Former General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi was sworn in as Egypt's new president Sunday. In a speech at a Cairo presidential palace, Sisi vowed to fight "terrorism" and bring security to Egypt. He said, "It is time for our great people to reap the fruits of two revolutions." The former army chief, who led the ouster of President Mohamed Morsi, did not mention the Muslim Brotherhood directly, but said there would be no reconciliation with those with "blood on their hands." Sisi has kept Prime Minister Ibrahim Mehleb in his post, requesting him to form a new government, which is expected to retain several key ministers.
Former U.N. and Arab League peace envoy Lakhdar Brahimi said Syria is descending into a Somalia-style failed state. In an interview with Der Spiegel, Brahimi asserted, if there is no effort to achieve a political solution for Syria's civil war, "there is a serious risk that the entire region will blog up." Brahimi's comments came as a Norwegian vessel set sail from Syria with the first part of the country's chemical weapons arsenal. The ship will travel to Finland and the United States. Meanwhile, Syrian state media reported Monday that President Bashar al-Assad has granted amnesty to the country's prisoners. The report suggested that sentences would be reduced but prisoners would not be freed. It is unclear if the amnesty would include opposition supporters and their families, of which activists say tens of thousands have been detained.
- Pope Francis hosted Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli President Shimon Peres at the Vatican for a prayer ceremony and called for dialogue and an end to the conflict.
- Libya's Supreme Court ruled the parliament's appointment of Prime Minister Ahmed Maitiq unconstitutional.
- Iranian President Hassan Rouhani is meeting with senior Turkish officials in the first visit to Turkey by an Iranian president since 1996 to discuss Syria and to boost ties.
- Senior U.S. officials, who held back-channel talks with Iran in 2013, are meeting with Iranian officials in Geneva for bilateral talks to accelerate nuclear negotiations.
Arguments and Analysis
'Iran's plan for Syria aims to woo Saudi Arabia and the west' (Ibrahim Hamidi, Financial Times)
"Iran's diplomacy over Syria is reminiscent of the role that the Syrian regime played in Lebanon after the 15-year civil war ended in 1990. The Islamic republic wants to seduce Saudi Arabia and the west with a grand deal on Syria. This would entail a Saudi-Iranian understanding over Syria, similar to the one reached by late Syrian president Hafez al-Assad and Saudi Arabia over Lebanon in the 1990s. Like Lebanon, this solution would be based on power sharing between the Alawite minority and Sunni majority. Mr Assad would remain as president but he would have to rule with a strong Sunni prime minister, presumably drawn from the domestic opposition, who would hold executive powers, held by the presidency itself since 1970. The speaker of the parliament would be a Kurd. Christians and Druze would also be represented.
The sticking point is that Saudi leaders, like many Syrians and opposition leaders, are loath to see Mr Assad keep a role in government after a conflict that has seen 162,000 Syrians killed and 9.3m displaced. Iran wants to translate a military balance that currently favours its ally in Damascus into a lasting structure for sharing power."
'Do Americans really love drone strikes' (Sarah Kreps, The Washington Post)
"Upon first glance, the high levels of support appear to fall in line with the arguments that have been in their favor. The Obama administration has asserted that drones 'relentlessly target al-Qaeda leadership' and are legally sanctioned both in terms of international humanitarian law - in particular, the principles of distinction and proportionality dealing with the protection of civilians in the context of conflict - and, the recourse to force. The administration has also claimed that the recourse to force is authorized under both domestic and international law.
But are these high levels of support an artifact of how the polls are structured? As political science professors Donald R. Kinder and Lynn M. Sanders argue, 'policy descriptions actually used within the survey affect the expression of opinion.' The policy features they highlight or minimize can affect how individuals think about the policy. Polls about drone strikes tend to sideline two main sources of contention surrounding the policy."
'The Banality of Abdel Fattah al-Sisi' (Steven A. Cook, Foreign Affairs)
"For one, he can recognize that the world has changed, that Sisi-mania was a chimera, that the establishment of a new version of the old political order will be more difficult as a result of the elections, and that he needs to promote inclusion to improve his chances of putting Egypt back together. Without the overwhelming popular support that Sisi was expecting, it will be harder to rule without regard for those who disagree with him. President Mohamed Morsi tried to do this, which began the end of his short tenure at the Ittihadiya Palace.
Or, Sisi can avoid the truth and try to rule as a strongman, relying on coercion and force to maintain order. This is what Sidqi did in the 1930s. And it is, in part, what prompted the Free Officers coup in 1952, when Nasser and his collaborators sought to bring an end to political instability and, in the process, built the archetypal Middle Eastern security state. It is also what Sadat attempted in the year before his assassination, and what Mubarak both accomplished and failed to do; he shrewdly employed the authoritarian tools that Nasser and Sadat bequeathed to him, ruling virtually unchallenged for almost 30 years until it became expedient for the military to remove him as millions poured into the streets in early 2011."
-- Mary Casey
MOHAMED EL-SHAHED/AFP/Getty Images