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The Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity : America and the Arab Awakening: Déjà Vu?

The Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity : America and the Arab Awakening: Déjà Vu?.

wednesday february 12, 2014
Arabspringegypt

Three years ago, Washington experienced its own dose of “shock and awe” — the PR phrase used to sanitise its brutal invasion of Iraq — when hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of ordinary Arabs took to the streets to demand the overthrow of leaders more interested in Washington’s approval than that of their own peoples. But American policy elites’ professed surprise was primarily a function of their own self-imposed amnesia and delusion.

No one in Washington seemed to realise or care that Egyptians forced their pro-American dictator from power on February 11, 2011 — 32 years to the day after the Shah of Iran’s military conceded to the will of the Iranian people, giving birth to the Islamic Republic of Iran and bringing down a pillar of American dominance in the region. On the eve of Iran’s revolution, as a deep and abiding thirst for independence was sweeping through Iran, President Jimmy Carter toasted the shah, in “great tribute…to your leadership and to the respect and the admiration and love which your people give to you.”

Thirty-two years later, US foreign policy elites seemed to have learned little. When similar revolutionary fervour threatened another pillar of US dominance in the Middle East — Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak — the Obama administration appeared to be following the example of its 1970s predecessor. Vice President Joe Biden proclaimed that Mubarak wasn’t “a dictator” because he was an American ally and a friend of Israel — thereby highlighting that the only way an Arab leader can be those things is by being a dictator. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had already declared “President and Mrs Mubarak to be friends of my family.”

But with security forces marauding through Tahrir (“Liberation”) Square, killing nearly 1,000 people by the time Mubarak finally resigned — and drawing more people to protest, instead of repelling them — alarm set in among Washington’s foreign policy elite. Could the US really lose the Egyptian pillar it had so assiduously co-opted after its Iranian pillar was tossed out in 1979?

When Washington finally understood that Mubarak’s days were numbered, as Carter had finally understood with the shah, the Obama administration tried to orchestrate a “transition” to Mubarak’s reviled intelligence chief. Omar Suleiman was the man responsible for “rendering” Egyptians to be tortured for the CIA and for collaborating with Israel to keep the Palestinian civilian population in Gaza under siege. When that did not work, Washington set out to co-opt and then abort what it termed the Arab Spring — a Western phrase meant to depict movement toward secular liberalism rather than toward participatory Islamist governance.

Unchanging foreign policy

Mubarak’s departure brought into uncomfortably stark relief a reality that US policymakers had denied since the overthrow of the shah thirty-two years before. US efforts to use cooperative autocrats — autocrats willing to facilitate US military aggression, to torture alleged “terrorists” (their own citizens) for the CIA’s benefit, and to tolerate a militarily dominant Israel engaged in open-ended occupation of Arab populations — to promote American hegemony over the Middle East were unacceptable to the vast majority of people there.

As protests unfolded in Egypt, large numbers of demonstrators in Yemen demanded that Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh — a major US counter-terror collaborator — resign. Three days after Mubarak’s removal, large-scale protests paralysed Bahrain — home of the US Fifth Fleet — underscoring the threat to America’s regional hegemony even more dramatically.

US foreign policy elites were not just concerned about a precipitous erosion of the US strategic position in the Middle East. They also worried about what the spread of popular demand for leaderships accountable to their peoples, not to Washington, would mean for the hegemonic house of cards the US had imposed on the region.

It was clear — and has become ever clearer over the past three years — that the majority of population in the Middle East want to vote for their leaders and to have a voice in decision-making on issues affecting their daily lives and social identities. But they also want that to happen in an explicitly Islamic framework — not in some secular, liberal “Spring” context, divorced from their identities and ability to assert real independence.

When given the chance to express preferences about their political futures, Middle Eastern Muslims do not embrace the sort of secular liberalism that America might be able to countenance as an alternative to pro-Western autocracy. Rather, they vote for Islamists espousing the integration of participatory politics and elections with Islamic principles — and with a commitment to foreign policy independence.

Thus, in early 2011, Washington was anxious that the Arab Awakening would ultimately benefit the Islamic Republic of Iran. For the Islamic Republic is the Middle East’s only political system that, since 1979, has actually tried to integrate participatory politics and elections with principles and institutions of Islamic governance. It has also been an exemplar of foreign policy independence, embodied in its consistent refusal to submit to the imperatives of a pro-US regional order.

Three US goals in the Middle East

Faced with these risks to its hegemonic ambitions, the US could not simply declare its opposition to popular sovereignty in the Middle East. Instead, the Obama administration crafted a policy response to the Arab Awakening that had three major goals. In the course of pursuing these goals, the administration — with strong bipartisan backing in Congress — has imposed even more instability and violence on the region. It has also set the stage for further erosion of the credibility and effectiveness of US policy in a vital part of the world.

The Obama administration’s first goal was to prevent the Arab Awakening from taking down any more US allies. To that end, the administration tacitly (but happily) acquiesced to the Saudi-led military intervention in Bahrain on March 14, 2011 to sustain the Khalifa monarchy. As a result, the monarchy continues to hold on to power (for now) and US naval forces continue operating out of Bahrain.

At the same time, Washington’s support for suppressing popular demands for political change there through Saudi Arabia’s armed intervention has helped fuel a dangerous resurgence of sectarian tensions across the Middle East. This, in turn, has given new life to al-Qaeda and similar jihadi movements around the region.

The Obama administration’s second goal was to co-opt the Arab Awakening for US purposes, by showing that, somewhere in the Middle East, the US could put itself on the “right” side of history. So, when Saudi Arabia offered the Arab League “cover” to intervene in Libya and arm anti-Gaddafi rebels, President Barack Obama overrode objections by his defence secretary and military leaders to order US forces into action.

On March 17, 2011, the UN Security Council narrowly adopted a resolution authorising use of force to protect civilian populations in Libya. In short order, Team Obama distorted it to turn civilian protection into coercive regime change. The results have been disastrous for US interests and for the region: Worsening violence in Libya, a growing jihadi threat in North Africa, a dead US ambassador, and more polarised US relations with Russia and China.

The Obama administration’s third goal was to show that, after the loss of pro-Western regimes in Tunisia, Egypt, and near-misses in Bahrain and Yemen, it wasn’t just authoritarian regimes willing to subordinate their foreign policies to the US that were at risk from popular discontent. In particular, Washington wanted to demonstrate that it was also possible to bring down regimes with clear commitments to foreign policy independence — and, in the process, weaken not just Iran’s strategic position but that of Islamists across the region promoting participatory Islamist governance.

Soon after unrest started in Syria in March 2011, the Obama administration saw an opening, declaring that President Bashar al-Assad “must go” and goading an externally supported “opposition” to undermine him — if not bring him down. It was clear from the start that arming a deeply divided opposition would not bring down the Syrian government. Nevertheless, Washington joined with its so-called allies in Riyadh, Paris, and London in an almost desperate attempt to roll back Iran’s rising power.

Almost three years on, Iraq, as well as Iran, have been hurt by this misadventure — but the American and the Syrian people have paid a much higher price. Washington has paid in terms of its regional standing, intensification of the regional resurgence of violent extremists, and further polarisation of relations with Russia and China; Syria, of course, has paid with over 100,000 Syrians killed (so far) and millions more displaced.

More recently, the Obama administration’s tacit backing for the military coup that overthrew Egypt’s democratically elected Muslim Brotherhood president in July 2013 has removed any residual doubt that the US, intent on clinging to its hegemonic prerogatives in the Middle East, can endorse moves toward real democracy in the region. Putting US strategy in the Middle East on a more positive and productive trajectory will require Washington to accept the region on its own terms, to deal straightforwardly with all relevant (and authentic) actors, and to admit that trying to coercively micromanage political outcomes in Muslim-majority societies isn’t just incompatible with claims to respect popular sovereignty — it is unsustainable and counter-productive for long-term US interests.

Reprinted with permission from author’s Going to Tehran blog.

Flickr/AK Rockefeller

Dozens dead as Egypt marks revolution – Middle East – Al Jazeera English

Dozens dead as Egypt marks revolution – Middle East – Al Jazeera English.

Cairo  At least 29 people have been killed across Egypt amidst nationwide protests on the third anniversary of the 2011 revolution, with unofficial reports of a death toll nearly twice as high.

The worst violence was directed at supporters of deposed President Mohamed Morsi, who staged dozens of rallies across the country. Witnesses reported deadly clashes in Minya, Giza, Alexandria and several other governorates, and the health ministry said that 29 people were dead and more than 170 wounded by 8:30pm (1830GMT).

There were reports of numerous deaths in Alf Maskan, a neighbourhood in eastern Cairo, though the exact number could not be confirmed. Two witnesses in the area took photos that seemed to show at least nine dead bodies wrapped in shrouds.

The Muslim Brotherhood said in a statement that more than 50 people have been killed nationwide, though casualty figures released by the group have often been exaggerated in the past.

Armed groups also staged three attacks on security forces, the most spectacular of which reportedly brought down a military helicopter in North Sinai.

Two explosions rocked Cairo early on Saturday and a third followed in Suez, targeting a police base.

Activists opposed to both the army and the Brotherhood also tried to lay claim to the streets, with a rally in the Mohandiseen district around noon. They were chased off, only to regroup several hours later downtown, blocks away from Tahrir, where security forces fired tear gas and live ammunition.

The April 6 youth movement said one of its members was killed by gunfire, and by mid-afternoon the violence had prompted several revolutionary groups to urge supporters to go home.

But the main pro-military event in Tahrir Square was peaceful, protected by a heavy deployment of soldiers and police. The crowds gathered in the square made little mention of the 2011 uprising that toppled President Hosni Mubarak.

Instead they came to celebrate General Abdel Fattah el-Sisi who deposed morsi in July.

‘We refuse to submit’

Army helicopters orbited overhead, dropping Egyptian flags and coupons for free blankets. Crowds arrived throughout the afternoon, many of them chanting “the people demand the execution of the Brotherhood.” Others called for the “affirmation of the regime,” a play on the revolutionary slogan calling for its downfall.

“We want to show that we won’t go back to the Brotherhood, and we won’t be scared by their terrorism,” said Mohamed Salama, entering Tahrir Square with a group of about 20 people. “This is about correcting the path of the revolution.”

For many, the next step on that path should be electing Sisi to the presidency.

“Look around, he has our support. If he does not run, who will?” asked Amer Ali Said, an engineer.

Analysts say it is still unclear whether the general will run, though today’s rallies certainly seem to push him in that direction.

Thousands of Sisi’s supporters also gathered in other sites across the capital, and in governorates outside of Cairo. State television showed large crowds in Alexandria, Sohag, Fayoum and other cities. “We aren’t scared. All the people of Port Said, of Egypt, we are down in the streets today,” one man from Port Said told a state television reporter.

Sinai attack

Local media reported that an army helicopter was shot down near the town of Sheikh Zuweid in North Sinai, possibly by a missile. A military spokesman confirmed the helicopter crash, but would not comment on the cause.

The interior ministry confirmed a bombing outside a security barracks in Suez, which injured at least nine people. And a small explosion at a police building in eastern Cairo around 8am injured one person.

There were no claims of responsibility for Saturday’s attacks, which followed a series of four bombings across the capital on Friday. The deadliest, a car bomb, tore through the security directorate downtown, killing four people and injuring more than 70. Prosecutors said on Saturday that the vehicle used in the bombing had been stolen from the electricity ministry.

Ansar Bait al-Maqdis, a Sinai-based armed group, claimed responsibility for all four.

Egyptian editor backtracks after saying ‘Americans will be killed in streets’ | World news | theguardian.com

Egyptian editor backtracks after saying ‘Americans will be killed in streets’ | World news | theguardian.com.

General Abdel Fatah al-Sisi

Bakry claims there is a plot to killed General Abdel Fatah al-Sisi (pictured). Photograph: Mohamed Abd El Ghany/Reuters

A prominent Egyptian editor who threatened that Americans could be slaughtered in the streets has been forced to backtrack on his remarks after they were reported by western media.

In an extreme example of the growing xenophobic rhetoric by media outlets who back the country’s army chief, General Abdel Fatah al-Sisi, Mostafa Bakry made the threat on a major TV talkshow, also warning the US president, Barack Obama, and his “puppets” that “we will enter their houses, and we will kill them one by one”.

Bakry speculated that the US government planned to assassinate Sisi, who ousted Egypt‘s first democratically elected leader, Mohamed Morsi, last July after mass protests against his one-year rule.

“There is a plot to kill General Sisi, and the security services know it well,” said Bakry – a pro-regime journalist known for his provocative behaviour. He then suggested that a similar US-backed plot had led to the assassination of Pakistani politician, Benazir Bhutto.

Such a scenario would lead the Egyptian people to rise up in a “revolution to kill the Americans in the streets”, he said.

Egypt’s foreign ministry later forwarded the following clarification from Bakry himself: “These comments were made regarding terrorism and the terrorist group that is waging a war against Egypt. I am opposed to any violence, including any violence against US citizens, and I would like to make it clear that we have no enmity with or hostility towards the American people at all.

“The intention of my comments was to highlight Egyptian independence, and our adamant refusal to allow any outside party, be that the US or any other party, to interfere in internal Egyptian affairs.”

Bakry’s remarks came as the US is reportedly poised to unfreeze millions of dollars in aid to Egypt after the successful completion of a referendum on a new constitution, and follow praise of Egypt’s post-Morsi transition by US the secretary of state, John Kerry.

Egypt’s pro-regime media have increasingly portrayed any dissent – of either a secular or Islamist bent – against the current regime as an unpatriotic act.

Egypt’s flagship state newspaper, al-Ahram, has several times in recent months used its front page to air claims that the US government has joined forces with Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood to divide up Egypt into smaller countries, and to spread chaos within its borders.

The Brotherhood also often uses xenophobic rhetoric to smear its opponents. In its propaganda, the US is conversely portrayed as both a supporter and instigator of Morsi’s overthrow.

But Bakry’s earlier outburst is not a reflection of the views of ordinary Egyptians, many of whom crave the return of Egypt’s decimated tourism industry.

Numerous Explosives Discovered Near Winter Olympics Site | Zero Hedge

Numerous Explosives Discovered Near Winter Olympics Site | Zero Hedge.

Just a few short weeks away, the opening ceremony of the Sochi Winter Olympic may go off with a bang, literally, judging by the amount of “terrorist” chatter surrounding the games. Today however, it is more than just chatter: earlier the Russian media reported that Russian security forces had come across multiple unexplained deaths and explosive devices in a region near Sochi, resulting in an aggressive “anti-terrorism sweep.”

The developments are bizarre to say the least:

A car with a body inside exploded as police approached it in Russia’s Stavropol Territory, reported Russia’s state-owned RIA Novosti, citing the Interior Ministry. In the same area, Russian authorities reportedly discovered a car containing the bodies of three men along with explosive material. The day before, two more bodies were found in the same region.

 

Russian officials are investigating the possible cause and motive for the deaths — a Russia analyst speculated to ABC News the deaths could be related to organized crime — but at any rate the mystery and the security sweep add to an already tense situation in southern Russia as the Olympics approach.

One person keeping a close eye on the developments is none other than president Obama, who as we reported yesterday, will unleash an ad blitz for Obamacare around the Olympics. The last thing he will want is for the participants in the games to have need of it. Which is why one can be certain that the NSA and various US security forces are already well aware of any potential sources of terrorism around the games. Sure enough, in a statement of condolences from the White House over the most recent Volgograd bombings, President Obama’s National Security Council slipped in an apparent jab at the Russian government over the security situation. “The U.S. government has offered our full support to the Russian government in security preparations for the Sochi Olympic Games, and we would welcome the opportunity for closer cooperation for the safety of the athletes, spectators, and other participants,” the NSC statement said.”

Some thoughts on who they may be:

Just 10 days ago more than 30 people were killed in dual suicide bombings in Volgograd, Russia, some 400 miles northeast of Sochi. By comparison, Moscow lies more than 850 miles north of Sochi. In October seven people were killed when a suicide bomber detonated explosives on a bus, also in Volgograd. The Stavropol Territory lies approximately halfway between Volgograd and Sochi – approximately 150 miles away from the Olympic site.

 

No group has publicly claimed responsibility for the bombings, but in the case of the October bus bombing, Russian authorities said the bomber hailed from Dagestan, a restive region in southern Russia to Sochi’s east that, along with Chechnya, is home to a violent Islamist insurgency that has fought Russian government forces for decades.

 

The leader of the insurgency, Doku Umarov, sometimes referred to as “Russia’s Osama bin Laden,” last June called on his followers to “do their utmost to derail” the Sochi Olympics, which he called a “satanic dance on the bones of our ancestors.” In the past Umarov has claimed responsibility for deadly attacks on Russian civilians, including the 2011 bombing of Moscow’s Domodedovo airport.

What is far more clear is who is providing the funding and supplies for the Islamists – the same puppetmaster who was behind the Syrian conflict. Recall:

Bandar told Putin, “There are many common values and goals that bring us together, most notably the fight against terrorism and extremism all over the world. Russia, the US, the EU and the Saudis agree on promoting and consolidating international peace and security. The terrorist threat is growing in light of the phenomena spawned by the Arab Spring. We have lost some regimes. And what we got in return were terrorist experiences, as evidenced by the experience of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and the extremist groups in Libya. … As an example, I can give you a guarantee to protect the Winter Olympics in the city of Sochi on the Black Sea next year. The Chechen groups that threaten the security of the games are controlled by us, and they will not move in the Syrian territory’s direction without coordinating with us. These groups do not scare us. We use them in the face of the Syrian regime but they will have no role or influence in Syria’s political future.”

Putin laughed in Bandar’s face, the Saudi natgas pipeline gambit in Syria failed, and as a result the escalation in Sochi is progressing just as Bandar implied it would. Naturally this puts Obama in a tough spot: he can’t openly act against Saudi interests once again after alieanting his ally in the region and take out the terrorist camps in Chechnya, but the last thing he would want is to cart home coffins of athletes.

Which means US participants are resorting to Plan B:

the U.S. ski and snowboard team this year will be overseen by a private security firm, which plans to have as many as five aircraft on standby in case of a medical or security emergency in Sochi. “This environment is unique,” Global Rescue CEO Dan Richards told USA Today Wednesday. “You just don’t have competitions in places like Sochi with any frequency. … In the last 10 years, there has been nothing like it.”

 

William Rathburn, who was the head of Olympic Security during the bombing of the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta, Georgia, told ABC News that while he’s confident Russian officials “have done everything they can” to secure the upcoming games, the odds of an incident are “very high.”

 

“It’s an opportunity for the Chechen [militants] or anyone else to embarrass Russia or [Russian President Vladimir] Putin, I think,” he said. “It’s far easier to protect against attacks on somebody who might be targeted, a group or country or delegation. [But] it’s clear that the people who conducted the two bombings in Volgograd are willing to indiscriminately kill people. It’s very difficult to protect against…”

And after last year in which Putin humiliated US and most western foreign policy on virtually every front, the number of people who want to embarass Putin is quite long.

Several dead as Egypt protests turn violent – Middle East – Al Jazeera English

Several dead as Egypt protests turn violent – Middle East – Al Jazeera English.

At least 11 people have been killed as Muslim Brotherhood supporters clashed with police in Cairo and other Egyptian cities, the country’s Health Ministry has said.

The ministry told Al Jazeera that four deaths were recorded in Cairo on Friday, two each in Alexandria, Ismaliya and Fayoum, and one in Minya in upper Egypt. Protesters said the real figure was much higher.

The ministry did not say whether the dead were protesters, police or bystanders.

Dozens more were reported injured, while at least 122 people have been arrested, according to medical and security officials.

Spotlight

Follow our ongoing coverage of the political crisis in Egypt

 

The clashes come amid an ever-widening state crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood movement.

Rallies in support of ousted President Mohamed Morsi have turned increasingly violent ahead of a key referendum this month, which would ban religiously based political parties and give more power to the military.

It would be a further step towards the complete removal of the Brotherhood from public life after the group won every election in Egypt since Hosni Mubarak was overthrown in 2011.

‘We are not afraid’

Protesters set fire to a police vehicle in Cairo using petrol bombs as police fought street battles with rock-throwing protesters in the capital.

“We are not afraid, we love Egypt and what we are doing is for Egypt,” said Mohamed Dahi, a 39-year-old protester, as he distributed leaflets calling for a boycott of the referendum.
“I am against all injustice and the military rule. I won’t accept any military rule in Egypt,” Dahi told the AFP news agency
I won’t accept any military rule in Egypt.

Mohamed Dahi, protester

as as he participated in a protest along with his 10-year-old son.

Demonstrators chanted “Down with military rule” and slogans against army chief Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, who removed Morsi from the presidency in July.

Cairo’s main squares were sealed off by security forces using barbed wire and military vehicles. They included Tahrir Square, as well as Rabaa al-Adawiya and Nahda squares, which were the sites of a bloody crackdown on Morsi’s supporters in August.

The clashes took place less than two weeks before a vote on a new constitution, a milestone in the road map which the army-backed authorities say will pave the way for a return to a democratic rule by next summer.

Protesters opposed to the army’s overthrow of Morsi have been holding daily demonstrations in Cairo and in other cities ever since the military government declared the Muslim Brotherhood a “terrorist” group last month, a move that upped the penalties for dissent.

Dozens of Iraqi MPs quit over Anbar violence – Middle East – Al Jazeera English

Dozens of Iraqi MPs quit over Anbar violence – Middle East – Al Jazeera English.

Forty-four Iraqi MPs have announced their resignation over violence in Anbar province, just days after a deadly raid on the home of a Sunni lawmaker in the area.Fighting erupted when police broke up a Sunni Muslim protest camp on Monday, leaving at least 13 people dead, police and medical sources said.

Four people died on Tuesday in clashes between Iraq’s security forces and gunmen in Ramadi, following the forced closure of the site.

The camp has been an irritant to Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s Shia-led government since protesters set it up a year ago to demonstrate against what they see as marginalisation of their sect.

Maliki has repeatedly vowed to remove the camp and accused protesters of stirring strife and sheltering fighters linked to al-Qaeda.

The MPs who stepped down after the latest bout of violence demanded “the withdrawal of the army… and the release of MP Ahmed al-Alwani,” a Sunni of the Iraqiya bloc who was arrested during a deadly raid on Saturday.

Prominent Sunni politician Saleh al-Mutlaq called for all legislators from Iraqiya to withdraw from the political process, saying it had hit a “dead end”.

“Elections in this atmosphere would be settled in advance, therefore we should raise our voices high and say the political process cannot proceed in this way,” he told reporters.

Tension rising

Tensions have been rising over the past few weeks in Anbar, a province that makes up a third of Iraq’s territory and is populated mainly by Sunnis.

Police said the clashes on Monday broke out when armed men opened fire on police special forces trying to enter Ramadi, the city where the protest camp is located.
We hold the government of Nouri al-Maliki responsible for the bloodshed and the fighting.Mahmoud Abdel Aziz, tribal leader

Shooting and blasts were heard in parts of the city. The assailants destroyed four police vehicles and killed at least three policemen in the north of Ramadi, one police source said.

The bodies of 10 other people killed in the clashes were brought into Ramadi’s morgue, hospital and morgue sources told Reuters news agency.

Tribal leader Mahmoud Abdel Aziz, meanwhile, accused the army of firing on unarmed civilians.

“We hold the government of Nouri al-Maliki responsible for the bloodshed and the fighting,” he said.

The fighting spread to the nearby city of Fallujah, where police Captain Omar Oda said armed men burned military vehicles during clashes with security forces.

Maliki’s spokesman, Ali Mussawi, said military sources confirmed that tents at the protest site had been removed and the highway towards neighbouring Jordan and Syria reopened.

This was done “without any losses, after al-Qaeda and its members escaped from the camp to the city, and they are being pursued now,” Mussawi told AFP.

The sprawling protest site on the highway outside Ramadi, where the number of protesters ranged from hundreds to thousands, included a stage from which speakers could address crowds, a large roofed structure and dozens of tents.

Sunni politicians arrested

Protests broke out in Sunni Arab-majority areas of Iraq late last year after the arrest of guards of then-finance minister Rafa al-Essawi, an influential Sunni Arab, on terrorism charges.

The arrests were seen by Sunnis as yet another example of the Shia-led government targeting one of their leaders.

In December 2011, guards of vice president Tariq al-Hashemi, another prominent Sunni politician, were arrested and accused of terrorism. Hashemi fled abroad and has since been given multiple death sentences in absentia for charges including murder.

He had insisted he was still the legitimate vice president, but on Monday he announced his resignation and called on all Sunni members of parliament join him.

“Legally I was still the vice president of the republic. But today I add my voice to my people who have risen up in Anbar,” he told Al Jazeera.

“I stayed in this position until now because it was necessary to challenge and unite the Sunnis. They needed a rallying cause. But enough is enough.”

 

Al Jazeera demands Egypt release Cairo team – Middle East – Al Jazeera English

Al Jazeera demands Egypt release Cairo team – Middle East – Al Jazeera English.

Conditions for journalists have become difficult since President Morsi’s overthrow in July, rights groups say
Al Jazeera has condemned the arrest of four of its journalists held by Egyptian authorities since Sunday night and demanded their immediate release.

Award-winning Nairobi-based correspondent Peter Greste, Al Jazeera English bureau chief Mohamed Fahmy, Cairo-based producer Baher Mohamed and cameraman Mohamed Fawzyre have been held in custody since their arrest by security forces on Sunday evening.

Al Jazeera under fire in Egypt in 2013
 
June 28
AJMM’s Mohammad Farhat beaten by gangs, spending
two weeks in intensive care.

July 3

AJA crew were detained inside AJA bureau for six hours.
Ahmad Hassan was detained for four days.

July 12

Five AJE crew members were detained in Suez for a
few hours.

July 15
AJMM’s Mohammad Bader arrested and in custody for 15
days. He was detained until mid September.

August 14

AJA’s Abdulla al-Shami arrested for 15 days, then on
August 27 he was detained for further a 12 days.
Mohammad el-Zaki shot by snipers at
Rabaa al-Adaweya.

August 27

AJE’s Baher Mohammed detained and released after two
days. Wayne Hay, Adil Bradlow and Russ Finn detained
for five days and deported to UK.

August 14

AJMM crew detained and beaten for hours and equipment
confiscated.

August 29

Shihab El-Din, AJM exec producer, detained for two days.

September 1
Mostafa Hawwa detained for one day and equipment
confiscated.

The arrests follow a period of sustained intimidation towards Al Jazeera staff, property and coverage since the military-orchestrated removal of President Mohamed Morsi in July.

Qatar-based Al Jazeera Media Network’s spokesperson said of the latest arrests: “We condemn the arbitrary arrest of Al Jazeera English journalists working in Cairo and demand their immediate and unconditional release.

“Al Jazeera Media Network has been subject to harassment by Egyptian security forces which has arrested of our colleagues, confiscated our equipment and raided our offices despite that we are not officially banned from working there.”

These arrests are part of what Reporters Without Borders has called growing hostility towards journalists in Egypt.

There has also been a campaign against Al Jazeera in particular as the channel’s offices were raided in August and security forces seized equipment which has yet to be returned.

Al Jazeera called on the Egyptian authorities to immediately release all its detained staff unconditionally along with their belongings and equipment.

Greste is a veteran journalist who previously worked for Reuters, CNN and the BBC over the past two decades.

Human-rights groups say conditions for journalists in Egypt have become difficult since Morsi was removed by the military on July 3, 2013.

The latest arrests come after a series of clashes between police and Muslim Brotherhood supporters across Egypt.

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) said on Monday that Egypt, Syria and Iraq have become among the deadliest countries for journalists to work in.

In a special report released by the New York-based organisation said conditions in the country had “deteriorated dramatically”.

“Amid stark political polarisation and related street violence, things deteriorated dramatically for journalists in Egypt, where six journalists were killed for their work in 2013.”

 

Egyptian military injured in bomb attack – Middle East – Al Jazeera English

Egyptian military injured in bomb attack – Middle East – Al Jazeera English.

A car laden with 20kg of explosives was detonated remotely near the entrance to the military building [Reuters]
At least four people have been injured in an explosion near the military intelligence building in Sharqiya, in Egypt’s Nile Delta, the third bombing on the mainland in less than a week.Three men left a car laden with 20kg of explosives by the entrance to the building on Sunday morning, and detonated it from a distance with a remote control, according to an Egyptian army spokesperson. The military is conducting a search of the the area for the assailants.

Colonel Ahmed Ali, a spokesman for the army, said the intelligence building was partly damaged by the blast. There was no immediate claim of responsibility.

Attacks on police and military installations have become a regular occurrence in Egypt.

On Tuesday, a powerful car bomb exploded near a police station in Mansoura, another city in the Delta, killing 14 people and injuring more than 150 others. Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis, a Sinai-based group, claimed responsibility for the bombing in a statement posted online.

But the army-backed interim cabinet nonetheless blamed the Muslim Brotherhood, and the next day designated the Brotherhood as a “terrorist organisation.”

Hundreds of members have been arrested over the past few days for staging protests, and there were reports in local newspapers on Sunday that some of the group’s remaining leadership had fled the country.

On Thursday, a homemade bomb exploded near a bus in Cairo, injuring five passengers. Police said they defused two other bombs planted in the same area. It was one of the first attacks in Cairo that targeted civilians.

Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis has staged hundreds of attacks against police and soldiers on the Sinai peninsula, but it has recently carried out several high-profile bombings on the mainland.

The group claimed credit for a September assassination attempt on the interior minister in Cairo.

 

Egypt declares Brotherhood ‘terrorist group’ – Middle East – Al Jazeera English

Egypt declares Brotherhood ‘terrorist group’ – Middle East – Al Jazeera English.

Egypt’s interim government has declared the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organisation, a move that gives authorities greater freedom to crack down on the group.Hossam Eissa, a deputy prime minister, announced the decision on Wednesday night after a lengthy cabinet meeting.

“The cabinet has declared the Muslim Brotherhood and its organisation as a terrorist organisation,” he said.

The cabinet’s announcement came one day after a deadly car bombing outside a police headquarters in the Nile Delta city of Mansoura. Fourteen people were killed in the blast, most of them officers, and more than 150 others were wounded.

A Sinai-based militant group, Ansar Bait al-Maqdis, claimed responsibility for the blast in a statement published online on Wednesday.

But the government blamed the Brotherhood for the attack, though it provided no evidence connecting the group to the attack.

The Brotherhood’s London press office issued a statement on Tuesday that “strongly condemned” the bombing.

“Egypt suffered an ugly crime committed by the Muslim Brotherhood,” Eissa said. “It is a clear declaration from [the group], which has not known anything but violence since its beginning.”

The Brotherhood has staged near-daily protests since President Mohamed Morsi was ousted by the army in July following widespread popular protests. Thousands of its members have been killed and jailed since then, and the group has faced mounting legal problems.

In September, a court ordered the Brotherhood banned and its assets seized, a decision that was upheld on appeal in November.

Wednesday’s decision takes the ban a step further: Under the Egyptian penal code, members of the Brotherhood could now face up to five years in prison simply for belonging to the group.

Morsi himself is already in prison, facing charges that include espionage and terrorism. Most of the Brotherhood’s leadership has also been jailed since the coup.

Ahmed el-Borai, the minister of social solidarity, said that the cabinet also would notify other Arab states which are signatories to international conventions against terrorism.

The Brotherhood has sister organisations, and extensive fundraising operations, in many countries around the region.

 

Analysis: As Egypt hardliners gain, scope for conflict grows | Top News | Reuters

Analysis: As Egypt hardliners gain, scope for conflict grows | Top News | Reuters.

By Tom Perry

CAIRO (Reuters) – If there was any hope left that the generals who overthrew Egypt’s elected president six months ago might ease the state’s crackdown on dissent, a suicide bomb that ripped through a police station on Tuesday may have destroyed it.

The most populous Arab country enters the new year with deeper divisions in its society and more bloodshed on its streets than at any point in its modern history. The prospects for democracy appear bleaker with every bomb blast and arrest.

The army-backed government says it will shepherd Egypt back to democracy and points out that the state defeated Islamist militants when they last launched waves of attacks in the 1990s. But this time around there are more weapons and harder ideologies, and a bitter example of a failed democratic experiment to toughen positions on all sides.

Like much of the recent violence, the bombing that killed 16 people on Tuesday was bloodier than all but the very worst attacks of the 1990s. The tactic of using suicide bombers to hit security forces is more familiar to Iraq or Syria than to Egypt, which for all its history of militancy is one of the few big Arab states that has never experienced a modern civil war.

The blast was claimed by a Sinai Peninsula-based Islamist militant group, Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis, which has stepped up attacks on government targets in recent months and narrowly failed to assassinate the interior minister in September.

The blast set off mob attacks on the shops, homes and vehicles of people believed to be supporters of ousted President Mohamed Mursi’s Muslim Brotherhood.

“After the funerals of the martyrs, angry people smashed my pharmacy and my brother’s shop,” said Mohamed Heikal, a Brotherhood activist in the city of Mansoura, scene of Tuesday’s bombing. “We had nothing to do with what happened,” he said, condemning the bombing as a terrorist attack.

With much of the public feverishly backing the government’s calls to uproot the Brotherhood, talk of political accommodation is non-existent. Analysts see little or no chances of a political deal to stabilize a nation in turmoil since Hosni Mubarak’s downfall in 2011.

Signs of escalation abound. Mursi and other top Brotherhood leaders have been ordered to stand trial on charges that could lead to their execution. They are charged with conspiring with foreigners to carry out a terrorist plot against Egypt.

Following Tuesday’s attack, Prime Minister Hazem el-Beblawi declared the Brotherhood a terrorist organization.

Meanwhile, the frequency of attacks suggests militants are taking centre stage within the Islamist movement, further diminishing hopes of the state reaching an accommodation with moderates and strengthening the hawks in government.

One consequence could be to increase the chances of General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi becoming Egypt’s next president.

The army chief who deposed Mursi after mass protests against Brotherhood rule has yet to decide whether to run, an army source said. Though Sisi would almost certainly win were he to run, the source said he is hesitant partly due to the mountain of problems awaiting Egypt’s next head of state.

But analysts say the increase in violence makes it less likely Sisi and those around him would trust anyone else with the reins of power.

“The more dire the situation becomes, the less a second tier civilian candidate will be seen able to take charge of the situation,” said Michael Wahid Hanna, a senior fellow at the Century Foundation, a New York-based think-tank. “This type of deterioration will increase pressure on Sisi to run.”

MOST SOLDIERS KILLED SINCE ’73 WAR

Crowds that gathered outside the compound hit in Tuesday’s attack to show support for the security forces brandished Sisi’s portrait.

Egypt has experienced violence for decades including the assassination of President Anwar Sadat by an Islamist gunman in 1981, and attacks on tourist sites in the 1990s that hurt the economy. But civil bloodshed has now reached an unprecedented level.

A conservative estimate puts the overall death toll since Mursi’s fall at well over 1,500. Most of those killed were Mursi supporters, including hundreds gunned down when the security forces cleared a protest vigil outside a Cairo mosque.

At least 350 members of the security forces have also been killed in bombings and shootings since Mursi’s downfall. The state has declared them martyrs of a war on terror.

The army has suffered its greatest casualties since the 1973 Middle East war, most of them in the Sinai Peninsula, where the most heavily armed Islamists are based.

The blood spilt since Mursi’s downfall has evoked comparisons with Algeria – a country pitched into a decade of civil war in 1991 when its army aborted an experiment with democracy because Islamists looked set to win power.

Some dismiss that comparison, arguing the past failures of militants in Egypt should dissuade Islamists from following that path.

But as the attacks spread beyond the Sinai Peninsula, the risks are compounded by the large quantities of weapons smuggled in from neighboring Libya since the downfall of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, in a war that saw his arsenals looted by rebels.

“This particular incident shows that the group operating in Mansoura is very organized, well equipped and capable,” said Mustapha Kamel Al-Sayid, a professor of political science at Cairo University, referring to the Nile Valley town where Tuesday’s attack took place.

“This points to the difficulty of any kind of compromise between the government and Islamist groups.”

FREEDOMS IN DANGER

The Brotherhood, most of whose leadership are in jail, continues to reiterate its mantra of peaceful resistance and denies turning to violence.

It is pressing a campaign of protests on university campuses where its followers routinely clash with the police.

But as that strategy fails to make much of an impact, there is a risk of radical logic winning over its supporters, posing a threat to the Brotherhood itself.

Analysts believe the security establishment now has a firm grip over the course of government, reasserting political influence that diminished after the 2011 uprising. Activists say the freedoms won in that uprising are in danger.

The state has widened a crackdown on dissent, on December 22 jailing three leading secular activists to three years in prison for breaking a law that severely curbs the right to protest – a major blow against those behind the January 25, 2011 revolution.

“What we see now is a security apparatus that really seems to be out of control, going after individuals and groups it has grudges against,” said Nathan Brown, a professor of political science at George Washington University.

“You do sometimes hear murmurs that people in the leadership worry that an overly harsh set of actions will make the political divisions in Egypt worse, and there has to be some kind of lessening of the security crackdown.

“This bombing puts off that date.”

Khaled Dawoud, a liberal politician, said the wave of Islamist attacks will make calls for reconciliation even less popular. He has continued to call for a political accommodation even after being stabbed by Mursi supporters in October.

“In any country where terrorism takes place, public freedoms and hopes for democracy suffer a retreat. That is the law of gravity,” he said.

 

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