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.
People in Egypt woke up on Friday to find petrol prices had increased that morning. The move had not come as a surprise, as they had been expecting it throughout June and knew it was going to happen as the 2019-2020 budget went into effect. Fuel-price increases range from 17 per cent on the highest-grade unleaded gasoline 95 fuel used by high-performance and luxury cars to 30 per cent on the liquid gas canisters used by households in cooking. Both diesel, the fuel widely used by trucks and buses, and gasoline 80, used in heavy transport vehicles and agricultural tractors, increased by 22.7 per cent. This is the fifth increase in fuel products since 2014 and the fourth since November 2016 when Egypt signed an agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) that aimed at cutting the budget deficit through slashing energy subsidies, introducing a new value-added tax (VAT), and rationalising government administrative expenditures. The energy subsidies had burdened public finances for years, representing more than 20 per cent of overall expenditures. Economists have long argued that money that went into fuel subsidies was not targeting those that really needed it, with a World Bank study showing that the highest income quintile receive around 60 per cent of all energy subsidies. Moreover, the energy subsidies promoted capital-intensive rather than labour-intensive industries. Economists have long argued that subsidy money is better spent on improving education, health and the social safety network. Previous governments were reluctant to reform the subsidy system for fear of stirring up social unrest. However, Egypt in its agreement with the IMF committed itself to lifting the subsidies gradually so that fuel is now to be sold to customers at its cost price at the beginning of the current fiscal year that began on 1 July. Moreover, electricity subsidies were cut by 15 per cent starting in July. According to a statement by the Ministry of Petroleum, this price brings the cost coverage ratio to 100 per cent within the fuel segment. Diesel and liquid gas canisters are still 40 per cent subsidised, according to estimates by investment bank Beltone Financial Holding. The savings from the hike are estimated at LE37 billion, which puts the oil subsidies for the current fiscal year at LE53 billion based on the assumption that oil prices will be at $68 per barrel. Government estimates suggest that every $1 increase in oil prices above this level could add LE4-6 billion to its expenditure bill. The next step is to adopt a price-indexation mechanism on fuel, which is an automatic pricing mechanism whereby prices will be set based on a calculation that takes into account international oil prices and the exchange rate. The system is already in the works for the higher end Octane 95 fuel and allows for price fluctuations of up to 10 per cent to be decided by a committee of officials from the finance and petroleum ministries every three months. This does not mean that fuel might see another increase soon, however. “We do not expect movements in prices upon the indexation implementation given the current low petroleum prices trending below $70 per barrel and supported by a stronger pound,” Beltone said. Besides car owners, users of public transportation were the ones to immediately feel the effects of the price hikes. Commuters were not happy to hear drivers breaking the news of yet another increase in the cost of each ride. While transportation was directly affected by the price hikes, cutting subsidies will also indirectly affect inflation upwards. Investment banks expect the resulting increase in the inflation rate to be mild and much less than the hikes caused by previous increases in fuel prices, however. “We expect a softer hike in commodities prices than that experienced in the two previous energy price increases, as it was partially priced in since the kick-off of the IMF-backed reform programme in November 2016 and given the weak purchasing power recovery,” Beltone noted, putting the increase at between seven to 10 per cent at most. This, according to Beltone, would translate into 2.6 per cent on average in monthly inflation during the third quarter of 2019. “Annual inflation is expected to average 13.3 per cent in the third quarter, almost flat from 13 per cent in the previous quarter,” it added. According to the government, the money saved by both the fuel and electricity subsidies lift will be channelled into spending on social measures. Beltone estimated these savings at LE43 billion and noted that petroleum bill savings alone would fund 45 per cent of the wage compensations package revealed by President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi recently, at an overall cost of LE60 billion and aimed at easing inflationary pressures resulting from fuel liberalisation. The package includes raising the minimum wage to LE2,000 per month, increasing pensions for public employees to LE900 per month, and providing state employees with a LE150 one-off increase. It will also see the inclusion of 100,000 families in the conditional cash-transfer programmes Takaful and Karama (Solidarity and Dignity). The first supports households with children, while the second targets the elderly and persons with disabilities who are unable to work. Moreover, dozens of traders and producers are participating in the government-sponsored Kolena Wahed (We are All One) initiative, whereby discounted commodities are sold in fairs and mobile outlets provided by the government. Egypt’s perseverance with the fiscal reforms has so far paid off in terms of macroeconomic stabilisation. Preliminary financial indices for the 2018-19 budget have shown that GDP growth reached 5.6 per cent, Presidency Spokesman Bassam Radi announced in a statement earlier this month. GDP growth ranged at around two per cent in 2016. The budget deficit is expected to drop to a targeted 8.4 per cent of GDP, he said. Meanwhile, gross general government debt is expected to decline to about 85 per cent of GDP in 2018-19 from 103 per cent in 2016-17, according to the IMF. While macroeconomic stabilisation is a short-term priority to restore confidence, enhance competitiveness, and ensure the sustainability of public finances, the efforts should be combined with a longer-term perspective on structural reforms, said the “Egypt’s Stocktaking” report prepared by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). “The success in structural reforms, in particular aimed at boosting job creation, will determine whether Egypt goes beyond macroeconomic stabilisation to create sustainable growth, which is essential in the long run for social and economic stability,” the report said. Nicolas Pinaud, head of the Sherpa Office and Global Governance Unit at the OECD, told Al-Ahram Weekly that it was important for Egypt to work on the quality of growth and how it trickles down to the population and not just the pace. “There is a need to look at generating opportunities for the entire population, including the most vulnerable segments through, for example, education and training,” he said during an event organised last week by the Egyptian Centre for Economic Studies (ECES), a think tank. When looking at Egypt’s peers in the region such as Morocco and Tunisia or to OECD middle-income countries like Mexico, Turkey and Greece, “Egypt is not doing well enough compared to those countries when it comes to inclusive growth,” Pinaud said. He noted that despite existing social spending, poverty rates remained high, which meant they may need to be better targeted. As the report showed, “despite significant efforts to roll out Takaful and Karama, these programmes still need to be substantially scaled up to create an effective safety net covering Egypt’s vulnerable population, in particular given the impact of the ongoing adjustment on the poor,” he said. *A version of this article appears in print in the 11 July, 2019 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly under the headline: Economic reform on track
One month ago, no one could have predicted, let alone imagined, that a sitting American president would venture into North Korean territory via the Demilitarised Zone (DMZ) in the absence of peace on the Korean Peninsula. The unthinkable happened on Sunday, 30 June, when President Donald Trump stepped into North Korea for a few seconds, accompanied by Chairman Kim Jong-Un.
Egypt is “very clear” about its opposition to the pursuit of military action against Iran, an Egyptian source said earlier this week as political tensions between the US and Iran were escalating. The source, who has been closely following the Iran issue in Cairo, spoke as Iran was announcing its plan to violate the uranium enrichment level it had committed itself to in the 2015 nuclear deal it reached with the US and five leading European countries. The escalation between the US and Iran started in May last year, when US President Donald Trump decided to withdraw from the deal concluded by his predecessor Barack Obama. During the past 13 months, the source said, regional countries, essentially Israel and Saudi Arabia, each of which has its own reasons for pressure to be exercised on Tehran, had driven the pressure for escalation against the country. Over the past year, the source said, Egypt had been trying to argue the case for political dialogue. Egypt has no direct influence on the issue, but it had expressed its apprehensions about any possible military attack against Iranian targets in the region to regional and international countries who shared its apprehensions about picking a military confrontation with Iran, he said. This was especially the case since no careful assessment had been done on possible repercussions in the region, which was already in turmoil. “We are carefully following French attempts to introduce de-escalation, and we are hoping they will work,” said another Egyptian official later in the week when France announced plans to send an envoy to Tehran to try to reduce the tensions. One reason Egypt is particularly apprehensive about any escalation against Iran is its assessment that if attacked directly or indirectly Iran would use all the cards at its disposal in the region, including Gaza. A scenario that Egypt particularly fears is that Iran could lean on its allies in Gaza to carry out proxy retaliations that could aim at Israeli targets. “It is already a very fragile and week-by-week truce that we are working with all the parties to keep between Gaza and Israel,” the official commented. Over the past few months, Egypt has been “very clear” in telling the Islamist group Hamas, which has controlled Gaza since 2006, to act firmly against any attempts at “provocation” that could be used by Israel to start an assault on Gaza. It is five years since Israel’s last war on the impoverished and largely isolated Gaza Strip. In July 2014, Israel’s war on Gaza, labelled Operation Protective Edge, cost the lives of over 2,000 Palestinians and led to further deterioration in already poor living conditions for the over one million people living there. “Every day is a clear reminder that we are living in a part of the world that has been totally forgotten by the rest of humanity. We are living amid piles of trash, with poor sewage, poor health services, poor electricity services, and poor everything, and on top of it all we are not even getting our salaries paid fully on time,” said Nizar, a Palestinian civil servant who spoke to Al-Ahram Weekly by telephone from Gaza. Nizar’s family had been suffering “enormously”, he said. “Everything is just so difficult: to get food for the children is difficult; to get medicine for any of them when they fall ill is very difficult; and we have no exit to hope for,” he lamented. Nizar blamed the Palestinian Authority (PA) led by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas for “forcing so much hardship on the people” while trying to settle political scores with the Hamas leaders in Gaza by declining to pay civil servants their dues. This had compounded the “tormented suffering” of the Palestinians in Gaza who were already living under a harsh Israeli blockade, he said. This week, Israel allowed fuel into Gaza in a sign of its willingness to keep up with a truce that had been sponsored by Egypt. Israel is also negotiating with Qatar on its intention to build an industrial city in Gaza that would provide thousands of jobs for the largely unemployed population. “We hear so many things about plans to improve our living conditions, but what we actually see is very little, if anything at all,” Nizar said. The last thing that Nizar would wish to see is for Iran to come under attack and to call on its allies in Gaza, Hamas and Islamic Jihad to act in retaliation by targeting nearby Israeli villages. Israel is already building a 65km and six-metre high fence around Gaza and has been destroying any tunnels between Gaza and neighbouring areas to seal off the Strip. According to the Egyptian official, there is no telling what could happen if “things got out of hand in the current confrontation between the US and Iran and took a bad turn that included Gaza.” Egypt, the official said, knows very well that there are “cells here and there” that do not follow the orders of the Hamas leaders in Gaza or the leaders of Islamic Jihad. “This is why we have to worry; if Gaza is implicated, we absolutely have to worry. The Strip is on our direct border, and the last thing we want is a confrontation with huge humanitarian costs,” he said. Ahmed Youssef, a Hamas leader in Gaza, is convinced that “Gaza is too small and too dilapidated to be of any real significance in the Iran issue,” however. “We are just withering away here,” he said, lamenting the failure of the international community and the Arab world to help Gaza overcome the “horrific outcome of Israel’s last war on Gaza”. “The world is not going to reach out to Gaza now. The world is too busy discussing the ‘Deal of the Century’ [on Palestine] and is forgetting about the people of Gaza who are suffering on a daily basis,” Youssef said. A Washington-based diplomatic source said that all the plans relating to Trump’s vision for a political settlement between Israel and the Palestinians that involved an economic package to improve the living conditions of Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank had been shelved. This was due to the failure of “even the most enthusiastic Arab capitals” to give the deal a push, as had been demonstrated in a meeting hosted by Bahrain last month, the continued ambiguity about the fate of Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu, who is going through another round of elections while still facing legal charges over corruption, and the firm refusal of Palestinian leaders in the West Bank and Gaza to talk about a deal that offers the Palestinians no statehood and no repatriation of refugees. The most that Gaza could hope for now, Youssef said, was for Egypt to re-launch its reconciliation proposals between Hamas and the PA, “which will not be easy, as each side had points on which it would brook no compromise.” “There might be a resumption of the talks, and we may see an Egyptian delegation coming to Gaza and going to Israel later this month, but things are still being discussed,” he said. The other thing that Hamas might wish for, he added, was for Iran to escape from any military confrontation with the US because “clearly Iran has been able to arrange some political support for the Palestinians in Gaza, and a weaker Iran would not be in our interest.” A Cairo-based European diplomat argued that Hamas was not in a position to lose the support, “financial and not only political”, of Iran, even if the financial support “has been dwindling considerably over the past months”. According to the diplomat, Hamas is being denied other financial resources with the policy of Egypt to destroy all the tunnels with the Strip, the blockade that Israel is imposing on it, and the policies that the Arab Gulf countries have been taking against its citizens, including those of Palestinian origins, who had been finding ways of sending funds to Gaza. He added that the Hamas leaders were already losing their popularity in Gaza and the last thing they would wish for was for “an even more complicated situation.” Nobody wanted a crisis in Gaza with large humanitarian consequences. A de-escalation in the tension between the US and Iran might not be to the liking of some in the region, but it would spare the world, and certainly Egypt, from the consequences of an even more complicated situation in Gaza, he said. *A version of this article appears in print in the 11 July, 2019 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly under the headline: All eyes on Gaza
Raising a single child is a challenge and a responsibility, so how much more so is educating and raising generations of young people? Egypt s young people are often energised enough to rock the world, but they can also be confronted by a reality that diverts them from realising their dreams, encouraging them to engage in social-media activities that can give them only false happiness. Engaging our young people in more constructive tasks is something that needs to be addressed differently.
Plastic is an alarming man-made catastrophe, and its abundant presence not only destroys the earth s environment and oceans but is also detrimental to humans. Halfway between Hawaii and California lies a mammoth garbage patch in which seven million tons of plastic waste have accumulated and spread.
The Conversation – There s no shortage of dire warnings about the dangers of artificial intelligence these days. Modern prophets, such as physicist Stephen Hawking and investor Elon Musk, foretell the imminent decline of humanity. With the advent of artificial general intelligence and self-designed intelligent programs, new and more intelligent AI will appear, rapidly creating ever smarter machines that will, eventually, surpass us.
Of all the fake and even comical titles that the terrorist Muslim Brotherhood group has used for itself, the designation of ousted president Mohamed Morsi as a “prophet” who was “assassinated” must be the most absurd. This designation was given by many Muslim Brotherhood activists, including the Yemeni Nobel Laureate Tawakol Kerman, who went so far as to use this designation to describe Morsi.
Around the world, hate is on the march. A menacing wave of intolerance and hate-based violence is targeting worshippers of many faiths across the globe. Sadly – and disturbingly – such vicious incidents are becoming all too familiar. In recent months, we have seen Jews murdered in synagogues, their gravestones defaced with swastikas; Muslims gunned down in mosques, their religious sites vandalized; Christians killed at prayer, their churches torched.
The Africa Cup of Nations kicked off in Egypt earlier this week. The circumstances under which the championship is being held are quite unusual, since it was originally destined for Cameroon. However, the latter country could not make the necessary preparations, which meant that the Confederation of African Football (CAF) asked for new bids to host the tournament, with Egypt and South Africa applying.
The death of ousted president Mohamed Morsi on 17 June from a heart attack during his on-going trial for espionage was met with a collective shrug in Egypt. Morsi died in the same month he and the Muslim Brotherhood faced mass protests that led to his removal from office. In June, six years ago, most of Egypt’s opposition figures — including former chief of the UN International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Mohamed ElBaradei — came out against Morsi. In an interview with Al-Masry Al-Youm in mid-June 2013, ElBaradei pleaded with Morsi to leave office peacefully. “Morsi lost the confidence of most Egyptians, and I urge him to do like Hosni Mubarak and leave office peacefully,” said ElBaradei. “If Morsi refuses to leave, I hope the army will intervene to support the will of the people and force him from power. It is the duty of the army to support the people’s aspirations.” Responding to the calls of opposition figures, and of the Tamarod campaign which collected 30 million signatures in favour of ousting Morsi, millions took to the streets on 30 June 2013 — the sixth anniversary of which will be marked on Sunday — demanding Egypt be rid not just of Morsi but the Muslim Brotherhood. Anti-Brotherhood protests continued for four days, with demonstrators threatening to storm the presidential palace and evict Morsi by force. On 3 July 2013, representatives from opposition forces, including ElBaradei, delegates from religious institutions, the Salafist Nour Party, civil society organisations, and army’s then chief, minister of defence Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi, met to announce the removal of Morsi and the appointment of head of the Supreme Constitutional Court Adli Mansour as interim president. Morsi, like Mubarak in 2011, was placed under house arrest. Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood, forever obstinate and stubborn, refused to abandon power peacefully. They organised armed sit-ins in major squares in Cairo and Giza and threatened to use the terrorist Ansar Beit Al-Maqdis group in Sinai to spread violence across Egypt. Morsi was born in Al-Idwah, a village in the Nile delta government of Al-Sharqiya, on 20 August 1951. He graduated from Cairo University’s Faculty of Engineering (Department of Metallurgy) in 1975, after which he left for the United States to study material science at the University of Southern California. There is no reliable data on when he joined the Muslim Brotherhood. Tharwat Al-Kherbawi, a lawyer and historian who split from the Brotherhood over its dictatorial agenda, claimed in his book The Secret of the Temple, that Morsi joined the group while a student at Cairo University in the early 1970s. “At that time, late president Anwar Al-Sadat decided to release most of the Brotherhood’s officials and activists detained under president Gamal Abdel-Nasser since 1965. They moved quickly to spread in universities and mosques and recruit students,” wrote Al-Kherbawi. “Morsi was a voracious reader of Sayed Qotb, the leading Brotherhood ideologue who resurrected the ideology of Takfir and Hakimiya. The fact that Morsi was a hard-line Qotbist helped him rise quickly in the group, especially after the Qotbist wing took control of the Brotherhood in rigged internal elections in 2009.” In 1979 the 28-year-old Mohamed Morsi married Naglaa Mahmoud, a 17-year-old student. According to the Brotherhood-affiliated website Sebq, Mahmoud was a relative of Morsi. In an interview with Turkey’s Anatolia Agency in August 2014, Mahmoud said she met Hillary Clinton while she was living in the US with her husband. “We have a long friendship and it increased when my husband became the legitimate president of the country,” said Mahmoud. “The Muslim Sisterhood, the female off-shoot of the Brotherhood, had routine business dealings with the Clintons who always asked us for help on Middle East issues.” According to the World Bulletin, Morsi’s wife is also a friend with Saleha Abedin, the mother of Huma Abedin, a Muslim Students’ Association board member at George Washington University who started working for Hillary Clinton as an advisor in 1996. Until 2000, however, Morsi was little known. When parliamentary elections were held that year he was among 88 Muslim Brotherhood members who won seats. Subsequently the Brotherhood chose him as their parliamentary spokesman. “Morsi was a polite parliamentarian and at the time appeared to represent the voice of reason among the group’s MPs,” said Al-Kherbawi. “Yet his speeches and statements, on close examination, reveal him as a committed Qotbist.” Morsi lost his seat in 2005 when only 17 Brotherhood candidates were successful. The Brotherhood appointed him chief of its political bureau. When the Brotherhood’s Supreme Guidance Office elections were held in December and hardliners won against the reformist camp led by then deputy guide Mohamed Habib, he rose to greater prominence within the group. When protests erupted against Hosni Mubarak on 25 January 2011 Morsi was critical of the demonstrators. Abdel-Gelil Al-Sharnoubi, a journalist who was in charge of the Brotherhood’s official website, reported Morsi saying “the group can never join these boys who have decided to gather in Tahrir Square”. Morsi and other Brotherhood leaders were arrested on 28 January 2011, after security forces received intelligence that members of the group had met in Turkey with foreign agents, mainly from the CIA, where they were instructed to take part in what came to be known as “the Friday of Fury” on 29 January. According to later court hearings, extremists from Hamas in Gaza and Ansar Beit Al-Maqdis in Sinai used the chaos of 29 January to infiltrate Egypt’s borders and release Muslim Brotherhood prisoners. Morsi, in an interview with the Qatari Al-Jazeera TV channel aired on the evening of 29 January, claimed that citizens living near the Wadi Al-Natroun prison — on Cairo Alexandria desert road —demolished the prison buildings and set Brotherhood figures free. When Mubarak was ousted from office the Muslim Brotherhood became a major political force and Morsi its main negotiator. When the Freedom and Justice (FJ) party — the political arm of the Muslim Brotherhood — was founded in June 2011, Morsi was named as its deputy head. Morsi said at the time that the party would not field candidates in every constituency “because the Brotherhood believes in political diversity”. Morsi, together with the Brotherhood’s supreme guide Mohamed Badie, also stressed that “the group does not intend to field a candidate in any presidential elections”. Despite the early reassurances, the FJ contested every seat, and ended with getting 235 seats. The party’s Islamist allies won 25 per cent of the remaining seats in the People’s Assembly. In the Shura Council elections, the FJ won 103 seats — 57.2 per cent of the total. Morsi did not stand in 2011’s parliamentary or Shura elections and after Mohamed Saad Al-Katatni was made speaker of parliament in January 2012, Morsi was appointed head of the FJ. But there were no plans for Morsi to stand as a presidential candidate. “Everything changed when John Kerry, the high-profile US senator who was at that time working as special representative for US president Barack Obama, visited Cairo in early December 2011,” says Al-Kherbawi. Kerry was the first among US congressmen who urged Mubarak to resign. In an article in The New York Times of 31 January, 2011 — six days after the uprising erupted, Kerry asked Mubarak to resign. “Kerry at that time — during the Obama and George W. Bush presidency, was one of several American officials arguing that the Muslim Brotherhood was a moderate group which America should support to achieve democracy and stability in the Middle East,” says Al-Kherbawi. In Morsi and the Seat Abdel-Moez Ibrahim, a member of the judiciary supervising the 2012 elections, wrote that “Kerry visited Cairo in December 2011 as an Obama envoy and held a closed-door meeting with leading Brotherhood officials at the group’s headquarters in Cairo’s Moqattam district.” “Kerry urged the Brotherhood to contest the presidential elections and promised the Obama administration would support them. Kerry’s only condition was that if the Brotherhood won the presidency it must respect Egypt’s foreign agreements, particularly the peace treaty with Israel,” Ibrahim wrote. In March 2012 the Brotherhood announced that it would field a presidential candidate. Its first choice was Khairat Al-Shater, the Brotherhood’s bank-roller. “Al-Shater was disqualified from running on a legal technicality. The group, now overwhelmed by ambition for power, decided to push Morsi as Al-Shater’s “spare tyre”, the Brotherhood’s accidental candidate. In the second round, in May 2012, Morsi was able to defeat former army general and prime minister Ahmed Shafik, winning 13.2 million votes to Shafik’s 12.3 million. Some sources said the Brotherhood spent as much as LE600 million to help Morsi succeed. Former US president Barack Obama was the first foreign leader to congratulate Morsi,” Ibrahim said. During his one-year rule Morsi moved quickly to implement the Muslim Brotherhood’s agenda. “Although he promised to be a president for all Egyptians, his promises proved false,” said Ibrahim. Between July and November 2012 he issued a series of constitutional declarations that allowed him to legislate by decree without any judicial oversight or review. At the same time, a constituent assembly dominated by the Brotherhood and Islamist forces drafted what came to be known as the Kandahar constitution which placed Egypt on the road to becoming a theocratic, jihadist state. Having alienated judges, the intelligentsia, secular political forces and Copts, Morsi clashed with the army. In August 2012 he dismissed defence minister Hussein Tantawi and chief of staff Sami Anan. He also refused to attend the funeral of 16 soldiers killed by Ansar Beit Al-Maqdis. The confrontation between the Muslim Brotherhood and civilian forces escalated. In December 2012 Brotherhood militias moved to disperse protesters who had gathered before Al-Ittihadiya palace, killing three. Mohamed Hassanein Heikal warned in a TV interview at the time that Egypt was moving towards a civil war. The Tamarod group was formed to gather signatures for a petition demanding Morsi’s removal. Political forces demanded Morsi dismiss prime minister Hisham Qandil and prosecutor-general Talaat Ibrahim and form a new constituent assembly to write a new constitution. At that time, minister of defence Al-Sisi called for a national dialogue. But Morsi, under orders from the Muslim Brotherhood leaders who were now Egypt’s de-facto rulers, refused. Al-Ahram political analyst Hassan Abu Taleb believes that in the 12 months in which Morsi was in power “people saw what Muslim Brotherhood rule and a theocratic state look like”. “Political Islam — as shown by the Morsi experience — was incompetent, polarising and stubborn. Morsi managed to alienate almost every sector of society outside the Brotherhood,” Abu Taleb said. *A version of this article appears in print in the 27 June, 2019 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly under the headline: The road to 30 June
We killed you, the last of the prophets…” With these words, activist and Nobel Laureate Tawakkol Karman lamented the death of former Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi. She may have not realised that this poem was written by poet Nizar Qabbani to lament former president Gamal Abdel-Nasser, who was known as one of the worst enemies of the Muslim Brotherhood. A moment of raw emotion is one of many positions which deserve a closer look, to understand the full impact of the death of Morsi. Various responses have surfaced in the wake of his death last week during a court session, responses which were influenced by the political position of each individual.
On the occasion of opening of Naguib Mahfouz Museum in Al-Azhar district, I remembered the day 14 October 1994 in the Nile Street in Agouza and under the giant eucalyptus tree, where a friend of the great writer Naguib Mahfouz was waiting to pick him up in order to take him to the weekly seminar at the Casino of the Palace of the Nile. At five o’clock, Mahfouz leaves his office and meets with his friend. Sudden