April 3, 2013 by Ramzy Baroud
‘Confused’ may be an appropriate term to describe Turkey’s current foreign policy in the Middle East and Israel in particular. The source of that confusion – aside from the appalling violence in Syria and earlier in Libya – is Turkey’s own mistakes.
The Turkish government’s inconsistency regarding Israel highlights earlier discrepancy in other political contexts. There was a time when Turkey’s top foreign policy priority included reaching out diplomatically to Arab and Muslim countries. Then, we spoke of a paradigm shift, whereby Ankara was repositioning its political center, reflecting perhaps economic necessity, but also cultural shifts within its own society. It seemed that the East vs. West debate was skillfully being resolved by politicians of the Justice and Development Party (AKP).
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, along with Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, appeared to have obtained a magical non-confrontational approach to Turkey’s historic political alignment. ‘The Zero Problems’ policy allowed Turkey to brand itself as a bridge between two worlds. The country’s economic growth and strategic import to various geopolitical spheres allowed it to escape whatever price meted out by Washington and its European allies as a reprimand for its bold political moves – including Erdogan’s unprecedented challenge of Israel.
April 3, 2013 by Daniel Wagner
Although the restoration of ties between Israel and Turkey is welcome news for both countries, it is premature to gauge how close Jerusalem and Ankara will become given their continued conflicts of interest. The ‘thaw’ in bilateral relations is likely to be slow, with the two countries’ divergent objectives in Palestine and Syria remaining an obstacle to significantly warmer relations. Nonetheless, as the Syrian crisis continues to threaten the security of all the Levantine states and the Iranian issue continues its slow boil, greater cooperation should be expected between the two. The rapprochement is real; the question is, does it matter?
From Israel’s perspective, improved ties with Turkey help to alleviate the plethora of security concerns arising events of the past two years – ranging from the change of leadership in Egypt, to the Egyptian/Iranian rapprochement, to growing concern over the stability of the Jordanian Monarchy., to an Iran that is increasingly assertive and defiant of the West, to the consolidation of power by Hamas in Gaza, and the ongoing stalemate in peace talks with the Palestinians. Israel has a full plate of security issues to contend with, none of which either appear to be easing or are likely to dissipate in the near term.
March 18, 2013 by Conn M. Hallinan
When an important leader of the political opposition hints that a military coup might be preferable to the current chaos, and when a major financial organization proposes an economic program certain to spark a social explosion, something is afoot. Is Egypt being primed for a coup?
It is hard to draw any other conclusion given the demands the International Monetary Fund (IMF) is making on the government of President Mohamed Morsi: regressive taxes, massive cuts in fuel subsidies, and hard-edged austerity measures whose weight will overwhelmingly fall on Egypt’s poor.
“Austerity measures at a time of political instability are simply unfeasible in Egypt,” says Tarek Radwan of the Washington-based Atlantic Council. “He [Morsi] is already facing civil disobedience in the streets, protests on a weekly, if not daily basis, clashes between protestors and security—he does not want to worsen the situation.”
March 10, 2013 by Binoy Kampmark
It is frenzied and continuing, but the riots in Egypt have become so regular as to suggest that the Arab Spring never stopped. The country, even post-Mubarak, is seething with insurrection. And the outlets of dissatisfaction, expressed via social media and the more physical aspect of sport, are everywhere.
The violence during the week in Egypt might be termed “football violence”, but the term is deceptive. Protests have taken place in Cairo near Tahrir Square and in Port Said, while demonstrators have attempted to block the Suez Canal. But initial accounts that they were all linked to football have become unreliable. What is certain is that a good portion of it has left a police station in flames, the headquarters of the Egyptian Football Federation in ruins and two people dead, being a response, in turn, to the violence that took place in February 2012 in Port Said stadium.
The trigger came in a Cairo court’s decision to uphold the death sentences of 21 fans accused of sparking riots that left 74 people, mostly Al-Ahly supporters, dead. Two senior policemen – former head of police security General Essam Samak and Brigadier General Mohammed Saaed – were sentenced to 15 years in prison. Saaed’s claim to infamy was his refusal to open the stadium gates as the riots broke. He was the man who stood idle with the keys.
February 27, 2013 by Sarah Lucas
The waves of mass demonstrations that swept through Tunisia and Egypt have so far passed the people of the Palestinian territories by. But those events have inspired a youth movement which may have a chance at mobilizing the masses in the first entirely nonviolent Palestinian resistance. There is today a significant amount of frustration across a broad segment of Palestinian society. The peace process with Israel appears incurably stalled, and there is deep anger at the continued failure of Fatah and Hamas, the disputing political factions, to deliver on their promise of reconciliation.
“I’ve never seen the West Bank like this before, it’s a ticking time bomb,” says Fadi Elsalameen, a youth leader based in Hebron. “I’m predicting very soon you’ll see every sector of society join in a mass peaceful protest in Palestine.”
The leaders of Palestine’s “March 15” youth movement, a number of whom were interviewed for this article, have attempted to leverage growing discontent into large-scale protests. So far, they have been unable to replicate the success of their Cairo counterparts. The largest demonstration on 15 March 2011, from which the movement takes its name, saw only a couple of thousand turn out in Ramallah, and around 10,000 in Gaza City. “In Palestine, there’s protest fatigue,” says Robert Blecher, director of the Arab-Israeli project at the International Crisis Group. “It’s not going to catch fire until there’s a clear goal”.
February 18, 2013 by Conn M. Hallinan
Now that the dust has settled—literally and figuratively—from Israel’s Jan. 29 air attack on Syria, the question is, why? According to Tel Aviv, the bombing was aimed at preventing the transfer of sophisticated Russian SA-17 anti-craft missiles to Hezbollah in Southern Lebanon, which one former Israeli military intelligence officer said would be “a game-changer.” But there are major problems with that story.
First, it is highly unlikely that Damascus would turn such a system over to Hezbollah, in part because the Russians would almost certainly not have allowed it, and, secondly, because the SA-17 would not be terribly useful to the Lebanese Shiite organization. In fact, we don’t even know if an SA-17 was the target. The Syrians deny it, claiming it was a military research center 15 miles northwest of Damascus that was bombed, killing two and wounding five. The Israelis are refusing to say anything. The story that the anti-aircraft system was the objective comes mainly from unnamed “western officials.”
February 8, 2013 by Esam Al-Amin
If parties from across all of Egypt’s political spectrum agree on one thing, it’s this: the country is currently witnessing the greatest turmoil since Hosni Mubarak’s ouster and is facing massive upheaval with no end in sight. The unity and resolve displayed by millions of Egyptians two years ago when they decisively deposed the authoritarian and corrupt Mubarak regime is long gone. Throughout these tumultuous two years, there emerged two major fault lines across the country’s political class: one that resulted from the revolution, namely the revolutionary vs. the counter-revolutionary groups; and one along ideological grounds, namely the Islamic vs. the secular parties.
All agree that the revolution was launched spontaneously by non-ideological youth groups, who paid the heaviest price and made the biggest sacrifices during the early days of the revolution. Such groups proclaim the mantle of the revolution and maintain that it has been hijacked by better-organized and established groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) and the Salafis.
January 23, 2013 by Ramzy Baroud
A reductionist discourse is one that selectively tailors its reading of subject matters in such a way as to only yield desired outcomes, leaving little or no room for other inquiries, no matter how appropriate or relevant. The so-called Arab Spring, although now far removed from its initial meanings and aspirations, has become just that: a breeding ground for choosy narratives solely aimed at advancing political agendas which are deeply entrenched with regional and international involvement.
January 20, 2013 by Claire McCurdy
“The people of Egypt have spoken. Their voices have been heard and Egypt will never be the same…By stepping down, President Mubarak responded to the Egyptian people’s hunger for change, but this is not the end of Egypt’s transition. It’s the beginning.”
– President Barack Obama, Feb. 11, 2011
Uprising depicts the Egyptian people’s deposition of Egypt’s brutal dictator Hosni Mubarak, a quasi-military leader who for thirty years kept the country under emergency law and who was responsible for many deaths and disappearances.
Egyptian citizens’ peaceful and effective protest against Mubarak’s injustice is a pure example of Gandhi’s concept of satyagraha. (In Egypt’s case – it was on a nearly unthinkable scale – 20 million people took to the streets in protest.)
January 17, 2013 by John Price
“Morsi has usurped all state powers and appointed himself Egypt’s new pharaoh, a major blow to the revolution that could have dire consequences.”
– Mohammed ElBaradei
The Obama Administration supported the Arab Spring uprisings, which led to regime change in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya. In Tunisia Zine El Abidine Ben Ali was deposed and found a new home in Saudi Arabia. In Egypt Hosni Mubarak was deposed and imprisoned. In Libya Islamists hunted down and killed Muammar Gaddafi. However in the aftermath of the regime changes, neither of the countries has seen stability or a better quality of life for their people.
January 5, 2013 by Mohamud Uluso
The setting up of local public administrations in the regions of Gedo, Lower Jubba and Middle Jubba which have yet to be entirely liberated from the Al Qaeda affiliated Al Shabaab has generated passionate debate for four reasons.
First, as result of clan based federalism, it stirred up the majority and minority struggles between communities in those regions at village, district and regional levels. Second, it brought to the front the divergent interests and goals of the multiple foreign, national and local actors claiming stakes in the process. Third, it represented a special significance for the federal government since it defines the values and meaning of the post-transition political dispensation and implementation of the Provisional Constitution (PC) on territorial jurisdiction and citizenship supremacy. Fourth, the ban by the UN Security Council on the export of charcoal in the area adversely affected the local economy.
December 27, 2012 by John Price
On December 20, 2012 President Obama issued a Presidential Proclamation suspending Mali from benefits under the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) program–due to coups the country underwent in 2012. At the same time President Obama approved South Sudan’s eligibility under the program—a country in conflict with its neighbor Sudan.
The African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) was established by Congress in May 2000 to create jobs in sub-Saharan Africa—to help reduce poverty—and build trade capacity with the United States. To qualify under the AGOA, countries needed to show improvements in democracy, rule of law, human rights, transparency, and a commitment to work standards that exclude the use of child labor. The AGOA includes over 6,000 items that can be exported to the U.S. duty free and quantity free. The program currently supports over 300,000 jobs (indirectly benefiting 10 million people) in sub-Saharan Africa.
December 14, 2012 by Esam Al-Amin
December 8 was the day President Mohammed Morsi had chosen two nights earlier during his address to the nation. In his speech, he called for an open dialogue with the opposition and other political parties as they tackled the political crisis engulfing the country since he issued his controversial constitutional declaration of November 22.
With the exception of Al-Ghad Party, all leaders of the National Salvation Front (NSF), the main opposition coalition that includes most secular parties, refused to attend the meeting with the president, insisting first on the annulment of the constitutional declaration and the cancellation of the referendum scheduled for December 15. The NSF’s main leaders, including former presidential candidates Amr Moussa, Hamdein Sabbahi, and Dr. Mohammad ElBaradei, not only boycotted the gathering but also issued a stern warning that if the president did not accede to their demands they would escalate their protests by calling for general strikes and civil disobedience.
December 13, 2012 by Thomas Lyman
There was hope for minorities in Egypt during the recent overthrow of the Mubarak regime. Dramatic images of revolution streamed into the West including women handing soldiers flowers, Christians making protective body barriers around Muslims praying in the streets during protests, and food handouts in Tahrir Square.
However, the days of rebel-momentum are over. Minority groups in Egypt have faced uncertainty with the ousting of the previous 30-year leadership, all trying to determine their new place in a rapidly changing political and social landscape.
November 30, 2012 by Esam Al-Amin
Ever since the fall of former dictator Hosni Mubarak on that fateful day in February 2011, Egyptian society and its political factions have been sharply divided. On one side is the Islamic parties led by the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) but also includes the more conservative Salafi groups as well as other smaller moderate ones such as Al-Wasat Party. On the other is a myriad of secular groups that includes many liberal, leftist, as well as youth revolutionary groups such as the April 6 movement.
There is no doubt that the unity displayed during the eighteen revolutionary days that ousted Mubarak had soon after dissipated when Egyptians went to the polls five weeks later and voted to hold parliamentary elections before writing a new constitution. The Islamic parties, which supported this referendum, won it with over seventy-seven percent of the electorate as Egyptians voted in unprecedented numbers.