Saturday, October 18, 2014

FT: Israel's Dwindling Circle of Supporters

"Benjamin Netanyahu has not had a good year. Israel’s prime minister was blamed by the US administration for wrecking its latest attempt to reassemble a peace process. In truth, there were obstinacies and obstacles on both sides, but publicly and privately, US officials identified Israel’s land grabs in East Jerusalem and the West Bank as the principal cause of the breakdown." "Only this month Philip Hammond, Britain’s foreign secretary, said he “deplored” plans for more than 2,000 additional homes for Israeli settlers in Palestinian East Jerusalem. France’s foreign minister Laurent Fabius said it put in question Israel’s oft-stated commitment to a negotiated peace. Europeans have come to see settlement expansion as a strategy calculated to destroy fast-fading hopes for a two-state agreement." .......... "European governments had backed Mr Abbas’s initiative to forge a joint administration with Hamas as a prelude to serious peace talks. Now they speculate that the Gaza operation was Mr Netanyahu’s attempt to wreck any accommodation." "These episodes have not undercut the fundamental commitment of allies to Israel’s right to live in peace and security. They have drained patience and trust and led many to believe Mr Netanyahu prefers a permanent state of war to a difficult peace."

Friday, October 17, 2014

Egypt's deepening dictatorship

As you may have noticed from press reports, the Carter Center, which opened an office in Egypt in 2011 following the January 25 Revolution announced the closure of the office on October 15, 2014.  If you are concerned about the sad state of freedom in Egypt, then you should take a few moments to read the Carter Center's announcement. You will find it here.
"The current environment in Egypt is not conducive to genuine democratic elections and civic participation," said former U.S. President Jimmy Carter. "I hope that Egyptian authorities will reverse recent steps that limit the rights of association and assembly and restrict operations of Egyptian civil society groups."
Former President Jimmy Carter's statement summarizes the situation, but the announcement goes into detail concerning the restrictions on assembly, NGO activities, and the impediments to election monitoring are illuminating.

Reading the Carter announcement against the background of Field Marshal al-Sisi's ascent to power, including the August 2013 massacre at Rab'a al-Adawiya, one comes to grips with the fact that the actions of the new dictatorship has been relentless, merciless and brutal.  Read the August 2014 Human Rights Watch report (العربية) for details about what happened in the Summer of 2013.  Also see my earlier post.

The U.S., represented by Secretary of State Kerry, has been making nice with now-President al-Sisi. In this instance, the New York Times has the right advice, namely that Kerry should certainly not certify that Egypt is on the path to democracy.  This certification is a Congressional precondition for the continuation of military aid.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Chicago Council on Global Affairs

The Chicago Council has been conducting annual surveys of U.S. public opinion on foreign policy issues for decades. The latest survey, like earlier ones, reveals important contrasts between the view of foreign policy elites and the general public. This disjunction appears in several instances, perhaps most notably in the Israel-Palestine conflict where the general view is that the U.S. should favor neither side.  For instance, the 2014 shows strong general support for U.S. engagement abroad despite widely repeated claims that the public has become far more isolationist.

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Ahmed Seif, a man of courage and principle, 1951-2014 (R.I.P.)

When I was privileged to meet with Ahmed Seif I was impressed by his energy, his integrity and his selfless commitment to the cause of human rights in Egypt.  His voice is needed as much now as ever as a new dictator repudiates the notion of shared human rights in Egypt.  

Saturday, August 16, 2014

"The Massacre One Year Later"

Ahmad Shokar's essay deserves to be read.  It very much relates to my earlier post on the repressive Egyptian regime.

Shokar observes:
The vigorous attempts by state officials, along with media and public figures, to justify the killings are signs that Raba‘a is an enduring trauma whose memory will not be easily expunged. Raba‘a is in fact the pivotal event of Egyptian politics after the coup. Even though, as Mosaab al-Shamy (one of the foremost photographers of the massacre) observed, the state works hard to scrub the public sphere clean of commemorative icons, Raba‘a is far from invisible. As competing narratives are made to serve rival political agendas, the very persistence of contestation over the facts suggests that the massacre will not die along with its victims.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

CGME at the APSA annual meeting in Washington, August 30th

The CGME is a quarter century old and meets annually with the APSA.

Conference Group on the Middle East

Clawing Back Power: 
Arab Regimes at a Time of Mobilized Publics

Saturday, Aug 30, 2014, 11:30 AM-1:00 PM

Shoreham Hotel, Omni Diplomat Ballroom

Augustus Richard Norton
Boston University 
The Resiliency of Egypt#s %Deep State%: Are there any Challengers Left? 
Denis J. Sullivan
Northeastern University

Failure is Forbidden: The Road to the Taif Agreement 
Eric Bordenkircher
An Ally or A Foe: The Muslim Brotherhood in the Arab Gulf States  
Birol Baskan
Georgetown University
Open Fire on Protesters? A Turning Point in the Tunisian Transition 
Landry Signé
University of Alaska, Anchorage

Beyond the ‘democratization and authoritarianism paradogma’ - towards a #genuine science of (Middle East) POLITICS’ 
Morten Valbjorn
Aarhus University

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Insights into the Repressive Character of the Government in Egypt

The response of the Egyptian government to the investigative report "All According to Plan" [حسب الخطة  Arabic link] by Human Rights Watch is extremely revealing and provides insights into the mentality of the al-Sisi regime.  In short, as reported by the flagship al-Ahram, HRW is biased, serves U.S. interests, is in cahoots with the Muslim Brotherhood and had no authority to conduct research in Egypt.  There is a deep-seated suspicion of foreign NGOs in Egypt. I have witnessed it numerous times over the past 35 years.

The latest episode, of course, serves a double purpose, viz., it stifles open discussion of the report and its serious accusations that Field Marshal al-Sisi sits at the helm of a repressive security apparatus that very likely committed crimes against humanity by conducting deliberate mass killings of demonstrators in 2013 following the toppling of Muhammad Mursi as President; and, it serves to warn indigenous rights oriented groups that--unlike HRW officials--they cannot escape reprisal arrests, torture and jail.  You can be sure that while many educated Egyptians with social media access are well aware of the HRW report, but would also confirm that the message to tread very carefully is indelibly received.

The government reaction is addressed by Egyptian Chronicles.

Even in comparison with the worst years of the Mubarak era, this is a very dark chapter in Egypt's modern history.

For official statements in Arabic.

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.”"