The Middle East Channel

Egyptian forces raid Islamist-held Cairo suburb

Egyptian security forces have raided the pro-Morsi town of Kerdasa, sparking violent clashes in which a senior police officer has been reported killed. Kerdasa, about nine miles outside of Cairo, has been known as an Islamist stronghold since the July 3 overthrow of the former president, and there has been little or no state authority. On August 14, a police station was attacked and torched and 11 police officers were killed. Early Thursday morning, dozens of police and army vehicles entered the town, backed by helicopters searching for 140 suspects. Police have reportedly taken control of Kerdasa and imposed a curfew. According to a security source, up to 51 people have been arrested and dozens of weapons have been seized. The raid has come days after Egyptian troops stormed the Upper Egypt town of Dalga, which had been partially held by Islamists accused of attacking Christians and burning down homes and churches.

Syria

Turkey has closed a border crossing due to clashes in the Syrian town of Azaz, near the Turkish border. Fighting was reported between Free Syrian Army forces and fighters from the al Qaeda linked Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) in one of the most severe clashes between opposition factions. The ISIS has reportedly taken control of the town, and fighting died down as of Thursday morning. Additionally, a roadside bomb reportedly exploded in Homs province hitting a minibus killing up to 19 people. Meanwhile, in an interview with Fox News, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said he is committed to a plan to destroy Syria's chemical weapons arsenal. He warned, though, that it would take a year or more, and could cost up to a billion dollars. Additionally, Assad condemned the use of chemical weapons in an attack outside Damascus on August 21 and denied the government was responsible for the attack. He continued, "We have evidence that terrorist groups used sarin gas." Syria has reportedly given this evidence to Russia, and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said he will discuss it with the U.N. Security Council.

Headlines

  • In apparent efforts to repair relations with the West, Iranian President Hassan Rowhani released 11 political prisoners and, in an interview with NBC, said Iran will never build nuclear weapons.
  • Bahrain's opposition has pulled out of the National Dialogue after the arrest of an Al-Wefaq leader and the government's issuance of increased regulations on political groups.
  • U.S. authorities are expected to seize a New York office tower prosecutors say is secretly owned by Iran.
  • Muammar al-Qaddafi's son, Saif al-Islam, appeared in a Zintan court Thursday where his trail was adjourned until December, but he was also due at a hearing in the Libyan capital of Tripoli.

Arguments and Analysis

'Egypt Transformed by State Violence' (Josh Stacher, New Left Project)

"The generals now running Egypt are more powerful than they ever were in the late Mubarak period. The popular mobilization that stunned Mubarak and the world facilitated their intervention, in order to save whatever rump of the old regime they could. It also allowed the generals to eliminate and re-discipline constituent parts of the regime under their authority. This was the non-violent part of the process. In its dealings with society, by contrast, the military has embarked on an increasingly violent strategy comprising not just military trials and torture but also the deliberately indiscriminate killing of Egyptians to reset the political arena and dismember the organizational prowess of groups with national reach such as the Muslim Brothers.

Under Mubarak, state violence was used as a stop-gap when political arrangements failed and for selectively making examples of the politically disobedient. Its escalation following Mubarak's ouster indicated that the new regime's base, despite its pact with the Brothers, was too narrow to permit conversation with and incorporation of popular forces pushing for change. Now, counterrevolutionary state violence is now being used to shape a political arena in which a segment of the population continues to clamour for bread, freedom, and social justice, but without a national base or other forces to partner with to press for a more inclusive future."

'Syria's Refugees: The Catastrophe' (Hugh Eakin and Alisa Roth, New York Review of Books)

"Owing to its relative stability, Syria had actually been a haven for people escaping persecution elsewhere, from Armenians fleeing the genocide in 1915 and Palestinians chased out of Palestine in 1948 -- there were some 500,000 Palestinians in Syria in 2011 -- to both Christian and Muslim Iraqis escaping the recent war in Iraq. In 2006, the Syrian government took in more than 120,000 Lebanese whose homes had been damaged or destroyed in Israel's war with Hezbollah. When the uprising against the Assad regime began, Syria also had sizable numbers of Somali, Sudanese, and Afghan refugees.

And yet this complicated ethnic and sectarian mosaic made Syria particularly susceptible to large population movements once the uprising turned violent. To a degree, these movements followed basic geography. Punishing attacks by regime forces in the southern governorate of Daraa, where the protests began, drove many of its inhabitants to Jordan, which abuts it in the south. Fighting between rebels and government troops in the northern governorate of Idlib, and -- beginning in the summer of 2012 -- around Aleppo, drove many north into Turkey. And the incessant battles over Homs, in the western part of the country, forced many to seek refuge in nearby Lebanon. (Others remained trapped in the old city of Homs, where they make up one of the most desperate displaced populations in Syria today.)"

--Mary Casey & Joshua Haber

KHALED DESOUKI/AFP/Getty Images

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