Bloggingheads with Steve Cook

Steve Cook of the Council of Foreign Relations (whose blog you should follow) and I did am episode of Bloggingheads yesterday. Unfortunately we had tons of technical problems, in part because of the terrible quality of my internet connection yesterday, so we lost some of it — the bit where we discussed the arrest of the Mubaraks. But there's still a lot there about the army, Egypt's foreign policy, its dire economic straits, and more.

On offensive appropriations of the Arab Spring

It had to happen. No major world event can go untouched by politicians and pundits who try to appropriate to push their own preconceived notions and ideologies.

One I recently came across was during a conference call in which Bob Zoellick, the head of the World Bank, described Mohammed Bouazizi as "a private entrepreneur who found himself fighting government red tape." I couldn't believe someone can be so callous in appropriating the self-immolation of a young man to push his agenda of boosting private entreprise, but it turns out this is part of his latest stump speech. On April 6 Zoellick gave a speech about MENA in which he recast the tragedy as one of lack of free markets rather than lack of rights:

But then also, what’s important to keep in mind, all of it doesn’t have to be done by the government.  And here’s the sharpest reminder, you know, the– the– the fruit and vegetable seller– Bouazizi in– in Tunisia that head all this off, what was his complaint?

His complaint was he just wanted to be able to sell fruit and vegetables but he was bein’ harassed because of licensing and red tape.  This is important because particularly in many developing countries where you have what’s called a large informal market, so it’s not the– the formal business employment system, if you stymie entrepreneurialism, if you stymie small businesses, you’re really hurting that type of entrepreneur, many of whom are women I might add.

You stay classy, Bob.

Egypt: The media and the military

From CPJ:

Substantial setback for press freedom in Egypt
New York, April 13 2011- A new requirement by the Egyptian military that local print media obtain approval for all mentions of the armed forces before publication is the single worst setback for press freedom in Egypt since the fall of President Hosni Mubarak in February, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.  
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Old Egypt's candidate for the Arab League

Mustafa al-FiqiWhen Amr Moussa announced that he would be stepping down as Secretary-General of the Arab League to run for the Egyptian presidency, several names surfaced as to who might replace him. Shockingly, Egypt was considering unsavoury Mubarak regime characters such as Moufid Shehab (a top NDP official and sometimes foreign affairs troubleshooter) to replace him. That was shelved, but only to have Mustafa al-Fiqi become the official Egyptian candidate. This should be an outrage.

Al-Fiqi is a former presidential aide who has for two decades played the role of foreign policy expert in parliament. He has been a go-to person for foreign delegations and held various positions related to this function, including on the National Council for Human Rights (even though he was a staunch supporter of the Emergency Law). He profusely praised Mubarak in the president's last days in February, and has now neatly realigned himself with the revolution.

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Links 11 April 2011

  • Youthquake in the Middle East | The Australian
    Demographics attracting the marketeers.
  • - Libya rebels and west dismiss peace plan
    Because it does not include Qadhafi ouster
  • Syria's race against the clock by Peter Harling | The Middle East Channel
    Tick tock tick tock.
  • Egyptian Estimate Of Mubarak’s Wealth Soars To $700 Billion - Forbes
    Ridiculous. And there is a mistake here, Egypt's GDP is not $500bn (that's PPP GDP).
  • US to help pay for Iron Dome - Ynet
    US Congress implements cuts for Americans, but still pays for Israelis.
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    District-level Egypt referendum results



    This a map of the results of the 19 March 2011 referendum by district. Some of the most populated governorates and districts of Egypt are the smallest, and these are the ones which tended to vote the most no. I put the file on Prezi so that you can zoom in and see the smaller districts easily. More maps and results will be available soon.

    Tahrir's rebel officers

    A former army officer gathers crowds with slogans against army leaders Hussein Tantawi and Sami Enan on morning after army crackdown on Tahrir Square protest that left at least two dead.

    (I shot this on April 9, around 11am). Obviously not all former officers have been arrested, activists say some managed to change out of their uniforms and run away before the army attacked.

    If you want to see videos of the April 8 protests, see here.

    An account of the army crackdown on Tahrir

    I received this email about last night's events in Cairo's Tahrir Square, when army and security forces crackdown down on protestors who had set up camp in the square. There is still a lot of confusion about what happened, with the army claiming that thugs from the NDP had attacked the square and claiming it intervened to disband them. Activists say this is untrue. Reuters reported (and here's an updated version of that same article) that the army intervened against the protestors after curfew, firing shots in the air. The videos at the bottom of this post have the sound of a lot of gunfire, but there have been no reports of wounded or casualties to my knowledge (Update: Reuters says 2 dead, 15 wounded @11am). David Dietz also has an eyewitness account of the night, including brutality, in this post.

    Another night of army brutality, nearly 1500 protesters were spending the night in Tahrir square tonight including 30 army officers that joined the demonstrations today and remained with the demonstrators throughout the night.

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    Links 8 April 2011

  •  Signposts 
    For lovers of quotations, "Signposts" by Lababidi (now on Kindle) is a Book of the Year containing 300 original aphorisms.
  • Joel Beinin on the new Israeli historians
  • Twitpic
    Protesting outside the israeli embassy in cairo!
  • Welcome | Project on Middle East Democracy
    Video: Friday Protests in Homs, Syria 
  • NATO Regrets Libyan Misfire -
    NATO Won't Apologize for Libya Misfire
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    US-Saudi: Don't mention Bahrain

    US SecDef Gates meets King Abdullah:

    SEC. GATES: We had a very good meeting. We met for about an hour and a half, one-on-one. It was an extremely cordial warm meeting. I think the relationship is in a good place. We talked about developments all over the region. We obviously talked about Iran....

    Q. Did you talk about the Saudi troops in Bahrain? Did you raise that as an issue?

    SEC. GATES: No.

    Well that's that then.

    Via Enduring America.

    Israel may not be so worried about Egypt

    Amos Gilad, director general of political-military affairs for Israel's defense ministry, in TIME:

    The Sinai has never been easily policed by Egyptian authorities,and has been even more wide-open since the fall of President Hosni Mubarak. (When a hierarchy slackens, the periphery loosens the most.) But Gilad signaled that things are tightening up, saying the military government that succeeded Mubarak is working closely with Israel on Sinai.

    "We have intensive dialogue with Egyptian authorities and they are doing their best to rise to the challenges," he said. Indeed Gilad was downright ebullient about the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, referring admiringly to its "sophisticated use of power" and singling out Field Marshal Mohamad Hussain Tantawi, a close adviser to Mubarak. Israel's quite public worries about the course Egypt might take after Tahrir Square seemed a thing of the past, at least for now. "I must say I'm very much impressed by the stability of the Supreme Council," Gilad said. "I think they embody the best of Egypt."

    Update: At around 18:00 today a large protest was taking place just outside the Israeli embassy, presumably because of the strikes in Gaza, so the army may be the one concerned about Israel!

    Finkelstein on the Arab revolts and Israel

    From Counterfire:

    Mr Finkelstein, looking at the present situation in Gaza and the occupied territories, what hope do you have for a realistic and 'just' peace settlement – even in the next thirty years?

    It all depends on whether the people in the Occupied Territories find the inner strength and courage to duplicate what's been done in neighboring Arab-Muslim states. So far Palestinians are just watching, but from conversations I've had they appear to be hopeful. If mass demonstrations break out, Israel might be forced to withdraw to the June 1967 border. Certainly, Israel will have trouble firing on nonviolent demonstrators without looking like Gaddafi.

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    Links 6 April 2011

    Above, Khaled, father of four children and a teacher, has been missing since he made this interview with foreign journalists on March 11th in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

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    Getting that corruption money back

    UK it's our money

    Last Friday, I took the above picture at the rally against corruption in Midan Tahrir. The man in the middle is holding a sign that says "UK, it's our money" to protest at slowness of recovery of the Mubaraks' (and others) assets in Britain. The money has probably already left Albion, but British Ambassador Dominic Asquith says that the Egyptian government has yet to provide the proof that the money was illegally acquired that British law requires.

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    The Arabs and nuclear energy

    A few years ago, nuclear power was all the rage in the Arab world. Gamal Mubarak tried to boost his own statesman credentials by announcing that Egypt would build its first commercial nuclear plant. Soon most of the GCC followed suit, Jordan, Morocco and Algeria began feasibility studies, and it looked like the entire region would get on the nuclear bandwagon. Much of this nuclear talk had a whiff of nationalism about it, as if nuclear plants were as much prestige projects as an answer to skyrocketing electricity consumption (that for instance caused rolling brownouts last summer in Egypt and could very well do so again). The context of Iran's nuclear weapons program led to a spate of stories about how this was a preliminary to a region-wide nuclear arms race, even though the two issues are quite separate.
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