Romney's stupid pandering to the lobby

Romney outrages Palestinians by saying Jewish culture helps make Israel more successful  - NY Daily News:

"JERUSALEM - Mitt Romney told Jewish donors Monday that their culture is part of what has allowed them to be more economically successful than the nearby Palestinians, outraging Palestinian leaders who called his comments racist and out of touch.

``As you come here and you see the GDP per capita, for instance, in Israel which is about $21,000 dollars, and compare that with the GDP per capita just across the areas managed by the Palestinian Authority, which is more like $10,000 per capita, you notice such a dramatically stark difference in economic vitality,'' the Republican presidential candidate told about 40 wealthy donors who breakfasted around a U-shaped table at the luxurious King David Hotel.

The reaction of Palestinian leaders to Romney's comments was swift and pointed.

``What is this man doing here?'' said Saeb Erekat, a top Palestinian official. ``Yesterday, he destroyed negotiations by saying Jerusalem is the capital of Israel, and today he is saying Israeli culture is more advanced than Palestinian culture. Isn't this racism?''"

That's like wondering why blacks are poorer than whites in 1870 America. Or 1990 South Africa.

Why is an American presidential candidate making such obviously stupid comments? Because he's pandering to the Israel lobby, that's why. And that's why his opponent will not call him out on his offensive stupidity, either.

Update: Steve Walt expands on this.

On jihadists and Syria

There very well be jihadists who swear allegiance to al-Qaeda in Syria, but I do not like the way this NYT story starts:

CAIRO — It is the sort of image that has become a staple of the Syrian revolution, a video of masked men calling themselves the Free Syrian Army and brandishing AK-47s — with one unsettling difference. In the background hang two flags of Al Qaeda, white Arabic writing on a black field.

“We are now forming suicide cells to make jihad in the name of God,” said a speaker in the video using the classical Arabic favored by Al Qaeda.

The video, posted on YouTube, is one more bit of evidence that Al Qaeda and other Islamic extremists are doing their best to hijack the Syrian revolution, with a growing although still limited success that has American intelligence officials publicly concerned, and Iraqi officials next door openly alarmed.

The black flag is not al-Qaeda's own — it is the historical flag of Jihad and has a long tradition in Islamic history (Update: Will McCants informs me this is the al-Qaeda version of the black flag, in use by various jihadist groups since the 1990s) . Likewise, classical Arabic is not just favored by al-Qaeda — it's also favored by many television stations and indeed books in the Arab world. This gives the worst possible impression of the groups, while bizarrely taking the focus off the most worrying aspect of what's being described: the adoption of suicide bombings as a tactic (which, of course, is not unique to jihadists). So I'm not sure from what is being described here what evidence there is to link al-Qaeda to these Syrian fighters — I would expect evidence that the US government takes seriously to include something like the presence of a known al-Qaeda member in the cell, not some basic visual cues.

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Links 18-30 July 2012

The blog will be on holiday mode for the next month or so — due to the arrival a week ago of our son, who is keeping is busy and rapt with wonder, and that we are actually on a break. Here are the links of the last two weeks, with a big gap in the last week in particular.

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Cook: Tales of Omar Suleiman

Tales of Omar Suleiman - By Steven A. Cook | Foreign Policy:

The last time I saw Omar Pasha was on Jan. 24, 2011 -- on the eve of the Egyptian revolution. I was with a group of foreign-policy experts, business leaders, and philanthropists and we met in an auditorium at the GIS headquarters. It was hard not to notice the freaky, yoga studio-like music that was playing over the sound system. When Suleiman arrived, he sat alone on a dais and spoke into a microphone, even though the delegation numbered only about 25 people seated in the second row of the auditorium, behind a gaggle of GIS courtiers. During the meeting, we learned that the United States had supplied Egypt with the technology to turn off the Internet -- something the Egyptians would employ in earnest, though not terribly effectively, less than 24 hours later.

By Jan. 24, Tunisian President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali had already fallen and a wave of self-immolations in Egypt had led to widespread speculation about whether the revolution was headed east. Naturally, therefore, someone in our delegation asked Suleiman whether the Tunisian revolt could happen in his country. But even at this late hour, he was as contemptuous of change as he had been six years ago, when he slammed his first down on the Washington conference table. "No," he responded. "The police have a strategy and the president is strong." Even at the time, the hubris was astonishing.

One of my big regrets, never meeting Omar Pasha. I do have some insight accrued over years of keeping notes on him and talking to people who dealt with him — mostly foreigner diplomats and spies and some Egyptian ones too. The takeaway is that he was actually fairly mediocre behind all the bluster and powersuits and Cuban cigars, and there is no better illustration of this than his handling of the Hamas issue in Gaza. Suleiman's declared policy of ultimately crushing Hamas failed all the way, to the extent that people who dealt with him on this issue would joke about the "three-point plan" (engage, contain, crush) he would systematically trot out. Suleiman (unlike some of his predecessors when Egypt was at war with Israel) was ultimately the product of a system that only sought to maintain itself, showed little initiative or daring in foreign policy, and — being so concerned with status-quo and so-called "stability" — appeared to mostly keep busy by keeping everyone going around in circles (exhibit A: Egypt's handling of Palestinian reconciliation talks).

I find it pretty outrageous he was given a state funeral and am surprised people did not try to disrupt it. One day, US archives of Suleiman's handywork, especially on the rendition program, might be open and we'll find out the full extent of complicity in his shenanigans. 

The events in Syria and the intervention debate

By the Guardian's inimitable Steve Bell

After today’s amazing events in Damascus — the bombing that decapitated at least three senior regime figures, the fighting inside of Damascus itself, rumors of regime splits, defections and escapes — it is little wonder that the debate over what the international community should do has flared up once again. For the interventionists, it appears to have been an occasion for misplaced snark.

Take this exchange between Shadi Hamid and Jeffrey Goldberg:

This misses the point — earnestly or not — that the case against intervention in Syria is not about how violent the conflict would get. It is about not getting involved about something that will be inevitable violent and bloody and could be further complicated by intervention. The survey statistics that came out today about how Americans feel about intervention in Syria, for instance, show contradictory data: on the one hand a majority of Americans are for imposing a no-fly zone, but on the other a majority is against carrying out the attacks on Syrian air defense systems that would be a necessary precondition to imposing a no-fly zone. It’s obvious that most respondents do not necessary make that link, but pro-intervention people like to spin it that in fact Americans would back an intervention. But you can just as easily, and in fact more plausibly, spin it the other way around: if they knew that it would involve an attack on Syrian military installations, Americans would not back a no-fly zone. After all, the strong trend in that survey is one of opposition to military intervention in Syria.

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Syria: The end of the beginning?

Paul Mutter sends in a round-up of today's momentous news from Syria.

The "Free Syrian Army" has claimed responsibility for a stunning attack on the Assad regime's inner circle in Damascus. The heretofore unknown organization "Liwa al-Islam" claimed one of its suicide bombers had been responsible, but spokespeople from the FSA countered that they had infiltrated the secure compound where the meeting was held month prior to today and planted bombs there with this meeting in mind. The regime asserts that it was a suicide bombing by "hireling tools that are implementing foreign plots."

Defense Minister Daoud Rajha and Deputy Chief of Staff Asef Shawkat were reportedly killed, along with one of Assad's top aides. Former Defense Minister Hasan Turkmani was also reportedly killed. Hisham Bekhtyar, head of the General Security Directorate, and the Interior Minister Mohammad al-Shaar were said to be injured as well (rumors additional top officials' deaths are swirling around, as are ones that Bashar al-Assad himself was caught in the blast).

What the regime must be really worried about now is that if members of the FSA did carry out the attack as they claim, then it strongly suggests that there were defectors inside the regime's inner circle who made the bombing happen. The Wall Street Journal reports that the FSA is claiming unnamed members of the Republican Guard Division as accomplices (the Guard is led by Assad's brother, Maher).

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In Translation: The Revolutionary Youth Coalition's final report

We're really fortunate to bring to you a long translation of an important document today — one made possible by the upstanding chaps at Industry Arabic, who provide great Arabic translation services and more. If you or your business have need of top-notch translation from Arabic into another language, please give them a try and help them keep on helping us.

The Revolutionary Youth Coalition was the most important umbrella group to emerge out of the protest movement of January 25. It continued to be the main reference and contact point for "youth" for several interlocutors in the months that followed Mubarak's overthrow, holding meetings with state representatives and often representing protestors at national conferences and elsewhere. On July 8, the Coalition announced its dissolution and published the document below —  an examination of its actions, mistakes and successes in the last sixteen months. As the writers note, such self-examination is rare in Egyptian politics, particularly as it has descended into a circus in the last few months. It makes for poignant reading, and I've added a few notes for clarification.

An Account of the Actions of the Coalition of Revolutionary Youth

From the Coalition of Revolutionary Youth Facebook page, July 8, 2012.

We believe that every experience should either continue or end according to facts on the ground and logical reasoning. And — even though it is not standard operating procedure in Egypt — we believe it is necessary that every group and/or political entity submit a transparent and clear account that outlines what the organization has done over time, be it good or bad.

Under exceptional circumstances, like that of the great Egyptian people’s Revolution, we contend that it is our duty to publish this account for the Egyptian public, for they placed their trust in the Coalition of Revolutionary Youth, as well as for those who criticized the organization. This account is also dedicated to the best of Egypt’s youth – the activists and believers in the goals and values of this revolution and similar revolutionary movements – as well as for that sector of the Egyptian elite who did what they could in service to this nation. This is for the admirable victims of this revolution who paid the greatest price and who continue to do so for the sake of this revolution; and this is also for the souls of the revolutionary martyrs who continue to fall – up to today – in anticipation of the day when this nation will achieve freedom and dignity, the day when each Egyptian will receive his demands for “Bread, Freedom, and Social Justice.”

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Egypt: 16 months of revolutionary photography

By Mossaab.

Issandr El Amrani

Issandr El Amrani is a Cairo-based writer and consultant. His reporting and commentary on the Middle East and North Africa has appeared in The Economist, London Review of Books, Financial Times, The National, The Guardian, Time and other publications. He also publishes one of the longest-running blog in the region, www.arabist.net.

Ashour on why Libya's Islamists lost

Omar Ashour as a new column up at Project Syndicate explaining Libyan Islamists' defeat at the hands of a wide-ranging ranging coalition of liberals, independents, conservatives, and, well, almost everyone who was not a self-described Islamist.

Nevertheless, the question remains: what happened to the Islamists? They spearheaded the opposition to Qaddafi, were advised by their Tunisian and Egyptian brethren, and larded their rhetoric with religious symbolism in a conservative Muslim country. For many, however, this was not enough.

A striking difference between Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood and Tunisia’s Ennahda, on the one hand, and Libya’s Islamists on the other is the level of institutionalization and interaction with the masses. In Qaddafi’s four decades in power, Libya’s Islamists could not build local support networks; develop organizational structures, hierarchies, or institutions; or create a parallel system of clinics and social services, as their counterparts in Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco, and Jordan were able to do.

As a result, Libya’s Islamists could not unite in a coalition as large as that of Mahmoud Jibril, the former prime minister under the National Transitional Council, who heads the NFC. Instead, their votes were divided between several parties, six of which are significant.

But another reason for the strong “liberal” turnout is the “blood” factor. “I am not giving my family’s votes to the MB. Two of my cousins died because of them,” Mohamed Abdul Hakim, a voter from Benghazi, told me. He agrees that Islam should be the source for legislation, and his wife wears a niqab. Nonetheless, he voted liberal: his cousins were killed in a confrontation in the 1990’s, most likely between the Martyrs Movement (a small jihadist group operating in his neighborhood at the time) and Qaddafi’s forces.

But many average Libyans, including Hakim, do not distinguish between Islamist organizations and their histories. For them, all Islamists are “Ikhwan” (MB). The “stain” of direct involvement in armed action, coupled with fear of Taliban-like laws or a civil war like Algeria’s in the 1990’s harmed Islamists of all brands.

Also see: Analysis: Elections in Libya —the surprises | Libya Herald

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Issandr El Amrani

Issandr El Amrani is a Cairo-based writer and consultant. His reporting and commentary on the Middle East and North Africa has appeared in The Economist, London Review of Books, Financial Times, The National, The Guardian, Time and other publications. He also publishes one of the longest-running blog in the region, www.arabist.net.

Beinin on Egypt's workers

Joel Beinin has a new paper out at Carnegie on the labor movement in Egypt, his field of expertise for something like three decades at least now. He writes:

[W]orkers were quick to mobilize in the early stages of the groundswell that eventually unseated Hosni Mubarak, and they deserve more credit for his ouster than they typically receive. Soon after the uprising began, workers violated ETUF’s legal monopoly on trade union organization and formed the Egyptian Federation of Independent Trade Unions (EFITU)—the first new institution to emerge from the revolt. Labor mobilization continued at an unprecedented level during 2011 and early 2012, and workers established hundreds of new, independent enterprise-level unions. They also secured a substantially higher minimum wage.

Yet, though the labor movement has made headway, problems persist. New unions face funding difficulties and the independent labor movement is internally divided. The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF)—the ultimate power in Egypt since Mubarak’s demise—and ETUF have both repeatedly asserted their power to oppose independent unions and have scored some successes. The movement has a very limited presence in the emerging institutions of the post-Mubarak state and is thus left without much leverage to fend off attacks from its political opponents.

Going forward, the independent labor movement should consider looking beyond street protests over immediate grievances, where it has achieved its greatest successes, and begin training enterprise-level leaderships and forging political coalitions with sympathetic sections of the intelligentsia. Independent trade unions remain the strongest nationally organized force confronting the autocratic tendencies of the old order. If they can solidify and expand their gains, they could be an important force leading Egypt toward a more democratic future.

Timely reading considering a recent upsurge in labor actions across Egypt — in CairoMahalla al-KubraBeni SuefMarsa Matruh and elsewhere — and those are just from today. (via the two leading sources of Egypt labor info on Twitter, @3arabawy and @egystrikes.

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Issandr El Amrani

Issandr El Amrani is a Cairo-based writer and consultant. His reporting and commentary on the Middle East and North Africa has appeared in The Economist, London Review of Books, Financial Times, The National, The Guardian, Time and other publications. He also publishes one of the longest-running blog in the region, www.arabist.net.

Benchemsi: the history of Morocco's #feb20

Ahmed Benchemsi, the former editor of the popular French-language weekly Tel Quel, has written a valuable essay retelling the story of the emergence of the February 20 movement in Morocco and its subsequent fading as the monarchy regained the initiative. He concludes:

At the time of writing (March 2012), the freshly appointed Benkirane cabinet still enjoys a honeymoon with the people. This may last a few more months, maybe a year. But then what? The sources of the 2011 revolt are still in place. Corruption, a major factor for discontent, is at peak level. Morocco’s position on Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index has been worsening for years, going from 52nd in 2002 to 80th in 2011. Unemployment is also higher than ever, especially among university graduates (the official rate is 19% in 2011). Given the depth of these problems and the profound structural reforms that they require, the odds are small that Mr. Benkirane and his government assuage popular anger quickly enough.

With months passing and the economy degrading, in the absence of democratic freedoms developed enough to act like a safety valve, serious street protesting is likely to resume. The question is by whom the next round of popular anger will be channeled; and if so, whether or not this will be done properly to seize the momentum and maintain it while exerting efficient—and this time, focused—pressure on the Makhzen. The PJD cannot play that mobilizing role anymore, now that it has been closely associated to the Makhzen. The remaining activists movements that can do the channeling are Al Adl Wal Ihsan or, maybe, a reformed Feb20-like coalition—provided Morocco’s democratic and secular activists learn lessons from the 2011 fiasco and manage to build a real grassroots movement with an identified and appealing agenda.

I'm not sure I agree with his take that the emergency of a coherent liberal movement will be enough to change things (it will need to be broader than strictly liberal). Benchemsi is a figurehead of secularism in Morocco, a cause he advocated with his magazine with some success but that remains fairly alien to most Moroccans, whether among the educated middle class or the rural poor. The question in Morocco may be how to articulate an idea of reformist secularism that is not, as Tel Quel sometimes was, hostile to traditional values. He has written here a good first draft of the history of the radicals' role in the emergency of this movement (and more broadly the movement for democratic change in Morocco), but a chapter on its mainstreaming still awaits.

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Issandr El Amrani

Issandr El Amrani is a Cairo-based writer and consultant. His reporting and commentary on the Middle East and North Africa has appeared in The Economist, London Review of Books, Financial Times, The National, The Guardian, Time and other publications. He also publishes one of the longest-running blog in the region, www.arabist.net.

Al-Amin: What’s the U.S. up to in Egypt?

Esam Al-Amin in Counterpunch:

In this high stakes of international power play the U.S. strategy in the region is to prefer a managed transition to civilian rule and democratic governance as long as the American major strategic objectives are not challenged. In short, the strategy is to give the Islamic rising powers a chance to govern as long as they agree to: keep the Americans in, the Chinese and Russians out, the Iranians down, and the Israelis safe.

Time will only tell if the Islamic group would fulfill such expectations or chart a more independent course in line with the objectives of the revolution that brought them to power.

Al-Amin is critical of US foreign policy in the region (who isn't!?) but his article is fair appraisal of priorities for Washington in post-uprising Egypt. It's actually a pretty decent mix as long as it includes that transition to democratic governance (and I think the US is not on good terms with SCAF, or more specifically Tantawi, anyway). The question is what happens to the good stuff if Washington doesn't get its way on the others — and I think that something there has got to give.

The first test, as Al-Amin points out, is likely to be the blockade on Gaza and Egypt-Israel relations. The Israelis, in any case, are not wasting time making their preparations and drafting allies in the US:

That last piece on CNN.com is an op-ed by Mark Udall, a US Senator for Colorado (D). He writes:

It is critical that we engage the Israelis and Egyptians in joint discussions on security in the Sinai and on preserving the Multinational Force and Observers' mission. The Egyptian military should be urged to reinforce checkpoints on the borders between mainland Egypt and the Sinai in order to stop the flow of arms and crack down on human trafficking. Egypt's new government must respect the country's commitments to combat human trafficking under international conventions as well as domestic law.

Where the US lags behind is accepting that the main cause of instability in Sinai is the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the impact the Gaza blockade has had in criminalizing the Sinai economy through the tunnels. What Egypt needs in Sinai is not just a greater commitment of the state to fight crime, but an end to the blockade, which means an end to the Quartet conditions.

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Issandr El Amrani

Issandr El Amrani is a Cairo-based writer and consultant. His reporting and commentary on the Middle East and North Africa has appeared in The Economist, London Review of Books, Financial Times, The National, The Guardian, Time and other publications. He also publishes one of the longest-running blog in the region, www.arabist.net.

In Latitude: Kritarchy in Cairo

My latest piece for the IHT's blog Latitude is up. It deals with the, in my view, scandalous behavior of Egyptian judges in the last few weeks and their increased politicization. I am particular incensed at the lack of mea culpa from the judiciary, for years a good part of the problem of the Mubarak era. Just think how many judges sentenced people to years of prison in political cases. And it appears that their idea of judicial independence is that judges should entirely decide how to administer themselves without any oversight. It smacks of the corporatist thinking that plagues Egypt, and lies at the core of the problems of reforming the judiciary, the police and other state institutions. The judges, for now, appear to be more part of the problem than the solution.

Issandr El Amrani

Issandr El Amrani is a Cairo-based writer and consultant. His reporting and commentary on the Middle East and North Africa has appeared in The Economist, London Review of Books, Financial Times, The National, The Guardian, Time and other publications. He also publishes one of the longest-running blog in the region, www.arabist.net.

Conspiracy galore in Egypt

The Lede's Robert Mackey has a great round-up of how the conspiratorial thinking that led to the protest against Hillary Clinton's visit in Egypt started:

The news that Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton’s motorcade was pelted with shoes and tomatoes by Egyptian protesters, who also taunted her by chanting “Monica! Monica!” as she left the U.S. consulate in Alexandria on Sunday, delighted conservative bloggers in the United States.

What has attracted less attention, however, is the extent to which the Egyptians who vented their rage during Mrs. Clinton’s visit appear to have been inspired by fears that the Obama administration harbors a secret, pro-Islamist agenda which originated with American conservatives.

You really have to read the whole thing, especially the bit where some idiotic tweep thinks the regular aid given the Egyptian military was given to the Brotherhood.

I am frequently astounded by the level of stupidity in Egyptian political discourse but the current felool/secularist/Coptic alliance (although I think a minority of these respective groups are taking part, they are quite vocal) against Morsi in the current deadlock is both moronic and incredibly unpatriotic and undemocratic. That protest against Clinton was led by Tawfik Okasha — these people deserve to be held in just as much contempt as he is. The silver lining is that they are making themselves irrelevant, doing everyone else a favor in the process.

(Edited because an error had left pasted text from above-linked article)

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Issandr El Amrani

Issandr El Amrani is a Cairo-based writer and consultant. His reporting and commentary on the Middle East and North Africa has appeared in The Economist, London Review of Books, Financial Times, The National, The Guardian, Time and other publications. He also publishes one of the longest-running blog in the region, www.arabist.net.

On "morality police" in Egypt

I did not get a chance to blog about the reports of Islamist morality vigilantism said to have caused the death of a young man in Suez a couple of weeks ago, but below are some links on the story. While it's not clear how widespread the phenomenon is, and there has been some alarmism, I do believe that such events are happening more frequently. I would not look at a conspiracy by the new Islamist president for now, though — this problem has much more to do with the collapse of authority in areas where there the state already has problems to impose itself. No wonder the worst instances of such morality police (but the least reported) is Sinai.

  • No morality police in Egypt: Morsi spokesman - Politics - Egypt - Ahram Online
  • A noisy discourse on sexual harassment : EgyptMonocle
  • Egyptian Youth’s Murder in Suez Puts Islamists on Defensive - Bloomberg
  • Fears of 'morality vigilantism' in Suez - YouTube
  • After Suez murder, questions linger over vigilante 'morality police' | Egypt Independent
  • Egyptian student fatally stabbed by militants - SFGate
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    Issandr El Amrani

    Issandr El Amrani is a Cairo-based writer and consultant. His reporting and commentary on the Middle East and North Africa has appeared in The Economist, London Review of Books, Financial Times, The National, The Guardian, Time and other publications. He also publishes one of the longest-running blog in the region, www.arabist.net.

    Moustafa: Don't call the SCC's decision on parliament a dissolution

    Tamir Mousfata weighs in with an interesting comment on the headline of this NYT story on the scuffle over the dissolution of parliament: "Egypt’s Military and President Escalate Their Power Struggle". He writes in a comment to the story:

    The headline for this article is incorrect and terribly misleading. The Supreme Constitutional Court ruling on June 14 did not disband parliament, it only invalidated part of the election law. It was the military that disbanded parliament as an opportunistic move, but it is not the role of an unelected junta to dissolve parliament. The SCC reaffirmed its ruling as political theatre, as its ruling still stands. Morsi's presidential decree seeks to dissolve parliament in an orderly fashion, without the military calling the shots. The New York Times should make a correction, as the current headline and much of the text of the article simply presents the spin that SCAF would like to put forward.

    Moustafa is Associate Professor at Simon Fraser University and the author of a book that speaks to the heart of the matter: The Struggle for Constitutional Power: Law, Politics, and Economic Development in Egypt.

    His comment, which is in line with my own analysis (as well as that I think the SCC's June 14 decision is ridiculous and the reaction of the Egyptian judicial establishment in general to Morsi's decree preposterous and dishonest — more on that later) and that of many other experts on Egyptian constitutional matters, is telling of how much the discussion of this struggle has been skewed. In a way, one can hardly blame the NYT's headline writers when the Egyptian media is largely framing this in the same manner, as are politicians and many senior judges. My instinct tells me that the latter, in particular, are full of crap when they complain of the decree being "an attack on rule of law" while Morsi's defense that he is not challenging the courts but the SCC's right to dissolve parliament not only entirely plausible, but laudable.

    Unfortunately he did not think through the politics very well here, and may lose this battle. The last saving grace for him may be, ironically, upcoming decisions by the administrative courts — otherwise his best bet will be a quick move to hold new elections. 

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    Issandr El Amrani

    Issandr El Amrani is a Cairo-based writer and consultant. His reporting and commentary on the Middle East and North Africa has appeared in The Economist, London Review of Books, Financial Times, The National, The Guardian, Time and other publications. He also publishes one of the longest-running blog in the region, www.arabist.net.

    The Brotherhood: Battling on all fronts

    This piece by Noha Hennawy in Egypt Independent has it right — it's not about Brotherhood vs. military in Egypt, it's not even Brotherhood vs. the military and the judiciary, it's about Brotherhood vs. military and a range of potential allies, some of whom are only allies on occasion:

    In the midst of this feud, the Brotherhood and its political wing, the Freedom and Justice Party, have also immersed themselves into a different battle with another, no less significant force: privately owned media. The group’s daily newspaper recently coined the term, ‘black media’, for the private channels and newspapers that regularly criticize the Brotherhood’s performance. It accused these media outlets of implementing the agenda of corrupt businessmen, known for ties with the old regime.

    Akram Ismail, a columnist and youth leader in the leftist Popular Alliance Party, says the Brothers may not win these battles because their adversaries ‘are very powerful.’

    ‘The Brothers are fighting influential groups,’ he said, listing the bureaucracy, the businessmen, the upper-middle class, intelligence officials and the security apparatus.

    ‘It is a large social mix,’ he said. ‘The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces stands as the political representative of this network.

    ‘These forces might not be able to form a political party and win elections, but they can invest in the media, the military council and the judiciary to team up against the Brotherhood,’ said Ismail, addressing what is commonly referred to as ‘the deep state.’"

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    Issandr El Amrani

    Issandr El Amrani is a Cairo-based writer and consultant. His reporting and commentary on the Middle East and North Africa has appeared in The Economist, London Review of Books, Financial Times, The National, The Guardian, Time and other publications. He also publishes one of the longest-running blog in the region, www.arabist.net.

    Eric Schewe's map of the presidential election results

    Eric Schewe's map of the Egyptian presidential election results

    The above map of from Eric Schewe's blog, which has some great analysis of the presidential election and much else. It's a great blog for Egypt nerds. He writes of the map and the data behind it:

    The fact that the Muslim Brotherhood count from June 18 and the official state count were so close gives me confidence that, while votes may have been illegitimately influenced by actions outside the polling booth, that the polls themselves were relatively fairly conducted. This means this body of data is the first reliable indication ever of Egyptians’ preferences over a very stark binary choice for the direction of the state: Islamism or “Feloul” (old-regime) revanchism. Obviously, many Egyptians went out to vote AGAINST either choice, but the geographical distribution of the result shows very strong regional tendencies, raising interesting questions about voters’ overall motives.

    Getting this kind of data and spreading will lead, over time, in a quantum leap in how we understand Egyptian politics. Of course it needs to be combined with new data added over time and knowledge of local-level dynamics. But at long last, we have a base based on an electoral process that was reasonably free and fair.

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    Issandr El Amrani

    Issandr El Amrani is a Cairo-based writer and consultant. His reporting and commentary on the Middle East and North Africa has appeared in The Economist, London Review of Books, Financial Times, The National, The Guardian, Time and other publications. He also publishes one of the longest-running blog in the region, www.arabist.net.