The United States signalled last week that it has no intention to put its campaign of maximum pressure towards Iran on hold. On 31 July, the US administration took the unprecedented step of imposing sanctions on the Iranian foreign minister, Mohamed Javad Zarif. The sanctions have included travel restrictions across US borders and the freezing of assets the Iranian minister might have in the United States. A senior administration official said that the US State Department would study on a “case-by-case basis” Zarif s travel to the United Nations. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin in a statement accompanying the designation stressed that the United States is “sending a clear message to the Iranian regime that its recent behaviour is completely unacceptable”. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo justified the unusual administration decision by saying that Zarif was sanctioned due to his position as a “key enabler” of the policies of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran s supreme leader. However, he made it clear that the Trump administration is still interested in reaching a diplomatic solution to its conflict with Iran through a comprehensive accord that would deal with the “full range of threats posed by Iran”. He warned that the “campaign of diplomatic isolation and maximum economic pressure will continue” until resolution of the conflict. What was not said or implied is what would happen if the American campaign of maximum pressure does not deliver on its intended objective; namely, forcing Iran to the negotiating table. The Iranian foreign minister took the decision in his stride, insisting that it won t have any impact on him because he has no assets in the United States. The general staff of the Iranian army commented on the American sanctions against Zarif, describing the US administration as “arrogant” and that the sanctions go against “international norms”. As the foreign minister of Iran, Zarif, who speaks fluent English and has good connections with influential American think tanks, is in role in defending the policies of his country as well as reaching out to the international media, particularly the American media and think tanks. A couple of weeks ago he was visiting the United Nations headquarters in New York and took this opportunity to defend Iranian positions vis-à-vis a host of regional questions and the nuclear accord of 2015, adding that Iran had not benefited economically after signing it. In response, Pompeo commented in interview that he would like to address the Iranian people directly, similar to the opportunity that the visit of Zarif to New York offered to the Iranian foreign minister to speak directly to the American people via the media and some think tanks. In the meantime, the US administration waived 31 July, the same day it imposed sanctions on the Iranian foreign minister, sanctions related to Iran s civilian nuclear programme. On Fox Business Network, Ambassador John Bolton, the White House national security adviser, confirmed that the United States has renewed its waiver for the nuclear-related sanctions for another 90 days. He pointed out that Washington is “watching those nuclear activities very, very closely”. He also reaffirmed that the US won t permit Iran to obtain “nuclear weapons capability”. The American waiver will allow Iran to continue working with Russia in transforming the Fordow uranium-enrichment plant into a nuclear physics centre, as well as cooperating with China to convert Iran s heavy-water reactor at Arak so it becomes less of a proliferation risk. The American sanctions on Iran s foreign minister could be interpreted as a direct response to the test firing by Iran of two intermediate ballistic missiles, the Shahab-3, which has a range of 600 miles, its design of North Korean origin, which took place towards the end of last month. The United States has been adamant in curtailing the Iranian missile programme and it figures high on the list of American demands if negotiations between Washington and Tehran are to see the light of day anytime soon. The Iranians firmly believe that it is their right to develop their missile capacities as a defensive measure. They even said that if the United States wants to limit Iran s missile capabilities, then Washington should stop providing Saudi Arabia and other adversaries of Iran advanced weapons systems. Zarif tweeted last month that for eight years former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein targeted Iranian cities with missiles and bombs provided by both “East and West”. Meanwhile, no one exported to Tehran means of self-defence against Iraqi missiles. From the point of view of Iran, its missile programme is defensive in nature. So far, there are no signs that the American maximum pressure campaign is bearing fruit. On the contrary, the more the growing economic pressures increase, the more is the likelihood that Iranians would become intransigent and more prone to escalate in the Gulf through small and calculated measures to deter the forces arrayed against them. It is difficult to say what the ceiling of the maximum pressure campaign is. The fact of the matter is that between this campaign, described by Tehran as “economic terrorism”, and direct military confrontation between the United States and Iran there must be a third way, lest by miscalculation on either side, the Middle East and the Gulf would become embroiled in a prolonged quagmire with no possible winners. The United States should let the Europeans, the Russians and the Chinese help it de-escalate diplomatically by lessening the economic pressures on the Iranians in such a way as not to let them off the hook completely and let Tehran accept to negotiate a diplomatic solution to this highly risky and perilous standoff in the Gulf.In the absence of such de-escalation, the chances for security and stability in the Gulf are almost non-existent. It is heartening to learn through a story published by The New Yorker this week that Senator Rand Paul, member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, had met with Zarif in New York lately and extended an invitation to the Iranian minister to meet President Trump at the White House. Zarif, according to the New Yorker, said that the decision on this matter is not his to make. American diplomacy, aided by the White House, should make such a meeting possible by working on certain conditions to make it happen. One will be to waive some economic and financial sanctions for 90 days to be renewed for the same period if developments warrant it, and secondly the US administration adopt a conciliatory approach towards Iran and especially its supreme leader. In September, the United Nations will hold its annual General Assembly, an occasion for reextending the invitation of Senator Rand Paul to the foreign minister of Iran to meet with President Trump in New York City under proper conditions. The Iranians have made clear that they are not interested in taking photos. They want substantive results to come out of such a meeting if it takes place. There is no reason why they should not be accommodated, if the United States, as Pompeo has reiterated, is committed to a peaceful resolution of the conflict with Iran.
What was once hailed as the cornerstone of European security in the late 20th century is now defunct, as both the United States and Russia have decided to walk away from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF), a deal that held its ground for 32 years since it was signed by late US president Ronald Reagan and former Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev in 1987. It represented one of the biggest steps in non-proliferation efforts to decrease the enormous stockpiles of nuclear warheads possessed by the then two superpowers. But Russian President Vladimir Putin officially suspended the treaty from Russia s side in July 2019 after US President Donald Trump announced that the US would drop the treaty as a result of alleged Russian violations of it. The INF Treaty reduced the tensions incurred during the Cold War after World War II between the Western allies led by the United States and the Communist ones led by the former Soviet Union. Until its recent and unfortunate end, the treaty banned land-based missiles with a range of between 500 and 5,500 km and also contributed to non-proliferation efforts by the elimination of 2,692 US and Soviet nuclear and conventional missiles. It was supposed to be part of a growing trend towards the elimination of most nuclear warheads from the planet, but these efforts have hit a wall now with this historic deal now in tatters. The US accused the Russians of developing and deploying a missile system in violation of the deal. Moscow denied the allegation and asserted that US missile-defence systems in Eastern Europe, particularly the one that is soon to be installed in Poland, were violations of the treaty. As with any broken international treaty, blame has been exchanged by both sides on who was responsible. But in this case both the US and Russia share part of the blame that has led to this unfortunate outcome. The Russians have long blamed the Americans for expanding the size of NATO and its allies in Europe following the fall of the former Soviet Union in 1991. Russia has looked with suspicion at US moves to encircle it as the successor state of the former Soviet Union with its military bases and military presence. Since the fall of the USSR, NATO has added 13 members, including former Warsaw Pact members such as Albania, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Romania and Hungary. It has even included former USSR countries such as Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia. These additions have caused the Russians to feel wary about the real intentions of the US and its allies towards them, and accordingly they have accused the West of breaking protocols and showing ill intentions towards the Russian side. NATO has not taken heed of the Russian worries, and it has continued its expansion, resulting in massive countermeasures by the Russians, especially since Putin took the helm of the Russian state in 2000. Over the past decade, Russia has developed a number of ground-breaking long-range Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles (ICBMs) to add to its already devastating arsenal of nuclear armaments. Russian ICBMs such as the RS-28 Sarmat, which reaches speeds of Mach 20, and the Topol M, which reaches speeds of Mach 22, are unmatched in terms of speed, payload and defence-evasion techniques, and represent the toughest strategic challenge facing NATO. The latter has been developing a Prompt Global Strike (PGS) system that will enable the US to perform conventional airstrikes anywhere in the globe within an hour. However, the problem for the US does not only stem from these long-range ICBMs, as there are also medium-range ones deployed near the borders with NATO members. For the US, this represents a breach of the treaty signed in 1987 and has even warranted dropping it entirely. According to the US, Russia was gaining an unfair advantage as the US had ceased the development of medium-range missiles, while the Russians had continued with such programmes. The US has announced that it will soon be testing a new non-nuclear mobile-launched cruise missile to counter what it perceives as the Russian threat from developing these weapons. Even more unfortunate is the news that the extension of the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START 2) signed in 2011 that was scheduled to be renewed in 2021 is now likely to be off the table despite calls by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres for both countries to extend it. The tensions growing from these events mean that the bilateral nuclear arms control mechanisms between the US and Russia are mostly no longer in place, and the world could witness a new nuclear arms race that will only contribute to global tensions. Moreover, Europe is also now at risk of being a battlefield in that growing race as it was during the Cold War. The huge arsenal of nuclear warheads stored in European countries by NATO, or those pointed towards those same countries by the Russians, are signs of things to come. Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov has stated that the actions taken by the US towards Russia prohibit his country from taking any further pledges by NATO seriously. This signifies the gravity of the demise of the INF Treaty, which has obliterated 32 years of cooperation towards making the world a safer place and less full of nuclear armaments. An irony remains in that Trump has at the same time been exerting vehement efforts towards the denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula. These have come along with peace talks with North Korea, which reportedly possesses only 20 or 30 nuclear warheads. Walking away from the INF Treaty with Russia means overlooking some 6,500 warheads. What North Korea possesses is a drop in the ocean compared to what the Russians, and of course the Americans, have, yet no similar efforts have been exerted to maintain or modify the INF Treaty. While the situation with North Korea and South Korea has been uncertain since the end of the Korean War in 1953, there was no logical reason not to work harder towards maintaining the INF Treaty or sign a new one to replace the treaty of 1987 with Russia. To put things into perspective, a nuclear war will not erupt next week over the end of this landmark treaty, but an obstacle has been removed to one igniting in the future. There is always room for negotiations, and the two superpowers have an obligation towards their countries and the rest of the world to negotiate a new treaty because what will transpire as a result of the demise of this one may be cataclysmic. No one can predict who will lead the US or Russia in the future and how far they will show restraint in their actions. Accordingly, a new set of nuclear non-proliferation treaties to be signed by both superpowers is imperative for global security.
In recent years, we ve seen bloodshed in churches, synagogues, mosques, festivals, protests and now a Walmart, at the hands of white nationalist extremists. FBI Director Christopher Wray testified in April that white supremacy is a "persistent, pervasive threat" to US security. In July, appearing again in front of Congress, Wray said, "I will say that a majority of the domestic terrorism cases that we ve investigated are motivated by some version of what you might call white supremacist violence, but it does include other things as well." He went on to say the number of domestic terrorism arrests are on par with the amount of international terrorism cases, approximately 100, since October 1, 2018. Sadly, Director Wray s words proved prescient. As the nation mourns another mass murder in El Paso, Texas, by a shooter allegedly motivated by his hatred of Hispanics and their so-called "invasion" of the United States, Fox News host Tucker Carlson looked into the camera and with a straight face told his audience that white supremacy "isn t a real problem in America." He called it nothing more than "a hoax, just like the Russia hoax. It s a conspiracy theory used to divide the country and keep a hold on power." What? Americans are dead. How dare he. I was aghast at Carlson s latest rant. Just when I thought the deliberate gaslighting by Trump apologists couldn t get any worse, it reached a new low on Fox News. His statements aren t just grossly irresponsible and patently false. They are also an insult to all the victims, their families and the communities who have suffered at the hands of white nationalist extremists, many of whom have seemingly been emboldened by President Donald Trump s rhetoric and that of his sycophants, like Carlson, who continue to give him cover. When a mass shooter leaves behind a racist diatribe using terms like "Hispanic invasion," mirroring language the President and right-wing news outlets use repeatedly to demagogue the issue of immigration, the impact it has on extremists cannot be ignored. During a Trump rally this past May in Florida, the President laughed off a supporter s shout of "shoot them" when discussing what to do about illegal border crossers. Trump didn t condemn the horrific comment -- the President of the United States cracked a joke. It was just a matter of time before someone took it seriously. In the face of a growing list of incidents of white extremist violence, from Charlottesville to Gilroy to El Paso, Trump and his chorus of enablers have unapologetically continued to push the invasion narrative. Words matter. According to a Washington Post study, counties that hosted a Trump rally in 2016 saw a 226% increase in hate crimes. The Anti-Defamation League says extremist related murders increased 35% from 2017 to 2018, "making them responsible for more deaths than in any year since 1995." Facts matter. This gaslighting is nothing more than a cowardly tactic to downplay white nationalist extremism in order to shield both Trump and his cadre of acolytes from any culpability for their repeated use of the dangerous rhetoric that has helped to mainstream extremist ideology. If the rise in white nationalist extremism isn t a real problem, why have social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram taken steps to ban content that advocates it? Why have federal authorities repeatedly sounded the alarm? Is Tucker Carlson calling Trump s FBI director a liar? Wray warned in April, "the danger ... of white supremacists, violent extremism or any other kind of extremism is, of course, significant," in response to the Department of Homeland Security s decision to disband an intelligence unit focused on domestic terror threats and shut down programs specifically directed at neo-Nazis and other far right groups. I remember when my fellow Republicans criticized President Obama for not calling out radical Islamic extremism strongly enough by name during his tenure. Where are those voices now concerning attempts to dismiss the threat of white nationalist extremism under President Trump? Their silence is deafening. Upon hearing the news that both her parents, Jordan and Andre Anchondo, were murdered by the El Paso shooter as they shielded her infant brother from the hail of bullets, 5-year-old Skylin asked her family, "Is he going to come and shoot me next?" I dare Tucker Carlson to look that now-orphaned young Hispanic girl and the scores other families ripped apart by the murderous actions of a white supremacist in the eyes and say that it s a hoax. Carlson owes every one of them an apology. Shame on him and anyone else downplaying the threat of white nationalist extremism. Their dishonesty disrespects the memory of everyone whose life was lost at the hands of it.
What is more dangerous than terrorism itself is that some of us stand with it, intentionally or unintentionally. There is no difference between terrorism and support for terrorism as the result of both is the same. I will refer to two striking examples presently. Yesterday morning, the country was filled with sadness for the victims of the Manial terrorist attack that shook downtown Cairo. Those who carried out the attack did so with the specific goal of defaming this safe country abroad. This was the aim of the operation, just as it was the objective of similar operations previously. At the same time, a bulldozer was demolishing Givrex factory in Alexandria to the ground. There were appeals from the factory to the presidency, to the Cabinet, to any wise official–perhaps someone could save the factory! At the same time, individuals directed similar sentiments toward a media campaign against the investor in media and advertising Tarek Nour for inexplicable reasons. The result in both cases–the case of the Alexandria factory, whose owner I do not know, and the case of Nour–was the same as the result behind the Manial attack: a message was sent to every investor who considers coming to Egypt. It was not the right message. In the case of the factory, the owners had asked for a grace period of six months to transfer the factory to another site, given that the purpose of demolition was to expand a road. The construction of a new road is a process that can wait, regardless of how vital the road is. The demolition of a factory in this way displaces workers and employees. Some of them may become tools in the hands of terrorism. The demolition of a factory in this way is certainly a message that inspires fear in individuals working in thousands of factories. It also inspires fear in thousands of investors–thousands of national investors and in turn an infinite number of foreign investors. It sends a negative message in all cases. And those who direct and nourish movements such as the campaign against Nour forget that he has a foreign partner in his work, and that this partner, when he sees what is happening to his partner, will immediately think of withdrawing quietly. After this there will be a frenzy of propaganda against Egypt, and against investing in Egypt, given all the places investments can go. It is not the Manial attack that poses a real danger to us, because the people will triumph over it and other attacks. The real danger is the mindset that poisons the investment climate. If the state wants proof, it will not find stronger proof than the factory that was working around the clock when it suddenly turned into wreck. No stronger proof than Tarek Nour, whose satellite channel stands with the state s national projects with all its might. And he is surprised that he is treated like an enemy and opponent. Who will voluntarily tell the state, at the highest levels, that its enemies are not hiding in the Alexandria factory or Al Kahira Wal Nas channel?
Confusing luxury with needs may lead to a troubled life, and the same applies to financial capabilities and class. Money doesn t make you classy: decency does. The reason why confusion is overwhelmingly dominant in certain societies is not only due to lack of knowledge or self-deception, but also because of those leaders that claim they can answer all types of questions regardless of their own limitations, and mix things that should not be mixed. The former leader of the Al-Wafd Party, Wagih Abaza, advised the party s younger members to avoid confusing activism with their professions. Being an activist means you are stepping out of your personal interests and gains to do something for the community, while a profession is what you do for a living. Confusing both is an act of delusion. Claiming heroism is an illusion. Most of the people who did and are doing heroic deeds didn t plan to become heroes, they just happened to do what they believed in which just so happened to be heroic; not the other way around. In 1955, African-American activist Rosa Parks (1913-2005) refused to give up her seat to a white passenger on a segregated bus in Montgomery, Alabama. Her defiance sparked the Montgomery Bus Boycott. This success led to nationwide efforts to put an end to racial segregation in public facilities. Rosa Parks did not mean to ignite the campaign. People were ready to demand their rights, they had been ready for a long time, and once the moment came they did what needed to be done. Rosa Parks remained a hero in the civil rights movement and the history of the US, not because she intended to become a hero, but because she believed in what she was doing. She did not pretend she was a hero, she did not play politics, she just demanded her basic rights which happened to be tied up with politics. What John Travolta did in 2010 when he flew his own airplane to help the Haitians when an earthquake hit Haiti was a type of activism and social responsibility. He felt he was compelled to help the community, and so he did. He did what he felt he had to, no one pushed him to do it, nor was he seeking any seeking fame or recognition; he is already an accomplished actor, dancer, singer and film producer. However what certain religious figures do when they support political figures is a form of confusion, or whenever they express views on science, psychology, health or physics based on religious text and not scientific data; this is sheer confusion. Religious figures are mainly specialized in religious thought, they are and should be scholars; devoting their time to research and guiding people in the realm of spirituality, leading people to a better path in life; but they can t lead in everything. When religious leaders poke their nose in every field of life, they unconsciously or consciously cause great harm to people s mindset, confusing them. Religious leaders have become a source of confusion, rather than guidance and clarity. YouTube guru Ahmed al-Ghandour is producing content that is both compelling and necessary. He is also providing the resources one might need to check out if they are a serious reader, and if you are even more serious about verifying the information you are receiving then you can then check the sources he provides, and look up the counter- arguments to what he is presenting. Consequently this leads to enriching society and especially the youth, who need to be well informed so that they can face the world. Then there comes ready-made accusations of not following religious thought, or even worse, endorsing ideas that may lead to losing faith in God. Eyad Qunaibi, a Jordanian pharmacist and Islamic missionary, accused al-Ghandour of endorsing superstition, absurdity and atheism. The accusation comes from one of al-Ghandour s episodes focusing on probability and coincidence. Qunaibi s response is based on from religious principles, which will only lead to more confusion. When dealing with scientific data, you need to use the same methodology; you cannot explain scientific data using religious text. Qunaibi even criticized Stephen Hawking (1942-2018); Hawking has been described as the most insightful theoretical physicist since Einstein. Very few people are able to understand the intricacies of his work yet Qunaibi, who is a pharmacist, argued that Hawking was assuming things that were nonsensical. Qunaibi did not argue using the same methodology that Hawking used, so Qunaibi is just creating chaos and not order; which will only lead to more confusion.
Judge Mohamed Abdel Wahab Khafagy, deputy president of the state council, issued a unique and unprecedented rule in 2016 that granted churches the same immunity mosques have against being bought and sold. This is probably the first ruling of its kind anywhere in the world which prohibits the sale or demolishing of churches, and makes church restoration a must, in order to preserve religious sanctity and freedom of belief. This ruling grants churches the same immunity as mosques based on the fact that houses of worship where prayer is established is transferred from the ownership of people to that of god, and so it can t just be traded between people, and religious purposes can t be altered. This ruling also brought forth an example of Egyptian greatness as it comes in support of the Egyptian government s decision to reject the demolition of a church in Beheira, after a man brought it from a Greek citizen who came from the Greek Orthodox community. The Egyptian government took the case to the court to appeal the selling of the church. Pope Tawadros II, the Pope of Alexandria and Patriarch of the Orthodox Church of St. Mark, intervened in the case as a religious symbol of Christianity aiming to preserve the Church, no matter what the sect. The Egyptian legislator has entrusted the ruling by issuing a law consistent with it, supporting the rule established by the judge and the sale or purchasing of buying churches. Egypt s churches have now become religiously preserved by an Egyptian judge and legislator. Khafagy s ruling came from the “jurisprudence of citizenship” preserved in the hearts of all Egyptians, providing protection and immunity to our brother s churches. It establishes a stable position for Egypt s churches from whatever sect, and wherever on the land of Egypt required to be protected from sale and purchase and demolition, and even providing restoration if damaged. The government is committed to building churches and keeping up their maintenance and rehabilitation for worship. This enlightened judge s ruling is not far from the state of citizenship in its manifestation, where the church is adjacent to the mosque. This is also comes in line with the church building law, which succeeded in reconciling the situations of more than 1,000 churches in its first year and proceeding towards another 1,000, in hopes to conclude an issue not approached by a government before the June 30 revolution, and which deserves to be described as a revolution of Egypt s people against sectarian superiority. While it s widely known that judges should not be hailed or vilified, here is an exception that deserves praise and appreciation for his work, and tribute and respect for his enlightenment. We are proud of the fact that here is a great judge who believes in true citizenship. The ruling was issued three years ago (March 28, 2016). It is a reference to those who review the history of citizenship, in a country where citizenship has been horribly targeted for decades. This ruling came as a breakthrough.
I spent two days at the seventh National Youth Conference at the New Administrative Capital this week, soaking in the talk of harsh realities, hard work and the prospects of a lasting dream. There, I saw the footprints of the future drawn by young Egyptians. There, enthusiasm is based on plans, statistics and projects that are well-thought-out and attached to their world. Enthusiastic young Egyptians have been searching deeply, looking into the strong and the weak points of the society in an attempt to diagnose the real dilemma. There was a team of young men and women coming from all over this country, working hard and in harmony to pursue their path to the future. Despite their different perspectives, professions, and educational backgrounds, they were highly attuned to their mission. I couldn t help but listen passionately to each and every one of them. They spoke about their dreams for Egypt, until that dream took them far from our reality. Their words -- though brief and concentrated – dig deep into our problems, presenting well-planned and timely projects that set the stage for a better future. Each and every one of them knew exactly his or her role in a well-planned system. Despite the huge number of people who took part in the event, the young Egyptians perseverance and persistence in dealing with the harsh realities and finding the best possible solutions was the key to understanding the harmony of their performance. Throughout the two-day forum, there has been a sense of willingness to overcome the difficulties around us, and to look deeply into the dilemma of coexisting with negligence, ugliness and laxity. President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi has rightly bet on those young men and women of Egypt to bridge the gap between the reality and the dream. Following the forum s activities would make anyone feel that the gap between reality and our dream has become narrower. It is very much like watching the blueprints and drawings of the new capital, then, in a short time, one actually lives within and touches each and every corner of that glorious city. The drawings have thus turned into skyscrapers, modern urban planning, wide roads and beautiful scenery. Similar projects have been taking place across the country, from Aswan in Upper Egypt to the North Coast, where new cities are to be launched and will become full of life, beauty and hard work. The new capital, which is a dream that came true in the heart of the desert, has also become the model for hundreds of national projects which will soon be crowned by putting the final touches to the modern state administrative system. Getting rid of the old system has become a necessity. It has been in itself an obstacle due to its slow and long processes, the lack of accurate data due to negligence, and because of its inability to maintain anything more than a sluggish connection between its different institutions. The coupon system, for instance, has been giving aid to those who are not in need, due to lack of accurate statistics and data. This lack of reliable information has also made it difficult to plan for the future. Corruption is another feature of the old administrative system. It will always flourish in a puzzling environment where the manipulation of paperwork and the lack of connections between information has become the rule. What we have seen in the new capital is the outcome of hard work to develop the administrative system. It will depend on state-of-the-art technology to create a “modern brain” for the country: the data of 50,000 employers will be stored on highly secured servers built some 14 meters underground. The most important and highly confidential government data will be kept here. With this modern administrative system, high quality services will be presented to our people without delay and with efficiency. The “government brain” will not only be available to the ministries and government officials, but also to major investment projects. President El-Sisi has said that we will have a modern and well-developed brain for the Egyptian state. When we have such a brain, we will be able to take decisions based on accurate data and plan for the future. Better yet, we will be able to get rid of bureaucracy and of ill-advised decisions. By the end of next year, the new “government brain” will be in operation and by then we will witness a great leap in government performance. One of the most fascinating projects is the initiative of “Dignified Life” which is being launched in the poorest villages. In such villages, new and beautiful houses will be built, with water and electricity supplies and a well-designed sewage system. The young people from poverty-stricken villages will also be able to participate in the new employment programme, broadening their horizons. Now we have so many examples full of hope and confident of a better future with a president who has the will and the spirit to realise our dream. He also has, by his side, very enthusiastic young people who love their country and are well-equipped with knowledge and scientific thinking. Those young Egyptians will give us the positive energy and confidence that our children will pursue a better living standard. It is the future that deserves a lot of work, patience and perseverance. It is the future that comes with grand projects embodied in dozens of new cities planned in the desert to establish industrial and agricultural communities, with roads and bridges that stretch out for 8,000km, and 3-to-6 traffic lanes. It is the future that will change this country, and put an end to the cancerous slums that have until now prevailed and threatened our security and lifestyle. In these slums, all sorts of social diseases are mushrooming, and when they are eradicated with the establishment of new communities that are marked by beautiful structures and clean, wide roads, a new era will be ushered in. It is hard to review such fascinating efforts exerted by our young people in their two-day forum, but their hard work marks a new historical era characterised by a new lifestyle in health, education and economic activity, as dreamed of by all Egyptians.
Modern British history has shown no shortage of great leadership figures that have stirred the country in the darkest of times. Winston Churchill and Margaret Thatcher were two examples of how stern and visionary leadership could help to steer the country to safety in times of peace and war. However, the United Kingdom s more recent history has lacked such figures. Over the past couple of decades, the country has been struggling with the quality of its political leadership, with this doing the opposite of what its historical antecedents did, which was to help the country through various storms. The UK s failure of leadership has become a pattern since at least former prime minister Tony Blair, in office between 1997 and 2007, who parroted former US president George W Bush s false claims about Iraq possessing nuclear weapons and led his country into invading a sovereign nation in 2003. This pattern of troubled leadership has continued over the past decade, reaching its highest point when former prime minister David Cameron called for a referendum on leaving the European Union, the so-called Brexit, in 2016, resulting in a British vote to leave the EU. This vote has had ramifications until today, and it was the result of an unexplained lack of political awareness and overconfidence on Cameron s part. The result was a slap in the face for the ex-prime minister, who ended up losing his bet on Britain remaining in Europe and opened a Pandora s Box for further political upheaval that may take decades to fix. Britain now has a new prime minister in the shape of the Conservative Boris Johnson who has replaced former prime minister Theresa May. The latter had promised to deliver a safe Brexit out of the European Union and firmly negotiate favourable terms with it. Though she had three years to accomplish the task she had sworn to do, she failed miserably on all counts. Johnson s first speech as prime minister contained another vow to exit the European Union with fewer than 100 days left before this is due to take place. It is not known how he will attain such a feat. But earlier statements speak about exiting the European Union at all costs even if this means no deal with Europe and economic catastrophe. May could have done this without all the fuss as well, though it would have left Britain and the British economy stranded at a crossroads between being forced to work with European laws that are no longer acceptable in the United Kingdom and with unpaid debts to the EU that will have their own ramifications for the future of the country. Johnson s approach of bullying Europe is highly unlikely to yield tangible results. European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker has already expressed his rejection of Johnson s rhetoric and said that the EU will not renegotiate a deal with the UK. The deal reached with May is the best that can be achieved, he has said, though this deal was rejected several times by the British parliament. Johnson s reaction to this is the first move in his attempt to carve out a legacy as prime minister, which means either he keeps his image as a controversial political activist with an emphasis on media showmanship or adopts an image as the nation s leader instead. Johnson may not be the most likeable character in the Conservative Party, but if can secure a proper Brexit with the least economic costs for the United Kingdom then he will be looked at in a different light. There is worse news from the other side of the aisle with the opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn. Corbyn is not short on controversies, as hardly a month goes by without unrealistic and populist statements emerging from his mouth. Corbyn is not shy about being photographed with representatives of terrorist groups such as the Palestinian group Hamas. He portrays himself as a staunch fighter for human rights, while remaining on cordial terms with figures and groups that do not believe in them. Corbyn, in fact, is a staunch communist in terms of his political agenda, and he could have been an active leader in the former Soviet Union. Many of his statements may sound plausible to the general public, especially when he delivers speeches about healthcare, social justice and economic reform, but they are always presented within a classically Marxist vision of things. Populist promises fall on hard ground when they are attempted in reality, and for a British leader to adopt such promises spells danger if Corbyn finds his way into 10 Downing Street after future elections. This will depend on the performance of Johnson in the coming months, and the look of his new cabinet is not promising. It includes two ministers sacked from previous cabinets, one of them being Gavin Williamson, the education secretary, who as a former defence minister leaked state secrets that resulted in his firing. The cabinet also includes a significant number from the Remain camp who voted against Brexit and then changed their minds, making their commitment to Johnson s goal of leaving the EU as soon as possible questionable. At the moment, distrust of the new cabinet and Johnson himself remains very high among the public and media alike. The three years wasted on attempting to exit the European Union have been harsh on Britain s social, economic and political position, and the situation cannot continue to remain unresolved for much longer. Moreover, current domestic feuds within Britain are reflecting negatively on the state of the union, evident in Scotland s first minister demanding a new independence referendum for Scotland in the light of the Brexit decision which according to her provides a choice for the Scottish people to remain within the union or become independent within the European Union. She iterated this position in a letter addressed to Johnson this week. Johnson, unpopular in Scotland even among Tory supporters, plans to visit Scotland soon to rally the unionists to his side who managed to win the Scotland independence referendum in 2014. Back then the Brexit was none-existent, however, and being a member of the EU was one of the perks flaunted by the Remain camp to persuade voters to vote to remain in the UK. Since the 2016 Brexit Referendum, things have changed dramatically, and the very perk that kept Scotland within the United Kingdom may be the same that will now lead to its independence should a new referendum take place. Since the end of the Second World War, the UK has not found itself in a bigger political crisis, even with the years of economic recession, the Suez Crisis, the Falklands War and then the Gulf War. The reason is that the Brexit crisis will shape the future of the United Kingdom and its political and economic status for future generations. Given the inept and comic figures that currently hold key positions in Britain, the future does not look bright.
In a cabinet meeting 24 July, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani reiterated his country s readiness for talks over its nuclear programme. He added that Tehran has always been ready for what he described as “just and respectful negotiations”. The following day, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, talking to Kevin Cirilli of Bloomberg, said he would welcome the chance to address the Iranian people and tell them the “truth” concerning the policies adopted by their leadership. The same day, 25 July, he told Bret Baier of Fox News that the US strategy of maximum pressure on Iran aims at disrupting the creation of wealth for the regime of the Ayatollahs and to push the Iranian leadership to “sit down and negotiate to terms that just make Iran look like a normal nation”. So, the stage is being set for future negotiations between the United States and Iran. It goes without saying that the American gun pointed at Tehran won t make things easy. However, the Europeans and other powers, particularly in Asia, would doubtless try to mediate a path that would make it possible for the Iranians to start talking to the Americans without appearing to be surrendering to American conditions as laid out by Pompeo in May 2018, days after the United States announced its withdrawal from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or Iranian nuclear deal. In the meantime, the main concern for the United States and its European and Middle Eastern allies and partners is to safeguard the freedom of navigation in the Strait of Hormuz. For this purpose, US Central Command hosted a meeting at its headquarters in Tampa, Florida 19 July to discuss the development of a multinational maritime effort “to increase surveillance of and security in key waterways in the Middle East to ensure freedom of navigation”. “Operation Sentinel”, the name given to this multinational maritime effort, aims according to a released statement to promote maritime stability and ensure safe passage in international waterways in the region. Furthermore, another important objective is to deescalate tensions in international waters in four strategic zones; namely, the Strait of Hormuz, the Arabia Gulf, the Gulf of Oman and the Bab Al-Mandab. On the other hand, former British foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt proposed last week the formation of a naval force to escort ships and tankers in the Arabian Gulf to ensure safe passage through the Strait of Hormuz. The French, the Germans and the British are coordinating their diplomatic efforts to agree on the formation and rules of engagement pertaining to this proposed force. The French are very careful not to antagonise the Iranians in this regard, and want the force to act as a deterrent to any attacks on foreign ships in the Gulf. They believe that what is important is to keep the Iranians engaged in negotiations with the European Union so as to deescalate the situation in the Gulf and to work with the Iranians with the hope that Tehran, despite its threats, would remain committed to the nuclear deal while trying hard to lessen the economic and financial impact of American sanctions on Iran. After the arrival of Boris Johnson as British prime minister on Wednesday, 24 July, the Europeans could find him more prone to deescalate with the Iranians. Some observers fear that the new prime minister could be more prone to follow in the footsteps of the White House strategy of maximum pressure on Iran. When he was foreign secretary in Theresa May s cabinet, before his resignation last year, he tried to talk President Donald Trump into not walking out of the Iranian nuclear deal. Now, and taking into account the difficult Brexit process under his tenure, chances are that he would prefer to take the middle ground between the American and the European positions on Iran. In the difficult months ahead, before Britain exits the European Union by 31 October, he is in no position to lose the support and the goodwill of President Trump. As long as the United States is not keen on a military confrontation with Iran, the Europeans, including the British, have a good chance of using their diplomatic leverage with Iran to facilitate negotiations between the United States and Iran. One sure way is the successful implementation of the mechanism Intex (Instrument in Support of Trade Exchanges) to avoid American sanctions. Judging from the positions and declarations of American officials and top brass, Washington s main objective is twofold. First applying maximum pressure on Iran to push the Iranian leadership to agree to negotiate, and second is to safeguard safe passage through international waterways in the Gulf, the Arabian Sea, as well as Bab Al-Mandab in such a way as to deescalate the situation in the Gulf region. In other words, to deter Iran from escalating the face-off with the United States and its Middle Eastern allies and partners. The Europeans are also interested in deescalating while working to deter Iran from threatening freedom of navigation, as well as to encourage Tehran to remain committed to the nuclear deal. Iran, even though its economy is in shambles, does not hesitate to take small, inoffensive steps to deter the Americans and the Europeans at the same time. The former to not increase its campaign of maximum pressure and the latter to help Iran get around American sanctions. It is a risky three-way deterrence. Its success depends on each side of this triangle calculating its moves carefully. However, the longer this three-sided deterrence remains, the greater the chances of miscalculation, especially from the Americans or Iranians. Another factor in this equation is Israel. If Iran would gradually disengage from its commitments in the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, because of lack of diplomatic progress on contentious questions with the Europeans and the US, Israel could destabilise the deterrence balance in place between the US and Europe, on the one hand, and Iran, on the other. Israel s strategic aim remains the complete destruction of Iranian nuclear capacities and capabilities. Israel won t hesitate to go to any length if Iran would someday go full steam ahead in its nuclear programme.
The United States and the world celebrated Saturday, 20 July, the fiftieth anniversary of the landing on the moon of Apollo 11 with Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin on board. Once he touched the lunar surface, Armstrong had uttered a sentence that would reverberate around the globe and down ages to come. “That s one small step for man, one giant leap for mank Looking back, I could not help but think of where Egypt had been 50 years back and what has become of her after five decades that have seen radical changes in world politics as well as the fate of Egypt, the Middle East and the Arab world. Egypt from within has undergone deep and transformative changes. The years that separate us from the day that two daring American astronauts landed on the moon have been years of war, peace and modernisation by fits and starts.
The backlash abroad against President Xi Jinping s China, at least in developed nations, has spread rapidly in the last year. Some countries, like Australia and Canada, feel patronized and bullied. Neighbors worry they are being marginalized. Advanced industrial nations, especially Germany and South Korea, see China coming at them like an unstoppable, oncoming train. he US, for decades the world s lone superpower, is confronted by a once-in-a-lifetime challenge from Beijing. All of these phenomena, previously bubbling under the surface, have burst into clear view during Xi s time in office. Beijing s opaque internal political system means it is hard to make judgments about domestic Chinese politics, but there can be little doubt that a backlash is underway at home, too. Good and bad enemies As a leader, Xi is unique in post-revolutionary party politics in not having any identifiable domestic rival or successor, largely because he has ensured that none have been allowed to emerge. But Xi has earned himself an array of what we might called "bad enemies" and "good enemies" since taking office in late 2012. They range from the once-rich and powerful families he destroyed in his anti-corruption campaign, all the way to the small-r reformers angered by his illiberal rollback of the incremental institutional advances of the reform period. Forced to lay low initially because of the dangers of challenging him outright, Xi s critics at home have begun to find their voice. They have been outspoken mainly on economic policy, but the deeper undercurrents of their criticisms are unmistakeable. The sons of former top leaders, revered scholars who guided China s economic miracle, frustrated private entrepreneurs and academics furious about Xi s unrelenting hardline -- all have complained in multiple public forums, in speeches, in online postings and in widely circulated essays at home and offshore, about Xi s policies and style. "Something strange is happening in Xi Jinping s China," wrote Ian Johnson in the New York Review of Books. In what was supposed to be the "perfect dictatorship", the country was witnessing "the most serious critique of the system in more than a decade, led by people inside China who are choosing to speak out now, during the most sensitive season of the most sensitive year in decades." The exact number of "tigers" toppled by Xi s anti-corruption campaign -- in other words, officials who were once part of the designated elite whose jobs had to be cleared through the Party s central personnel system -- is not easy to calculate. The best estimates put it around 300 to 400, including scores of generals. The officials who have been prosecuted and jailed include members of the Politburo, ministers, vice-ministers, the heads of state-owned enterprises, provincial party leaders and governors, and mayors. An anti-China protester raises a placard with a portrait of Chinese President Xi Jinping during a protest in front of the Chinese consular office in the financial district of Manila on April 9. In each of those cases, the investigations don t just hit the individual official who has been targeted and detained. Literally, hundreds of thousands of people who are tied into and rely on that single person for their income are effectively swept up with them. Their livelihoods, and all that they have invested in clawing their way through the system, can evaporate with the stroke of a pen. Some members of the patronage networks are often arrested themselves. Xi has made enemies of them all. "Xi has destroyed millions of people in the elite who now all hold a personal grudge against him," said a China-based businessman, who asked not to be named, earlier in 2019. "These people are not a bunch of uneducated peasants from the sticks in Henan. They had skin in the game." Threshold for an uprising is high Despite all this, Victor Shih, a US-China specialist, was doubtless right when he said that the threshold for some kind of "intra-party uprising" against Xi remains very high. "He would need to commit a catastrophic mistake that jeopardizes the continual rule of the Party for his potential enemies within the Party to rise up against him," Shih said in the New Yorker. But the idea that Xi is literally "president for life," as he is often referred to in the wake of the 2018 abolition of term limits, will in all likelihood be proved wrong. From mid-2018, Xi was already facing a public backlash on economic policy, the area where it has always been safest for Chinese to speak out. Xi has a legion of critics on foreign policy as well, who believe he has overreached and left the way open for the US and others to bind together on issues ranging from trade and technology to military and strategic influence in east Asia. Most scholars have delivered their critiques in private, or in carefully coded language. However Deng Xiaoping s son, Deng Pufang, was explicit in a speech late last year to a disabilities forum which was leaked to the Hong Kong media. He urged China s leadership to "know its place" in the world, and concentrate on its problems at home. Finally, the abolition of term limits summed up the rage that many influential officials and scholars felt about their country s leader. In one decision, Xi confirmed his critics view that he was an unrepentant autocrat willing to take China backwards in the service of his agenda. Just as it is difficult to anticipate where any challenge will come from, it is equally hard to see how Xi s supremacy in domestic politics can be sustained. Factors which remain out of Xi s control will weigh against him. China s slowing economy and rapidly declining demographics can obviously be leveraged to argue in favor of maintaining tight authoritarian controls. But they are much more likely to work against Xi in future. The same goes for China s tightening fiscal situation. Beijing s ability to throw money at every problem, like bailing out cash-strapped local governments, will only get harder. In other words, by the time of the next party congress, due in late 2022, the issue of succession should return with a vengeance.
Known as the golden boy-king, the ancient Egyptian Pharaoh Tutankhamun became important news this month when Christie s, an auction house in the UK, put a head featuring the boy-king s facial features on sale on 4 July in London. Minister of Antiquities Khaled El-Enany asked the National Committee for the Return of Stolen Artefacts to discuss the issue. They announced that the ministry would file a lawsuit against Christie s and asked Prosecutor-General Nabil Sadek to give authority to the Egyptian Embassy in London in its attempt to halt the sale. The UN cultural agency UNESCO was also asked to intervene. The head is made of quartzite and represents the god Amon Re with the facial features of Tutankhamun. This type of head came from Karnak, or rather it was stolen from Karnak. One major problem that we are facing with stolen artefacts is that the antiquities authorities in Luxor seldom report stolen objects. As a result, even in the case of this head of Tutankhamun it is difficult to offer evidence that it was stolen. UK law also does not require that Christie s should present legal documents to the effect that the object left Egypt legally. Egyptian law before 1983 required anyone taking an object out of Egypt to go to the Egyptian Museum and obtain a certificate saying that the piece was not stolen. Christie s did not show any evidence that they had a legal document to show that the head of Tutankhamun was not stolen. At the same time, the auction house said that the head had belonged to German prince Wilhelm von Thurn und Taxis (1919-2004) in the 1960s and that he had sold it in 1973 or 1974 to Josef Messina, the owner of the Galerie Kokorian & Co in Vienna. But according to a report by the website LiveScience, Gudula Walterskirchen, a historian and journalist who knew Wilhelm well, said that he did not have an artefact collection. Moreover, Sylvia Schoske, director of the Museum of Egyptian Art in Munich in Germany, published the head in a book in Germany (Konzeption der Ausstellung und Katalog Heinz Herzer, an exhibition catalogue). This was for an exhibition in 1986, but she did not report the event to the Egyptian authorities at that time, who also did not recognise the head of Tutankhamun. Even so, the Munich Museum has a reputation for exhibiting stolen artefacts, as was shown by its exhibiting the coffin of Akhenaton even though it knew that it had been stolen. The head of Tutankhamun was sold on 4 July for over four million pounds sterling, the equivalent of $5.97 million. The occasion took 10 minutes, and we do not know who bought the head. Unfortunately, it seems to have been some rich person who will now keep the head in his private collection, not allowing the public to see it. I said on many TV channels at the time that this was a black day in the history of Egyptian archaeology. People all over the world were upset. If the British government lets this object leave the country without looking at the legal papers, then this will also be wrong. Some 18 British archaeological teams are working in Egypt, and though we do not want to punish them because of the actions of Christie s, some people have argued for just that. These teams are made up of colleagues working at many sites and making major discoveries. Other people have argued that there should be an embargo on the current Tutankhamun exhibition visiting London in November, but we cannot punish British citizens for the actions of Christie s or their government. I recently returned from the US to attend a meeting of the national committee headed by El-Enany. We decided to hire a law firm in London to take action against Christie s, and this decision was passed on to the Egyptian ambassador in London. Sadek has also asked the international police organisation Interpol to follow up on any sale of Egyptian objects abroad. At the very least, we should see the legal documents to ensure that the objects left Egypt legally. Meanwhile, Christie s has done nothing whatsoever to help. They sold the piece, and they damaged history, and the world was outraged at the move. We may not be able to do anything to bring back the head, but those who deal in such statues may do well to beware the curse of Tutankhamun.
We are now in the second half of July, a time when ten days or so before the 23rd of the month Facebook in Egypt erupts with people feeling an urge to express their views on former president Gamal Abdel-Nasser, the modern Egyptian state, on what went wrong, what went right and who was better – Nasser or his successor Anwar Al-Sadat. Some people also say we should not forget Mohamed Naguib or king Farouk, individuals who are rightly thought of as Nasser s victims. As a result, they are sometimes wrongly sanctified, Farouk especially so. I ll try to be more accurate about the people I mean. I am now 60 years old, and among my generation and my parents generation everybody wants to have their say. This is inspired by our experiences and is grounded in our recollections, as we all lived under Nasser and his heirs. Memories of our parents doubtless plays a role. During the 1970s and 1980s, we used to spend hours with friends and schoolmates debating the question of how 1967 had been possible. People exchanged stories, shared recollections, and tried to stick to “lessons learnt”. Of course, we also tried to figure out what happened in 1973, to assess how Sadat had managed the war, and to establish the accuracy of general Al-Shazli s narrative of it, and so on. However, our generations are now in a minority in Egypt. What about today s young people? I do not have an answer to this question as we lack recent and reliable polls. However, I have a sample, definitely not representative, made up of my students and Facebook friends. All my students speak foreign languages and almost all belong to the upper-middle classes with some exceptions. According to some polls taken in 2011 or 2012, Nasser emerged as the clear number one among Egyptian political preferences, though he did not reach the threshold of 50 per cent. Sadat came a strong second. When I lecture my students on “theories of revolution,” with Egypt s as case studies, they show great interest, a willingness to read and learn, and some sometimes surprising twists. For instance, though this is not related to Egypt, a brilliant student of mine with strong leftist inclinations once told me that the ultra-reactionary Roman Catholic writer Augustin Cochin was her preferred author. “I have finally read something really new and inspiring,” she said. I cannot claim I have had discussions with all of them, but I can give some examples of what they say. Those who belong to very conservative families cannot understand how I can say that Nasser was a great man. He was a megalomaniac who crushed dissent and led Egypt to disaster, they say. Liberals, on the other hand, tend to say that “what you are saying is very interesting, but it is so remote. However, it is interesting as it helps us to understand your world view.” By this, they mean “ferocious belief in independence and autonomy” and sceptical attitudes towards the West. Others have told me they do not like Nasser and his brand of nationalism. After some discussion, it seems to me they think Nasser s discourse sounds pretty much like the diatribes of some of those who call themselves “nationalists” today and who keep on imagining world conspiracies, horrible plots and lecture everybody on foreigners and fifth columnists misdeeds. Most of my students tend to consider Nasser as the father of the “July state,” which is alive and kicking, powerful, authoritarian and unable to adapt itself to democratic needs. Many admit that this state has achieved many things and accomplished great deeds. They differ on the question of whether we need it today. Lastly, I have some students and acquaintances who think of Nasser s era as a lost paradise. Egyptians trusted the leadership, had a lot of things in common including a grand design, did not need to pay attention to their daily needs as the state took care of them, and could devote their time to heroic deeds and sacred causes. Of course, not all Nasser s fans are as naïve as that. Many simply think of him as an honest patriot who dedicated his life to a grand design that should be an inspiration to all of us. It should be noted that I think these young people do not necessarily see Nasser through their parents lenses. Rightly or wrongly, they believe they know the pros and the cons of the case, and they have their own opinions. However, it seems to me that many of them believe their parents views on Sadat. Many are surprised when I evoke what his opponents have had to say about him. Reviewing such themes could be very instructive, not for understanding Nasser and Sadat, but for understanding contemporary Egyptians.For now, I prefer to describe something that has surprised me, however. Many students have said that Nasser was a “crypto-communist” and many others have thought he was a “crypto-Muslim Brother.” For them, Nasser agreed on the essentials with his “political family,” whether communist or Islamist, and the real clash was not about ideology but about who would seize power. They underline the fact that Nasser was a Muslim Brother before the revolution and that he had had close contacts with HADETO, the Democratic Movement for National Liberation, a communist faction. This is very unsound, however. Instead, we should say that Nasser was something like a centrist. This may sound paradoxical, except that French historian Fabrice Bouthillon has said in one of his best books that there are two opposite kinds of “centre,” a centre that excludes the extremes and a centre that includes them. Nasser excluded both extremes from the relevant circles of power, but he also borrowed many ideas from them and fitted them into his own doctrine. This is one way to explain the problem. Another one stems from Nasser himself, especially as he once said that he read Marx with the Marxists and against them. This meant that he thought it was necessary to analyse the social system using Marxist tools, but that he did not accept a scheme predicting or advocating an exacerbation of class struggle and culminating in revolution. He was also too much of a nationalist to accept internationalism, especially as this was a cover for Soviet hegemony at the time. His own recipe was to “nationalise” the class struggle. With Political Islam, the problem was different. Nasser shared some strong dislikes with the Brotherhood. He thought they were good on education, as they educated young people to become good Muslims and they disciplined them. But he thought they totally lacked political or common sense and that they could not accept the logical consequences of the need for a united country fighting for its independence.
The entire world stopped before the Hiroshima disaster and history recalls every day the number of victims and images of devastation. But nobody stopped to acknowledge the victims of a greater catastrophe whose numbers surpass those of Hiroshima by a factor of 14. The former was a disaster that struck humanity with horror and after which treaties and campaigns were launched, initiatives and organisations were established. The latter was a disaster on a whole other scale, but ceased to become first page news. With established scientific responsibility, I dare say that ideological weapons are the most dangerous of Weapons of Mass Destruction in the 21st century. They are the equivalent of biological weapons without noise or clamour. Bacteria and viruses that constitute the backbone of biological weapons were substituted with intellectual bacteria and ideological viruses to form the cornerstone of ideological weapons. The West speaks of the dangers of biological weapons, while the Islamic world confronts daily the uses of ideological weapons. Wars knew biological weapons centuries ago where rivers and water wells were poisoned. In World War I, poisonous bacteria was used in order to spread illnesses and diseases and annihilate the largest numbers possible among enemy troops. In World War II, Nazi Germany used more advanced biological weapons and the armies of other Axis countries used biological bombs, killing thousands of people. Biological weapons are terrifying weapons. According to historians, smallpox victims surpassed the victims of World War I and World War II put together. In spite of eradicating the smallpox virus in the world now, the virus is still preserved in the laboratories of the big powers. About half-a-century after the ratification of the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development of Bacteriological Weapons, Moscow and Washington began accusing each other of violating the convention and developing horrific biological weapons. What I would like to draw attention to is that ideological weapons are also developed and there are laboratories in several intelligence services that are working on this field in order to make ideas weapons for annihilation, not for dialogue. The ideological weapons, as I see it, use extremist ideas to annihilate vast numbers of enemies under the pretext of breaking the rules of the creed. It is a weapon which was put into use during European colonisation, then developed further by the Nazi leader Adolf Hitler, after which the victorious Western powers from WWII adopted it. The policy of “Divide and conquer,” which is built on sowing religious sectarian divisions and creating a mutually exclusive formula among society s forces and segments, is the foundation of the imperial ideological weapon. This policy has succeeded many a time in helping small colonial countries in colonising other big countries. Strife was the first kind of ideological weapon put into practice and was behind the weakness of colonised peoples and elites towards forces of invasion and occupation. Then religious extremism gained full attention as the weapon of utmost importance in destroying the Islamic Ummah (Nation) without a fight. A victory without war. The author of A Mosque in Munichpointed out the Nazis role in developing the application of this weapon. It was done through using Islamist extremists as a fifth column, working with forces abroad for the sake of ruining the state and terminating the regime and also using extremists within Muslim minorities in enemy states for the same purpose. Hitler was defeated but the idea wasn t crushed. It moved from Berlin to other capitals. The ideological weapon was developed to be the most lethal of weapons. The ideological weapon, that is using the extremist Muslims as a weapon in defeating Islam and Muslims, succeeded in harming almost all the Islamic countries. There is not a single Islamic country that has escaped from the clutches of terrorism and the tragedy of excessiveness and extremism. The American war on Iraq and Afghanistan led to a historic leap in the power of terrorism and an exponential increase in the numbers of victims. According to a study made by the Watson Institute for International Affairs at Brown University in the US, more than half a million people died in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan during 10 years: a quarter of a million in Iraq and another quarter of a million in Afghanistan and Pakistan. As for The Lancetmedical journal, it published an authoritative study in which it estimated the Iraqi death toll from the year of invasion 2003 until 2006 to be more than 650,000, including 50,000 due directly to the invasion and 600,000 killed as a result of violence erupting following the invasion. The British Opinion Research Business agency, which conducted a detailed field study, estimated the numbers of Iraqi victims from 2003 to 2007 to be about one million and 33,000! Study centers hold the view that the real numbers are far greater than already mentioned. According to the introduction of the Brown University research paper, “Indeed, we may never know the total direct death toll in these wars.” Tens of thousands were killed in the operations of regaining Mosul and other cities from the hands of the Islamic State (IS) group, but the bodies of those casualties weren t regained. Statistics don t also include those killed indirectly. If we put that into consideration, the Iraqi death toll since the invasion could well surpass two million. Newspapers published in 2019 that IS seeks to obtain biological weapons in different parts of the Islamic world. This time the tragedy would be unlimited, combining both biological and ideological weapons. The matter is shocking and terrifying to the extent that it is better not to think about it. In this case, Muslim societies will disintegrate into groups and factions, with each group considering the other its enemy and everyone condemning the other. The Islamic world doesn t need more than this to witness the autumn of its life. A defeat without war. At this time, the numbers of victims of ideological weapons can t be estimated. We will repeat what General Tommy Franks, who led the 2003 invasion of Iraq, said when asked by reporters about the number of casualties: “We don t do body counts.” The ideological weapons need a counter weapon to dispel the illusions ignorant extremists propagate, and resume the building of the soft power of civilisation. Culture is the foundation of the counter weapon and knowledge is the base for resuming hope.
Despite multiple examples of both electronic and print media that highlight the successes of women in public and private life, women are still seen as too emotional and unable to take substantial decisions in their lives. It is not just men who assume that women are not decision makers, women also fall prey to the same assumption. To a considerable extent, the media plays a key role in promoting negative concepts and attitudes toward women. Doubtless, the media not only gives people information and entertainment, but it also impacts people s lives by shaping their opinions and beliefs.
On Wednesday, 10 July, Sir Kim Darroch, the British ambassador to the United States, submitted his resignation after three eventful days that pitted him against the “most powerful man in the world”, the President of the United States Mr Donald Trump. In his letter of resignation, Darroch stated he was afraid he would not to be able to carry out his official duties. His resignation was unprecedented for a British ambassador posted in the United States.
As I write this, the Gulf has stepped closer to the brink of a military confrontation. On Wednesday, last week, Iranian gunboats tried to impede and seize a British oil tanker. They would have forced it towards an Iranian port had not a British frigate escorting the tanker intervened, trained its guns on the Iranian vessels and forced them to retreat. The attempted seizure of the British tanker was in retaliation for the British seizure of an Iranian tanker in Gibraltar because it was carrying oil to Syria in flagrant breach of EU sanctions. The Iranian response is part of the succession of escalatory incidents in the Gulf and Red Sea that have led the US to decide to form an international coalition to protect commercial vessels, oil tankers and maritime platforms. It would be comprised of nations keen to safeguard the security of their ships and maritime routes, while the US would be in charge of monitoring and intelligence in the designated region, which includes the Red Sea, the Gulf of Aden, the Indian Ocean, the Gulf of Oman, Bab Al-Mandeb and the Suez Canal. As tensions in the Gulf grow increasingly fraught, it appears that the Eastern Mediterranean is heading in the same direction. An impending crisis has been seething beneath its waters and threatens to erupt to the surface there as well. UN Secretary General António Guterres has warned of the “risks of conflict” raised by exploratory drilling for hydrocarbon resources (oil and gas) in that region. The risk of conflict over natural resources — from water to petroleum and natural gas — is far from new in the Middle East. What is new this time is that the bad omens are coming at a time when the spirit of cooperation and partnership in the Middle East seemed to have gained an edge over the spirit of conflict and tension, and when good news appears quicker to arrive than bad. Previously in this column I have observed how the maritime border agreements between Egypt and Saudi Arabia and Egypt and Cyprus, which were concluded in accordance with international maritime law, had opened the doors to mutual prosperity in the Red Sea and Eastern Mediterranean. I held that the prospects for sharing the benefits of the natural resources in these regions would work to keep tension and conflict at bay. In no small part, this has proven correct. Things have begun to look up in the south after Ethiopia and Eritrea signed a peace deal ending their longstanding conflict and in the north where Egypt, Israel, Palestine, Jordan, Cyprus, Greece and Italy formed the Eastern Mediterranean Gas Forum (EMGF). In addition, the US mediation carried out by Ambassador David Satterfield succeeded in bridging differences between Lebanon and Israel over the maritime boundaries between them, facilitating natural gas extraction for them both. Lebanon has engaged the French firm Total, the Italian Eni and Russia s Novatek for the purpose while Israel engaged the Israeli Delek Drilling company and the American Noble Energy company which are currently operating in the Tamar and Leviathan gas fields. The Dutch-British Shell company has begun exploration for more gas in Cypriot waters which, according to the Cypriot-Egyptian agreement, will be liquified by the Egyptian firm Edco. The most recent piece of good news concerns the closure of the longstanding dispute between Egypt and Israel over Egyptian compensations to Israel for halting gas exports in the wake of 18 terrorist attacks against the gas pipeline in Sinai. Under the agreement, the compensation due to be paid to Israel was reduced from $1.8 billion to $500 million. Then, on 30 June, Israel used pipelines belonging to Egypt s Eastern Mediterranean Gas Company to pump gas from Israel s Tamar gas field to Egypt. Mutual interests, therefore, seem to have the power to transcend sensitive areas of conflict, as occurred with the Palestinians and Israelis, who became members in a single forum (the EMFG) and between them and the Lebanese in order to enable them both to benefit from their offshore resources. Unfortunately, Turkey had no interest in such an approach. Ankara s agenda is shaped by the Turkish-Greek conflict of a century ago, the proxy war between Greece and Turkey over divided Cyprus, and tensions between Turkey and Egypt over Ankara s incessant attacks on Egypt for the revolution against Muslim Brotherhood rule and its hosting of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood on Turkish territory. Ankara recently began to harp on the “historic rights” of Turkish Cypriots in the “Republic of North Cyprus” which is recognised by no other country in the world but Turkey. It then sent military vessels into the gas exploration areas in an attempt to provoke Egypt and Cyprus. Egypt responded by deploying its naval vessels while Nicosia lodged a complaint with the Security Council with support from the EU and the US. Next, Ankara began to speak of its “geographic rights” in the large underwater gas fields in the Eastern Mediterranean and then began drilling operations there without having concluded an agreement with any other country with which it shares Mediterranean shores. Naturally, such actions are a breach of international maritime law and a form of economic thuggery. Turkey has exhibited such predatory behaviour elsewhere in the region, most recently in Libya where it has intervened directly in the Libyan crisis, supplying Tripoli s Al-Sarraj government and its terrorist militia and Muslim Brotherhood allies with heavy weaponry in order to prevent the Libyan National Army from entering the capital and completing the unification of the Libyan nation. If Turkey is a main cause of spiralling tensions in the Eastern Mediterranean and the rise in hostilities in Libya, mounting international rivalry in the region has begun to cast its heavy shadow over good developments in the Middle East, especially given the ongoing Syrian crisis. If the US and NATO are responsible for protecting Cyprus and Cypriot interests, the Russians, from their position in Syria, are anxiously watching developments in the Eastern Mediterranean which has the potential to rival Russian gas exports to Europe. The Iranian presence in Syria and Lebanon cannot be seen as a positive factor either, given how it links the crisis in the Gulf, the crisis surrounding the Houthis in Yemen overlooking the Red Sea and the Syrian crisis on the shores of the Eastern Mediterranean where the possibility of an Iranian-Israeli confrontation remains open. Nor is China remote from the scene, now that Beijing has found footholds in the Greek port of Piraeus, the Israeli port of Haifa and in Djibouti to the south in the Red Sea. It is impossible to foresee where all this international rivalry in the Eastern Mediterranean will lead, and to what extent it will be linked to spiralling and extremely volatile tensions in the Gulf and the Red Sea. Is there a way to cool these situations down and to prevent explosion? The impetus towards cooperation and partnership in the Middle East that has been generated during recent years continues to gain momentum thanks to the will of participatory nations and the desires of major international firms. So much can be accomplished if industrial and commercial enterprises increase. At the same time, the “Jerusalem meeting” between Russia and the US, with Israel attending, might generate another calming trend, especially if Russian-US and China-US relations improve. On the other hand, history has shown that it is to the folly and impetuousness in Ankara and Tehran that we should look for the key to the question regarding war versus peace in the seas around the Middle East.
Politics have found their way into the field of sports for decades, and in many cases some sports events have been turned into political battlefields as a result. However, there have also been other cases when politics in sports has been able to produce benign results. One of these is undoubtedly Egypt s hosting of the 32nd Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON). Hosting the football tournament in Egypt came as a pleasant surprise to many Egyptians as well as to others across the African continent. Egypt suffered security issues after the 25 January Revolution in 2011, followed by a wave of unprecedented terrorist attacks after the fall of the Morsi regime in July 2013. As a result, it was a challenge to host the biggest tournament on the continent and one of the biggest in the world in the record time of just five months, as well as to present this most spectacular of all African sports events in a suitably spectacular way.
The Twitter invitation was abrupt, even by Trumpian standards. On June 29, while visiting Japan for the G20 summit, President Donald Trump tweeted: "If Chairman Kim of North Korea sees this, I would meet him at the Border/DMZ just to shake his hand and say Hello(?)!" Less than 48 hours later, Trump and Kim Jong Un would indeed shake hands at the Joint Security Area in Panmunjom. By taking a few steps across the military demarcation line, Trump kicked the stalled US-North Korea diplomacy back into gear.
storical drama is almost as old as theatre itself and continues to play a viable role in contemporary theatre. However, history belongs to those who write it, especially when the author uses his dramatic license to interpret historical facts in response to current events. That does not mean that there is no historical truth, but it emphasises the fact that history is a constantly evolving, never-ending journey of discovery.
More than two or three years ago, the US administration leaked a rumor about something called the “Deal of the Century” without revealing any details. It was leaked that this “Deal” will resolve the Palestinian question and all the problems of the Middle East, and include all countries in the region where there will be prosperity for all. As time passes, the rumor spread with imaginations running wild raising the expectations of the Arab peoples, especially the Palestinians. Creating a situation similar to that of a merchant who is trying to promote a new product by creating an atmosphere of anticipation, so that when the product is released, consumers would compete to acquire it, even if there were no real need for it. Finally, after a long wait, on 25-26 June, the "deal" was unveiled. “There is nothing money can t buy”, this is a saying that the West believes in strongly. It implies that anything and everything has a price and could be bought, including dignity, loyalty, honor, honesty, nation, homeland and human beings, as well as killers, robbers and rapists. I believe that this is the philosophical justification for the “wild neo-liberalism” that runs the World economy today. It seems that this is the same logic that controls the thoughts of those who imagined and shaped the “Deal of the Century”. But, from what has been announced, it does not seem to be a political deal nor an economic one, nor even a deal to show good will or to save face. It does not seem to be a deal at all, let alone the “Deal of the Century”. At the political level, the so-called “deal” does not intersect, at all or even by chance, with any of the legitimate demands of the Palestinian people. It does not talk about ending the occupation or the Palestinian people as a People with history, present and future, and legitimate rights. It talks about the Palestinian people as if they are a group of individuals who happened to be living in the region without any history, and could be satisfied or silenced by providing them any crumbs. This “deal” has no international, historical or legal reference. Its political ceiling, if it exists, is far less than any know international agreement (even if the Palestinians have reluctantly accepted it). It ignores the United Nations General Assembly or security Council resolutions, and pretends to forget the two-state solution, refugees, the right of return and Jerusalem. It seems that the "deal" only reference is that Israel is a Jewish state. At the economic level, the “deal” is not less surprising, nor its wrapping is less cynical. It was promoted as the “$51 billion deal”. But actually, out of the $51 billion, $11 billion are supposed to come from foreign investments, and of course no one knows whether they would materialize or not. This means that the value of the "deal" is $40 billion only and not $51 billion. Add to this, the beneficiary of the deal is not only Palestine but three other Arab countries (Egypt, Jordan and Lebanon), and the $40 billion will be disbursed over 10 years; not one, two or three years. Egypt s share of the “deal” could be around $800 million in grants and $4 billion in loans over the ten years. The amount of the grant is negligible, relative to the size of Egypt s economy, and does not deserve any comment. But the loans could be harmful because they will increase the already heavy burden of debt, on projects that may not suit Egypt politically or economically. As for the Palestinian people, their share of the “deal of the $40 billion-4-country-10-year” is 26 billion dollars, of which $11.4 billion are supposed to be in grants and the remaining $14.6 billion in loans. Here there is an attempt to enforce a fallacy by lending a people under occupation, while evading and renouncing the international responsibility towards the Palestinian people. Yet this is not the only fallacy, because most of the projects that would be funded from the “deal” would be done by American or Israeli companies, meaning that the money of the “deal” would benefit these companies, not the Palestinian people. To better appreciate the magnitude of the fallacies, one has to compare between what is proposed by the “deal” and what is presently available to the Palestinian people. According to what was announced, the annual average of Palestine s share in the “deal” could be around $1.1 billion in grants and $1.5 billion in annual loans, which must be paid back plus interest during or after the 10 years. On the other hand, presently the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) serves 2.5 million Palestinian refugees in the West Bank and Gaza with an estimated annual budget of at least $ 650 million. The donor community funds this budget, but the United States has stopped its support to UNRWA in the last two years. The Palestinian people also receives an annual grant of about $ 800 million in development assistance and budget support to the government, but again the United States halted this support two years ago. In addition, there are annual (non-US) grants to the Palestinian private sector and NGOs estimated at about $ 250 million annually. Hence, the sum of grants that presently reach the Palestinian people in the occupied West Bank and Gaza, are estimated at a minimum of $1.7 billion annually. This is more than one and a half times of what is proposed by the “deal”. Simply put, the “deal of the 40/4/10” is not concerned by ending the occupation nor by the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people; it is not even economically attractive or viable. On the contrary, what is being offered, from an economic point view, is less than what is presently available to the Palestinian people. Gentlemen, the cause of the Palestinian people, their land, homeland and their legitimate rights can t be resolved by a “deal”, even if it is a “Real” deal.
Mina M. Azer
Fan Jameel (beautiful art) Foundation, which supports heritage, education and arts, announced the implementation of a one-month summer program for the revival of traditional crafts in the tourist village of Tunis, Fayoum Governorate. Over the course of four weeks, the youngsters engage in a program of workshops focusing on the unique heritage of Fayoum Governorate. These workshops include Islamic arts, copper work