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.

Jan 31, 2012

Egyptian Reaction to Foreign Interferences

Since the end of western colonialism (after the W.W.II) the Arab world faced political, economic and military interference. Such interference continues until present time. What has changed is the political strategy followed by the US government. It has assumed the major foreign role in the Middle East region. President I. Eisenhower stated, during the early 1950’s, the end of British and French colonialism in the Middle East created a vacuum that the US needs to fill.

The Arab Spring Revolution, especially the Egyptian one, surprised the world, especially western societies.

The removal of the corrupt Mubarak, who was a puppet for the US and Israel, was a difficult political change to accept.

Since the beginning of the 2011 Revolution US government officials have been interfering in an overt and covert manner to influence the political direction of the Egyptian transitional government.

Aside of the US, several other foreign governments have also been involved in attempts to influence the political election in Egypt. The Egyptian press has reported that the Arab Gulf states, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait and the Emirates have send millions of dollars to various Islamic political groups who end winning the majority of parliament seats in the recent election. Furthermore, the Egyptian press stated that Germany and the US were also involved in transferring money to various Egyptian organized groups.

Such interferences are in violation of Egyptian law. The Egyptian government specifically raided the offices of the American political organizations such as the International Republican Institute for Democracy and the National Democratic institute who were operating illegally in Egypt. Their records were confiscated and the offices were closed. The press reported that 43 foreign and Egyptian people are under investigation and are prevented from leaving Egypt. Also 25 Egyptians are under investigation by the Egyptian Court. The American groups maintained that they were promoting democracy in Egypt and were supporting financially civil Egyptian organization. It was revealed that the above-mentioned American organizations contributed around $ 165 million to various Egyptian civil organizations. The Egyptian government wants to know who are the recipients of such aids.

The prevailing assumption in Egypt is that the American organizations are affiliated with the CIA. This information did not come as a surprise.

Some members of these American organizations were not permitted to leave Egypt until the investigation of their record is completed.

The US government reacted strongly. It threatened to stop US foreign aids to Egypt, which is of the amount of $ 1.55 billion, mostly military aid, unless American citizens are permitted to leave Egypt. Sam LaHood, the son of the American secretary of transportation, R. Lahood is one of those who are retained. The Egyptian public views towards American foreign aids to Egypt are negative. The majority wants it stopped, so that their country will not continue to be under the US influence as has been the case during the previous four decades.

Egypt is the second largest foreign aids recipient from the US after Israel. Members of the American congress who have been issuing threats to cut the foreign aids to Egypt are under the influence of “ AIPAC” and the other American organizations that are supporters of Israel.

The political decision which the Egyptian government took, by preventing around 19 Americans from leaving Egypt until the investigation is completed is understandable since they were operating illegally.

The question that I would like to address to American public officials is this:

Would they permit foreign political groups to interfere in the American federal elections under the banner to promote Democracy?

Jan 26, 2012

Joy, Tears, Unfulfilled Objectives

Millions of Egyptians have gathered all over Egypt to celebrate the first anniversary of their revolution. The celebration revived the spirit of January 25th and served as a reminder that the objectives of the protestors have not been completed yet.

The whole world has recognized that the younger Egyptian generation peaceful revolution has led to the removal of the authoritarian and corrupt regime of H. Mubarak. However, the political institutions created by the demoted regime are still operating, and it will take longer time to rebuild and end corruption.

The second major achievement of the revolution so far has been the free democratic election of the new members of parliament. Unfortunately, the elections’ results did not fairly represent all segments of Egyptian society.

Moreover many of the protestors’ demands have not yet been achieved. Such as the followings:

1- Requesting the Egyptian military council to surrender their authority to a civilian one and to end the arrest of civilian protesters, the elimination of military courts, and the release of all political prisoners.

2- Arresting and prosecuting those responsible for the killing of protestors since the beginning of the Revolution.

3- Expediting the trial of Mubarak and other accused officials.

4- Returning the stolen Egyptian money held in foreign financial institutions, and the prosecution of those who were involved in the nation’s wealth theft.

5- Demanding the implementation of social justice such as minimum wage standard, control of the continuously increasing food prices, better health care and solving the problem of unemployment.

6- Appointing experts to create a guide lines for the drafting of the new constitution that will protect the rights of all segments of the Egyptian society.

7- Rapid election of a new president

8- Cleansing of the judicial system

9- Cleansing of the government communication and information system

10- Stopping the sales of gas to Israel.

11- Developing a new financial system to replace the “Special Financial Fund chest”, containing more than a trillion Egyptian pounds. The previous government high officials have misused the fund. The fund should be used in a proper, and controlled manner by the government, in order to ease foreign government pressure.

Change is a slow process, but ultimately the revolution objectives will be achieved.

Jan 23, 2012

The Ongoing Egyptian Revolution

The Egyptian Revolution of Jan.25th , 2011, which has led to the removal of its most corrupt authoritarian regime through peaceful uprising has been recognized worldwide as an ideal model that ought to be recorded in history books.
Within few hours the Egyptian people will celebrate the first anniversary of the Revolution.
It is regrettable to say that the demands the younger generation have set as their main objectives, have not been completely fulfilled.
One should stress the fact that important changes will not be achieved over night . It requires planning, clear direction, and defined strategies
One should also recognize that the Egyptian people have experienced free and democratic elections for the first time. However, due to the absence of direction during the parliamentary elections, some groups were marginalized.
First the younger generation who took the risk to lead the uprising and were the vanguard of the revolution, have been ignored by the Egyptian higher military council, by the old political parties as well as by many of it s members who have been associated with the previous corrupt regime.
The young people did not designate political leaders to represent them , and neither had the time or financial resources to enable them to compete with the established political groups. It is also unfortunate that these political parties have intentionally marginalized the younger generation and were ready to collect the rewards of the revolution.
The second group , who also played an equal part in the revolution are Egyptian women who constitute half of the total population. They have obtained 1.8 % only of the parliament seats.
The third group who also did not get a fair share of seats in parliament are the Egyptian Copts. The Copts constitute 10% of the total population.
One of the negative behavior which was used during the campaign is the use of religious slogans which was in violation of the election rules.
While writing this post it was reported that marshal H. Tantawi has appointed 10 new members to the newly elected parliament which is presently meeting January 23rd 2012
There is no doubt that through history revolutions do not always meet the hoped objectives.
However, some of such negative incidents that took place during the past year could have been avoided .
After all we were last year eyewitnesses to the revolution
The leading Egyptian newspapers report on a broad ranges of security violations, that took place all over Egypt. These could have been stopped if the High Military Council policy has been clear and firm.
For example the interference to stop the national transportation system carrying tourists by baltageya (hoodlooms) is a national crime.
Those who were involved in such acts should receive the utmost penalties. Other acts of interrupting transportation was the blocking of main roads. Those who are involved in such type of violations are trying to send message of protests to the government regarding issues that are relevant to them and needs official attentions. Further more I was sadly disappointed to read that the designated Egyptian nuclear site “Al Daba” has been vandalized by some of the natives who claim that more than 30 years ago the government confiscated their property with minimal compensation. Those who attacked the site have destroyed all of the facilities which have been built by the government at a cost of more than 1 billion Egyptian pounds. They have been threatening to destroy the site during the past few months but the government has ignored their warning.
Such an unfortunate events could have been prevented. If those in charge of the Egyptian national defense had strengthened the security in light of the threats made by the people in that area.
Rumors were spread that foreign agents are behind the destructions by the small group. There is some truth behind it.
Many people who have been suppressed and were ignored by previous regimes for more than 4 decades, suddenly began to breath freely and expect changes overnight. This is not going to happen that fast. There are some people who are against the new changes which took place since Feb.11th, 2011, and attempt in many ways to sabotage the revolution for the benefit of those who have lost their privileges.
There are groups who have no loyalty to their own country and are willing to cooperate with foreign agents as long as they get paid for their activities. For example, the destruction of the “Al-Daba” nuclear site, which is an important part of Egypt's future national security must have been part of a foreign sabotage act. Despite the fact that those who did the destruction were compensated for the property. Their claim is false, because the site is a public property and not a private one.
Many of these people are simple and illiterate and are easily manipulated by foreign agents, specially if they get paid to do certain tasks.
The Israeli strategy regarding the field of nuclear technology is well known. During the past 5 decades the Israeli government conducted a series of international violation. Such as killing Arab nuclear scientists, bombing the Iraqi nuclear reactor in 1987, as well as the suspected Syrian nuclear site in 2007. Further more it recently objected the proposed Jordanian nuclear reactor project to be used to generate power to desalinate sea water in order to meet the severe fresh water shortages in the country.
Israel is the only nuclear power in the middle east region. According to a CIA report, Israel possess between 200-300 nuclear bombs. For that and other reasons Israel has been conducting an international campaign to prevent any country in the middle east from acquiring advanced nuclear technology.
As a matter of fact, CNN has recently reported (1.22.2012) that the Atlanta Jewish Times advocated the killing of the US president Barack Obama for not being supportive of bombing Iran nuclear reactors.
Let me conclude by stating that those who expect immediate solutions for their problems in Egypt, they will be disappointed. Changes are not going to happen overnight. Furthermore, there are many people who have legitimate complaints and have the right to express their views, but should not act in violation of Egyptian laws.
The Egyptian revolution which took place a year ago will lead into a bright future for Egypt. Changes that require the reconstruction of political, economic, and social institutions needs planning, effective strategy, commitment and above all, time.
Last year my wife and I witnessed the revolution. We made it point to be in Egypt for this year anniversary of this unique event.

Before leaving the US to travel back to Egypt to attend the celebration, some of our friends raised the common question. Is it safe to go back now? Yes it is.

Jan 16, 2012

The recent Egyptian national election for parliament revealed a disgraceful result in terms of the election of women. It was revealed that no more than eight women were elected, which means only one and a half percent of the total number of the new Egyptian parliament is represented by women. As a result, speculation began to circulate that the Egyptian Higher Military Council might appoint ten women to the new parliament. Even if this will be accomplished, their percentage will be no more than two percent. The rules set prior to the election stated that half the members of the future parliament should consist of workers and farmers. Even such specification is not accurate, because most of those who were elected are neither workers nor farmers.

Furthermore, the rules of the election should have been more specific in regard to other segments of the Egyptian population, such as women, who constitute more than 50% of the total population of Egypt. Also, more than 30% of Egyptian women are the main economic supporters of their households.

Throughout history, Egyptian women in general have played a very important role in Egypt’s economic, political and social developments. The Egyptian revolution of January 25, 2011 reflects the role of Egyptian women who stood side by side with men in support of the uprising. In many situations, as an eyewitness of that revolution, I saw women carrying their babies while protesting. I have seen women helping to clean the debris from the ground of Tahrir Square. I saw female doctors and nurses treating wounded men who were shot and/or brutalized by the Egyptian security forces. I saw young ladies being beaten by Egyptian security forces. According to international human rights organizations, more than one hundred women who were arrested during the protests were sexually assaulted by soldiers and security agents. (NYT, 1/10/2012).

The Egyptian Higher Military Council and the political leadership of parties who ran for election failed miserably to emphasize women’s rights during the election. It seems to be that all of these parties are not that different from the Muslim Salafis in terms of their views about the role of Egyptian women in society.

Furthermore, the Egyptian Copts, who constitute more than 11% of the total population, did not get enough members in parliament to be consistent with their numbers. Also, the young Egyptians who started the uprising and were the vanguards of the Egyptian revolution were marginalized by the military and the various political parties, especially the Muslim Brotherhood group. May God have mercy on Egyptian society.

Jan 10, 2012

Egyptian Street Children

Recently, the Egyptian press began to publicize the negative role of the street boys in the protest movements as agents of destruction, according to the latest investigations that took place near Tahrir Square. Some of the street boys were arrested and investigated. Some of the information, which was made public, revealed that they have been recruited by people and were paid to do specific acts of destruction to property by setting specific buildings on fire.

The issue of the street boys should not be dismissed so lightly, because the average Egyptian has gotten used to see boys in the streets, begging or trying to clean the windshields of cars when they are stopped at red traffic lights in the hopes of getting a few piasters (Egyptian currency) for their efforts. Some of these boys are also supervised by adult women who provide shelters for them at night and during the day they assign them certain streets on which to beg. At the end of the day, their professional adopted mother collects the money they have obtained from begging.

The issue of boys in the street is not a rare or hidden one. It has been part of the daily scene in Egyptian cities. It is not unusual that some of these kids get involved in criminal activities such as theft, killing or drug crimes. The street boys dilemma is a critical national problem that should be dealt with in a very serious way. Their number has been estimated to be around one million and they pose a very critical and dangerous problem for Egyptian society at large. I classify them as walking ticking bombs that will potentially explode and should be disarmed as soon as possible.

Some of the factors that contribute to this social and criminal dilemma are attributed to some of the following factors:

1) Poverty and unemployment, because nearly 45% of the Egyptian population is living below the poverty index level, which makes it very difficult for families to take care of their members, especially if the head of the household is unemployed.

2) Broken families, as the result of divorce or when the head of the social unit has abandoned his children due to desperation.

3) The high illiteracy rate among parents, which makes some of them unable to raise their children, especially during the critical formative years (the first 6-7 years of their lives).

4) The recruitment of some of these kids by adult criminals to be used for unlawful activities for financial gains. School dropouts are especially susceptible to these adult criminals.

There are other factors that contribute to this national Egyptian problem, which needs imminent attention to bring an end to this dilemma in the long run. The majority of Egyptians are devout religious citizens who also believe in justice and fairness to all. According to a recent census report, there are more than 80 million Egyptians using cellular phones. I am of the opinion that users of these phones will not object to pay an extra one Egyptian pound per phone to be collected per month to be used for a project designed to help street boys.

The proposed suggestion, if implemented, will net at least one billion Egyptian pounds per year. This will be a very large amount of money that will initiate very comprehensive and different reforms and educational programs to educate and teach skills to those who do not want to pursue further education. They should be housed under professional supervision. Also, as an incentive, they should be helped financially during the learning process “Earn while you learn.” After they complete their educational and training period, they should be guaranteed a job. Furthermore, some of these unfortunate children should be treated for psychological problems if necessary.

The nearly one million youngsters could become a forceful, positive segment of Egyptian society instead of remaining a destructive one. The Egyptian government should learn from the negative experience of the street boys in Brazil, who were a destructive force for that society for a long period of time. Like Brazilian citizens, as well as other foreign citizens, Egypt depends a great deal on tourism and there is a possibility that some of these young street boys will become a threat to tourists. This problem should be dealt with in a very serious manner. The proposed one Egyptian pound contribution will pose no economic problem and will help the Egyptian government, who is facing a difficult economic problem during the transitional period at the present.