Archive for the ‘religious belief’ Category

Text of draft Egyptian constitution in English and Arabic

Wednesday, December 4th, 2013

The new draft constitution builds upon past achievements, and contains some notably progressive articles. It is being translated into English as quickly as possible. Articles 1-122 are reproduced in English at the following link.

“Text of constitutional amendments: First three parts (articles 1-83) of Egypt’s constitutional amendments adopted by the 50-member committee,” Islamic Societies Review Active Series, December 3, 2013.

Of course, no constitution can in and of itself, guarantee democracy. It can place strong tools in the hand of defenders of democracy and the rule of law, however. Close analysis of the emerging text in English translation is merited.

For an excellent summary of the entire text, see

Hend Kortam and Rana Muhammad Taha,”Divisions of power in the constitution under scrutiny,” Daily News Egypt, December 4, 2013.

For the full text of the draft constitution in English, see Nariman Youssef, Egypt’s draft constitution translated, Egypt Independent, December 4, 2013.

The Trenchant Observer

Iran, Syria, and the nuclear question

Sunday, November 10th, 2013

(Developing story)

Iran is within reach of achieving an expansion of its influence through solidifying an arc of Shia states or Shia-led states reaching from the Persian Gulf to the Mediterrean Sea. Iran, Iraq, Syria under Alawite rule, and a Lebanese state where Hezbollah is the largest party, has its own well-trained and well-armed militia and blocking or veto power over the actions of the government, represent a formidable challenge to Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, which have significant Shia populations subject to the pull of Iranian influence.

Despite the obvious benefit of removing chemical weapons from Syria and greatly resducing the chances they might fall into the wrong hands, the chemical weapons deal does not signal an advance for U.S. interests in the region, for it leaves al-Assad in power and increasingly dependent on Iranian economic and military support (including troops and commanders), with Hezbollah providing battle-hardened troops from Lebanon to support al-Assad militarily, particularly in decisive battles.

Proponents of a much-touted potential nuclear deal with Iran need to keep these broader considerations in mind. A nuclear deal that doesn’t address the Syrian question or that leaves Iranian nuclear weapons break-out capabilities intact, could prove to be an illusory achievement. In particular, an accord that would allow work on the Awak heavy water reactor to continue during an initial six-month “freeze” on Iran’s nuclear program is viewed by experts as allowing Iran to continue its advance toward achieving a nuclear weapons capability while sanctions are loosened.

Moreover, we must ask what made Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei suddenly become willing to settle the nuclear issue with the group of P5+1, immediately following Obama’s military back-down on Syria and what must have appeared in Tehran as lack of resolve to use military power.

For recent commentary, see:

(1) Jackson Diehl, “John Kerry’s Middle East dream world,” Washinton Post, November 10, 2013.

(2) Raniah Salloum, “Teherans Mann für Syrien: Irans gefährlichster General,” Der Spiegel, 10 November 2013 (17:34 Uhr).

Er ist Teherans Mann für heikle Missionen im Ausland: Kassim Soleimani, Chef der Eliteeinheit al-Kuds. In Afghanistan und im Irak hat er den Amerikanern bereits schwer zu schaffen gemacht. Jetzt soll er Irans Einfluss in Syrien retten.

(3) Julian Borger, “Iran nuclear programme deal in danger of unravelling; US negotiator leaves talks to reassure Israeli prime minister after France sinks bid to seal temporary agreement,” The Guarian, November 10, 2013.

(4) Julian Borger, “Last-minute rethink stalled deal on nuclear Iran; Details have emerged of how talks with Tehran in Geneva broke up at 11th hour after France and US took a robust stance,” The Guardian, November 11, 2013 (13.06 EST).

The Trenchant Observer

Disillisioned with Obama’s chemical weapons deal with the Russians, 12 Free Syrian Army groups form alliance with al-Nusra Front in Syria

Thursday, September 26th, 2013

Twelve “moderate” groups previously aligned with the Free Syrian Army, have given up on Obama and the West, forming a new alliance with the al-Qaeda linked al-Nusra Front in northern Syria. After Obama’s deal with Russia on chemical weapons, now on the verge of being backed by a relatively good Security Council Resolution—according to news reports—many insurgents have lost hope. They have declared that they will not participate in any Geneva II peace conference in Geneva.

They feel they have been sold out, have given up on Obama and the West, and have gone over to the other side–the al Nusra Front, which is comprised of al-Qaeda jihadists dedicated to imposing their fundamentalist version of the sharia (Islamic law) as the only law in the territory they control. The new groups have accepted this stipulation.

This development makes a negotiated peace settlement seem more distant than ever, unless Obama and the West can persuade Russia and Iran to curtail their military and financial support for the al-Assad regime.

Georges Malbrunot, “Syrie: des rebelles modérés rejoignent le camp des islamistes radicaux,” Le Figaro, le 26/09/2013 (à 13:46).

The Trenchant Observer

We are a bunch of curious people, that’s for sure, who care about the commission of evil in this world

Tuesday, September 17th, 2013

We are a bunch of curious people, that’s for sure. We are that small minority, minuscule perhaps, who follow foreign policy and world events in great detail, day-in and day-out, with passion.

Where does that interest in other countries and people who live in foreign lands come from? A family relation or family origin, perhaps. Maybe we knew or know someone from a foreign country.

For some reason, whatever it might be, we care. We care about those people in foreign countries who we may not even know. Why?

Something must have happened in the neural circuits of our brains, or in the spiritual circuits of our souls. Maybe we took some religious or moral belief seriously, all too seriously, so that it opened up our hearts to what happened to others, or what was done to them, in these far-off places. Somehow, our defenses against feeling their pain and horror became breached.

This seems to be true for many of us. For whatever reason, we have opened ourselves up to feel the pain and suffering of the world. Perhaps somewhere in our brief journey through this life we saw evil, or were touched by evil–real evil.

We are that very curious group of people who care, at an emotional, spiritual and moral level, about the evil that is done to others in this world, through torture, war crimes and crimes against humanity, for example.

A Russian, Fyodor Dostoevsky, once wrote,

“Pain and suffering are always inevitable for a large intelligence and a deep heart. The really great men must, I think, have great sadness …
Crime and Punishment

Maybe he was right. But one need not be a great woman or a great man to be open to the pain of others in far-away lands. Nor need the feeling of sadness become dominant in one’s thinking and behavior.

For us, this curious bunch of people who follow world events, with passion and empathy, with “Mitgefühl or “Mitleid”, as a German might say, this curious group of people who care about others for reasons “de l’humanité”, as a Frenchman might say, or “por la humanidad” as a Spaniard might say, what happens in Syria matters.

We care. We care about the wanton commission of war crimes and crimes against humanity, about the murder with chemical weapons by al-Assad of 1400 human beings in Ghouta, on August 21, 2013.

But in America, our leaders do not care, nor apparently do our countrymen, or enough of them. Not the way we do. Maybe nothing happened in the neural circuits of their brains, or in the spiritual circuits of their souls, like it did to us. Maybe they never had a genuine friend from an Arab-speaking country, an Arab-speaking friend. Maybe they can’t really see Syrian Arabs as human beings like us, the way we do.

All I know is that humanity has come to a terrible place, when leaders and peoples will not do what is required to halt the commission of evil on a massive scale.

Or even consider revoking most-favored-nation treatment for Russia, who stands strong in defense of, and in complicity with, the mass murderer and his crimes.

The Trenchant Observer

Decisiveness in Egypt: the Military, El-Baradei, and the al-Nour Party

Sunday, July 7th, 2013

UPDATE: Military in Egypt reportedly plan to appoint jurist as interim prime minister; el-Baradei will be his deputy.

See “Wende im Machtkampf: Sozialdemokrat al-Din soll Ägyptens Regierung führen; Ein Jurist soll Ägypten aus der Staatskrise führen: Präsident Mansur will den Sozialdemokraten Said Bahaa al-Din zum neuen Ministerpräsidenten berufen, Nobelpreisträger ElBaradei soll sein Stellvertreter werden,” Der Spiegel, 7 Juli 2013 (23:03 Uhr)

The greatest threat in Egypt, at this moment, would be evidence of indecisiveness on the part of General al-Sisi and the Egyptian military in designating a prime minister for the transitional government.

The central question is whether the al-Nour Party will have a veto over the plans and actions of the military in implementing its road-map for putting Egypt on a path that will lead not just to elections, but to true democracy.

See Said Shehata, “Profiles of Egypt’s political parties: Al-Nour Party,” BBC News, November 25, 2011.

The BBC summary of the parties positions, written in November, 2011, includes the following:

Programme and Goals

Applying Islamic Sharia in all aspects of life is the main goal.

They call for people to follow Islam that was practiced during the time of the Prophet Muhamad and his companions, and for Islamic ethics to be the terms of reference of daily life.

“The party aims at reforming people’s lives according to the Koran and Sunnah and a modern state based on Islamic ethics,” a senior party official, Yousry Hamad, told the BBC.

Al-Nour highlights the right to private property and economic competition as long as it does not damage public interests.

It asserts freedoms and rights as possible within the confines of Islamic Sharia.

Electoral Alliances

The party was part of the Democratic Alliance led by the Freedom and Justice Party, but they withdrew to establish a new bloc.

Yousry Hamad says the party wants a modern state based on Islamic ethics Their Islamic views are more conservative than those of the Freedom and Justice Party regarding Islamic Sharia and the relationship with Israel.

They believe in a strict application of Sharia law, such as implementing Islamic punishments known as Huddud. They also found it hard to deal with non-Islamist parties.

They have formed the Islamist Alliance with other parties including al-Gamma’ al-Islamiyya’s Reconstruction and Development Party and the Salafist al-Asala Party.

Women and Copts

The party programme states the right of Copts to have their separate personal status laws and their freedom of religion.

However, Copts are suspicious about Salafist intentions to apply Islamic Sharia.

Al-Nour calls for a Muslim male to be the president of Egypt because it is a Muslim state.

“If 95% of the population are Muslims, no wonder the president should be a Muslim because the president should preserve Islam,” said Yousry Hammad.

The party has no Copt on their list, saying no Christian approached the party. They call for women to focus on the family, which they say is their main duty in society.

In the party’s view women can be teachers and nurses, but not in leadership positions over men. It has 60 women as on the electoral list.

Behind the al-Nour party’s opposition to the naming of Mohamed al-Baradei as prime minister of the transitional government lies an implicit threat—not necessarily from the party, but from the circumstances and beliefs of some of its followers—that if their demands are not met, some of their followers will resort to political violence.

This is the same fear that has immobilized advocates of modernity in the Arab world for decades.

This implicit threat is likely to arise again when the committee is named to advise on amendments to Morsi’s constitution, which was drafted in illegitimacy and hurriedly submitted to a national referendum without even the minimal time necessary to analyze its provisions and organize an effective opposition campaign on a national scale.

For a look at what Islamist political violence looks like, as it occurred yesterday in Cairo, see

Martin Gehlen, “Armee und Polizei verlieren zunehmend die Kontrolle; Scharfschützen auf Dächern und Menschen mit Macheten auf den Straßen: Die Gewalt in Kairo nimmt zu – auch in Wohnvierteln und einem Krankenhaus,” Die Zeit, 7 Juli 2013 (17:25 Uhr)

It is understandable that al-Sisi and the military might hesitate in the face of the opposition of the Salafists represented by the al-Nour Party.

Yet they must reflect on the fact that the ultimate struggle in Egypt is between the forces of modernity including moderate Islamist forces, on the one hand, and the backward-looking Islamist parties which seek to impose a strict form of sharia or Islamic law on the poplulation, on the other. The intention of the latter was clearly manifested when the Muslim Brotherhood and their Freedom and Justice Party shoved through Morsi’s draft constitution after executing a legal coup d’etat on November 22.

While these challenges must be taken fully into account, the military will also have to assess the potential impact of and cost to their effort of appearing hesitant and indecisive, or even worse, appointing an interim prime minister who is incapable of leading the reforms that will be required if their military intervention is to achieve its stated purpose of putting Egypt back on the path to democracy.

In short, they need to appoint a transitional prime minister who is not merely acceptable to different political groups, but who can actually lead.

The Trenchant Observer

Egyptian military reverses Morsi’s November 22 coup, restores nation to democratic path (with full text of Army’s July 3, 2013 statement)

Wednesday, July 3rd, 2013

Statement of General Abdul Fatah Khalil al-Sisi, head of Egyptian Armed Forces, announcing the overthrow of President Morsi

Following is the statement delivered by General Abdul Fatah Khalil al-Sisi, the head of the Egyptian Armed Forces, on July 3, 2013, regarding the military takeover and road-map for the future in Egypt:

The Egyptian Armed Forces first declared, is still declaring and will always declare that it stands distant from political forces. The Armed Forces, based on its insightfulness, has been called by the Egyptian people for help, not to hold the reins of power, yet to discharge its civil responsibility and answer demands of responsibility. This is the message received by the EAF and heard in all of the country.

In turn this call was heeded by the EAF, and it has understood the essence of this message. Before it has come close to the political scene adhering to its responsibility, the EAF over the past month has inserted efforts, direct and indirect to contain the situation within and achieve national reconciliation among all institutions, including the presidency.

Since the past, the army has called for national dialogue, yet it was rejected by the presidency in the last moment. Many calls, initiatives followed until to date. The EAF similarly on more than one occasion presented a strategic assessment domestically and internationally, which contained the most eminent (this part unclear).

The EAF as a patriotic institution to contain division and confront challenges and perils to exit the current crisis. As we closely monitored the current crisis, the command of EAF met with the president on June 2nd where it presented the opinion of the AF on the state of (the country) and (relayed) the cause of masses and Egyptian people. Hopes were all pinned on national conciliation. Yet, the address of the president yesterday and before the expiry of the 48-hour ultimatum did not meet the demands of the people.

As a result, it was necessary for the EAF to act on its patriotic and historic responsibility without sidelining, marginalising any party, where during the meeting a road map was agreed upon which includes the following:

Suspending the constitution provisionally; The chief justice of the constitutional court will declare the early presidential elections; Interim period until president elected. Chief Justice will have presidential powers; A technocrat, capable national government will be formed; The committee will offer all its expertise to review the new constitution; The Supreme Constitutional Law will address the draft law and prepare for parliamentary elections;

Securing and guaranteeing freedom of expression, freedom of media. All necessary measures will be taken to empower youth so they can take part in decision making processes. The EAF appeal to the Egyptian people with all its spectrum to steer away from violence and remain peaceful. The Armed Forced warn it will stand up firmly and strictly to any act deviating from peacefulness based on its patriotic and historic responsibility.

May God save Egypt and the honorable, defiant people of Egypt.

–”Transcript: Egypt’s army statement; Statement of Abdul Fatah Khalil al-Sisi, head of Egyptian Armed Forces, announcing the ovethrow of President Morsi,” Al-Jazeera, July 3, 2013 (last modified 20:59).

See also:

Mary Mourad, “Revolution part 2: The fall of Mohamed Morsi; In response to millions of Egyptians taking to streets, army and number of political and religious leaders propose roadmap aimed at ending year of unrest,” ahramonline, July 3, 2013.

Those who have followed the details of developments in Egypt since Mohamed Morsi’s coup d’etat on November 22, 2012, will readily understand that the Army’s military takeover was an intervention to re-establish the constitutional order in Egypt. This fact was made abundantly clear by the highly symbolic selection of the president of Egypt’s Constitutional Court to act as interim leader of the government.

Foreign news reporters and analysts should fully inform themselves before simply labeling the Egyptian Army’s action as a military “coup d’etat”. A good place to begin would be with a legal analysis of Morsi’s actions, which can be found in previous articles published here.

For links to prvious articles by The Trenchant Observer on developments in Egypt since November, type “Morsi” into the Search box in the upper right-hand corner of the home page.

The Trenchant Observer

Venezuelan “Chavista” candidate Nicolas Maduro has encounter with “a little bird” embodying Chavez’ spirit, communicates by whistling with the bird

Tuesday, April 2nd, 2013

Nicolas Maduro, the Chavista candidate in the presidential elections to be held on April 14 in Venezuela, following the death of Hugo Chavez, recounted how “a little bird” embodying the spirit of Chavez blessed the launching of his campaign.

“I felt there as if he was giving us a blessing, saying to us: ‘Today launch the battle. Go to Victory. You have our blessings.’ That is what I felt in my very soul.”

Así lo afirmó durante el lanzamiento de su campaña en la casa del fallecido presidente venezolano.
En medio de la reunión, afirmó que sintió que el fallecido mandatario se le apareció en forma de “pajarito chiquitico” y lo bendijo al arrancar hoy la campaña electoral. (Lea también: Lula da Silva apoya a Maduro)
“Lo sentí ahí como dándonos una bendición, diciéndonos: ‘hoy arranca la batalla. Vayan a la victoria. Tienen nuestra bendiciones’. Así lo sentí yo desde mi alma”, relató Maduro en el patio de la casa natal de Chávez en Sabaneta, en el estado Barinas, en el occidente de Venezuela.
Maduro, que estaba acompañado de los hermanos de Chávez, sostuvo que al orar esta mañana en una pequeña capilla católica y al encontrarse totalmente solo, apareció el ave, con la que se comunicó con silbidos.
“De repente entró un pajarito, chiquitico, y me dio tres vueltas acá arriba”, dijo señalando su cabeza e imitando un aleteo. El pájaro, prosiguió Maduro algo emocionado, “se paró en una viga de madera y empezó a silbar, un silbido bonito”, dijo imitándolo.
“Me lo quedé viendo y también le silbé, pues. ‘Si tú silbas yo silbo’, y silbé. El pajarito me vio raro, ¿no? Silbó un ratico, me dio una vuelta y se fue y yo sentí el espíritu de él”, de Hugo Chávez, remarcó.

–EFE, 2 de abril de 2013, publicado en El Tiemo, 2 de Abril de 2013.

The Trenchant Observer

A Powerful Vision of International Peace: The United Nations Charter

Thursday, March 28th, 2013

UNITED NATIONS CHARTER

PREAMBLE

WE THE PEOPLES OF THE UNITED NATIONS DETERMINED

• to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, which twice in our lifetime has brought untold sorrow to mankind, and
• to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women and of nations large and small, and
to establish conditions under which justice and respect for the obligations arising from treaties and other sources of international law can be maintained, and
• to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom,

AND FOR THESE ENDS

• to practice tolerance and live together in peace with one another as good neighbours, and
• to unite our strength to maintain international peace and security, and
• to ensure, by the acceptance of principles and the institution of methods, that armed force shall not be used, save in the common interest, and
• to employ international machinery for the promotion of the economic and social advancement of all peoples,

HAVE RESOLVED TO COMBINE OUR EFFORTS TO ACCOMPLISH THESE AIMS

CHAPTER I: PURPOSES AND PRINCIPLES
Article 1
The Purposes of the United Nations are:
1. To maintain international peace and security, and to that end: to take effective collective measures for the prevention and removal of threats to the peace, and for the suppression of acts of aggression or other breaches of the peace, and to bring about by peaceful means, and in conformity with the principles of justice and international law, adjustment or settlement of international disputes or situations which might lead to a breach of the peace;
2. To develop friendly relations among nations based on respect for the principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples, and to take other appropriate measures to strengthen universal peace;
3. To achieve international co-operation in solving international problems of an economic, social, cultural, or humanitarian character, and in promoting and encouraging respect for human rights and for fundamental freedoms for all without distinction as to race, sex, language, or religion; and
4. To be a centre for harmonizing the actions of nations in the attainment of these common ends.
Article 2
The Organization and its Members, in pursuit of the Purposes stated in Article 1, shall act in accordance with the following Principles.
1. The Organization is based on the principle of the sovereign equality of all its Members.
2. All Members, in order to ensure to all of them the rights and benefits resulting from membership, shall fulfill in good faith the obligations assumed by them in accordance with the present Charter.
3. All Members shall settle their international disputes by peaceful means in such a manner that international peace and security, and justice, are not endangered.
4. All Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations.
5. All Members shall give the United Nations every assistance in any action it takes in accordance with the present Charter, and shall refrain from giving assistance to any state against which the United Nations is taking preventive or enforcement action.
6. The Organization shall ensure that states which are not Members of the United Nations act in accordance with these Principles so far as may be necessary for the maintenance of international peace and security.
7. Nothing contained in the present Charter shall authorize the United Nations to intervene in matters which are essentially within the domestic jurisdiction of any state or shall require the Members to submit such matters to settlement under the present Charter; but this principle shall not prejudice the application of enforcement measures under Chapter Vll.

CHAPTER VII: ACTION WITH RESPECT TO THREATS TO THE PEACE, BREACHES OF THE PEACE, AND ACTS OF AGGRESSION
Article 51
Nothing in the present Charter shall impair the inherent right of individual or collective self-defence if an armed attack occurs against a Member of the United Nations, until the Security Council has taken measures necessary to maintain international peace and security. Measures taken by Members in the exercise of this right of self-defence shall be immediately reported to the Security Council and shall not in any way affect the authority and responsibility of the Security Council under the present Charter to take at any time such action as it deems necessary in order to maintain or restore international peace and security.

The Trenchant Observer

White House thinking and Obama’s Reaction to Events in Egypt

Saturday, December 15th, 2012

The New York Times reports today on the thinking of officials behind the very bland reaction of Barack Obama and the United States to recent developments in Egypt, including Morsi’s seizure of dictatorial powers and the draft constitution which he pushed through the National Assembly–using dictatorial powers and by-passing the Constitutional Court– and submitted to the national referendum now being held on December 15 and December 22.

See David D. Kirkpatrick, “Obama Walks a Fine Line With Egyptian President,” New York Times, December 13, 2012 (December 15, 2012 print edition).

According to Kirkpatrick, following the clashes on December 6 between pro- and anti-Morsi demonstrators in front of the presidential palace, which left seven individuals dead, Obama in his call to Morsi did not reprimand him for what had happened.

Instead, a senior Obama administration official said, the American president sought to build on a growing rapport with his Egyptian counterpart, arguing to Mr. Morsi that it was in his own interest to offer his opposition compromises, in order to build trust in his government.

“These last two weeks have been concerning, of course, but we are still waiting to see,”said another senior administration official… “One thing we can say for Morsi is he was elected, so he has some legitimacy”(emphasis added).

As Egyptians vote Saturday on the draft constitution, the results may also render a verdict on …the Obama administration’s bet that it can build a workable partnership with a government guided by the Brotherhood — a group the United States shunned for decades as a threat to Western values and interests.

As for Mr. Morsi, administration officials and other outside analysts argue that so far his missteps appear to be matters of tactics, not ideology, with only an indirect connection to his Islamist politics….

What is more, the leading opposition alternatives appeared no less authoritarian…

But White House officials say that although the (constitutional) charter may be vague, it does not impose a theocracy. “The question will be, how does the next Parliament implement what is in the constitution, and what is their vision for Egypt?” said Tommy Vietor, a spokesman for the National Security Council.

Under current Egyptian law, the president is allowed to fill about a third of the seats in the upper house of Parliament, known as the Shura Council, and one idea is that he could appoint political opponents, evening out the balance. The chamber is the sole legislature until parliamentary elections, handling delicate matters like the election laws.

It is absolutely amazing to hear the kinds of arguments the president and his aides employ in discussing what is going on in places like Syria, or Egypt.  After a coup d’etat, the use of Nazi “brown-shirt” tactics to shut down the Constitutional Court, and the deaths of seven demonstrators, the thinking in the White House is that these events are “concerning”?

The aides who are quoted in Kirkpatrick’s article obviously have no personal understanding of the Middle East or what is going on in Egypt. It is fightening to consider that these individuals are influencing and reflecting White House thinking on such key policy decisions.

It was not too long ago, it will be recalled, when Obama’s policy toward Syria consisted of plans to ask the Russians for help.

See Matt Williams, “US condemns Syria massacre and looks for Russian help to oust Assad; Hillary Clinton harshly condemns Syrian president as Obama reportedly plans to urge Putin to back a transition of power,” The Guardian, May 27, 2012.

The thinking at the White House, on Egypt as on Syria, is at a very high level of abstraction, with ideas being thrown out without the staff work and winnowing process through which proposals which come up through the State Department normally have to pass. In effect, Obama by directly controlling the foreign policy of the U.S. on critical issues, such as Egypt and  the policy toward toward Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood, tends to cut out the inputs of the ambassadors, area experts, and higher officials in the State Department who should have a better idea of what is really going on. The Secretary of State, who should be centrally involved in these decisions, seems to have been relegated to a secondary role. 

Above all, thinking by Obama and his aides on foreign policy tends to consist of abstract ideas, which lack the granularity of ideas that are anchored in a deep appreciation of events on the ground, the context in which they occur, and their implications.

If the United States is to correct these defects and to shift its course from one of repeated foreign policy failures (Benghazi is but one example, emblematic of the rest), President Obama will need to select a new foreign policy team with clout.  He will need to find–and enlist–people of great stature, capability and relevant experience, who because of who they are and their own internal make-up have the ability to tell him directly when and why they disagree with him whenever they do.

The smartest man in the room needs other smart people in the room, who will speak forthrightly to him–and to whom he will listen.

The Trenchant Observer

Further reading:

The Trenchant Observer, “Morsi’s coup in Egypt: Obama’s silence, America’s shame,”
December 7, 2012

David Ignatius, “Our man in Cairo,” Washington Post, December 7, 2012 (5:01 p.m.)

The Trenchant Observer, “Is Obama losing Egypt?” December 6, 2012

Egypt at the Crossroads: Forced “Dialogue” Convoked by Military for Wednesday (December 12)

Tuesday, December 11th, 2012

Forced “Dialogue” Convoked by the Military on Wednesday, December 12; Divided Opposition v. Morsi’s Determination and Instransigence; Fateful Days for the Military, and for Egypt

On Monday, December 10, we wrote:

The future of Egypt may once again be in the hands of the armed forces and the police. How they respond may not necessarily depend on the orders they receive from the new leadership appointed by Morsi, but rather on the soldiers and policemen whose brothers and sisters are also in the street.

To that conclusion, we should now add:

Or it may be lost by continuing divisions and a lack of unity on the part of Morsi’s opponents.

The military has now convoked a dialogue on Wednesday between Morsi and the opposition. The meeting is to be held, significantly, at a military venue.

While the military may be tempted to think that its independence and perogatives will be safeguarded under the new constitution, they would do well to ponder how trustworthy the Muslim Brotherhood has proved to be in the past in dealing with secular forces, or any force that stands in their way. They might also consider the possibility of an emerging alliance between Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood of Egypt, Hamas, and the Islamic forces in Syria (including the Muslim Brotherhood in Syria) which will be vying for power after the al-Assad regime collapses. Their ability to uphold the peace treaty with Israel, under these circumstances, could be put to the severest of tests.

Although the military has great leverage in the present situation, so too does the democratic opposition. If they are able to adopt a united approach, and if they then fail to do the military’s bidding and continue their active opposition to a new constitution (whether rejected at the polls on December 15 or adopted through a vote shaped by dictatorial actions), the point may come where the military will have to choose sides. If they choose to back Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood, their claim to being the neutral arbiter and guarantor of Egypt’s democratic future will collapse.

There may be no Egyptian Ataturk waiting in the wings, or even an Egyptian Erdogan, but at least one thing has become crystal clear since November 22: the Muslim Brotherhood of Egypt is a powerful anti-democratic force.

It is not even clear at this point who is calling the shots for Morsi’s government, be it the Supreme Guide or some faction of the Muslim Brotherhood, or Morsi himself–”the enforcer” of internal discipline within the Brotherhood before he ran for the presidency.

Who, indeed, is in charge of the presidency of Egypt at this crucial hour?

Any dialogue on Wednesday, or later, will necessarily have to take these questions into account.

The Trenchant Observer