Egypt’s War on Sunni Supremacism Goes to Libya

American defense secretary James Mattis and Egyptian president Abdul Fatah Sisi stand to attention outside the Pentagon in Washington DC, April 5
American defense secretary James Mattis and Egyptian president Abdul Fatah Sisi stand to attention outside the Pentagon in Washington DC, April 5 (DoD/Amber I. Smith)

From Reuters:

Egyptian airstrikes destroyed twelve vehicles loaded with arms, ammunition and explosive material trying to cross the border from Libya, the army spokesman said on Tuesday.

The airforce acted after hearing that “criminal elements” had gathered to try and cross the western boundary, the army statement said, without giving details on exactly where or when the strikes took place.

Despite the paucity of the initial report, it’s clear the Abdul Fatah al-Sisi is trying to look like he’s getting revenge for attacks on Egyptian Christians by Sunni supremacists, who are trying the same old terror tricks of the 1990s to destabilize the regime. Read more “Egypt’s War on Sunni Supremacism Goes to Libya”

Donald Trump is Going to Love Egypt’s Dictator

Vladimir Putin Abdul Fatah Sisi
Presidents Vladimir Putin of Russia and Abdul Fatah Khalil al-Sisi of Egypt tour the Russian missile cruiser Moskva in Sochi, August 12, 2014 (Kremlin)

Call a spade a spade: Abdul Fatah al-Sisi is as much a president, with its democratic connotations, as Syria’s Bashar al-Assad. Egypt now rates a dismal 26 from 100 on Freedom House’s Freedom Index, just behind Qatar and barely above dysfunctional Iraq.

Some may quibble that Sisi is more a “strongman” than a dictator; in terms of political outcomes, that’s the difference between holding rigged elections and having no elections at all.

And now al-Sisi is coming to kiss the Trump ring. Read more “Donald Trump is Going to Love Egypt’s Dictator”

America Has No Deep State. Egypt Helps Prove It

View of Washington DC with the United States Capitol in the distance, September 28, 2017
View of Washington DC with the United States Capitol in the distance, September 28, 2017 (Ted Eytan)

It’s become the phrase of the week: the deep state, a cabal of anti-Trump ideologues seeking a coup against a democratically-elected president hiding within the warrens of the CIA, State Department and any other agency that can be labeled as “shadowy”.

The reputed deep state is the boogeyman of the Trumpistas frustrated that their president is unable to enact his agenda instantly and without opposition. Read more “America Has No Deep State. Egypt Helps Prove It”

Sensing American Disinterest, Egypt and Turkey Reach Out to Russia

Presidents Vladimir Putin of Russia and Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of Turkey meet in Saint Petersburg, August 9
Presidents Vladimir Putin of Russia and Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of Turkey meet in Saint Petersburg, August 9 (Kremlin)

Russian president Vladimir Putin appears to have pulled off two geopolitical coups in one week.

On Monday, he was in Istanbul to sign an agreement with his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, for the construction of a Black Sea gas pipeline that would bypass Ukraine (a longstanding Russian foreign-policy goal).

The two strongmen also vowed to seek common ground on the war in Syria. That seems a long way off, given that they back opposing sides in the civil war, but it’s an improvement from calling each other the “accomplices of terrorism,” as they did in November.

Then on Tuesday, the Russian Ministry of Defense announced that its forces would hold joint military exercises with Egypt’s at some point later this month.

Egypt and Turkey are supposed to be American allies. What’s going on? Read more “Sensing American Disinterest, Egypt and Turkey Reach Out to Russia”

Egyptians Suffer as Sisi Consolidates Power

Even autocrats can’t have it all. Egypt’s Abdul Fatah Sisi has been president for nearly two years, but he is still in the process of consolidating power.

Caught up in the power struggles are ordinary Egyptians who are suffering what rights groups describe as the harshest crackdown on dissent since Sisi legitimized his putsch in 2014.

The European Parliament on Thursday expressed concern about what it said was a pattern of “torture, death in custody and enforced disappearances across Egypt in recent years.”

The Council on Foreign Relations’ Steven A. Cook writes that the situation is the result of struggles among the major players in Egypt who are seeking to protect their interests and turf. Read more “Egyptians Suffer as Sisi Consolidates Power”

Egypt’s Election Contest Between Generals, Tycoons

Egyptians returned to the polls on Saturday for parliamentary elections that will stretch into December of this year. But this first democratic exercise since army chief Abdul Fatah Sisi legitimized his coup in 2014 is little more than a competition between the only two constituencies in the Arab country that have any real power: the military and big business.

Many genuine opposition parties are boycotting the first legislative elections since 2011-2012 when the Muslim Brotherhood won a plurality of the seats in Egypt’s parliament.

Running are retired army officers and businessmen hoping for influence in the military-led government as well as an assortment of leftist and Islamist parties that are likely to split the anti-Sisi vote (assuming the elections are fair).

Sisi has ruled by decree since parliament was dissolved by the nation’s highest court in late 2012. The justices’ decision came after the Muslim Brotherhood of President Mohamed Morsi had tried to reinstate parliament and was followed the next year by Morsi’s removal in a coup. Read more “Egypt’s Election Contest Between Generals, Tycoons”

Natural Gas Discovery Could Give Egypt Relief

The Italian oil and gas company Eni said on Sunday it had discovered a huge gasfield off the coast of Egypt, the largest ever found in the Mediterranean Sea. It could come as a relief to an Arab state that has struggled in recent years to meet rising gas demand.

The Financial Times reports that the field holds a possible thirty trillion cubic feet of gas, or 5.5 billion barrels of oil equivalent, which would make it around the twentieth largest of its kind in the world.

“This historic discovery will be able to transform the energy scenario of Egypt in which we have been welcomed for over sixty years,” said Eni’s chief executive, Claudio Descalzi. Read more “Natural Gas Discovery Could Give Egypt Relief”

America Unlocks Aid to Egypt in Effort to Reassure Arabs

John Kerry Ahmet Davutoğlu Khalid bin Mohammad Al Attiyah Saud bin Faisal Al Saud
American secretary of state John Kerry speaks with Foreign Ministers Ahmet Davutoğlu of Turkey, Khalid bin Mohammad Al Attiyah of Qatar and Saud bin Faisal Al Saud of Saudi Arabia in Paris, France, January 12, 2014 (State Department)

The United States unlocked $1.3 billion in yearly military assistance to Egypt on Tuesday in what analysts said was part of an effort to reassure traditional Arab allies in the Middle East.

The American Interest‘s Walter Russell Mead argued the resumption of aid — which was cut when Egypt’s army deposed the country’s elected Islamist president, Mohamed Morsi, in 2013 — should be seen within the context of American nuclear negotiations with Iran.

Egypt and other Arab states, like Saudi Arabia, worry that the United States will acquiesce in recent Iranian strategic gains in the Middle East — notably in Iraq where Tehran supports the Baghdad government’s fight against the self-declared Islamic State — as part of an agreement to stop Iran from developing nuclear weapons. Read more “America Unlocks Aid to Egypt in Effort to Reassure Arabs”

Warships Shell Aden, Saudis’ Yemen Strategy Becomes Clearer

Warships shelled Houthi fighters and troops loyal to former Yemeni strongman Ali Abdullah Saleh as they advanced on the southern port city of Aden on Monday, the news agency Reuters reported.

The vessels, likely Egyptian, were the first navy units taking part in the conflict since Saudi Arabia launched airstrikes against opponents of Yemen’s internationally-recognized president, Abd Rabbuh Mansur al-Hadi, late on Wednesday.

Egyptian military and security officials told the Associated Press last week that a ground invasion of Yemen was imminent once bombardments had sufficiently weakened the Houthis and Saleh loyalists. Egyptian and Saudi warships deployed to the Bab-el-Mandeb strait the following day to prevent the waterway from falling under rebel control.

Forty kilometers wide at its narrowest, the strait sees large volumes of oil shipped through it every day bound for the Suez Canal. Read more “Warships Shell Aden, Saudis’ Yemen Strategy Becomes Clearer”