The Obama administration announced it is delaying the delivery of four F-16 fighter jets to Egypt. Pentagon spokesman George Little said, "Given the current situation in Egypt, we do not believe it is appropriate to move forward at this time with the delivery of the F-16s." The fighter jets are part of a deal with Egypt for 20 F16s in total, eight of which have already been delivered. Since the Egyptian military's removal of Mohamed Morsi from the presidency on July 3, the United States has maintained the shipment would go forward, but U.S. officials said they were disturbed by the recent course of events. The move is the first interruption of military funding to Egypt and a sign that the United States is rethinking its decision not to withhold military assistance to Egypt. The U.S. administration has hesitated designating the ouster of Morsi a military coup, which would require the United States to cut off aid, estimated at $1.3 billion per year. U.S. administration officials said President Barack Obama wanted to send Egypt's military rulers a signal of U.S. displeasure with the current chaotic situation, the detention of Morsi and other Muslim Brotherhood (MB) leaders, and the transition process that has not included the MB.
- The conflict in Syria has cut the country's wheat harvest by more than half in a blow to President Assad's policy of food self-sufficiency while under severe international sanctions.
- Kuwait will hold parliamentary elections on Saturday, for the sixth time since 2006, and prominent opposition members are expected to boycott.
- Israeli energy minister, Silvan Shalom, said he believes Israeli and Palestinian talks will begin Tuesday in Washington, however the date has not been confirmed.
- The UAE embassy in the Libyan capital Tripoli was hit with a grenade Thursday, causing no injuries, but adding to several attacks recently on foreign, mainly western, targets in the country.
- The crackdown on Islamist militants in Sinai by Egypt's new military rulers is causing a significant decline in Gaza's economy with the closure of nearly 80 percent of the tunnels used for smuggling.
Arguments and Analysis
'Saving Egypt's Third Democratic Revolution' (Bassem Sabry, Al-Monitor)
"The new administration must make it abundantly clear that the days of the Mubarak regime and what it represented are truly over, as many worry that Egypt will end up returning to a more evolved and polished version of pre-January 25. One area in which it can strongly send this message is police reform, something that never truly got the attention it needed after the revolution and still seems unlikely to be addressed in today's environment, especially given that many hail the police as heroes.
Media reform is another area in need of care. State-owned media must be freed of political influence, the body of media legislation dusted off and the much-anticipated new national media regulatory agency brought to life in a manner that inspires optimism. Furthermore, the Information Ministry can only be abolished. The new cabinet announced its intention to do so, but thus far has not. Morsi had retained the position of information minister during his time in power despite earlier promises to abolish it as well. The government will now also need to address the situation of the 'suspended' Islamist channels.
The length of the transition should not be stretched out for no good reason, and the steps taken must proceed briskly, but without compromising the quality of the output. Amendment of the constitution comes before everything else, despite some calls to the contrary. The new, ten-strong amendment committee, composed of members of the judiciary and legal experts, has already begun its work, and there have been voices calling for revisiting how its work can better be influenced by national stakeholders. Their proposed amendments must in the end represent a broad national consensus, making theirs a very difficult, but not impossible task."
'Containing the Fire in Syria' (Ryan Crocker, Real Clear World)
"Much has been said about a political settlement. The conditions are simply not present. Neither the opposition nor the regime is ready to deal seriously with each other, and the opposition is too divided in any event to develop a coherent position. Nor will a meeting between regime representatives and opposition elements in exile produce meaningful outcome, even if it could be convened. The influence of the exiles on those actually doing the fighting is approximately zero.
So what are the options? First, to recognize that as bad as the situation is, it could be made much worse. A major western military intervention would do that. And lesser steps, such as a no-fly zone, could force the West to greater involvement if they proved unsuccessful in reducing violence. The hard truth is that the fires in Syria will blaze for some time to come. Like a major forest fire, the most we can hope to do is contain it. And it's already spreading. Al Qaeda in Iraq and Syria have merged, and car bombs in Iraq are virtually a daily occurrence as these groups seek to reignite a sectarian civil war. The United States has a Strategic Framework Agreement with Iraq. We must use it to engage more deeply with the Iraqi government, helping it take the steps to ensure internal cohesion. This was a major challenge during my tenure as ambassador, 2007-2009, and the need now is critical.
I was in Lebanon recently, where the outgoing prime minister gloomily predicted a renewed civil war of which there are already signs with clashes between Sunnis and Alawites in the northern city of Tripoli, in the northeast and attacks on Hezbollah-controlled areas in Beirut. If the violence spreads, the Palestinians will join forces with the Lebanese Sunnis against the Shia, and that in turn will radicalize Palestinians in Jordan's already fragile monarchy. Both countries need our security and economic support, for the refugee influx and their security forces.
This will be a long war. There is little the United States can do to positively influence events in Syria. Our focus must be on preventing further spillover beyond its borders. There may come a point where exhaustion on both sides makes a political solution possible. We are nowhere near that point. And my fear is that at the end of the day, the Assad regime prevails. We must be ready for that too."
--Mary Casey & Joshua Haber
Cherie A. Thurlby/U.S. Air Force/Getty Images