The Middle East Channel

Egypt’s Sisi Says if Elected Muslim Brotherhood Will Cease to Exist

In the first televised interview of his campaign, former Field Marshal Abdel Fattah al-Sisi vowed that the banned Muslim Brotherhood will not exist if he wins the presidency. Sisi led the military's ouster of Islamist President Mohamed Morsi in July 2013 and the Muslim Brotherhood has since been designated a terrorist organization. The military-backed government has killed more than a thousand pro-Morsi demonstrators and imprisoned over 10,000 political opponents, primarily Islamists. Sisi claimed the Muslim Brotherhood has ties to militant groups and mentioned that two plots to assassinate him had been discovered. He said it would not be possible for the Brotherhood to re-enter political life in Egypt and asserted, "It's not me who finished the Muslim Brotherhood -- the Egyptian people have." Sisi is widely expected to win Egypt's presidential election on May 26 and 27.

Syria

The United States said it will recognize the offices of Syria's main opposition alliance, the Syrian National Coalition, as diplomatic missions. The State Department also pledged $27 million in nonlethal aid bringing the total U.S. assistance since the beginning of the Syrian conflict to $287 million. The moves have come ahead of talks between Secretary of State John Kerry, and other senior U.S. officials, and a delegation of Syrian opposition leaders, including SNC President Ahmad Jarba. While granting the opposition coalition diplomatic status does not mean the United States is recognizing the SNC as Syria's government, it will make it easier to facilitate banking and security services. Jarba said it was a "diplomatic blow against Assad's legitimacy and demonstrates how far the opposition has progressed." 

Headlines

  • An Egyptian court has banned officials from former President Hosni Mubarak's National Democratic Party from running in elections.
  • A French security guard working at the EU mission in the Yemeni capital of Sanaa was shot and killed Monday.
  • Hamas released six Fatah prisoners held in Gaza beginning to implement a unity deal signed two weeks ago between the Palestinian factions.
  • The Iranian navy has been building replicas of U.S. warships to practice blowing them up, and Navy Rear Admiral Ali Fadavi boasted about the capability to destroy U.S. vessels.

Arguments and Analysis

'Libya's Faustian Bargains: Breaking the Appeasement Cycle' (Karim Mezran, Jason Pack, and Mohamed Eljarh, Atlantic Council)

"The proximal cause of Libya's current problems in the security sector, the economy, and the transition to constitutional governance is the Libyan authorities' policy of appeasement of their opponents. Some analysts have absolved the post-Qaddafi authorities­-the National Transitional Council (NTC), General National Congress (GNC), government, cabinet, and ministries-of both their agency and responsibility for the current problems by blaming Qaddafi-era policies, Libya's primordial social and regional structures, and the absence of institutions (such as a national army or civil society) for most challenges currently facing the country. These factors are, indeed, key components of the troubles and constitute the root causes of the current situation. However, these preexisting factors have been exacerbated and mutated by the practice of appeasement."

'Near Eastern Promises: Why Washington Should Focus on the Middle East' (Kenneth M. Pollack and Ray Takeyh, Foreign Affairs)

"Nevertheless, the fact that these problems have not already affected American interests suggests that, in confronting the region's instability, a modestly increased effort might be all that is required to safeguard U.S. interests against the Middle East's myriad threats. Obama might have pushed the pendulum of U.S. involvement in the Middle East too far toward disengagement, but there is no need to swing it back to the militarized overinvolvement that characterized the administration of George W. Bush."

'Excluding the Old Regime: Political Participation in Tunisia' (Karina Piser, Muftah)

Tunisia's ongoing debate on political exclusion reflects the dilemmas inherent in maintaining institutional stability during transitions to democracy. Obviously, it is important to keep those guilty of torture, corruption, and other violations of human rights on the sidelines. But, as the Tunisian experience demonstrates, authoritarian practices deprive a country of a viable political culture that extends beyond a small coterie of elites. In banning opposition parties and silencing dissent, dictators, like Ben Ali, allow only their inner circle to gain political expertise and experience in governance.

In Tunisia, the first three years after Ben Ali's ouster have been a period of nascent democracy, with fledgling political parties asserting themselves for the first time. During the constitution's drafting, for example, some attributed the lengthy process to a lack of experience among assembly members, while also recognizing the NCA's importance in promoting a shift toward democracy in the country."

-- Mary Casey

KHALED DESOUKI/AFP/Getty Images

The Middle East Channel

Libya Confirms New Prime Minister

The president of Libya's parliament, Nouri Abu Sahmain, has confirmed businessman Ahmed Maitiq as the country's prime minister, and has asked him to form a new government within two weeks. The statement, posted on the parliament's website Monday came after First Deputy Speaker Ezzedin al-Awami declared Maitiq's election on Sunday invalid, saying he had failed to obtain the required quorum. The confusion has been another challenge for Libya's transitional government, plagued by internal feuds and threatened by militias. The vote was one of various attempts to select a new premier after another vote was suspended last week following an attack by gunmen on parliament. Maitiq will be the fifth prime minister since the ouster of Colonel Muammar al-Qaddafi in 2011. In April, Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thinni resigned after only one month at the post, citing an attack by gunmen on his family. Thinni replaced Ali Zeidan, who was dismissed over his failure to stop rebel groups who had taken over oil ports in the east from exporting crude without government permission.

Syria

Fighting between rival opposition groups, al Qaeda backed al-Nusra Front and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), has forced an estimated 60,000 people to flee their homes in Syria's eastern province of Deir al-Zour, according to the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. Around four days of heavy clashes were sparked after Nusra Front fighters overtook Abreeha, empting the town as well as the towns of al-Busayrah and al-Zir. Meanwhile, on Monday the governor of Homs, Talal al-Barazi said a deal for the evacuation of rebel fighters from the Old City will be implemented in the next 48-hours. The agreement between opposition fighters and the Syrian government was reached Friday, however the withdrawal of about 2,250 fighters, civilians, and wounded people had been delayed.

Headlines

  • Yemen reported 37 suspected al Qaeda militants and several soldiers were killed in clashes with the army in the southern Shabwa province meanwhile a security officer was killed in a drive-by shooting in Sanaa.
  • Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal are holding talks in Doha, in the first meeting since the rival factions signed a unity deal.
  • U.N. nuclear inspectors have arrived in Iran to visit two sites as nuclear experts from Iran and six world powers meet in New York.

Arguments and Analysis

'Yemen's Fraught Constitution Drafting Committee' (Ashraf al-Falahi, Sada)

"On March 8, interim Yemeni President Abd Rabu Mansour Hadi announced the formation of the Constitution Drafting Committee (CDC), which has been highly controversial within the Yemeni political scene. Several political groups, including the Socialist Party, independent youth organizations, and members of the Islah Party are protesting their lack of representation in the CDC, while others object to the committee's overall composition, arguing that its members have virtually no expertise in the federalist system model that Yemen aspires to adopt. 

In his announcement, Hadi specified that the CDC would have seventeen members; this contradicts the agreement reached by the nation-building team at the National Dialogue Conference, which recommended that the CDC be comprised of 30 members selected according to their area of expertise. However, the National Dialogue Conference Consensus Committee, which represented all the factions in the dialogue, reduced the number of CDC members without any explanation. Currently, only one of these members has experience in constitutional law, but lacks the requisite ten years in the field. The other members have assorted specializations, some of which are unrelated to the constitution. Yet Hadi's decision was not only heavily criticized for not having the CDC meet standards of legal expertise, but also for not representing the same spectrum of movements as the National Dialogue Conference did. The one group that is better represented in the CDC is women, of which there are four on the seventeen-member committee."

'Internet in Bahrain: All that is contrary to the ruling family's view is concealed.' (Bahrain Press Association)

"Though most of the concealed websites in Bahrain are relevant to the political and social situation, they do not promote terrorism, contrary to what the authorities have alleged. They are not general pornographic websites to be obscured out of fear for an outrage of modesty and corrupting the morals of the youthful Gulf society. They are just news, statistical or social websites.

The clear purpose of the obscuring and online targeting is to split an opposition that is calling for transparency and political reform. However, the facts that the regime is trying to conceal from the Bahraini people will not be hidden from the world beyond the small country. The outside world will browse the websites concealed in Bahrain, observe the details and draw its own conclusions."

-- Mary Casey

MAHMUD TURKIA/AFP/Getty Images