town of Sidi Bouzid, the cradle of the Tunisian revolution, where protesters set fire to two local Ennahda party offices, witnesses said.
''Thousands have taken to the streets. People have blocked roads and set tires alight," said Mehdi Horchani, a resident of Sidi Bouzid. "People are very angry."
Police fired teargas to disperse protesters who stormed a local government office in the Mediterranean port of Sfax, 270 km (170 miles) southeast of Tunis, witnesses said.
Tunisia's biggest labor organization, UGTT, called for a general strike on Friday in protest at Brahmi's killing. Its secretary-general, Hussein Abbasi, earlier predicted that the assassination would lead the country into a "bloodbath".

At least 15 Palestinians killed in Yarmouk camp in Damascus by Assad-loyalists

Forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad killed at least 15 Palestinians, mostly women and children, in a rocket attack on a rebel-held refugee camp on the southern edge of Damascus on Wednesday, opposition activists said.
Palestinian militia from the pro-Assad Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command (PFLP-GC), as well as Syrian army and intelligence troops, have been surrounding the camp for months. On Saturday they launched a ground infantry assault backed by tanks and multiple rocket launchers to capture the camp but were being met by stiff resistance, opposition sources said. "The rockets hit a residential and shopping area way behind the front line. The victims were civilians," activist Rami al-Sayyed from the Syrian Media Centre opposition monitoring group, said from the area, adding that 45 people were wounded. The report could not be independently confirmed. The Syrian government restricts access to journalists. The Yarmouk Camp Coordination Committee said two Grad missiles fired by PFLP-GC militia hit the Hamdan Bakery area. Five women and five children were killed. One family living in the area, Fadlon, had five members killed, the organisation said. Yarmouk links the large rebel held Sunni Muslim neighbourhoods of Hajar al-Aswad and Asali with the capital and its capture is a key objective for loyalist forces seeking to regain control over southern Damascus, opposition sources said.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Should we be happy that the EU put Hezbollah's 'armed wing' on the blacklist?

European Union governments agreed on Monday to put the armed wing of Hezbollah on the EU terrorism blacklist in a reversal of past policy fuelled by concerns over the Lebanese militant movement's activities in Europe.
Britain and the Netherlands have pressed EU peers since May to put the Shi'ite Muslim group's military wing on the bloc's terrorism list, citing evidence it was behind a bus bombing in Bulgaria last year which killed five Israelis and their driver.
Until now, the EU had resisted pressure from Washington and Israel to blacklist Hezbollah, arguing such a move could fuel instability in Lebanon, where the group is part of the government, and add to tensions in the Middle East.
But evidence from Bulgaria about the attack and concerns over Hezbollah's growing involvement in the war in Syria persuaded opponents to back the move, which triggers the freezing of any assets the group's armed wing may hold in the 28-nation EU.
"It is good that the EU has decided to call Hezbollah what it is: a terrorist organization," Dutch Foreign Minister Frans Timmermans said on the sidelines of a meeting of EU foreign ministers who decided on the blacklisting.
"We took this important step today, by dealing with the military wing of Hezbollah, freezing its assets, hindering its fundraising and thereby limiting its capacity to act."

As far as I know the evidence that Bulgaria produced for Hezbollah's involvement in this bombing affair was far from convincing. What the EU did in fact was blacklisting the resistance to Israel in South-Lebanon, as Hezbollah is the only force there to be reckoned with. Apart from that, it is ludicrous to separate the 'military arm' from Hezbollah's political one, as the two are one. One does not have to be a supporter of Hezbollah (take for instance their present involvement in Syria) to see that what the EU did was in fact follow the wishes of Israel. That a fellow Dutchman,  minister Frans Timmermans, thus played the Israeli card is not exactly something that makes me happy. Apart from everything else, it cannot be denied that Hezbollah plays an important role in Lebanese politics and that EU is thus creating obstacles for itself as far as relations with Lebanon are concerned. 

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Syrian Kurds capture Islamist commander and plan to create temporary autonomous government

Syrian KurdsSyria's Kurds are planning to create a temporary autonomous government to administer Kurdish regions in the north of the war-torn country, Kurdish officials told French press agency AFP on Friday.
"We think that the crisis in Syria will not end anytime soon, so we need to create democratic self-rule in western Kurdistan," said Salih Muslim, head of Syria's Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD).
Western Kurdistan refers to Kurdish majority areas in northern Syria, including Hassakeh province in the northeast of the country and parts of Aleppo province.
"This has been our project since 2007," added Muslim, stressing nonetheless that the government would be temporary.
"This is provisional," he said. "Once there is a broad agreement on the future of Syria, we will put an end to this autonomy."
Shirzad Izidi, a spokesman for the People's Council of Western Kurdistan, another Syrian Kurdish group, confirmed the plans and said the Kurdish administration will take measures to organize elections in Kurdish areas.
“There is an idea also to write an interim constitution so that there will be no vacuum," Izidi told AFP.
Kurdish regions of northern Syria have been administered by local Kurdish councils since regime forces withdrew from the areas in the middle of 2012.
The redeployment was seen as a tactical move by the regime, encouraging the Kurds to avoid allying with the opposition in order to maintain their new-found autonomy.
Kurds represent about 15 percent of the Syrian population, and are mostly concentrated in the northern part of the country.
Earlier this week, Kurdish fighters expelled militants from the town of Ras al-Ain and the nearby border crossing with Turkey, and fighting between the groups was continuing elsewhere in Hassakeh province in north-east Syria.
Source: AFP

Embedded image permalinkThe town of Tel Abyad on the Turkish border was deserted on Sunday 21 July.  According to the London based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights fights around the town are still raging on after the Kurds on Saturday captured a military commander of the al-Qaeda affiliate the Islamic State of Iraq and ash-Sham (ISIS), whose name is Abu Musab. Earlier the Kurds expelled the Islamists from the town of Ras al-Ayn in the Hasaka province. According to the Observatory at least 54 men were killed in five days of fighting, 35  from the Islamists and 19 militants from the Kurdish forces, mainly form the Popular Protection Units YPG.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Kerry does not give up yet

John Kerry has not yet given up hope that after three years he can start a new round of peace talk between Israel and the Palestinians. After the Palestinians on Thursday voted down the formula for a restart (see the details in the post below) the  Secretary of State stubbornly travelled to Ramallah and spoke yet another time with the Palestinian president Abbas. No details of this talk were given. Burt later on Kerry gave a press conference at the Queen Alia airport of Amman, where he announced that the heads of the negotiation teams of Israel and the Palestinians - Israeli Justice Minister Tzipi Livni and Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat - will travel to Washington next week in order to hold preliminary talks and discuss further details on the negotiations.Kerry said that an agreement about a basis for resuming direct final status negotiations had been reached. He added, however,  that details still had to be worked out, without giving details.
Reuters quoted  Wasel Abu Youssef, a senior member of the Palestine Liberation Organisation, who said that Kerry's "announcement did not mean the return to negotiations. It meant efforts would continue to secure the achievement of Palestinian demands ... Israel must recognize the 1967 borders."

Friday, July 19, 2013

Kerry's attempts to restart Israeli-Palestinian talks reach dead end

 U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.
The attempts of the American Secretary of State John Kerry to restart talks between Israel and the Palestinians have reached a dead end. Palestinian politicians on Thursday voted refused to endorse a Kerry's blueprint for resumed talks.  
According to the Israeli paper Haaretz Kerry was originally expected to announce the renewal of the talks on Friday. His formula was that he would announce that the negotiations would be based on the 1967 border lines, with land swaps – taking into account the current reality in the West Bank, i.e. the major settlement blocs.Also he was expected to say that the goal of the negotiations will be to reach the reality of "two states for two people" – Palestine as a Palestinian state and Israel as a Jewish state.These announcements were meant to address the wishes of both parties. The 1967 line referred to a Palestinian demand. Mentioning the 'Jewish state' took into account the Israeli demand that the Palestinians would not only recognize Israel, but on top of that the fact that Israel was 'a Jewish state'.
The  Palestinian refusal to endorse Kerry;'s formula however meant that there will be no announcement of a breakthrough during this visit of the American minister. The US State Department acknowledged this. "There are currently no plans for an announcement on the resumption of negotiations," said State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki.
The Palestinian refusal came during a meeting in Ramallah where President Mahmoud Abbas presented Kerry's proposals. During the meeting the Revolutionary Council of Abbas's own Fatah movement demanded changes, but according to Palestinian MP Mustafa Barghouti also most other factions of the PLO rejected Kerry's proposal. The reasons, was, as was later confirmed by Amin Maqboul, the secretary general of Fatah's Revolutionary Council, that Israel refused to accept the 1967 borders as a basis for negotiations. The office of Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu had said so explicitly that same Thursday afternoon after press agency Reuters erroneously had reported that Israel had agreed to accept the 1967 as a base for the talks.
Kerry on Friday met in Amman with Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat before he returned to the US. Palestinian sources said that Erakat would brief him about a Palestinian demand that Israel had as yet to accept his formula and had to give the assurance in writing. Meanwhile Haartez reported that Naftali Bennett, leader of the Bayit Hayehudi partner, a coalition partner in Netanyahu's government, threatened to leave the coalition if Israel would agree to accept the 1967 lines as a basis for negotiations. According to Haaretz some other ministers of Netanyahu's cabinet voiced similar opinions.  

Egypt's unresolved problem in the Sinai

Al Ahram Online:
In the past two weeks, 39 terrorist attacks have occurred in North Sinai. In the resulting clashes between armed groups and security forces, 52 gunmen and civilians and six security personnel have died.  Tensions have also flared at the illegal smuggling tunnels on the border with Gaza, with one Central Security conscript killed by smugglers on Thursday.
Monday witnessed the highest civilian causalities, when a bus transporting workers to the army-operated Al-Arish Cement Company was attacked.  Five were killed – including one child – and 15 were wounded.
Army deplys in North Sinai

... in three recent attacks RPG-7 launchers were used, most likely smuggled from Libya. The G-7 grenade is capable of penetrating armoured vehicles and is generally fired at the doors.
The operations have been largely confined to the 40-kilometre area between Al-Arish and Sheikh Zuweid, extending northward toward Rafah along the border with Israel and up to the Karam Abu Salem crossing.

 Ahram Online spoke to several tribal leaders in the Sinai. A number of leaders from Sheikh Zuwaid are reluctant to declare a position on recent developments. Nevertheless, a prominent elder said he was on good terms with jihadist leaders and that prior to 30 June, these groups had refused to take up arms against the army. He added that some jihadist leaders who had previously refrained from entering politics have now begun to issue fatwas, and with that new groups have emerged such as "The Legitimacy Brigades" or "The Legitimacy and Victory Brigade." He added that these groups act independently of the tribes.
At the same time, the tribal source stressed that the situation was worse than that portrayed by the media. People in the Sinai are especially worried about "alien elements" who hail from "jihadist" fighting fronts in North Africa, and the "Asian" Al-Qaeda who continues to enter Sinai despite tightened security.
Click here for the complete article.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

New Egyptian cabinet dominated by champions of free market economy

iol news pic Mideast Egypt Key Figures~1
Ahmed Galal, sworn is as minister of Finance
Egypt has a new cabinet, a transitional cabinet, that will try to rule till hopefully in a couple of months there will be a new constitution and new elections can be held. In the meantime it has the impossible task of  putting the economy on its feet, or at least avoid it to collapse.
The path chosen in doing so is liberal economics. To begin with Prime Minister Hazem Beblawi himself, all members of the economic section of the 33 members strong cabinet are liberal economists and champions of a free market economy.  Minister of Finance is Ahmed Galal, who holds a doctorate in economics from Boston University. He has been the managing director of the Economic Research Forum (ERF), a Cairo-based non-governmental research institution covering the Middle East, since 2007. Before that he served with the World Bank for 18 years.
Mounir Fakhry Abdel Nour, a businessman, is minister of Industry. He began his career at American Express and later founded the Vitrac Company in 1980, manufacturer of jams, that made him a millionaire. He was also the board member of the Cairo and Alexandria stock exchange. Abdel Nour is a Copt. He became the secretary-general of the Wafd Party and was appointed minister of tourism to the Cabinet led by then Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq in February 2011.
Minister of Investment is Osama Saleh, a banker, he is one of the ministers from the former cabinet of Hesham Qandil who stayed on. Minister of  Development Cooperation (and second Deputy Prime Minister) is Ziad Bahaa Ed-Din, a banker who held posts in the national bank of Egypt and who is a co-founder of the (liberal) Social Democratic Party. 
In contrast to this the ministry of Manpower went to Kamal Abu Eita, a leftist  (Nasserist) and a born labor activist, who has been in prison under Mubarak. He was at the cradle of the first independent trade union, the Real Estate Tax Authority Independent General Union, in 2009 after leading the Tax Authority employees’ national strike in 2007. He was a member of the short lived post-Mubarak parliament and ran on a ticket of the Freedom and Justice Party’s electoral list.  
Remarkable of this cabinet are that it counts three women and also three Copts (one of them also woman), which is below the average so far in Egyptian history. The three Copts are the afore mentioned Mounir Abdel Nour, plus Ramzy George, who got the ministry of Scientific Research, and Laila Iskander, a woman who has been working with the gigantic problem of waste mannagement in Cairo and who now gets the portfolio of the Environment. The women besides Laila Iskander are Maha al-Rabat, who is Egypt's first female minister of Health ever, and  Doria Sharaf Ed-Din who became minister of Information. Sharaf Ed-Din is a critic, writer and famous former TV host, who worked as the the main the national censor. The ministry of Information was maintained, by the way, after some discussion, as some thought it to be outdated.
For the rest it is obvious that the Defense, Interior and Exterior triangle, is kept firmly in the hands of the army and what may be called the 'establisment'. The real strongman of the cabinet is of course minister of Defense and Deputy Prime minister general Abdel-Fatah El-Sisi. Kept over from the former Qandil-cabinet is minister of the Interior, major general Mohammed Ibrahim, a man who was sharply criticized by the opposition for his handling of last year's football massacre in Port Said. Foreign Affairs went to Nabil Ismail Fahmy, Egyptian ambassador to Japan and to Washington under Mubarak and the founding dean of the school of public affairs in the American University of Cairo. He is the son of late minister of foreign affairs Ismail Fahmy and a member in the Constitution party headed by ElBaradei. (ElBaradei once was an aide to his father). Fahmy has good relations with the Americans. He is described as a brilliant career diplomat, whose shadow side is that he was also always a faithful defender of Mubarak's policies.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

EU: agreements with Israel have to exclude East-Jerusalem and settlements

The Guardian:
The European Union has banned its 28 member states from signing agreements with Israel without an explicit exclusion of Jewish settlements in the West Bank or East Jerusalem, in a directive described by an Israeli official as an "earthquake".
The EU guidelines, adopted on 30 June, will prohibit the issuing of grants, funding, prizes or scholarships unless a settlement exclusion clause is included. Israeli institutions and bodies situated across the pre-1967 Green Line will be automatically ineligible.
The Israeli government will be required to state in any future agreements with the EU that settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem are outside the state of Israel.
The binding directive, part of the 2014-20 financial framework, covers all areas of co-operation between the EU and Israel, including economics, science, culture, sports and academia. It does not cover trade, such as produce and goods originating in settlements.
An EU statement said the guidelines "set out the territorial limitations under which the commission will award EU support to Israeli entities … Concern has been expressed in Europe that Israeli entities in the occupied territories could benefit from EU support. The purpose of these guidelines is to make a distinction between the state of Israel and the occupied territories when it comes to EU support."
The move follows a decision by EU foreign ministers last December that "all agreements between the state of Israel and the EU must unequivocally and explicitly indicate their inapplicability to the territories occupied by Israel in 1967". All Israeli settlements are illegal under international law. (Read here the rest of the article)

It was about time. 

Monday, July 15, 2013

Continuation of the revolution or just an alliance to topple the Muslim Brothers?

Many have been raising questions about 30 June 2013 and the ouster of the Egyptian president Morsi. Was it a genuine continuation of the revolution of 25 January 2011? What to think of the involvemenet of the army? And of elements belonging to the deep state, whicdh was left over from the Mubarak-era? 
Already al lot has been written about it. Here only some critical voices:  
1954:  The headquarters of the Muslim Brotherhood in Cairo burns, people set it alight after the announcement that Brothehopod memebers tried to kill Gamal Abdel Nasser.

 For Egypt's military chiefs, the final spur to rebellion came on June 26. That day top generals met Mohamed Mursi, the country's first democratically elected president, and spoke bluntly, telling the Islamist leader what he should say in a major speech he planned as protests against him intensified around the country.
"We told him it has to be short, respond to opposition demands to form a coalition government, amend the constitution and set a timeframe for the two actions," an officer present in the room told Reuters. "Yet he came out with a very long speech that said nothing. That is when we knew he had no intention of fixing the situation, and we had to prepare for Plan B."

The massive protests of June 30 came in conjunction with a much larger scheme that began very soon after Morsi took office. This long term project by entrenched state elites seeks more than simply ejecting the Muslim Brothers from power, although that’s a highly prized outcome. The overarching goal is to systematically reverse each halting step toward subjecting the state to popular control. As Leon Trotsky wrote long ago, in the aftermath of an uprising state managers will gradually push away the masses from participation in the leadership of the country. Popular depoliticization is the grand strategy. The amazing breakthrough that was the mass mobilization of January-February 2011 shook the grip of the ruling caste on the Egyptian state and toppled its chief, Hosni Mubarak. But, alas, it did not smash that grip. The web of top military and police officers and their foreign patrons, the managers of the civil bureaucracy, cultural media elites, and crony businessmen firmly believe that ruling over Egypt is their birthright, and its state is their possession.

Joseph Massad (Counterpunch):
Ever since Muhammad Mursi was elected president of Egypt in democratic elections marred by his Mubarakist opponent Ahmad Shafiq’s electoral corruption and bribes, a coalition of Egyptian liberals, Nasserists, leftists — including socialists and communists of varying stripes –and even Salafist and repentant Muslim Brotherhood (MB) members began to form slowly but steadily, establishing an alliance with Mubarak’s ruling bourgeoisie and holdover politicians from his regime to oust him from power, fearing that he and his party were preparing a “Nazi-like” takeover of the country and destroying its fledgling democracy.

In Jadaleyya Philip Rizk asks:  Is the Egyptian Revolution Dead?: 
The short answer is “No.” A longer answer follows. What happened in Egypt between 30 June and 3 July was not a coup against an elected government. It was another attempt by the generals to co-opt Egypt’s January 25 Revolution. The situation’s complexity and its globally and ideologically charged nature makes it hard to see the forest for the trees, here is my view on why the revolution is far from over:

Ben Hubbard and David D Kirckpatrick in the New York Times:
The streets seethe with protests and government ministers are on the run or in jail, but since the military ousted President Mohamed Morsi, life has somehow gotten better for many people across Egypt: Gas lines have disappeared, power cuts have stopped and the police have returned to the street. The apparently miraculous end to the crippling energy shortages, and the re-emergence of the police, seems to show that the legions of personnel left in place after former President Hosni Mubarak was ousted in 2011 played a significant role — intentionally or not — in undermining the overall quality of life under the Islamist administration of Mr. Morsi.

Charles Levinson and Matt Bradley in the Wall Street Journal:
In the months before the military ousted President Mohammed Morsi, Egypt's top generals met regularly with opposition leaders, often at the Navy Officers' Club nestled on the Nile.
The message: If the opposition could put enough protesters in the streets, the military would step in—and forcibly remove the president.
"It was a simple question the opposition put to the military," said Ahmed Samih, who is close to several opposition attendees. "Will you be with us again?" The military said it would. Others familiar with the meetings described them similarly.
By June 30, millions of Egyptians took to the streets, calling for Mr. Morsi to go. Three days later, the military unseated him. (....)
The secret meetings between the military and secular opposition parties were key to the political chess game leading to Mr. Morsi's departure. The meetings represented a strange-bedfellows rapprochement between two groups long at odds: Egypt's opposition, and the remnants of the Mubarak regime. Their enmity dates to the 30-year dictatorship of Mr. Mubarak, which used its security services to quash the opposition.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

HRW asks for impartial investigation of killings at Republican Guard headquarters in Cairo

Human Rights Watch has called for an impartial investigation into the killing of at least 51 people outside the Republican Guards headquarters on 8 July.
An HRW statement released on Sunday urged Interim President Adly Mansour to ensure that military officers and police are investigated by the civilian judiciary, which is independent both institutionally and practically from the military chain of command.
The rights watchdog cited witness accounts which describe excessive use of force by both military and police. The prosecution has investigated only Muslim Brotherhood supporters and leaders for their alleged roles in the clashes, but not the military and police forces.
“The military has a track record of resorting quickly and excessively with lethal force to break up protests,” said Joe Stork, acting Middle East director at Human Rights Watch, said.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

US officials: Israel was behind bombardment in Latakia

 The Israeli paper Haaretz wites:
The American cable news network CNN reported Friday that it was Israel that was behind the series of explosions in the Syrian port of Latakia on the night of July 5. According to the report, which corroborates an earlier report from an Arabic news website, the attack was aimed at destroying Russian Yakhont anti-ship cruise missiles. Israel has yet to respond to the report.
In its report, CNN quoted numerous American government officials, but did not reveal their names. Those officials say that the explosions in question were the result of an Israeli airstrike, and this is currently the consensus regarding the circumstances surrounding the blasts.Last May, it was also Pentagon officials that indicated that Israel was responsible for an airstrike, the second of four strikes in Syrian territory that have been associated with Israel this year. The first Israeli airstrike took place in late January, and it targeted a Syrian Army industrial facility located between Damascus and the Lebanese border. A convoy carrying SI-17 advanced anti-aircraft missiles was destroyed. In early May, two other airstrikes took place, two days apart, both targeting shipments of Fatah-110 midrange cruise missiles coming into Syria from Iran. 
Israel has publicly declared red lines regarding Syria.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Egyptian demonstrations underline divisions

Embedded image permalink
Thousands demonstrated for the deposed president Morsi on Friday near the Rabaa al-Adawiya mosque in Nasr City (Cairo). Another big demonstration by supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood took place at the Nahda square near the university in Giza. In several provincal towns there were marches as well in support of Morsi. The United Sates on Friday made an appeal on Egypt to release Morsi. Germany did the same somewhat earlier.The ex-president is kept at an undisclosed place since 3 July.

Tahrir was the place where supporters of the coup against Morsi gathered. Friday evening they held an Iftar (meal to break the Ramadan fast) to celebrate what the 6 April Movement called the 'third wave of the revolution'. The Qasr El-Dobara Church, located near Tahrir Square and known for its role in treating the injured during Cairo's many post-revolution clashes, provided the dining tables. (Photo Mayada Wadnomiry) Tahrir Iftar

HRW about Egypt: 'Halt Arbitrary Action Against Brotherhood, Media'

Human Rights Watch: 
In Egypt, political jockeying has been stealing attention from the need to investigate serious abuses. Amnesty International has gathered evidence suggesting that security forces have used excessive force against Morsy supporters and that 88 people have died and 1500 have been wounded in the violence since last Friday.
 In addition to the July 8 killing of over 50 pro-Morsy demonstrators, authorities have, as Human Rights Watch has highlighted, detained Muslim Brotherhood leaders, sealed off Brotherhood buildings, and closed down its TV station and other stations sympathetic to the organization. Egypt’s military-installed government should end its arbitrary acts against the Muslim Brotherhood and the news media, Human Rights Watch said today. Since Defense Minister General Abdul Fatah al-Sisi announced the removal of President Mohamed Morsy from power on the night of July 3, the authorities have detained Muslim Brotherhood leaders, apparently solely on the basis of their membership in the group, sealed off Brotherhood buildings, and closed down its TV station and other stations sympathetic to the organization.
The military has also arrested the deposed president himself and at least ten members of his team and kept them in incommunicado detention for four days, unable to speak with their families or lawyer. The military has not confirmed where they are currently held, nor formally charged them with any recognizable offenses or brought them before a judge. The military should release the former president and his aides unless prosecutors have evidence that they committed a cognizable crime under Egyptian law, Human Rights Watch said. Any such charges should not contradict the internationally recognized rights to free expression and peaceful association.

“Both General al-Sisi and interim President Adli Mansour promised that the political transition process would be inclusive , but these violations of basic political rights will mean the Muslim Brotherhood and others will be shut out of political life,” said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “Without strict respect for the rule of law and basic rights from the start there will be no political freedom.”

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Arrest warrants for top Islamists in Egypt, Al Ahram sacks editors

Egypt's general prosecution issues arrest warrants on Wednesday for the Muslim Brotherhood's Supreme Guide Mohamed Badei and nine Islamist figures, mostly Brotherhood members, accusing them of inciting violence at the Republican Guard headquarters.
Mohammed Badie
The eight others are Brotherhood Deputy Guide Mahmoud Ezzat; leading rotherhood member Mohamed El-Beltagy; the Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) Vice Chairman Essam El-Erian; leading figure of ultraconservative Al-Gamaa Al-Islamiya Assem Abd El-Maged and hardline Brotherhood supporter Safwat Hegazy. Also Wasat Party Vice Chairman Essam Sultan; Al-Gamaa Al-Islamiya's Building and Development Party Vice Chairman Safwat Abd El-Ghany; and Islamist activist Abd El-Rahman Ezz and a member of the Brotherhood's consultative council, Mahmoud Hussein are on the list.
The prosecution is still investigating what happend at the headquaters of the Republican Guard. It ordered 200 people to be held for 15 days pending investigations. Earlier on Wednesday 446 people were released on bail.
Egypt's state-owned Al-Ahram media organisation meanwhile sacked its chairman, Mamdouh El-Wali, and the editors of its daily and evening newspapers, Abdel-Nasser Salama and Mohamed Kharaga. All three had been appointed by the Islamist-dominated Shura Council, which was dissolved by interim President Adly Mansour on 5 July. The organisation said it wanted to "rebalance its editorial policy" and meet the expectations of the Egyptian people. A day earlier 22 employees of Al Jazeera Mubashara quit their npositions ou of fre will in protest against the ditorial policy that forced thenm to give more credit to the position of the ZMuslinm Brothethood than to its adversaries. The state of Qatar, which owns Al Jazeera, is a supporter of the Moslim Brotherhood

Egypt gets 12 billion from Gulf countries, severe criticism of the 'Constitutional Declaration'

Kuwait will provide a $4 billion aid package to Egypt, including $2 billion as a central bank deposit, a $1 billion grant and $1 billion in oil products, state news agency KUNA said on Wednesday. The announcement came after Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates pledged a combined $8 billion in financial aid to Egypt on Tuesday, showing their support for the Egyptian army's move to push the Muslim Brotherhood from power. Saudi Arabia gives 3 billion in loans and grants, and 2 billion in petroleum products, the VAE give 1 billion as a gift and two billion in loans.
The financial relieve comes after the Egyptian military ousted President Mohamed Morsi. The aid from the three Gulf Arab oil producers is expected to help Egypt avoid a balance of payments crisis and overcome fuel shortages. Qatar lent Egypt more than $7 billion during Morsy's abruptly curtailed year in power, but other Gulf states remained aloof. The Saudis and their allies had a bad relationship with the Muslim Brothers.

El Beblawy
Beblawi (l) with interim-president Mansour.

Adly Mansour, interim president, issued a decree Tuesday tasking Hazem Beblawi, to head the new government. Mohammed ElBaradei has been appointed vice president for external relations.
Beblawi is an economist and politician who has served in previous governments, notably as deputy prime minister and finance minister briefly in 2011.
After the fall of former President Hosni Mubarak. Beblawi became a founding member of the Egyptian Social Democratic Party. He was appointed deputy prime minister for economic affairs and also, finance minister in a cabinet reshuffle on 17 July 2011.

Beblawi's appointment came after interim-president Mansour had issued a Constitutional Declaration outlining a roadmap for the transitional period. It stipulates that the president holds legislative authorities along with the cabinet that shall have a mandatory consultative role. It further said the the president is to form within 15 days a committee to amend the frozen 2012 constitution. The committee is given a month-long period to wrap up the amendments. The committee is to consist of two members of the High Constitutional Court, two judges, two members of State Council, and four constitutional law professors from Egyptian universities. The committee shall refer the amendments to another committee formed of 50 members, who shall represent all layers of society. put the amended version of the constitution to a national referendum within 30 days from receiving the final draft. It will be effective upon public approval. After that elections for the parliament will be held, followed by  presidential elections. The whole process should be finished within six months. 

The Constitutional Declaration, which came as s surprise to the Tamarod campaigners and other opposition movements, draw much criticism from different circles.  
Representative's from the 6 April Movement and the Tamarod movement had a meeting with president Mansour on Tuesday during which they presented a list of proposed amendments. They said afterwards that Mansour promised to come with an addendum to his first declaration. Among the points that both movements criticized  were the fact that parliamentary elections would be held before presidential elections and criticism of article 1 of the Declaration which stated that the Arab Republic of Egypt is ''a democratic system based on citizenship, Islam is the religion of the state, Arabic is its official language and the principles of Sharia law derived from established Sunni canons is its main source of legislation''.

Bomb in S-Beirut

At least 53 people were wounded after a bomb exploded Tuesday morning in a parking lot in the densely-populated area of the Shiite southern suburb of Bierut, Dahiyeh. Hizbollah's Al-Manar television station said the explosion was from a car rigged with explosives stationed in a public parking lot of the Islamic Coop supermarket. The blast came on a busy shopping day on the eve of  Ramadan. At least a dozen cars in the parking lot caught fire.
Of the 53 people who were admitted to hospitals, 41 have been released while another 12 are still receiving treatment, Minister of Health Ali Khalil told reporters.
It remains unclear who was behind Tuesday's blast, but there is no shortage of suspects. Hezbollah MP Ali Ammar pointed the finger at Israel, whose 34-day on Lebanon in 2006 reduced much of Dahiyeh to rubble.
But Salafi radicals affiliated with Syria's anti-government rebels are also suspected to have been behind a series of recent attacks on Lebanon. (Picture AFP)

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Ramadan kareem!

Cairo festooned with lanterns for the reception of Ramadan
Ramadan lanterns in a shop in Sayyeda Zeinab, Cairo. 

After the shooting in Cairo

 Two times food for thought:

Wendel Steavenson in The New Yorker:
 Fifty-one dead at dawn. A doctor who said he preferred not to give his name lives in an apartment building that overlooks the Republican Guard barracks in Cairo. He told me he woke for the dawn prayer before 4 A.M. Shortly afterward, he heard gunfire and went onto his neighbor’s balcony for a better view.
“I saw that the Army retreated about ten metres and began to fire tear-gas cannisters, about ten or fifteen of them,” he said. “I couldn’t see if the other side [the protesters] was shooting, but I heard people through megaphones encouraging jihad. Then I saw four to six motorcycles coming from the direction of the Rabaa intersection to the Republican Guard barracks. Some people were still praying, some were not, because the dawn prayer had finished by then. The men on the motorcycles were all masked, and it was hard to see them through the dark and the tear-gas smoke, but they seemed to be shooting, they were coming from behind the protesters, so they were shooting toward the protesters and the Army. Then the Army started firing. And the protestors were firing. I saw firing from both sides.” As for details, though—what they were firing, whether it was one or two protesters or something more organized—he said that it was dark and that he couldn’t exactly tell.

Sarah Carr on Mada Masr:
So my position on events pre-June 30 has not been changed by events since: The Muslim Brotherhood should have been left to fail as they had not (yet) committed an act justifying Morsi’s removal by the military. The price Egypt has paid and will pay for the consequences of this decision are too high. It has created a generation of Islamists who genuinely believe that democracy does not include them. The post-June 30 fallout reaffirms this belief, especially with Islamist channels and newspapers closed down, as well as leaders detained and held incommunicado, apparently pursuant to an executive decision. For 30 years, Mubarak told them that due process is not for them, and a popular revolution is confirming that. It is Egyptian society that will pay the price of the grievances this causes, and the fact that, with a silenced media and no coverage from independent outlets, they have been left with virtually no channels to get their voice heard. 

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Bloodbath at barracks of Republican Guard in Cairo

Embedded image permalink
Picture of wounded Muslim Brothers tweeted by Muslim Brotherjhood spokesman Gehad Haddad. 

At least 51 people have been killed and some 300 wounded according to the Egyptian ministry of Health,, when early Monday morning heavy shooting took place near the barracks of the Republican Guard in Cairo, where reportedly the deposed president Mohamed Morsi is being held.
The military said "a terrorist group" tried to storm the Republican Guard compound and one army officer had been killed and 40 wounded. Soldiers returned fire when they were attacked by armed assailants, a military source said. The army said it arrested about 200 people, with “large quantities of firearms, ammunition and Molotov cocktails.”
The official spokesman of the Muslim Brotherhood, Gehad El-Haddad, who was near the scene, said the shooting broke out in the early morning while Islamists were praying and staging a peaceful sit-in outside the Republican Guard barracks.
In a reaction the Muslim Brotherhood called on Egyptians to rise up. On the Facebook page of the Freedom and Justice Party, the Muslim Brotherhoods political party,  a call was written to the 'great Egyptian people to rise up against those who want to steal the revolution with tanks and armored vehicles, even over the dead bodies of the people.''
Ziad Bahaa El-Din
Bahaa Eddin
The army after that surrounded and closed off the Muslim Brotherhood's sit in near the Rabaa Adawiya mosque in Nasr City. Eyewitnesses reported that from the mosque birdshot was fired at the the army. The army also tried to reopen the Salah Salem road, which had been blocked by the protesters since Sunday.  
The developments at the barracks of the Republican Guard is bound to deepen the controversy between the Brotherhood and the supporters of the coup. Also it may complicate the formation of an interim government. On Sunday it became known that  Ziad Bahaa El-Din, a founding member of the Egyptian Social Democratic Party, had been offered the post of Egypt's new Prime Minister, after Mohammed ElBaradei, the former head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and leading member of the oppositional National Salvation Front, was tipped earlier as a possible candidate. ElBaradei's candidacy was dropped, however, after the Salafist Nour party voiced objections. The Nour Party was, contrary to the Muslim Brotherhood and is Freedom ad Justice Pary, in favour of deposing president Morsi. As the only Islamist force that supported the action by the military is opinion was important to the opposition and the military. But in a reaction to Monday's bloodbath the Nour party made it known that it withdraw its participation of the talks about the formation of a government.  

So far the army had not taken too many measures against the Muslim Brotherhood. Some leaders, like Saad al-Katatny, the leader of the Freedom and Justice Party, Rashad Bayoumi, the deputy leader of the Brotherhood and Khairat el-Shater, one of the leading members had been arrested. But Katatny and Bayoumi were lateron released and Mohammed Badie, the 'supreme guide' of the Brotherhood was able to hold a speech on Saturday for the Mosri-supporters in Nasr City.
On Sunday hundreds of thousands of supporters and opponents of ousted Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi gathered in Cairo and Alexandria. Those demonstrations passed without major disturbances. But on Thursday and Friday similar gatherings led to nationwide clashes that claimed more than 30 lives.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

'A starting point for a new beginning of the 25 January Revolution'

Tahrir celebrates the ouster of  Mohammed Morsi (Al-Ahram Online). 

Egypt's military commander-in-chief Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi on Wednesday unveiled a "roadmap" for Egypt's political future proposed by the opposition, which included the ouster of President Mohamed Morsi to make way for snap presidential elections. The roadmap will include the following points:
- The temporary suspension of the current constitution.
- Empowering the head of Egypt's High Constitutional Court (HCC) to run the country until a new president is elected via early presidential polls.
- Forming a new technocratic government and asking the HCC to hasten the passing of a parliamentary elections law, currently being reviewed by the HCC, to allow for parliamentary elections.
- Forming a committee to amend controversial articles of the temporarily suspended constitution.
- Laying down a media code of ethics to guarantee the media's professionalism.
- Forming a committee to foster "national reconciliation. -
Taking immediate steps to include youth in decision making circles.
In his televised statement, El-Sisi stressed that the armed forces had no intention to enter political life, but said it would "never turn a blind eye to the aspirations of the Egyptian people''. He further explained that the armed forces had continuously attempted to resolve disputes between the presidency and opposition, starting in November 2012 following the issuing of Morsi's controversial constitutional declaration."We began in November 2012, when we called for national dialogue that all political forces had agreed to except for the presidency," he said.
El-Sisi's speech was followed by brief statements by the grand sheikh of Egypt's Al-Azhar Ahmed El-Tayeb, Coptic Orthodox Pope Tawdros II and leading opposition figure Mohamed ElBaradei.''I hope that this plan will be a starting point for a new beginning for the January 25 revolution," said ElBaradei, who was recently authorised by the opposition to speak on their behalf.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

UAE sentences 69 in mass coup plot trial

Sixty-nine of 94 Emiratis on trial for sedition were found guilty on Tuesday and sentenced to jail terms of up to 15 years. Judge Falah Al Hajeri (picture) acquitted 25 accused, including all 13 women. Eight men tried in their absence were sentenced to 15 years in prison. Of the others, 56 were jailed for 10 years to be followed by three years’ probation and five men were jailed for seven years.
Judge Falah Al Hajeri acquitted 25 accused, including all 13 women. Picture courtesy of WAM.
Judge Al-Hajeri
State Security officials were ordered to seize financial assets from some of the guilty men, including Dh1.1 million from a front company used by the group, and a farm and two buildings.
The judge also ordered the closure of three educational centres run by the group and five websites, including that of Al Islah.
The 94 were accused of being members of a secret political organisation whose goal was to undermine the nation’s rulers and ultimately lead to the downfall of the Government. Prosecutors claimed that the group al-Islah — which was headed by the ruler's cousin al-Qasimi — was influenced by Muslim Brotherhood ideology to oppose the Western-oriented system in the UAE. The suspects rejected the claims, saying the group only supported Islamic viewpoints and conducted needed social outreach in poorer areas of the country beyond the skylines of Dubai and Abu Dhabi. The State Security Court was packed with relatives, human-rights organisations, media and bailiffs awaiting the verdict.
 All 94 – most of whom were former teachers, professors, lawyers, judges and writers – had denied the charges. Some had admitted affiliation to the organisation, but insisted it was not linked to the Brotherhood and sought nothing more than “reform”.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Support for Morsi crumbles as protests continue

Tahrir Square
Tahrir Tuesday 2 July 2013: fireworks over a mass demonstration against Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood. (Photo AP)

Mass demonstrations with millions out on the streets demanding the downfall of president Mohammed Morsi continued on Tuesday for the third consecutive day. The Muslim Brotherhood is staging counterdemonstrations, but the turnout there is much weaker. The protesters have the backing of the 22 million signatures that the Tamarod movement gathered under its petition demanding early elections for a new president -  a very significant number if only compared with the 13 million plus votes that Morsi got in 2012 during the presidential elections..  
While the demonstrations continued, the support for the president in his own government was crumbling more and more. The spokesmen for the Egyptian presidency and for the cabinet, Alaa El-Hadidi, both tendered their resignation on Tuesday and also the minister of Sports resigned. On Monday six other ministers resigned, including the Foreign minister Mohammed Kamel Amr, as well as Morsi's adviser, the former Chief of Staff, general Samy Anan. The same day eight members of the Islamist-dominated Shura Council stepped down as well in protest at the simmering political stand-off in the country.
Morsi's position seems to be become weaker and weaker, the longer the situation continues as it is. The president had a second meeting with minister of Defense general Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, but no conclusions were made public. So far Morsi had refused to bow down for the ultimatum that the army posed on Sunday, in which he and the opposition were given 48 hours to compromise before the army would step in.
The army leaked some details in the meantime over what its roadmap would look like if it were top take action: it would suspend the constitution, disband the upper house of parliament and force new elections if their deadline is not met. 
The past days and week also opinion polls revealed that most Egyptians are unhappy with Morsi's performance. In a poll by Baseera for Al-Hayat TV eight percent said to believe Morsi's performance was better than expected, 64% believe it was worse and 15% believe it was as expected. Another poll by James Zogby's Arab American institute which was published last week, made clear that more than 70% of Egyptians believe the economic and security situations have worsened.