Egyptian Aak 2017-Week 2 (Jan 9-15)

Top Headlines

  • Militants attack checkpoint in Egypt’s Sinai, killing 8
  • New restrictive measures to enter Sinai
  • Al-Sisi: Egypt’s counterterrorism efforts is staking a heavy toll on state sources
  • Cabinet creates protests-free zone around vital facilites
  • Egypt slams EU, UK for criticizing ruling on activists
  • Egypt’s cost-of-living soars as currency dives
  • Egypt drops case against mob that attacked a Christian woman

 Main Headlines

 Monday

Tuesday

Wednesday

Thursday

Friday

Saturday

 Sunday 

Good Reports 

Good Read

Twitter

Timeline

Plus

Finally here are Jayson Casper’s prayers for Egypt

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

Assad, Isis, and Turkey

assad-nasrallah-putin-aleppo

Portraits of Putin, Assad, Khamenei and Nasrallah in Aleppo -via Twitter

In a TV interview on a Syrian state TV channel, Secretary of the Syrian Parliament Khaled Abboud alluded that the government has been redirecting the Islamic State (Isis)’s attacks, “The Syrian security establishment and the Syrian intelligence services have infiltrated these networks [Islamic State and other militant groups in Syria].” He added, “Why have there been no bombings in Damascus? But there have been attacks on Turkish cities [instead],” he said, hinting at the link between the infiltration of Isis and the absence of attacks on the capital, which is the government’s stronghold.

 Abboud’s statement has understandably supported the argument among many Syria observers that the Assad regime may have helped create ISIS and kept it in power. Abboud’s claim, however, is not entirely accurate. In January 2016, Isis killed at least 60 people in a triple suicide bomb attack near the holiest Shia shrine in the Syrian capital of Damascus. In other words, Abboud’s claim is factually incorrect.

Nonetheless, regardless of the myth or truth behind Abboud’s assertion, his words should be taken with caution. The focus should be on its aim; not its factuality.

The reason for this is that after neutralizing all Arab patrons, Assad and his allies are now focusing on Turkey, the remaining backer of the Syrian opposition. Abboud’s words are not being said in isolation, but are part of a collective charm offensive by Assad and his allies that is aimed at Turkey. This follows the ceasefire plan for all of Syria mediated by Turkey and Russia.

Prior to Abboud’s remarks, as I wrote in my latest piece, and a day after Assad’s Syrian government declared it had regained full control of the Syrian city of Aleppo, Hezbollah leader and Assad’s partner in the Syrian civil war, Hassan Nasrallah, delivered a speech that reflected a conciliatory stance towards Turkey, and roundly condemned ISIS’s brutal murder of Turkish soldiers.

Assad and Co. are watching Turkey carefully and sensing its emerging vulnerability and confusion. With 2017 just 75 minutes old, a gunman opened fire on New Year revelers at Istanbul’s iconic Reina club, killing at least 39 people. Isis claimed responsibility for the mass shooting. That was not the first time the terror group attacked Turkey. Last June, gunmen armed with Kalashnikovs and suicide vests, stormed the entrance to Istanbul’s Atatürk airport, killing 36 people and injuring 147. Turkey blamed ISIS for that attack. Last December, Isis militants released a video purporting to show two captured Turkish soldiers being burned alive. Moreover, Isis in its latest magazine directly targets Turkish President Erdogan, and encourages assassination in Turkey.

The Turkish response to the Isis offensive was puzzling and alarming. Turkish President Erdogan accused the U.S.-led coalition fighting in in Iraq and Syria of supporting the Islamic State Isis, an accusation that was vehemently denied by the American administration. This accusation, however, has been received warmly in Damascus and encouraged the current charm offensive towards Turkey by Assad and his allies.

Currently, Turkey is the most effective patron of the opposition groups. Therefore, for the pro-Assad quartet (Assad, Hezbollah, Iran, and Russia), neutralizing Turkey even partially is a must step that can enhance the regime’s survival. They are pursuing that goal by hyping their intelligence ability, and feeding inaccurate information to their Turkish counterparts. This is aimed at compounding Turkish paranoia and encouraging Turkey to drift away, even from the United States.

It is rather ironic that the same Assad officials who lied repeatedly about the Syrian revolution are now taking Isis seriously. The Assad regime’s access to Isis is not exclusive. While it is probably safe to assume that Syrian intelligence has at least attempted to infiltrate Isis, it is doubtful that this infiltration is effective or reliable. Turkey and other western intelligence agencies have also probably infiltrated the group.

Within the Syrian dirty war, there is possibly a dirtier intelligence war going on that we may not know about until decades in the future. With all left said and done, Abboud’s words should be taken with a huge pinch of salt. Behind the gloating hype is a propaganda war___ a tool that has been used effectively for years by Assad and his allies.

 

Posted in Middle East, Syria, Turkey | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Egyptian Aak 2017- Week 1 ( Jan 2-8)

Top Headlines

  • Al- Sisi pledges to construct large church in the new capital
  • Fearful Egypt’s Copts mark Christmas after church bombing
  • April 6′ youth movement co-founder Ahmed Maher is released from prison  
  • The Egyptian pound strengthened slightly at banks as demand for dollars by importers eases
  • Islamist murders Christian for selling alcohol in Alexandria
  • Egypt establishes highly-trained special navy forces brigade in Red Sea
  • First Israeli tourist group since 2015 visits Egypt

 

 coptic-x-mas-2016

Egyptian Coptic leader Pope Tawadros II leads Christmas celebration at the St. Mark’s Coptic Orthodox Cathedral  on January 6, 2017. (AFP/Khaled Desouki)

Main Headlines

 Monday

Tuesday

Wednesday

Thursday

Friday 

Saturday

Sunday

Good Reports 

 From Twitter

https://twitter.com/fqadi/status/816341110675144706

Video

Timeline

 Plus

Finally here are Jayson Casper’s prayers for Egypt

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Syria: The New Arab Nakba

 

aleppo-photo

Syrian pro-government forces walking in the ancient Umayyad mosque in Aleppo

Photo via Daily Mail, AFP/ Getty Images

 

A day after Assad’s Syrian Government declared it had regained full control of the Syrian city of Aleppo, Hezbollah leader and Assad’s partner in the Syrian civil war, Hassan Nasrallah, delivered an interesting speech. He bluntly admitted that the retaking of Aleppo was not a final victory for Assad, but an open door for a political settlement. Importantly, Nasrallah’s speech reflected a conciliatory stance towards Turkey, and roundly condemned ISIS’s brutal murder of Turkish soldiers.

 Nasrallah’s words not only summed up the current mindset of the Syrian regime, but it also highlighted the prospect of a new, long-term phase in the tragedy of Syria. The revolution, which started as part of the sweeping Arab awakening against authoritarian dictators, has now been reduced to a bloody de-Arabized power game, in which the Syrian people have been used as a tool to serve the conflicting interests of many opportunistic players. Gone are the days of bold ultimatums and vociferous demands; now Syrians are hoping the current fragile ceasefire will hold at least for a while longer.

Much political and ideological rhetoric has been devoted to blaming the United States, Russia, Iran, and Turkey for their contribution to the Syrian tragedy. However, while these nations must bear part of the blame for the human catastrophe in Syria, it is mainly an Arab production, for many reasons:

Underestimating the enemy

From the early days of the Syrian conflict, Arab patrons of the revolution in that country were happy to support the Syrians with money and arms, wrongly assuming that Iran and Hezbollah would do the same. There was never a Plan B. When it became clear Assad’s supporters were willing to offer their own sons to fight in Syria, the Arab states had no answer but to curse Iran___ as if cursing would stop the bloodshed or bring about a solution. The Arabs cynically assumed Iran would drown in Syria, but they had forgotten how the Mullahs have mastered wars of attrition since the Iraq-Iran war. From day one of the conflict in Syria, Assad and his allies fully understood, that they wouldn’t be able to crush the opposition, so they focused instead on saving the spine of the country by controlling the bigger cities, such as Damascus, Homs, and Aleppo. They did this to prevent a major division in Syria and to prevent the creation of a bigger chunk of the country under opposition control. Patrons of the opposition, however, had no answer to Assad’s plan other than ranting, blaming, and broadcasting photos of civilian misery.

Myriads of Militias

Syria is a glaring example that militias do not solve conflicts; instead, they prolong the misery. Unlike Palestine, Iraq, and Lebanon, Syria has witnessed the internationalization of the role of militias by opening the door to a global Jihad and accepting anyone from any nationality to join the infighting. According to the head of the United Nations’ Counter-Terrorism Committee, there are up to 30,000 foreign fighters in Syria and Iraq. Those fighters not all come from Arab countries, but the core of Jihad is authentically Arabic, re-invented in its modern form as a tool against Zionism, then modified, twisted, and abused by many.

Pathological obsession with America

Whenever there is a crisis in the region, Arabs look to America as the mother nation that should rush to their rescue. On the other hand, the same Arabs rather audaciously and ruthlessly judge the American performance if it fails to produce an anticipated outcome. When it comes to the Arab world, America is doomed whether it intervenes fully as it did in Iraq, partially as in Libya, or marginally as in Syria. One can only imagine the endless number of conflicting messages from various Arab countries, and their lobbies in Washington. It is perhaps not surprising that the Obama administration has lost faith in all its Arab partners.

The Arabic media

For the past six years, Arabic news channels, particularly Al-Jazeera Al-Arabiya, and al-Mayadeen have topped the Syrian misery with a hefty dose of nostalgia, spin, and a whitewashing of mistakes. Facts have been intertwined with fiction, sliding objectivity to a record low. Knowing the facts on the ground has become an impossible task. Moreover, social media, once dubbed the voices of the Arab Spring have become tools to compound the war of misinformation and spin. Even the most intellectual Arabs have joined the tribal and misinformation war.

In the end, the Syrian revolution failed because Syria’s Arab patrons were never democrats or patrons of democracy. They only brought to Syria what they had mastered for decades____ disingenuous support and cynical manipulation.

2017 may bring many familiar themes to Syria, such as a “long-term lull,” “aid to refugees,” and even the “right of return.” Yes, for anyone who followed the Palestinian conflict, those slogans are eerily familiar. The Arabs’ handling of their regional crises has been unsurprisingly similar. Arabs excel at compounding their own misery and turning their conflicts into Gordian knots, impossible to disentangle. As a result, their journey into the modern era can be summed up as a trail of “Nakbas” or disasters that have presaged an era of insoluble and chronic political chaos and human destruction. Syria is a living example.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Middle East, Politics, Syria, Terrorism | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Egyptian Aak 2016/2017 ( Dec 26- January 1)

Top Headlines

  • Egypt’s government approves deal to hand two Red Sea islands to Saudi Arabia
  • An Egyptian appeal court backs government in Red Sea islands dispute
  • Prominent journalist Ibrahim Eissa terminates TV show after threats, legal complaints
  • Egypt’s army destroys 1,700 meter smuggling tunnel in Rafah
  • Egyptian Defence Ministry appoints new army spokesperson
  • Egyptian army renovates bombed Cairo church ahead of Coptic Christmas

Main Headlines

Monday

Tuesday 

 Wednesday

Thursday

Friday

  • Egypt’s government approves deal to hand two Red Sea islands to Saudi Arabia
  • Egypt to hand over Egypt Air MS804 victims’ remains next week
  • Egypt’s central bank leaves key interest rates unchanged

Saturday

Sunday

Good Reports

  • US report: Egypt topped developing countries in arms imports in 2015. Mada Masr
  • In the year of the economy, Egyptians kept their eyes on the dollar. Heba Afify
  • Egypt’s child custody laws: How to reform? Mai Shams El-Din

Good read

From Twitter

Photo Gallery

Plus

Finally, here are Jayson Casper’s prayers for Egypt

 

Happy 2017 to all my readers. Thank you for following my blog 

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

Egyptian Aak 2016 – Week 51 ( Dec 19-25)

Top Headlines

  • Death toll of Cairo’s church bombing rises to 28
  • Egypt defends its decision to withdraw anti-settlement resolution at the UN
  • ‘Sinai Province’ admits its former leader was killed by the Egyptian army
  • Egypt confirms Al Jazeera producer’s arrest fo “provoking sedition”
  • Egyptian novelist Ahmed Naji is released from prison pending final verdict
  • Split in the Muslim Brotherhood deepens with creation of new advisory council

 Main Headlines

 Monday

 Tuesday

 Wednesday

Thursday

Friday

 Saturday

 Sunday

Good Report

Good Read

(Posts do not represent my views, but they are definitely worth reading)  

From Twitter

Plus

Finally here are Jason Casper’s prayers for Egypt

Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah 

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

Saudi Clerics and Christmas

In an interview last November, Saudi cleric Khaled Al-Felaij said Muslims are forbidden from greeting Christians and Jews on their holidays. He labeled Jews and Christians as infidels and explained that their celebration were “based upon falsehood, heresy, and polytheism,” and that it was haram for Muslims to celebrate this, to greet those who celebrate this, or to give or accept presents from such infidels.

Al-Felaij is not alone, another famous cleric Mohamad Al-Arefe (with 16.4 million followers on Twitter) has issued and tweeted similar fatwa. Other clerics, not just in Saudi Arabia, but also in many Muslim countries advocate the same views. I certainly heard similar views in Egypt. The same clerics and thousands of their followers, however, will shudder in anger if anyone ___ rightly___ points to them that those views are remarkably similar to what the Islamic State and other radical Jihadi groups believe.

Moreover, these clerics fail to see how such intolerant views breeds hatred among Muslims towards non-Muslims, and it also creates a deep torment inside many pious Muslims living in the West who are trying to integrate in their societies while maintaining their religion. Considering their non-Muslim neighbors and colleagues as infidels that should not be greeted during this festive time will only alienate Muslims and make them vulnerable to being recruited by terror groups.

Needless to mention, such intolerant views are embarrassing to the Saudi Royal family, which is trying to deal with radical terror groups flourishing inside the Kingdom. The Saudi Kingdom is trying to modernize the country, but that will not happen without uprooting intolerance from its religious doctrine. A country that considers others in bulk as evil, not just different, is doomed to failure___ rather than progress.

Let’s be clear, greeting others during festive times is simply what it is, a greeting; not a conversion or an embrace. There are millions who put a Christmas tree in their homes for non-religious reasons, only to bring some heartfelt festivities to the end of the year.

Infantilizing Islam is the biggest tragedy of the Muslim world. There is more to Islam than who should be greeted and what tree to be ignored. The Islamic faith has a deeper, mature side that is deliberately sidelined by advocates who have thinking that trivializes a great religion. Furthermore, Muslim scholars have to stop their duplicitous approach towards Islam, citing verses of tolerance when it suits and then taking other verses to spread intolerance when it suits. Enough!

Meanwhile, I have happily decided to defy all the clerics of hatred and wish my Christian and Jewish friends happy Christmas and happy Hanukkah.

May peace and tolerance prevail in our dark grim world.

 

Posted in Islam, Middle East, Saudi Arabia, Short Comments, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Egyptian Aak 2016 – Week 50 ( Dec 12- 18)

Top Headlines

  • IS group claims responsibility for Cairo’s ST Mark Cathedral bombing
  • Qatar rejects Cairo cathedral bombing involvement claim
  • Egypt executes prominent Islamist militant Habara amid threats of retaliation
  • Egypt says traces of explosives have been found on bodies from EgyptAir crash in May 
  • Egypt court suspends jail sentence against novelist Ahmed Naji
  • Osama bin Laden’s son denied entry at Egypt airport
  • In a first since Morsi era, Egypt allows import of 40 cars into Gaza

 Main Headlines

 Monday

 Tuesday 

 Wednesday

 Thursday

 Friday

Saturday

Sunday

Good Read

From Twitter

Video

Photo Gallery

 Plus

  • Lionel Messi agrees to postpone visit to Egypt till Feb due to church bombing

Finally here are Jayson Casper’s prayers for Egypt

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

Carnage at the Cathedral

cathedral-funeral

Coffins of some of the victims of the explosion at Coptic Cathedral (AFP)

“Is that a church or a military fortress?” my Islamist medical school colleague asked as she gazed at the Coptic Cathedral in Cairo, her face reflected a mix of hatred and envy.

 The carnage in which several women and children died during Sunday’s bomb explosion at the seat of Egypt’s ancient church, the Coptic Cathedral complex in Cairo, evoked many past memories for me. It took me back to my years as a medical student in Cairo’s Ain Shams University, with its Demerdash Hospital directly next door to the grand Coptic Cathedral. This was a cherished era during my youth, full of joy and success, albeit dotted with various painful observations of sectarian cruelty. Hearing negative remarks about Copts and their cathedral, like the above comment, became a familiar theme. But even in my wildest nightmare, I never would have imagined that the cathedral would witness such a heinous crime.

From day one in medical school, I encountered a palpable hatred among many Islamist students toward Copts. I once went on a day trip to Ismailia with my Coptic university friends. The cathedral had organized the trip as part of its social (non-religious program). The next day, back at school, I was grilled by various Islamist colleagues about the journey. Going out with Copts was bad, but to go on a trip organized by the cathedral was, in their eyes, an unforgivable crime. For those folks, the cathedral is not a place of worship, but the headquarters of a rich, powerful, and dangerous secretive body___ a military fortress, as my colleague suggested.

I dismissed the scornful comments from my Islamist colleagues, but the incident opened my eyes to one of the ignored pillars of Political Islam ___ its inverse minority perspective.

Islamism indoctrinates followers to behave and think as an oppressed minority, unfairly targeted by others, while portraying the real minorities, such as Copts, as powerful, privileged, well-connected groups. Despite gaining power in 2012, Islamists could not shake their twisted mindset, and they continue to behave as an oppressed minority, viewing Copts with increasing suspicion. It is worth remembering that Sunday’s bombing of the Coptic Cathedral was not the first time the cathedral has been attacked. In April 2013, during Morsi’s tenure and before his ousting, an Islamist mob launched an unprecedented, unprovoked, and frenzied assault on the cathedral.

It is easy to blame the Coptic Pope for standing against the Muslim Brotherhood’s President Morsi, but his stance should be viewed within the context of events; after April’s unprovoked attack on the cathedral, he hardly had a choice. Moreover, many Egyptians backed Sisi, regardless of their religious beliefs. The iconic photo on July 2013 of Sisi declaring that Morsi had been ousted did not just include the Coptic Pope, but pictured the Grand Imam of Alzhar and many [Muslim] political figures. Nevertheless, for Islamists, the Coptic Pope has been singled out somehow as the father of the “plot.”

Following Morsi’s ousting and during the Islamists’ Rabaa Square sit-in, Morsi’s loyal, angry followers chanted openly against the Pope and the Church, cursing him with nasty insults, while their pundits spouted anti-Copt conspiracy theories within their media outlets. Later, following August 2013’s dispersal of the sit-in, an angry Islamist mob attacked Coptic churches, schools, and charity buildings nationwide, setting them ablaze and razing some to the ground.

Furthermore, after years of anti-Coptic indoctrination, denial and conspiracy have become permanent tools in Islamists’ responses to injustices against the Copts. On the one hand, Islamists wash their hands of any embarrassing outcomes of their terror attacks and defend their innocence, while on the other hand, they suggest wild conspiracies, particularly in their Arabic statements. Following Sunday’s attack, the Brotherhood released an abhorrent Arabic statement, suggesting involvement from either Copts or state authorities, because “Muslims cannot reach a Church’s prayer place in the early hours of Sunday under strict security protection.” It is worth noting that the Al-Jazeera Arabic network, one of the main backers of the anti-coup camp, has floated the same message.

It is lazy to claim that Sisi’s repressive policies are the sole reason that led to the attack on the Coptic Cathedral. It is true the state has systematically betrayed by the Copts and failed to protect them, and has not been able to restore tolerance in a society chronically infested with hatred within all of its pillars and fabrics. It is not right, however, to spare Islamism from blame. Stuffing youth with anger and plucking the strings of hatred are as bad as bombing the cathedral. Those who incite hatred are equally complicit in Sunday’s crime; their disingenuous condemnation is not enough to wash the blood of the victims from their hands.

If Egyptian opposition figures such as El-Baradei and the anti-Sisi Western elite are right in their assertion that violence breeds violence, then many Copts, after years of discrimination, oppression, and systematic attacks, would be the first to embrace terror as a revenge tool. But they did not____ and they would not, even after burying their women and children killed in cold blood in their holiest of places ____ a place that certainly proved not to be a military fortress.

Posted in Best Read, Diary of Aak | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Egyptian Aak 2016 – Week 49 ( Dec 5- 11)

Top Headlines 

  • Bomb kills 25 at Egypt’s main Coptic Christian Cathedral
  • Three days of mourning after the Cathedral attack
  • World governments condemn church bombing in Egypt
  • Bomb blast kills 6 policemen in Giza’s Haram district
  • Militant group Hassm claims responsibility for Giza bombing

 

photo-attack-on-coptic-cathedral 

 (Photo from today attack on Coptic Cathedral by Tarek Wajeh)

 Main Headlines

 Monday

 Tuesday

 Wednesday

Thursday

Friday

 Saturday 

  • Egyptian court rejects appeal by Islamist militant Adel Habara over his death sentence
  • IMF: Egypt’s new import tariffs not a condition for $12 billion loan
  • Egypt recovers 7 artifacts from the US, Switzerland and UAE
  • Sisi attends first follow-up meeting to annual National Youth Conference

 Sunday

Good report

Good read

  • An Egyptian court just struck down part of a repressive new law. Here’s what that means. Nathan Brown and Amr Hamzaway

From Twitter

Photo Gallery

Plus

  • HRC Global released a Global Spotlight on Egypt highlighting the persecution and harassment of LGBTQ people in Egypt by both the state and society.
  • Statues of lioness goddess Sekhmet unearthed in Luxor

Finally here are Jayson Casper’s prayers for Egypt

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