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TRANSLATED: Egypt “awaiting overwhelming anarchy, or building of a real democratic regime, whichever comes first”
Translated in today’s Daily Briefing (for a free trial, email email@example.com):
On August 8, the Egyptian Shorouk newspaper carried the following opinion piece by Muhammad Esmat: “There might not be a recipe for the achievement of the British “The Economist” magazine’s expectations, surrounding the eruption of a third uprising against President Abdel Fattah es-Sisi’s rule, due to what the magazine dubbed in a report published last Thursday the mounting anger of the youth towards the closing of the doors of a better future in their faces, the escalation of the economic crisis, and the government’s inability to contain it… The negative economic indicators clearly reflect the failure of the Egyptian government to meet its promise to fix the situation within two years, at a time when the Egyptians are increasingly feeling that the future will carry more difficult times, and that the promises to improve the living conditions were a mere mirage.
“At some point, the volcanoes of suppressed frustration and anger will explode, without anyone knowing the shape or course that this explosion will take. President Abdel Fattah es-Sisi’s governments have chosen to proceed down the economic road that was started by President Hosni Mubarak’s governments, one which relies on open markets and limiting the state’s social security role in a faster way, even with uncalculated momentum, without taking into account the high cost they will pay as a result of the decrease of their popularity and legitimacy, which they have supposedly drawn from the slogans of the January revolution surrounding livelihood, liberty and social justice. And in the face of the absence of a clear governmental political program that would convince the Egyptians to accept the major sacrifices in exchange for improving the deteriorating economic situation, the opposition parties seem to be like haunted houses.
“Hence, they have no influence on the street, are not presenting alternative policies, are settling for reactions, and are losing their popularity by the day. There are no clear mechanisms with specific methodologies to present alternative solutions to the existing policies in Egypt, and there is no voice rising above that of the authority. And under the pretext of the existence of hidden powers devising quasi-daily conspiracies against us, we must all rally behind the regime to confront them. As a result, any opposition voice is being subject to readymade accusations of collaboration, betrayal and conspiracy against the homeland. Amid this climate, expecting an organized uprising such as the one mentioned by The Economist is impossible. Yet, the door remains wide open before waves of violence, to vent out the frustration and anger.
“And they might be extinguished by security clubs or trucks of subsidized food products in the streets, but these will be mere temporary solutions, while awaiting overwhelming anarchy, or the building of a real democratic regime, whichever comes first.”
I am posting – quite late – my June 28 critique of Thanassis Cambanis’s Century Foundation report on Syria that appeared in The Huffington Post:
My own Century Foundation white paper recommending a different approach to Lebanon appeared in February 2009, for those that are interested:
Re-Imagining the Lebanon Track: Towards a New US Policy
A few excerpts from my June piece:
“…There are, of course, many arguments to be made about the merits and dangers of such an approach (I warned against escalating the conflict in The Huffington Post in May 2011 and again in The New York Times in February 2012). But there is at least one problem of form – i.e. the position of the messengers themselves rather than the content of their arguments – that all observers concerned with the future of Syria should consider at the outset when weighing any purportedly “new” approaches to a hellish situation: The vast majority of intelligent, compassionate individuals arguing for intervention possess little, if any, experience or training in military affairs, strategy or history.
Not surprisingly, one result of this deficit has been analyses that are extremely thin – as was the case with one 2015 report by the venerable International Crisis Group (ICG) – when it comes to unpacking the precise mechanics and limitations of military action.
Moreover, and despite widely held bona fides in political science and international relations, most of the people making the case for intervention also tend to omit any serious discussion of the kinds of counter-force that some actors would likely bring to bear to protect self-declared “existential” interests.
Unfortunately, it is within this context that last week’s report by Century Foundation (TCF) Fellow Thanassis Cambanis should be read…”
“…Of course, Cambanis may be correct in all this. Perhaps Russia will only fume if it’s allies’ advantage and maneuverability is shown a John Wayne? Maybe Assad will dramatically reduce his barrel bombing campaign? And surely there is a strong analysis that Putin does not want a war with the U.S.
But like the earlier ICG report (which saw fit to mention the word “Russia” only a few times in 42 pages when calling for U.S.-led attacks on Assad and his allies), no arguments are actually presented that one could weigh in answering these questions. There is, in short, no way for the reader to determine whether Cambanis has a convincing case upon which many lives, including American lives, should be risked.
As a corollary to these omissions, incredibly, the report also makes no reference to any statements by Syrian, Russian, Iranian or Hezbollah leaders. No reference is made to any of the vast literature and debates from within these societies about what a U.S.-led military intervention in Syria might mean for them. Cambanis talks to no officials in order to at least gauge the official rhetoric he hears (but does not tell us about), despite his having been in regime-controlled parts of Syria and residing in Beirut.
Moreover, no direct attribution is made – save for one discussion of game theory – to the Western debates on the subject. Obama administration arguments go unquoted, while no reference at all is made to substantial U.S. military and intelligence community opposition to a “limited” intervention…”
“…Perhaps because he thinks Syria can be put back together – after an unspecified “messy” reconciliation that will never amount to the pre-2011 state in any case – Cambanis fails to explore an alternative track for addressing the moral and strategic calamity of the Syria war.
Such an approach would recognize that, sadly, Syria is already de facto partitioned and that the prospects of melding Assad and his powerful allies back together with their opposite is wholly unrealistic absent major geo-strategic changes in the region and the world (for some arguments about this assertion look here and here).
Given the vital need to wind down the conflict for Syrians and their neighbors, as well as to focus more resources on ISIS and other like-minded actors, a temporary partition should therefore at least be considered, argued over and eventually fleshed out…”
Read about the case here:
Translated today by our Mideastwire.com (for a free trial email firstname.lastname@example.org)
On July 26, the Omani Azamn newspaper carried the following report from Muscat: “Exclusive reports revealed to Azamn that senior officials in the judiciary interfered to prevent the execution of a judicial sentence, amid suspicions surrounding commercial interests in a case that has started to take new dimensions, placing the judicial institution before a new challenge along its march towards independence. Indeed, “supreme bodies” stepped in to prevent the execution of a judicial sentence issued by the Muscat Court of Appeal in the “Rashmy” case, which involves an inheritance estimated at billions of riyals according to one of the heirs. This interference was seen amid suspicions surrounding interests and commercial partnerships between some of the heirs and senior officials, who tried to tilt the ruling in favor of their partners, against the other beneficiaries…”
Andrew Tabler’s retreat in the the NY Times: Reality bites, since neither party (openly) prefers his “solution” of sparking more wars in the Middle East
This (misleadingly headlined) piece by Tabler and Ross represents a really interesting trajectory for people like Tabler (especially) who have been arguing, literally for a decade, that military action should be taken against Assad, Syria, Hezbollah, Iran etc.
Now, given that both political parties generally (or at least openly) reject deepening war and violence – or the decent chance of going further down this path – in the Mid East, they are reduced to arguing a somewhat more rational position that is but a shadow of their longstanding desires: to support Obama’s peace/ceasefire efforts in Syria with Russia, the credible threat of force should at least be on the table and in the agreement.
This is amazing from these folks for several reasons, but most of all because it represents how unpalitable (thankfully!) their original position of pro-active bombing/invasion/massive equipping etc has become – and how the only reasonable choice in town (the Beltway) anymore is to support a collective winding down of the Syria war via diplomacy, unfortunate targeted concessions, long-term strategizing (I have suggested a patient approach of treating a rump Assad-Syria as a pariah state slowly squeezed by its own contradictions and pathologies… i.e. the same approach to the Iron Curtain in the 1950s), a cajoling of allies, applying pressure, oblique force and advantage in limited areas… Now Tabler is essentially admitting that this is the best track left, and that the insertion of the limited threat of force will be the best he can reasonably rescue from his preferred option: which we must remember always was a massive, clarifying war with the forces he sees as the root of all problems in the Mid East (i.e. not any of the Arab monarchies, Sunni extremists or allied dictatorships which, for the last ten years, have been given the usual clean bill of health).
“…Opponents of these kinds of limited strikes say they would prompt Russia to escalate the conflict and suck the United States deeper into Syria. But these strikes would be conducted only if the Assad government was found to be violating the very truce that Russia says it is committed to. Notifying Russia that this will be the response could deter such violations of the truce and the proposed military agreement with Moscow. In any case, it would signal to Mr. Putin that his Syrian ally would pay a price if it did not maintain its side of the deal.
If Russia does want to limit its involvement in Syria, the threat of limited strikes should persuade it to make Mr. Assad behave. Conversely, if the skeptics are right that Mr. Putin will get serious about a political solution only if he sees the costs of backing Syria’s government increasing, the threat of such strikes is probably the only way to start a political process to end the war…”
Syria Analyst Andrew Tabler gives two contradictory takes on Russian “withdrawal” to NY Times in space of a few hours
Remember this from Andrew Tabler a while ago – now he has been forced to change his position on the Syria Conflict even further with his NYT op-ed today.
One of the most important aspects of the Syria war to consider five years on – and so many ruined lives later – is the intensely negative impact of some leading Syria analysts, especially in Washington D.C., who have repeatedly fed wrong analyses to the media, the public and policymakers – and who have rarely been called out on it, much less dispensed with as “go to” voices. This issue has been unfortunately accompanied by the other negative trend of Syria analysts (and human rights advocates, conflict mitigation experts etc.) – some of whom never spent anytime in Syria – recommending a cocktail of military solutions when they have little or no training/expertise in military affairs.
One remembers “analyses” that Hezbollah and Iran were already massively deployed in Syria as early as the summer of 2011 (i.e. just after the Deraa protests of mid-March 2011); that the revolt had near…
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Translated in part below and in full in today’s Daily Briefing (for a free trial, email email@example.com):
On July 23, a commentary by Jahanbakhsh Izadi in the reformist Arman-e Emruz said: “The American election is important for Iran in several aspects. First, regardless of which administration will rise to power, it will not follow the same direction as Mr. Obama did with regard the JCPOA – neither Mrs. Clinton who says that ‘I will be strict on the JCPOA’ nor Mr. Trump who says ‘I will tear up the JCPOA.’ This course is almost different from Mr. Obama’s course. Apparently, Mr. Obama’s approach on the JCPOA and the nuclear course was more flexible, and this is why his approach may become a bit harsher… To find out which one of the US presidential candidates would create fewer risks for Iran after winning the election, depends on the Islamic Republic of Iran. If Iran adopts interactive policies, Mr. Trump will be less dangerous for Iran because he is a businessman who understands the value of a good deal. Secondly, a businessman does not favour isolationism, enters into affairs, and is more daring because of the type of business in which he is involved. Thirdly, the Republicans and Trump, who is one of them, do not interfere in the internal affairs of countries. They are more interested in foreign issues and their net interests. History also shows that Iranian political establishments, regardless of the administrations and their approaches, have sustained more loss from Democrats than from Republicans…
“First, she will focus greatly on human rights. These policies will bode badly for Iran.
“Secondly, she is closer to regional allies on the first against Iran – allies such as Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and the Israeli regime.
“Thirdly, she will extend more support for the Israeli regime against any kind of threat that may arise.
“Fourthly, she will be stricter in implementing the JCPOA.
“Therefore, one could admit that Mrs. Clinton will actually be the one of the candidates with the most programmes and strategies.”