Showing posts with label Egypt. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Egypt. Show all posts

9 August 2022

Interview – David Lowe

Dr David Lowe is a senior research fellow at Leeds Law School, part of Leeds Beckett University, where he researches terrorism and security, policing, and human rights. Prior to being an academic, David served as a police officer in the UK where he carried out a number of uniform and CID roles. After retiring from the police, he began his academic career. His research has been widely published in books and journal articles. His latest book, Terrorism, Law and Policy: A Comparative Study, was published by Routledge in 2022. Due to his expertise David is constantly requested by the mainstream media to provide interviews on his research area, including the UK BBC television and radio and Sky News, and internationally CNN, France 24, ABC (Australia), TRT (Turkey), Al Jazeera, Al Arabyia (UAE) and AlGhad (Egypt).

David is an Expert Panel member of the UN’s UNESCO Chair on the prevention of radicalisation and extremism, an External Member of UK Parliament’s All-Party Parliamentary Group on a Fit and Healthy Childhood where his input is in relation to the UK’s Prevent Strategy and how extremism impacts on children and young people. David is also a member of the UK’s Counter Terrorism Advisory Network and a member of the Academic Resilience and Security Community (Academic RiSC). Among his current projects, he is working with the Northern Ireland Assembly to introduce a bespoke version of the Prevent programme and on the Hate Crime Bill. He has recently started working with a German NGO, GIZ, that works with the African Union regarding the implementation of police co-operation in intelligence sharing and a bespoke version of a Prevent programme to minimise the impact extremist have on various African states’ populations.

5 August 2022

‘Debt bomb’ risks: More than 40 nations are at risk of default

Nikhil Kumar and Lili Pike

Sri Lanka might be only the beginning. The South Asian country, once an economic darling hailed as a “hidden jewel,” has been sucked into a financial black hole this year as an unsustainable pile of debt crushed sector after sector. The debt crisis has triggered widespread unrest and political upheaval.

But the small island nation isn’t alone, experts warn, as a range of countries worldwide — from Tunisia to Egypt, Kenya to Argentina, and beyond — groan under their own giant piles of debt.

Put aside the economic jargon, and the story is a straightforward one. As global prices and interest rates rise, putting pressure on the finances of these countries, they are struggling to pay the interest they owe on all the loans that they have taken out in recent years. That in turn is affecting their ability to keep their economies running — to feed their people, to provide fuel — even as they try to get things back on an even keel after the blows of the covid-19 pandemic.

Ayman al-Zawahiri and the Taliban

During his long career as a polemicist and a strategist of terror, Ayman al-Zawahiri often taunted the United States. He hewed to the familiar theme that America was an apostate power at war with Islam. But he also described it as a spent force. In a video released this spring, he said that “U.S. weakness” was responsible for the war triggered by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and he mocked the country’s standing “after its defeat in Iraq and Afghanistan, after the economic disasters caused by the 9/11 invasions, after the coronavirus pandemic, and after it left its ally Ukraine as prey for the Russians.”

The U.S. drone strike in Kabul last Saturday that killed Zawahiri, who was seventy-one, added a punctuation mark to the long search for justice for the victims of 9/11 and of other deadly attacks that Zawahiri directly approved, such as the bombing of two U.S. Embassies in Africa in 1998, which killed twelve Americans and more than two hundred Africans. President Joe Biden, announcing the attack on Monday evening, said that he hoped Zawahiri’s death “provides a small measure of peace to the 9/11 families and everyone else who has suffered at the hands of Al Qaeda.”

15 July 2022

Don’t Sleep on China’s Global Develop­ment Initiative

Fikayo Akeredolu

It’s been a hectic few weeks in international relations and development policy circles, with significant implications for Asian and Pacific countries.

First was the BRICS Business Forum on June 23, attended by the top leaders of Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa. Then came the High-Level Dialogue on Global Development on June 24, attended by leaders from Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa, and a selection of non-BRICS countries: Cambodia, Argentina, Algeria, Egypt, Ethiopia, Fiji, Indonesia, Iran, Kazakhstan, Malaysia, Senegal, Thailand, and Uzbekistan. Two days later, leaders from seven of the world’s wealthiest countries (the G-7) met from June 26 to 28.

While there was much to discuss internally within these groups, a general thread from each meeting was international development, especially as the world continues to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic and now the fall out of the Russia-Ukraine war.

14 July 2022

The Impact and Implications of China’s Growing Influence in the Middle East

Nadeem Ahmed Moonakal

Amid evolving regional geopolitical tensions and changing security dynamics in the Middle East, Beijing is accentuating its efforts to expand economic relations with regional powers and forge comprehensive strategic partnerships with the Arab world. To date, China has cautiously walked a tightrope in the region to balance between regional rivals. However, its growing presence in the region likely will pull Beijing into wider engagement eventually, especially as the emerging regional security arrangement paves way for newer challenges that would increase the role of regional powers amid U.S. withdrawal.

Beijing’s foreign policy of balancing between rivals and increasing multilateralism has enabled China to deepen its ties with the Middle East. While engaging with the region, China has focused on shared interests, which are largely economic, and has emphasized South-South cooperation. Beijing has maintained a position far from the immediate vulnerabilities of protracted conflicts, but now new challenges are expected as the security arrangement and balance of power in the region will likely change depending on several factors, especially the future of nuclear talks with Iran.

11 July 2022

America’s New Realism in the Middle East

F. Gregory Gause 

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan welcoming Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin U.S. President Joe Biden’s upcoming visit to Saudi Arabia has unleashed a gusher of chatter in the American foreign policy community. Some reactions, including from influential Democratic politicians, have been unreservedly negative. Democratic Congressman Adam Schiff said, “Until Saudi Arabia makes a radical change in terms of human rights, I wouldn’t want anything to do with him,” referring to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, known as MBS. But defenders of Biden’s decision to visit argue that U.S. interests and the realities of power in the Middle East require a strategic relationship with the Saudis, despite their poor record on human rights and democracy.

This level of disagreement and controversy is striking and unusual because American presidents have been meeting with Saudi leaders regularly since the 1970s—and on occasion before that. But the Biden administration had signaled, in no uncertain terms, that it would treat Saudi Arabia differently than did previous administrations. During the 2020 presidential campaign, Biden said he would make the Saudis “pay the price” for the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018 and the Saudi participation in the war in Yemen and would treat them as “the pariah that they are.” Once in office, Biden authorized the release of a U.S. intelligence report holding that MBS was responsible for Khashoggi’s murder by Saudi operatives in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. Biden refused to deal directly with the crown prince and took policy steps that aggravated the Saudis, including lifting the official designation of the Houthis (the Saudis’ opponents in Yemen) as terrorists, removing U.S. air defense batteries from Saudi Arabia, and restarting nuclear talks with Iran. So the upcoming visit to Riyadh represents a reversal—and a climb-down for a president who is facing an increasing number of political problems at home.

10 July 2022

Iron net: Digital repression in the Middle East and North Africa

James Lynch


In April 2021, Malcolm Bidali, a Kenyan security guard living in Doha, opened his Twitter account to find that someone had sent him a link to a Human Rights Watch report about migrant workers. Bidali was using an anonymous account, @noaharticulates, to blog about his life and document the daily exploitation and abuse that he and his fellow workers experienced. His account, which only had a few hundred followers, had just begun to attract interest both from foreign readers and young Qataris who appreciated his frank, unflinching account of the reality he and his colleagues confronted every day.

The link did not work. But it was never meant to: it was a phishing link designed to reveal the true identity of @noaharticulates. A week later, Bidali was arrested at his labour camp by State Security officers. After a month in solitary confinement and a campaign for his release by students in Qatar, he was deported to Kenya with a hefty fine for publishing “false news with the intent of endangering the public system of the state”. And there ended the career of Qatar’s first – and, so far, only – migrant worker blogger. A year before the 2022 Men’s Football World Cup, the build-up to which had been characterised by international concern about the abuse of migrant workers, the Qatari state had used a relatively simple technical measure to snuff out a perceived threat.

29 June 2022

The Abraham Accords And The Changing Shape Of The Middle East

Dennis Ross

One question I often get is how are the Abraham Accords changing the Middle East? It is a fair and logical question, but there is a more important one to ask: how did the region change so the Abraham Accords became possible? And, what does that change tell us about where the region is headed?

The change did not happen overnight. There are many critics of the Oslo process between Israel and the PLO, but Oslo began to change the context for the Sunni Arab states. If the PLO, the embodiment of the Palestinian national movement could deal with Israel, it became more acceptable for them to do so as well. True, the Madrid process initiated multilateral working groups a year earlier in 1992, and many Arab states took part in meetings that included Israelis in regional discussions on issues ranging from arms control to environment and water. That surely helped, but Oslo provided an impetus to start quiet exploratory discussions on bilateral, not multilateral, cooperation between Israel and a number of Arab states. As our lead negotiator on the Oslo and Arab-Israeli processes, I set up a number of discreet meetings between Israeli officials and their Gulf state counterparts in the 1990’s. Most of the bilateral meetings involved security cooperation and built on intelligence contacts that Mossad had established over time, but the scope of these private discussions clearly expanded.

28 June 2022

Ottoman's New Wings, Short-Takeoffs, and more

Rohan Khattar Singh

The ongoing Russia-Ukraine conflict has put a spotlight on Turkey’s aviation industry when combat footage from Turkey’s Bayraktar TB2 drone striking Russian armour and artillery equipment went viral. However, recent interviews of Ukrainian pilots have shown that with an established Russian Air-Defence, the Bayraktar TB2 drone has become easy pickings. The drone which was first inducted in 2004 has now clocked 400,000 hours globally with more than 300 airframes being operated by Turkey, Azerbaijan, Ethiopia, Kyrgyzstan, Libya, Morocco, Niger, Pakistan, Qatar, Turkmenistan and Ukraine. The TB2 has been effectively used across multiple conflicts in Libya, Syria, the Nagorno-Karabakh war, and the ongoing Russia-Ukraine conflict, and is likely to be extensively used in future conflicts which require limited air power involvement, or in scenarios where the other side lacks a robust Air Defence network.

TAI Hurjet at Teknofest 2021

Turkey is also rapidly developing its fixed-wing fleet in order to replenish its ageing fleet of more than 200 F-16s, and with the uncertainty of the delivery of F-35s, Turkey has to rely on its indigenous production to secure its national interests. Apart from its ongoing work on the TF-X stealth fighter, Turkey is also producing the TAI Hurjet, a Light Combat aircraft which has created much intrigue amongst South East Asian Countries, particularly Malaysia, which is considering the HAL Tejas to fulfil its urgency for a smaller fighter aircraft.

27 June 2022

Can Turkey’s Erdogan Rebuild the Bridges He Has Burned?

Since his sweeping overhaul of Turkey’s political system in 2017, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has cemented his near-total control over the country. Despite the worst electoral setback of Erdogan’s career in the Istanbul mayoral election in June 2019, as well as a tail-spinning economy exacerbated by the fallout from the coronavirus pandemic, he continues to maintain his grip on power, even if he must undermine Turkey’s democracy to do so.

At the same time, Erdogan has pursued an adventurous and bellicose foreign policy across the Mediterranean region, putting Ankara increasingly at odds with its NATO allies. After Turkey’s purchase of a Russian air-defense system in July 2019, Washington suspended Turkish involvement in the F-35 next-generation fighter plane program. In October 2019, the Turkish incursion into northeastern Syria targeting Syrian Kurdish militias raised tensions with the U.S. Congress—which fiercely defended the Syrian Kurds, America’s principal partner on the ground in the fight against the Islamic State—even if former U.S. President Donald Trump seemed oblivious to their plight and subsequently received Erdogan at the White House. Turkey’s repeated incursions into waters in the Eastern Mediterranean claimed by Cyprus, as well as its standoffs with Greek and French naval vessels in the region, further raised tensions and alarmed observers. And its support for political Islamists since the Arab uprisings as well as its role in the Middle East’s various armed conflicts have put it at odds with the Gulf states and Egypt.

14 June 2022

Egypt looks to India for wheat to make up losses from Ukraine war

Rasha Mahmoud

Egypt is currently in talks with India over a deal to import 500,000 tons of Indian wheat in exchange for Egyptian exports of fertilizers and other products, the country’s Minister of Supply and Internal Trade Ali al-Moselhi revealed to Bloomberg on June 3.

Moselhi said that he discussed the potential swap deal with the Indian ambassador to Egypt on the sidelines of the annual meetings of the Islamic Development Bank held in Sharm el-Sheikh in June. Bloomberg quoted Moselhi as saying that he met the Indian ambassador on June 1 “to discuss the potential swap agreement to secure 500,000 tons of wheat, through various shipments.”

The potential Egyptian-Indian deal comes amid a global wheat supply shortage sparked by the Russian invasion of Ukraine after Russian forces closed Ukrainian seaports.

30 November 2017

Egypt mosque attack: New level of horror in decades-long struggle to control Sinai

The bomb-and-gun attack in Egypt’s north Sinai on Friday November 24 is now known to have killed more than 300 worshippers at a Sufi-affiliated mosque, making it the deadliest attack in modern Egyptian history. Carried out by terrorists claiming links with the so-called Islamic State (IS), the attack exposed just how weak a grip the Egyptian state has in Sinai – and by extension, just how dangerous this piece of pivotal territory is for the rest of the region.Though the scale of Friday’s attack is unprecedented, Sinai has been unmanageable for years, if not decades. Many security experts agree that large parts of it fit the definition of an “ungoverned space”: the monopoly of force that the Egyptian state should exercise there is weak or nonexistent, while government services to citizens are extremely poor. This makes Sinai ideal territory for violent jihadist militant groups.

22 May 2015

Egypt's Religious Freedom Farce

May 21, 2015 

Sisi sounds the right notes on pluralism, but penalties for “insulting” a faith are enforced only for the majority creed.
President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi of Egypt presents himself as an Islamic reformer. He has challenged the sheikhs of Al-Azhar University—Sunni Islam’s preeminent religious institution—to promote moderation, and took the bold step (by Egyptian standards) of wishing worshippers a merry Christmas inCairo’s Coptic cathedral. The moves are commendable, but do little to alter an unfortunate reality: while Egypt’s penal code prohibits “insulting heavenly religions or those following it,” the law is enforced for just one faith: Sunni Islam.

Egypt takes religion seriously. By law, Egyptians are only allowed to practice one of the three recognized monotheistic religions: Islam (implicitly Sunni Islam—the faith of the overwhelming majority), Christianity (representing some ten percent of the population) and Judaism (today, Egypt has exactlyseven Jews, down from 75,000 in 1947). Still, Egyptians may only practice the creed they’re born into—the government does not recognize Muslim conversions to Christianity, and conversion from either faith to Judaism is nonexistent—unless the target faith is Islam.

13 January 2015


By Toke S. Aidt, Gabriel Leon, Raphael Franck and Peter S. Jensen*

Some theories suggest that the threat of revolution plays a pivotal role in democratisation. This column provides new evidence in support of this hypothesis. The authors use democratic transitions from Europe in the 19th century, Africa at the turn at the 20th century, and the Great Reform Act of 1832 in Great Britain. They find that credible threats of revolution have systematically triggered pre-emptive democratic reforms throughout history.

The threat of revolution hypothesis

The wave of violent protests that swept across north Africa and parts of the Middle East during the Arab spring between 2010 and 2012 coincided with the fall of several long-established autocracies; in those that survived, policy reforms and redistributive policies aimed at calming the masses were hastily implemented. A century and a half before, something similar happened in western Europe. The revolutions in France and parts of Germany in 1848 were followed by democratic reforms in Denmark, Luxembourg, Belgium, and the Netherlands.

Episodes like these lend credence to the hypothesis that revolutions, riots, and other types of violent protest can trigger democratic change. The hypothesis is appealing because it resolves the franchise extension puzzle, namely why would incumbent autocrats with a monopoly on political power, and often on economic resources, agree to share their power with broader segments of the population whose goals they do not share? The threat of revolution hypothesis, developed in the work of Acemoglu and Robinson (2000, 2006) and Boix (2003) amongst others, suggests that autocrats might do so when they face a credible threat of revolution that, if successful, would eliminate their entire power base. Seen in this perspective, the reactions of autocrats in the Arab world today, and of monarchs in western Europe 150 years ago, are pre-emptive responses to a credible threat of revolution.

Not everyone agrees with this interpretation, however. In his discussion of democratic reforms between 1830 and 1930, Roger Congleton (2010, p. 15), for example, argues that: “In essentially all cases [countries], liberal reforms were adopted using pre-existing constitutional rules for amendment. In no case [country] is every liberal reform preceded by a large-scale revolt, and in most cases, there are examples of large-scale demonstrations that failed to produce obvious reform”.

18 November 2014

Counter-Terrorism: Egypt And Israel Unite Against Tunnels

November 11, 2014: In October Israel revealed that they had known in early 2014 of Hamas plans to use tunnels into Israel to launch a major terror attack on Israel. It was later discovered that this attack was planned for the Jewish New Year (Rosh Hashanah), which took place on September 26th in 2014. When the fifty day war with Hamas began in July Israel still not have a lot of details about the Hamas “tunnel offensive”, but they knew that they could now go into Gaza and find out some details.

Before this ground invasion Israel had some knowledge of these Hamas tunnels, mainly because they had already found four of them in the last two years. In March Israeli troops found one that was 1,800 meters long and extended 300 meters into Israel. Hamas dismissed this find as a tunnel that had been abandoned because of a partial collapse. But the Israelis said the tunnel had been worked on recently and equipment, like generators, was found in it. The tunnel was lined with reinforcing concrete and was 9-20 meters (30-63 feet) underground.

Three of these tunnels were near the town of Khan Younis and apparently part of a plan to kidnap Israelis for use in trades (for prisoner or whatever) with Israel. Israeli intelligence knew Hamas leaders were discussing a much larger tunnel program, involving dozens of tunnels. This plan included building the tunnels but not completing them (by tunneling upwards to create the exit in Israel). As long as the tunnel construction stayed deep the available monitoring equipment was slow and often ineffective if there was no one actively working on the tunnel below or if there was no exit (yet) on the Israeli side. Hamas had been building and “stockpiling” these tunnels for at least two years and most of the completed ones could only be detected inside Gaza, where their entrances were.

These were also hidden, at least from aerial observation. Israeli intelligence had discovered some of these entrances by detecting the Hamas activity around the entrances (entering and leaving, removing dirt). Hamas tried to hide this activity and Israel knew this meant they probably succeeded in some cases. Thus before the Israeli troops went into Gaza on July 17th, commanders had lots of information on where to look. Israeli combat engineers had been trained to destroy the tunnels, which was not easy because Hamas had booby-trapped some of them. Israel at first suspected there are over fifty of these tunnels and soon decided it was essential to stay inside Gaza until they were sure they had found all of them, and collected information on how they were built and how they could be detected from the ground or air. If Israel knows where a tunnel is, before they destroy it they can run some tests with their sensors and that knowledge will make it more difficult for Hamas to build new tunnels.

5 June 2014

Interpreting the Egyptian mandate


Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s election confirms that Egypt has a military-guided democracy. But this should not make us jump to the conclusion that it is not democracy at all

Egypt has a new President. Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who was the country’s Army chief and Defence Minister, has won a landslide victory in the presidential election held in the last week of May. He defeated his opponent, Hamdeen Sabahi, by securing 96.91 per cent of the votes polled.

Mr. Sisi, 59, is Egypt’s sixth President (not counting interim heads of state), and the fifth with a military background, since the country became a republic in 1953 following the removal of King Farouk by the Army. The only non-military person ever to become Egypt’s elected President was Mohamed Morsi, leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, and now in jail. Mr. Sisi’s election marks both a closure and, perhaps, partial continuation of the strong socio-political turbulence that has gripped Egypt for over three years. It began with a popular uprising in 2011, known as the January 25 Revolution, which brought Mr. Hosni Mubarak’s 30-year-long dictatorial reign to an end. Mr. Morsi was elected in June 2012, only to be unseated from power in July 2013, when he became the target of an even bigger, popular uprising.

 A majority of Egyptians are against religious extremism and prefer peace, safety and stability. 

The yearning for a strong leader

Mr. Sisi’s victory was a foregone conclusion going by the immense popularity he gained after he, as Army chief, backed the huge countrywide protests against Mr. Morsi. He earned the reputation of being a strong leader when he served Mr. Morsi an ultimatum to resign within 48 hours. When the Muslim Brotherhood protested angrily by staging indefinite sit-ins in Cairo squares, he ordered a crackdown by security forces in which nearly a 1,000 of Mr. Morsi’s supporters were killed. He was the de-facto ruler of Egypt even during the reign of the post-Morsi interim government, when a new Constitution was adopted. This is when the Muslim Brotherhood was outlawed and declared a “terrorist organisation.” In the run-up to the presidential poll, Mr. Sisi went to the extent of saying that the Muslim Brotherhood would cease to exist during his presidency.

His election confirms that Egypt has a military-guided democracy. But this should not make us jump to the conclusion that it is not democracy at all, simply military rule in a civilian garb. This is unlikely to happen. The tumultuous events since the overthrow of the hated Mubarak regime have shown that there has been a democratic awakening and activism on a scale unprecedented in Egypt’s history or even Arab history. This mass awakening cannot be suppressed. After his victory, Mr. Sisi has sought to quash apprehensions on this score by saying, “We know that some people fear a return to the past, but this will not happen, there is no going back and we will move forward.”

10 May 2014

The Conspiracy Theory Capital of the World

4 May 2014

Conspiracy theories exist everywhere in the world, but they’re especially common in the Middle East and are rampant in Egypt even by regional standards. They’re generally harmless when only crackpots on the margins believe them, but when they go mainstream and infect the highest levels of government and the media—watch out.

National Geographic has the story on the latest ludicrous theory making the rounds in Egypt, this one put forward by the governor of Minya province.

Local mobs looted a museum and burned fourteen churches to the ground a while back, and he’s blaming the United States in general and the White House in particular.

“It was Obama,” he said. “And all of the American politicians who have divided all of the world. They are the only people who supported the Muslim Brotherhood because they knew that the Muslim Brotherhood would destroy all of Egypt.”

This kind of talk is typical in Egypt and has been for decades. If you don’t think so re-read the essay Samuel Tadros recently wrote about Egypt’s Jewish problem inThe American Interest.

“Israel, Turkey, the United States, the European Union, and Qatar are all conspiring against Egypt, screams a self-proclaimed Egyptian liberal; the United States is working against Copts for the benefit of Jews, shouts a Coptic activist; the Brotherhood is implementing the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, writes thenewspaper of what was once Egypt’s flagship liberal party; Israel aims to divide Egypt into a number of smaller and weaker states, writes another; Brotherhood leaders are Masonic Jews proclaims a Sufi leader; no, it’s the coup that is working for the benefit of the Jews, declares the Brotherhood’s website. These are all symptoms of a decaying society.”

The only difference between those outrageous theories—which span the political spectrum—and the latest is that the United States rather than Israel is at its center.

First let’s get the obvious out of the way. American politicians can’t be the only people in the world who supported the Muslim Brotherhood. Their candidate Mohammad Morsi won 51 percent of the vote in the presidential election, the first and only free and fair one in history.

The Brotherhood’s support cratered, of course, after an epic bout of buyer’s remorse, but nobody—nobody—forced millions of Egyptians to vote for Morsi and his party. That’s on them.

I’m not sure why so many Egyptians think Israelis and Americans are hell-bent on destroying their country. Maybe it’s related to the spotlight effect. But for whatever reason it’s a startlingly common belief. I heard some version or another repeatedly in Cairo even, occasionally, from people who otherwise seemed semi-reasonable.

1 May 2014

Egypt: Danger in the Sinai

Published on The National Interest (
April 30, 2014

When Egypt’s long-time President Hosni Mubarak fell to the throes of the people in 2011, one of his crony institutions to also collapse was the Mabahith Amn ad-Dawla, Egypt’s State Security Investigations Service, responsible for security in the Sinai Peninsula. Already a weak link in the Egyptian security chain, Sinai has since become a semiautonomous zone, proliferated with Salafi-Jihadist groups, Bedouin militias, militant members of the Muslim Brotherhood, and Al Qaeda.

To plug the security vacuum in Sinai, Egypt and Israel have made bilateral, de facto modifications to their 1979 peace treaty which imposed strict limitations on the number of soldiers, type of weapons, and areas within Sinai where Egypt could deploy its forces. The agreement has permitted a greater number of heavily-armed Egyptian military forces into much of Sinai, resulting in a large-scale crackdown on the insurgency. However, Egypt’s counterinsurgency effort has neglected any population-centric initiatives, which is resulting in casualties in the indigenous Bedouin communities. Egypt has failed to understand that insurgencies promote fragility—they grow stronger from chaos. Through the use of brute force, Egypt is actually fueling the fire of extremism in Sinai, where Bedouin support for extremists is growing.

Projecting sovereignty across its entire territory is not a new problem for Egypt, but the revolution of 2011 and the coup d'état in 2013 have hastened Egypt’s need to quell the unrest. For Egypt to regain control of Sinai, at least to the level that it existed prior to the revolution, it is important to understand the changing dynamics of Sinai, and how this is impacting security in the region.

The Muslim Brotherhood

With the former head of Egypt’s armed forces, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, almost certain to be elected as Egypt’s next president, his main priority once in power will be to suppress the current wave of Islamist anger, which Egypt claims is being led by the Muslim Brotherhood, who consider the current government as illegitimate following the overthrow of President Morsi in 2013. However, the recent bombings [3], which have swept through Cairo and other cities, have largely been carried out by Sinai’s most active militant group—Ansar Bait al-Maqdis. Recently designated as a foreign terrorist organization by the United States, the jihadist group has claimed responsibility for a host of terrorist attacks since the revolution of 2011, yet the Egyptian government has shifted the blame for the attacks and ensuing chaos onto the Muslim Brotherhood. While this move has worked politically to discredit the Muslim Brotherhood, it is foolhardy for Egypt to heighten the perceived threat of the Brotherhood, while lessening that of Ansar Bait al-Maqdis, especially when there have been allegations of financial and military cooperation between the groups [4].

16 February 2014

The Egypt Effect: Sharpened Tensions, Reshuffled Alliances

 FEBRUARY 13, 2014 


Throughout the Middle East, the overthrow of Egypt’s Mohamed Morsi has heightened Islamist-secularist tensions and pushed actors toward zero-sum politics.

The military coup that overthrew then Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi in early July 2013 and the new government’s ensuing crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood are having a dramatic impact on the politics, security, and rights environment in Egypt. But the effects of these events outside Egypt’s borders—in North Africa, the Levant, the Gulf, and Turkey—are also significant.

The Egypt effect has generally heightened Islamist-secularist tensions and pushed the region in the direction of zero-sum politics rather than consensus building. Islamist leaders and parties that behaved just a year ago as though their ascendance to power through elections was a historical inevitability are now on the defensive. At the same time, secularists—whether in opposition or in power—are more assertive and less ready to compromise. This dynamic has led some Islamists to become increasingly defiant in their isolation. In some cases, it has enlivened Islamist dissent in surprising ways.

Other Islamists have become more modest in their expectations as a result of these trends. In some countries—notably Tunisia—elected Islamists with much to lose have looked at their fellow Islamists’ fate and decided to compromise to avert all-out confrontation.

Meanwhile, the Egypt effect has not been limited to domestic politics, impacting foreign policies across the region as well. Following Morsi’s ouster, Egypt’s regional partnerships have been completely reordered. Egypt’s relations have deteriorated sharply with countries that were friendly to the Islamist government and have rebounded with those that opposed the Muslim Brotherhood. The coup has invigorated regional foreign policies of the Middle East’s more conservative powers—led by Saudi Arabia—while countries unhappy with events in Egypt, primarily Turkey, have been left on the sidelines to protest the actions of Egypt’s military-backed government.


Tunisians were “the only people who won something out of what happened in Egypt,” according to activist Amira Yahyaoui. The ripple effects of the Egyptian coup initially exacerbated tensions between Islamists and secularists in Tunisiabut then helped persuade Islamists to compromise to prevent the failure of the country’s democratic experiment.

Initially, Tunisia’s political transition following the 2011 ouster of then president Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali was marked by increasing polarization between Islamists in the governing Ennahda party (affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood) and their secular opponents. The tensions heightened after the assassination of prominent leftist politician Chokri Belaid in February 2013.

5 February 2014

Where is Egypt going?

February 3, 2014

Now that three years have elapsed since the 2011 Revolution in Egypt, it is pertinent, nay, imperative, to ask the central question: Where is Egypt? Where is it going? On January 25, 2011 Egyptians shed fear of their repressive government that had deprived them of their human rights for decades and gathered in the world famous Tahrir Square to demand that President Hosni Mubarak resign. Mubarak, in office for thirty years, fell eighteen days later. Millions of Egyptians in Tahrir Square and elsewhere saw the exit of Mubarak as signaling the beginning of Egypt’s journey towards democracy. Three years later, it is painfully clear that Egypt has lost its way towards democracy; in fact, it is heading fast in the opposite direction. The police state under Mubarak is being restored; freedom of expression has been drastically abridged; dissent does provoke punishment; political prisoners total up to twenty one thousand; and political demonstrations need prior permission. Egypt is under military rule and a field marshal is soon going to be elected president.

The Egyptians who assembled, or more accurately, who were permitted to assemble, in Tahrir Square on January 2014 did not go there to celebrate the 2011 Revolution. They went there to bury that Revolution and to celebrate the 2003 coup. Many carried big photos of General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and of Nasser, the most charismatic leader in the Arab world in our times. The obvious intention was to suggest that al-Sisi is the Nasser of the day, and the savior of Egypt. Some carried photographs of Mubarak, a clear indication that the Mubarak loyalists, known asfulul, are actively engaged in politics, supporting the regime in power. It was a state-funded and state-sponsored, superbly and expensively choreographed event. There was a state-of-the-art stage, a far cry from the rickety, shaky one in 2011 the same day. The lighting system was sophisticated and expensive. The crowd was there to cheer General al-Sisi. There were t-shirts and sweets displaying his image in galore. Predictably enough on January 27 the General was promoted Field Marshal and the SCAF(Supreme Council of Armed Forces) ‘approved’ his candidature at the Presidential election, dates for which are yet to be announced. Incidentally, the choreography is unerring. The interim President, Adly Mansour, appointed by al- Sisi, had earlier said that the election to the Parliament would take place before that of the President. Later, it was announced that there was flexibility, meaning the sequence could be reversed. The intention is to take advantage of the current high popularity of al-Sisi whom many women say on television that they want to marry.

It is time to look analytically and critically at the political developments in Egypt since the exit of Mubarak in February 2011. Otherwise it will not be possible to understand what is now happening. The first and foremost point to note is that it was a flawed and incomplete revolution: Mubarak fell, but the ‘the Deep State’ that supported and enabled him to sustain his dictatorship did not fall. The concept of the Deep State was originally applied to Ottoman Turkey and its republican successor founded by Ataturk. It basically meant secret sources of political power. Currently, in Egypt’s case, it means the triumvirate of the Army, the Higher Judiciary, and the Intelligence agencies, generally known as the Mukhabarat in the Arab world. Out of the three the Army is the leader and others are ‘attendant lords’.

The second point to underline is that the Deep State did not want Egypt to be a democracy as it had everything to lose if that were to happen. The SCAF grabbed power when Mubarak fell; Egyptians hold the Army in high esteem and when the Army announced that it would arrange for election in six months time and hand over power to a democratically elected government most Egyptians believed it. However, the Army was in no hurry to hand over power. It delayed the election, finally held and completed in eleven months. Here it is important to look at the collaboration between the Army and the Higher Judiciary. Judge Tahani el Gebali, Deputy President of the Supreme Constitutional Court, was the friend, philosopher, and guide to SCAF in legal matters. She advised the postponement of the election to the parliament pointing out the risk of the Muslim Brotherhood’s victory. When the results came with the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafists winning a 70% majority, SCAF regretted the holding of election and told her that she was right.