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Egypt's Second Revolution

The "New Democratic Normal" - The Muslim Brotherhood

August 9th 2013

ProMorsi Demo Post-Coup

As with so many other issues, U.S. policy and diplomacy ("dim-plomacy"?) of the handling of post-Morsi Egypt is reaching to a new low. 

The Jerusalem Post reported on August 6, that President Obama will meet with representatives of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood at the White House sometime this month, ostensibly, to "hear their opinion."  The JP also says that Turkish diplomats will attend the meeting, most likely to reinforce the Brotherhood's demand for reinstating Mohamed Morsi as Egypt's president.

While the White House didn't publicly invite Egypt's interim government, or the organized opposition to the Brotherhood, or Tamarrod, which represents the people on the streets, it is hard to imagine that the Obama administration considered Morsi's re-instatement a viable enough option to occasion a White House hearing. Whatever Obama's purposes in having the Brotherhood come around to see him, there is little doubt that White House's goal is to assure the Brothers' role in Egyptian politics. Read more ..


The Middle East on Edge

Arab Uprisings Could Redraw Middle East Map

August 8th 2013

Mecca Hajj

With civil war raging in Syria and the conflict threatening to draw in neighboring states, there is speculation about possible geopolitical consequences. Analysts say the map of the Middle East could be redrawn for the first time in a century.

The end of WWI almost 100 years ago signaled the death of the Ottoman Empire.

Even before the guns fell silent, Britain and France agreed to carve up Ottoman lands, including Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and Palestine. That was key to understanding the modern Middle East said Michael Clarke, head of the Royal United Services Institute in London.

“The Arab world as we know it was established effectively in 1916 by the British and the French in the Sykes-Picot agreement. And it hasn’t changed, hardly at all since then. Nothing very strategic has happened apart from the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948. And now, this year, for the first time, the map of the Middle East is beginning to be pulled apart,” he said. Read more ..


Broken Education

Ending Summer Vacation is Long Overdue—Here’s How to Pay for It

August 7th 2013

school kids

Summer is a popular time to write opinion pieces calling for the end of summer vacation as an anachronism that widens achievement gaps between rich and poor students.  The details of the argument vary—see examples from summers 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013—but the basic premise rests on research indicating that students from disadvantaged backgrounds experience learning loss over the summer while their more affluent peers often make learning gains.

There’s clearly a slam-dunk case for eliminating—or at least dramatically shortening—summer vacation, which fits into a broader push to lengthen the school year beyond the 180 days that is typical in the U.S.  Many high-performing charter schools have longer school days and years.  President Obama has called for a longer school year, pointing to the fact that students in countries such as South Korea attend school for many more days than their American counterparts. The school year in the U.S. is shorter than in most other countries for which the OECD collects data. Read more ..


Turkey on Edge

Erdogan's Presidential Plans Linked to Turkey's Economic Fortunes

August 6th 2013

Erdogan

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s handling of recent anti-government demonstrations and his public quarrel with the country’s banks and business leaders could delay needed economic reforms until after next year’s presidential elections and possibly a year after that, political analysts say.

The analysts also say those two factors could affect Erdogan’s plans to run for president in those elections. When the prime minister returned from talks in North Africa in late June, he was welcomed by massive demonstrations protesting government plans to convert Istanbul's Gezi Park into a sort of monument to the old Ottoman Empire. In a nation that has looked to the secular West instead of the Islamic Middle East for much of the past 90 years, Erdogan's park conversion plan was predictably provocative. Read more ..


The Edge of Terrorism

With Embassy Closures, the U.S. Errs on the Side of Caution

August 6th 2013

Libyan riot at US consulate Sep 2012 #3

Most attacks against embassies have involved a large vehicle bomb, an armed assault or a combination of a vehicle bomb and armed assault. Such was the case with the U.S. Embassy in Sanaa, Yemen, in September 2008. To mitigate the impact of a perceived threat, the United States will close an embassy, increase security and request that the host country bolster its security presence at the compound.

Many of the posts that were closed in response to the August threats happen to have very good physical security measures in place due to their locations in the Middle East, which poses higher threat levels to U.S. facilities. For example, the U.S. Embassy in Sanaa was built in accordance with the security standards established by the Inman Commission. Therefore, it is designed to withstand bomb attacks and armed assaults. Still, even well constructed buildings are vulnerable to mob attacks like the one directed against the U.S. Embassy in Tunis in September 2012. Only the host country security forces can provide protection against such threats. Read more ..


The Edge of Terrorism

White House: 'Core' of al Qaeda Has Been 'Greatly Diminished'

August 5th 2013

Ayman al-Zawahiri

White House press secretary Jay Carney dismissed questions Monday about whether the Obama administration had taken its eye off the threat of terrorism since the killing of Osama bin Laden.

Carney said that the “president has been clear that the threat from Al Qaeda very much remains,” and said officials were particularly concerned about affiliates of the terror group outside its main “core” in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

“As Al Qaeda's core has been diminished through the efforts of the United States and our allies, affiliate organizations, including in particular, Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, have strengthened. We have here in Washington have identified AQAP in particular as the dangerous threat,” Carney said. Carney added that the affiliate groups had been a point of focus “for some time now,” and said the U.S. had “focused a great deal of attention on those affiliated organizations.” Read more ..


Broken Healthcare

Democrats Own Obamacare, and its Political Costs Keep Rising

August 5th 2013

Obamacare Protest

Nothing is free in politics, but there is some question when you pay the price.

That's been a saying of mine for many years, though I may have unconsciously plagiarized it from someone else. I think it applies to Obamacare.

My American Enterprise Institute colleague Norman Ornstein has been shellacking Republicans for trying to undercut the implementation of the Obama health care legislation. He calls it "simply unacceptable, even contemptible."

He points out that Republicans in the past haven't tried to undercut or derail major legislation of this sort. That's correct, as a matter of history. You won't find any concerted drive to repeal and replace Social Security after it was enacted in 1935 or Medicare after it was passed in 1965. In contrast, Republicans proclaim they want to repeal and replace Obamacare. Read more ..


The Iranian Threat

The Challenges Facing Rohani

August 4th 2013

Rowhani

Taking over the presidency in a country where decisions are ultimately made by the supreme leader is challenging enough. Having to begin that task by clearing colossal hurdles left by your predecessor is nearly mission impossible.

Immediately upon being sworn in as Iran's president at a public inauguration on August 4, Hassan Rohani must scale a mountain of challenges inherited from Mahmud Ahmadinejad's eight years in office, including an ailing economy, crippling international sanctions, troubled international relations, tricky nuclear negotiations, and an increasingly repressive and politically intolerant domestic atmosphere at home.

On his way to winning the presidency, Rohani pledged to tackle such big-ticket issues head on. But, in doing so, he risks suffering the same fate as his predecessors, whose aims conflicted with the conservative establishment and ultimately undermined their efforts to enact changes and implement their plans. Read more ..


Broken Borders

What New Immigrants Could Mean for American Wages

August 2nd 2013

Immigration Protest

Employers added 162,000 jobs in July, according to today’s employment report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and the unemployment rate edged down to 7.4 percent. Job gains were led by increases in employment in the private service-providing sector, which added 157,000 employees, as they have been since the start of the recovery. In contrast, job gains for employers in goods-producing sectors, including manufacturing and construction, have remained low, and government employment, which has fallen considerably since the onset of the Great Recession, has continued to trend down over the last three months. The broadest measure of employment—the employment-to-population ratio—remained at 58.7 percent, slightly above its level a year ago, but within the range that has prevailed over the last three years. Read more ..


The 2016 Vote

Ready for Hillary? Not in Middle America

August 1st 2013

Hilary Clinton

Scores of New Yorkers and Californians — but relatively few folks in Middle America — are already backing a super PAC designed to boost Democrat Hillary Clinton should she run for president in 2016.

Residents of New York, which Clinton represented in the U.S. Senate, and California have combined to give more than $500,000 to the Ready for Hillary super PAC over the first six months of the year, according to a Center for Public Integrity analysis of Federal Election Commission reports filed today.

That’s more than 40 percent of the $1.25 million Ready for Hillary reported raising since it was launched in January. Both states are frequently targeted for campaign cash by politicians on both sides of the aisle.

While super PACs are legally allowed to collect donations of any size, Ready for Hillary has voluntarily capped its contributions at $25,000. Ready for Hillary collected two-dozen contributions at this level, and they account for nearly half of the funds that the Democratic group received during the first six months of 2013.

Of these two-dozen “maximum” contributions, seven come from Californians and five from New Yorkers.

They include:
Jack Bendheim, president and chairman of the board of Phibro Animal Health Corp., a leading manufacturer and marketer of animal health pharmaceuticals, who raised more than $100,000 for Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign

Scott Bessent, the chief investment officer at the Soros Fund Management, the family investment vehicle of liberal billionaire George Soros* Read more ..


America on Edge

Warrior Cops

July 31st 2013

NYPD and flag

In an excellent July 19, 2013, Wall Street Journal essay entitled "Rise of the Warrior Cop," author-journalist Radley Balko described the alarming militarization of police forces across America. He cited myriad cases of innocent citizens being killed by over-zealous police officers, particularly Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) teams serving warrants for alleged, often petty, offenses. 

The WSJ essay, which is based on Balko's newly released book, "Rise of the Warrior Cop: The Militarization of America's Police Forces," details several egregious cases, where gunned-up, overzealous SWAT forces executed citizens in the name of enforcing gambling laws and mere regulations. "In 2006," the author writes, "38-year-old optometrist Sal Culosi was shot and killed by a Fairfax County, VA, SWAT officer," after an undercover detective overheard Culosi betting on college football games. "The department sent a SWAT team after Mr. Culosi, who had no prior criminal record or any history of violence. As the SWAT team descended, one officer fired a single bullet that pierced Mr. Culosi's heart. The police say that the shot was an accident." Read more ..


Broken Healthcare

Implementing the Affordable Care Act: Why Is This So Complex?

July 30th 2013

No Obamacare

Last week, the Obama administration made a sensible, pragmatic decision to postpone until 2015 the implementation of the employer mandate under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The postponement allows the government to simplify the reporting requirements, which companies alleged were unnecessarily burdensome, and gives employers more time to figure out how they want to adjust their health insurance coverage to the ACA environment. No postponement is without cost, but delaying the employer mandate allows the Administration to concentrate its energies on implementing the most important part of the ACA—the on-line market-places or exchanges being set up in each state to facilitate purchase of health plans by the uninsured. Getting the exchanges running—along with a way to determine the subsidies that make those purchases affordable—is a daunting, complicated task and should be given highest priority. Read more ..


Israel and Palestine

The JTA Gets it Wrong on Settlements

July 29th 2013

Shomron

A recent Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA) news brief quoted Christine Quinn’s campaign as saying she “believes the West Bank is a disputed territory and that the Israelis and Palestinians must sit down and negotiate a solution.”

According to the JTA, “Quinn’s position runs counter to that of the U.S. government, which considers the West Bank Israeli-occupied territory.” Actually, Quinn was restating a long-held U.S. position. If the status of territories weren’t legitimately disputed, there would be nothing to negotiate.

No Arab entity held clear title and exercised peaceful sovereignty over the territory prior to the 1967 Six-Day War. If one had, Israel’s conquest would have been an act of aggression and it would have been obligated to clear out decades ago. Read more ..


Broken Banking

Mortgage Lender Owned by Dole Foods Magnate Accused by CFPB of Abusive Practices

July 28th 2013

Home Foreclosure

As the financial overhaul known as the Dodd-Frank Act turns three this week, the law’s most controversial creation, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, is for the first time cracking down on mortgage lenders for encouraging loan officers to put borrowers in high-cost loans.

The agency filed a federal lawsuit Tuesday against Castle & Cooke Mortgage LLC and its president, an accomplished rodeo performer who professes to be “a big fan” of new rules aimed at helping consumers.

It’s the first time the new consumer cop — a creation of Dodd-Frank that drew sharp opposition from the financial industry — has taken action against the practice, which was pervasive in the years leading up to the housing meltdown and then banned under Dodd-Frank.

Castle & Cooke, based in Utah, is a privately held, non-bank lender of the sort that largely escaped the federal government’s scrutiny before the financial crisis focused attention on abusive lending. Its president, Matthew Pineda, founded it in 2005 for eccentric fruit billionaire David Murdock. (Murdock owns Castle & Cooke, Dole Food Company Inc. and collections of “animals, orchids, Chippendale mirrors and Czechoslovakian chandeliers.” He is the 190th-richest person in America on the latest Forbes list.) Read more ..


Egypt's Second Revolution

Facing One's Demons: The Egyptian Military and the Brotherhood at a Crossroads

July 27th 2013

Security Forces Riot Gear

Events in Cairo have all the hallmarks of a return to the repression under ousted President Hosni Mubarak that prompted millions of Egyptians two years ago to camp out on Cairo's Tahrir Square for 18 days until the military forced him to step down after 30 years in office. Little in the unfolding drama in Egypt genuinely responds to the demands put forward by the protesters two years ago: an end to the police state, greater political freedom, respect for human rights, an end to corruption, and justice and dignity. Is Egypt going to change? Or is this a return to Mubarak-style politics?

Egypt was seemingly united two years ago when Mubarak was ousted. There were no mass demonstrations against the ousting of the president. This time round, the Muslim Brotherhood's mass protests against the removal of President Mohammed Morsi, post-revolt Egypt's first democratically elected leader, complicates things for the military that sees itself as the guarantor of the state. Read more ..


The Battle for Syria

Is Syria Finished?

July 26th 2013

Bomb Damage

What was supposed to be the Syrian phase of the so-called “Arab Spring” has evolved into one of the greatest tragedies of the 21st century.

The once-peaceful opposition to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s deeply entrenched and powerful Ba’ath Party regime has escalated into armed resistance and, finally, a brutal civil war – one that has now claimed close to 100,000 lives. This escalation poses a serious threat, not just to Syria’s neighbors, but – given the existence of chemical weapons in Syria – to the international community as well.

The United States, like other nations supportive of the Syrian opposition, has chosen to act, but to do so primarily through diplomatic and economic means. Its hesitancy to take more direct action is understandable given the fractious nature of the opposition, but the cost of failing to influence the balance of power between the opposition and the Syrian regime could be high. Read more ..


After the Arab Spring

The Resurgence of the Regimes in the Arab World

July 24th 2013

Jump at Cops

The toppling of the Muslim Brotherhood power in Egypt by the army is an event of historic importance. It is important chiefly because it represents an enormous setback in a process which only a few months ago looked inexorable and unstoppable. That process was the replacement of the military-republic regimes in the Arab world by new regimes based on Sunni Islamism, with franchises of the Muslim Brotherhood most prominent among them.

The setback suffered by the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt was preceded by an earlier rallying of one of their chief enemies. In the course of this year, the Assad regime in Syria succeeded in reversing rebel gains and ending the threat to Damascus.
Since then, Assad’s forces, assisted by Hizballah and advised by Iran, have been turning the Sunni Islamist rebels back in the west of the country. Read more ..


Israel and Palestine

Israeli Deputy Minister Slams Possible Involvement of New Israel Fund Figure in Peace Talks

July 23rd 2013

Jerusalem flags

Media reports that former United States Ambassador to Israel Martin Indyk has been selected by the Obama administration to lead new negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority announced Friday, have elicited strong opposition, including from an Israeli deputy minister, The Algemeiner has learned.

Deputy Defense Minister Danny Danon penned a letter to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu opposing a scenario whereby Indyk would take on the pivotal role in the talks, citing the veteran politician’s chairmanship at the New Israel Fund, an organization which has been criticized for supporting organizations that seek to harm the Jewish state. Read more ..


The War on Terror

Critical Distinctions Between Islam and Islamism

July 23rd 2013

Death to infidels

Since 9/11 the West has been confounded with the question whether Islam and Islamism are one and same, or if there is a critical distinction to be drawn between the two. How this question is answered has profound implications for understanding and explaining the immense convulsion seizing the Muslim world, and on how best to frame a proper response without undermining or eroding the secular and liberal democratic culture of the West.

Islamism is -- from the perspective of someone born and raised within the mainstream majority Sunni Islam -- an ideology fascistic and totalitarian in impulse and action, masquerading as religion. The proponents, advocates, activists and apologists of Islamism, irrespective of whatever guise these Islamists assume in public, are engaged in the sort of radical politics the West became acquainted with in the early decades of the twentieth century with the rise of Communism, Fascism and Nazism. Read more ..


Iran's Nukes

Courts Unravel Sanctions on Iran

July 22nd 2013

Iran Nuclear Equipment centrifuges

Supporting sanctions against Iran is understood to be a position designed to moderate Iranian behavior regarding the acquisition of nuclear capability. It is the position of people and countries that do not want to contemplate military action by either the United States or Israel. It is the position of the European Union, the UN, Congress, the U.S. President, and Israel. As such, giving sanctions as much backbone as possible seemed an unassailable position -- until Iranians began to sue in European courts to see the evidence against them. In a pattern of behavior disconnected from the possibility that they are aiding the Islamic Republic 's nuclear programs, European courts are obliging them.

If Iran's acquisition of nuclear technology is a legal problem, the theory is, Iran has the same rights in Western courts as an accountant accused of stealing from the firm. But if, as many believe, Iran is planning to acquire nuclear weapons for the war in which it claims it will engage with Israel and the West, its use of the Western legal system is Lawfare (coined by Maj. Gen. Charles Dunlap; meaning "the use of the law as a weapon of war"). The Lawfare Project defines it as, "The abuse of Western laws and judicial systems to achieve strategic military or political ends." Those ends appear to include using Western companies as a conduit for technology and financing. Read more ..


Drug Trafficking on Edge

A State-building Approach to the Drug Trade Problem

July 21st 2013

Drug War

 

The Growing Dissensus on How to Combat Drug Trafficking.
The United Nations Security Council has increasingly highlighted organized crime, particularly drug trafficking, as requiring the coordinated focus of various United Nations bodies and the Secretary-General.

The escalation of drug trade-related violence in Mexico and Central America where inadequate rule of law institutions have been overwhelmed by intense organized crime; the emergence of drug smuggling in West Africa, which contributes to its cauldron of other illegal economies and poor governance; and the deep penetration of drug trafficking into the political and economic life in Afghanistan and Pakistan have all captured policy attention.

Yet many existing policies to combat the illegal drug trade and associated organized crime have not been highly effective. Premature eradication of drug crops, interdiction too narrowly preoccupied with stopping illicit flows, and imprisonment of drug users have proven to be ineffective and even outright detrimental to key policy objectives, such as weakening criminal organizations and their linkages to militant groups, improving security and rule of law and reducing consumption. These policies have also often been counter productive with respect to other important goals, such as mitigating violent conflict, fostering good governance and promoting human rights. Read more ..


Israel on Edge

Israel Sets New Military Priorities Amid Budget Cuts

July 19th 2013

IDF tanks

Confronted with a staggering $11.2 billion budget deficit, the Israeli government passed a new budget earlier this year with sweeping spending cuts in a nearly unanimous vote. Israel's military is facing a significant transformation in the wake of the budget shortfall at home and the Middle East's changing security challenges.

The most ambitious reform since the 1990s, the five-year plan to reduce the military budget by approximately $830 million entails extensive monetary and personnel cuts to the ground, air, and naval forces. Even with the reductions, balancing the budget is still far from achieved; the Israeli army is projected to retain a $5.6 billion deficit. New fiscal priorities will mean less procurement of tanks, but an increase in intelligence gathering and cyber warfare capabilities. Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) Chief of Staff Benny Gantz said he is "not happy about the cuts," but that "We'll see the rewards in two to four years. Our forces might be diminished but will be stronger and better equipped." Read more ..


Broken Economy

Strengthening Employment Pathways to Prosperous Careers

July 18th 2013

Employee applications

Persistently high unemployment rates among Americans aged 18 to 24 reveal a generational divide in workers’ access to employment opportunities and, by extension, economic prosperity.

At the same time, employers throughout the country—particularly those in production-intensive industries—consistently report that they are unable to find workers possessing the skills that their firms need as something of a “manufacturing renaissance” begins.

Together these realities suggest that the educational and employment training systems currently in place in U.S. states and regions must evolve if they are to meet the task of preparing workers for success in the years ahead.

How might they begin to do that? This past October the Brookings / Living Cities State and Metropolitan Prosperity Collaborative —an 18-month old peer learning forum for top state and local leaders—brought together senior economic development and workforce officials from 14 states to explore the question. With promising case studies from the state of Kansas, the Wichita region, Washington state, and the Seattle-King County region  before them, the attendees spent the better part of two days exploring how to better attune educational and training pathways to private-sector needs. Read more ..


After the Arab Spring

Mideastern Nations Don't Need Any More Islam than They Already Have

July 16th 2013

Muslim-Prayers

During the decades when Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood was a barely tolerated opposition party, it campaigned against the reigning secular autocrats under the banner “Islam is the solution.”

With the military’s removal on July 3 of the Brotherhood president, Mohamed Morsi, the region’s oldest exemplar of political Islam has lost its best and perhaps only chance to validate that slogan. Indeed, the rise and abrupt fall of the Morsi presidency are a timely comeuppance for a world view that, starting with Iran’s 1979 revolution, seemed to be gaining adherents throughout the Muslim world.

Political Islam has had a long arc, reviving in the modern era with the founding of the Brotherhood by Hassan al Banna in 1928 in opposition to a monarchy largely controlled by Western interests. Over the decades, monarchs and military-run governments of assorted Arab nationalist, socialist and capitalist hues have suppressed the Brotherhood and its various offshoots. Then came spring 2011. Read more ..


Broken Banking

The 21st-Century Glass-Steagall Act

July 15th 2013

JP Morgan Chase

Hollywood knows nostalgia sells. That’s why cineplexes are stuffed with sequels, remakes, and reimagined versions of 1960s TV shows. But can Washington use nostalgia to break up America’s megabanks? Senators John McCain and Elizabeth Warren are giving it a shot. The Arizona Republican and Massachusetts Democrat last week unveiled their “21st-Century Glass-Steagall Act,” which would restore the barrier between commercial banking and investment banking first established by the Banking Act of 1933. That prohibition, known as the Glass-Steagall “wall” after congressional sponsors Senator Carter Glass of Virginia and Representative Henry Steagall of Alabama, was repealed by the Financial Services Modernization Act of 1999, legislation signed by President Bill Clinton.

McCain and Warren, through both the title and substance of the bill, are playing off the widespread public belief that the repeal of Glass-Steagall was a monumental mistake, effectively ending seven decades of financial calm and contributing greatly to the Great Recession and Financial Crisis. So it follows, at least according to McCain and Warren, that bringing back Glass-Steagall would go a long way toward returning us to that post-Depression era of stability and finally ending Too Big to Fail.
As McCain puts it, “Since . . . shattering the wall dividing commercial banks and investment banks, a culture of dangerous greed and excessive risk-taking has taken root in the banking world.” And Warren says the bill would “make our financial system more stable and secure, and protect American families.” Read more ..


America on Edge

Young, Violent and Aggressive in America's Murder Capital

July 15th 2013

Click to select Image

They're young. They've been injured in an assault – so badly they went to the emergency room. And nearly one in four of them has a gun, probably an illegal one. What happens next?

A new study by the University of Michigan Injury Center provides data that could be important to breaking the cycle of gun violence that kills more teens and young adults than anything except auto accidents.

In the new issue of the journal Pediatrics, the team from the U-M Injury Center reports data from interviews with 689 teens and young adults who came to an emergency department in Flint, Mich. for treatment of injuries from an assault.

In all, 23 percent of the patients reported they owned or carried a gun in the last six months – and more than 80 percent of those guns were obtained illegally. Of those with guns, 22 percent said it was a highly lethal automatic or semiautomatic weapon. The study excluded guns used for recreational hunting and target practice. Read more ..


Egypt's Second Revolution

Tehran's Take On Egypt's Revolutionary Coup

July 14th 2013

Egypt Protests

Iranians have been following the dramatic denouement of the Egyptian revolution with keen interest. Although Tehran ranks as merely an ancillary actor in the Egyptian drama, recent events have highlighted the profound – if imperfect – historical resonance in each state’s revolutionary upheaval. That historical perspective informs Iran’s view of events in Egypt, and compounds the impetus for circumspection that can be discerned in its leadership’s recent behavior.

Viewing the world through the lens of Iran is a tricky business. It can be tempting to make too much of the Iranian place in the world or to impose a preferred narrative as the overarching interpretation of all its actions and rhetoric. In Washington, Iran is perpetually judged as either emboldened or on the run – almost never anything in between. On Egypt today, as I’ll argue below, neither extreme is quite correct. Read more ..


Egypt's Second Revolution

Why the Brotherhood Won't Back Down

July 13th 2013

ProMorsi Demo Post-Coup

After only one year in power, during which its blatantly autocratic behavior alienated millions of Egyptians, the Muslim Brotherhood is back where it started. For six decades before the 2011 uprising, the group sat in the opposition, under fire from a military regime. This time, even after security forces unseated President Mohamed Morsi, detained top Muslim Brotherhood leaders and reportedly issued arrest warrants for about 300 more, shut down the group's television station, closed some of its offices, and then killed 53 and wounded hundreds at a demonstration outside of the Republican Guard headquarters in Cairo, the Muslim Brotherhood does not seem ready to go quietly. It has called for an intifada and has repeatedly vowed to escalate its protests until Morsi is reinstated. Read more ..


The Battle for Syria

Syrian Leadership Changes as Violence Continues

July 12th 2013

Syrian Violence

As violence continues to brew in Egypt, the Syrian civil war has been overshadowed in the media. However, dramatic shifts have taken place in the leadership of both the opposition and al-Asad forces as fighting continues.

On the opposition side, Syrian National Coalition (SNC) leader Ghassan Hitto announced his resignation after only four months as prime minister. The rebel leader was tasked with creating an interim government to control rebel-held areas. Hitto remained mistrusted by many in the anti-Asad opposition, who saw him as being too close to the Muslim Brotherhood and Qatar. Hitto resigned on Monday, acknowledging insurmountable difficulties in forming the needed interim government. He explained in an online statement that although he will not continue as prime minister, he will continue working for the interests of the revolution. Read more ..


Egypt's Second Revolution

An Economic Roadmap for Egypt

July 10th 2013

Great Pyramid Giza

A stable and prosperous Egypt has to be among the top two or three foreign policy goals for Israel and the West, perhaps exceeded only by the potential threat posed by a  nuclear-armed Iran. It would appear that Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Kuwait are going to chip in to cover Egypt's immediate foreign currency shortfalls which will postpone potential collapse and provide time for the new Egyptian government to prepare a meaningful economic plan for the medium- and  long-term and for the Western countries and the international development  agencies to realize what is at stake and offer generous support to the  implementation of such a plan.  It should include the following items, alluded to briefly in last week's column (this is not intended to be in any way exhaustive and omits such areas as transportation and communications):

(1)  Egyptian agriculture MUST be  rationalized, reorganized and modernized, which means that the basic units  involved must be large enough to efficiently use inputs of machinery and  equipment, fertilizers and insecticides.  Read more ..


The Iranian Threat

Rowhani's Economic Team

July 8th 2013

Rowhani

During the campaign for president of Iran, Hassan Rowhani expressed views consistent with a liberal outlook on economy. The president-elect is an advocate of the economic policy pursued by former President Ali-Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, based on privatization, deregulation, and economic openness.
 
Reports published in the Iranian media in recent weeks indicate that some of Rowhani's top economic advisors are affiliated with the Niavaran school of thought, established on neo-liberal economic principles. Its adherents support a free-market economy and a reduction of government economic intervention. Major economists affiliated with that school of thought and considered close to Rowhani are Dr. Mohammad Baqer Nowbakht, Dr. Mohammad Tabibian, Dr. Ali-Naqi Mashayekhi, Dr. Mas'oud Nili, Mohammad-Ali Najafi, Dr. Mas'oud Roghani-Zanjani, Dr. Mohammad-Hossein Adeli, and Dr. Majid Qassemi. Read more ..


Egypt's Second Revolution

Amid Egypt Turmoil, Israel Eyes Troubled Sinai

July 7th 2013

Camel-safari-sinai

Israel should do all it can to help the new secular government in Egypt beat the Muslim Brotherhood, even if that means amending the Military Annex of the Camp David peace accords to allow more Egyptian military assets into the Sinai Peninsula, the former director of the Counter-Terrorism Bureau in the Prime Minister's Office Brig. Gen. (Res.) Nitzan Nuriel said Sunday.

Speaking on Army Radio, Nuriel said a defeat for the Muslim Brotherhood and its supporters in the Sinai would reverberate across the Middle East, and would be of huge strategic importance to Israel. The Egyptian army is currently engaged in battle with Islamists across the Sinai. According to Al Gomhuria [The Republic], an Egyptian newspaper, the Egyptian military, accompanied by warplanes, are battling "terrorists and jihadists elements" in the Sinai. Al Gomhuria reported that the military presented its planned operation to Mohammed Morsi when he was still president, but that the latter rejected the idea "without offering an explanation."  Read more ..


Egypt's Second Revolution

Welcome Back to Mubarak’s Egypt

July 6th 2013

Bye bye Mubarak

The Egyptian army’s announcement of an ultimatum “to heed the will of the people” in retrospect said it all. Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, the Minister of Defense appointed by the democratically-elected president he was about to ouster, talked about “the will of the people” in the typical manner of dictators, as if the people were united. In fact, the people were deeply divided between an opposition that wanted President Mohamed Morsi’s head and his supporters who believed that the first president in Egypt’s history to be elected in free elections should be allowed to remain for the full four years in office, as stipulated by the constitution. This constitution, they argued, was supported by 63 percent of voters in a national referendum.

The army’s moves on the ground clearly showed that it sided completely with the opposition. All of their demands were met and more: Morsi was ousted and placed under arrest, the constitution was suspended, a government that included the military was set to take over, and new presidential and parliamentary elections were called for the distant future. Just to make sure, the military refrained from committing itself to any timetable. Read more ..


Egypt's Second Revolution

Egypt: The Opposition's Next Steps

July 5th 2013

Islamist Protest PostMorsi

Egypt's Tamarod movement succeeded in its attempt to pressure the Egyptian military to expel former President Mohammed Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood-led government from office. Now the question is whether Tamarod and the other elements of the former opposition can avoid the kind of fragmentation and divisive infighting that played a significant role in catapulting the Muslim Brotherhood to power in the first place. There are many challenges to overcome, not the least of which is that the military ultimately holds the keys to power -- something the Muslim Brotherhood learned the hard way July 3. Going forward, it will be difficult for the disparate blend of liberal, secular and Islamist parties united in their shared desire to see Morsi deposed to maintain their cohesion. Read more ..


Egypt on Edge

Long-Standing Issues Continue to Undermine Egypt's Stability

July 4th 2013

Egypt Protests

Egypt's crisis goes much deeper than the recent political chaos. With the leader of the Supreme Constitutional Court taking over the presidency at the behest of the military, the new government will likely represent a coalition of interests facing many of the same challenges that brought about Mohammed Morsi's downfall.

Egypt's population has grown well beyond the means of the state to support its needs, and even a strong state will struggle to ensure sufficient supplies of basic staples, particularly fuel and wheat. Read more ..


Egypt on Edge

Egypt's Ouster of Morsi Bodes Ill for Regional Stability

July 4th 2013

General Al-Sisi

Egyptian military chief Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Sisi announced July 3 that the country's president, Mohammed Morsi, had been removed from office in the wake of popular unrest. In a short media statement, al-Sisi, who was flanked by the three armed services chiefs, opposition leaders, the sheikh of al-Azhar Mosque and the pope of the Coptic Church, announced that Adly Mansour, chief justice of the Constitutional Court, has replaced Morsi as interim president.

He also announced that the constitution has been suspended. Mansour's appointment is notable in that one of the key demands of the Tamarod protest movement was that he become president. The provisional government will be holding fresh parliamentary and presidential elections. Read more ..


Egypt's Second Revolution

Egypt's Atypical Military Coup

July 3rd 2013

Morsi

There is a great debate underway in Egypt on whether the move to oust President Mohammed Morsi is tantamount to a military coup. Considering that the Egyptian army is forcibly removing a democratically elected president in the wake of nation-wide unrest, the military intervention is indeed a coup. However, it differs from other coups in that direct military rule will not be imposed.

There is considerable public support for Morsi's removal, so the provisional authority that will replace him likely will be a broad-based entity that includes representatives of the nation's main political stakeholders. Indeed, the interim government likely will differ greatly from the one run by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, which governed the state after former President Hosni Mubarak was forced from office in 2011 and until Morsi came to power in June 2012. Read more ..


The New Egypt

Egypt's Waning Influence

July 3rd 2013

7.2.2013 Egypt Protests

Egyptian Foreign Minister Mohammed Kamel Amr resigned Tuesday, becoming the most high-profile minister to step down since protests against the rule of President Mohammed Morsi began over the weekend. Amr's resignation came after the Egyptian military issued an ultimatum Monday, demanding that Morsi and the ruling Muslim Brotherhood start a dialogue with opposition members within 48 hours, or risk the military stepping in to impose a "political roadmap" on all parties. This move comes amid the latest in a series of political crises in Egypt since the ouster of former President Hosni Mubarak in February 2011. The political turmoil facing Egypt, its political class and its powerful military has become almost a given, with all sides turning to public displays of unrest and emotion as often as they do to the democratic process. Read more ..


Defense on Edge

The Danger of What Edward Snowden Has Not Revealed

July 2nd 2013

Snowden

Since fleeing the United States, National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden has publicly disclosed top-secret information that has aided America’s enemies and damaged relations with America’s allies. But the real danger may be the classified information he has not publicly disclosed.

Snowden’s revelations have been damaging to be sure. He has exposed details of U.S. intelligence collection efforts against China, including the fact that the NSA had infiltrated the computer networks of Tsinghua University in Beijing, which houses one of China’s six major backbone networks through whichInternet data for millions of Chinese citizens pass. He has exposed our intelligence collection efforts on our allies, including the fact that the United States bugged the offices of the European Union and infiltrated its internal computer networks. He has revealed to a German newsmagazine that the NSA has been using data from Internet hubs in south and west Germany to monitor Internet traffic to Syria and Mali — two hotbeds of al-Qaeda activity — tipping off our enemies to these vital U.S. intelligence operations. Read more ..


The New Egypt

After Protests, A U.S. Triage Policy for Egypt

July 1st 2013

Cairo Protest Dec 2012

Yesterday's mass protests against the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, which were reportedly among the largest in recorded history, represent a critical juncture for U.S. policy. While the Obama administration has until now viewed President Muhammad Morsi's emergence through relatively fair and free elections as an important step toward institutionalizing democracy in Egypt, the outpouring of public antipathy against the Islamist government serves as an important reminder that elections alone cannot yield stability. Washington should therefore try to limit the damage to Egypt's state institutions. The protests reflect Egyptians' deep and widespread frustrations with Morsi's management of the post-Mubarak transition. His noninclusive governing style -- punctuated by a November 22 constitutional declaration through which he temporarily asserted unchecked executive authority, and his subsequent ramming through of an Islamist constitution -- led opposition activists to call for his ouster months ago. Read more ..



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