Welcome to the Middle East Today

The Middle East has traditionally been important for the world economy. The Middle East situation today has an impact on all aspects of life in America and much of the world.

Only by understanding the motivations of the various factions in the Middle East can we hope to understand how to promote peace and national security for Middle Eastern nations, Europe, and the United States.

Jul 28, 2011

The Unmet Demands of the January 25 Revolution

The Prime Minister Isam Sharaf addressed the nation (7/20/2011) after his new cabinet was confirmed. Nearly half of the new cabinet members are new. He said that he could have resigned but decided to respond to the demands of the honest protestors in Tahrir Square, who want the January 25th Revolution to succeed. He promised that the trial of the accused criminals and corrupt ex-high government officials will be expedited and their courts will be open to the public. He also said that there are no political prisoners in Egyptian jails and he is going to check on it further.

Nevertheless, some judicial experts stated openly that the prime minister’s address to the nation is nothing but his personal interjection and the government is unable to present a general plan that will produce real needed changes.

The speech presents only promises that don’t meet the expectations of the public. The speech was aimed at those who are still holding protests in Tahrir Square. The January 25th Revolution, which ousted Hosni Mubarak and his regime, is only the first stage of the revolution. There are other stages that are required to be implemented in order for the revolution to be successful. Reforms are needed to cleanse two institutions in particular: the justice system, where many who cooperated with the previous regime are still occupying important positions, such as the Minister of Justice and the general prosecutor. The other institution is the Minister of Interior. It is not enough to dismiss the more than 700 high-ranking officers. Those who are accused of crimes should be tried as soon as possible.

There are members of the previous ruling party who have played major roles in corruption. Many of them are prominent business leaders who are not being investigated and pose a threat to the revolution.

In the meantime, violent conflicts have taken place in several places, especially in Medan Alabassiah, between the supporters of the military council and those who are demanding that the council surrender their authority to a civilian council during the transitional period until the election.

The military council has accused the 6th of April group of being behind the instability taking place that is harmful to the security of Egypt. The Military Higher Council’s accusation against the 6th of April is without any evidence supportive of the claim. Some western press accused Mossad agents of traveling with Egyptian passports collecting money using the 6th of April name. This is not the first time that Mossad agents have traveled using false passports and were caught doing so. Ahmed Maher, the spokesman for the group, rejected the accusation against The 6th of April. He said they were not part of the group who used their name in Europe and neither were they part of the protestors who moved to the headquarters of the Military Council. The Military Council’s accusation is an act done to avoid the implementation of the protestors’ demands. Meanwhile, 28 political parties and protestors’’ organizations refuted the Military Council’s accusation against the 6th of April. They said it is an attempt to create a split between the army and the united revolutionary forces. Furthermore, they pointed out that there are differences in how to implement the real strategy of the 25th of January revolution that will guarantee its success.

Jul 26, 2011

The Protesters Holding on in Tahrir Square

Since July 8th, protestors have been pressuring the military council and the prime minister to respond to the demands of the Egyptian public, which have not been implemented. This tense situation that has been going on for the last three weeks led to some new and positive changes. First, the military council announced the formation of a new judicial committee that will be responsible for drafting a document of basic principles to influence the direction of drafting the new constitution. This will be done after the election of parliament, Majliss il-Shoura and the president. Some hints were given by the military council about the proposed principle; such as the defense budget and that the future government will be a secular one. Such an announcement was welcomed by liberal political groups to limit the future influence of the Muslim Brotherhood in parliament. This group has already rejected the creation of the proposed document.

The declaration of such intentions came as a slap in the face to the Muslim Brotherhood strategy. Nevertheless, such a proposed document by the military council will contribute to the stability of the future constitution. At the same time, it will have an influential role for the military to play in the future secular government in Egypt.

Another positive announcement made by the military council is the delay of the parliament election until November to give various political groups more time to organize and prepare for election. This second announcement disappointed the Muslim Brotherhood, which is the largest politically organized group in Egypt. The delay will not be in their interest.

Furthermore, the military council refused to change the election law, as was demanded by 28 politically organized parties and groups. The present election law allocates 50% for individually elected groups and the other 50% for election by the party list. Furthermore, the old law that was created during the Nasser period allocates 50% of parliament seats to Egyptian peasants and the other 50% to laborers. This is a dysfunctional law that has been abused during the past sixty years and should be abolished. The 28 political parties are correct in rejecting the election law and the military council should respond to their demands. This tends to give the upper hand to parties that have the financial ability to support their nominees over others, especially the newly organized young people.

Another setback is that the military has rejected outside foreign observers at the upcoming election. It seems to me that the military council, even after the election in November, will continue to play an influential role in the affairs of the future secular government. Such a strategy will not sit well with all political parties, especially the Muslim Brotherhood, who will not have the political freedom to influence governmental institutions according to their political-religious strate

Jul 25, 2011

When the Protesters’ Demands are not Met

Six months have passed since the fall of the Mubarak regime and not much has been done to prosecute those who have been accused of crimes and corruption. The protestors in Tahrir Square have disclosed that July 8th is the beginning of the Egyptian Revolution. Millions of Egyptians are disappointed with Isam Sharaf, the prime minister, and General Mohammd Tantawi, the head of the Higher Egyptian Military Council and called for their resignations. Thousands of protestors vowed to stay in Tahrir Square until their demands are met. They called to expedite the trial of Hosni Mubarak and all of the high government officials, especially those who were directly connected with the killings of more than 850 young Egyptians. They also insisted on replacing the minister of interior and the minister of justice and cleansing the judicial system in order for justice to be attained. Furthermore, the protestors have demanded that the trial of the criminals should be open to the public to observe how justice is proceeding. There are other demands made by the protestors, such as the released of political prisoners, the cancellation of military courts and the resignations of all cabinet ministers who were connected with the previous regime.

The July 8th continuous protest began to bring some positive results by July 22nd. It was announced that the prime minister was able to add 13 out of 27 new cabinet members. There were some candidates proposed by Sharaf, but the Higher Military Council turned them down. The minister of justice and the minster of interior were kept. Both were target of removal by the protestors. There are other ministers from the Mubarak regime who were also kept, such as Minister of Environment Majid George and others. The irony is that Mr. George should have been dismissed a long time ago, because he failed to clean the piles of garbage from Cairo, which is a sign of disgrace for the society at large. The Nile River, which is the main source of fresh water for Egypt, is highly polluted. Why the Higher Military Council insists on keeping him, as well as others, in the cabinet is unclear. The prime minister should have resigned in protest of the decision made by General Tantawi. These points, among others, led the young people and other political groups to reject the prime minister’s appeal. They are continuing their protest in Tahrir Square and other Egyptian cities, repeating their demands that have not been met.

It seems that the Egyptian Higher Military Council has their own strategy to delay the prosecution of Hosni Mubarak and other high ex-government officials and ministers for crimes they have committed and the corruption that took place during the past 30 years. After all, the members of the military council, including General Tantawi, were part of the Mubarak regime for more than two decades.

The speculation behind the delay of prosecution of some high ex-governmental officials is that they have information of corruption liable to tarnish some members of the Higher Military council. Such speculation began to create conflicts and accusations between the military leadership and some of the political movements, such as the 6th of April. Even some foreign press like the NYT (July 24, 2011) speculated that the previous president, Hosni Mubarak, would not be tried. Nevertheless, Hosni Mubarak’s trial is set to take place August 2, 2011. What will happen then will shed more light on this problem.

I also suspect some of the members of the previous regime, who are still on the loose, in addition to some of the members of the previous government parties and business leaders, who benefitted a great deal during the past 30 years, are playing a role in creating conflicts between the army and the forces of the revolutions. Promising news was released July 23, 2011, that the ex minister of interior’s trial would be held July 25.

Jul 23, 2011

Extension of American Troops in Iraq

Recently, the new Secretary of Defense, Mr. Panetta, traveled to Iraq to pressure the Iraq government to request the extended stay of American troops in Iraq.

The 2008 agreement requires the removal of all American soldiers from Iraq by the end of 2011. It is of interest to observe that a number of high ranking American politicians, from the vice president to the chief of the armed forces, in addition to the ex and present secretaries of defense, traveled to Iraq during 2011 in attempts to convince the Iraq government to extend the stay of American troops in Iraq. The main rationale that has been used is that Iran poses a threat to Iraq. Another reason they give is that the Iraqi army is not yet ready to assume the task of defending Iraq. In June 15 American soldiers were killed. The U.S. accused Iran supporters in Iraq of the killings. The extension to keep American troops in Iraq requires more defense spending while the U.S. government is facing a difficult financial situation. A tug of war is going on in Congress, where the majority of Republicans are against raising the ceiling for borrowing. The foreign debt of the U.S. stands at $14.3 trillion and the Obama administration still wants to delay the withdrawal of American troops from Iraq. The cost of the Iraq invasion, which has been going on for 9 years, has been estimated to exceed $3 trillion. If you add the cost of the war in Afghanistan, which has been going on for more than 10 years, it is another $1.5 trillion of borrowed money to fight wars by choice that were initiated by President George W. Bush. Bush doubled American foreign debt during his eight years of presidency (2000-2008). He raised the debt ceiling four times during his tenure and the defense budget increased from $379 billion in 1998 or $1500 per person to$687 billion in 2009 or $2500 per person.

Despite that fact, the Republican party in Congress and the White House were responsible for starting both the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and now are pushing to lower the budget deficit by proposing cuts in social security, Medicare, Medicaid and other entitlement spending without considering defense budget cuts. It is unfortunate that what President Eisenhower warned the public about regarding the danger of the American Military Industrial Complex is turning out to be true.

The majority of American voters are politically illiterate. The majority of the members of Congress, sent to represent the American people, work for the lobbyists who grease the wheels of their politicians. May God have mercy on the unaware American citizens who are not knowledgeable of how their political system operates.

Jul 20, 2011

Global Climate Change and its Negative Impact on the Arab World

The global weather changes have negatively impacted many regions worldwide. The Middle East and North African region reflects a drastic negative change, especially the decrease in rainfall and the increase in temperature, dryness, and the longer duration of droughts in addition to an increase in desertification.

More than two thirds of the region has been already classified as barren desert. The less than one third of the land suitable for cultivation tends to be located along the shores of the Mediterranean Sea. The general impact of such weather changes led to a decrease in agricultural productivity. This in return, led all Arab states to rely more and more on food imports to meet their national demands.

None of the Arab states could be classified as food sufficient. This situation increased reliance on food imports, which were estimated at $30 billion in 2010. Furthermore, it is projected to be more than double by the year 2020, reaching $75 billion. (almasry-alyoum.com, 6/17/11).

Such projections should be viewed in light of population growth, which is expected to double during 25-30 years. As of 2010, the population of the Arab world was estimated to be $365 million people. What will make the situation even worse is the shortage of fresh water. All of the Arab states, with the exception of Sudan, are classified as water poverty stricken. Several Arab states, such as Jordan, Yemen, the occupied West Bank, Iraq and Syria have slipped below the minimal water level needed, which is 700 cu.met of water per person per year, according to the U.N. Scale there is also other factors that have contributed negatively to this situation. More than 65% of water used is wasted due to the lack of recycling. Also, water use is mismanaged, especially in agricultural cultivation. Furthermore, the increases in urban growth due to natural population growth and the influx from rural to urban areas, lead to the expansion of housing constructions on agricultural lands.

Egypt, the most populated Arab state, reflects these common problems referred to. Nearly 95% of the population reside on 5% of the land, along the banks of the Nile River and the Delta region south of Cairo and stretches to the Mediterranean shores to the city of Alexandria.

Nearly 95% of the land is barren desert and this percentage is continually increasing due to desertification. Furthermore, nearly all the land that has been reclaimed for cultivation as a result of the construction of the Aswan Dam nearly 40 years ago has been lost due to urban expansion.

According to the U.N. report on “Compoting Desertification” classifies Egyptian lands in terms of its suitability for cultivation as follows: 86% of the land is extremely unsuitable for cultivation; 10% is barren desert and 4% is suitable for cultivation. The report revealed that due to climate changes, the rainfall along the Mediterranean Sea has decreased from 150 millimeters to nearly 85 millimeters per year.

According to Dr. Mohammad Yehia, the director of the Desert Research Center in Egypt, Egypt loses an average of 30,000 feddan of agricultural land per year to urban expansion. Furthermore, he pointed out that Egypt has lost 1.5 million feddan during the past ten years. Also, untreated sewer water, garbage and some industrial chemicals waste that were buried have contaminated some of the agricultural land. (almasry-alyoum.com, 7/1/2011).

There are more than 5,000 villages in Egypt and more than 60% of them have no sewer system. Also, Egypt has begun to experience a shortage of fresh water. Nearly 95% of Egypt’s consumed water tends to come from the Nile River that starts beyond the political boundaries of Egypt. 85% of the Nile River is diverted to agricultural cultivation, where Egyptian farmers are still using the ancient methods of irrigation. As a result, it has been projected by the Egyptian government that during the next 5-10 years, Egypt will experience severe water shortages. This should also be viewed in light of Egypt’s continuous population growth, which is anticipated to reach 100 million by the year 2020.

Therefore, the shortages of food and water, not just in Egypt but also in the entire Arab world, is the biggest challenge that the region is facing at the present. It has been estimated that there are already more than 95 million people in the Arab world who are classified as poverty stricken and live below the poverty index level, which is $2 per day per person.

This number will increase rapidly unless Arab states adopt a new strategy, especially in regards to population growth, the introduction of new advanced methods of cultivation, better management of the meager water resources and the creation of new jobs for the millions of young people who enter the job market every year.

Jul 16, 2011

The Slow Implementation of Protestors’ Demands

The Egyptian Revolution of January 25th has succeeded in removing the corrupt regime of Hosni Mubarak. However, since then, the political reform that the protestors demanded has been slow. Their demands include the removal of all politicians who cooperated with the previous regime. Also, the process of investigating and the trials of previous high governmental officials have been moving at a slow pace. As a result of this, the young revolutionary groups and nearly all political groups have participated in the million protestors movement on July 8th. The protestors demanded the resignation of Isam Sharaf, the prime minister, as well as the head of the Egyptian Supreme Military Council, General Tantawi.

Thousands of protestors remained in Tahrir Square, vowing to continue resisting the military demands to end their protest because it is endangering the Egyptian economy. The protestors group in Suez even threatened to block the Suez Canal until their demands are met. At the same time, the military council responded with a clear warning that they will not permit any attempts by the protestors to threaten Egypt’s security. They also made it clear that they are still the ultimate authority and will not tolerate the idea of being pushed aside. They have stated clearly that the election of members of parliament will take place, then the Shura Council, to be followed by the election of a president. Afterwards, a new constitution will be drafted on schedule. After the elections, the military council will transfer their authority to the newly elected government.

In the meantime, the present authority will continue its investigations and trials of the previous members of the Mubarak regime and promised that their trials will be open to the public.

While the protestors are determined to stay in Tahrir Square, it was announced by the local press that Yehya al Jamal resigned from his position as deputy prime minister. For the past couple months, the protestors have demanded his resignation. Furthermore, the press has speculated that between 7 and 13 ministers who were connected to the previous regime will be replaced by new ones. This led the protestors to end the blockage of entrances to government buildings in Tahrir Square so that government business could take place.

Still, it is the sixth day of continuous protests in many cities such as Cairo, Alexandria and Suez, which has led to clashes between the protestors and some hoodlums. This has caused the injury of more than 30 people in Tahrir Square.

These hoodlums are followers of the previous regime and it has been stated that they are paid to create instability for the present authority to justify the return of the ex-regime to power again. Such a desperate attempt, regardless of who is behind it, will never succeed. The Egyptian Revolution of January 25th, which was supported by the vast majority of the 85 million Egyptians, will prevail and ultimately the young protestors will achieve their goal. It is a peaceful revolution that the whole world has recognized. It has been classified as among the ten most important and influential people revolutions that have taken place during the last 400 years.

Jul 15, 2011

The July 8th Protest Movement in Egypt

The July 8th protest by millions of Egyptians has been referred to by some of the protestors as the beginning of the New Revolution. Such cynical remarks are attributed to the fact that Prime Minister Sharaf and the Egyptian Higher Military Council have been moving slowly to implement the demands that were set by the protestors. Five months have passed and the previous President Hosni Mubarak and his sons Jamal and Alaa have not been tried by the justice system. Rumors have continued to spread that the reason behind all of this is that Hosni Mubarak is sick and under medical observation in Sharm el-Sheikh. There were also other statements made publicly by the Minister of Health that Mubarak is in stable condition. Such a statement allows Mubarak to appear in court. The press is speculating that he is fighting cancer and a German physician will be coming to Egypt to examine him. In addition, the attorney Mr. al-Deeb, who is appointed to the defense of Mr. Mubarak, has also been making frequent statements that Mubarak is not in an acceptable position to appear in court. All sorts of tactics have been used during the previous five months to justify the delay of Mr. Mubarak’s trial. Similarly, delaying Anjouan:le président renversé attendu à La Réunion tactics have been used to delay the trial of the previous Minister of Interior, Habib al-Adli, for crimes committed against protestors. Furthermore, the investigations and trials of hundreds of high-ranking officials of the Egyptian Security and Police Department have been moving slowly.

If Mubarak, al-Adli and others were found guilty, their punishments would be the death penalty for crimes committed against the protestors. These delaying tactics of bringing to justice members of the previous regime were the focus of the protest on July 8th who felt that this specific demand as well as other was not fulfilled

It seems to me that the delay is attributed to the influence of some of the officials from the previous regime who are counting on time to bring relief to the ex-officials of the Mubarak regime. However, the young protestors are showing no signs of backing down.

The protestors are still demanding a clean sweep of the civil service, the judiciary institutions, the security and police department and the removal of all remnants of the Mubarak regime. They are also demanding that the trials be sped up to safeguard the revolution. The protestors have not forgotten the 850 (if not more) people who were killed in cold blood. They rightfully feel that the accused should pay for it.

Nevertheless, the continuous protests in many Egyptian cities began to produce some results according to some Egyptian newspapers. Al-Shorouk paper reported (7/13/2011) that the Ministry of Interior ended the services of 505 police generals, 82 colonels, and the transfer of 4,000 officers. According to the Minister of Interior, such actions were taken in response to the demands of the protestors. The delay in the implementations of the protestors’ demands reflects more negatively on the Egyptian Higher Military Council who are not moving fast enough. Speculation revealed that the Military Council has been relying on the support of the Muslim Brotherhood Party, who are the most organized and largest political group in Egypt.

The Muslim Brotherhood, who were not the initiators of the January 25th Revolution, have been trying to hype the revolution and claim the credit for its success. For that reason and others, they have been hesitant to join the protestors’ movement and in some cases they stated that publicly, but caved in during the last hours. This is one of the major factors that led to a rising conflict within the Muslim Brotherhood’s elderly leadership and the younger members who always defied orders and joined the protests.

The reliance of the Military Council on the Muslim Brotherhood for direct or even indirect support will not succeed. Many millions of young people, the poor and middle class groups, are behind the protestors and supportive of their demands. After all, the objective of the revolution is to create new institutions, politically, economically and socially, that will meet the needs of the vast Egyptian population. I am of the optimistic type who predicted the incoming revolution nearly two years in advance and will predict again that the future of Egypt looks more promising than ever before.