Monthly Archives: November 2015

Sisi must go before it is too late for both and Egypt and Europe

David Hearst at Middle East Eye summarises the situation in Egypt very well:

With each planeload evacuating Russian and British tourists, Sharm el-Sheikh can feel its life blood ebbing.

Arthur, on a fixed salary of $255 ($63 more than Egypt’s minimum wage) says: “I don’t know what happened on that plane. I have a feeling we are being manipulated and I prefer not to think about it. I think the West is trying to force Egypt to do the things it wants and this accident is a perfect opportunity for it to force us to, force us in a financial way.”

Ahmed, a diving instructor turned taxi driver, agrees: “They want to kill us. I don’t see any other explanation. Here, there are only Russian and English tourists left, and those are the ones who are going home.”

The Western plot to kill Sharm el-Sheikh is richly orchestrated by the linguistic creativity of the pro-government media. When a stranded British tourist harangued the British Ambassador John Casson, she was reported by pro-government Al Ahram as saying: “We want to continue our holiday and we do not want to leave now.”

What she actually said (documented in a YouTube clip) was: “What is the problem? What is the real problem? Why are we here? …There was a security problem this morning and you are now here to resolve it. Why are we here then, while the rest of the people have gone home?”

Foreign hands are also, apparently, at work in Alexandria. When storms and heavy rain caused widespread flooding in Egypt’s second largest city, killing 17 and injuring 28 – which happens regularly because the city’s drainage system cannot cope – the government’s response was to arrest 17 members of the Muslim Brotherhood, who are accused of blocking sewage pipes, damaging electricity transformers and rubbish containers.

There are other scapegoats for state failure. On Wednesday, the prosecution in Giza released one of Egypt’s most powerful businessmen and his son, Salah and Tawfik Diab, on $6,385 bail, after three nights in detention. Earlier, a criminal court cancelled a decision to freeze the financial assets of Diab, Mahmoud El-Gammal and 16 others. Only assets related to the New Giza housing compound project are still frozen, with Diab accused of illegally acquiring state-owned land. These are Egypt’s richest men and former backers of the coup in 2013. Diab is co-founder of Al-Masry Al-Youm, one of Egypt’s largest privately-owned daily newspapers. His co-founder, Hisham Kassem, says he believes Diab’s arrest may have been a result of the paper’s coverage.

The arrest of the 16 Mubarak-era businessmen was a message from the government. Wael al-Ibrashi, the pro-Sisi TV anchor in Dream TV, spelt it out. He quoted a “sovereign source” meaning a top government or security official who told him that there are suspicious actions by a number of businessmen to cause chaos and economic crisis in the country by transferring their money outside the country. They were convinced by enemy sources that there will be a major event happening in Egypt soon.

The financial markets are unimpressed by these pyrotechnics, although they agree that the state’s finances are going south. The Egyptian Pound is on its fastest decline since the reign of King Farouk. Changing the governor of the central bank, which is now trying to support the pound by getting interest rates to rise and injecting dollars into the banks, is not going to stop a further devaluation which analysts say is inevitable. Already that pound has lost 14 percent of its value in just ten months.

Mohammad Ayesh, writing in Al-Quds Al-Arabi, gives three reasons for the decline and fall of the currency: the cost of keeping the army on the streets; the collapse of tourism which accounts for up to 11 percent of GDP and generates a fifth of the country’s foreign exchange earnings; and lastly corruption. Giving money to an Egypt, where up to 40 percent of the economy is controlled by the army, is literally pouring money into a black hole. As a consequence, the foreign currency in the central bank is currently dropping by $1bn each month.

Egypt’s currency crisis must be regarded as unique in the annals of financial mismanagement. Just over two years ago, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi took over, his wallet stuffed with cash: he had the backing of two of the Gulf’s richest states, the US, EU and oil and gas multinationals. By one measure alone, the leaked and authenticated tapes of conversations Sisi had with his closest advisers, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait gave Egypt $39.5bn in cash, loans and oil derivatives between July 2013, the date of the coup, and sometime between January and February of 2014. Since then, some calculate the sum is closer to $50bn. Where has all this money gone? One thing is for sure: Egypt is not going to get another Gulf handout.

Wherever you look in the chaos of Egypt today, the finger points at one man – Sisi – and at one institution – the Egyptian army. It is he and it, not “foreign hands” which are at the epicentre of the country’s instability.

Dictators can do bloodshed. Neither youth gunned down in their prime, nor the grief of their parents, make them hesitate. Comparisons between Raba’a and other massacres like Tiananmen, or Andijan mean little to them. Nor does the small library of human rights reports and witness statements which now exists to catalogue their crimes – death in detention, torture in custody, kangaroo courts, mass death sentences. All this Sisi has absorbed.

But rottweilers have to provide protection. They have to do their job. Sisi does not. He is now weaker as an absolute ruler than at any time since he took over. He faces the real and imminent prospect of losing control – over the economy, politics, and security. The state itself is failing.

Curiously that visit to London, in which he had vested so many hopes and so much effort, might yet prove to be the turning point in his presidency. And even more curiously, it was his host, David Cameron, a prime minister who has subverted a foreign policy ostensibly based on promoting democracy to a frantic search for trade and arms deals, who turned out to be his chief executioner.

Sisi spent the week saying he had Sinai and the Islamic State (IS) militant group under control. A Russian airliner downed by a bomb placed in the luggage compartment? That was nothing more than “propaganda”. His twin aims were to position himself as the guard dog in the war against IS and to increase trade links. Both were shattered by Cameron’s decision to suspend flights to Sharm el-Sheikh, a decision followed by Dutch, German, Irish carriers and by Russia itself.

Sisi found himself cut out of the intelligence loop he had fought so hard to be at the centre of, not only for Sinai, but Libya and Syria, too. The Americans, British and Russians were sharing intelligence with each other, not him. A visit arranged to increase British-Egyptian security co-operation, a visit designed to cement trade ties with one of Egypt’s largest foreign direct investors turned into an intelligence disaster and a wake for Egypt’s tourist industry.

Sisi is losing battles on multiple fronts. The physical one in Sinai first and foremost: the IS insurgents known as ‘Wilayat Sinai’ – or Sinai Province (SP) – are growing in strength. It and its predecessor conducted more than 400 attacks between 2012 and 2015, killing more than 700 military officers and soldiers, nearly twice the number of military casualties in one province of Egypt than the insurgency that took place in the whole of the country from 1992 to 1997. The SP’s most daring attack took place in July this year when it targeted 15 military and security posts and destroyed two. Over 300 men took part. They used anti-aircraft Igla missiles to force the Egyptian army’s US-supplied Apaches away. They mined their retreat. The operation lasted for 20 hours.

The insurgency in Sinai preceded the military coup. But the coup changed its character and its quality. Figures provided by the Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy show that in the 23 months before June 2013, there were 78 attacks, an average of 3.4 attacks per month. In the same period after the coup, there were 1,223 attacks, or 53.2 attacks per months. That is a 1,464 percent increase.

Sisi has thrown everything at the population of North Sinai: extrajudicial killings of 1,347 people, the detention of 11,906, the deportation of 22,992, the destruction of at least 3,255 buildings. As his Israeli backers are now admitting, Sisi is making every mistake in the counter-insurgency rule book. He has indeed turned Sinai into South Sudan, which he himself warned army officers not to do when he worked for Morsi.

Even more important than the physical battle is the political one. Sisi has been as careless with his supporters as he has been with Egypt in general. Sisi has emptied the polling booths, with dramatically low turnouts for elections. The turnout for the recent parliamentary was so low  – under three percent on the first day – that the Abdullah Fathi, the head of the Egyptian Club for Judges said: “There were no wrong doings, no irregularities, no exchange shouting, and even no voters . . . ” And then he laughed.

The supporters of the 3 July military coup have each been on a slow but brutal journey of discovery. They have been slow to admit it. None more so than the Soueif family.

Laila Soueif and her son the blogger and hero of the secular left, Alaa Abd El-Fattah, both encouraged the army to clear Raba’a and al-Nadha sit-ins. Laila said: “This protest in al-Nahda, in particular, must be dispersed immediately by the police. We see them every day in Giza shooting at the sky, then they hold banners saying peaceful protests, peaceful what? Every day they kill people and say they (killers) were baltagia (thugs paid by the Ministry of Interior). I didn’t see any baltagia.”

While Alaa said: “This is an armed protest and, for over a day now, there have been clashes. They have fought in four residential areas. There is no political solution to this, this needs a security solution. At least contain them, my mother and I were attacked as we were walking through. I’m not saying hurt them. I’m saying contain them.”

Today Alaa is in jail, one of 41,000 political prisoners and Laila has been on hunger strike. Laila says: “Sisi is the head of the most oppressive and criminal regime Egypt has seen during my lifetime, and I am almost 60.”

She is right, belatedly. Sisi is the head of the most oppressive and criminal regime Egypt has seen in its modern history and he has to go. If he does not, Egypt is set on a path of disaster, a disaster that could end in the disintegration of the state and mass emigration to Europe. Before that happens, someone else must step in, even if, as seems increasingly likely, that someone else is another army officer.

http://www.middleeasteye.net/columns/sisi-must-go-it-too-late-1711093598

 

Consensus politics after the elections

Ibrahim Kalin writes:

After four elections in 18 months, Turkey needs to leave behind partisan politics and focus on the country’s larger strategic issues. This is needed for Turkey’s internal peace and stability as well as to address such urgent issues as terrorism, refugees and revitalizing the economy. Consensus politics can help a great deal to overcome unnecessary tensions and polarization.

The sharp contrast between the results of the June 7 and Nov. 1 elections presents a number of lessons for political stability and social peace. One key outcome is that differences on political and economic issues should not weaken but rather strengthen the significance of pluralistic politics. With differences acknowledged and respected, a strong and stable government is needed to address Turkey’s current challenges and regional problems. The responsibility to make this happen falls not only on the shoulders of the Justice and Development Party (AK Party), but all political parties. Without a sense of togetherness, no civic politics is possible.

The word consensus is derived from the Latin verb “consentire,” which means to feel together, agree. Both meanings are related and important as agreement entails feeling together, i.e., having the same feeling for a common goal as individuals and as society. Working toward a common agenda does not expunge differences. The differences, if managed rationally and ethically, can enrich politics and society. Furthermore, unity is not uniformity. Seeking common ground and nourishing a shared feeling does not necessarily lead to a group of stereotypic individuals and a monolithic society. Managing differences through a civic code of ethics is key to ensuring consensus politics for all citizens. Turkey’s social and political assets, which cannot be reduced to one set of issues, call for a perspective of unity in diversity.Translating this principle into practice, though not easy, is the primary goal of the art of politics. Turkey’s diverse social tapestry includes various identities and groups. Turkish, Kurdish, Arab, Circassian, Albanian, Roma and other groups make up Turkey’s social-ethnic map. Religious minorities include Orthodox Christians, Catholics, Assyrians and Jews. Then we have ideological groups ranging from the devoutly religious and nationalist to liberal, leftist and secular. Each perspective can contribute to the common good of the people and the country but it requires a certain sense of responsibility. There are also differences among these groups as neither secularists nor nationalists, for instance, make up a monolithic group. These differences should be embraced and celebrated as a source of strength rather than division and polarization.

What cuts across these diverse perspectives is a shared history and cultural rootedness on the one hand, and democracy, freedom, stability and prosperity, on the other. A rational political order is one in which diverse points of view are respected and represented within the framework of the rule of law and equality for all. A strong, peaceful and stable Turkey is in everybody’s interests. It is also in the interest of regional and global players that need Turkey as a strong and stable partner in an increasingly chaotic region and polarized world.

In his victory speech on Nov.1, Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu said that the new government, which should be formed within the next two weeks, will work to ensure the equal representation of all citizens and take into account all opinions that are constructive. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan echoed this call when he said on Nov. 4 that it is time to embrace each other regardless of our differences. He also called on political leaders to start working for a new constitution – a key social and political duty that will ensure the advancement of fundamental rights and give Turkish society and economy a new boost. The opposition parties that suffered significant losses in the Nov. 1 elections acknowledged the will of the people as was manifested at the ballot box. Instead of blaming each other or the people for their choices, all parties should draw lessons from the two elections in the last five months.

Those who rely on elitist fantasies and consistently err in reading Turkey’s social and political dynamics should listen to the ordinary people more attentively. Hopefully, these results will also give them an occasion to reconsider their failed strategy to present Erdoğan-bashing as politics or journalism.

As I had said on the 91st anniversary of the founding of the Republic of Turkey, “the old homogenous and static definition of the nation and the political order is replaced by a dynamic, multicultural and multi-religious notion of the nation that is in peace with the historical experience of the citizens of the Turkish Republic on the one hand, and open to the world on the other. Striking a proper balance between historical rootedness and openness to the world is what will ensure the strength and continuity of the Republic

Consensus politics can go a long way in nourishing an ethics of coexistence for all citizens of Turkey – a common civic task that will lower tensions and overcome polarization.

originally published on: http://www.dailysabah.com/columns/ibrahim-kalin/2015/11/07/consensus-politics-after-the-elections

 

 

UK police asked to pursue suspected war criminals in Sisi’s entourage

The anti-terror police have been asked to vet the entourage accompanying Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi on his three-day visit to Britain starting on Wednesday for suspects already being investigated in Britain for war crimes.

Sisi, his prime minister and foreign minister have immunity from prosecution under international law, but he is known to travel with large delegations.

Lesser members of his government, and military officials who were involved in organising the massive repression faced by the opposition in Egypt since the military coup in 2013, face arrest and interrogation on allegations of torture, unless the Egyptian government has applied for and obtained special mission immunity from the Foreign Office. Lawyers representing the Freedom and Justice Party are set to mount immediate challenges in court to any immunity from prosecution given by the Foreign Office to members of Sisi’s entourage.

Special mission immunity was given to Lieutenant General Mahmoud Hegazy, the chief of staff of the Egyptian Army, when he was invited by the Ministry of Defence on a four-day visit to Britain last month.

Hours before they were told by the FCO of Hegazy’s immunity, ITN Solicitors received an email from the police counter-terror unit S015 stating that they were considering “options for arrest and interrogation”. The email stated: “We will continue to consider any opportunities for arrest or interview in accordance with our Scoping Exercise as we have previously discussed.”

read more:

http://www.middleeasteye.net/news/uk-police-ask-pursue-suspected-war-criminals-sisi-s-entourage-1739387913

What brings J K Rowling, Simon Schama, Eric Pickles and Benjamin Netanhayu together?

JK Rowling has signed a letter called ‘Culture for Co-existence’ that opposes a boycott of Israel, which was also signed by radio and TV presenter Melvyn Bragg, writer Linda Grant, popular historian Tom Holland, author Hilary Mantel and historian Simon Schama.

Published in The Guardian, the letter is disingenuous. It claims that “cultural boycotts singling out Israel are divisive and discriminatory and will not further peace,” and that “cultural engagement builds bridges, nurtures freedom and positive movement for change.”

What the letter doesn’t make clear, however, is that one of the driving forces behind it is Neil Blair, JK Rowling’s literary agent, who is also on the board of the UK branch of the Abraham Fund, which despite appearances is involved in the settlements. In fact, the ‘Culture for Co-existence’ project is sponsored by Hapoalim, an Israeli bank that finances the construction of Jewish-only settlements in the occupied West Bank and is an associate organisation of the Abraham Fund.

On 21 October, the UK Friends of the Abraham Fund announced as its new chairperson Alex Brummer, an editor and columnist at the pro-Israel Daily Mail. Brummer is also a regular contributor to  The Jewish Chronicle.

Although Rowling’s co-signers make themselves out to be ‘UK Artists’, the list includes a slew of Tory politicians including but not limited to Eric Pickles, Chairman of the Conservative Friends of Israel, David Burrowes, officer of the Conservative Friends of Israel, MP Mike Freer who voted against the motion to recognize Palestine, and MP’s Bob Blackman and Guto Bebb — all members of the Conservative Friends of Israel.

see these Mondoweiss links on the subject

http://mondoweiss.net/2015/10/rowling-israel-potter

http://mondoweiss.net/2015/10/palestinian-challenges-hogwarts

http://mondoweiss.net/2015/10/palestinian-challenges-hogwarts

AK party wins 317 seats or an absolute parliamentary majority of 57%

The AK party forms a majority government with 317 seats in parliament on 49.48% of the popular vote, just shy of the 2011 record of 49.8%.

Electoral participation was an astonishing 85.18%.

Particularly hard hit were the Kurdish HDP and the nationalist MHP parties who each lost 1million of their voters since the June elections.

The AK party garnered an extra 4 million voters partly because many of the 70 new MPs of the AK party who entered the party at the June elections managed to gain the trust of their electorate. Other than the fact of those new MPs, there were dramatic reshuffles amongst at least 50% of the older generation of MPs. These changes were facilitated by the replacement in the intervening period of a certain number of these MPs by MHP MPs crossing over to the AKP (see: http://different-traditions.com/?p=3022).

Increased participation and a reduction in the number of votes for the smaller parties below the parliamentary threshold, also affected the outcome. Due to the mounting concerns about the stability of the country, those that had previously voted for the smaller parties did not want to waste their vote.

The anxiety about the country’s stability generally led voters to rally to the bigger parties, which factor also helped the Republican CHP party gain 400,000 votes since last June.

For graphs of the results see:

http://secim.aa.com.tr/indexENG.html