Adam Shatz on Claude Lanzmann

From Adam Shatz's review of Claude Lanzmann's onanistic memoirs, a bit describing his visit to Cairo with Sartre and de Beauvoir:

A few months before the 1967 war, Les Temps modernes published a special issue on the Arab-Israeli conflict, more than a thousand pages long, featuring contributions by both Arab and Israeli writers. At the invitation of Mohamed Heikal, the editor of al-Ahram and a confidant of Nasser, the Family travelled to Cairo. As Lanzmann recalls, Nasser, a ‘tall, timid man who impressed by his soft voice and dark, handsome eyes’, looked him in the eye, ‘addressing himself to me alone’, knowing of his special bond with Israel. Although Sartre accused his Egyptian hosts of leaving the refugees in Gaza ‘to rot, surviving on handouts’, Lanzmann suspected that his mentor viewed him as a liability, ‘preventing him from truly enjoying the seductions of the Arab world’. The quarrel intensified in Israel, the trip’s next stop, when Sartre refused to meet anyone in uniform: ‘an obstinate refusal to even try to understand Israel’ and its ‘primordial mission’ of defence, Lanzmann felt. When de Gaulle announced an arms embargo against Israel in early June, Lanzmann pressured Sartre into signing a pro-Israel petition; Sartre immediately regretted it. Their relationship never recovered.

Great review, Lanzmann comes across as absolutely unbearable. On the politics of the making of his masterpiece, Shoah:

Lanzmann’s first film was an admiring portrait of the Jewish state. Released in 1973, Pourquoi Israël led to a summons from Alouph Hareven, director-general of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Hareven told him that Israel had a mission for him: ‘It’s not a matter of making a film about the Shoah, but a film that is the Shoah. We believe you are the only person who can make this film.’

Lanzmann accepted the assignment. The Foreign Ministry’s support for him reflected a shift in priorities. Until the 1960s, Israel had shown little interest in the Holocaust. The survivors, their stories, the Yiddish many of them spoke – these were all seen as shameful reminders of Jewish weakness, of the life in exile that the Jewish state had at last brought to an end. But with the Eichmann trial, and particularly after the 1967 war, Israel discovered that the Holocaust could be a powerful weapon in its ideological arsenal. Lanzmann, however, had more serious artistic ambitions for his film than the Foreign Ministry, which, impatient with his slowness, withdrew funding after a few years, before a single reel was shot. Lanzmann turned to the new prime minister, Menachem Begin, who put him in touch with a former member of Mossad, a ‘secret man devoid of emotions’. He promised that Israel would sponsor the film so long as it ran no longer than two hours and was completed in 18 months. Lanzmann agreed to the conditions, knowing he could never meet them. He ended up shooting 350 hours of film in half a dozen countries; the editing alone took more than five years. Despite his loyalty to Israel, his loyalty to Shoah came first, and he was prepared to do almost anything to make it his way.

Shoah, of course, is over nine hours long and would be a subject of self-deprecating Jewish humor by the time Woody Allen made Manhattan.

P.S. it's really worth subscribing to the LRB to read stuff like this.

In Translation: Egypt's constitutional crisis of consensus

First, a word about the people who make this possible. Our “In Translation” series is brought to you by the good folks at Industry Arabic. If you need anything translated — press articles, specialised reports, academic documents, anything! — I really recommend going to them. I’ve been referring people to them for over a year and heard only great feedback. They’re fast, professional, can work in all sorts of Arabic dialects and multiple European languages. And even if you need to translate from Arabic to Eskimo, just ask them. You never know.

As many readers know, the selection process for Egypt’s constituent assembly — which will write the country’s next constitution by next March at the latest — was decided a week ago. After weeks of debate, the Islamist majority in parliament (the Muslim Brothers and the Salafists) decided to keep 50 of the 100 seats for MPs. Secular forces have long advocated that the constituent assembly should be diverse, and there are more worrying indications that the Salafists want to blackball any figures they consider too secular. There is a growing movement to deny both parliament and the assembly legitimacy, either on constitutional grounds (the parliament may be declared unconstitutional in a case that has moved from the Appeals Court to the Supreme Constitutional Court) or simply because many feel the assembly should be as representative as possible — if it looks like parliament, it will include few minorities or women, for instance.

This is a serious issue, and not just for liberals and leftists. If there is a sizeable number of people who think the constitution is illegitimate and the consensus around is weak, there is a risk down the line that this would make a coup (soft or hard) easier. Egypt will be naturally coup-prone in the next few years, and while the Brothers say they want consensus, the Salafists have a more winner-takes-all approach and want to nominate figures such as Sheikh Mohammed Hassan, a popular preacher, who will push for a very strict interpretation of Sharia.

The commentary below is by Ziad Bahaa-Eldin, a lawyer and former head of the Stock Exchange and Investment Authority who was elected to parliament in Asiut, on the Social Democratic Party list (part of the Egyptian Bloc). Bahaa-Eldin is a widely respected technocrat, someone with extensive legislative experience (he wrote several laws over past decade governing investment, and during his tenure at the investment authority won much applaud for cutting red tape). His article is important in that it reflects the potential for rejection of the future constitution by a significant part of the political spectrum, rather than a document that has wide consensus, and the increasing polarisation of politics.

The Constituent Assembly and the Crisis of Consensus

By Ziad Bahaa-Eldin, al-Shorouk, 20 March 2012

Last Saturday afternoon, the plan designed to achieve consensus among the political forces hit a setback, at least in regards to drafting a new constitution for Egypt in which all of society’s forces participate. The setback occurred when the major parties in Parliament limited deliberation and discussion, and in a few, brief minutes made use of the majority they enjoy as they rushed to finalize the formation of an assembly to draft the constitution. They decided that half the members of the Constituent Assembly will be drawn from the ranks of MPs, and the other half from outside of Parliament. It is true that it may be said the decision to form the Constituent Assembly was reached in a democratic manner, and through a peaceful, legal vote that expresses the right of the majority to impose its opinion when it likes. This is true under normal circumstances. However, this description does not apply to what happened with the formation of the constituent assembly, because it involves an unnecessary maneuver, and because it concerns the pressing issue on the scene that is most in need of consensus right now – that is, drafting the constitution and forming the Constituent Assembly tasked to do so.

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Saudi Mufti: destroy the churches!

Brian's Coffeehouse: Destroy the Churches!:

The declaration of Saudi Arabia's Grand Mufti Abd al-Aziz b. Abdullah that all churches in the Arabian Peninsula should be destroyed is getting some attention. I first saw this a few days ago at Crossroads Arabia and thought little of it. Saying offensive and somewhat crazy extreme things is practically the job description for the head of that country's religious establishment, which fears the moral collapse of society if women start driving cars.

The Mufti of Saudi Arabia: possibly one of the most dangerous a-holes in a country led by a-holes that the United States has been protecting for the last 60 years. Compare with Iran: they may be religious fanatics too, but so much more tolerant.

Tariq Ramadan on "the Salafist equation"

A very interesting op-ed by Tariq Ramadan, which might be interpreted as a message from a prominent member of the international Muslim Brotherhood trend against Salafism, which here is depicted largely as a tool of the conservative oil-rich Gulf states and potential allies of the West.

gulfnews : The Salafist equation:

The United States as well as the European countries have no problem in dealing with the type of Islamism promoted by the literalist Salafism found in some Muslim countries: these regimes might oppose democracy and pluralism, but they do not hinder the western economic and geostrategic interests in the region and internationally. They even rely on western support to survive: this useful dependency is enough for the West to justify an objective alliance — with or without democracy.

The US administration and other European countries are fully aware that Salafist organisations, based in Saudi Arabia, in Qatar or elsewhere in the Middle East, are pouring millions into ‘liberated countries’ and especially recently in Tunisia, Libya and Egypt (a RAND report has mentioned an impressive figure: $80 million (Dh294 million) invested before the elections for Egypt alone). Why, one wonders, do the western countries lend direct and indirect support to Islamist ideologies that are so obviously at odds with their own? After almost a century of active presence in the Middle East, and especially after the First World War, successive American administrations and their European counterparts have better understood how they can manage and take advantage of their relationships with both — the oil-rich states and the Salafist ideology they produce and propagate.

It's funny that Ramadan seems worried about a West-Salafi alliance that might divide Muslims, when he has been advocate of West-MB engagement.

The rise of informal Islamists

The Advent of “informal” Islamists - Khalil al-Anani | The Middle East Channel:

The fragmentation of the Islamist scene in Egypt is a hallmark characteristic of the post-Hosni Mubarak era. After stagnation and dominance by one force, the Muslim Brotherhood (MB), the Islamist scene has been drastically reshaped. More than 15 Islamists parties have officially or unofficially emerged after the revolution. Myriad Islamists have overwhelmed the public sphere freely and painlessly. And a parliament dominated by Islamists is in commission. It seems the lure of politics has immersed Islamists.

However, while many are preoccupied by the "rise" of the Muslim Brothers and the ultra-conservative Salafis, "informal" Islamists are stepping into politics vigorously and freely. They are not officially affiliated with any Islamist movement. Nor are they keen to establish their own organizations. Ironically, they shunned joining any of the new Islamists parties. Moreover, whereas "formal" Islamists, for example, the MB, ad-Dawa al-Salafiyya, and ex-Jihadists, rushed to formal politics, "informal" Islamists prefer to play outside the official framework. They vividly operate in the new and expansive religious market that has flourished in Egypt since the revolution.

Good piece drawing attention to the fact that Egyptian Islamism has gotten a lot more complicated (or rather that its complexity has been brought to the fore by the removal of security constraints) and that independent actors such as prominent sheikhs can have a large political impact outside of formal institutions. Most interesting, as Khalil puts it, is that informal Islamists "target the members of "formal" Islamist organizations" — as we're seeing in the difficulty the Muslim Brotherhood and the Nour Party are having in endorsing a presidential candidate without alienating their base.

Here's an excerpt from something I am in the middle of writing that touches on this:

The two biggest Islamist trends, the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafi movement, performed well in the parliamentary elections but face much greater problems in advancing a candidate of their own for the presidency. As the dominant parties in parliament (through the Freedom and Justice Party and the Nour Party respectively) they face multiple dilemmas: whether to choose a candidate among their leaders or a figure that has broader appeal, whether to back a candidate who is strongly independent and critical of SCAF or someone more conciliatory and controllable, and most of all how to resolve the divisions that exists among their bases and their leadership over who might be an appropriate figure.

This was evident in the Salafists' reluctance to choose a candidate and in the Muslim Brothers' back–and–forth or the selection of a candidate. The problem is particularly acute for the Brothers: both leading Islamist contenders (Aboul Fotouh and Abu Ismail) come from opposite ends of the Islamist spectrum, both have ties to the Brotherhood, and both are perceived to being uncontrollable by the group's leadership. This is probably why the Brotherhood is now trying to build internal consensus around a prominent external figure (Tareq al-Bishri, the prominent Islamist intellectual, has refused; so has Secretary General of the Arab League Nabil al-Arabi; Mansour Hassan is uncertain and head of the Supreme Council of the Judiciary Hussein al-Gheriani appears to be the favorite candidate but would be a late-starter with little name recognition.)

This is a really, really, big problem for the MB and the press is relaying on a daily basis their changes of mind, including the strong resistance from within to simply doing the obvious and nominating Khairat al-Shater for the presidency.

In Translation: the UAE-MB war of words

Over the past couple weeks, a major issue discussed by the Arab (and especially the Egyptian and Gulf) press is the public spat between the leaders of the UAE and the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood. The UAE has been nervous about the MB (it has a small domestic version) for a long time, as last year's stripping of nationality of the UAE 7 (alleged members of the group) showed. These tensions mounted to the surface after the UAE rescinded the residency visas of Syrians who held a protest outside the Syrian embassy in Abu Dhabi. This was condemned by UAE Islamists (some of the Syrians are believed to be Syrian MB) and by Sheikh Youssef Qaradawi in Qatar, promoting the UAE authorities to threaten him with arrest for attacking the country should he visit. This incensed Qaradawy's followers in the global MB movement, and Egyptian MB spokesman Mahmoud Ghozlan (one of a handful of MB leaders who really matter) countered by threatening (unspecified) action against the UAE should anything happen to Qaradawy. A story in this week's Economist provides more detail:

Yet the action against Syrian protesters, despite strong public sympathy with their plight, points to a broader intolerance for political activism of any kind, including internal dissent. This is particularly so if it is perceived to involve the Muslim Brotherhood. Over the past year, dozens of teachers believed to have Islamist tendencies have been removed from their posts, and activists said to have ties to the Brotherhood have been harassed, arrested and even stripped of their Emirati nationality.

In early March outrage over the treatment of the Syrian protesters led to the arrest of a sympathetic Emirati, as well as to a full-blown diplomatic spat between the UAE and Egypt. After Sheikh Youssef Qaradawi, the Qatar-based Egyptian preacher revered by the Brotherhood, made a critical statement against the Emirates, police in Dubai, the emirates’ commercial hub, threatened him with arrest if he visited the country. This prompted a Brotherhood spokesman in Egypt to threaten retaliation “from the entire Muslim world”. The affair has now subsided, but not before Dubai’s flamboyant police chief warned on his Twitter account that “since the Muslim Brotherhood has become a state, anyone advocating its cause should be considered a foreign agent.”

The Brotherhood has since toned down its rhetoric, although it stopped short of contrition. The Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, to which the Emiratis complained, is washing its hands of the whole affair, saying it is not responsible for the statements of the MB. The government is of course worried about getting UAE financial support (none of which has been delivered yet, perhaps in part because the UAE only wants to give it in kind for specific projects, not as general budget support). And the Emiratis are not over it at all, as the endless attacks on the MB in their papers show. For them, it's not just a question of national pride — it's a real worry about the regional MB block becoming a powerhouse and the Egyptian mothership boosting similar movements elsewhere. The Emirati MB may be small and operating in a society that is largely ruled according to tribal traditions and oil power, but it represents the seed of something that seems to really scare the Emirati establishment. The article below, from the Emirati paper al-Ittihadi, is typical in its defensiveness. 

As always, the translation is provided by the amazingly talented folks at Industry Arabic. Don't get your translations anywhere else.

The Muslim Brotherhood… and the Exploitation of Turmoil

Dr. Abdullah al-Awadi, al-Ittihad, 16 March 2012

No country in the world – least of all a country the size of Egypt – allows a political party, even if it prevails in “democratic” elections, to control its destiny or jeopardize its higher interests. When the party of the Muslim Brotherhood wages a battle in the name of the Egyptian state to defend a “cleric” who interfered in a sovereign matter in the Emirates, how could any state stand on the sidelines and watch while its back is exposed to the MB’s attacks — as if they had won the whole world, and not just the “Mother of the World”?

It seems that the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt has forgotten they are living in the Arab country of Egypt, and not in the country of a “political party” that is drunk with victory, even though it has not yet done anything of note for Egypt.

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Next in Gaza, Palestinian elections or Israeli preemption?

Paul Mutter contributed this commentary — and I have a note at the end.

Ebaa Reqez, an activist who helped organized the “March 15” Movement demonstrations in 2011 that laid the groundwork for the Hamas-Fatah unity agreement I’ve been tracking this week commented on the political sectarianism that is undermining a deal that was always a tenuous proposition:

In Gaza many of the organizers support Fatah and want to end the rule of Hamas. In the West Bank, they want to oust Fatah. And they both used March 15 and afterwards to try to get what they want.

This contest of wills and patronage was clearly illustrated three weeks ago when Hamas presented its “conditions” for becoming part of a unity government, conditions that Fatah partisans – even if they were willing to defy Israeli and American pressure – would balk at because of the key ministries Hamas was demanding control over. The talks in Cairo that were supposed to mark the next step in Palestinian reconciliation are now on hold, and spokesmen from both parties are blaming each other for the collapse of talks.

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Israel vs. Iran: the lolcats wars

The cat pictures are the newest permutations of a social media campaign started over the weekend by two Israeli graphics designers that is called “We Love Iranians,” aimed at raising public awareness against the steady march to war the Likud government has been taking Israel on towards Iran.

The meme has “gone viral” in Israel, and while it’s spawned a number of sensible parodies (such as noting that the same tone was on display for Iraqis to hear - if they could hear over the ack-ack - by George W. Bush in 2003) and is inevitably going to lead to a “slacktivism” discussion, at least it’s demonstrating that public opinion against war with Iran in Israel is growing. Israel is ostensibly a democracy, so the best case outcome is that all those national security specialists and “cultural icons” who have been keeping quiet realize there is a base of domestic support for them to tell Bibi to can the Holocaust references.

More comforting, though, has been news that 1) Mossad once again concludes with the U.S’s intelligence services that Iran has neither the capability nor political will to pursue weaponization now, 2) some Iranian leaders are saying they’re willing to make concessions at the new P5+1 roundtable, and 3) Netanyahu has failed to convince his kitchen cabinet that he knows what he is talking about on Iran, and considering some of the people in that cabinet, that is saying something — not least because one of the skeptics is in fact the Intelligence and Atomic Energy Minister, a post Netanyahu’s Likud party established in 2009 to have a kind of go-to-guy looking over Shin Bet and Mossad, a la Dick Cheney.

Still, no one is out of the woods yet, Mossad assessment and grinning Israeli couples’ pinterest tags aside. Netanyahu has deliberately set the bar for Iranian concessions so high it’s difficult to believe progress can be made in talks1 - i.e., asking the Iranians to do things no other NPT signatory is expected to do when Israel itself isn’t even an NPT signatory - and the U.S. has made it pretty clear it will take military action if it feels “compelled” to do so in the region by either an Israeli or Iranian “action.”

  1. Worse, he is now trying to play the 2005 Gaza withdrawal card against what passes as the Israeli political left over Iran - clearly, he wants to shut their tepid criticism down by any means at his disposal.  ↩

Sharks weren't the only predators the Qadhafis took a shine to

Bad toys for bad boys

Straight-up Bond villain extravagances via Hannibal Qadhafi, reports the Financial Times. The dictator’s son was building himself a cruise ship with a shark tank:

Replete with marble columns, gold-framed mirrors and huge statues, the Phoenicia was to have included a 120-tonne tank of seawater for two sand tiger sharks, two white sharks and two blacktip reef sharks. Four resident biologists would have tended to the animals. The sharks’ nutritional needs mandated a dedicated food store.

No word on how much the liner cost Libyans – Hannibal skimmed off the top of the country’s port incomes – but the Phoenicia is being refitted by Swiss maritime conglomerate MSC for regular passenger duty at a cost of over US$720 million. Apparently Hannibal had extremely tacky taste and interior renovations have been rather involved. Sadly for passengers and Roger Moore enthusiasts, the shark tank will go – though that’s at least good news for the sharks.

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Pope Shenouda III, patriarch of the Coptic Orthodox Church, dies

Pope Shenouda III  was arguably one of the most important figures of 20th century Egypt, and one of his ancient church's most transformative figures.  Shenouda  guided his flock, the largest congregation of Christians in the Middle East, to massive political, social, economic and religious change. In doing so he broke with tradition of a more spiritual role for the pope and embraced a political role that made him  one of the pivotal figures of the last 40 years. on this blog in the past I have been critical of the Pope, notably for his for his politicization of the church, his  autocratic tendencies,  and misplaced bet on the Mubarak regime — most notably his unprecedented 2005 endorsement of the reelection of Hosni Mubarak.

But I'll leave discussion of that to another day, and  instead urge you to read this overview of his life by one of the best non-Egyptian experts on the church and religious life in Egypt, Cornelius Hulsman of the Arab West Report:

Egyptian Christians are mourning the death of Coptic Orthodox Pope and Patriarch Shenouda III, who passed away on Saturday at the age of 88. Pope Shenouda (August 3, 1923 - March 17, 2012) was extremely popular among millions of common Christians. A charismatic reformer and an advocate of Christian rights and interests in a predominantly Muslim country, many considered him as their father. Common Muslims liked him for his critical stance towards Israel, but both Christian and Muslim intellectuals were critical of his mixing politics with religion. No doubt he was the most influential Christian leader in 20th century Egypt. He was co-founder and editor-in-chief of the Sunday School Magazine in 1947, was consecrated as monk in 1954, became Bishop of Education in 1962, and Pope in 1971.

Metropolitan Bishoi, secretary of the Synod since 1985, described in 2002 the dramatic changes during Pope Shenouda’s reign. The number of monks, priests, bishops, church servants, and churches dramatically increased. Monasteries expanded as never before since the arrival of Islam in Egypt. During Pope Shenouda’s rule, the emigration of Copts increased tremendously as a consequence of better economic perspectives and a search for greater freedoms outside Egypt. Pope Shenouda responded to this trend by building hundreds of churches outside Egypt, whereby most (if not all) were personally consecrated by him.

And the conclusion that hints at the succession battle that has been rivaled only by the Mubarak succession question in Egypt's public life:

For at least the past ten years there have been discussions about the succession of Pope Shenouda. Until 1928 only monks had been elected to the papacy. Three diocesan bishops had been elected to the papacy in the 20th century but that had also resulted in resistance by those who believe that the church should adhere to its ancient principles for the election of a new pope. Bishop Marcos of Shubra al-Khayma stated that Pope Shenouda himself saw no problem in the election of general bishop as pope as opposed to a diocesan bishop.

Just as the death of Pope Yousab in 1956 resulted in a struggle around the succession, so Father Musa of Beni Suef suspects a struggle over the succession of Pope Shenouda. There is division over who could be eligible (monks only or monks and general bishops). There are furthermore several ambitious bishops. For whoever will be elected, it will not be easy to stand in the shoes of a pope who had such a tremendous impact in his church and who has enjoyed so much popularity. Yet, for the church, it is important to soon have a strong new leader again in order to be able to safeguard the position of Christians in a country that is in transition following the Revolution of 2011.

At a time when bishops and other church leaders are publicly disagreeing on what presidential candidate they support, you bet this succession is going to be heated.

Swift boat to Bahrain

If it looks like an arms deal, walks like an arms deal and quacks like an arms deals, is it an arms deal? The State Department says no:

“Today, officials from the State Department’s Bureau of Political-Military Affairs and State’s Legislative Affairs office briefed select congressional offices about their decision to transfer seven rigid-hull inflatable boats and 12 32-foot Boston Whaler boats from the U.S. Navy in Bahrain to the Bahrain government. Offices briefed ahead of the Friday formal notification included aides to the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and the offices of Sen. Ron Wyden (D-WY) and Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA), two lawmakers who have been leading the congressional opposition to continued U.S. arms sales to Bahrain.”

“This isn’t a new package or policy decision. This is part of what was briefed to Congress in January. We are still maintaining a pause on most security cooperation for Bahrain pending further progress on reform,” a State Department official told The Cable today. “The transfer of these boats are necessary to protect U.S. naval personnel and assets based in Bahrain. None of these items can be used against protestors. The transfer does not include any arms and the boats are intended for patrol missions, which is critical for ensuring a robust and layered defense of Bahrain’s coast and for enhancing Bahrain’s ability to counter maritime threats to U.S. and coalition vessels.”

The real story out of Bahrain these days, though, is not the gift of some old PT boats, but with the vagaries of the dialogue going on between the pro-government camp and the predominantly Shia opposition groups, increasingly splitting between the leading pro-dialogue al-Wifaq group and younger demonstrators opposed to al-Wifaq’s stance.

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Will the US approve aid to Egypt?

Probably — but it will be more embarassing this time round.

I know everyone is tired of this story, but POMED has an updated backgrounder [PDF] on the whole US–Egypt NGO affair. It's particularly important now because the Obama administration is on the verge of approving military aid to Egypt for the current financial year, and the DC desire to just move along is now being challenged by calls to restrict aid by the likes of Amnesty International.

In other words, this story is not going away in Egypt — where the trial off NGO workers continues  and the departure of the Americans has enraged the political class — or in the US where it involves powerful lobbies and interests clashing yet again with the concern over Egypt's direction in Congress and civil society. Note for instance how the report cites statements by the Obama administration that should prevent it from approving the aid: 

These statements illustrate that Egypt continues to violate “freedom of expression, association, and religion, and due process of law,” and thus preclude Secretary of State Hillary Clinton from certifying the allocation of military aid to Egypt. Nonetheless, the Obama administration could waive the requirement on national security grounds as stipulated in the omnibus bill. 
The bulk of the $1.3 billion of Egypt’s military assistance is paid directly to American weapons manufacturers by the U.S. Department of Defense. These companies have been contracted to manufacture and ship tanks, planes, guns and ammunition to Egypt. 
Here you will find a list of these defense contractors and the value of their contracts. Payments to these contractors are due in the coming weeks, forcing the U.S. to decide whether to deliver military aid now in order to avoid incurring late payment penalty fees.

These statements illustrate that Egypt continues to violate “freedom of expression, association, and religion, and due process of law,” and thus preclude Secretary of State Hillary Clinton from certifying the allocation of military aid to Egypt. Nonetheless, the Obama administration could waive the requirement on national security grounds as stipulated in the omnibus bill. 
The bulk of the $1.3 billion of Egypt’s military assistance is paid directly to American weapons manufacturers by the U.S. Department of Defense. These companies have been contracted to manufacture and ship tanks, planes, guns and ammunition to Egypt. 
Here you will find a list of these defense contractors and the value of their contracts. Payments to these contractors are due in the coming weeks, forcing the U.S. to decide whether to deliver military aid now in order to avoid incurring late payment penalty fees. 

Update — Here's some press reports on the matter:

Sanctions on Iran banking get much tighter

Swift, a Banking Network, Agrees to Expel Iranian Banks -

It is the first time that Swift, a consortium based in Belgium and subject to European Union laws, has taken such a drastic step, which severs a crucial conduit for Iran to electronically repatriate billions of dollars’ worth of earnings from the sale of oil and other exports.

Advocates of sanctions against Iran welcomed the action by Swift, which takes effect on Saturday, according to a statement on the network’s Web site. The statement said that Swift had been “instructed to discontinue its communications services to Iranian financial institutions that are subject to European sanctions.”

Lázaro Campos, Swift’s chief executive, said in the statement that “disconnecting banks is an extraordinary and unprecedented step for Swift. It is a direct result of international and multilateral action to intensify financial sanctions against Iran.”

After the closure of a major bank doing business with Iranians in Dubai, the financial sanction noose is tightening... This is a major step, which will make all sorts of transactions (not just oil related ones) very difficult.

Sinai's Bedouins and the MFO

Bedouin Standoff Raises Tensions in Egypt -

CAIRO—Hundreds of heavily armed Bedouins, pressing to release kinsmen from Egyptian prisons, have peacefully blockaded a multinational observer mission in Egypt's Sinai Desert for six days, the mission said Thursday.

The mission's approximately 1,600 soldiers from 12 countries including the U.S. are armed, but their primary duty—to oversee compliance with the 1979 Egyptian-Israeli Peace Treaty—doesn't allow them to fight the Bedouins. The soldiers are able to ferry people and supplies to and from the base by helicopter.

The desert dwellers are demanding the Egyptian government release their brethren who they say were unfairly convicted by an Egyptian court for alleged attacks in the Sinai cities of Taba in 2004 and in Sharm Al Sheikh the following year. The bombings, which targeted Israeli tourists, killed nearly 100 people.

A couple things on the story:

First, the MFO are the biggest employer in North Sinai. By barricading them, these Bedouins are hurting their own community's interests.

But I find it disturbing that the Egyptian government is actually negotiating with them, not  not because that might not be some good reasons to release the people  who are now in prison, but also because negotiations reward illegal activity such as barricading the base. Over the last year if not before, this has been the chief approach to the Bedouins' demands:  deal with them even if they're breaking the law.

This is clearly what the Bedouins have wanted, and I find this attitude deeply worrisome–just check out the end quote in the story:

But many tribal leaders and activists say the region's residents will not be quiet until the Cairo government respects their unique minority rights.

"This is what happens when city people put the rules over the desert," said Mosaad Abu Fajr, a well-known Bedouin blogger from the Sinai Peninsula. "They need to understand that they need to leave the desert to put its own rules, which won't contradict the laws of the country."

Sinai's Bedouins definitely have legitimate grievances and have suffered from much injustice and neglect, but they shouldn't get to live by their own “desert” rules–they should live under the same rules as everyone else.

Let them eat Baklava

Food and the Arab spring: Let them eat baklava | The Economist:

"They start with a peculiarity of the region: the Middle East and north Africa depend more on imported food than anywhere else. Most Arab countries buy half of what they eat from abroad and between 2007 and 2010, cereal imports to the region rose 13%, to 66m tonnes. Because they import so much, Arab countries suck in food inflation when world prices rise. In 2007-08, they spiked, with some staple crops doubling in price. In Egypt local food prices rose 37% in 2008-10."

A good piece on the food security issue facing most Arab countries, generally net importers of food. And particularly worrying as it appears the twin rise of oil and commodity prices of 2008 appears set to happen again.