Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Urban Backlash against Democracy: Battling the Tyranny of the Majority or the Rise of Rural Power?

Robert Bianchi, author of the still rewarding and remarkably topical Unruly Corporatism (OUP, 1989), offers an analysis that is incisive and persuasive.  Through an examination of the election results in 2011 and 2012, he demonstrates that Mohammed Mursi and the Ikhwan's Freedom and Justice Party enjoyed a deep level of support among its sizable but comparatively disadvantaged constituency.  The electoral results correspond to the deep divisions between the Egyptian geographic and economic peripheries and the relatively affluent urban and provincial middle and working classes, not to mention privileged elites who benefited significantly from the pre-revolutionary status quo and strongly supported General Ahmed Shafiq's campaign for the presidency.  The upshot of Bianchi paper is that notwithstanding the propaganda of the al-Sisi regime, one easily surmises that Egypt remains a deeply cleaved society and that the base constituencies of the Ikhwan remain.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Nuggets from an intriguing piece on the United Against Nuclear Iran NGO, which is being shielded by the U.S. Department of Justice

"The Obama administration has gone to court to protect the files of an influential anti-Iran advocacy group, saying they likely contain information the government does not want disclosed."
"Lawyers for Victor Restis, who filed the defamation suit, have accused the group of being funded by unidentified foreign interests and are trying to force the testimony of Israeli’s former intelligence chief and a prominent Israeli businessman."
"If the group has information belonging to the American government, it is not clear how it obtained it. American intelligence agencies are prohibited from secretly working with organizations to influence American public opinion and media. If the information does not belong to the government, it is not clear what makes it so sensitive."
"Founded in 2008, United Against Nuclear Iran is run and advised by a long list of former government officials. Its advisers include Joseph I. Lieberman, the former Democratic senator from Connecticut; Frances Townsend, the former homeland security adviser to President George W. Bush; Dennis B. Ross, a former Middle East adviser to both Republican and Democratic presidents; and former intelligence chiefs from Israel, Germany and Britain."
"Mr. Restis said he was approached by an Israeli businessman, Rami Ungar, with no direct connection to United Against Nuclear Iran.
"According to court documents filed by Mr. Restis’s lawyers, Mr. Ungar knew details about the case and said he was “authorized to try to resolve the issues” on behalf of the group’s supporters.
"It was not clear who those supporters were. Like many nonprofit groups, its donor list is secret. Mr. Restis’s lawyers said in a letter to the judge in April that they had uncovered information that United Against Nuclear Iran “is being funded by foreign interests.”"
"....He is also seeking testimony from Meir Dagan, the former Israeli intelligence chief and an adviser to United Against Nuclear Iran, who Mr. Restis believes served as a conduit between the source and the group.
"If the Justice Department formally asserts the law-enforcement privilege this week, Judge Ramos has said he will have “a great number of questions” about how and why.
"“I am particularly concerned,” he said in April, “that the defendants are able to utilize certain information in its public statements, and then not have to answer to their actions on the basis of a privilege.”"

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Graphic artists challenge and provoke dictatorship in Egypt

This informative essay on protest and graffiti art in Egypt deserves your attention.  The focus is "Ganzeer" (Muhammad Fahmy), one of scores of young artists whose graphics infuriate Field Marshal al-Sisi and his humorless acolytes.

Ganzeer notes that Hisham Rizk, a 19-year old artist, died from drowning in the Nile earlier this month.  I suspect that it was an "assisted" drowning.  Rizk worked on the opposition website yanayer.

Below, one of Ganzeer's works:
"New!" Freedom Mask"
"Salutations from the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces to the loving national sons."

Monday, June 23, 2014

Executive Summary released of off-the-record workshop in sexual and gender violence against Syrian refugees.

In May 2014, IISBU sponsored its third workshop on the Syrian refugee crisis. The latest workshop was an off-the-record event focusing on the question of sexual and gender-base violence directed against refugees. Given the topic, the highly qualified participants preferred an off-the-record format. IISBU has just published an executive summary of the proceedings and recommendations, which you are invited to read or download from the website. http://www.bu.edu/iis/publications/reports/
On the same site you will be able to download reports from the previous two workshops, as well as find other items of interest.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Book review: The Good Spy by Kai Bird

Until 1:04 PM on April 18, 1983, Robert Clayton Ames was little known outside U.S. foreign policy and intelligence circles. On that day he died, along with 62 other casualties in and around the U.S. Embassy in Lebanon, then a familiar landmark on Beirut’s seaside corniche.
The building suffered devastating damage when a pickup truck laden with 2,000 pounds of explosives was driven into the lobby. Ames, the influential Director of the Near East and South Asia division within the CIA’s Directorate of Intelligence, was on a visit to Lebanon, which President Ronald Reagan declared a “strategic interest” for the U.S. following Israel’s game-changing invasion the prior year.

Friday, June 06, 2014

Repeat after me: "Coddling Does Not Work".

The U.S. is dealing with an Israeli government that is ideologically committed to expanding and preserving illegal settlements in the West Bank.  It is a government that rejects a two-state solution, notwithstanding a politically expedient speech by PM Netanyahu at Bar Ilan University.  Such a government is not going to be dissuaded from what it is doing by quiet entreaties from U.S. diplomats.

Washington, D.C., June 5, 2014, State Department
QUESTION: Still on the settlements. Your counterparts in the EU have actually gone a step further and called on Israel to reverse this decision. Would you support that?
MS. HARF: I’m not going to use those words. I think I’ll stick with: We’re deeply disappointed; again, difficult to understand how these contribute to peace, and would urge both sides to refrain from unhelpful actions that increase tension.

QUESTION: Not changing your policy. But can you show me, like – just give me one example where these talks and this consistency actually helped in any way over the issue of the settlements?
MS. [Marie] HARF [U.S. State Department Spokeswoman]: Well, broadly speaking, we know we have a lot more work to do. Obviously we know where the talks are at the moment; they’re suspended, they’re not happening. So this is part of a larger conversation, quite frankly, about how we move the peace process forward, if that’s possible now, and what each side can do to move that forward. So it’s part of a much broader conversation that we’re having with both sides.
QUESTION: But you don’t have, like, specific case where your engagement with the Israelis, where – was –
MS. HARF: I just don’t have anything further for you on this topic.
 Coddling does not work.

'Ammar al-Zu'bi in al-Jazeera (Arabic)

Thursday, June 05, 2014

How long will the honeymoon last in Egypt? Will the security apparatus be able to thwart a divorce?

"Sisi’s gamble requires that he figure out a workable formula for ruling Egypt without the participation of Egyptians, at a historical juncture when Egyptians have become much harder to rule."  "Baheyya"

Does the field marshal have a sense of humor?

Oum Cartoon offers thoughtful commentary on Egypt through the eyes of local cartoonists.  The site deserves your time.