Despite the risks, both the SCAF and the Muslim Brotherhood have much to gain by exploiting anti-western conspiracies which are rooted in Egyptian Society.
Egypt continues to reel from the aftermath of the recent high profile raids against foreign-backed NGO’s by state security forces. Egyptian human rights watchdogs have condemned the raids as an effort by the SCAF to subdue the groups which are fomenting criticism against its policies, while ignoring the large amounts of funds being illicitly transferred to Islamist parties from the Persian Gulf. The United States and European Union have also stepped up their criticism, with Washington hinting at cutting off its longtime financial aid package.
The American threats have sparked an outcry amongst Egypt’s conservative groups, including the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party, which is slated emerge the dominant party in parliamentary elections. The FJP’s legal advisor, Ahmad Abu-Baraka, said on Sunday that the party will ask the newly-elected parliament to abolish the US aid, which he claimed “serves as a means to interfere with Egypt’s internal issues’; reportedly adding that ‘America and its money can go to hell”.
American foreign aid to Egypt is estimated at roughly 2 billion dollars annually, with $1.3 billion infused to military support. Egypt has enjoyed this financial support since the signing of the peace treaty with Israel in 1979, in which the aid was a crucial factor in keeping the country’s crumbling economy functioning at a basic level. Most recently, governmental officials have warned that Egypt’s national economy is currently facing its most serious crisis in years. Since the January 2011 revolution, the economy has suffered repeated blows to tourism and foreign investment as a result of the unrest, in addition to ongoing attacks on its natural gas pipeline in the Sinai Peninsula. Continue reading Egypt’s Anti-Western Future: Rhetoric or Reality?→
Yemen’s Greatest Challenge
By Gabi A.
Getting the oil flowing again is a basic requirement for the success of any future government.
Even as fears of continued factional conflict continue to attract media attention, the question of economic stability and sustainability in Yemen has barely received the consideration needed to avoid a spiral into the status of a failed state. The interim government in the country faces difficult political challenges in the weeks ahead as it prepares for what many observers are hoping will be the country’s first free election. The head of the interim government, Vice President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, is already facing calls to resign as protests continue to rage in the streets of the capital city of Sanaa with demonstrators facing off against forces loyal to now supposedly deposed President Ali Abdullah Saleh.
The destruction brought on by the nearly-ten-month uprising against the regime of Saleh has wreaked havoc not only on the delicate political system but also on the nation’s oil production infrastructure that provides the lifeblood for the economy. Oil exports are responsible for somewhere between 60-70% of government revenues and 90% of overall national exports. Continue reading Yemen’s Greatest Challenge→
The Middle East and North Africa In 2012: What Lies Ahead?
The feelings of hope and opportunity initially evoked by the Arab Spring have evolved into fear that the region may be sliding into a new status quo of instability. We sweep the region from Morocco to Iran to determine that 2012 will be one of the most crucial years in the modern history of the Middle East.
While North Africa by and large experienced the most significant change from the Arab Spring uprisings, it would be a grave mistake to place the fate of these politically diverse set of nations into one. In Morocco, the people still have great respect for the region’s oldest monarchy, sentiment which prevented widespread unrest from engulfing the nation this past year. The recent victory of moderate Islamist factions in parliament forces the monarchy to balance between their wishes, while keeping Morocco an attractive address for foreign investment to keep the economy on its feet. While Morocco can be expected to remain relatively stable, a widening gap between rich and poor and growing unemployment only works to the favor of the liberal February 20 reformers and the outlawed Islamist Justice and Spirituality movement, which currently remain marginalized.
In Algeria, the situation is quite different. The country emerged unscathed from the Arab Spring, not out of any sort of respect for the military-backed government, but rather out of fears for a repeat of the country’s bloody civil war which is still fresh in the minds of most of the population. While stability prevailed in 2011, tensions are brewing beneath the surface as Algerians come to realize that they are indeed the last nation to tolerate a corrupt military dictatorship which has failed to provide both physical and economic security. The success of Islamist parties to the East and West has emboldened Algeria’s own conservative opposition to demand reforms ahead of the upcoming elections-slated for the Spring of 2012. Moreover Bouteflika’s ailing health places the military and its allies in a considerable predicament, as replacing Bouteflika without elections will only provide fuel to an increasingly disillusioned population. The loss of the Bouteflika regime would spell a considerable setback in North Africa’s war against Al Qaeda, which despite recent losses- still has its sights set on fomenting instability in Algeria.
Unfortunately for Hamas, the Gaza Strip remains a negligible pawn on the Middle East chessboard, a playing card to be used by regional powers when it suits them most.
Tension in southern Israel remains high after the Israeli Air Force targeted a smuggling tunnel and another terror-related facility in the Gaza Strip following the fire of four Kassam rockets into Southern Israel on December 28. The recent exchange of fire was triggered by the targeted killing of two militants in the Gaza Strip on December 27, who according to the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) were en-route to commit a terror attack along the country’s southern border with Egypt. At least one of the militants killed in the raid was reportedly an Islamic Jihad member.
Until now, the Islamic Jihad’s response has been relatively mild. In previous instances, the militant group responded by firing larger salvos of rockets into Israel, and to greater distances. The mild response can be attributed to a number of factors. First and foremost, the group has suffered serious losses in its recent skirmishes with Israel, especially during the months of August, September and October. Second, the Islamic Jihad is being restrained by Hamas, who controls the Gaza Strip and has a low interest in escalating the situation at this point. Lastly the group is being pressured by both Fatah and Hamas to avoid an escalation at a time when reconciliation talks between Palestinian factions are underway.
Since the cessation of operation Cast Lead in 2009, both Israel and Gaza-based militants have upheld an unspoken status quo. In this new reality, sporadic rocket fire into the area surrounding the Gaza Strip was largely tolerated, with each such incident met with a limited IDF response. Every violation of this status quo has led to a temporary and localized escalation. These exchanges usually included bouts of more intensive rocket fire into Israel’s southern cities, answered with more costly targeted attacks by the Israeli Air Force against more sensitive targets in the Gaza strip. Continue reading War in Gaza: Sooner Rather Than Later?→
Bahrain’s Opposition: Business Continuity in the Crosshairs
The Shia-led opposition does not aim to directly threaten foreigners doing business in the capital, they instead seek to make Manama a generally less attractive place to do business.
This week, Bahrain’s Shia opposition groups are engaging in a multi-faceted campaign of civil disobedience dubbed “Week Promised To Martyrs,” in reference to activists killed in clashes with security forces which took place the previous week. On December 18, calls rang out through YouTube, twitter, and other social media networks for sympathizers to take to the streets across the small island. Their goal- disrupt day-to-day life in a non-violent manner in order to draw attention to the Shia majority’s struggle for equality.
The “Week Promised to Martyrs” employs many of the same tactics as similar demonstrations which have taken place week in and week out since the initial February uprising ended in the destruction of the iconic Pearl Square Roundabout. Mourning processions were to take place in Shia suburbs outside of Manama on December 20, while protesters were expected to block the Budaiya highway, a main traffic artery connecting the villages of the northern governorate with the capital of Manama. In addition, calls were made to march to the former Pearl Square roundabout to stage a sit in. Continue reading Bahrain’s Opposition: Business Continuity in the Crosshairs→
Assad is No Moammar Gaddafi
By Jay R.
The minimal support provided to Syrian revolutionaries from abroad will only amount to a longer, bloodier conflict.
The Syrian uprising began nine months ago, when in March, thousands of pro-reform demonstrators took to the streets in Deraa to denounce the Assad regime. Since that time, thousands of civilians have been killed and the country has arguably declined into civil war.
Just a month before the streets of Deraa erupted, the world’s attention was on Benghazi. Libyans had also taken to the streets in similar fashion, who were likewise met with live ammunition by Ghaddafi’s forces. The events in Benghazi escalated to civil war in their own right; however the end of hostilities there has already arrived.
The primary reason for the end of Libyan hostilities was the overwhelming support that opposition forces received from the international community. It only took two weeks from the time the Libyan people demanded change in their country for the world to begin its assistance, when it froze Gaddafi’s and his inner circle’s assets, limited their travel, and referred the lot to the International Criminal Court. In just the following month, the United Nations approved a resolution to enforce a no-fly-zone, which included using “all necessary measures” to thwart attacks on the citizenry. The aforesaid resolution subsequently led to a new Libyan government, which was recognized by the United Nations, in just seven month’s time.
Meanwhile, across the Mediterranean, the Syrian uprising is entering its nine month and the disparity between the two revolutions is vast. Assad is still in power, and his efforts to quell the revolution in his country persist as unabated as scores of people are being killed every day. However, it must be noted that the Syrian opposition, as did the Libyan counterpart, formed its own National Council of rebel organizations. Continue reading Assad is No Moammar Gaddafi→
Egypt Riots: The Islamists Chance To Sink The SCAF Once And For All?
By Daniel N.
Poised to dominate the next parliament, Egypt’s Islamists have been provided with an opportunity to rid the SCAF of its remaining political clout.
What began last Friday as another provocation by the usual revolutionary trouble makers has quickly evolved into a stark display of the SCAF’s brutality, to which all Egyptians can identify with. Friday’s unrest spiraled out of control in nearly the same fashion as the November 18 protests, which nearly compromised the first round of parliamentary elections. The unrest began when the military attempted to attack a distinct group of anti-regime holdouts, this time in front of the Cabinet building. Like the last round which erupted at Tahrir Square, activists flooded images of police brutality on social media through their camera phones, enraging and rallying area youth to join the ensuing riots.
Like the previous round of unrest, the Muslim Brotherhood and other influential factions have stood silent, refraining from sending their supporters into the streets, only issuing generalized condemnations and calling for a halt to violence. Despite the fact that the November unrest began after a mass Brotherhood-led anti-SCAF rally, the ensuing riots by revolutionary youth groups threatened to derail the much anticipated parliamentary elections. Continue reading Egypt Riots: The Islamists Chance To Sink The SCAF Once And For All?→
Iraq: Switching One Dictatorship For Another?
By Jay R.
As recent events in the region have shown, democracy may not ensure the stability that leaders like Maliki need to rule in countries as complicated as Iraq.
On the morning of December 18, the last convoy of American forces crossed the border into Kuwait, effectively ending their nine year presence in Iraq. The troops arrived nearly a decade ago to oust then President Saddam Hussein, quickly completing their mission following a blitzkrieg invasion kicked off by a massive bombing campaign. Since that time, lawlessness, sectarian fighting, mass terrorism, and calls for autonomy have painted a glaring picture of the kind of strong leadership required to keep Iraq from descending into chaos. The question now is what kind of leader are they leaving behind in Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, and does the possibility exist that the United States deposed a Sunni authoritarian leadership to install a Shiite one in its place?
If they were not before, Maliki’s attempts to solidify his grip on the country are becoming ever more apparent. One could have attributed such action to a preemptive strategy to maintain security in the country amidst sectarian divides, Shiite militias, and a Sunni insurgency – a strategy that Maliki currently claims. But one must ask if this preemptive strategy is actually an attempt to consolidate his power while eliminating opposition entities and their chances of garnering greater influence. Continue reading Iraq: Switching One Dictatorship For Another?→
Stability in Tunisia- “It’s The Economy Stupid”
By Daniel N.
The Islamist-led government has one year to instill optimism over Tunisia’s battered economy, or else risk failure in the next elections
After months of uncertainty and fears of an Islamist takeover after elections, the nation which kicked off the “Arab Spring” is finally showing signs of stability. The National Constituent Assembly (NCA) led by the moderate-Islamist Ennahda party, recently concluded a weeklong marathon session, establishing bylaws and electing the President. In the capital, signs of tension have been limited to protests by fringe liberal and Islamist groups, each fearing that the country’s leadership will not work to ensure their respective ideologies. Unfortunately, the recent calm in the capital is by no means guaranteed, and the dire economic situation is already starting to stir anger beneath the surface.
Tunisia is unique to the Middle East and North African region for its societal views on political Islam and adherence to liberal culture. The main dividing issues in the recent elections were economic policies and the role of religion in governing affairs, making Tunisia’s political discourse more comparable to that of Western Europe than North America. Like in the West, it will be the current government’s economic policies- not its religious ideology that keeps it in power, meaning that the ruling coalition only has one year to improve the situation before the next round of elections are slated to be held.
In October 2011, the Kenyan military began a major operation in neighboring Somalia to root out one of Africa’s most notorious militant groups- Al Shabaab. The invasion added Kenya to the growing list of nations which have become embroiled in the fight to stabilize the troubled Horn of Africa, after previous campaigns by Ethiopia, Uganda, and International peacekeepers failed to do so. While the invasion itself initially resulted in rapid gains for the Kenyan Defence Forces, fear quickly rose in Kenyan urban centers over the fears of a massive retribution attack by Al Shabaab militants.
Those fears are certainly justified, especially given the numerous threats made by Al Shabaab leaders. First and foremost, Al Shabaab cells in Somalia have succeeded in carrying out complex and coordinated mass-casualty attacks in Mogadishu time and time again. In addition, a massive suicide bombing on World Cup viewers in Uganda in which over 60 people perished is also attributed to the Islamist group which is believed to have taken revenge on Uganda for its prominent role in peacekeeping operations in Somalia. Lastly, there are a considerable number of Somali citizens living around Kenya, while many Somali-Americans have returned to their homeland where their dual citizenship was utilized to carry out attacks. Lastly, Kenya itself has suffered a significant amount of high-profile attacks by Al Qaeda linked militants in the past, including a 2003 hotel bombing in Mombasa and the infamous 1998 American embassy bombings. Continue reading Travel to Nairobi: Is Al Shabaab still a threat?→