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