Reuters, April 25
Cairo – Egypt said on Saturday it had extended by three months a state of emergency imposed on parts of northern Sinai in October after Islamist militants stepped up attacks in the peninsula bordering Israel, Gaza and the Suez Canal.
Insurgents have killed hundreds of soldiers and policemen in Sinai since mid-2013, lashing out after then-army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi ousted Islamist President Mohamed Mursi following protests. Sisi went on to be elected president last year.
The decision, announced in a statement from the presidency, will be implemented in Rafah, al-Arish, Sheikh Zuweid and surrounding areas starting on Sunday. It also extends a night-time curfew in place in the same areas.
AP, By Ashraf Sweilam, January 29
El-Arish, Egypt – Militants struck more than a dozen army and police targets in the restive Sinai Peninsula with simultaneous attacks involving a car bomb and mortar rounds on Thursday, killing at least 26 security officers.
An Army spokesman immediately blamed former Islamist President Mohammed Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood of orchestrating the attack, which killed 25 Army soldiers and one policeman.
The wide-ranging attacks late Thursday required a previously unseen level of coordination. At least one car bomb was set off outside a military base, while mortars were simultaneously fired at the base, toppling some buildings and leaving soldiers buried under the debris, official said.
Other attacks included mortar rounds fired at a hotel, a police club and more than a dozen checkpoints, officials said.
BBC: Egypt’s Sisi cuts short visit over Sinai attacks
Al Arabiya: Sisi cuts short overseas trip after Sinai attacks
Associated Press, By Maggie Michael, January 12
Cairo — An Egyptian court on Monday acquitted 26 men arrested in a televised raid last month by police looking for gays at a Cairo public bathhouse, a ruling that set off deafening cheers and jubilation inside the courtroom as some of the defendants uncovered their faces and cried with relief.
The trial, which had caused an uproar among activists and rights groups, captured public attention after a pro-government TV network aired scenes of half-naked men being pulled from the bathhouse by police.
Same-sex relations are not explicitly prohibited in Egyptian law but homosexuality is a social taboo in the conservative, Muslim-majority country. Same-sex marriage is unheard of. Only in recent years have movies and fiction included gay characters.
The courtroom erupted into a frenzy after the word “acquittal” was heard from the judge and women ululated. Scott Long, an American researcher who had followed the case said he was both “shocked and delighted.”
“I hope this is a sign that these raids will come to an end,” Long told The Associated Press amid the cheering. “Finally there was a judge who listened to the evidence.”
The Economist, November 1
Nidaa Tounes resoundingly beats the Islamist Nahda party
In a region gripped by jihadist violence, civil war and the return of authoritarian rule, Tunisia’s parliamentary election on October 26th was an exception on many counts. Alone among the countries that saw popular revolts in the “Arab Spring” of 2011, it has remained on a path to democracy. Seemingly against the trend of Arab politics, voters inflicted a firm rebuke on Islamists and instead gave victory to the secularist coalition known as Nidaa Tounes. And the defeated Islamists of the Nahda party bowed peacefully before the verdict. A stint out of power, said its leader, Rached Ghannouchi, could be salutary.
Nidaa Tounes (“Tunisian Call”) won 85 of the 217 seats in parliament, against 69 for Nahda (“Awakening”). Nahda can still count on loyalists nationwide and has an organisational reach that is envied by other parties. Nevertheless, voters have been unimpressed by the Islamists’ two years at the helm of government, in 2012–13, particularly its inability to pull the economy out of stagnation and its failure to quash the emergence of violent jihadism. Senior Nahda figures concede that the job of running the country proved to be harder than they had expected.
Though often fractious and tainted by the presence of members of the ancien régime of Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, the ex-president overthrown by a revolt in January 2011, Nidaa Tounes was helped to victory by the popularity of its leader, Beji Caid Sebsi. Three times a minister, he emerged from retirement in 2011 as a reassuring figure and headed the interim government that handed over to the Nahda-led coalition at the end of that year. Rattled by the army coup that deposed Egypt’s Islamist president, Nahda handed power to a technocratic government in January, after two political assassinations raised tensions. It also softened the Islamist flavour of the proposed new constitution.
Nahda would like to join a coalition under Nidaa Tounes, which has not yet made its intentions clear. The secularists could put together a government with smaller factions, albeit a rather fragile one. Moreover, opposition to Islamists is part of the raison d’être of Nidaa Tounes. The party accuses the former Nahda-led government of having undermined the separation of religion and state that was laid down by Habib Bourguiba, Tunisia’s first post-independence president. Some admire the Egyptian army’s suppression of Islamists.
ABC News, By Ali Weinberg, July 26
The U.S. State Department was forced to suspend operations at its embassy in Libya because of “freewheeling militia violence” there, Secretary of State John Kerry said today.
Kerry, who spoke to reporters before a meeting with the Turkish and Qatari foreign ministers about Gaza, made the comments after the State Department announced it evacuated its staff in Tripoli.
He blamed the “freewheeling militia violence,” caused by jihadist groups which have only grown in power since the ouster of former president Muammar Gaddafi, for creating an environment in which the diplomatic activities at the Libya embassy had to be suspended.
“A lot of the violence is around our embassy but not on the embassy, but nevertheless it presents a very real risk to our personnel,” Kerry said.
Bloomberg: U.S. Evacuates Embassy as Americans Urged to Leave Libya
CBC News: U.S. evacuates embassy in Libya amid clashes
Reuters: Libya seeks ceasefire as south Tripoli a militia ‘war zone’
State Department calls for draft of new constitution to take place unhindered amid increasing volatility.
Al Jazeera, July 13
The United States has warned that the conflict in Libya could become “widespread,” urging that a new parliament be quickly seated after contested elections.
State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki also called for work on drafting Libya’s new constitution to take place unhindered, amid increasing lawlessness and unrest in the country.
“The United States is deeply concerned by the ongoing violence in Libya and dangerous posturing that could lead to widespread conflict there,” Psaki said in a statement.
“We affirm our support for Libya’s democratic transition and urge the seating of the new Council of Representatives as soon as possible.”
(Foreign Policy) – While Republicans played politics, Libya was imploding. Now the Pentagon is readying an embassy evacuation, and the country may be beyond salvation.
AP, May 17
Cairo – The former US president Jimmy Carter has warned Egypt that its transition to democracy after years of political turmoil is faltering, ahead of presidential elections later this month.
The Carter Center will not be sending observers for Egypt’s 26-27 May election, which many believe retired Field Marshal Abdel Fatah al-Sisi will win following the overthrow of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi last year. However, the center will be sending a small team of experts.
In a statement issued on Friday, the Carter Center warned that “Egypt’s political transition has stalled and stands on the precipice of total reversal,” and said Morsi’s overthrow deepened the political unrest in the country.
Egypt’s military-backed interim government has declared Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood group a terrorist organisation, as hundreds of its followers have been killed and thousands have been arrested.
“I am gravely concerned that Egypt’s democratic transition has faltered,” Carter said in the statement.
CNN, By Mohammed Tawfeeq, March 30
Egypt’s presidential elections will take place on May 26 and 27, Egyptian media reported Sunday, citing an announcement by the country’s Presidential Elections Commission.
Army chief Abdel Fattah el-Sisi announced Wednesday that he would resign and declared his candidacy in the national polls. El-Sisi, 59, Egypt’s defense minister, had to leave the army in order to run for president.
El-Sisi deposed President Mohamed Morsy of the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt’s first freely elected leader, last year following mass protests against the latter’s rule.
The officer is popular among Egyptians who supported the army’s decision to remove Morsy from power a year into his term — seeing el-Sisi as the kind of strong man needed to end the turmoil dogging Egypt since a popular uprising in 2011 ended Hosni Mubarak’s three decades of one-man rule.
But el-Sisi is reviled by the Islamist opposition, which sees him as the mastermind of a coup against an elected leader and the author of a fierce crackdown on dissent.
Kuwait is hosting the Heads of Arab states for their annual summit for the first time since joining Arab League.
Qatar is being pressured to stop supporting the Muslim Brotherhood and other radical movements through the region. Along with Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the United Arab Mirates, Egypt is trying to isolate Qatar. Yet it is unlikely that attempts to reconcile Qatar will be on the agenda. With Syrian/Iraqi ties running deep, it is to be expected that the latest Qatar/Iran relationship will be scrutinised.
Syria, however is center stage, a year ago their seat was given to the opposition. But the Government is winning the fight. Yet Ahmadn Jarba head of the main opposition bloc will address leaders at the opening session. Iraq, Algeria and Lebanon continue to support Assad’s Alawite minority. Even whilst Lebanon shoots down a stray Syrian jet.
Israel considers that on the Palestinian issue, Arab leaders are expected to call for $100 million in monthly aid for the Palestinian Authority and to reject recognition of Israel as a Jewish state. Palestinian leader Mahmud Abbas, fresh from talks with US President Barack Obama in Washington last week, is to brief his Arab counterparts.
The government of Egypt’s Prime Minister Hazem al-Beblawi submitted its resignation to interim president Adly Mansour on Monday, the cabinet said, in a move just weeks before a presidential poll.
Cairo – The military-installed government of Egyptian Prime Minister Hazem al-Beblawi said on Monday it has resigned, ahead of a presidential poll which will likely bring army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi to power.
Sisi, by far the country’s most popular political figure, has not yet announced his candidacy for this spring’s presidential election, but aides say he has already decided to run and will make the announcement soon.
The field marshal, who is the defence minister and first deputy prime minister in the outgoing cabinet, has to resign from the government and the army before he can officially announce his candidacy.
Beblawi’s government was appointed in July after Sisi ousted Islamist Mohamed Morsi, Egypt’s first elected and civilian president.
A limited reshuffle to allow Sisi to step aside had been planned for weeks, but the resignation of the entire cabinet appeared to come as a surprise even for some government officials.
Reuters: Egypt government resigns, paving way for Sisi to seek presidency
Jerusalem Post: Egypt elects first woman to head political party
History was made in Egypt over the weekend when Hala Shukrallah beacame the first woman and the first Coptic Christian to be elected the head of a political party in Egypt.
According to Egyptian daily Al Ahram, Shukrallah was elected Friday to head the Constitution Party, founded by opposition figure and former International Atomic Energy Agency chief Mohamed ElBaradei in 2012. It was founded as a non-ideological party for all Egyptians.
Al Ahram described Shukrallah as “a leftist sociologist, political activist and mother who runs a development consultancy and is largely unknown to the media.”
Cairo – Six people have been killed and some 100 others wounded in a series of explosions in the Egyptian capital, Cairo.
Ukraine – A Ukrainian Journalist Explains 10 Things The West Needs To Know About The Situation In Kiev
Poland – The hidden history of the CIA’s prison in Poland
The U.P. ;) – What in the World is a Yooper? Yay, pasties!
TTIP – Opposition to the planned new trans-Atlantic free trade agreement is growing. So far, criticism has focused on the fact that the deal seems directed exclusively at economic interests. Now fears are growing that corporations will be given too much power.
Syria – Many Syrians still see Assad as indispensable in saving their country
Business Insider, Brett Logiurato, September 8
Republican representatives Michele Bachmann (R-MN), Louie Gohmert (R-TX), and Steve King (R-IA) held a press conference last week in Egypt, praising and thanking the Egyptian military for a July 3 ouster of what Bachmann called the “common enemy” Muslim Brotherhood. Via the Washington Post’s Max Fisher comes video of the press conference, which is bizarre, to say the least.
Bachmann thanked the Egyptian military for the coup and the military-led government’s crackdowns on protests, implying that the Muslim Brotherhood — of which former Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi was a member — was responsible for the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.”We were cheering in front of our televisions back home in the United States,” Bachmann said, referring to when the Egyptian military overthrew Morsi. “We were cheering for you.”
Bachmann, who took the lead in the press conference, said that the three members of Congress agreed that Morsi’s ouster was not a “coup,” but rather the “people of Egypt [giving] their voice loud and clear.” “Many of you have asked, Do we understand who the enemy is? We can speak for ourselves: We do. We have seen the threat that the Muslim Brotherhood has posed, here, for the people of Egypt,” Bachmann said. “We’ve seen the threat that the Muslim Brotherhood posed around the world. We stand against this great evil. We remember who caused nine-one-one in America.”
IBT, By Amrutha Gayathri, August 20
Amid increasing domestic and international pressure on the U.S. to suspend its aid to Egypt’s military-backed government following its crackdown on supporters of ousted President Mohamed Morsi, Saudi Arabia — a close U.S. ally — on Monday, pledged financial assistance to the North African nation to fill gaps left by withdrawal of aid from Western nations.
The announcement came two days after Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz extended support for Egypt’s military-backed interim government, denouncing “whoever is trying to interfere in Egypt’s internal affairs,” which was considered as being in line with Saudi Arabia’s historic stance siding with Egyptian military.
“To those who had declared they are stopping aid to Egypt or are waving such a threat, the Arab and Muslim nations are wealthy with their people and resources and will not shy away from offering a helping hand to Egypt,” Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal said, according to news reports citing state news agency SPA.
Abdul Latif Minawi, the former head of Egypt’s state television, told Al Arabiya that the Saudi position is in response to “Western positions, which are difficult to understand.”
(CBS) – Longtime Egyptian leader Hosni Mubarak — ousted by an Arab Spring-inspired popular uprising in 2011 — was acquitted Monday of corruption charges by a Cairo court, and his lawyer told CBS News he expected him to be freed “within 48 hours.”
Lawyer Fareed El-Deeb confirmed to CBS News producer Alex Ortiz that Mubarak was acquitted on the corruption charges, which stem from allegations that he and his sons embezzled funds for work on presidential palaces.
In spite of El-Deeb’s prediction, however, it remained unclear whether Mubarak would actually be set free. He is still facing charges that he was complicit in the killing of hundreds of protesters by his security forces during the months of turmoil which led to his ouster.