The Middle East Channel

Blasts Hit Cairo on Eve of Anniversary of the 2011 Egyptian Uprising

Three explosions hit Cairo killing at least five people Friday, the eve of the third anniversary of Egypt's 2011 uprising against former President Hosni Mubarak. The explosions targeted police, with the most severe outside the Cairo police headquarters, in the highest profile attack since the ouster of former President Mohamed Morsi in July 2013. A suicide car bomber detonated explosives at about 6:30 a.m. in the parking lot of the Cairo Security Directorate, which includes police and state security, killing at least four people, injuring 50 others, and causing severe damage to the nearby Museum of Islamic Art. Just hours later, a second device was detonated next to police vehicles close to the metro station in the Dokki district of Cairo, killing one person and wounding an estimated 15 more. A third device was set off near a police station in Giza, but caused no injuries. An al Qaeda inspired group, Ansar Beit al-Maqdis ("Partisans of Jerusalem"), said it carried out the attack on the police headquarters, and has claimed responsibility for other assaults including a car bombing on a security building in the northern city of Mansoura in December 2013 that killed 16 police officers and injured 100 people.

Syria

The third day of the peace conference on Syria has begun in Geneva, but without a face-to-face meeting between the Syrian government and opposition. Syrian opposition chief Ahmad Jarba refused to meet with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's delegation unless it first agreed to the Geneva I communiqué that called for a transitional administration. The government delegation rejected the demand, insisting on ending "terrorism" before working on a political solution. Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moallem said, "If no serious work sessions are held by (Saturday), the official Syrian delegation will leave Geneva." U.N. envoy Lakhdar Brahimi met with the government delegation for about an hour on Friday morning, and will meet with opposition representatives separately in the afternoon in order to address procedural and agenda issues. Brahimi had hoped to bring the parties together for a joint meeting to begin the negotiation process.

Headlines

  • Tunisia's National Constituent Assembly finished approving articles of the country's new constitution Thursday night, and is expected to hold a vote on the full charter.
  • Egypt has extended the detention of Australian Al Jazeera journalist Peter Greste for 15 days, for the third time, without issuing charges.
  • A U.S. drone strike killed three suspected al Qaeda militants in Yemen's eastern province of Marib late Thursday, according to officials and tribal sources.
  • The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has asked U.N. member states for additional funds to verify Iran's compliance with an interim nuclear deal.

Arguments and Analysis

'Getting Democracy Promotion Right in Egypt' (Amy Hawthorne, Atlantic Council)

"The only way Egypt will achieve lasting stability is to create an inclusive, consensus-based system of government involving all key political forces. This may seem an unimaginable task now. The role of the Muslim Brotherhood, an illiberal and widely distrusted yet deeply rooted movement, will be particularly hard to resolve. But Egypt has changed since 2011 in ways that make a lasting reconstitution of an authoritarian system unlikely. At present, anecdotal evidence and press coverage suggest that much of the Egyptian public strongly supports the newly repressive path. But Egyptian public opinion post-2011 has shown itself to be fickle. The January 25, 2011, uprising unleashed not only generalized public demands for change but also new social movements, dominated by young Egyptians with a distinct pro-democracy, anti-status quo mindset. They demand accountable government, human rights, and dignity. They believe in citizen activism and entrepreneurism to solve Egypt's social and economic problems. These movements are not yet politically cohesive or electorally significant, but they have the potential to play a more significant democratizing role in the years to come."

'Iran: A Good Deal Now in Danger' (Jessica T. Mathews, New York Review of Books)

"A bill that is so convoluted and poorly drafted that many don't understand that it would automatically apply new sanctions has gained fifty-nine cosponsors in the Senate -- close to veto-proof support. The language violates the first-phase agreement by imposing new sanctions (if, for example, a Hezbollah attack anywhere in the world were to damage US property) and makes a permanent agreement unachievable by apparently requiring the complete dismantling of all enrichment facilities.

The bill's authors, Senators Robert Menendez and Mark Kirk, argue that it strengthens the president's hand. It does the reverse by making even more acute Iranian doubts that the president can deliver the relief from sanctions they are negotiating for. Its passage, as an act of bad faith on the US's part after having just agreed not to impose new sanctions during the term of the six-month deal, would probably cause Iran to walk away from the negotiations. Rouhani would risk political suicide at home if he did not. Alternatively, in the all too familiar pattern of the past decade, he might stay at the negotiating table and match unacceptable American demands with his own so that blame for failure would be muddled. America's negotiating partners and others whose support makes the sanctions work would feel the sting of bad faith as well. The sanctions regime that has been so painstakingly built through ten years of effort by determined American leaders of both parties could easily unravel."

'Geneva II: Great Expectations?' (Randa Slim, Al Jazeera)

"In Bonn, American and Iranian diplomats worked together to ensure a political settlement in Afghanistan. This was preceded by a modest and quiet US-Iranian rapprochement. We might be facing a similar opportunity in Syria. Whether such collaboration will materialise or not, will depend on two factors: Progress in negotiations between Iran and the P5+1 on the nuclear file; and the decision by Iranian leaders, in particular Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, to play a conciliatory regional policy in Syria and Lebanon.

So far, Iran's objective in Syria has been to prevent the Syrian regime's military defeat. Thanks to Hezbollah and Iraqi fighters, this objective has been accomplished. Iranian officials claim that they have played a role in persuading Assad to dismantle his chemical weapons arsenal and to attend Geneva II. Disinviting Iran from Geneva II was a bad move that will complicate conflict resolution efforts in Syria. Without Iran, there will be no peace in Syria. It is not clear yet what conditions and what incentives must be in place for the Iranian regime to abandon the Assad ship."

--Mary Casey & Joshua Haber

STR/AFP/Getty Images

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