Reform First

One Egyptian Pound, courtesy of Winter Sorbeck/Wikimedia

This article was originally published 31 May 2014 by Peacefare.net.

Steven Cook, who knows lots about Egypt, offers an insightful analysis of its impending financial and economic problems. In a word, Egypt could go broke and the state could disintegrate:

“Egypt’s economy remains shaky and the threat of a solvency crisis lingers. Indeed, the continuation of violence, political protests, and general political uncertainty—even after planned presidential and parliamentary elections—along with a hodgepodge of incoherent economic policies, all portend continuing economic decline. This in turn could create a debilitating feedback loop of more political instability, violence, and economic deterioration, thus increasing the chances of an economic calamity and yet again more political turmoil, including mass demonstrations, harsher crackdowns, leadership struggles, and possibly the disintegration of state power.”

Only Gulf generosity has kept Egypt’s foreign currency reserves above the minimum required, tourism is in a tailspin, debt is close to 100% of GDP and subsidies (especially for fuel) burden the state’s budget. There are many ways in which Egypt could be sent into default. I recommend you read Steven’s trenchant account. » More

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Egypt: Current Crisis and Possible Ways Forward

Tank in Cairo

Tank in Cairo. Photo: Jonathan Rashad/flickr.

On October 24, the ISN co-hosted a roundtable discussion with the Cordoba Foundation on the recent political turmoil in Egypt and on the possible ways to resolve it. Today, we present some of the discussion’s highlights, with a particular emphasis on the observations made by Dr Maha Azzam.

The discussion started off by focusing on the ‘narratives’ that the Western media has used to both bound and characterize the Arab Spring. In the following response, Dr Azzam focuses on the term ‘Islamism’ and how it has been misused, often with negative consequences, by media outlets, politicians and others.

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The Yom Kippur War Today

Stars and Symbols. Illustration by Nerosunero, courtesy of nerosunero/Flickr

MADRID – The approach of the 40th anniversary of the Yom Kippur War has been marked in Israel largely by the recurrent debate about the failures of Israeli intelligence in detecting and thwarting Egypt’s surprise attack. But Israel’s blunder in October 1973 was more political than military, more strategic than tactical – and thus particularly relevant today, when a robust Israeli peace policy should be a central pillar of its security doctrine.

The Yom Kippur War was, in many ways, Israel’s punishment for its post-1967 arrogance – hubris always begets nemesis. Egypt had been so resoundingly defeated in the Six-Day War of June 1967 that Israel’s leaders dismissed the need to be proactive in the search for peace. They encouraged a national mood of strategic complacency that percolated into the military as much as it was influenced by the military, paving the way for the success of Egypt’s exercise in tactical deceit.

“We are awaiting the Arabs’ phone call. We ourselves won’t make a move,” Moshe Dayan, Israel’s defense minister, said. “We are quite happy with the current situation. If anything bothers the Arabs, they know where to find us.” But when Egyptian President Anwar Sadat finally called in February 1971, and again in early 1973, with bold peace initiatives, Israel’s line was either busy, or no one on the Israeli side picked up the phone. » More

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In Gaza, the Worst Is Yet to Come

Watchtower in Rafah, Gaza

Watchtower in Rafah, Gaza, April 2009. Photo: Marius Arnesen/Wikimedia Commons.

There is a feeling of trepidation in the Gaza Strip these days, and since the Muslim Brotherhood—Hamas’ fellow journeyers—were ousted from power in Egypt in early July, living conditions have deteriorated dramatically. The new rulers of Egypt have launched a much-vaunted campaign against armed groups in the Sinai Peninsula and against the tunnels that connect that territory with Gaza. The latter has brought life in this tiny strip of land where 1.6 million Palestinians live—most of them in refugee camps—to almost a standstill.

Since Hamas won the Palestinian elections in 2006, the Gaza Strip has been under a strict siege. Until last month’s military intervention in Egypt, the Islamic Resistance Movement—branded a terrorist organization by the United States, the European Union, and Israel—was able to undermine this blockade by smuggling a myriad of products, including food, medicine, weapons, and even people, into the Gaza Strip. The two most important benefits of the tunnels were the flow of cheap fuel and other goods, and the taxes that Hamas raised from this. » More

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Disarming Egypt’s Militarized State

Free Officers

The Free Officers in Egypt in 1953. Photo: Nasser Bibalex/flickr.

LONDON – Egypt’s crisis has been called the worst in its history. In fact, it bears a striking resemblance to a previous episode, almost 60 years ago.

On February 28, 1954, more than a 100,000 protesters besieged Cairo’s Abdin Palace, then being used by Gamal Abdel Nasser and other leaders of the July 1952 coup. The protesters’ main demands were the restoration of Egypt’s fragile democratic institutions, the release of political prisoners, and the army’s return to its barracks.

The two-month crisis of 1954 was sparked by the removal of Egypt’s president, General Mohammed Naguib, by Nasser and his faction. As in 2013, the Muslim Brotherhood was at the center of events, mobilizing on the side of the deposed Naguib. But, following Nasser’s promises to hold elections in June 1954 and to hand over power to civilians, one of the Brotherhood’s leaders, Abd al-Qadr Audeh, dismissed the protesters. » More

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