Al Jazeera English does a great first dig into the EMG gas deal between Egypt and Israel –theft from the Egyptian people involving many who are still in power in Egypt today, and with the blessing of the United States. It underplays the extent to which Hussein Salem was a key member of the Egyptian intelligence establishment, close to Field Marshal Abu Ghazala (Mubarak's chief rival in the early 1980s) and granted some protection from the Reagan administration after being caught in one of the scams in the US-Egypt military aid relationship. It's a story at the heart of how corruption, power, and strategic interests interact in the Middle East – very much worth watching.
A couple of days ago I blithely stated that Egypt's decision to cancel the agreement it had to supply natural gas to EMG was not a violation of the Egypt-Israel peace treaty. I am now cautiously walking that back; I am not so sure anymore. There was a memorandum of understanding signed between Egypt and Israel in 2005 that guarantees Egyptian supply of natural gas not just to Israel but to EMG specifically, in quite precise terms. I am reproducing the relevant portion below:
Here is the full copy of the MoU in PDF, which is also available on the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs' website. It's signed by then Egyptian Minister of Petroleum Sameh Fahmy and then Israeli Minister of National Instructure (and Mubarak's best friend in Israel) Benyamin Ben Eliezer. I am not sure what relation it bears to the Egypt-Israel peace treaty, which it recalls in its preamble, as it does not seem to be an addendum to the treaty.
A lecturer in neurology at Ain Shams University, Ramez Reda Moustafa, issued the following statement via Twitter:
To the doctors in the field (tahrir and elsewhere), my experience with the gas used by the police: It causes extra-pyramidal symptoms (involuntary jerks in extremities and trunk mimicking a convulsive seizure, occulo-gyric crisis, etc.) and little respiratory distress. The jerking is relieved by low-dose (3-5mg) diluted diazepam given slowly IV.
The type of gas used is still uncertain but it is certainly very acidic and is not the regular tear gas used in January. Please try to capture as many videos as possible of the symptoms for documentation (and eventually legal action).
There is mounting indication that it might be CR gas as opposed to normal tear gas which is CS gas:
For what must be the third or fourth time since the Egyptian revolution began on January 25, the Sinai gas pipeline that takes Egyptian gas to Israel has been attacked. These attacks are not particularly dramatic, but are enough of a bother that it takes several weeks to restore the flow of gas to Israel — and often Jordan, which is affected by the pipeline. The people behind the attacks are thought to be Sinai-based Islamists who oppose the sale of gas to Israel, but we don't really know for sure. The attack took place only 60km east of the Suez Canal, and it could very well be people from the Nile Valley carrying out the attacks — and they don't have to be Islamists, either, since plenty of other people oppose the gas deal.
Since the revolution, the interim government has reviewed gas prices but thus far everything indicates that the sale of gas will continue. From what I've been able to gather (and I'd like to write something longer on this one day), Egypt was selling the gas to Eastern Mediterranean Gas (EMG), the private firm that then sold the gas to the Israeli National Electricity Company, at around $3 per mbtu (that's million British thermal units — the standard measurement for these things). EMG then sold it to the Israelis for around $4.5 per mbtu, pocketing a 50% profit margin for no more than the transaction costs and some of the infrastructure between the two countries. The market price for gas (which is not as fungible as oil since it tends to rely on pipeline infrastructure unless shipped as LNG) is currently around $4.40 for futures in North America, but spot markets in recent years passed the $10 per mbtu mark. Either way, there is no doubt that the price of the gas sold by Egypt to EMG was well below market prices, and that the company made an easy profit without investment of its own (I'll leave the issue of whether EMG sold the gas to Israel at a fair price aside.)
Trouble is brewing in the waters off the coast of Lebanon and Israel about the future of one of the largest discoveries of natural gas in the eastern Mediterranean.
A field known as Leviathan might contain 16 trillion cubic feet of gas – enough to serve Israel’s domestic needs and make the country a substantial exporter.
But Lebanon is eyeing some of that income, badly needed to pay off its $50bn national debt. Some Lebanese politicians say the field may extend into their country’s as yet undeclared maritime zone.
Israel and Lebanon are still formally at war and the two neighbours have never agreed a maritime boundary.
Another problem is that Lebanon has not even passed an oil and gas law that would regulate drilling off its coast.
In spite of late night negotiations this week between Saad Hariri, the prime minister, and Nabih Berri, the speaker of parliament, the passage of any such legislation may still be months away.
In the meantime, Israel has unilaterally placed a line of buoys extending two miles into the sea off the two countries’ land border for what it describes as “security reasons”. Lebanon’s government has raised this with the United Nations, fearing that the floating line of Israeli-placed markers may encroach on its maritime territory.
Hizbollah, the armed Shia movement, and its allies have taken up the cause of what they call the defence of Lebanon’s natural resources – and they charge their western-backed political opponents with weakness in regard to the issue.
Mr Berri, from the Shia Amal movement, an ally of Hizbollah, has urged Mr Hariri’s government of national unity to counter what he sees as Israel’s designs on the country’s gas.
“Lebanon’s army, people, and resistance will be ready to thwart any attempt to steal its natural resources,” he said during a visit to neighbouring Syria.
A few day's worth...
✪ Orientalism’s Wake: The Ongoing Politics of a Polemic | Very nice collection of essays on Edward Said's "Orientalism" from a variety of supporters, critics, academics including Daniel Varisco, Robert Irwin, Roger Owen, etc.
✪ The Sources of Islamic Revolutionary Conduct | I have not read in detail this small book by a US Air Force analyst, but scanning through it I see rather odd choices. For instance there are long chapters comparing Christianity and modern secularism to the Islamist outlook, except that it's never quite clear whether the latter means the outlook of engaged Islamist activists or ordinary Muslims. There is also copious quoting from Sayyid Qutb's "Milestones" as if it was representative of all Islamic thinking. Someone should give this a detailed look (and I'd be happy to post the result.) [PDF]
✪ Al-Ahram Weekly | Egypt | A clean break | On Cairo's garbage collection crisis.
✪ Irving Kristol, Godfather of Conservatism, Dies - Obituary (Obit) - NYTimes.com | Leaving behind a disastrous intellectual, social, economic and political legacy: alleged liberalism on social issues that shirks from real change, supply-side economics, and of course an imperial war doctrine.
✪ Are Morocco And Algeria Gearing Up For Arms Race? « A Moroccan About the world around him
✪ Big mouth - The National Newspaper | Bernard Heykal on how the strength of al-Qaeda is impossible. Which makes sense, at least if you try to do it from the Bin Laden tapes as all the silly pseudo-analysis of last week showed.
✪ Ikhwanweb :: The Muslim Brotherhood Official English Website | Very much like the new look of the Muslim Brothers' English website, which I hadn't checked in a while. They have a very useful "today's news" feature that can also be used for archives by date.
✪ Al-Ahram Weekly | Economy | Depleting Egypt's reserves | A good article with details on the Egypt-Israel gas deal and why it may be a bad idea in terms of resource management, never mind political and financial sense.
✪ Al-Qaradawi's Fatwa Asharq Alawsat Newspaper (English) | The alleged liberal paid by intolerant Islamists in Riyadh attacks the alleged moderate Islamist paid by Doha:
A news item reported in the Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper revealed that Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi had issued a fatwa prohibiting Iraqis from acquiring US citizenship on the grounds that this is the nationality of an occupier nation. However this fatwa has nothing to do with the reality on the ground, and contains more political absurdity then it does religious guidance. Sheikh al-Qaradawi himself is an Egyptian who possesses Qatari nationality, which was given to him after he opposed the peace agreement between Egypt and Israel. However when an Israeli office was opened in Doha, al-Qaradawi did not renounce his Qatari nationality.
| "His brother Uday told Reuters: "Thanks be to God that Muntazer has seen the light of day. I wish Bush could see our happiness. When President Bush looks back and turns the pages of his life, he will see the shoes of Muntazer al-Zaidi on every page.""
✪ BAE to axe 1,100 jobs and close site | Business | guardian.co.uk | So Tony Blair quashed the Yamama inquiry to save jobs (or so he says) but BAe still carries out layoffs?
✪ Seinfeld, Sacha Baron Cohen and Natalie Portman slam Toronto Film Festival protest - Haaretz - Israel News| Some stars come to Israel's side in the tiff over TIFF.
✪ GDC | Economist Conferences| Economist infographic shows public debt around the world.
✪ FT.com / Middle East / Politics & Society - Investors seek to revive faded glory of Cairo | On investment in Downtown Cairo properties and plans for gentrification. Look out for another article on this soon.
✪ No concrete proof that Iran has or has had nuclear programme – UN atomic watchdog | Just a reminder that the press reports have spinned things wrongly - this comes straight from the UN: "17 September 2009 – Refuting a recent media report, the United Nations International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) today reiterated that the body has no concrete proof that Iran has or has ever had a nuclear weapons programme."
✪ Egypt Islamic Authority Says Women Can Wear Trousers - International News | News of the World | Middle East News | Europe News - FOXNews.com | The world is going to hell -- what next, capris?
✪ BBC NEWS | Middle East | 'Many killed' in Yemen air raid | Serious turn in Yemen's trouble -- bombing a refugee camp!?