A collection of posts on the recent Turkish move in Syria and Iraq

Here is a selection of articles on the recent Turkish decision to strike the Kurdish PKK and the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq.

image

First, this EDAM discussion paper articulates the possible rationale of the recent Turkish intervention:

“The rationale for Ankara’s intervention may be:

a) to repel ISIS and eliminate

the threat near Turkish borders and quell the criticisms for its lack of

Involvement.

b) to disallow Kurdish PYD (which many in Ankara see in line with

the PKK threat) to capture Jarablus and strengthen its bid for autonomy.

c) to create a buffer zone to host refugee waves.

d) to use the territory a logistical base for Syrian rebels for them to launch offensives against Assad regime’s remaining positions in Aleppo.

 In this post by Steven Cook discuses the risks of the American involvement 

“Ankara is a less potent ally in the fight against the Islamic State than the Kurds, it is no longer a significant player in the future of Iraq, and it maintains a wholly unrealistic view of what will happen in Syria if the Assad regime falls. The Middle East is hard and Syria is especially complex, but it is difficult to see what the United States gets out of the deal other than the runways of Incirlik. That is not going to solve either Syria or the problematic conditions that created the Islamic State, but it will pull Washington closer to war on Turkish terms. In Turkish it is called bataklık, or quagmire.”

Yavuz Baydar wrote about the domestic implications

“Does Obama even realize the immense risk that such calculations may drag Turkey into a swamp of violence? I have my strong doubts.

Abandoning the peace process and opening the ground for endless provocations at this stage promises only vendetta and bloodshed.

Let me end with the June 7 election results in the 12 mainly Kurdish provinces of Turkey, where the HDP emerged as the first party:

Kars (44 percent), Mardin (73.26), Şırnak (85.36), Hakkari (86.4), Diyarbakır (79.06), Batman (72.58), Siirt (65.81), Van (74.82), Muş (71.32), Bitlis (60.36), Ağrı (78.22) and Tunceli (60.91).

Does anyone have any idea where we should place this free vote and the will it represents in Parliament, in the ugly picture of war and mass arrests, targeting a “negotiating partner” and Kurds in general?”

On the Kurdish side, Mustafa Gurbuz wrote

“It is true that Demirtas is not so powerful to challenge PKK’s hegemony, but it is unwarranted to deny ongoing competition for the leadership within the Kurdish movement.

Attacks against the HDP have always been concurrent with attacks against Huda-Par, the legal party associated with the Kurdish Hizbullah.

Bombing HDP’s rally in Diyarbakir and the gathering in Suruc were followed by the murder of Huda-Par members, portrayed as “hate crimes” against ISIS militants in the news media.

Whoever is behind these attacks and whichever narrative one may believe, the gap between political parties is widening day by day and forming a strong coalition is becoming a remote possibility for Prime Minister Davutoglu.”

Finally, here is Senator McCain’s statement

“However, we are concerned about reports of Turkish forces shelling Kurdish villages inside Syria.  As the United States and Turkey enhance our cooperation against ISIL, we believe these mutual efforts will be most effective in collaboration with local forces on the ground, including the Kurds.

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Egyptian Aak 2015 – Week 30 ( July 20 – 26)

Top Headlines

  • France delivers first batch of Rafale fighter jets to Egypt. (Monday)
  • Egypt’s most wanted militant urges jihad against Sisi. (Wednesday)
  • Ships cross Egypt’s New Suez Canal in first test-run. (Saturday)
  • Egypt extends state of emergency in North Sinai by three months. (Sunday)

New Suez Canal

(First cargo ships passed through the new Suez Canal, via Ahram)

Main Headlines

Monday

 Tuesday

Wednesday

Thursday

 Friday

 Saturday

 Sunday

 Good Report

 On the fugitive officer Hisham el-Ashmawi:

Others:

Good Read

Plus

 From Twitter

Interview

 Photo Gallery

Posted in Diary of Aak, Egypt | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Iran Deal: A potential kiss of death for liberalism in the Middle East

Iran Mullah

Initially published in Egypt’s Ahram.

After 12 years of diplomatic proposals and 20 months of tough negotiations, theocratic Iran and world powers have reached a nuclear deal that, regardless of its potential advantages, is undoubtedly a victory for smart illiberalism and a potential kiss of death for the prospect of liberal, pluralistic democracies in the Middle East.

Both illiberal Shia and Sunni Islamists and illiberal non-Islamist autocrats could receive an enormous boost from the deal.

A few years ago, against all advice, I visited the Islamic Republic of Iran. To my surprise, I found a vibrant nation, with many liberal youth yearning for freedom and democracy. Those youth may now celebrate the lifting of sanctions and the end of isolation, but it is doubtful the nuclear deal will bridge the deep divide between them and their theocratic rulers.

For the Iranian Mullahs, the nuclear deal is an indirect acknowledgment from the West that their anti-modernity model is viable and successful. US President Barack Obama may be genuine in his hopes that Iran will abandon its “path of violence and rigid ideology” following this “historic agreement,” but his hopes may turn out to be no more than wishful thinking.

The regime –now less isolated– has less incentive to couple its agreed abandonment of its nuclear program with an abandonment of what it sees as successful ideology than ever before.

Many commentators have pointed out that the deal could not have come at a worse time for the Arab world. With open sectarian tension in many Arab countries, a strong Islamic Iran will only inspire other political Islamic groups to try to match up to the Mullahs.

Iran’s regional influence in Lebanon, Iraq, Syria, and Yemen will only prompt a counter movement by forces that share an underlying belief in Islamism, but differ in its sectarian interpretation. Since 1979, Sunni Islamism has learned one important lesson from Iran: “Yes, we can” -– a slogan the Islamists touted quietly, long before Obama uttered those words in 2008.

Arab Islamists saw theocratic Iran as a perfect model for fulfilling their dream of ruling Muslim societies. The new nuclear deal will add two more lessons, and liberal democracy is not one of them– defiance and lobbying in Washington.

Last Saturday, Ahrar Al-Sham, an Islamist Sunni insurgent group fighting in Syria, published an article in the Washington Post  claiming to believe in “a moderate future for Syria.” Charles Lister, a visiting fellow at Brookings, scrutinized their claim: “Ahrar Al-Sham has been one of the most consistent military allies of Al-Qaeda affiliate Jabhat Al-Nusra.” The publication of the article in itself indicates how some people in the corridors of power in Washington are willing to buy Ahrar’s narrative.

The implication for Syria could not be more serious. Syria will continue to be torn between two mutually exclusive Sunni versus Shia forces; many of them are radical, ruthless, and undemocratic. Somehow, the Obama administration seems to see no problem in embracing both. As columnist Joyce Karam  has written, Obama’s choices for Iran should be coupled with a regional strategy for his administration. CNN’s Farid Zakaria thinks that Washington and others can talk to both sides of the divide to try to broker a reduction of tensions. However, tacitly embracing radical Shia militias’ fight against radical Sunni groups such as the Islamic State (ISIS), while pretending that other radicals such as Ahrar Al-Sham are moderate, does not seem to be a sound strategy.

In Egypt, neither the removal of Hosni Mubarak nor the ousting of Mohamed Morsi has produced a liberal democracy. Moreover, a significant section of the Muslim Brotherhood, despite its antipathy to Shia Islamism, has started to view the Iranian model as the way forward to regain power.

They wrongly attribute their failure to run the country during Morsi’s tenure to what they describe as their “reluctance to embrace “revolutionary politics.”  The Mullahs’ violent ejection of their opponents in 1979 is seen as “a model.” In addition, the Muslim Brotherhood and its supporters will continue to lobby in Washington, hoping that its projection of an Iranian–style defiance will convince the Obama Administration to exert pressure on the leadership in Cairo to change its posture toward the group.

On the other hand, many among President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi’s supporters will use Iran as a pretext to justify more crackdown on opponents, and argue that world powers, which are willing to lift sanctions against the Iranian regime, despite 36 years of ruthless rule, have no moral ground on which to judge Egypt.

In his speech in Cairo  in 2009, President Obama advocated tolerance, respect for minorities, and religious freedom. He also said elections alone do not constitute a true democracy.

Now, as Hisham Melhem, Bureau Chief of the Al Arabiya News Channel in Washington, has pointed out, “after almost six and a half years of trying to shape events in the Middle East, President Obama has very little to show for it except the nuclear deal with Iran.” More alarmingly, the American president seems to have lowered the bar, and is now willing to accept a softer definition of moderation to include any group, entity, or state willing to show pragmatism and cooperation with the United States, regardless of that state’s intolerant actions on the ground.

There are intrinsic reasons behind the metastasizing sectarian and ethnic conflicts that followed the failed Arab awakening. It is unreasonable to expect the United States to “fix” the region; however, it is dangerous for the US to empower illiberalism in a region that suffers mainly as a consequence of its illiberal players. It would be a pity if President Obama went down in the history books as the man who fumbled with the West’s anti-illiberalism alarm button, and embraced the enemies of liberalism in the Middle East.

Posted in Best Read, Iran, Middle East, Politics, Syria | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Egyptian Aak 2015 – Week 29 ( July 13- 19)

Top Headlines

  • Italy vows to help Egypt fight terrorism (Monday)
  • El-Sisi says Al-Azhar has failed to renew Islamic discourse (Tuesday)
  • Egypt’s Islamic State affiliate claims rocket attack on naval boat (Thursday)
  • Islamic State claims attack on military checkpoint in North Sinai

Naval photo

ISIS ‘s missile attack against an Egyptian navy – Photo via Reuters

Main Headlines

 Monday

Tuesday

Wednesday

Thursday

Friday

Saturday

 Sunday

Good Reports

Good Read

Video

 Plus:

From Twitter

Photo Gallery

Anti Harassment police woman

Anti-harassmant policewoman in Cairo- via Ahram

Finally here are Jayson Casper’s prayers for Egypt

Happy Eid

Posted in Diary of Aak, Egypt | Tagged , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Egyptian Aak 2015 – Week 28 ( July 6-12)

Top Headlines

  • Egypt’s Sisi approves new parliamentary election law. (Thursday)
  • The Egyptian-born actor Omar Sharif died on Friday at the age of 83. (Friday)
  • Car bombing at Italian Consulate in Cairo kills one

Italian consulate bombing

Main Headlines  

Monday

Tuesday

Wednesday

 Thursday

 Friday 

 Saturday

Sunday

Good Reports

Good Read

On Omar Sharif:

From Twitter

Photo Gallery

 Plus

  • Egypt’s 1st information minister Abdel Kader Hatem dies at 93
  • Wikileaks: Saudi Arabia and Azhar on the ‘Shia encroachment’ in Egypt

Factbox:

Finally here are Jayson Casper’s prayers for Egypt

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

The Myth of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Gradualism in Power

Two years after the ousting of the Muslim Brotherhood’s President Mohamed Morsi, many still wonder how the Muslim Brotherhood failed in Egypt. Yesterday, Hudson Institute’s Senior Fellow Samuel Tadros  summarized what went wrong in few insightful tweets, which definitely worth sharing.

One addition:

Reflecting on the past does not mean condoning current injustices, oppression, and death sentences.

There is an alarming tendency among some Muslim Brotherhood’s supporters to spin the past. Historical revisionism, however, is dangerous and will not help the Brotherhood in their struggle for survival. 

Posted in Diary of Aak, Egypt | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Egyptian Aak 2015 – Week 27 ( June 29 – July 5)

Top Headlines

  • Car bomb kill Egypt’s public prosecutor (Monday)
  • Egyptian army counter a major attack by militants in Sinai (Wednesday)
  • Israel’s IDF has reportedly decided to grant all Egyptian requests to reinforce troops in Sinai
  • Egypt’s Sisi inspect security forces in Sinai in his military uniform. (Saturday)
  • New terrorism law could target journalists in Egypt. (Saturday)

 Sisi uniform

(Egypt’s Sisi in military uniform in North Sinai visit, via Ahram)

Main Headlines

 Monday

Tuesday

Wednesday

Thursday

 Friday

 Saturday

Sunday

Good Reports

Good Read

From Twitter

 

Plus

Video

Photo Gallery

Venus Jupiter

Venus and Jupiter are coming closer in Cairo skies

Via Egypt Independent  

Finally here are Jayson Casper’s prayers for Egypt

Posted in Diary of Aak, Egypt | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Sinai’s Violence: A Timeline ( 2004 – 2015)

Following the recent terror attacks in Sinai, some tried to portray the violence as an armed insurgency in response to July 3 coup against Morsi. Sinai militancy, however, has been ongoing before Morsi, continued during his tenure, and after his ousting. Here is a summery of main events since 2004. 

Sinai violence

(photo via Reuters)

During Mubarak

 2004

  • Bomb blasts at Egyptian resorts in South Sinai, in which at least 28 people died.

2005

  • At least 88 people have been killed in bomb attacks in the Egyptian resort of Sharm al-Sheikh

2006

  • At least 23 people – including three foreigners – have been killed and 62 wounded in three blasts in the Egyptian resort town of Dahab

2010

  • Rocket attacks on Israel’s Eilat and Jordan’s Aqaba fired from Egypt’s Sinai

2011

  • Egyptian pipeline supplying gas to Israel near the Gaza Strip amid raging protests against Mubarak

After the revolution/ before Morsi (February 2011- June 2012) 

During Morsi’s tenure (July 2012- July 3 2013)

  • Two American tourists and their Egyptian guide who were abducted by a Bedouin were later released. July 2012
  • Gunmen killed about 15 Egyptian border guards and hijacked armoured vehicles to launch an attack across the Israeli border. August 2012
  • Egyptian army under Morsi launched Operation Sinai against militants in Sinai
  • Dozens of militants attack peacekeeper headquarters in Sinai, three wounded. September 2012
  • One Israeli soldier was killed and another was wounded morning in a battle with three men who stormed into Israel from Sinai. September 2012

After the ousting of Morsi

 2013

  • At least three people were killed when militants fired rocket-propelled grenades at a bus carrying factory workers in North Sinai. July 2013
  • At least 25 Egyptian soldiers were killed in a rocket-propelled grenade attack near Rafah August 2013
  • At least six soldiers have been killed in a double suicide bomb attack in Rafah. September 2013
  • An attack security headquarters in Sinai town of Al-Tor killed two, and injured 48. October 2013.
  • A car bomb exploded Saturday near an Egyptian military intelligence compound in the Suez Canal city of Ismailia. October 2013
  • A suicide bomber rammed his explosive-laden car into a convoy of buses carrying off-duty soldiers, between Rafah and al-Arish. November 2013

2014

During Sisi’s tenure

 From June 2014

2015

Posted in Diary of Aak, Egypt | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

Violent Islamism: Our amazing disgrace

A tourist reads messages left at a makeshift memorial at the beach near the Imperial Marhaba resort, which was attacked by a gunman in Sousse, Tunisia, June 29, 2015. REUTERS/Zohra Bensemra

A tourist reads messages left at a makeshift memorial at the beach near the Imperial Marhaba resort, which was attacked by a gunman in Sousse, Tunisia, June 29, 2015. REUTERS/Zohra Bensemra

Initially published in Egypt’s Ahram

Friday’s carnage on three continents, in which scores of people died in Tunisia, Kuwait, and France has appalled the global community and reinforced international condemnation of the Islamic State (IS), which has claimed responsibility for them.

Yet in spite of the global horror over the sheer brutality and senselessness of these murders, deep differences exist among intellectuals concerning the causes of such terror and how to confront it. There is even disagreement over whether the term “Islamism” can be ascribed to the context of such acts of terror.

This lack of global consensus is one reason why such acts prevail, and is the simplest explanation for why groups like the Islamic State continue to gain ground in the Middle East. Barbarism that is countered by weak, unharmonious resistance is bound to spread with increasing brutality.

In France, according to a source involved in the police investigation, the man suspected of decapitating his boss and pinning his head to the gates of a gas factory posted a “selfie” showing him with the head he severed. In Kuwait, the killer stood among Shia worshippers during their prayers in a mosque before he murdered them. In Tunisia, peaceful sunbathers were butchered en masse in cold blood.

These three stories highlight not just the sheer ruthlessness of the murderers, but also how the reasons advanced for the rise of Jihadism are not necessarily applicable.

Some top pundits warned people against condemning the attacks without acknowledging that injustice, oppression, and marginalisation are root causes behind them. However, they conveniently ignores how Tunisia is not an autocracy as other Arab states are, and its Islamists are included in the government; the victims in France were not journalists who had published offensive cartoons, as in the case of the Charlie Hebdo massacre; and the Shia community of Kuwait has no record of revolting against Sunni rulers in order to trigger the anger of Sunni radicals.

All the classic justifications that have been used in the past to try to rationalise previous heinous crimes do not even exist this time.

The Islamic State recruits disenfranchised individuals who are struggling to cope with the injustices and burdens of our harsh, often cruel, lonely life. Nasser Weddady, who is preparing a research paper on combating extremist propaganda, gave his insights in a gripping New York Times piece by Rukmini Callimachi: “All of us have a natural firewall in our brain that keeps us from bad ideas. They look for weaknesses in the wall, and then they attack.”

Indeed, lack of democracy, oppression and authoritarianism are common reasons behind the alienation of many youths and they do make some young people easy targets for the Islamic State’s propaganda, but the group is happy to advance a variety of other reasons.

With the world map embossed on its newly minted coins, the Islamic State’s main ambition is clear. The group aspires to dominate the entire world, not just the Middle East. Bearing that context in mind, the group has to use conflicting justifications for the terror it uses to pursue its political aims.

In Egypt, the ousting of Islamists from power is used as a reason; in Tunisia, the inclusive democracy that allowed non-Islamists to rule is also used as a reason. Targeting the tourism industry is a sinister way of undermining the current government in Tunisia and the fragile democratic experience in the country. If tourists are the sole focus of IS, why the group did not attack Morocco for example? Let’s not forget that Tunisia has done nothing to provoke the Islamic State, and it has not participated in US airstrikes against IS in Syria or Iraq.

Without understanding that radicals detest non-Islamist democrats as much as they detest non-Islamist dictators, there is no hope of fighting extremism in the Middle East. A flourishing liberal democracy in the Middle East is, in fact, the radicals’ worst nightmare, because it deprives them of the victimisation they excel at using to serve their political ideology.

On the other hand, a closer look at Syria highlights how IS fought and killed other rebels, including Islamists who were not alien to them. The group disdains non-violent Islamists and does not hesitate to kill even the most conservative Muslims if they dare to challenge their authority.

The Islamic State represents a greater challenge to political Islam than autocracy and dictatorship. With its bloodshed, the Islamic State is killing the concept that Islamism can be civil and non-violent. The stake for moderate Islamists is much higher; hence, they need to realise the danger and join the fight, at least to prove they provide a viable alternative template to barbarism.

Furthermore, some countries, such as Turkey, have opted to ignore the security threat of the Islamic State, despite the fact that the group operates freely near its southern border. In fact, Turkey focuses instead on its fear of the Kurds near its borders. On the same day of last Friday’s carnage, President Erdogan openly stated he would not allow a Kurdish state in Syria. The Turkish president conveniently ignores the fact that the Kurds are not fighting Turkey, but fighting the Islamic State, which slaughtered many innocent civilians in the Syrian Kurdish town of Kobane near the Turkish border last Thursday.

In addition, conspiracy theories continue to gain currency in the Middle East. The classic response to IS’s atrocities is to blame Israel and America, and claim without reliable evidence that they back the group. Others focus their grievances on Ayaan Hirsi Ali and her views, which many Muslims consider Islamophobic, claiming that IS serves only right-wing Western fascists who hate Islam. A third group has ignored the carnage completely and focuses instead on other irrelevant matters. It was so unsettling to see the angry comments of so many Egyptians and Arabs streaming in on social media about the US sanctioning gay marriages following Friday’s terror wave. If America’s tolerance is more unsettling to some than intolerance of IS, then no wonder radicalism will continue to prevail.

The key to fighting IS effectively is to stop our own infighting. Watching different camps exchanging accusations is not the way forward. Postulating conspiracy theories, resenting minorities like the Kurds who bravely fight IS, and complaining about the rise of Islamophobia will not help either.

The defeat of the IS does not need an innovative approach; it needs the simple recognition that all of us have a stake in the battle, and we need to do our part to fight evil, instead of exchanging blame and pointing fingers. The Islamic State continues to win because of our collective “amazing disgrace.” If we fail to unite against barbarism, then the ripples of blood will drown us all.

Posted in Best Read, Middle East, Politics | Tagged , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Egyptian Aak 2015 – Week 26 ( June 22 – 28)

sandstorm

Sandstorm hits Egypt – Ahramonline

Top Headlines

  • Prominent Al Jazeera journalist and Muslim Brotherhood supporter Ahmed Mansour has been released by the German authorities (Monday)
  • Egypt opens Rafah border with Gaza for the third time in a month (Tuesday)
  • GCC is not expected to provide Egypt with additional aid during FY2015/2016 (Sunday) 

Main Headlines

 Monday

Tuesday

Wednesday

Thursday

Friday

 Saturday

Sunday

 Good reports

Good Read

From twitter

Interview

  • TV series about history of Egypt’s Jews misleading: Albert Arie. Dina Ezzat

Plus

Finally here are Jayson Casper’s prayers for Egypt

Posted in Diary of Aak, Egypt | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment