Former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak is expected to be released from prison within hours following a court decision clearing him of charges. Authorities will first transport Mubarak to the military's International Medical Center then eventually place him under house arrest. Mubarak's transfer to house arrest was announced by government officials under the "emergency law," which grants expansive executive authority to the interim government. In a deeply divided Egypt, the decision is likely to anger large swaths of the population and further alienate Islamists -- whose key leaders are detained by military authorities. The former president is despised by many Egyptians, but a sizeable segment of the population also views him favorably -- or with indifference. Prominent Egyptian activist Ahmed Maher expressed amazement at Mubarak's release but said, "If anybody dares express opposition against the government or the president or the military, they'll be accused of treason and called a Muslim Brother in hiding." However, Mubarak's will not be permitted to leave the country, his assets remain frozen, and he might face future charges that require his presence in court. Meanwhile, Mubarak's release may fuel support for the pro-Islamist camp planning to hold "massive protests" on Friday, though the government crackdown against the Muslim Brotherhood has greatly reduced the group's organizational capabilities.
Casualties continue to mount after Wednesday's alleged chemical attack by Syrian government forces near Damascus, as estimates of the death toll range between 500 and 1,300 according to Syrian opposition groups. Images from the aftermath of yesterday's attack have exposed scores of dead civilians, including many women and children, but the precise number of casualties and cause of their deaths remains uncertain. The Obama administration blamed the Syrian government of Bashar al-Assad for Wednesday's deadly attack, chemical or otherwise, while French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said the international community must respond "with force" if evidence of chemical warfare is confirmed. The Russian government, however, suggested that the attack was orchestrated by the opposition as a "pre-planned provocation." Syrian government officials continue to deny allegations of a chemical weapons attack, while opposition forces are deliberating a response to yesterday's attack against Ghouta. If confirmed, the attack could dramatically alter the international response to Syria's ongoing civil war.
- The Islamist-led Tunisian government accepted a transition plan proposed by the country's main trade federation that would pave the way toward new elections and end Tunisia's political paralysis.
- The Yemeni government issued a formal apology to northern Shiite Muslims and southern separatists for military campaigns waged against them by the previous regime of Ali Abdullah Saleh.
- Militants killed five people, including two soldiers, in Iraq on Thursday, continuing the recent surge in violence across the country.
Arguments and Analysis
'Egypt's False Dichotomies' (Rania Al Malky, The Egypt Monocle)
"My condemnation of the coup and its massacres is not only triggered by indignation at the smell of death everywhere, the random arrests or the kangaroo courts we will soon witness, but is a cry of revolt against how the crimes committed today on all sides will scar this nation for generations to come. It is the coup that has brought us here.
Talk of an inclusive democratic transition while holding a gun to your opponent's head is as despicable as it is insulting to our intelligence. International mediators have exposed in media interviews the false claims by Egyptian authorities that the MB refused all initiatives to avoid a bloody dispersal of the sit-ins. It was, they said, the military intoxicated by power and its ‘liberal' government that were hell-bent on staging a massacre. Itching for a fight, they reneged on every promised show of good intentions by perhaps releasing some MB leaders from illegal custody in return for a scaling down of the protest camps. So expect nothing less than more killings, mass arrests, military trials, and a complete extermination of the MB as we know it.
But while they may be killed or silenced, their ideas will live on and their radicalized followers will haunt us all."
'Egypt's Dirty War?' (Jon Lee Anderson, The New Yorker)
"The no-holds-barred military terror in Egypt, and the language the military is employing to justify it, is reminiscent of the worst of human legacies. These are the sort of statements made not by ordinary armies but by armies that have embraced ideological convictions that make it easy to shoot down people in the streets, even civilians, if you believe that they are with the terrorists -- or whatever it is you decide to call them. There are many Egyptians who are going along with the Army's violence, supporting it with their own paramilitary gangs. And there are members of the Muslim Brotherhood who are obliging by discarding the idea that there is a place for them in electoral politics and embracing violence. Two acts bode ill: Sunday's suspicious killing of thirty-six protesters detained in a police van, and Monday's execution murders of twenty-five police cadets in the Sinai peninsula. (For months, there has been an unravelling security situation as armed Islamists, not necessarily linked to the Muslim Brotherhood, grow stronger and launch attacks. Apologists for the military point to the growing lawlessness in the Sinai, bordering Israel, as a reason not to cut their aid; but it is worth noting that most of the lawlessness occurred under that same military's watch, since it began with Mubarak's ouster, not before it.)
There is a build-it-and-they-will-come quality to Egypt's violence, and it is it not hard to see how today's mayhem could lead not only to a Dirty War but to a full-scale civil war. Stoking up a jihad is not an abstract or elusive thing; there is a jihadist element in Egypt and across the Middle East, not to mention on the fringes of the Muslim Brotherhood, and it will ignite and become combustive, given the right conditions. And this past week Egypt's military has provided those conditions."
'Egypt's Coup Breathes New Life Into Al-Qaeda' (Bruce Riedel, Al Monitor)
"The coup d'etat in Cairo and the bloodshed since then has validated al-Qaeda's narrative more powerfully than any event in the last two decades.
The future of global jihad is being defined in Egypt this summer. The next generation of al-Qaeda is being born.
The 2011 Arab awakening caught al-Qaeda by surprise and challenged its narrative that peaceful change was not possible in the Arab world. Twitter and Facebook toppled Hosni Mubarak's pro-Western dictatorship, not terror and jihad. A democratically elected Islamist government took power largely without violence. Even worse, al-Qaeda's hated rival, the Muslim Brotherhood, which proclaimed that Islam, not jihad, was the answer, ascended to Egypt's presidency. Mohammed Morsi's government maintained peace with Israel and ties to America.
Al-Qaeda's Egyptian leader Ayman al-Zawahiri was almost incoherent initially in lengthy commentaries on the Arab Spring. Zawahiri has always argued that elections and democracy are false paths to real change and Islamic government in the Muslim world. He ridiculed the Brotherhood in an endless series of books and lectures as naïve for abandoning violence for politics. Zawahiri warned that the 'deep state' of the army and the mukhabarat (secret police) would never really yield power.
Somewhere in a hideout between Kashmir and Karachi in Pakistan, Zawahiri is now saying: ‘I told you so!' "
-- Joshua Haber