Britain’s move on the MB: a Saudi victory

The decision of the British government this week to launch an investigation into the activities of the Muslim Brotherhood is a major victory for Saudi Arabia, which has been arguing since the 9/11 attacks that it is the Brotherhood’s brand of “political Islam” that is the source of jihadist violence and extremism, not Saudi Wahhabism. “What I think is important about the Muslim Brotherhood is that we understand what this organisation is, what it stands for, what its beliefs are in terms of the path of extremism and violent extremism, what its connections are with other groups, what its presence is here in the United Kingdom,” Cameron said. Privately, officials said there had been months of Saudi pressure, complementing Saudi anger over the West’s shift on Iran since November. Continue reading Britain’s move on the MB: a Saudi victory

ECFR: The Military Republic Wants You

During the First World War the British government used a highly effective and innovative series of propaganda posters in which Secretary of State for War Lord Kitchener pointed at the viewer declaring “Your country needs you” or variations on that phrase. Almost a year after declaring that there was no personal ambition in his decision to oust the elected Islamist president Mohammed Morsi, General Abdelfattah al-Sisi has finally declared he will run for the presidency in a propaganda declaration that heavily played on the theme that “Egypt needs you”. Continue reading ECFR: The Military Republic Wants You

Esglobal: El ascenso de Qatar

Articulo (traduccion) que escrive para Esglobal

Cuando el jeque Hamad de Qatar anunció el año pasado que iba a abdicar en favor de su hijo Tamim, muchos confiaron en que el emirato hubiera comprendido que su intervencionismo imperioso era un error y retirase su apoyo a los movimientos islamistas de la región, incluidos los Hermanos Musulmanes de Egipto. Sin embargo, ha pasado casi un año y no se observa ningún cambio. Tamim continúa aplicando la misma política exterior que su padre, una estrategia que pretende ejercer en todo el mundo árabe una influencia independiente de Arabia Saudí y utilizar una red de grupos islamistas en cuyo centro están los Hermanos egipcios…. Continue reading Esglobal: El ascenso de Qatar

ECFR: Gulf rift: uneasy dynasties in a changing world

This week, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Bahrain withdrew their ambassadors from Doha, citing Qatar’s apparent failure to heed the terms of a security agreement made at a Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) meeting late last year. The two issues in the dispute are Qatar’s perceived backing for the Egyptian Islamist group, the Muslim Brotherhood, and the coverage on Qatari pan-Arab news channel Al Jazeera, which has been favourable to the Brotherhood and its challenge to the Egyptian authorities after the military ousted Islamist president Mohammed Morsi last year. Continue reading ECFR: Gulf rift: uneasy dynasties in a changing world

POLITICO: The Revolutionary Police State

(Originally published in Politico)

Time was, American presidents had Egyptian leaders at their beck and call. Hosni Mubarak was once obliged to get up at the crack of dawn for a photo op with President Bill Clinton, scheduled with U.S. prime-time TV in mind. But if there’s one thing the “Arab Spring”—if we can still use that term with a straight face—has proved, it’s that those days are gone. Ever since Feb. 2, 2011, when President Obama pulled the plug on Mubarak in a hasty speech calling on the longtime Egyptian strongman to leave “now,” the United States has gone from bankrolling a friendly dictator to bankrolling an unfriendly dictatorship—while fast estranging itself from all sides of the political spectrum. Continue reading POLITICO: The Revolutionary Police State

After Egypt’s Referendum: What Lies Ahead?

(This was first published by the European Council on Foreign Relations on its website)

The Egyptian authorities hoped that the constitutional referendum would draw a line under the question of the legitimacy of the July 3 regime and they are showing all the signs of believing that the 98 percent ‘Yes’ vote means they have achieved that. Less than 40 percent of eligible voters took the opportunity to use their vote, but only around 41 percent voted in the first constitutional amendment vote in March 2011, and even less voted for the constitution put together under the watch of ousted Islamist president Mohammed Morsi. Continue reading After Egypt’s Referendum: What Lies Ahead?

Egypt’s Revolution That Was

(This article was first published by the European Council on Foreign Relations)

The semantic battle over Egypt’s upheavals of the past three years have been as fierce as the conflict on the ground: was it a revolution or an uprising, was it “stolen” by the Islamists or did they claim their rightful place at its helm, was June 30/July 3 a revolution or a coup? This week’s referendum on the post-Islamist constitution is not only intended by the military regime to consecrate their removal of elected president Mohammed Morsi but bring to an end the entire period of uprising, to begin to draw a line under the revolution itself – a process that will be completed in stages via subsequent presidential and parliamentary elections. Three key institutions of the Mubarak era have reasserted themselves with a vengeance, the military, the security apparatus and the judiciary. Through forms of mass media manipulation born in the early Nasserist years of the military republic and perfected under Mubarak’s police state, the regime has been able to impose a sort of moratorium on revolutionary activity – demands for social, economic and political justice, often made via protests and strikes.   Continue reading Egypt’s Revolution That Was

Egypt’s Salafis: ‘New Brothers’ walking a political minefield

(This article was first published by the European Council on Foreign Relations on its website)

One of the most intriguing turns of the post-uprising scene in Egypt has been the emergence of the Salafi movement – as a political force, as a rival to the Muslim Brotherhood, and most recently as an ally of the July 3 military regime. The Salafi Nour party’s general secretary Galal Murra appeared on television as one of the handful of pliant politicians flanking General Abdulfattah al-Sisi as he announced the removal of elected president Mohammed Morsi last year after mass protests against Brotherhood rule. Since then the party’s leadership has remained faithful to the new regime as its conflict with the Brotherhood intensified and a hysterical anti-Islamist atmosphere ensued. Continue reading Egypt’s Salafis: ‘New Brothers’ walking a political minefield

Stakes high in Egypt as constitution referendum approaches

(This article was written for the European Council on Foreign Relations and appeared on its website)
Egypt’s government is ratcheting up pressure to the maximum to persuade Egyptians to take part in the referendum on the post-coup constitution and to vote yes. The stakes for the regime are high as the referendum has come to be seen as a test of the viability of the order established by the armed forces after they removed the elected Muslim Brotherhood president Mohammed Morsi last July. As commentator Wahid Abdel-Meguid said at an Egyptian Organization of Human Rights conference on the constitution this week, “a 70 percent ‘yes’ vote among a 60 percent turnout is better than 90 percent approval from a 30 percent turnout”.  Continue reading Stakes high in Egypt as constitution referendum approaches