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Egypt’s leadership problem

I’m not sure if it will spur discussion, but read this article in the New York Times.  In it, Egypt’s Prime Minister Kamal el-Ganzouri is depicted as lacking the charisma and capacity necessary to see Egypt through its current trials.  Specifically, the article notes some of his nonsensical quotes, in the same way articles used to break down President Bush quotes.

The big picture issue here is that the Egyptian military has still not successfully transferred power to the people.  And they do not appear to be any closer to doing so than they were in July.  I’m not sure when the revolution got away from the wants of the protesters, or if the revolution was ever all it was made out to be in the first place.  My opinion is that political movements need a charismatic leader, and there either are none in Egypt, or else the English media has failed to notice them.  I’m sure there are counter examples to my point on single leaders being pivotal, but still, maybe a ramification of the social media-led revolution is that in the process of a revolution, no alternative governing structures are created.  It takes power and organization to run a country.  I’m not sure if the protesters ever had that.  With the way the revolution played out, it was never necessary.  So now the organization that has power and a strong hierarchy,  the military, is running the country (with the help of Mr. Ganzouri).


Egypt’s Amr Moussa, a candidate for president

Al Arabiya has a nice article up on Amr Moussa, a front runner for the presidency of Egypt.  In the article, Moussa discusses the need for a short transition to a presidential election in order to improve security in Egypt.

“A long transitional period is not in the interest of Egyptians nor Egypt,” he said, adding it would slow action to support the economy “and also will create an opportunity for all those who want to play havoc with the Egyptian society.”

Moussa, Egypt’s foreign minister in the 1990s and head of the Arab League for a decade until this year, said investors, tourists and institutions ready to offer soft loans would hesitate unless the nation’s political direction was clearer.

Consultancy firm Geopolicity said in a report that Egypt’s uprising had cost the economy $9.97 billion up to September.

Moussa deflected concerns within Egypt that the army may attempt to hold on to power beyond what is needed for the purposes of allowing a democratic transition.  Currently, a parliamentary election is scheduled to be held on November 28th.  As for electing a president,

Moussa and other presidential candidates have called for a presidential poll on April 1 before a new constitution is drawn up. Under an existing army timeline, the new parliament must choose a body to write the new constitution before such a poll. That could put it back to the end of 2012 or early 2013.

A scary day in Egypt

Both the New York Times and Al Jazeera are reporting on an outbreak of deadly protests in Egypt.  Members of the Coptic Church marched to protest a church that was burned in southern Egypt, and more generally the failure of the ruling military leadership to provide adequate security and protection to the Christian minority.  At some point, “thugs” met the crowd.  At another point, the army met the crowd as well.  Somewhere within, violence broke out, leading to the deaths of at least 24 people.  Muslims were standing alongside the Christians as well as opposite them during the chaos.  From the Times article:

State news media reported that at least three security officers had died in attacks by Christian protesters, though those accounts could not be confirmed. The protesters did not appear to be armed and they insisted they were peaceful until they were attacked.

In retaliation, military vehicles began driving into protesters, killing at least six, including one with a crushed skull, several witnesses said. Some said they saw more than 15 mangled bodies. Photographs said to depict some of them circulated online.

This is certainly a discouraging development for Egypt.  What are everyone’s thoughts on what we are seeing?  Indicative of bad things to come, or an odd blip?

Egypt, Turkey, and Israel

The New York Times has an article up regarding Filed Marshal Mohammad Hussein Tantawi of Egypt, the top military officer who would be the most likely presidential candidate to come out of the military.  Yet he has given statements saying that the military has no intention of running a candidate.  Speculation that Tantawi could run began when he appeared in public in civilian dress rather than his usual military garb.  Tantawi not running is good news for those who are concerned that civil society will struggle to take power back from the military.  I’d add that this article does not dispell the possibility of Tantawi leaving the military and then running for president.  Anyone else’s thoughts on this story?

Elsewhere, Recep Tayyip Erdogan ripped Israel for its treatment of Palestinians, and the lack of international concern for Israel’s possession of nuclear weapons.  Erdogan discussed a double standard, saying

“Here I am talking about 89 resolutions of the UN Security Council and 247 resolutions of the General Assembly, none of which are implemented.”

“On the other hand you have resolutions for example about Iran, the Sudan and Palestine which are implemented.”

Erdogan also reiterated his country’s stance on endorsing international pressure on the Assad regime in Syria.  The article mentions that the Tureky-Israel spat will challenge Secretary of State Clinton when she heads to Istanbul next month.  If she asked for it, what would be your advice for handling worsening relations between two allies?

Finally, this article from Al Arabiya is kind of funny.  I’m not sure if this prize is a big deal or if it is some obscure thing that Al Arabiya picked up on.


It was a busy day around the region.

  • Israeli settlers vandalized and burned a mosque, an action that Netanyahu has condemned
  • US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta reaffirmed the US commitment to maintaining a militarily superior Israel, although he questioned Israel’s diplomatic isolation
  • Israel has signaled that it is willing to return to negotiations sponsored by the US, UN, EU, and Russia, although Palestinians are skeptical that any progress can be made
  • In Egypt, the country’s military leadership has agreed to amendments to the election laws, changes called for and endorsed by the country’s anti-Mubarak political elements
  •  Libyan transnational government forces (we’re calling them that instead of rebels now I guess) are pressing in on pro-Gaddafi forces in Sirte, one of a few strongholds of Gaddafi remaining
  • In ongoing upheavals, Bahrain has sentenced participants in protests to lengthy jail terms, Syria has been rounding up thousands of citizens to quell protests, and Yemeni youth don’t just want Saleh out as president, but want criminal charges pressed against him as well
  • There was a terrifying attack in Iraq, in which Sunni insurgents took hostages at a police station.  Several hostages and a police chief were killed before Iraqi forces recaptured the building, killing the militants.  This bit of ties to the piece from Dean Hill from yesterday, as he brought up the matter of Sunni insurgents, whose funding, objectives, and strategy are harder to pin down than their Sunni counterparts
So, there is a lot happening, although I don’t know if any of it can be considered as a major development.  I guess that for me the most interesting thing is Panetta’s statements, and the context of the attack in Iraq.

Diplomatic developments

Yemen has seen a large outbreak in violence.  This Al Jazeera link includes video.

With this post I want to link two articles relating to diplomatic developments.  First is an Al Jazeera report on the upcoming Palestinian bid for statehood at the United Nations.  The other is a New York Times article on the growing relationship between Turkey and Egypt.  For those interested in the politics of the Middle East, the story is a must read.  Here is an interesting excerpt:

The portrait was described by Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu of Turkey in an hourlong interview before he was to leave for the United Nations, where a contentious debate was expected this week over a Palestinian bid for recognition as a state. Viewed by many as the architect of a foreign policy that has made Turkey one of the most relevant players in the Muslim world, Mr. Davutoglu pointed to that issue and others to describe a region in the midst of a transformation. Turkey, he said, was “right at the center of everything.”

He declared that Israel was solely responsible for the near collapse in relations with Turkey, once an ally, and he accused Syria’s president of lying to him after Turkish officials offered the government there a “last chance” to salvage power by halting its brutal crackdown on dissent.

Strikingly, he predicted a partnership between Turkey and Egypt, two of the region’s militarily strongest and most populous and influential countries, which he said could create a new axis of power at a time when American influence in the Middle East seems to be diminishing.

9-11, and What should Israel do?

It should be said that a lot of people in this group had their interest in the Middle East sparked by a desire to understand what happened on September 11th.  The whys.  Deepening our understanding is the biggest goal of MEDG.

That said, here are there are two articles in the New York Times today that are worth reading through.  The first discusses the current frustration that many Pakistanis and Afghans feel as America continues its war effort in those places.

The second looks at Israel’s current issues.  Their two biggest regional partners, Turkey and Egypt, aren’t exactly great allies at the moment.  Now, with the physical manifestation of destruction at the Israeli embassy in Cairo, Israeli diplomats are very alarmed, and asking for additional US support.  The last four paragraphs are outstanding, so I’m going to post them here:

Initial Israeli fears about the Arab Spring uprisings have begun to materialize in concrete ways. When the uprisings began in Tunisia and Egypt at the start of the year, little attention was directed toward Israel because so much focus was on throwing off dictatorial rule and creating a new political order.

Traditionally, many Arab leaders have used Israel as a convenient scapegoat, turning public wrath against it and blaming it for their problems. The faint hope here was that a freer Middle East might move away from such anti-Israel hostility because the overthrow of dictators would open up debate.

But as the months of Arab Spring have turned autumnal, Israel has increasingly become a target of public outrage. Some here say Israel is again being made a scapegoat, this time for unfulfilled revolutionary promises.

But there is another interpretation, and it is the predominant one abroad — Muslims, Arabs and indeed many around the globe believe Israel is unjustly occupying Palestinian territories, and they are furious at Israel for it. And although some Israelis pointed fingers at Islamicization as the cause of the violence, Egyptians noted Saturday that Islamist groups, including the Muslim Brotherhood, distanced themselves from Friday’s protests and did not attend, while legions of secular-minded soccer fans were at the forefront of the embassy attacks.

So the question is, what should Israel do?  Standing firm is an option.  So is aggressively seeking to create a peaceful Palestinian state.  A middle route might be to take diplomatic steps to ease tensions with Turkey and Egypt, on the governmental level.

My only thought is that I hope the United States tries to act proactively, rather than wait for Israel to choose its course and support that decision wholesale.