By Luisa Frey
♦ “Assad is using starvation to commit his murders”, says FT columnist David Gardner. The many Syrians who face starvation are victims of a “silent massacre”, which does not seem to call as much international attention as the use of sarin nerve gas did.
♦ In Roula Khalaf’s opinion, Egypt is in the wrong path and deposed president Mohamed Morsi’s trial is a clear sign of that. As military rule creeps back, it seems that a much broader intolerance is setting in.
♦ Somalia’s pirate king Mohamed Abdi Hassan wanted to be immortalized on the big screen as a seafaring bandit and got arrested instead. He was caught by the police in Belgium, where he wanted to consult on the film based on his life. Known as “Afweyne” (“big mouth”), the pirate made Somali piracy into an organized, multimillion-dollar industry.
♦ Somali piracy is so lucrative that the Global Post asks: “Do you earn more money than a Somali pirate?” The World Bank, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime and Interpol’s Maritime Piracy Task Force estimate that the owners of 179 ships hijacked between since 2005 paid out ransoms totalling over $400m.
♦ In Murder on the Mekong, a report supported by the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, Jeffe Howe writes about the largest massacre of civilians outside of China in over half a century. It all happened in 2011 in the Golden Triangle – the borderlands between Burma, Laos and Thailand – and was first explained by Thai military commandos as a regular confrontation with drug runners. Read more
By Luisa Frey
♦ Foreign investors have the perception that it is getting harder to do business in China. By forcing multinationals to lower prices and improve their offerings, the Chinese government aims to raise the bar for domestic competitors and show citizens how their lives are improving under the new administration.
♦After travelling to China and meeting its leader, Xi Jinping, FT’s columnist Gideon Rachman comments on how the government is confident that China can keep growing more than seven per cent a year, proving the sceptics wrong.
♦The New York Times reports from Sochi, in Russia, which is preparing to host the Winter Olympics in February. For the narrow costal city, the $50 billion Games project has caused irritation as well as pride.
♦ Meanwhile, Egypt’s deposed president Mohamed Morsi’s trial started in Cairo. Foreign Policy’s Bel Trew describes the controversial court session, which ended with the following words from Morsi: “This is not a court. This is a coup.”
♦ In Syria, Islamist rebels use web postings with bloody portraits of dead fighters as a recruiting tool, reports the Washington Post.
♦ A new digital news startup, Vocativ, is capable of eavesdropping social-media conversations all over the world and running an analysis on the results, writes Jeff Bercovici at Forbes. Read more
By Catherine Contiguglia
♦ The public mood in Egypt is hardening against Islamists since President Mohamed Morsi was deposed – a result of fatigue with the turmoil caused by Brotherhood marches, and hostile local media that refrain from covering the bloody crackdown on Islamist protest camps.
♦ On the flip side, the crackdown on Islamist camps caused the most violent wave of Islamist violence against Christians in modern history, with attacks on 30 churches and at least four Christian deaths.
♦ In the hours before Egyptian security forces launched a crackdown on camps of pro-Morsi supporters, American diplomats were pushing for agreements between the two groups to avoid violence – all of which failed, as generals in Cairo ignored Americans “in a cold-eyed calculation that they would not pay a significant cost.”
♦ An event that brought together India’s prime minister with past, present and future bosses of the central bank yielded some insight into what the future might hold for the volatile economy, including bringing incoming RBI governor Raghuram Rajan on earlier, not adding new capital controls, and narrowing the trade deficit.
♦ Being an American among Brits sometimes “feels like being a guest who shows up at a memorial service wearing a Hawaiian shirt and traumatizes the mourners with intrusive personal questions,” writes Sarah Lyall of her 18 years as the New York Times’ UK correspondent.
♦ The partner of Glenn Greenwald, the Guardian journalist who revealed surveillance programs by the NSA using documents passed to him by whistleblower Edward Snowden, was detained for almost nine hours by UK authorities in Heathrow airport to be questioned under the Terrorism Act 2000.
♦ After almost 60 years, the US intelligence community has openly acknowledged that it was behind the controversial overthrow of Iran’s former prime minister Mohammed Mossadegh in 1953.
♦ Turkey’s greatest writer Orhan Pamuk converses with Simon Schama about recent developments in his country, including the “wonderful” uprising in Taksim square and the twilight of prime minister Tayyip Erdogan, and allows him to step into his home that has been transformed into a “Museum of Innocence.” Read more
In a rambling weekend statement, Egypt’s state information service complained of “severe bitterness” towards some western media coverage, which it deemed “biased” in favour of the Muslim Brotherhood. Forget that the Brothers had won legislative and presidential elections and are now facing one of the most brutal crackdowns in their more than 80-year history; they are, says the statement, terrorizing citizens, killing innocent people, and attacking the police. And they are being aided in their devious acts by al-Qaeda.
The police and army, meanwhile, are the heroes who have rushed to protect the people and their revolution and are now standing in the face of “terrorist” attempts to “fling the country into violence.”
Expressing dismay that several western media have been focusing on the outraged reaction of some western governments, the statement recommends that they pay closer attention to the support in Egypt’s war against terrorism delivered by the likes of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (the autocratic supporters of the anti-Brotherhood campaign.) Read more
By Catherine Contiguglia
♦ The Obama administration’s initial approach of staying mostly neutral following the ouster of Morsi is now moot, writes the FT’s Geoff Dyer. Though the United States currently has lost much influence, they must distance themselves from the military to have a voice in the longer-term political debate.
♦ It is “striking” how many people expected the recent violence in Egypt, writes Peter Hessler in the New Yorker in his analysis of why it happened now. Many Egyptians feel there was growing popular pressure to contain the Muslim Brotherhood movement following the removal of Morsi.
♦ The United States has lost all influence and soft power in Egypt by prioritising regional security interests over the interests of potential Egyptian voters in a fledgling democracy, writes Cynthia Schneider in Foreign Policy.
♦ The United States must cut off aid to Egypt, writes James Traub in Foreign Policy, because it is necessary for the United States to “look at themselves in the mirror, and to accept, if not like, what they see.”
♦ As the international community condemns the violence in Egypt that left hundreds of Brotherhood supporters dead, in the streets of a working class neighbourhood in Cairo, opinions are more nuanced. Many regret the blood shed but feel that the crackdown by the liberal government on Morsi supporters was necessary for the security of the country.
♦ Following elections that kept Robert Mugabe in power, businessmen are holding their breath to see if, and to what extent, he will actually pursue his “indigenisation” policy where all enterprises must be 51 percent owned by black Zimbabweans.
♦ The virtual currency that started out as a nerd experiment has allowed drug dealers to “win the war on drugs.” Online black markets hidden behind sophisticated anonymity software are revolutionizing the drug trade, selling a range of illegal drugs in exchange for Bitcoin, and then shipping sales right to customers’ doorsteps. Read more
What comes after the crackdown in Egypt?
The Egyptian army’s efforts to clear supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood from camps around Cairo has led to hundreds of deaths and a deepening political crisis. So what is the future for Egypt, and how is the rest of the world likely to react? Heba Saleh, Cairo correspondent, and David Gardner, senior international affairs commentator, join Gideon Rachman.
By Catherine Contiguglia
♦ The violence in Egypt has put Western diplomacy in a quandary that goes beyond a face-off between principles and interests, says Gideon Rachman. The United States and Europe must condemn the violent crackdown and cannot back a violent anti-democratic group, but by withdrawing all support from the current military government, they may find themselves powerless to influence events.
♦ International efforts to bring the warring camps in Egypt to the negotiating table have failed, but in order to end the violence, more diplomacy will be needed the FT writes in an editorial. Washington must suspend aid to Egypt’s military until parties agree to talks, the release of Mohamed Morsi must be on the table, and pressure needs to be exerted on the Muslim Brotherhood with the help of Turkey and Qatar.
♦ In choosing to not respond strongly to the violence in Egypt, the United States seems to be missing how grave this development is for Egypt and the region, writes Michael Hirsh in the National Journal. Hopes for a moderate Muslim participation in democracy are dashed, and extremism will likely replace it, while Egypt could end up reverting to a military junta regime.
♦ Amidst the horror, blood and mud within the camps of Morsi supporters, the work from an improvised gallery of comic artists from Brotherhood-affiliated papers continues to paper the walls.
♦ The idea of democracy for any potential Muslim voter was destroyed in the violence in Egypt, writes Robert Fisk in the Independent, and though what the future holds is unclear, what is certain is the initial feeling of unity that came with the Arab Spring no longer exists in Egypt.
♦ The most disturbing question raised by the violence in Egypt, writes Issandr El Amrani on the Arabist blog, is whether the escalation of violence is part of the desired goal, rather than a consequence. Some liberals who came out in favour of the coup of Mohamed Morsi may have thought it would lead to a better transition to democracy, but they were in the minority – most “appear to have relished the opportunity to crush the Muslim Brothers.”
♦ The US under-the-radar approach to the leadership in Egypt following the coup of Mohamed Morsi may have been appropriate to facilitate negotiations, but that time has passed, writes Marc Lynch in Foreign Policy. After the bloody crackdown on Morsi supporters, the United States must step away from the current regime.
♦The failure of the United States to follow their own laws and suspend aid to Egypt following the coup of Mohamed Morsi in which the army played a “decisive role” makes them complicit in the bloody crackdown on Morsi supporters, the Washington Post writes in an editorial. Their continued resistance to calling Morsi’s ouster a coup even after the crackdown is self defeating as continued support of the military will lead to a dictatorship rather than restore democracy.
♦ It is still the Egypt of Hosni Mubarak, writes Steven Cook in Foreign Policy. Political leaders on all sides have promoted narrow interests at the expense of what is best for Egypt, including the Muslim Brotherhood that carried on in Mubarak’s tradition of “whoever ruled could do so without regard to anyone who might disagree.” Read more
Supporters of ousted president Mohamed Morsi are detained by security forces at the Rabaa al-Adawiyya protest camp. Getty
Egypt’s security forces on Wednesday launched a much-anticipated operation to clear supporters of ousted president Mohamed Morsi from two protest camps in the capital, leaving scores dead and prompting protests around the country from Mr Morsi’s Islamist sympathizers, who clashed with police and attacked churches in southern Egypt.
Polarisation between opponents and supporters of the president increased dramatically in the wake of the popularly-backed coup that removed Mr Morsi, Egypt’s first democratically elected president, from office on July 3. He has languished in detention since, prompting his supporters to accuse the security forces of undermining democracy. Opponents of the former president accuse him of trying to impose an Islamist vision on Egypt and say the military coup was needed to ‘save’ the country. International efforts to mediate between Mr Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood group and the interim government, backed by the powerful defence minister Gen Abdel Fattah Sisi, failed as neither side showed willingness to compromise.
As the Islamist protest camps became increasingly disruptive in the traffic-choked capital and leaks of an imminent operation to clear them grew, the protesters vowed they would remain until Mr Morsi was restored to power, with some claiming they would rather die as martyrs than give up their protest. Warnings by activists, rights groups and some politicians that their forcible removal could ignite a cycle of violence were ignored and the Arab world’s most populous nation is once again riven by unrest.
Here is our pick of background reads on the latest episode in Egypt’s turbulent transition. Read more
By Catherine Contiguglia
♦ The signing of a contract between the Somali government and UK oil and gas exploration company Soma to collect data on onshore and offshore oil has been called non-transparent, and raised concerns about whether oil politics could destabilise the country’s fragile recovery.
♦ Prague’s CorruptTour agency is selling out bookings for their Crony Safari that brings tourists to a sites connected with the most famous corruption scandals – from an address registered by 600 companies to a school where cash can buy a degree.
♦ The monetary tightening by India’s central bank could close credit arteries and make it difficult for the country’s banks to cover a mass of rapidly souring loans, writes Reuters’ Andy Mukherjee, as short term funding costs have increased during a time where the economy has slowed and the stock market is slumping.
♦ The drive by policy makers to put Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac out of business doesn’t make any sense, writes Joe Nocera, as they are no longer bullies, are making the government money, and are necessary to uphold the core of American housing finance.
♦ The sit-ins being held around Egypt by those in favour of reinstating President Mohamed Morsi will likely not work, according to an analysis by Foreign Policy’s Erica Chenoweth, as studies show that nonviolent campaigns must follow a strategy of carefully sequenced moves, or they can end in catastrophe. Read more
Turkish actors Kivanc Tatlitug (L) and Songul Oden (R) (Getty)
It looks like the unkindest cut of all. After years in which the march of Turkish soap operas across the Middle East has been hailed as proof of Ankara’s soft power in the Arab world, someone wants to pull the plug.
The post-coup government in Egypt, which is barely on talking terms with Turkey, appears to be encouraging a boycott of Turkish soaps, a move that not only hits a showpiece cultural export but comes at a time when Ankara is confronting a host of problems in the Middle East.
The glory days of August 2011, when prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan was greeted by thousands of sympathisers at Cairo airport, seem very far away. Indeed the upheaval in the Arab world, which once seemed set to bolster Turkey’s influence, is turning into a serious headache on issues ranging from soap operas to shootings. Read more
By Catherine Contiguglia
♦ Civil activism in China is becoming a force the Chinese government can no longer ignore as activists increasingly unite to rally with broader demands, largely through the growing platform of social media.
♦ Following the initial applause for getting Israel and Palestine to the negotiating table for the first time in four years, US secretary of state John Kerry is facing deep scepticism about the two-day talks in Washington D.C.
♦ Borzou Daragahi argues that in the wake of Mohamed Morsi’s ouster in Egypt, Islamists should investigate their own role in contributing to the tensions in the years leading up to the coup.
♦ Alexei Navalny is hitting the streets “western-style” to revamp his mayoral campaign in Moscow six weeks before the vote.
♦ France’s culture minister Aurélie Filippetti has survived a tough first year in office, representing her party by bringing “extravagant” French culture to the level of the people, while still fighting for France’s “cultural exception.” Read more
♦ Ben Bernanke and the markets appear to be friends again, which might make tapering easier.
♦ George Bizos, Nelson Mandela’s lawyer, recalls the good times they shared.
♦ Chris Giles argues that, “After almost a century of gradual social progress and narrowing of wealth and opportunity gaps, Britain is slowly recreating a rentier society, where a family’s property ownership matters more than anything else.”
♦ Wolfgang Schäuble wants to leave a legacy in Europe, but his boss, Angela Merkel, is proving to be one of the obstacles between him and EU reform.
♦ Nasser al-Awlaki, a former minister of agriculture and fisheries in Yemen, is petitioning the US government to explain why they killed his grandson, a US citizen.
♦ Amy Davidson ponders what Trayvon Martin could have done to avoid getting into an altercation with George Zimmerman: “There is an echo, in what people say Martin should and shouldn’t have done, of what people say to women when bad things happen to them in dark places.”
♦ Mohamed Morsi hasn’t been seen since he was taken into custody – when do international circles start considering him a political prisoner?
♦ Bassem Youssef takes on the recent coup in Egypt: “Humanity has now become an isolated island among wild waves of discrimination and extremism.” Read more
♦ As the Chinese economy slows, some believe the government will stand firm in the face of the deceleration, potentially leading to much more pain as the cash-tight environment forces companies to cut spending and eats into fiscal revenues.
♦ In the wake of last week’s coup those living in Egypt’s provincial towns and cities are looking for ways to coexist, despite differences of opinion over the ousted president, Mohamed Morsi.
♦ Since Morsi’s ouster, there has been an end to the crippling energy shortages and the police have re-emerged. Is that an attempt to undermine the quality of life under the Islamist administration?
♦ Myanmar’s ban on virgin teak exports could put a strain on the luxury yacht industry.
♦ Francesca Borri, an Italian journalist, describes the travails of working in Syria as a freelancer and a woman: my editor… sent me an email that said: “Should you get a connection, could you tweet your detention?”
♦ The FT’s Roula Khalaf says that Algeria’s bloody civil war – which lasted for a decade after the military cancelled an Islamist poll victory in 1991 – has lessons for all sides in Egypt: for the military to not repress the Islamists, for the Islamists not to take violent revenge for the coup that ousted Mohamed Morsi, and for the liberals not to embrace the military’s strongarm tactics.
♦ The model for the Middle East, proving that democracy and Islam could coexist, sued to be Turkey. But this is no longer the case. Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been accused of tampering with secularism by promoting Turkey’s “own brand of Sunni Islam,” which has isolated him from both religious and secular forces.
♦ Saudi Arabia and the UAE, delighted at the overthrow of Morsi and the promises of interim authorities to regain stability, have pledged $8bn in aid to Egypt to help fight a slide in the pound and a foreign reserves crisis.
♦ Away from the Middle East, the FT Analysis page looks at the supercomputer. With its politicians mired in budget wrangling that have frozen current funding levels, the US looks set to be surpassed by China in the race to build an exascale supercomputer – a machine 1,000 times faster than the fastest of today. Such computers are vital for scientific simulations, including investigations into everything from earthquakes to the human heart.
♦ Self-imposed currency controls in Cyprus to aid crisis management have led to the devaluing of the euro there, prompting anxiety among business people.
♦ A brand new 64,000 sq ft military headquarters in Kandahar province that will never be used is being held up as an example of the massive scale of US wastefulness in Afghanistan as its military prepares to withdraw. Read more
♦ Under Morsi, joblessness in Egypt passed 13 per cent, the budget deficit ballooned and inflation rose beyond eight per cent. The financial woes that were the backdrop to Morsi’s year as president will leave the new government in desperate need of cash.
♦ The Economist argues that Morsi’s ousting should be cause for regret, not celebration.
♦ Wendell Steavenson describes the atmosphere in Tahrir Square over the last few days: “The crowds on the street went wild, taking it as a sign that they had already won. But this was also very clearly a coup.”
♦ The Egyptian military had given Morsi seven days to work out his differences with the opposition. AP examines the week which saw army chief Abdul Fatah al-Sissi demanding that Morsi step down and Morsi replying, “Over my dead body!”
♦ Frank Serpico, the ex-police officer who discovered one of the New York police department’s most infamous corruption scandals, is now battling against a local developer and town officials over the fate of pristine woodland.
♦ NPR reports on the trial of James “Whitey” Bulger, the Irish Godfather of Boston’s crime world. Read more
Erdogan with Major General Hassan al-Roueini in Cairo, 2011 (Getty)
Two years ago, Egypt was the scene of one of Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s greatest foreign triumphs. Now it is a country that he and much of Turkey look on at with anguish, a reminder that many of Ankara’s ambitions for the Middle East have come crashing to earth.
Turkey invested heavily in the Egyptian revolution and also in the government of Mohamed Morsi. Mr Erdogan was one of the first international leaders in early 2011 to call on then President Hosni Mubarak to heed the message of the demonstrators clamouring for his exit.
When, months later, Mr Erdogan visited Cairo, thousands of supporters greeted him at the airport.
Nor did ties end there. Ankara announced the extension of a $2bn loan to Cairo. Mr Morsi was acclaimed by the congress of Mr Erdogan’s ruling AKP last September. Just a few days ago, the Turkish prime minister discussed his plans to visit the Gaza Strip – which he would almost certainly travel to via Egypt. That trip looks much less likely today.
In sum, the Egyptian coup may be a devastating blow to Turkey’s vision of a more democratic, more Islamist-leaning Middle East in which Ankara plays a leading role, partly by virtue of philosophical ties with governments in the region, partly because of its own experience in beating back military influence. Read more
Egyptian soldiers stand guard on the streets of Cairo on Thursday (Getty)
If it looks like a military coup and has the effect of a coup – then it probably is a military coup. President Obama’s inability to use the “c” word, in relation to Egypt, is not because he has difficulty grasping what has happened. It is because, as soon as the United States declares that the Egyptian government has been overthrown by a coup, it is legally bound to cut off aid to Egypt.
Lying behind the question of whether to call this a coup lies a deeper western confusion. Western governments like to deal in clear moral categories: freedom-fighters versus dictators, democrats versus autocrats, goodies versus baddies. It makes foreign policy easier to understand, and easier to explain to the folks back home. Read more
For all the more-in-sorrow-than-in-anger protestations, this coup d’état was about as retro as they come. Troops surrounded state broadcasting headquarters early on, and once the army commander had finished his televised announcement of the government’s demise, the plugs were pulled on the ruling party, silencing its TV stations.
But the choreography of this coup – ousting Mohamed Morsi, Egypt’s first democratically elected and only Islamist president, after one year in power – was unusual.
General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, the army chief of staff, mobilised extra divisions of no mean significance. As he replaced Mr Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood with a transitional government, he was flanked by the Sheikh of al-Azhar university, the leading Sunni Muslim authority, the Pope of Egypt’s sizeable Coptic Christian minority, Mohamed ElBaradei, Nobel peace laureate and leader of Egypt’s liberals, and youthful activists who brought down the army-backed dictatorship of Hosni Mubarak in 2011, the high spring of the new Arab Awakening. Read more
Egyptians in Tahrir Square celebrate the army's 48-hour ultimatum to President Morsi (Getty)
In the surreal world of Egyptian politics, the embattled president, Mohamed Morsi, issued his response to the army’s ultimatum at 2 am on Tuesday morning. You’re too confusing, he told the generals, and why didn’t you consult me before?
The army itself, shortly after telling Mr Morsi that he had 48 hours to fix Egypt’s irreconcilable political differences — a threat that looked very much like a creeping coup –went on to post a clarification. It’s not a coup, said the second military statement, only an attempt to push politicians to reach consensus.
Instead of consensus, though, Egypt’s divided camps were digging in their heels on Tuesday, Tahrir roaring with anti-Morsi crowds and the Muslim Brotherhood staging its own show of support for the president. Read more