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

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

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.

 

Posted in Egypt, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Twitter Thread: Jenan Moussa and the notorious ISIS fighter

Jenan Moussa,one of the Arab world best Journalists, has interviewed a notorious ISIS fighter. His arrogance during the interview is striking. This twitter thread is a reminder for those who deny or underestimate ISIS. 

 

Posted in Twitter Thread | Tagged , | Leave a comment

This Week in Egypt: Week 14-2018 ( April 2-8)

Top Headlines

  • National Elections Authority (NEA) has declared Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi the winner of Egypt’s 2018 presidential election
  • Egypt’s Sisi vows to work for all Egyptians without discrimination after securing second term
  • Current round of Ethiopian dam talks in Khartoum yield ‘no significant results’
  • Egypt cassation court orders retrial for 16 defendants in NGO foreign funding case
  • Egyptian police raided the office of a news website, arrested its editor-in-chief

Sisi women 18

 Main Headlines

 Monday

Tuesday

Wednesday

Thursday

  • Egypt cassation court orders retrialfor 16 defendants in NGO foreign funding case
  • Masr al-Arabia chief editor remanded in detention on accusations of spreading false news
  • British PMcongratulates Sisi on his re-election
  • Gold tops list of Egypt’s non-oil exports in February

Friday

Saturday

Sunday

Good Reports

Good Read

From Twitter

Sport

  • Egypt’s Salahbeats Ronaldo to take top place in UEFA’s player of the week poll

Obituary

Plus

  • 4,700 Egyptian Coptic pilgrims to visit Jerusalemduring Holy Week 2018
  • Egyptian anti-drug video featuring Liverpool’s Salah quadruples inquiries for addiction help
  • Egyptians shocked over teen’s death linked to ‘Blue Whale’ suicide game suicide game

Finally here are Jayson Casper’s prayers for Egypt

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

Do Egyptians Regret Hosni Mubarak Today?

 

It was great pleasure to join a group of Egypt’s expert  and provide an answer to the above question as posed by Diwan blog, the Middle East insight from Carnegie. To read all replies, please click here

Mubarak

Up until 2013, this question would very likely have been considered offensive to the many Egyptians who revolted against former president Hosni Mubarak. Today, there is an element of nostalgia for the calmer pre-2011 revolution days. After turmoil with various types of authoritarianism, it is easy to fall into revisionism about bygone eras.

Current President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi doesn’t see himself as politician, but as a state builder. He regards semi-authoritarianism, as espoused by Mubarak, as the force behind the gradual decline of the Egyptian state. His uncompromising style has triggered some appreciation for Mubarak’s political flexibility.

Despite such flexibility, Mubarak failed to produce any serious political, economic, and religious reforms that could have prevented subsequent turmoil. This failure has left a deep sourness, unsweetened by even a heavy dose of nostalgia. Seven years after his departure, Egyptians still do not regret Mubarak, but probably have learned not to resent him so much.

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

This Week in Egypt: Week 13-2018 ( March 26-April 1)

Top Headlines 

  • Egypt’s Sisi secures over 90% of vote in 2018 presidential elections with turnout over 40%: State TV projection
  • Presidential runner-up Moussa Mostafa Moussa said he felt proud of the result of the presidential election, after obtaining an estimated 3 % of the vote
  • High participation rates of ‘women and elderly men’ in presidential elections
  • Stability topped Egyptian voters’ concerns in 2018 presidential election
  • Egypt says 6 militants and 2 soldiers killed in Sinai

 

Egypt Election 2018 photo

Via AP

 Main Headlines

 Monday

Tuesday

Wednesday

  • Stability topped Egyptian voters’ concerns in 2018 presidential elections
  • Egypt’s National Election Authority said that Egyptians abstaining from voting in election will be fined
  • Polling stations close nationwide as voting in Egypt’s 2018 presidential election ends

Thursday

Friday

  • Presidential runner-up Moussa Mostafa Moussa said he felt proud of the result of the presidential election, after obtaining an estimated 3 % of the vote
  • Reuters withdraws article on reported violations in Egypt’s election
  • Central Bank of Egypt cuts key interest rates by 100 basis points

Saturday

Sunday

Good reports

Good Read

From Twitter

 

 

 

Video

Plus

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

This Week in Egypt: Week 12- 2018 ( March 19-25)

Top Headlines

  • Two policemen were killed as bomb blast misses Egypt’s Alexandria security director
  • Egyptians to vote tomorrow, Sisi re-election guaranteed
  • In a televised interview, Sisi Sisi says he wanted more challengers in Egyptian election
  • Egypt’s Sisi visits air base in North Sinai
  • Qatar designates IS affiliate ‘Sinai Province’ as a terrorist group
  • Egypt and Gulf countries perform joint military training in Saudi Arabia
  • Egyptian version of facebook launched as ‘Egypt Face’ 

 

Sisi Sinai

Photo via Ahram

Main Headlines

 Monday

  • Egypt’s Sisi calls on Egyptians to ‘make their voices heard’ in upcoming presidential election
  • Egypt and Sudan form cooperation mechanisms to overcome bilateral differences
  • Court of Cassation issues final acquittal for Mubarak-era culture minister Farouk Hosni
  • Egypt’s Sisi and Cyprus president Anastasiades discuss bilateral relations in a phone call
  • Egypt government approves 2018-19 state budget, aiming at 5.8% GDP growth

Tuesday

Wednesday

Thursday

Friday

Saturday

Sunday

Good Reports 

 Interview

From Twitter

Sports

Plus

Finally here are Jayson Casper’s prayers for Egypt

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

Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and UAE: A Collaborative Trio

 

MBS Trump Reuters

Photo via Reuters

Here is an English version of my latest piece for Al-Hurra 

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has embarked on his first overseas tour. This tour will attract attention to Saudi Arabia and its new leadership. Importantly, it is crucial to understand that this new leadership in Saudi Arabia also factors into a larger and very important contemporary Middle East context. Within the continuously evolving reality of the Middle East, amid the blurring complexities and contradictory rhetoric, there are now three main camps dominating the scene: an Islamist Iranian, an Islamist Turkish camp, and a third “maverick,” collaborative trio made up of Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and the UAE.

This new collaborative triad of Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and UAE emerged in the aftermath of the Arab Spring. The leaders of the three countries are uniting together to provide the region with a new state model that is different from past authoritarian governments. The new alliance has an ambitious plan to counter political Islam from both Iran and Turkey.

As I wrote previously, the new trio sees political Islam as a joint enemy that aims to undermine not just their leadership, but also the very essence of nationhood. This nation-based system was forged following WWI, the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, and the end of colonialism. Any existential ideas that go beyond nationhood are a grave treat, exemplified by the ideology put forward by the Mullah regime in Iran, and the regional ambitions of Turkish president Erdogan.

While the Iranian-Saudi rivalry is not new and has been on going since the 1979 revolution in Iran; what is new, is the collaboration between the three countries that compose a trio now united in fighting against the basic essence of political Islam. This is a change from past selective fighting by each respective individual country. For decades, Saudi Arabia thought that the best way to counter Shia Islamism was by fortifying and empowering Sunni Islamism. That policy backfired everywhere in the region, from Iraq to Syria to Yemen. After enduring aggressive Iranian regional meddling, coupled with relentless terror attacks by ISIS that even reached inside the Kingdom, Saudi Arabia has finally realised that all forms of Islamism are an enemy and have to be confronted. Along with the rise of anti-Islamism from Abdel Fatah El-Sisi in Egypt, the UAE leadership has also joined this trio to pave a path forward.

These are still early days, and the fight against Islamism is within a complex region full of contradictions and upheavals. For decades, Islamism has gained on various fronts, with patrons in Tehran, Ankara, and Doha. Each capital has its own agenda and has been willing to go to great lengths to bolster support. Moreover, many Islamist groups have gained sympathetic ears in Western capitals, portraying themselves, disingenuously, as pro-democracy and human rights against Arab authoritarian order.

Thus, the trio of Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and UAE have decided to adopt a pragmatic collaborative approach that denounces emotionalism and grand dreams. Gone are the days of farcical unions, such as the Nasser’s failed United Arab Republic between Egypt and Syria in the sixties. The days of a dominant one-man model are also bygone relics. The trio has lost appetite for a repeat of Saddam or Gadhafi. All three current leaderships understand their own limitations, and in contrast to past Arab autocrats, are now unwilling to embark on grand adventures.

The first test for this trio was the Qatar crisis. After boycotting Qatar and accusing the tiny Gulf state of sponsoring terror Islamist groups, many analysts predicted a collapse of the unity among the anti-Qatar camp. Many assumed that Gulf identity would overcome political differences, and leave Egypt alone against Qatar. Surprisingly, the anti-Qatar camp, mainly Saudi Arabia and UAE are still firmly united with Egypt, resisting pressure to resolve the conflict with Qatar.

Policymakers in DC need to understand this fast-evolving regional reality. Gone are the days of revolts and spring, and also lost to history are the days of cluttered autocracies. The new generation of Arab autocrats are savvy and united together in a struggle to survive within a rough neighbourhood and are now willing to confront their Islamist enemies. This is an important shift that the U.S. should adeptly consider.

Navigating US interests and values in the Middle East has always been a complex and tricky task. From Afghanistan to Iraq, the US has failed in various efforts to garner support and loyalty from Islamists. The attempt to tame the Iranian regime has also fallen short, and even the democratic model in Turkey has been sabotaged by a Turkish president and is increasingly hostile to the United States. Pundits in DC have long argued that democracy can tame Islamism. This is naïve foggy-bottom DC thinking. The ultimate proof comes in the form of the overtly authoritarian president Erdogan.

Looking forward, however, there is a real chance for the US to rejuvenate its policies by supporting this new Saudi, Egyptian, and UAE trio by pledging to take a firm stance against Turkish and Iranian ambitions, while pressing for democratic reforms. Fighting ruthless Islamist regimes is probably the only way to convince new Arab autocrats to loosen their grips on power and embrace democracy and human rights. Thus, the visit of the Saudi Crown Prince is an important opportunity to work towards salvaging the region from its own miseries.

 

Posted in Egypt, Middle East, Saudi Arabia, Terrorism, UAE | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

This Week in Egypt: Week 11-2018 ( March 12-18)

Top Headlines 

  • High voter turnout noted in Egypt presidential polls in the diaspora
  • Egypt and UAE: Quartet stands firm on 13 demands for Qatar
  • Egypt sees tourism rebound ahead of vote
  • Egypt’s top prosecutor announces hotlines to combat ‘false news’
  • Egyptian court hits Qatari media channel beIN Media with second hefty fine over anti-trust breach
  • Egypt wants answers in death of teenage student in UK
  • China to finance majority of tower district in Egypt‘s new capital

 Main Headlines

Monday 

Tuesday

Wednesday

  • Egyptian-French navies conduct joint military exercise in Red Sea
  • Egypt parliament approves 3 articles of draft law legalizing website blocks
  • Egyptian embassies prepare for presidential poll, diaspora vote due March 16
  • Egypt’s Sisi calls on citizens to vote, meets with top officials to review security situation
  • White House held a meeting on Gaza crisis without Palestinians present
  • The ministers of irrigation, foreign affairs and the heads of the intelligence services in Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia are going to meet next April in Khartoum

Thursday

Friday

  • Egypt wants answers in death of teenage student in UK
  • The family of an Egyptian student who died after she had been beaten by group of girls have claimed she may have been attacked due to a case of mistaken identity

Saturday

Sunday

Good Reports

  • Egyptian authorities call on citizens to report on the medi Hmaza Hendawi
  • Mediterranean gas bounty suddenly seems within big oil’s reach. The Wall Street Journal
  • The Arab Spring’s riskiest legacy may be Egypt’s baby boom. Marc Champion and Tarek El-Tablawy
  • Parliament in haste to approve cybercrime bill: Ambiguous provisions, loose definitions, legalized web censorship. Mada Masr
  • Belly dancer dons beard to protest LGBT abuse in Egypt. Emma Batha

Good Read

Sports

From Twitter

 

Plus

Finally here are Jayson Casper’s prayers for Egypt

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

Competing Authoritarianism: Sisi versus Erdoğan

Erdogan versus Sisi

 

This month, Egyptians head to the polls to elect their president. On paper, the only challenger to President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi is the relatively unknown Egyptian politician Mousa Mostafa Mousa.

The real challenger to Sisi, however, is not from inside Egypt, but another regional leader, the Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

As Steven A. Cook , senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations think-tank wrote: “Strongmen are back in favour these days.” Following the failure of the Arab spring and the weakening of many Arab states, the region has shifted its interest away from democracy in favour of strongmen leaders. In such climate, both the Sisi and Erdoğan are subtly competing to market different authoritarian models to replace the current struggling regional order.

I have written before that Egypt’s Sisi is not a politician; he sees himself instead as state builder. Together with his patrons in Saudi Arabia and UAE, Sisi is forming a trio that provides a new state model different to past authoritarian ones.

The new trio sees political Islam as a joint enemy that aims to undermine not just their leadership, but also the very essence of nationhood that their founding fathers worked hard to build following the collapse of the Ottoman Empire. Hence they collaborate to fight all cultish political Islamist groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood and its sister groups in other Arab states.

On the other hand in Turkey, Erdoğan, a cunning politician, also sees himself as a state builder. Nonetheless, unlike his Arab opponents, he has based his model state on reviving the Ottoman order that dominated the region before World War One.  In a recent speech, Erdoğan said Turkey means more than the territory of its physical borders, and that half of his heart is devoted to former Ottoman cities such as Aleppo, Kirkuk, and Jerusalem.

His words as well as his ideology trigger deep unease in many Arab capitals. This is not the first time Erdoğan has mentioned regional cities in his speeches, but what was once seen as rhetoric aimed at a domestic audience is now seen as a serious threat to regional order, particularly after the Turkish invasion of the northern Syrian region of Afrin, with the help of Islamist fighters.

The Turkish president relies heavily on political Islam as an ideology. He hosts many members of various cultish Islamist groups inside Turkey and mistakenly sees them as popular in the Arab world, despite the fact their popularity has significantly subsided.

Although the Turkish president rose to power through sound democratic process, he has subtly evolved to a fully fledged authoritarian ruler and transformed Turkey “into a totalitarian prison” . Such ruthlessness has ended Turkey’s alleged democratic model in the eye of many Arabs and quashed the differences between Erdoğan’s style of rule, and that of other Arab autocrats.

To counter Erdoğan’s threat, the trio of Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and UAE are providing their alternative model, which differs than Erdoğan’s Turkish model in three main aspects:

First, the Egyptian, Saudi, Emirati trio is a collaborative authoritarianism, in which each leadership invests and supports the other. That is a departure of the era of one-man era of Nasser, Saddam and Ghaddafi. The leadership in the three countries realises the one-man model is fragile and vulnerable to spectacular collapse. Hence they aim to work together to avoid the fate of their predecessors. The Turkish president, however, is still relying heavily on the one-man model despite its clear vulnerability.

Second, the pointless re-invention of the wheel.

Unlike Erdoğan and his fellow political Islamists, the Egyptian, Saudi, UAE trio aims to draw a line under the region’s turbulent past and hopes to preserve their national identities without resorting to playing the grievance card, or dwell on past calamities. It understands that the era of the caliphates with its past glory has gone. It focuses instead on luring its public with more sober policies that do not bank on emotionalism to win hearts and minds.

Third, fighting jihadism, instead of advocating it.

The Turkish president sees most Islamist militias as victims of their own circumstances, and using the term “jihad” consistently. On the contrary, the Egyptian, Saudi, Emirati trio are willing to acknowledge the link between radicalism and religion, pledging to fight radicalism. That does not mean that their model is secular, far from it. Instead of Islamism, they offer the Arab public an eclectic conservative autocratic model, less overt in embracing religion, and more tolerant to some elements of secularism and liberalism.

In short, what Egypt is experiencing this month is not an election, but a referendum on a ruling model that stands against an Islamist Turkish model. The Turkish president may cry “coup” when he criticises his Egyptian nemesis, but as long as he continues to be blunt about his regional ambitions, Egyptians, and the wider Arab public, will feel they have no option but to stick to their autocratic president and abandon, albeit temporarily, their dream for democracy.

Initially published in Ahval

Posted in Best Read, Diary of Aak, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, UAE | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments