Sunday, November 25, 2012

THE RISE OF A PHARAOH: THE ARAB SPRING’S FIRST DICTATOR

    Sunday, November 25, 2012   No comments

by Nezar AlSayyad

President Mohammed Husni Morsi Tantawi Mubarak
Over the course of the past two years, the Arab World celebrated the fall of several of its most brutal dictators but last week it witnessed the meteoric rise of yet a new dictator, President Mohammed Morsi of Egypt.

While the world was occupied with celebrating the cessation of hostilities between Hamas and Israel in Gaza and heaping praise on Morsi for his intervention, Morsi seized the opportunity to issue the most sweeping decree ever issued by an Egyptian President in history. With one Constitutional declaration, Morsi -who has held both executive and legislative authority since he sidelined the Egyptian Armed forces a few months ago- fired the Public Prosecutor and castrated the Egyptian Judiciary by declaring that his decisions cannot be appealed to any court.  Morsi and his party did not initiate the Egyptian uprising but they came out of it as the major winners with latent intent of giving Egypt a new Islamic constitution.  Citing a need to protect the “revolution” from unspecified dangers, Morsi achieved in a very short time what no modern leader of Egypt had ever achieved, a total control of all branches of government. Even Muhammad Ali, the founder of modern Egypt at the beginning of the 19th century did not held such unchecked powers.

As Morsi announced his decree, the Muslim Brotherhood from which he hails and its political wing- the undeservedly named “Freedom and Justice” Party- orchestrated major demonstrations in support of his decision in an attempt to preempt the anticipated opposition. The process of wrestling total control of governmental powers through preemptive mobilizations is not unusual. Indeed it is a recurring pattern in contemporary Egyptian History.   In the 1950s and 1960s Egyptians were mobilized to support the many decrees of the Army Officers who organized the 1952 coup that turned Egypt a decade later into a socialist republic.

  

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Hamas in the New Middle East

    Saturday, November 24, 2012   No comments


“I salute all people of the Arab Spring, or Islamic winter, and I salute the Syrian people who seek freedom, democracy and reform.” Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniya issued this declaration before a crowd at the Al Azhar Mosque in Cairo on February 24, 2012.

In 2011, Hamas withdrew its political headquarters from Syria and declined Bashar Al-Assad’s request to stage rallies in support of the Syrian regime at Palestinian refugee camps in Syria. Haniya's statement simply confirmed that Hamas had officially broken ties with its longtime state sponsor in Damascus. The Arab Awakening ended the alliance that Hamas had formed with the Assad regime in the aftermath of the Palestinian group’s expulsion from Jordan in 1999.

The Syrian uprising placed Hamas in between a rock and a hard place. Even as Hamas sought to remain loyal to a regime that had provided economic aid and weapons during times of isolation, the group could not maintain an alliance with a regime that was brutally oppressing a Sunni-led opposition movement. Hamas' final calculation that severing ties with Assad would best further its long-term objectives was driven by an assessment of the Syrian crisis, particularly with respect to Palestinian refugees in Syria and Palestinian public opinion. However, the rising wave of democratic and moderate Sunni Islamism throughout the region was perhaps Hamas’ greatest incentive to break ties with Syria and pursue alliances with Egypt, Turkey, and Qatar.

Hamas is betting that new geopolitical realities in the region may offer it an opportunity to escape isolation, gain recognition as the legitimate representative of the Palestinians in Gaza, spread its ideology, and cultivate ties with neighbors. Nonetheless, by breaking ties with Assad and cultivating ties with Tehran’s strategic competitors, Hamas is jeopardizing its relations with Iran as well.



FSA armed groups clash with Kurds near Turkey

    Saturday, November 24, 2012   No comments

Syrian rebels attacked army positions in the northern province of Aleppo on Saturday while Islamist fighters clashed with Kurdish militias on the border with Turkey, residents said.

Insurgents also attacked troops guarding the strategic Tishrin dam, located on the Euphrates river between the provinces of Aleppo and Raqa.

The rebels have surrounded the area, about 10 kilometres (six miles) from the town of Manbij, local resident Abu Mohammed told AFP.

Opposition fighters already control one of the main routes to Raqa and the Tishrin dam would give them a second passage, connecting a wide expanse of territory between the two provinces, both of which border Turkey.

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Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Syria's Kurdish leader rejects new opposition, labels it Turkey proxy

    Wednesday, November 21, 2012   No comments
Saleh Muslim, head of the
Democratic Union Party (PYD)

A party that controls much of Syria's Kurdish region on Tuesday rejected the new opposition coalition, highlighting the deep divisions still remaining between the many Syrian armed groups 20 months into the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad.

Saleh Muslim, head of the Democratic Union Party (PYD), said he had not been invited to talks in Doha this month in which the Syrian National Coalition was formed, and he labelled the group a proxy of Turkey and Qatar.

The coalition, led by moderate Sunni Muslim cleric Mouaz Alkhatib, was meant to unify Syria's myriad opposition groups in a bid to secure Western backing in their efforts to topple Assad, and has been endorsed in the West by Britain and France.

Previous efforts to unite the opposition under the umbrella of the Syrian National Council ultimately failed after widespread accusations that the SNC had little sway within Syria and was dominated by the Muslim Brotherhood.

"They're making the same mistakes as the Syrian National Council. They're one colour, a cleric is the ruler. More than 60 percent of the SNC were from the Muslim Brotherhood and the religious groups, and they've made the same mistake with this coalition," Muslim told Reuters in London.

"It (the opposition coalition) has emerged from obedience to Turkey and Qatar," he said, adding that the Kurds included in the group were not representative of Syria's Kurds and were handpicked by Turkey to follow its agenda.
  
  

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

CHP to PM: Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan should suspend the activities of NATO’s radar base in eastern Turkey

    Tuesday, November 20, 2012   No comments

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan should suspend the activities of NATO’s radar base in eastern Turkey if he is really sincere in his harsh language toward Israel, the main opposition leader has said, arguing that the facility protects Israel. 

“If Erdoğan wants to do something in favor of Gaza, he can do it very simply. If he was actually against Israel, then he would suspend the activities of the Kürecik radar base,” Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu said. 

“Why was the radar station in Kürecik [in the eastern province of Malatya] established? It’s because of Israel’s security. Erdoğan, you are appealing to the Arab League and United Nations to take action for Gaza: Then do it yourself and be an example to the world,” Kılıçdarğlu said in his address to the CHP’s parliamentary group meeting today. 


Sunday, November 18, 2012

Israel targets journalists, media buildings in Gaza

    Sunday, November 18, 2012   No comments

By Ernesto Londoño, Karin Brulliard and Abigail Hauslohner, Updated: Sunday, November 18, 7:40 AM

TEL AVIV — The Israeli military struck two buildings used by journalists in Gaza early Sunday during the fifth day of a campaign against militants in the Palestinian enclave. Hours later, artillery rounds landed in southern Israeli cities and the country’s missile defense system intercepted a powerful long-range rocket over Tel Aviv, the second such incident in as many days.

Sunday’s strikes in Gaza suggested Israel is continuing to expand its range of targets after hitting almost exclusively military sites during the first few days of the operation, dubbed Pillar of Defense. On Saturday, an Israeli bomb demolished the office of Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh. The crossfire dimmed hopes for a ceasefire as Arab leaders led by Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi were set to convene in Cairo on Sunday to discuss a negotiated end to the conflict.

“We are extracting a heavy price from Hamas and the terror organizations,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday during the opening session of the weekly cabinet meeting. “The army is prepared to significantly expand the operation.”

The sites hit in Gaza early Sunday included buildings used by Britain’s Sky News channel and the Dubai-based pan-Arab broadcaster al-Arabiya, the news organizations reported. At least six journalists were wounded, according to a health ministry spokesman in Gaza quoted by wire services.

One of the buildings was used by al-Quds channel, which serves as a mouthpiece for Hamas, the militant group that rules Gaza. The Foreign Press Association in Israel issued a letter expressing concern and noting that a United Nations Security Council resolution says that journalists covering conflict civilians that must be protected.

The Israeli military said the sites struck overnight included a “communications antenna used by Hamas to carry out terrorist activity.” In a statement, it said it also hit dozens of underground rocket launchers and a Hamas training base.


Saturday, November 17, 2012

Iraqi president: Turkey failed to accurately read Syria

    Saturday, November 17, 2012   No comments

In an assessment of Turkey's Middle East policy, Iraqi President Jalal Talabani has said Ankara failed to understand the situation in Syria, misjudging the political processes and developments in the country.
“Turkey was mistaken about Syria; top Turkish officials could not properly read Syria. Initially, Ankara thought everything would be very easy and that [Syrian President] Bashar al-Assad would leave very quickly; later, they realized developments would not go in that direction,” Talabani said in an interview with the Milliyet daily on Friday.

Commenting on the Syrian Alawites, who dominate the government and hold prominent military positions despite being a minority, Talabani said they do not want to leave their positions of authority and so cling to the Baath regime.

“Christians [also a minority in Syria] are afraid of the Muslim Brotherhood. There is a phrase going around in Syria: Alawites to coffins and Christians to Lebanon. The Druse, a Middle Eastern religious community, are also divided,” Talabani said.



Saturday, November 10, 2012

Morocco activists slam African migrant treatment

    Saturday, November 10, 2012   No comments

RABAT, Morocco — Dozens of Moroccan and foreign activists demonstrated Friday in front of a Rabat courthouse where a Guinean advocate for sub-Saharan migrants in Morocco is being tried in what the demonstrators called part of a wider crackdown.

Laye Camara, the founder of the Council of Sub-Saharan Migrants in Morocco, was arrested by police on Oct. 20 and charged with selling alcohol without a license and smuggling cigarettes after police found three bottles of wine and two cartons of cigarettes in his apartment.

"For months the situation has been very tense and the Moroccan authorities have become very violent, while the press has stigmatized us and is encouraging racism," said Sadio Balde, a colleague of Camara's at the council and also from Guinea. "The situation has become intolerable."

Last week, the pro-regime weekly magazine Maroc Hebdo had a cover story entitled "the Black Peril," accusing sub-Saharan Africans of living off begging, drug trafficking and prostitution. The cover featured a close up shot of a black man's face.




Friday, November 9, 2012

Erdoğan criticizing UNSC, IMF, OSCE, and OECD

    Friday, November 09, 2012   No comments
Throwing diplomacy out the window, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has criticized major world institutions, bashing both the United Nations and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for their structures. He also argued that capital punishment “is legitimate in certain situations,” referring to the recent court ruling in the case against Norwegian-mass murder Breivik.

Speaking at the Bali Democracy Forum in Indonesia, Erdoğan criticized the U.N. for its inaction on certain issues, including Syria and the Israel-Palestine stalemate. He went on to issue harsh criticisms against the IMFfor what he called its “bitter” prescriptions.

In a stab at Norway, Erdoğan said the prison sentence handed to Norwegian-mass murderer Anders Breivik was insufficient and that he should have been given the death penalty instead to ensure peace for the families of the victims. “I asked them, I was curious. How can someone who has killed 77 people be sentenced to 21 years in prison? I was told that he [Breivik] would not be out again, that something would be found at the end of the 21 years to keep him in for another 21 years.”


Assad's interview with Russia Today

    Friday, November 09, 2012   No comments
Assad: Erdogan thinks he's Caliph, new sultan of the Ottoman (EXCLUSIVE)

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In an exclusive interview with RT, President Bashar Assad said that the conflict in Syria is not a civil war, but proxy terrorism by Syrians and foreign fighters. He also accused the Turkish PM of eyeing Syria with imperial ambitions.

Assad told RT that the West creates scapegoats as enemies – from communism, to Islam, to Saddam Hussein. He accused Western countries of aiming to turn him into their next enemy.
While mainstream media outlets generally report on the crisis as a battle between Assad and Syrian opposition groups, the president claims that his country has been infiltrated by numerous terrorist proxy groups fighting on behalf of other powers.

In the event of a foreign invasion of Syria, Assad warned, the fallout would be too dire for the world to bear.


Missteps by Rebels Erode Their Support Among Syrians

    Friday, November 09, 2012   No comments

Rebels firing on a man suspected of
being a pro-government fighter in
Idlib Province on Oct. 26.
Syria's rebel fighters — who have long staked claim to the moral high ground for battling dictatorship — are losing crucial support from a public increasingly disgusted by the actions of some rebels, including poorly planned missions, senseless destruction, criminal behavior and the coldblooded killing of prisoners.

The shift in mood presents more than just a public relations problem for the loosely knit militants of the Free Syrian Army, who rely on their supporters to survive the government’s superior firepower. A dampening of that support undermines the rebels’ ability to fight and win what has become a devastating war of attrition, perpetuating the violence that has left nearly 40,000 dead, hundreds of thousands in refugee camps and more than a million forced from their homes.
The rebel shortcomings have been compounded by changes in the opposition, from a force of civilians and defected soldiers who took up arms after the government used lethal force on peaceful protesters to one that is increasingly seeded with extremist jihadis. That radicalization has divided the fighters’ supporters and made Western nations more reluctant to give rebels the arms that might help break the intensifying deadlock. Instead, foreign leaders are struggling to find indirect ways to help oust Syria’s president, Bashar al-Assad.
And now arrogance and missteps are draining enthusiasm from some of the fighters’ core supporters.
“They were supposed to be the people on whom we depend to build a civil society,” lamented a civilian activist in Saraqib, a northern town where rebels were videotaped executing a group of unarmed Syrian soldiers, an act the United Nations has declared a likely war crime.
An activist in Aleppo, Ahmed, who like some of the others who were interviewed gave only one name for security reasons, said he had begged rebels not to camp in a neighborhood telecommunications office. But they did, and government attacks knocked out phone service.
One fighter shot into the air when customers at a bakery did not let him cut into a long line for bread, Ahmed recalled. Another, he said, was enraged when a man washing his car accidentally splashed him. “He shot at him,” Ahmed said. “But thank God he wasn’t a good shot, so the guy wasn’t hurt.”

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Will Erdogan do nothing to save the lives of Kurdish hunger strikers?

    Thursday, November 08, 2012   No comments

If you knew that more than 700 of your citizens might die soon, what would you do to stop it? That is the question that the Turkish government and Recep Tayyip Erdogan, faced with the massive hunger strike by Kurdish prisoners, now in its 58th day, need to answer.

But the answer so far seems to be "nothing". Very few in the west seem to be aware of the issue, with international media focused more on geopolitical concerns and the ongoing Syrian crisis. Yet they have a question of their own to answer: can Turkey still be held up as a role model for the Arab spring movement as it becomes more and more apparent that the Turkish government is apathetic towards the democratic rights and demands of its almost 20 million-strong Kurdish minority?

The hunger strikes started on 12 September with 65 prisoners. The official number has since reached 716, with claims from the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy party (BDP) that elected officials from the party might join the ranks if their demands continue to be ignored.

Consisting largely of Kurds jailed after being linked to the Union of Kurdistan Communities (KCK), the urban wing of the Kurdistan Workers' party (PKK), a guerilla group recognised as a terrorist organisation by Turkey, the US and the EU, the hunger strikers have three key demands. These are an end to the solitary confinement of Abdullah Öcalan, leader of the PKK, in jail since 1999 and without any access to his lawyers for almost a year now; the right to defend themselves in Kurdish in courts; and the right to study in Kurdish.


Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Syria's rebels: Fewer innocents

    Wednesday, November 07, 2012   No comments


A RECENT video showing a group of rebels kicking men, bound with ropes, before killing them has raised concerns about Syria’s opposition fighters. The UN says the killings, which were captured on camera in a checkpoint raid during a battle to take control of the town of Saraqeb, may be a war crime. Members of the Syrian opposition have condemned the killings, highlighting the growing divisions within forces battling against Bashar Assad. Others have tried to write off the violence, saying extremists or Salafists, whose numbers are increasing among the fighters, were responsible.

But in the three months since rebels in Aleppo, Syria’s biggest city, executed a group of regime militiamen in a school playground in July, the UN and Human Rights Watch (HRW), an advocacy group, have documented an increasing number of such crimes. "We need to be clear that opposition crimes do not approach the systematic crimes by the regime that account for the majority of the deaths in Syria," says Nadim Houry of HRW. "But we have documented grave acts by the rebel fighters in Aleppo, Idleb and Latakia that are likely to be happening elsewhere too."




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