The Middle East Channel

Egyptian court suspends constituent assembly

Egypt's High Administrative Court blocked the constituent assembly challenging the constitutionality of the body. The 100-member panel was tasked with drafting a new constitution, however was criticized for being dominated by Islamists, particularly by liberals and Coptic Christians who have walked out of the body. Liberals and secularists have voiced concern that the Islamist dominated commission will base the new constitution on Sharia, or Islamic law. The suspension came after a recent lawsuit filed by prominent Egyptian lawyers who are challenging the formation of the body, saying that parliamentarians cannot elect themselves. The Islamist majority parliament secured over 65 percent of the seats in the constituent assembly for the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party and the Salafist al-Nour Party.

Syria

Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moallem claimed the army had pulled back forces from several Syrian provinces, however intense fighting has continued in Syria as the deadline dictated by Kofi Annan's peace plan calling for troop withdrawal and a ceasefire hit. In a meeting in Russia with Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, Moallem added new preconditions, tying a truce to the arrival of a team of international monitors and demanding a say in the group's composition. According to opposition activists, tanks remained in Hama and Homs, where bombings proceeded, and Syrian forces and opposition fighters clashed in Deraa. Additionally, incursions into neighboring Turkey and Lebanon on Monday have sparked greater regional tensions. In Lebanon, a cameraman from the Beirut-based Al Jadeed TV was shot near the border drawing condemnation from Prime Minister Najib Mikati who up to this point has remained discreetly neutral on the Syrian conflict.

Headlines  

  • Egypt's Parliament is seeking to pass a law that would block the presidential bids of former Mubarak regime officials Omar Suleiman and Ahmed Shafiq.
  • Seven Bahraini policemen were injured in a bombing during a protest calling for the extradition to Denmark of an imprisoned political activist who has been on a two-month hunger strike.
  • Police cracked down on protesters marching on the Tunisian capital's main street on Martyr's Day criticizing the Islamist dominated government.

Arguments & Analysis

‘The reporter who knew' (Max Rodenbeck, New York Review of Books)

"The grandson of Lebanese immigrants, Shadid had the flat American accent of his Oklahoma City upbringing and learned to speak Arabic fluently only later on. He would habitually lean forward slightly in interviews, projecting priestly gravitas as if from behind the screen of a confessional. His soft voice rarely seemed to prompt with anything so blunt as a question. The unfaltering kindness in his unblinking brown eyes, magnified by a midwesterner's gently affirmative rhythmic nodding and accentuated by a Middle Easterner's sympathetic slow shake of the head, with a raised eyebrow and a barely audible tsk followed by an intake of breath, combined to produce a magically cathartic effect. Long, detailed narrative confessions-great nuggets of journalistic ore-tumbled forth from Shadid's interlocutors as if induced by a sudden burning need for expiation or redemption."

‘Egypt's presidency: the revolution within the Ikhwan' (Larbi Sadiki, Al Jazeera English)

"The Ikhwan's new tactic, a blend of confrontational politics and revolutionary praxis, will lend al-Shater's candidacy some credence only if it reverts to a shelved-off plan to seek a nationalist non-partisan figure to run with Khairat on a joint "ticket" -- there is Mohamed El-Baradei, the revolution's youth, figures from the Coptic community, and leading female figures who were visible during the revolution. Al-Shater -- disciplined and a human abacus who knows how to make money for the Ikhwan and the businesses he ran - may not on his own be enough of a firewall against titanic figures from the ranks of fulul  which SCAF may be grooming and counting on to maintain its status."

‘Mubarak's enforcer' (David Kenner, Foreign Policy)

"The one constant thread through Suleiman's career is an abiding hostility toward Islamists, both domestic and foreign. For that reason, he was long one of the officials in Cairo who tried most aggressively to limit the growing power of Hamas in the neighboring Gaza Strip. In a State Department cable released by WikiLeaks, Suleiman promised an Israeli interlocutor that he would prevent the 2006 Palestinian Authority (PA) legislative election, where the Islamist group was expected to make significant gains. "There will be no elections in January," Suleiman reportedly said. "We will take care of it.""

MOHAMMED HOSSAM/AFP/Getty Images

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