This Week in Egypt: Week 20- 2018 ( May 14-20)

Top Headlines

  • Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia reach agreement on next steps for dam technical studies
  • Egypt’s Sisi orders Gaza border opened throughout the month of Ramadan
  • Egypt opens four North Sinai hospitals to the rising number of Palestinian protesters wounded by Israeli forces in Gaza
  • Sudan has summoned Egypt’s ambassador to complain about a TV series
  • ‘Sinai Province’ set up underground camps in Ismailia to train foreign militants
  • Egypt’s Sisi pardons 332 prisoners including youths and poor health conditions
  • Coptic Orthodox Archbishop of London gives prayer at UK’s royal wedding

 Main Headlines

Monday

Tuesday

Wednesday

Thursday

Friday

Saturday

 Sunday

Good Reports

Good Read

From Twitter

Sports

Plus

Finally here are Jayson Casper’s prayers for Egypt

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Iran Deal and the Empowerment of Islamism

Here is an English version of my latest piece in Al-Hurra on Iran nuclear deal, which I have rejected since 2015.

You can read the Arabic version here

 

No Iran deal

“The Iran Deal was one of the worst and most one-sided transactions the United States has ever entered into.”  With those tough words, American President Donald Trump terminatedthe United States’ participation in the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action(JCPOA) regarding Iran’s nuclear program. His decision has created a global uproar among supporters of the deal, and some applause from others who oppose it. Three years ago, I wrote against the Iran nuclear deal. Today, I still stand against it.

The Iran nuclear deal has never been just about that country’s nuclear ambitions. For the Iranian Mullahs, the deal has been a tool to clinch an acknowledgment, albeit indirectly, from the West, that their anti-modernity model is viable and successful. In 2015, I wrote that any hopes Iran would abandon its “path of violence and rigid ideology” after forging a deal with Western powers could turn out to be no more than wishful thinking.  Three years later, Iran’s toxic rule in the Syrian civil war, its backing of the Houthis in Yemen, and the domination of its proxy, Hezbollah, in Lebanon, are all undeniable facts. My fears have proven to be true.

However, it is alarming and disheartening to see that many liberal Westerners supported the deal, in spite of the damage Iranian rule has caused in many Middle Eastern countries. Worse still, these countries are still defending Iran.

A few weeks ago, French President Emmanuel Macron dazzled his audience in the American Congress by defending the liberal order. “We have encountered countless rendezvous with death, because we have this constant attachment to freedom and democracy,”the French President said.  He added: “Together with our international allies and partners, we are facing inequalities created by globalization, threats to the planet, our common good, attacks on democracies through the rise of illiberalism, and the destabilization of our international community by new powers and criminal states.”

However, in the same speech the French president defended the Iran deal, and together with Germany and the United Kingdom, has continued to support it, even after President Trump’s decision to withdraw.

Such a contradiction in the French stance sums up what is wrong with the current Western order. It claims to fight illiberalism, but then rushes in to forge deals with an illiberal Islamist regime. It faces threats from terrorism, but is willing to sign business agreements with those who worship and glorify death.

There are different types of illiberalism in the Middle East, but the worst is Islamist illiberalism. Political Islam, with its Sunni and Shia branches, is a dark, deeply regressive ideology that claims to provide an alternative to Western modernity. Islamists, however, prefer to preach the harsh version of their ideology to their local audience, and opt to address their Western audience in a different tune.

For years, I have watched certain Islamists trying to portray their ideology as benign and compatible with Western values. Iranians, in particular, have excelled at such an approach. They exploited the rise of ISIS, a predominantly Sunni radical group, to portray Iran-backed militias as counter-terrorism groups. That was a big fat lie.

In reality, both sub-branches of Islamism share many common beliefs. Moreover, there is no difference in savagery between radical Sunni and radical Shia groups. The only difference, however, is that the Shia groups are directly under the control of the Iran Revolutionary Guard, a force that funds and trains radicals, and channels their savagery, away from Western eyes, in their imperial grounds, particularly in Iraq and Syria. On the other hand, Sunni radicals are much more diverse, and have managed to metastasize in various Western countries.

On February 1, 1979, Iran’s Ayatollah Khomeini flew from France to Iran in a chartered Air France Flight 4721. His grim face and black attire summed up the fate of the region in the years to follow. And his rule in Iran triggered a nasty trail of  black, bleak, and beyond. His predecessors did not moderate. In fact, they ruthlessly crushed two rebellions in Iran and supported Assad’s barbarism in Syria, while playing doves versus hawks to Western audiences

Liberalism does not mean cherry picking between various Islamist brands. It also does not mean taking the middle ground between Islamist and non-Islamist Muslims. Liberalism is about standing for Western values against those who undermine them, because political Islamists are not, and will never be, friends to the West. Moreover, liberal forces should not empower any branch of Islamism over the other. Such empowerment can only trigger a ruthless competition that will lead to more savagery and bloodshed in an already volatile Middle East

I do not advocate a regime change in Iran, and I certainly don’t support a nuclear war in the region. But let’s be clear, the Iranian regime has had no intention of coupling the abandonment of its nuclear program with an abandonment of its aggressive Islamist transnational ideology. Therefore, supporters of the Iran deal need to acknowledge that their initial hope for Iranian moderation has just been wishful thinking. Such acknowledgement would be the first step to get out of the current crisis and plan for a better future, free from whitewashing Islamism.

 

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This Week in Egypt: Week 19 – 2018 ( may 7-13)

Top Headlines 

  • Egypt’s credit rating is upgraded by S&P Global Ratings
  • Outrage erupts and protesters were arrested over Cairo metro price hike
  • No tangible results achieved in recent Addis Ababa tripartite meeting
  • Egypt follows with “great concern” developments of US withdrawal from Iran deal
  • Egypt’s Supreme State Security Prosecution says number of Wilayat Sinai terrorists received training in Syria and Iraq
  • Egyptian pop-singer Sherine acquitted on charges of ‘offending Egypt’ over Nile water comment

 Main Headlines

 Monday

Tuesday

Wednesday

  • Egypt follows with great concern developments of US withdrawal from Iran deal
  • Egypt’s Supreme State Security Prosecution says number of Wilayat Sinai terrorists received training in Syria and Iraq
  • Water politics: Museveni invites Egypt’s president to visit the source of the Nile.
  • An Egyptian doctor is dismissed and sentenced to one year in prison over disagreement with local prosecutor
  • Egypt’s irrigation minister heads to South Sudan to discuss water cooperation
  • Egypt approves oil exploration deal with Italy’s Eni, Egyptian firm Tharwa off northern Sinai coast
  • Egyptian pop singer Sherine is acquitted on charges of ‘offending Egypt’ over Nile water comment

Thursday

Friday

Saturday

Sunday

Good Reports 

From Twitter

 

 

Sports

  • Egypt’s Mo Salahbreaks Premier League scoring record as Liverpool secure Champions League football

 Video

Plus

  • Archaeologists find remains of Roman-era templein Egypt dates back to the 2nd century reign of Roman Emperor Antoninus Pius

Finally here are Jayson Casper’s prayers for Egypt

 

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

As the world awaits the US President Trump’s decision on Iran nuclear deal, I herewith reblog my piece from 2015 on why I oppossed the deal. Two years later, as Iran and its allies control most of Syria, and dominate Lebanon’s political scene, I still stand with my views.

Nervana

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…

View original post 819 more words

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This Week in Egypt: Week 18-2018 (Apr 30- May 6)

Top Headlines

  • Egypt wants to speed up negotiations on Ethiopian Dam
  • Nile dam won’t harm Egypt, says new Ethiopian leader
  • US Congress withholds aid to Egypt
  • Egypt’s FM said that sending Arab troops to Egypt is a possibility, but ministry asserted that his comments do not pertain to Egypt
  • Egypt’s foreign reserves hit a new record amid rigorous economic reforms
  • Khaled Mohieddin, Egypt’s last surviving 1952 revolutionary leaders dies

Khaled Moheeiddin

Khaled Mohieddin

 

Main Headlines

 Monday

Tuesday

Wednesday

 Thursday

Friday

Saturday

Sunday

Good Reports

Good Read

From Twitter

Plus

Finally here are Jayson Casper’s prayers for Egypt

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This Week in Egypt: Week 17-2018 ( April 23-29)

Top Headlines

  • An Egyptian military court sentences former chief auditor Geneina to 5 years in prison for ‘broadcasting false news’
  • Egypt wants to speed up Ethiopia dam negotiations
  • Heavy rains pummel Cairo and parts of Egypt
  • Egyptian, Bahraini special forces conclude joint military exercise in Bahrain
  • Egypt decries HRW report on bad conditions due to ‘siege’ its army imposed on North Sinai
  • Death sentence upheld for six MB members over 2013 violence
  • Egypt approves £400 fines for people who pester tourists

Main Headlines

 Monday

Tuesday

Wednesday

 Thursday 

Friday

Saturday

Sunday

Good Reports

From Twitter

Interview:

Plus

Finally here are Jayson Casper’s prayers for Egypt

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Qatar crisis: Why Qatar is obsessed with the UAE

Here is an English version of my latest for Al-Hurra, you can read it in Arabic here

Qatar UAE

It has become increasingly clear that Qatar’s diplomatic crisis with its neighbours will not be solved anytime soon. When the dispute began in June 2017, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Bahrain, and Egypt imposed a travel and trade ban on Qatar over accusations of supporting terrorism. Western observers predicted that the dispute would be solved “soon.” The naïve prediction did not happen__and the crisis lingers on.

The Saudi-led coalition issued 13 demands to lift the blockade, which included closing down Al-Jazeera, the TV voice of the Arab spring, and dropping support for the Muslim Brotherhood. Thus far, Qatar has refused to fulfil those demands. Moreover, Qatar has maintained its bond with radicals despite reassuring the American administration of its determination to fight terrorism. On April 11, Qatari PM was guest of honour at an event hosted by one of the world’s most prolific terror financiers, Abd al-Rahman bin Umayr al-Nuaymi, weeks after his government designated Mr Nuaymi a financier of terrorism.

Too much ink has been wasted on articles poorly analysing the conflict, often defending Qatar and portraying its neighbours as unreasonable in their demands. The latest article published in the Financial Times described the Qatari crisis as a “blockade,” and stated that it makes “no sense.”

However, the boycott of Qatar makes absolute sense, except to those who insist on seeing it as tribal Gulf flare-up that will eventually end after token compromises, complimented with hugs and handshakes. In fact, the crisis has reached a critical juncture, with broken bonds, and it is unlikely to be resolved any time soon.

There are several political, ideological, and even tribal, dimensions behind the dispute between Qatar and its neighbours. Nonetheless, the core of the crisis is a dispute on strategic vision. Saudi Arabia and its allies aim to preserve Arab nations against a creeping trans-national Islamism threat that comes from Iran, Turkey, and their clients in the Arab world. Aligned with Turkey and Iran, Qatar, considers trans-national Islamism a golden asset and a fast–track to dominance and power, even if the cost is the collapse of states in the region.

Instead of addressing the risks of Islamism and radicalism on fragile Arab states, Qatar opted to engage in a blame game, trivializing the conflict into a personality clash, with comments like “Those Emiratis are behind this crisis.” I have stopped counting the number of comments that I read or heard from Qatar supporters who specifically blame the UAE for the crisis.

Qatar has a history of turbulent relationswith the UAE, but the current boycott of Qatar was triggered by collective grievances from Saudi Arabia and all other countries that joined the anti-Qatar coalition, not just the UAE. Nonetheless, blaming or singling out the UAE as the root of the crisis is a deliberate Qatari policy to achieve three main purposes:

First, to break the unity of its opponents: Qatar aims to drive a wedge between Saudi Arabia and the UAE, by portraying the UAE as an unfaithful partner with ulterior motives that can harm Saudi Arabia. Qatar hopes that planting seeds of doubt will break Saudi resolve and drain the Kingdom psychologically, which can ultimately lead to some crucial compromises to Qatar.

Second, to win support from western policy makers: Doha has invested heavily in a diplomatic charm offensive, coupled with a media and lobbying campaign, particularly in the United States. The goal of this PR assault is to blur the reasons behind the dispute with its neighbours, and to steer the argument within the corridors of power in Washington to its favour. The ultimate aim is to eventually entice the US to continue pressing Saudi Arabia and its allies to accept a compromise deal to solve the crisis.

Third, drag the UAE into defensive tactics. Qatar fully understands how some western liberals and leftists have a strong sympathetic affinity to political Islam coupled with a deep despise of Arab monarchs. With that in mind, Qatar has managed to exploit this combination, and has started to portray itself, disingenuously, as a patron of democracy and pluralism in the region, unlike its rival the UAE. With such devious tactics, Qatar’s aim is to push the UAE to defend its own regional policies rather than focusing on Qatari reckless policies against its neighbours.

Arguably, Qatar has had partial success. Undoubtedly many western outlets that have written in support of Qatar, adopting its narratives that portray the boycott as a “blockade.” This may have also succeeded in clinching some neutrality from the Trump administration towards the conflict.

With that said, however, Qatar has failed to drive a wedge between Saudi Arabia and the UAE and failed to weaken the resolve of the coalition resolve. The coalition continues to insist on fulfilling the initial 13 demands placed upon Qatar. Both Saudi Arabia and the UAE may have their own differences in policy and vision, but they both understand that any compromise to Qatar will not only empower their devious tiny neighbor, but also open the flood gates for both the Mullahs and the Ottomans to drown their thrones and dominate the entire region. This simple fact is surprisingly missing from the debate in Washington.

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This Week In Egypt: Week 16- 2018 ( April 16-22)

Top Headlines

  • Egypt to decline any request by US to send troops to Syria
  • Egypt regrets lack of response from Ethiopia and Sudan to invitation to discuss dam on Friday, says FM Shoukry
  • Sudan complains to UN over Egypt holding elections in Halaib triangle
  • Egypt Faces 54 Billion Cubic Meters Water Shortage
  • Egyptian parliament’s majority coalition moves to form political party 
  • Salah wins English PFA Player of the Year award

 

Mo Salah

Main Headlines

 Monday

  • Egypt’s jobless rate dips to 11.8 %, but private sector growth remains elusive
  • Egypt’s President Sisi attends Gulf Shield military drill in Saudi Arabia
  • Egypt’s Suez Canalrevenues rise to $463 million in March
  • Egypt to raise tobacco tax revenuesby EGP 7.072 billion in 2018-19
  • Egypt’s FM Shoukry heading to Burundito discuss bilateral ties, Nile water issues

Tuesday

Wednesday

Thursday

  • Egypt regrets lack of response from Ethiopia and Sudan to invitation to discuss dam on Friday, says FM Shoukry
  • IMF expectsEgypt’s economic growth rate to reach 5.8 percent in 2019
  • Egypt’s Minister of Defence Sedki Sobhy discusses regional developments with with Greek counterpart
  • Steigenberger Hotels to expand in Egypt with new hotel in Luxor in Luxor

Friday 

Saturday

Sunday

 Good Reports

 From Twitter

 

 

 

Interview

  • Cypriot President Anastasiades discusses relations with Egypt

Plus

Finally here are Jayson Casper’s prayers for Egypt

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This Week in Egypt: Week 15 -2018 ( April 9-15)

Top Headlines

  • Egypt to extend state of emergency for three months
  • Egypt denies it hindered Ethiopian dam talks
  • Egypt armed forces foil ‘terrorist’ plot in central Sinai
  • Egypt and UAE launch joint military exercise in Red Sea
  • Egypt military court sentences 36 people to death over deadly 2017 church bombings
  • Egypt receives 1st Russian flight after 2 year hiatus
  • Egypt and Cyprus discuss Turkish challenges to gas exploration

 

Arab Summit 2018

Arab Summit 2018 in Saudi Arabia

Main Headlines

 Monday

Tuesday

Wednesday

Thursday

Friday

Saturday

Sunday

 Good Reports 

From Twitter

Plus

Finally here are Jayson Casper’s prayers for Egypt

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Egypt, Ethiopia, and the Potential of a Water War

Amidst the brewing dispute on Nile water, Ethiopia and Sudan blame Egypt for failure of Nile dam talks, while Egypt rejects Ethiopian and Sudanese statements, here is an English version of my latest for Al-Hurra on the dispute over the Renaissance Dam.

You can read the original Arabic version here

 

GERDGrand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam construction (Photo: Reuters)

 

Days after winning his second term in office, Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi faces the most challenging crisis of his tenure –Egypt’s dispute with Ethiopia over the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) project. Last week, marathon 18-hour talks in Khartoum failed to secure an agreement, with no date set for a resumption of negotiations.

The dispute over the Renaissance Dam has been ongoing for years. It started in March 2011, amidst the turmoil in Egypt following the ousting of ex-president Mubarak, when the project was made public. Tension rose between the two countries in May 2013,when Ethiopia unilaterally started to divert a stretch of the Blue Nile for the purpose of building the dam. In the same month,Ethiopia belittled Muslim Brotherhood President Morsi by only sending its Mining Minister to receive him at the airport during a formal state visit. During President Sisi’s first term, Egypt tried to mend relations with Ethiopia. In March 2015,Egypt managed to secure a tripartite Declaration of Principles on Ethiopia’s Renaissance Dam, which was signed by Egypt, Sudan, and Ethiopia.

In February 2018, however, the Ethiopian government formally handed over to Egypt and Sudan a unilateral plan for filling the dam reservoir.  Reports suggestthat Ethiopia has named two phases of the filling process: The first is a filling phase to start generating power; the second is to fill the dam reservoir to its full capacity. The reservoir of the GERD will have the capacity to store up to 74 billion cubic meters of water, which is 40% more than Egypt’s entire annual Nile water supply. Experts dispute whether the declaration of principles provides a legally bindingframework for Ethiopia on the timing of the filling, compounding Egypt’s fears from Ethiopia’s unilateral actions.

Nonetheless, Egypt is in no mood to escalate disagreement. Before the Khartoum meeting, Egyptian President El-Sisi congratulated the new Ethiopian Prime Minister, Abiy Ahmed, and asserted his desire to maintain good relations with Ethiopia. This charm offensive, however, was not enough to soften the Ethiopian stance. The new Ethiopian PM is clearly not keen to portray a softer image, while his country is facing the prospect of inter-ethnic civil war, and sees the dam as a tool for national unity.

In his first government meeting after being elected, President Sisi discussed new

water policies, including 19 new desalination projects.For years, Egypt was rightly criticized for abusing its Nile water. Such recklessness has changed recently. A more constructive water policy has started to evolve, with planned desalination projects and local media adverts encouraging people to cut water consumption in view of the current shortage.

Are Egypt’s rational diplomatic efforts and its new water preservation policies enough to save the country from a looming water crisis? Unfortunately, the answer is no. Ethiopia simply has no incentive to compromise. Therefore, the Egyptian leadership needs to consider changing its approach:

First: enough with polite secrecy:

Egypt has understandably remained tight lipped on all the details of disagreement for fear of ruining its chances of securing a fair deal. Now that negotiations have failed, it is time for the Egyptian authorities to rally public support, inside and outside of Egypt, against Ethiopia’s passive aggression.

Second, engaging the international community

A water dispute between two African countries may seem trivial in comparison to other global conflicts, and some countries will even be happy watching Egypt suffer from drought in the hope that it can speed up a collapse of the regime. In light of this, it is the duty of the Egyptian leadership to garner support, isolate regional enemies, and ring the alarm bells in Western capitals of the implications of the deadlock with Ethiopia. International mediation and pressure are needed to convince the Ethiopian leadership to forge a fair deal with Egypt.

Third, the dreaded military option:

Ethiopia is galloping to finish the first filling phase of the dam because it knows that any Egyptian military strike will be almost impossible following that phase.

Hence, Egypt is snookered; it has only a few months to consider a military intervention of some sort. There are practical challenges that prevent the country from launching air strikes against the Ethiopian Dam, but it is still possible, particularly with regional support from Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Ethiopia’s rival, Eretria.

The Egyptian president has rightly asserted that Egypt does not want war with its African neighbors. But reducing Egypt’s share of Nile water is simply an act of aggression that cannot be ignored.

The desire to secure Egypt’s water supply is not new. Khedive Ismail tried to invade Ethiopia twice – in 1875 and 1876 – but the Egyptian troops were badly defeated. Underestimating the terrain and lack of appreciation among soldiers of the purpose behind the war were the main reasons behind the defeat.

It has become increasingly clear that Ethiopia is playing for time, creating facts on the ground that will be hard to reverse. Egypt is neither a warmonger nor a smug neighbour that once tried to invade others. For more than four years Egypt negotiated in good faith, but still failed to secure a deal. How long can Egypt afford to wait? Perhaps military pressure is needed to ensure political success. Waiting for Egypt to struggle with drought is simply not an option.

 

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