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Ed Webb

Ahead of COP27, Egypt is highly vulnerable to climate change - 0 views

  • Adel Abdullah cultivates a subsistence living off of six acres of peppers, eggplants, cucumbers, tomatoes, wheat, corn, and pomegranates. He is one of millions of smallholder farmers working in the Delta. He walks barefoot in his farm as a show of reverence to the land. The soil is pale and thin, almost as sandy as the beach, and choked by mounting concentrations of salt, left behind by periodic coastal flooding and pushed into underground aquifers by the rising sea.“This is the first place to be affected by climate change,” Abdullah says. “The barriers help a bit with flooding, but the salty soil is still really killing us.”
  • he takes irrigation water from the nearby Kitchener Drain, one of the largest and most polluted canals in Egypt that aggregates wastewater from the farms, businesses, and households of an estimated 11 million people in the Delta. By the time water reaches Abdullah’s farm, it may have been reused half a dozen times since entering Egypt in the Nile, each time accumulating more salts and pollutants and losing beneficial nutrients.
  • Abdullah is forced to douse the farm in fertilizers, pesticides, and salt-suppressing chemicals, all of which further degrade the soil. Those inputs, on top of the rising costs of irrigation systems and machinery, eat up any potential income Abdullah might earn
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  • The Nile Delta—where agriculture employs one-fifth of the country’s workforce and is responsible for 12% of its GDP and much of its food supply—is being hammered by rising sea levels, rising temperatures, and a growing shortage of water.
  • rapid urbanization and population growth
  • Climate adaptation solutions that could keep environmental problems from turning existential—fixing the battered and wasteful irrigation network, expanding affordable access to improved seeds and climate-smart farming technologies, and more effective and equitable regulation of urban development on agricultural land—are being rolled out by the government and research groups, but often slower than the pace of climate impacts. That’s left Egypt’s economy and food security exposed to growing risk.
  • “We’re really squeezed and marginalized here, and the government isn’t helping,” said one farmer down the road from Abdullah, who requested anonymity to speak frankly (with tens of thousands of political prisoners, Egypt’s restrictions on free speech are also gaining prominence ahead of COP27).
  • his children see no future in agriculture
  • Around 1805, an Ottoman general named Muhammad Ali took control of the country, and founded the dynasty of kings that would rule—eventually under British colonial supervision—for 150 years. One of Ali’s most enduring marks on the country was the establishment of the first modern network of dams and irrigation canals in the Delta, which allowed tens of thousands of new acres to come under cultivation.
  • water and land played a crucial role in Nasser’s legacy. 12% of the country’s arable land was owned by the aristocracy; Nasser nationalized this land and distributed it to about 340,000 impoverished rural families. He also further extended Ali’s irrigation network and oversaw construction of the Aswan High Dam, which brought an end to the Nile’s ancient seasonal flooding and fixed the river in its present position, with just two remaining branches forking through the Delta.
  • Egypt’s population has since more than quadrupled, to 104 million. Yet the flow of the Nile, which supplies more than 95% of the country’s water, has remained more or less constant. In the 1990s water availability fell below the international “water poverty” benchmark of 1,000 cubic meters per person per year.
  • Egypt has managed that scarcity by meticulously recycling agricultural water and, in recent years, curtailing the production of water-intensive crops like cotton and rice and importing 40% of its wheat and other food staples.
  • The population is still growing quickly, and could reach 160 million by 2050. The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam that is nearing completion upstream could cut the flow of Nile water into Egypt by a quarter during the as-yet-unknown number of years it will take to fill its reservoir. By 2100, climate change-related heat waves upstream could reduce the Nile’s flow by 75%, Abousabaa said.
  • rising temperatures and falling rainfall mean crops—which consume 86% of Egypt’s water supply—will require more irrigation to survive.
  • current annual demand for water is about 35% higher than what the country receives from the Nile, groundwater, and a very small amount of rain—a deficit of about 20 billion cubic meters. To cover it, she said, Egypt will need to use every drop multiple times, aggressively minimize wastage, and boost the supply by investing $2.8 billion in dozens of new desalination plants with the aim to produce 5 billion cubic meters annually by 2050.
  • The unpredictability makes it difficult to identify solutions, Salah says: “Climate change is like a big black box.”
  • On the western fringe of the Delta, farms and suburbs are gradually overtaking the desert as the central Delta grows more crowded. Here, water is even scarcer and the impacts of climate change are more pronounced. But in this and a few other desert areas around Egypt, the government is working to link more than 1.5 million acres to groundwater irrigation, and says it is about one-third of the way there. Land reclamation could take some pressure off the Delta, and sandy soils are well-suited for the production of citrus fruits that are one of Egypt’s most lucrative exports.
  • “For the last two years, with heat wave after heat wave, we lost more than half the crop. It’s really sad.”
  • The farm relies on groundwater brought up from wells on the property, and Nasrallah says the suburbs are draining the aquifer. In the last four years he has had to dig an extra thirty meters to find water—and deeper wells mean higher electricity bills for pumping. Some wells have dried up altogether. Recently, government officials told him he had to stop watering the grass on a soccer field he built for his workers.
  • Urbanization is also spreading in the inner Delta, as many farmers decide that constructing housing is more profitable than growing crops. Since the 1970s, about 14% of the Delta’s arable land has been converted to urban development
  • Individual farms are also becoming smaller with each generation as, in keeping with longstanding Egyptian custom, land is divided among a father’s heirs (with sons traditionally taking a larger share than daughters). Urban development degrades the Delta’s soil and drives more farming into the desert, leaving the entire food system more vulnerable to climate impacts. Land fragmentation leads to the inefficient use of water and other resources and raises the costs of distribution for farmers.
  • in some cases, the government’s own plans are responsible, most recently in August when thousands of people living on a Nile island near Cairo that was primarily used for farming were evicted to make way for a state-sanctioned development project.
  • The network started by Muhammed Ali now includes about 33,000 miles of delivery and drainage canals across the country, enough to wrap around the globe, that range in size from small rivers to something a child could hop over. Delta residents say they used to bathe in these canals, drink from them, and raise fish in them. Now many of them, especially at the ends of the network, are polluted with farming chemicals and sewage, and choked with trash.
  • Between seepage, evaporation, and water wasted by farmers who flood their fields instead of using controlled irrigation hoses, nearly one-third of the country’s water is lost in the irrigation system between the Aswan High Dam and the sea
  • The soil is dark and appears rich, but is crusted with a visible layer of salt, a problem that affects up to 40% of Egypt’s arable soil.
  • Fixing the irrigation network is a priority for the government. Eman Sayed from the Irrigation Ministry said her agency has lined about 3,700 miles of canals with concrete in the last two years and is aiming to finish another 12,400 in the next few years. The ministry is also helping farmers cover the cost of installing drip irrigation systems, which researchers at AUC found can cut farmers’ water consumption 61% per year; today such systems cover only one-sixth of arable land in Egypt.
  • Authorities have also begun to restrict production of water-intensive crops like rice and bananas, although farmers say there is little enforcement of these rules, and both crops are still widely cultivated throughout the Delta.
  • Egypt has made clear that COP27 will focus primarily on wringing climate finance out of the rich countries that are most responsible for climate change.
  • On the horizon, an offshore natural gas platform is visible. Egypt, which seized the disruption of Russian energy supplies to Europe because of the Ukraine war as an opening to boost its own exports of natural gas, is now contributing more to the problem than ever before; an independent review of its new climate strategy ranked it “highly insufficient” for averting disastrous levels of carbon emissions.
  • By 2100, Noureldeen says, sea level rise could inundate nearly 700 square miles of the coastal Delta and displace four million people.
Ed Webb

Can Cairo stave off discontent over soaring prices? - 0 views

  • As pressure builds on Egyptian livelihoods following the devaluation of the pound and the slashing of fuel subsidies in November, some analysts are wondering if another uprising is looming on the horizon for Egypt. They warn that a new wave of unrest would be bloodier than the 2011 uprising and could spell disaster for the country, still reeling from the turbulent post-revolution transition.
  • Prices of basic food items, medicine, transport and housing have soared, prompting Egyptians to cut spending to make ends meet. The prices of some basic food items have shot up by up to 40%, according to CAPMAS, the Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics
  • protests broke out in at least four Egyptian provinces March 7. The demonstrations were triggered by bread shortages in some bakeries after Supply Minister Aly Moselhy announced a new bread subsidies system that he defended as “necessary to curb waste and corruption.” Hundreds of demonstrators blocked roads and cut railways in Alexandria, Giza, Kafr El Sheikh and Minya in protest at the minister’s abrupt decision to reduce the share of bread allotted to holders of paper ration cards to 500 loaves per bakery a day from the original 1,000 and 4,000 loaves (depending on the number of consumers in the bakery’s vicinity.)
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  • The decision to implement the new system was quickly reversed, however, over fears that the simmering bread crisis could provoke wider tumult. Seeking to allay citizens’ concerns that the move was a prelude to a reduction in their quotas of subsidized bread, Moselhy held a televised press conference on the day of the protests, apologizing to “all citizens who had not received bread” and asserting that their quotas would remain untouched. Promising to resolve the crisis within 48 hours, he blamed bakery owners for the crisis, hinting they were making profits off the subsidized flour they received from the government.
  • In the last six years, government spending on food and fuel subsidies has represented more than a quarter of annual government expenditure (more than the country spends on education and health services combined)
  • a thriving black market for the subsidized wheat, which is often resold by the bakeries at a profit rather than turned into bread
  • the weak currency is helping the economy by boosting exports and luring back tourists. A 25% increase in non-petroleum exports in January (compared with the same month last year), along with new loans from the IMF and other sources, is beefing up foreign currency reserves, according to The Economist. The weaker currency is also proving to be a blessing in disguise for local manufacturers as more consumers are opting to purchase local products, which are more affordable than their imported alternatives
  • Tensions have been simmering since the pound’s depreciation — a key requirement by the International Monetary Fund for Egypt to secure a $12 billion loan needed to finance the country’s budget deficit and shore up dwindling foreign currency reserves. Economists and analysts have lauded the flotation as “a much-needed reform that would restore investors’ confidence in the economy, helping foster growth and job creation.”
  • shrinking middle class was already struggling with flat wages, high inflation and mounting unemployment
  • Sisi’s approval ratings, which according to a poll conducted in mid-December 2016 by Baseera (Egyptian Center for Public Opinion Research) fell by 50% during his second year in office
  • “The patience of Egyptians is wearing thin,” Cairo University political scientist Hassan Nafaa told Al-Monitor. “Despite the economic pressures they are facing, citizens have so far restrained themselves from protesting because they are weary after two revolutions. They also fear further turmoil as they see the civil wars in some of the neighboring Arab countries. But if people are hungry and if their basic needs are not met, there is likely to be another rebellion,” he warned, adding that if that happens, “It would be messy and bloody.”
  • The real test will be the government’s ability to stave off unrest that could undermine the progress made so far. Nafaa said it is possible to quell the rising anger over soaring prices “through more equitable distribution of wealth, better communication of government policies, transparency and accountability.”
  • “The government must also ease the crackdown on dissent, release detainees who have not committed terror crimes and bring more youths on board,”
Ed Webb

Egyptian officials: Sisi's visit to Djibouti part of East Africa 'charm offensive' | Ma... - 1 views

  • The visit, which is the first by an Egyptian head of state to Djibouti, is part of what two officials in Cairo familiar with the arrangements say is a “charm offensive” in the Horn of Africa, where Egypt has been at loggerheads with Ethiopia over the filling and operation of the mega dam project on the Blue Nile and has been concerned over its relative lack of influence in the Horn of Africa and the Red Sea, an area it considers its backyard both for potential resource management along the Nile and commercial trade in the waterway leading into the Suez Canal.
  • Cairo’s image in the region took a hit when it sided with ousted Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, according to two Egyptian officials, a move they say in retrospect was a mistake
  • The Djibouti visit comes after a flurry of defense cooperation agreements with Nile Basin countries since the start of the year, including Uganda, Kenya, Burundi and Sudan. These build on the framework provided by the Red Sea Council, of which Egypt formally became a member in November. The charter was signed by the foreign ministers of Djibouti, Egypt, Eritrea, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen in January 2020. Egypt and Sudan held joint military drills in Khartoum this week.
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  • since 2019, Egypt has become aware that Addis Ababa has been presenting Cairo as a “North African, Arab country” that doesn’t care about the rest of the continent
  • Egypt’s foreign policy in the Horn is also about re-establishing a security presence over the Bab al-Mandeb, the strait leading into the Red Sea and Suez Canal, where Egypt had grown concerned about the increased presence of foreign powers
  • By establishing a presence in East Africa, Egypt will have the opportunity to cooperate with international powers that are trying to expand their presence in the region, including the US, Russia, and China, says one of the Egyptian officials, adding that this cooperation could take the form of trade agreements, combatting “terrorism” or controlling irregular migration
  • Egypt has grown increasingly worried about the role of the Emirates, which has become a major power broker and the principal architect of the security framework in the fiercely competitive Red Sea, with bases in Berbera, Somaliland; Bosaso, Somalia; and several coastal ports in Yemen, where it had fought alongside the Saudi-led coalition since 2015.
  • while Turkey and Egypt have publicized their quiet rapprochement, Turkey has made its own prominent foray into East Africa: signing a military cooperation with Niger last year; being invited by Somalia, to whom Turkey has long provided aid, to explore for oil in its seas; and holding high-level talks with Ethiopian officials.
  • A consultant for the Turkish Foreign Ministry’s Africa policy previously told Mada Masr that Turkey’s “developing relations with Ethiopia is a direct answer to Egypt. There are two dimensions. We want to develop our relations with Ethiopia, and we want to develop our relations with an Ethiopia that is stronger against Egypt. A strong Ethiopia against Egypt is something that Turkey wants.”
Ed Webb

Ethiopia dam fears exaggerated, say experts : EgyptMonocle - 2 views

  • Political outbidding aside, local and international experts claim that Egypt’s concerns regarding water and power shortages that may result from the construction of the Ethiopia dam are unfounded, and that the dam could in fact provide more resources for Egypt. Ethiopia, a Nile Basin country, diverted the flow of the river last week in preparation for the construction of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, a $4.2 billion project on the Blue Nile, which started in 2011. Egypt has demanded a halt in construction but to no avail since Ethiopia is pressing ahead with the project even as it continues to hold official talks with Egypt, which fears the dam could cause water and power shortages. Ethiopia claims it has reported evidence to claim otherwise. Of the 84 billion cubic meters (BCM) of the Nile water, which reaches the Aswan High Dam annually, 68 percent comes from the Blue Nile. A 10-man tripartite commission, composed of four international experts, two Egyptians, two Sudanese and two Ethiopians, has claimed that although “inconclusive”, the results from its year-long analysis of the project and inspection of the site show  that it will not significantly impact Egypt or Sudan.
  • A Nile Basin Initiative (NBI) was created in 1999 to begin cooperation among Nile riparian countries, but its participants have failed to reach an agreement to date. Tensions have been rising since 2007 when negotiations stalled, leading to the signing of a Cooperative Framework Agreement in 2010 by five upstream states to seek more Nile River water,  a move fiercely opposed by Egypt and Sudan.
  • It is predicted that by 2050, at the current rates of consumption, Egypt will be under extreme water stress since 95 percent of its population is living on the Nile basin, compared to 39 percent in Ethiopia. With annual precipitation at 150 mm/year and few water resources, according to a government report released last February, Egypt’s per capita share of water is 660 cubic meters – well below the international standard of water poverty of 1,000 cubic meters – compared to Ethiopia, where the per capita share is about 1,575 cubic meters. Egypt has 24 cubic meters per capita access to renewable freshwater compared to Ethiopia, which stands at 1,543 cubic meters.
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  • “The Renaissance Dam is not designed to hold back huge amounts of water, but rather to let the water pass for the generation of hydro-electricity.” Mohammed El-Mongy, of the Water Institute of the Nile, claims that having legal and financial ownership rights in the dam could allow Egypt to reduce loss of water by 6 percent through ensuring water is released right before the peak agricultural season. During his assessment of the Renaissance Dam, Islam Awad, a geotechnical consultant engineer at Dar El-Handasah, discovered that water losses from evaporation could be minimised by 5 percent, equivalent to 0.58 BCM, by storing water in Ethiopia for a period of time before it reaches Egypt.
  • Egypt’s arid climate causes 10 BCM, about 12 percent of its stored water, to evaporate per year. Evaporation rates reach as high as 2,970 mm/year in Egypt, about half of what is lost in Ethiopia at a rate of 1,520 mm/year.
  • Another possible benefit of the Renaissance Dam is its reduction of siltation, a process where soil erosion or sediment spill creates large particles that pollute water. By acting as a barrier, the dam could reduce approximately 160 million tones of silt which flows in the Blue Nile every year, and therefore increases the Aswan Dam’s efficiency in power generation.
  • The Renaissance Dam could also have economic benefits if Egypt pursues economic integration with Nile Basin countries and become an investment partner in the project. Egypt’s close proximity to Ethiopia, feasibility of transportation and demand for power, would create a favourable climate for cooperation with Ethiopia. Only 40 percent of the project is locally funded, which means that Egypt could invest in the remaining  60 percent guaranteeing some ownership rights. “Egypt can play a proactive role to economically integrate the 400 million inhabitants that live in the Nile Basin countries,” says Ana Cascao, Programme Manager at Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI).
  • Historically, Egypt is seen by many of its African neighbors as being hegemonic and quasi-colonial in its water usage.
Ed Webb

Secret Alliance: Israel Carries Out Airstrikes in Egypt, With Cairo's O.K. - The New Yo... - 1 views

  • For more than two years, unmarked Israeli drones, helicopters and jets have carried out a covert air campaign, conducting more than 100 airstrikes inside Egypt, frequently more than once a week — and all with the approval of President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi.The remarkable cooperation marks a new stage in the evolution of their singularly fraught relationship. Once enemies in three wars, then antagonists in an uneasy peace, Egypt and Israel are now secret allies in a covert war against a common foe.
  • Their collaboration in the North Sinai is the most dramatic evidence yet of a quiet reconfiguration of the politics of the region. Shared enemies like ISIS, Iran and political Islam have quietly brought the leaders of several Arab states into growing alignment with Israel — even as their officials and news media continue to vilify the Jewish state in public.
  • Both neighbors have sought to conceal Israel’s role in the airstrikes for fear of a backlash inside Egypt, where government officials and the state-controlled media continue to discuss Israel as a nemesis and pledge fidelity to the Palestinian cause.
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  • Israeli drones are unmarked, and the Israeli jets and helicopters cover up their markings. Some fly circuitous routes to create the impression that they are based in the Egyptian mainland
  • In Israel, military censors restrict public reports of the airstrikes
  • The Egyptian government has declared the North Sinai a closed military zone, barring journalists from gathering information there
  • Mr. Sisi, then the defense minister, ousted Mr. Morsi in a military takeover. Israel welcomed the change in government, and urged Washington to accept it. That solidified the partnership between the generals on both sides of the border
  • In November, 2014, Ansar Beit al Maqdis formally declared itself the Sinai Province branch of the Islamic State. On July 1, 2015, the militants briefly captured control of a North Sinai town, Sheikh Zuwaid, and retreated only after Egyptian jets and helicopters struck the town, state news agencies said. Then, at the end of October, the militants brought down the Russian charter jet, killing all 224 people on board. Advertisement Continue reading the main story It was around the time of those ominous milestones, in late 2015, that Israel began its wave of airstrikes, the American officials said, which they credit with killing a long roster of militant leaders.
  • They moved into hitting softer targets like Christians in Sinai, churches in the Nile Valley or other Muslims they view as heretics. In November 2017, the militants killed 311 worshipers at a Sufi mosque in the North Sinai.
  • Zack Gold, a researcher specializing in the North Sinai who has worked in Israel, compared the airstrikes to Israel’s nuclear weapons program — also an open secret.“The Israeli strikes inside of Egypt are almost at the same level, he said. “Every time anyone says anything about the nuclear program, they have to jokingly add ‘according to the foreign press.’ Israel’s main strategic interest in Egypt is stability, and they believe that open disclosure would threaten that stability.”
Ed Webb

State Department Considers Cutting Aid to Egypt After Death of U.S. Citizen Mustafa Kassem - 0 views

  • In a memo sent to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo by the agency’s Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs in early March and described to Foreign Policy, the nation’s most senior diplomat was given the option to cut up to $300 million in U.S. military aid to Egypt over the death of Mustafa Kassem, a dual American and Egyptian citizen who appealed unsuccessfully to U.S. President Donald Trump to secure his release in his final days.
  • In a letter sent late last month, Democratic Sens. Patrick Leahy and Chris Van Hollen also urged Pompeo to withhold $300 million in military assistance to Cairo and to sanction any Egyptian official “directly or indirectly responsible” for Kassem’s imprisonment and death
  • In two years on the job, Pompeo has twice decided to overlook human rights considerations to greenlight military aid to Egypt, leading some experts to cast doubt on whether the Trump administration will make cuts even after the death of a U.S. citizen.
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  • Under Trump, the United States has been largely reluctant to challenge Egypt, the second-largest recipient of U.S. military aid, which provides the Department of Defense with overflight rights and the ability to navigate the Suez Canal.
  • Kassem had been on a liquid-only hunger strike and had not received proper medical treatment before dying of heart failure in January.
  • a State Department official said the agency would not comment on internal deliberations. “We remain deeply saddened by the needless death in custody of Moustafa Kassem and we are reviewing our options and consulting with Congress,” the official said. “In the wake of the tragic and avoidable death of Moustafa Kassem, we will continue to emphasize to Egypt our concerns regarding the treatment of detainees, including U.S. citizens.”
  • In his role as the top Democrat on the Senate Appropriations Committee, Leahy, a long-standing critic of Egypt’s human rights record, has held up $105 million in military aid to Cairo to purchase Apache helicopters and Hellfire missiles. Leahy imposed the funding freeze on Egypt two years ago in response to its detention of Kassem, its failure to fully cover the medical costs for an American citizen wounded in a botched 2015 Apache helicopter raid, and its refusal to permit adequate U.S. oversight of its use of American military assistance in its counterterrorism operations in Sinai.
  • The dual citizen—held without charges for much of his six-year detention—insisted he had been wrongly arrested during an August 2013 visit to his birth country that coincided with the deadly Rabaa Square massacre against demonstrators protesting the ouster of Muslim Brotherhood-backed President Mohamed Morsi. Kassem’s advocates said he was not involved in the Rabaa Square demonstrations. He was in prison for over five years before an Egyptian court, without due process, sentenced him to 15 years in prison in 2018.
  • There are at least three other American citizens—Reem Dessouky, Khaled Hassan, and Mohammed al-Amash—and two permanent residents—Ola Qaradawi and Hossam Khalaf—detained in Egypt on charges related to their political views, according to a bipartisan group of foreign-policy experts called the Working Group on Egypt that tracks the issue
  • “It is incomprehensible that Egypt, a close ally of the United States that receives some $1.5 billion annually in assistance from American taxpayers, would be less responsive than Iran, Lebanon, and other countries to repeated calls for the humanitarian release of detained Americans,”
  • Trump ally Sen. Lindsey Graham stopped a provision in the final version of the State Department’s appropriations bill last year that would have withheld nearly $14 million in military aid until Egypt paid off the medical expenses for April Corley, an American mistakenly injured in an attack by Egyptian military forces in the nation’s western desert in 2015.
  • The United States and Egypt set up a structured process of defense meetings to properly resource the nation’s military after the Obama administration suspended aid amid massacres after Morsi’s ouster, but the forum “has long devolved into a grab bag of weapons requests,”
  • “By sending this amount of military assistance for such a long time—when you add it up its $40 billion over decades—what the United States has ended up doing is feeding the beast that’s devouring the whole country,” she said, referring to the Egyptian military.
Ed Webb

F.A.Q. on U.S. Aid to Egypt: Where Does the Money Go-And Who Decides How It's Spent? - ... - 0 views

  • article has been updated to reflect new developments. It was first published on Jan. 31, 2011
  • How much does the U.S. spend on Egypt? Egypt gets the most U.S. foreign aid of any country except for Israel. (This doesn't include the money [3] spent on the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.) The exact amount varies from year to year and there are many different funding streams, but U.S. foreign assistance to Egypt has averaged about $2 billion a year since 1979
  • military funding also enables Egypt to purchase U.S.-manufactured military goods and services
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  • Congress threatened to block the aid when Egypt began a crackdown on a number of American pro-democracy groups this winter. A senior Obama administration official said that Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton had no way to certify [10] the bill's conditions were being met. But in March Clinton waived the certification requirement (yes, she can do that) and approved the aid, despite concerns remaining about Egypt's human rights record. The reason? "A delay or cut in $1.3 billion in military aid to Egypt risked breaking existing contracts with American arms manufacturers that could have shut down production lines in the middle of President Obama's re-election campaign," the New York Times reported [11]. Breaking the contracts could have left the Pentagon on the hook for $2 billion.
  • U.S. economic aid to Egypt has slumped from $815 million in 1998 to about $250 million in 2011
  • When the Obama administration announced last month [18] that it was sending the Egyptian government $450 million to help forestall a budget crisis, Representative Kay Granger, a Texas Republican and the chairwoman of a subcommittee that oversees foreign aid, said she would block the money because of concerns about Egypt's direction under the Muslim Brotherhood.
Ed Webb

UAE offers to mediate Nile dam dispute in name of Red Sea security - Al-Monitor: The Pu... - 0 views

  • On March 26, the UAE formally offered to mediate the dam dispute and on March 31, the UAE invited the foreign ministers of Sudan, Ethiopia and Egypt for talks on the dam in Abu Dhabi. The UAE wishes to facilitate a deal that would allow Ethiopia to fill the dam and simultaneously ensure that the downstream countries, Egypt and Sudan, maintain sufficient access to Nile River water.
  • The UAE’s offer to mediate between conflicting parties in the dam dispute reflects its commitment to Red Sea security and a growing reliance on crisis diplomacy as a tool of power projection
  • the Saudi Arabia-led Red Sea security coalition that was inaugurated in January 2020.
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  • As the UAE officially ended its involvement in the Yemen conflict in October 2019 and its military intervention on Khalifa Haftar’s behalf in Libya failed, Abu Dhabi has relied increasingly on crisis diplomacy to expand its international influence
  • Although the US envoy to the Horn of Africa, Jeffrey Feltman, is currently discussing the dam on a regional tour, President Joe Biden has not committed the United States to a mediation role and recently consulted with the UAE on the Tigray crisis. The European Union has confined its role in the dam dispute to consultations with regional actors, such as Egypt, Ethiopia and Saudi Arabia, while Russia insists that the African Union should resolve disagreements over the dam. Saudi Arabia’s support for Egypt and Sudan’s position weakens the credibility of the Saudi mediation offer, while Egypt is wary of Turkish mediation, as it believes that Turkey provided technical assistance to Ethiopia on constructing the dam.
  • In addition to the positive precedent set by its successful facilitation of peace between Ethiopia and Eritrea in August 2018, the UAE views its close relationships with all of the conflicting parties in the dam dispute to be a major asset
  • an anti-UAE backlash that was caused by its initial opposition to Sudan’s democratic transition, recruitment of Sudanese mercenaries in Yemen and Libya and Eritrea’s alleged use of Emirati drones in Tigray.
  • udan and Egypt are much more likely than Ethiopia to accept Emirati mediation
  • A former senior US official who is familiar with the dam negotiations told Al-Monitor that Egypt was “forum-shopping” on the dam dispute as it fears a military escalation that could cause Ethiopia to retaliate by attacking Egypt's Aswan High Dam.
  • On March 3, Dina Mufti, a spokesperson for the Ethiopian Foreign Ministry, said inviting external mediators would demean the African Union’s efforts
  • Although Qatar’s recent mediation of the Somalia-Kenya maritime dispute underscores the arbitration potential of Gulf countries in the Horn of Africa, the UAE faces an uphill struggle to achieve a major diplomatic breakthrough on the dam.
Ed Webb

Egypt-Sudan Spat Muddies Prospects for Deal on Big Nile Dam - Foreign Policy - 0 views

  • diplomatic spat between Egypt and Sudan is spilling over into the long-running dispute over a dam Ethiopia is building on the Nile River, which Cairo sees as an existential threat
  • Sudan officially warned of threats to its eastern border from massing Egyptian and Eritrean troops, while Egypt has also moved into a disputed triangle of territory claimed by both Cairo and Khartoum. Late last week, Sudan abruptly recalled its ambassador to Egypt, the latest chapter in a fight that started last summer with trade boycotts and that has only intensified in recent weeks
  • Sudan’s support for Ethiopia’s construction of a massive $5 billion dam on the Nile River that could choke off vital supplies of water downstream. Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has called the dam a matter of “life or death.”
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  • dam is more than 60 percent complete, and Ethiopia could start to fill the reservoir as soon as this summer, leaving little time to find workable solutions
  • The dam, a huge power project at the head of the Blue Nile meant to meet fast-growing Ethiopia’s need for more electricity, will hold a year’s worth of river flow behind its concrete walls. Depending on how quickly Ethiopia fills the dam, downstream flows to Egypt could be restricted — a potentially fatal threat for a country dependent on agriculture that is already facing severe water shortages.
  • The three countries seemed to have sorted things out in 2015 with an agreement on how to manage the project, but since then they have been unable to agree on how to even measure the dam’s impacts.
  • Sudan’s role is crucial, because it is smack in the middle of Egypt and Ethiopia geographically and politically. Egypt and Sudan have long divvied up the Nile’s waters between them, according to the terms of a 1959 treaty that does not include Ethiopia. By using less Nile River water than it was allotted, for years Sudan allowed more to flow downstream to Egypt, which has used more water than it is entitled to. But in recent years, Sudan has sought to increase its own water use, aiming to boost its agriculture sector. Because it hopes to use the dam for irrigation, Sudan has moved closer to Ethiopia and become a supporter of the project. That makes antagonizing Khartoum a dangerous gambit for Egypt
  • the United States — still saddled with plenty of unfilled positions at the State Department — hasn’t been able to mediate the dispute
Ed Webb

Club Med: Israel, Egypt, and Others Form New Natural Gas Group - Foreign Policy - 0 views

  • a forum joining Israel, Egypt, Cyprus, and other neighbors to develop their new natural gas discoveries. The Eastern Mediterranean Gas Forum, announced Monday in Cairo, formalizes growing energy ties among recent rivals and could spur much-needed development of energy infrastructure required to tap the region’s potential as a source of energy for Europe and beyond. The forum in particular cements the growing commercial links between Israel and Egypt; Israel expects to start shipping natural gas to Egypt in the next few months as part of a landmark, $15 billion deal between the two countries.
  • a few notable absences, including Syria and Lebanon—both of which are trying to develop potential offshore gas fields—and especially Turkey
  • The new body will promote “discussions among countries that already have cooperation with each other,” said Brenda Shaffer, an energy expert at Georgetown University. “Hopefully, in the next round of the forum, Turkey will be involved, and that would make it much more significant and not just include the happy campers.”
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  • even with the creation of the new organization and increased energy exploration, the Eastern Mediterranean has a long way to go to truly become the kind of energy hub that many in the region and even in Brussels hope to see. The European Union’s top energy official, for instance, has repeatedly pointed to the Eastern Mediterranean’s potential as an alternative source of energy to importing gas from Russia, and Egypt dreams of again becoming an exporter of natural gas to Europe, as it was until 2012
  • grandiose plans, such as a pipeline snaking across to southern Europe via Crete, keep colliding with political and economic realities. Deep waters and high costs make building a pipeline to Europe an expensive proposition
  • Another option to market the gas would be to build liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminals; liquefied gas can be shipped on tankers around the world. But the problem, aside from the upfront cost of building the expensive infrastructure needed to superchill natural gas, is the economics of the gas trade, especially when it comes to competing with Russian energy supplies to Europe. LNG costs a lot more than natural gas shipped through a pipeline, and Russian gas is especially cheap.
  • Europe’s dependence on Russian energy is growing,
  • Tapping its own natural gas fields would enable Cyprus to replace costly energy imports and power its economy. Israel has already turned its first offshore gas discoveries into a new, cleaner source of electricity, and the country hopes to phase out coal entirely over the next decade. Egypt, too, is using domestic natural gas resources to keep the lights on and factories running, and natural gas demand there is expected to keep growing and potentially gobble up whatever is produced by additional offshore discoveries.
Ed Webb

Sisi's final act: Six years on, and Egypt remains unbowed | Middle East Eye - 0 views

  • For three weeks Sisi’s image has been trashed by an insider turned whistleblower whose videos from self-exile in Spain have gripped and paralysed Egypt in turn. 
  • Mohamed Ali is, by his own admission, no hero. One of only 10 contractors the army uses, he is corrupt. He also only left Egypt with his family and fortune because his bills had not been paid. Ali is no human rights campaigner. 
  • Egypt’s new folk hero likes fast cars, acting, film producing, real estate developing.
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  • when he talks he talks the language of the street and the street listens to him. That's Sisi's problem.  
  • Sisi  was a "failed man", a "disgrace", a "midget" who uses make up and hitches his trousers up too high, Ali told Egypt. Sisi was a con man who lectured you on the need to tighten your belt while building palaces for his wife Intissar.
  • Ali listed them: a luxury house in Hilmiya ($6m), a presidential residence in Alexandria ($15m), a palace in the new administrative capital, and another one in the new Alamein city west of Alexandria.
  • A report published by the World Bank in April calculated that "some 60 percent of Egypt’s population is either poor or vulnerable". 
  • Most Egyptians have seen their real incomes fall, while Egypt under its IMF-backed austerity programme is racking up huge foreign debts. It was $43bn during Morsi’s presidency. It is $106bn now. Seventy per cent of taxes now goes into paying these debts off. Internal debt is over 5 trillion Egyptian pounds ($306bn).
  • Every Egyptian remembers the lectures Sisi gave them on the need to tighten their belts. When the IMF forced the state to reduce subsidies, Sisi’s response was: "I know that the Egyptian people can endure more... We must do it. And you’ll have to pay; you’ll have to pay," Sisi said in one unscripted rant a year into his presidency.
  • "Now you say we are very poor, we must be hungry. Do you get hungry? You spend billions that are spilt on the ground. Your men squander millions. I am not telling a secret. You are a bunch of thieves."
  • Ali’s YouTube channel has done more in three weeks to destroy Sisi’s image than the Brotherhood, liberals and leftists, now all crushed as active political forces in Egypt, have done in six years of political protest. 
  • To their credit the opposition did not crumble, paying for their stand with their lives and their freedom. To their shame the Egyptian people did not listen.
  • Sisi thinks he can ride this out, as he has done challenges in the past. Hundreds of protesters have been arrested since last Friday.
  • The initial demonstration in Tahrir Square in January 2011 was smaller than the ones that broke out in Cairo, Suez and Alexandria last Friday. They called for reform, not the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak. Last Friday, Sisi’s portrait was torn down. “Say it, don’t be afraid, Sisi has to leave!” they shouted on day one of this fresh revolt. 
  • the "opposition" is everybody - ordinary Egyptians, disaffected junior ranks in the army, Mubarak era businessmen. This is a wide coalition of forces. Once again Egypt has been reunited by a tyrant
  • unlike 2013, Sisi’s bankers  - Saudi Arabia and the UAE - have run out of cash for Egypt. Today each has its own problems and foreign interventions which are all turning sour - Yemen and Libya.
  • The steam is running out of the counter-revolution.
  • popular protest is re-emerging as a driver for change across the region. We have seen it topple dictators in Sudan and Algeria. Both have learned the lessons of failed coups in the past and have so far managed the transition without surrendering the fruits of revolution to the army. This, too, has an effect on events in Egypt.
Erin Gold

Memo From Cairo - Egypt Ponders Failed Drive for Unesco - NYTimes.com - 1 views

  • after Egypt’s culture minister, Farouk Hosny, failed in his bid to lead the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, Egyptian newspapers and government officials presented the defeat as a sign of Western prejudice against Islam and the Arab world,
  • For days after Egypt’s culture minister, Farouk Hosny, failed in his bid to lead the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, Egyptian newspapers and government officials presented the defeat as a sign of Western prejudice against Islam and the Arab world, the product of an international Jewish conspiracy.
  • “America, Europe and the Jewish lobby brought down Farouk Hosni,” read a headline
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  • Mr. Hosny himself helped stoke those sentiments, saying, “There was a group of the world’s Jews who had a major influence in the elections who were a serious threat to Egypt taking this position.”
  • All of Egypt, indeed all of the Arab world, was talking with one voice of outrage and insult.
  • While no one here would argue that Israel and its supporters played no role in Mr. Hosny’s defeat to a Bulgarian diplomat, many people said that his failure was at least as much a sign of Egypt’s long, slow slide as the center of Arab culture, thought and influence. They said the defeat might represent a rejection of Muslims and Arabs, but perhaps more importantly a rejection of their authoritarian leaders.
  • Mr. Hosny, a favorite of President Hosni Mubarak, was roundly despised by many members of the nation’s cultural elite
  • pan-Arab daily newspaper Al Quds Al Arabi wrote that Mr. Hosny’s loss “comes as yet another confirmation of the Arab world’s — and Egypt’s in particular — backslide on the international arena,
  • considering the charges of anti-Semitism that derailed his candidacy, he has never been known as a strong opponent of normalizing ties with Israel.
  • Throughout his candidacy, Mr. Hosny struggled to mute the charges of anti-Semitism, efforts that caused many people in Egypt to wince as they watched a stalwart of the state apologize, to Israel no less. And they winced again, when he blamed a Jewish-Zionist conspiracy for his loss.
  • “The moment he lost he came back and started saying some of the most foul anti-Semitic statements against the Jews, confirming what the West had said about him.”
  • Mr. Hosny lost his bid for Unesco, but tried to turn that into a victory at home, returning as a victim, and for the state-run media a hero.
  • When it comes to domestic politics, she said, Egyptian officials often try to present themselves as anti-Israeli, even while serving as a mediator between Israel and the Palestinians.
  • Writing in the English-language Daily News, the chief editor, Rania al-Malky, suggested that Mr. Hosny might have done as well as he did because he was Arab and Muslim, not because he was qualified. His defeat, she wrote, should not surprise anyone.
  • she wrote, “you must admit that the Egyptian administration did not deserve to win this bid. How can a 22-year minister of a country where culture, education, health and science have regressed to the Dark Ages become the head of Unesco?”
Ed Webb

What's behind Egypt meeting with Greece, Cyprus at this time? - 0 views

  • The seventh tripartite summit between Egypt, Cyprus and Greece was held Oct. 8 at Ittihadiya Palace in Cairo. The summit was chaired by Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and involved Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades and Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis.
  • a joint declaration that the three presidents underlined the importance of making additional efforts to boost security and stability in the Eastern Mediterranean region, and strongly denounce any Turkish attempt to undermine the Syrian territorial integrity. They also expressed willingness to promote cooperation in the fields of natural gas drilling and transportation, and stressed the need for stronger international efforts in combating terrorism and extremism. The declaration stated that the three presidents emphasized that an effective international role to break the deadlock in the talks over the Grand Renaissance Dam is a necessity.
  • attributed the importance of the summit’s timing “to the need that each country supports the other in the decisive issues facing it.”
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  • Cairo had officially announced that the talks over the Ethiopian Renaissance Dam have come to a dead end, and that Ethiopia rejected the proposals Cairo made to Addis Ababa and Khartoum. This is while Ankara said Oct. 7 that the Turkish drilling vessel Yavuz will start gas drilling activities southwest of Cyprus.
  • Egypt needs to mobilize international support in the talks over the dam, and that Cyprus needs similar support against the Turksih gas drilling activities in the waters that Cyprus considers to be part of its Exclusive Economic Zone
  • “I do not think that such support would have a major impact on the [international] decisions relating to the Turkey-Cyprus dispute. Neither do Egypt and Greece have effective means to pressure Turkey, nor are Cyprus and Greece able to pressure Ethiopia in the talks over the dam. Yet at the end of the day it is a kind of political support.”
  • the energy dossier, particularly natural gas, was of utmost importance at the summit.
  • Cyprus and Greece are interested in investing in the Suez Canal, and Egypt is interested as well in the advantages Cyprus and Greece can bring to the field of ports management
  • Syrian and Libyan crises and subsequent illegal migration via the Mediterranean Sea,
  • The three countries signed May 22 an electricity interconnection agreement.
  •  “The summit delivers to Turkey the warning message that carrying on with its international law violations would require the three countries to take a firm stance that the European Union — which already imposed sanctions against Turkey — backs.”
  • part of the Eastern Mediterranean Initiative (Cairo Declaration) on tripartite cooperation and coordination in the gas, energy and oil resources dossiers in the Eastern Mediterranean that Egypt launched on Nov. 8, 2014
Ed Webb

Selling water and electricity to Egypt - Egypt - Al-Ahram Weekly - Ahram Online - 0 views

  • The majority of Nile Basin countries want to sell water to Egypt, while Ethiopia wants to do the same with the electricity that will be generated from its Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), said Egypt’s former water resources and irrigation minister Mohamed Nasreddin Allam in an interview with Al-Ahram Weekly
  • believes that the GERD will certainly decrease Egypt’s share of the Nile River, which is the lion’s share among the Nile Basin countries by virtue of the 1959 Agreement on the use of the river, though he stressed that Egypt has other options
  • “What we [Egypt] need to do is not to buy the electricity that will be generated by the GERD, and the dam will then become useless,” he suggested
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  • Negotiations between Cairo and Addis Ababa came to a stalemate due to disagreements about the process of filling the reservoir behind the dam, as Cairo has asked for this to be linked to the level of the water in the reservoir behind the Aswan High Dam so that Egypt’s water quota is not drastically affected. This demand was rejected by the Ethiopian side, as it would make “the GERD the hostage of the Aswan High Dam”, a note issued by the Ethiopian Foreign Ministry earlier this month said.
  • Egyptian-Ethiopian relations have long been tense. Ethiopia’s former emperor Haile Selassie took a number of actions against Egypt at the UN Security Council during the Nasser period, for example
  • Selassie had backed France and Britain after Egypt nationalised the Suez Canal Company in the 1950s, which led to the Tripartite Aggression against Egypt in 1956
Ed Webb

Here's the Movie That Egyptians Just Stormed the U.S. Embassy Over - Max Fisher - The A... - 1 views

  • protesters in Cairo are gathered at the U.S. embassy compound, where some have scaled the walls and pulled down the American flag
  • protesting an American film that insults Prophet Mohammed
  • The movie is called Mohammed Nabi al-Muslimin, or Mohammed, Prophet of the Muslims. If you've never heard of it, that's because the few clips circulating online are dubbed in Arabic. The above clip, which is allegedly from the film (I haven't been able to confirm this) is one of the only in English. That's also because it's allegedly produced by Florida Pastor Terry Jones (yes, the asshole who burnt the Koran despite Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates' pleas) and two Egyptians living in the U.S., according to Egyptian press accounts. The Egyptians are allegedly Coptic, the Christian minority that makes up about a tenth of Egypt
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  • some members of Egypt's sometimes-raucous, often rumor-heavy media have been playing highly offensive clips from the highly offensive film, stressing its U.S. and Coptic connections
  • an American-Coptic plot
  • it appears to compare Mohammed to a goat and Muslims, according to one translation, to "child-lovers."
  • The movie, like Terry Jones himself and his earlier Koran-burning stunt, have received attention far beyond their reach, which would be modest if not for obsessively outraged media. And yet, here the movie is, not just offending apparently significant numbers of people, but producing real-world damage. That damage is apparently limited to one American flag (CNN at one point reported that it had been torn, rumors continue to circulate that it was burned) and presumably the evenings of the U.S. embassy staff, but the U.S.-Egypt relationship is tense enough, and Muslim-Coptic mistrust has already produced scant but horrifying violence against the Christian minority. That doesn't mean this incident will become anything more than a bizarre moment of cross-cultural misunderstanding (the protesters seem to assume that, as in Egypt, movies must secure the state's approval), but that it could go so far is yet another reminder of the tensions jsut beneath the surface in Egypt.
Ed Webb

Cash and contradictions: On the limits of Middle Eastern influence in Sudan - African A... - 1 views

  • In Sudan, the revolutionaries who overthrew President Omar al-Bashir and who continue to organise are well aware of the threat posed by neighbouring Arab countries. Protesters’ murals show the people rejecting the interfering hands of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). One of the most popular chants is “Victory or Egypt”, voicing activists’ determination not to succumb to a military counter-revolution as happened in their northern neighbour.
  • many Sudanese believe that the 3 June crackdown in which scores of protesters were killed only came after the green light from Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Egypt
  • In this struggle between the “Pax Africana” and Arab authoritarians, there’s no doubt that the democrats have the weaker hand. But not everything is going the Arab troika’s way.
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  • Sudan wasn’t following the script of Bahrain, where the demonstrators dispersed after a single crackdown, or Egypt, where the army took control through co-option and repression.
  • A major split between Saudi Arabia and the UAE was on show in July when the latter abruptly withdrew most of its forces from Yemen. No official explanation was given, but the decision was evidently not coordinated with Saudi Arabia, which remains bogged down in an intractable war. The UAE’s decision also shows it can be mercurial and that its policies towards the Horn of Africa may be less strategic and more opportunistic than commentators have assumed.
  • Egypt prides itself on understanding Sudan and sees Saudi Arabia and UAE as newcomers seeking influence solely by dispensing money. Egypt limited its demands on Sudan to handing over Egyptian Islamists in exile, suspending the deal for Turkey to develop a naval base, and ceding its territorial claim to the Halaib Triangle.
  • As Arab countries find themselves pulled in to the internal negotiations among the Sudanese, they will face another potential point of contention. Sudan doesn’t just need democracy, but peace. This means a role for the Islamists both in Khartoum and the provinces. For a decade, the custodian of the Darfur peace process has been Qatar, the troika’s arch rival, and it will be impossible to ignore Qatar’s role or that of Sudan’s diverse constituency of Islamists. Some of these dynamics are already playing out and reveal the lack of a common strategy among the Arab troika
  • After the secession of South Sudan in 2011, Sudan lost 75% of its oilfields and an even greater proportion of its hard currency earnings. The following year, it literally struck gold and within a few years, gold was providing 40% of Sudan’s exports. As much as a third of it, however, came to be smuggled to Libya, Chad or directly by plane to the region’s biggest gold market in Dubai. The government in Khartoum, desperate to control the commodity, responded by using the Central Bank of Sudan as its sole buying agent, paying above the market price to gold traders and printing money to cover this outlay. Buying gold to convert to hard currency became the engine of Sudan’s inflation, which skyrocketed. By 2018, the price of essential commodities such as bread and fuel was so high relative to stagnant wages that the people across the country took to the streets to protest.
  • Hemedti. His RSF militia controls the gold mines and he personally owns a number of concessions. Through Sudan’s monetary policy, vast resources were transferred from wage earners in the centre of the country to militiamen and gold traders in the peripheries
  • Hemedti has also benefited massively from providing mercenaries, which may be Sudan’s second biggest source of foreign exchange today. A few months after the Saudis launched their war in Yemen in March 2015, Sudan volunteered to send troops. The first contingent was a battalion of the regular army, but then Hemedti struck a parallel deal to dispatch several brigades of RSF fighters. Within a year, the RSF comprised by far the biggest foreign contingent fighting in Yemen with at least 7,000 militiamen. Hemedti was paid directly by Saudi Arabia and the UAE for this service. He says he deposited $350 million in the Central Bank, but has not said how much he kept to himself for his own enrichment or political spending.
  • the Central Bank of Sudan has become an instrument for Hemedti’s political finance. And since becoming the central actor in Sudan’s ruling cabal in April, he has exerted an even tighter grip on gold production and exports while moving aggressively into other commercial areas. He has increased the RSF’s deployment in Yemen and sent a brigade to fight in Libya alongside General Khalifa Haftar, who is backed by Egypt and the UAE, almost certainly in return for Emirati financial rewards. Hemedti is also expanding his family business conglomerate, the Al-Junaid companies, and running his political business on the basis of personally handing out cash to key constituents such as tribal chiefs, the police, and electricity workers.
  • none of this addresses Sudan’s macroeconomic crisis: its rampant inflation, rapidly increasing arrears on international debt, and ostracism from the dollar-based international financial system
  • Sudan’s Gulf patrons are bailing out the country with a $200 million monthly subsidy in cash and commodities, but the bailout amounts needed will quickly become too big even for the oil-rich Gulf States’ deep pockets
  • a clash between Hemedti’s political market logic and Sudan’s macroeconomy is looming.  The Sudanese technocrats associated with the FFC are well aware of this, which is why the economists called upon to put themselves forward for cabinet positions have been reluctant to agree. There is a race between Hemedti’s consolidation of power and a re-run of the economic crisis and protests that led to al-Bashir’s downfall.
  • as Sudan’s economic crisis deepens, they will have to turn to the IMF and western creditors for assistance
Ed Webb

Erdogan Is Right on Egypt - Al-Monitor: the Pulse of the Middle East - 0 views

  • The reason for such passionate focus on Egypt is not a deep knowledge about this large Arab country. In fact, only a handful of Turks can speak Arabic well, something actively discouraged by Ataturk's education system, and most of those who comment on Egypt wouldn't even be able to name the main political actors. Rather, Turks are interested in Egypt because when they look at what's happening there, they see themselves.
  • Even in the secular camp, however, there have been only a few endorsements of the coup, while the main opposition leader, Kemal Kilicdaroglu, openly opposed it. After experiencing four coups in the past half century, Turks' support for civilian rule seems to have become the norm.
  • While the AKP only condemns the coup and its supporters, the secularists blame Morsi for bringing it on himself. Moreover, when the latter criticize Morsi’s “majoritarianism,” “power grab” or “Islamic agenda,” they are actually talking about Erdogan and warning him of similar tendencies.
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  • the AKP and its supporters use the coup in Egypt to defend their view that the Gezi Park protests that shook Turkey in June were in fact a similar “coup scheme.” They view the entire Gezi Park story as a made-in-the-West plot to topple Erdogan. So, when the same West exhibits a double standard regarding Egypt, shying away from calling the coup a coup, it becomes proof of the conspiracy. They see the West, through its secular puppets, as attacking elected Islamists on both sides of the Mediterranean.
  • when one goes to such Twitter hashtags as #stoplyingCNN or #CNN_STOP_Lying_About_Egypt, one finds both Islamist Turks and secular Egyptians angry at CNN for opposite reasons.
Ed Webb

Turkey Rattled by Weak Hand in Libya as Russia and Egypt Advance - 0 views

  • By assisting Egypt to protect its western border, Moscow has re-forged the military links of its former alliance with Cairo
  • The 75-year-old Haftar, who retains the loyalty of the parliament in Tobruk, is a central actor in the Libyan civil war. A former ally of deposed Libyan strong man Moammar Gadhafi who received his military training in the Soviet Union, Haftar maintains deep ties with Russia. Haftar’s forces control most of Libya’s oil facilities, particularly after they captured the ports along Libya’s “Oil Crescent” in September 2016, resulting in a rise in oil production from 300,000 barrels per day (bpd) to over 700,000 bpd in January 2017.  On February 21, 2018 Russian oil giant Rosneft signed an investment and crude oil purchasing agreement with Libya’s National Oil Corporation, paving the way for a major Russian role in Libya’s oil industry.
  • In January 2017, Haftar was invited aboard Russia’s aircraft carrier in the Mediterranean in order to conduct a video conference with Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu
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  • During Ahmet Davutoğlu’s tenure as Turkey’s prime minister, relations between Ankara and the Tobruk-based parliament deteriorated to the point where all Turkish firms were expelled from Libya. 
  • Ankara's efforts to gain influence in Libya pale in comparison to the security assets that Moscow and Egypt may be preparing for a more expanded military presence in Libya. On November 7, 2018, Haftar and his senior staff visited Moscow for their latest meeting with Russia's defense minister Sergei Shoigu. Following the session, the Libyan Armed Forces released a video showing the presence of Yevgeny Prigozhin, an associate of Russian President Vladimir Putin and linked to several Russian private military companies, including the Wagner Group that allegedly participated in operations in Syria. Prigozhin's presence at the Haftar-Shoigu meeting has suggested to observers within Russia and beyond that Moscow may be gearing up for some form of increased intervention in Libya with operations similar to those conducted in Syria.
  • from November 3 to 16, Egypt hosted a two-week long joint exercise with the militaries of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Kuwait, and Jordan. Dubbed Arab Shield 1, the exercise involved land, naval, and air forces as well as Special Forces and took place at Egypt's base in Marsa Matrouh. While some view the exercises as a step toward creating an 'Arab NATO' to confront Iran, the massive joint Arab exercise on Egypt's Mediterranean coast sent a clear signal to Turkey and demonstrated the sort of coalition Egypt could muster should it decide to expand its military footprint in Libya
  • both Russia and Egypt have strategic incentives to escalate their support for the aging Libyan commander Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar.  In April 2018, the general suffered a stroke and required hospitalization in an intensive care unit in Paris.  Although two of Haftar's sons are commanders in the Libyan National Army, it is unclear whether either one of them could maintain the loyalty of the coalition of diverse factions that have united under the figure of Khalifa Haftar.  It would behoove both Moscow and Cairo to press their current advantage and deepen their respective positions in preparation for a post-Haftar era.
  • Moscow’s military presence in Libya would enable the Kremlin to complete a Russian ring around the southern half of the eastern Mediterranean. It is worth noting that Vladimir Putin's Russia is more popular than NATO in Greece and among Greek Cypriots. With only 195 nautical miles (360 km) separating Tobruk and Crete, Turkey thus faces the prospect of eventually finding itself encircled by a Russian presence among all of its regional adversaries
  • The change in the balance of power in North Africa in favor of Russia and Egypt inevitably and severely undermines Turkey's already challenging strategic position in the Eastern Mediterranean.
Ed Webb

Behind Egypt's gift to Islamic Jihad - 0 views

  • About 80 members of Palestinian Islamic Jihad were released from an Egyptian jail on Oct. 17. Some had been detained without trial, and others had been sentenced by a Cairo state security court to lengthy jail terms for membership in a terror organization and threatening Egypt’s national security. The release followed an Oct. 14 meeting between senior Islamic Jihad officials, led by the organization’s head, Ziad Nahala, and senior Egyptian intelligence officials. Nahala, who arrived in Cairo from Beirut, was joined by leaders of Islamic Jihad’s armed wing, the Al-Quds Brigades, from Gaza
  • This was the first time that they were called to Cairo alone to resolve issues between Egypt and their organization, which is supported by Iran.
  • with Gaza surrounded by Israel and Egypt, even a radical, fundamentalist organization dedicated to establishing a Muslim state throughout Palestine, from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea, has to compromise and adapt its ideals to existing situations
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  • Egypt’s preconditions for the meeting indicate that it is able to dictate its wishes to the heads of Islamic Jihad in Gaza and elsewhere despite Cairo's hostility toward the movement and Egyptian leadership of the Sunni front aligned against the group’s sponsor state, Iran
  • Islamic Jihad, under total Iranian control, only has some 6,000 fighters, but some 8,000 rockets. Last November, Islamic Jihad launched a new type of rocket at Ashkelon. According to the organization, the rocket carried a larger warhead than the older ones in its arsenal. The group also made no secret of the fact that it owed its success to direct support from Iran, which regards Islamic Jihad as an integral part of the Islamist revolution.
  • Both Egypt and Israel, which regularly consult on security matters, realized that there could be no arrangement without Islamic Jihad as part of the arrangement. This is especially true given that Hamas, in a bid to avoid friction and clashes with Tehran, could give Islamic Jihad free rein, or a semblance of one, and would never conduct an all-out war against it as it does against Salafi groups in Gaza.
  • Clearly, the Egyptians are willing to go a long way to secure an Israeli-Hamas arrangement, as evidenced by the gesture it extended to Islamic Jihad in Cairo. After the first day of talks, Egypt immediately released 55 Islamic Jihad prisoners. Most of them returned to Gaza that same day, and some left for Beirut. An additional 25 detainees were freed two days later and returned to Gaza with Islamic Jihad's delegation.
  • For Egypt, an accommodation among Israel, Hamas and Islamic Jihad stands to restrain violence capable of trickling into the Sinai and setting off a conflagration there.
Ed Webb

Does Erdogan think Sisi is bluffing in Libya? - 0 views

  • UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres in July described conditions in Libya as "gloomy," adding that "time is not on our side." He expressed concern about foreign interference in the war, the 400,000 Libyans displaced by the conflict, and the spike in COVID-19 cases.
  • The World Bank had designated Libya at risk of endemic poverty as a fragile state experiencing high intensity conflict, and that was before the pandemic.
  • Egypt backs Khalifa Hifter, a military strongman whose forces have been rapidly losing ground to the Libyan Government of National Accord thanks to Turkey’s military intervention on the government side.
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  • Libya has become one of the Middle East’s regional fault lines, with Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia on one side, and Turkey and Qatar on the other
  • Russia and France also back Hifter, and Erdogan has been at odds with NATO ally French President Emmanuel Macron over differences over Libya
  • The United Nations recognizes the Government of National Accord, so Erdogan believes he has international legitimacy on his side.
  • If this all seems very 1914, even worse are the random acts that can escalate things.
  • On July 20, Sisi said a parliamentary resolution that day approving combat missions outside the country’s border had provided Egypt’s intervention in Libya “international legitimacy” if it decides to deploy
  • Sisi declared any move by the government to take Sirte, the hometown of former dictator Moammar Gadhafi and gateway to the fields, as a red line for Egypt. Sisi also has called for further arming of Libyan tribes in the region to hold off the Turkish-backed government offensive
  • Erdogan is loath to grant a seat at the table to Hifter, and may not take Sisi’s warning about the use of force seriously, Metin Gurcan writes.  “Sisi may be eager for an intervention, hoping to boost his popularity in the Arab world and sustain the UAE’s financial backing, but Ankara doubts the Egyptian military shares his eagerness,” writes Gurcan. “According to Turkish assessments, Egypt’s military would be reluctant to engage in a cross-border campaign with ambiguous military goals and risk losses that might damage its credibility and fuel internal rifts.”
  • The Turkish assessment is that Algeria and Tunisia would see Egyptian intervention as an unwanted escalation, as Simon Speakman Cordall explains, and that the United States and Russia, both close allies of Egypt, would advise against it.
  • “All those who have faith in Erdogan's Libyan policy, which is now contained by Russia, can count on the inconsistency of Turkey's president. There is nothing permanent for Erdogan. Hence, although a war with Egypt that could have erupted due to his miscalculation is averted for the time being, one can never know what the near future might bring.”
  • Erdogan’s personal relationships with both Putin and Trump have “strengthened Ankara’s hand” and “averted serious crises, which could even have escalated into direct military confrontations between Turkish and US/Russian forces, most notably in Syria” adding, “Ankara has also not held back from using its ties with Moscow and Washington against these powers, depending on the occasion.”
  • The Libyan conflict is, regrettably, on a path of "Syrianization," as Fehim Tastekin called it, the result of the jihadis shipped there by Turkey to fight on behalf of the Libyan government against Hifter.
  • as in Syria, Putin is working all angles, not only with Erdogan and Sisi, but also with Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed (known as MBZ) and others
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