Massive Terror Attack on Military Checkpoints in Egypt’s Sinai Kills Dozens

CI0r3wTWsAAM86yPJ Media, by Patrick Poole, July 1, 2015:

A coordinated attack by terrorists on multiple Egyptian military checkpoints in north Sinai has left dozens dead with fighting still ongoing in some areas, according to multiple reports.

update

sinai attack

tweet678

Wilayat Sinai, the ISIS affiliate operating in Sinai and formerly known as Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis (ABM) until their merger with ISIS in November 2014, has reportedly already taken credit for the attack:

haaretz tweet

This attack comes just two days after the assassination of Egypt’s Prosecutor General Hisham Barakat, whose funeral was yesterday.

tweet1234

The attacks occurred near Sheikh Zuweid not far from the Rafah border crossing into Gaza.

tweets456

***

If casualties are in fact 60 dead or more, this would be one of the biggest terror attacks in Egypt’s modern history and definitely would mark an escalation in the conflict between terrorist groups and the Egyptian government in the two years since the ouster of Muslim Brotherhood President Mohamed Morsi.

***

Egypt is one of the top U.S. allies in the Middle East, though the Obama administration withheld military supplies from Egypt for nearly two years as the insurgency in the Sinai escalated, only relenting recently.

sisi234

Read more

Also see:

‘Al-Ahram’ Editor: ‘Washington Post’ Waging A Vicious Campaign Against Al-Sisi Regime In Service Of Muslim Brotherhood

Muhammad 'Abd Al-Hadi 'Allam (image: ahram.org.eg)

Muhammad ‘Abd Al-Hadi ‘Allam (image: ahram.org.eg)

MEMRI, June 22, 2015:

In an article titled “Political Pamphlets in an American Paper,” the editor of the Egyptian government daily Al-Ahram, Muhammad ‘Abd Al-Hadi ‘Allam, slammed the U.S.’s Washington Post for its frequent attacks on the Egyptian regime since the ouster of former Egyptian president Muhammad Mursi. According to ‘Allam, the Washington Post is waging a “vicious campaign” and voicing “open incitement” against Egypt in the service of “terror organizations” such as the Muslim Brotherhood. This, while refraining from criticizing human rights violations or the absence of press freedom in countries like Turkey and Qatar.[1]

The following are excerpts from the article:[2]

“No country in the world [other than Egypt] receives so much attention in Washington Post editorials, which are full of a strange and pathetic fury over this country’s domestic affairs – to an extent that indicates the existence of a vast lobby behind these articles, whose number has broken every record in the last few months.

“The press inside and outside Egypt is entitled to write whatever it wants, and we have a right to tell [our] critics that the strength and the reputation of a great country that is undergoing a process of rehabilitation are not a ‘toy’ in the hands of interests groups that hammer the readers over the head every morning with editorials that constitute a vicious campaign. [This campaign] first of all undermines the faith in the changes that are currently happening in Egypt, and in its economic growth on the eve of the opening of the new Suez Canal in less than two months.

“The ongoing and widespread use of terms such as ‘oppressive state’ and ‘tyranny’ in this big American paper’s editorials [about Egypt] constitutes open incitement against the Egyptian state and against its judiciary, which is presented as a [mere] tool in the hands of the regime. [This criticism] is part of an ongoing attempt by some Western media to kill the rule of law [in Egypt] in favor of terrorist organizations that have become masters of deception, cheating and killing in the name of religion [namely the Muslim Brotherhood].

“During this period, we did not find in this widely-distributed American paper even one investigative article about the ideological roots of the culture that [condones] violence and opposes the nation state. [This is the culture of] the groups of political Islam, which have been the eternal allies of the U.S. and Britain since the 1920s. We never saw [in this paper] a single report about the deadly violence against Egypt’s civilians, police officers and military personnel. At the same time, there is plenty of sympathy and compassion for the Muslim Brotherhood and its leaders, who have fled to Arab and foreign countries in order to spread their endless poison. These are the same leaders against whom millions of angry [Egyptians] came out in the June 30 revolution.

“The Egyptian people left the handling of this issue to the police and the military, and let them deal with this group that is undermining the abilities of the nation states. [So far], we have not seen or heard that any of the imaginary assessments regarding the imminent collapse of the [Egyptian] state and the shattering of its foundations have come to pass. These papers’ efforts to spread [these assessments] is an open game, which most Egyptians receive with a sarcastic smile and with pity for these foreign reporters and for their Egyptian collaborators who see only what they want to see, while ignoring reality.

“The American paper displays overt hostility towards Egypt in its editorials, but it does not dare direct criticism at countries that never practiced democracy [at all]… [This,] out of concern for American interests and in order to avoid clashing with interest groups inside [the U.S.] that are close to those countries. Had the paper been fair, it would have discussed the issue of human rights and freedom of the press in Turkey, [or] the issue of the foreign laborers in Qatar, just as it addresses the situation in Egypt.

“The Egyptians practical response to this paper’s claims in recent days regarding empty promises [made by President Al-Sisi] will come when we invite papers from around the world to attend the inauguration ceremony of the new Suez Canal and the vast projects associated with it. Then we will see the promises that the president has undertaken [to fulfill] for the sake of his people – while other people justify the crimes of the terrorists between the lines [of their articles] and want the circle of bloodshed to widen and grow. The response of the [Egyptian] state and people in the coming months will expose the campaign of lies and deception that has been waged in Washington by fugitives from Egyptian justice and by agents [of various parties]. [This campaign] is waged on recruited websites and papers and in foreign papers that are more concerned with destroying the abilities of the Egyptian state than in supporting the interests of their countries.

“The ‘political pamphlet’ press will fall, even if it originates in the capitals of the very countries that gave rise to the theory of democracy and turned the Arab East into hell. And in case you have forgotten, let us remind you of the crime of your silence over the Iraq war and of what your people did in Abu Ghraib prison, or the disasters that later befell the Arab world!”

Endnotes:

[1] In an article published in Al-Ahram on June 22, columnist Ahmad ‘Abd Al-Tawwab likewise attacked “some large newspapers around the world that lean in favor of the Muslim Brotherhood” and that have lately been harshly criticizing the Al-Sisi regime and calling it a “coup regime.” According to ‘Abd Al-Tawwab, these papers deliberately harm the reputation of the Al-Sisi regime and blame it for things that are not its fault, with the aim of evoking sympathy for the Muslim Brotherhood. He added that these papers attack Egypt because certain countries “unfriendly to Egypt” have lately purchased shares in them, and also because they are influenced by the Muslim Brotherhood’s global lobby. He accused the papers of “committing shameful crimes” and called to hold them accountable. He added that he could understand why Egypt is taking this matter so lightly, and called it to confront the “deliberate attack and the fabrications.”

[2] Al-Ahram (Egypt), June 18, 2015.

Also see:

Egypt’s Grand Mufti Court Upholds Death Sentence of Former President Morsi

morsi sentenceCAIRO, June 16 (UPI) — Egypt’s Grand Mufti court in Cairo on Tuesday upheld the death sentence of former President Mohamed Morsi over a prison break.

Morsi and more than 100 Muslim Brotherhood members were sentenced to death in May for breaking out of the Wadi Natroun prison in 2011. The decision to uphold the death sentence was passed to Egypt’s highest religious authority, the Grand Mufti.

The death sentence can still be appealed.

Morsi was also sentenced to life imprisonment on espionage charges along with 16 other Muslim Brotherhood members, accused of spying for the Palestinian militant Islamist group Hamas. Three other senior Muslim Brotherhood leaders were sentenced to death by hanging.

In Egypt, life imprisonment sentences equate to 25 years in prison.

The judge said the Muslim Brotherhood “collaborated with Palestinian Hamas to infiltrate Egypt’s eastern borders and attack prisons.”

Morsi is already serving 20 years after being convicted of inciting violence and torturing protesters outside the presidential palace in 2012, but was acquitted in their deaths. He has previously said he is innocent of all the charges, claiming he is the victim of a coup led by current President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi.

Morsi was Egypt’s first freely elected president after the downfall of Hosni Mubarak’s 30-year rule, but unrest began less than a year into his term when he declared himself to have far-reaching powers. He was overthrown in 2013.

Also see:

If the death penalty is not approved and the civil court ignores the disapproval and goes forward to implement the death penalty, this could mean that the court is secured by the backing and protection of the President in order to serve justice. This in turn reveals that Al-Sisi is truly willing and able to go forward with cleaning corruption and rolling back religious extremism in an effort to reform the country.

Security Guard at U.S. Embassy in Egypt Arrested as a Terrorist

Amr Dalsh/Reuters

Amr Dalsh/Reuters

Daily Beast, by Jamie Detmer, June 11, 2015:
To the shock of U.S. officials, authorities in Egypt have arrested the local employee and charged him as the purported commander of a radical Islamist organization.
Egyptian authorities have arrested an Egyptian security guard at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo, claiming he is a senior figure in an Islamist terrorist organization. U.S. officials are scrambling to get information from Egyptian authorities, who did not alert them beforehand.An embassy official confirmed to The Daily Beast that 42-year-old Ahmed Ali, accused by the Egyptians of helping to plan or taking part in more than a dozen attacks on security forces, was an employee in the security service at the mission in downtown Cairo. Egyptian authorities are claiming he is a commander in the militantHelwan Brigades.Both the lack of any forewarning by the Egyptian authorities and the apparent security failure by the U.S. State Department, which failed to unearth Ali’s membership in the brigades, is likely to prompt outrage on Capitol Hill.

Security for all of the U.S. embassies in the Middle East is meant to have been tightened since the 2012 militant assault on the U.S. diplomatic outpost inBenghazi in eastern Libya that led to the death of Ambassador Christopher Stevens.

The disclosure of the arrest by Egyptian authorities on Wednesday came just hours before a suicide bomber blew himself up outside Luxor’s ancient Karnak temple in southern Egypt in an attack that left four people, including two police officers, wounded. Police said they also killed two of the bomber’s accomplices.

No group has as yet claimed responsibility for the attack at the spectacular temple, with its dozens of sphinxes and beautiful bas reliefs of ancient gods, which is part of a UNESCO World Heritage site on the Nile River. But some analysts speculated that the attack may have been organized by the so-called Islamic State, which has been courting local jihadis, seeking to persuade them to affiliate with the terror group based in Syria and Iraq.

Firas Abi Ali and Ludovico Carlino of IHS, a global risk consultancy, argue the bombing is unlikely to be the work of an al Qaeda-affiliated Egyptian group such as Ajnad Misr, or the Soldiers of Egypt, which recently announced it is trying to avoid Muslim casualties. “It is likely to be the work of the Islamic State, which sees Ancient Egyptian temples as idolatrous,” the analysts say. They believe the attack may herald the announcement by ISIS of an affiliate in Egypt.

It is the second time this month that suspected Islamic extremists have attacked a major Egyptian tourist attraction or launched a raid nearby. On June 3, gunmen on a motorcycle opened fire outside the Giza Pyramids on the outskirts of Cairo, killing two policemen.

The Helwan Brigades are not the most dangerous of militant groups organizing attacks in Egypt but members are thought to be behind the killing of a policeman, setting fire to police cars, staging Molotov cocktail attacks and bombing a university in southern Cairo, in the district the group takes its name from, Helwan. Egyptian authorities accuse the group of being affiliated to the now-outlawed Muslim Brotherhood. A former member of the Helwan Brigades, 22-year-old Waleed Saad, recently confessed to responsibility for the murder of a policeman and the bombing of the university.

According to Egyptian authorities, Saad told interrogators that two senior members of the Muslim Brotherhood provided the group with weapons that were later used in attacks against security forces, including on a police station in the district of Zilzal. Some analysts are treating his confession with caution, since Egyptian interrogators are known to employ torture.

In August last year the Helwan Brigades posted a video online threatening security forces and “the Interior Ministry in South Cairo” with violence, saying they were “fed up with the Muslim Brotherhood’s peacefulness.” On the video one man insisted they were not members of the Muslim Brotherhood and warned the Egyptian Interior Ministry that it “would be targeted for what you have done to us.”

He added: “You have shown no consideration for the fact that we are your brothers. You have shown no consideration for anything. You have shed blood and stepped on us. You have raped the women. You have impregnated the Muslim women.” More than 200 alleged members of the group were arrested last summer and charged with “plotting against the police and the army, and against official facilities.”

Egyptian State prosecutors have alleged that the Muslim Brotherhood, after an army-led coup backed by large street protests ousted the government of the Brotherhood’s Mohamed Morsi, assigned members to form militant groups including the Helwan Brigades, the Ultras, and the Anti Coup Alliance.

Muslim Brotherhood officials vehemently deny the allegation.

Rights groups accuse the Egyptian authorities of erroneously painting the Muslim Brotherhood as linked to militant Islamists, jihadis, and terrorists without distinguishing among them. But following the ouster of Morsi, the country’s first freely elected president, and the mass arrests of senior Muslim Brotherhood leaders, younger members have drifted toward more violent action.

In a statement issued to the Egyptian press Wednesday a U.S. embassy spokesman said: “We understand an embassy employee, who is an Egyptian citizen, has been arrested by Egyptian security. We are in touch with Egyptian authorities regarding the charges and the next steps in the legal process.”

Also see: http://www.centerforsecuritypolicy.org/2015/06/10/suicide-bombing-at-luxor-temple-highlights-threat-to-egypt-tourism/

Could Hamas be the Next Nobel Peace Prize Winner?

2009-01-08-hamas-firing-rockets-in-gaza-600CSP, by Rachel Silverman, June 10, 2015:

The United Nations and Egypt have both decided to not label Hamas a terrorist organization. When the U.S. State Department created its list of foreign terrorist organizations in 1997, Hamas was one of the first names on it. But I guess according to the UN and Egypt, they somehow don’t qualify to be grouped with armies and guerilla groups that kill and maim children in conflicts worldwide.

On Monday morning, the UN decided to leave Hamas off its blacklist of nations and armed organizations that violate children’s rights during conflict. Despite endless documentation of Hamas using hospital patients and children as human shields.

There is evidence that shows Hamas placing weapons and missile launchers in densely populated areas during Operation Protective Edge. They also sent men, women, and children to act as human shields for terrorists. Innocent bystanders were killed as a result of Hamas’ abuse of its own civilians. Instead of keeping its citizens out of harm’s way, Hamas encouraged and even forced Gazans to join its violent resistance against Israel.

During Operation Protective Edge Hamas also used hospitals as a command center and to launch attacks against Israel. Unfortunately, using hospitals as part of its human shield is not new for Hamas. A PBS report from 2007 shows how Hamas gunmen intimidated the staff at al-Shifa hospital.

During Operation Cast Lead in 2009, The New York Times reported that:

“Hamas has used the last two years to turn Gaza into a deadly maze of tunnels, booby traps, and sophisticated roadside bombs. Weapons are hidden in mosques, schoolyards and civilian houses, and the leadership’s war room is a bunker beneath Gaza’s largest hospital.”

On Saturday, the Cairo Appeal Court for Urgent Matters canceled a previous verdict labeling Hamas as a terrorist organization. The court said the lower court lacked jurisdiction to issue such a verdict in the first place, according to the report.

On February 28, the Cairo Court for Urgent Matters made the ruling after an Egyptian lawyer filed a lawsuit in last November calling for banning Hamas and classifying it as a terror organization.

Hamas, an offshoot of Egypt’s blacklisted Muslim Brotherhood group, used illegal underground tunnels connecting Egyptian Rafah to its twin Palestinian town to enter the country and smuggle weapons to attack Egyptian police and army personnel.

Hamas militants have also been accused of carrying out terrorist attacks and killing over 30 people in late October 2014 as well as carrying out an armed jailbreak to free Brotherhood members during Egypt’s popular uprising in 2011.

So tell me why Egypt thought it was a good idea to overturn a verdict that labeled Hamas a terrorist organization?

On January 31, the same court listed al-Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of Hamas, as a terrorist organization. The court ruling came days after a series of bloody attacks occurred in Egypt’s restive Sinai Peninsula that killed at least 33 soldiers and policemen. So let me get this straight, Hamas isn’t a terrorist organization, but their military wing is, makes a lot of sense of to me.

The Egyptian government has been at odds with the group repeatedly, with longtime President Hosni Mubarak lashing out at the group and refusing to recognize Hamas’ rule in Gaza. In December 2014 the current Egyptian President, Abdel Fattah al-SISi, viewed Hamas’ movement as subversive, acting against Egypt’s national security and in line with its mother-movement the Muslim Brotherhood.

For years Egypt has played a major role in peace negotiations between Israel and various Palestinian factions, with Egypt being seen as fairly impartial by both sides. There is no doubt in my mind that this new ruling will affect Egypt’s position as a mediator between the two sides.

Also see:

Egypt helping organize anti-Muslim Brotherhood Syrian opposition

640x392_65997_224309-190x150CSP, by Ashley Davies, June 8, 2015:

A two-day conference of Syrian opposition leaders in Cairo is set to wrap up today, June 9th. The conference, a continuation of meetings in January, intended to develop a political solution to Syrian turmoil and form a new coalition called the Syrian National Opposition. In January, over 150 representatives of 40 Syrian political parties and organizations gathered and drafted a 10 point document on the new coalition’s goals. These points included backing a political solution in Syria, rejecting foreign military presence in Syria, releasing all hostages and detainees in Syria, and following the Geneva I communiqué.

The meetings on Monday and Tuesday, organized by Haytham Manna, were also set to elect a political committee and establish a policy charter. The political committee, the Syrian National Opposition, is said to be in favor of separation of state and religion, equality of all Syrian citizens, and seeks to criminalize political sectarianism and terrorism. Manna claimed the conferences have taken place in Cairo because the “Egyptian Foreign Ministry has always maintained good relations with all the currents of the Syrian opposition.”

Amongst those attending the most recent conference included 75 members of the National Coalition of Syrian Revolution and Opposition Forces, of whom Manna says approximately 20 of the democratic members are with him.

Attendees included Haytham Manna and Ahmad Jarba. Manna, one of the main organizers of the conferences, is well known for being highly critical of the Muslim Brotherhood’s role in the Syrian opposition. Manna has accused the Brotherhood of being the cause of Syrian turmoil and forcing Syria to embrace “Islamism”. In response, the Muslim Brotherhood have accused Manna of aiding the Assad regime’s interests. Jarba was elected president of the Syrian National Coalition in March 2014, assisting Mustafa al-Sabbagh’s faction, in an attempt to oust the Brotherhood out of the opposition, take over all other positions in the Coalition. The undermining of the Brotherhood’s presence in the Coalition resulted in substantial ill will between many of the Brotherhood’s members towards Jarba.

The presence of these high-ranking Syrian leaders at odds with the Muslim Brotherhood highlights the fact that Egypt’s motives for hosting the conference may extend to a desire to help form Syrian coalition with a strongly anti-Brotherhood stance. Tensions between Egypt and the Muslim Brotherhood have been high since Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi, a member of the Brotherhood, was forced out of office in a coup in 2013. Most recently, Egypt has expressed in intense displeasure with the United States meeting with Muslim Brotherhood members. Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s  administration playing host the Syrian opposition conferences, we can expect Egypt to attempt to encourage an outcome that best undermines the Brotherhood.

Egypt Proposes ‘International Law to Criminalize Contempt of Religion’

Reuters

Reuters

Breitbart, by THOMAS D. WILLIAMS, PH.D, June 8, 2015:

On Sunday, Egypt’s minister for Religious Endowments, Mohamed Mokhtar Gomaa, called for an “international law to criminalize contempt of religion,” which would make it a crime to publish articles or cartoons showing disdain or ridicule of religions.

Contempt of religion is already illegal in Egypt, with a punishment of between six months and five years in prison and a fine of 500 to 1,000 Egyptian pounds. In recent years, many people have been arrested on this charge and faced trial. As recently as last week, an Islamic show host was sentenced to prison in absentia for accusations of being in contempt of religion.

A Ministry official announced the proposal in Gomaa’s name during a conference for world religious leaders in Kazakhstan this weekend.

Though Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has not publicly weighed in on the proposal, he has been calling upon Egypt’s Islamic institutions, including Al-Azhar, the Ministry of Religious Endowments, and Dar Al-Iftaa to “renew religious discourse” since early this year.

The president has emphasized the importance of “correcting religious speech so that it is in accordance with the tolerant Islamic teachings,” as well as insisting that it “eliminate sectarian disputes and confront extremism and militancy.”

This is not the first time such a proposal has been made. Last January, following the Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris, the Qatar-based International Union of Muslim Scholars called for protection for “prophets” and urged Islamic countries to submit a draft law to the UN, outlawing defamation of religions. The union said the UN should then issue a “law criminalizing contempt of religions and the prophets and all the holy sites.”

Though Gomaa has said he believes such an international law should criminalize contempt of religion universally, “without any discrimination,” skeptics are already wondering whether a statute of this sort would not invite selective enforcement based on personal beliefs.

The Arabic Network for Human Rights Information, a legal organization, warned that under such a law, “anyone could be presented to court” for publishing an article, images or any material on any religion if the opinion expressed is different from that of the ruling faction.

The warning is not an exercise in hyperbole. Complaints of selective enforcement of Mohamed Mokhtar Gomaa are a regular occurrence in countries that still have them, such as Indonesia, Pakistan, and even Egypt itself.

According to Paul Marshall of the Center for Religious Freedom at the Hudson Institute, while Islam is zealously guarded, people publicly insult Judaism and its adherents “everyday and every way in Egypt,” without anyone being called to task under the contempt of religion law.

Thus, while the Egyptian law is, in theory, meant to discourage people from offending people’s religious sensitivities, it is, instead, used to stifle free speech and intimidate those who do not subscribe to the standard.

More importantly, the principles of freedom of speech and of the press are meant not only to protect the speech of individuals with whom we agree, but above all, to protect those with whom we do not agree.

A healthy criticism of religion, like criticism of politics and culture, is a hallmark of a free society. All freedoms can be abused, but their abuse does not negate their value or the wisdom of defending them.

Also see:

Egypt Says NY Times Promoting Muslim Brotherhood Agitprop

The New York Times building in New York City

The New York Times building in New York City

Clarion Project, by Ryan Mauro, June 3, 2015:

The Egyptian ambassador to the U.S. has written a public letter to The New York Times protesting “its unquestioning adoption of Moslem Brotherhood’s propaganda” and false characterization of the Islamist group as non-violent.

Ambassador Mohamed Tawfik’s letter was written around the same time that the Egyptian embassy released three videos of calls to violence made on Muslim Brotherhood television networks based in Turkey.

The networks’ coverage promoted explicit calls for killing Egyptian police officers and attacking foreign companies and embassies. A threat was also made to carry out regional attacks against the interests of countries who support the Egyptian government.

Egypt is infuriated at the Times as well as the Washington Post for repeatedly asserting that the Brotherhood is non-violent. In response to the Times suggestion that the Egyptian government’s prosecution of the Brotherhood is pushing it towards terrorism, the Egyptian ambassador writes:

This statement demonstrates, at best, a complete misunderstanding of the roots of radicalism. At worst, it amounts to a justification for violent extremism. Today, terrorists in Egypt are part of a network of extremists who are bound by a singular distorted ideology, and by a shared goal of taking our region back hundreds of years. They are inspired by the radical teachings of the former Moslem Brotherhood leader Sayyid Kutb [Qutb]. Terrorists in Egypt share the same evil goals as terrorists in Iraq, Syria and Libya.”

Indeed, Ambassador Tawfik is correct that the New York Timesseparates Islamists from terrorists and extremists. The Times editorial condemns “relentless and sweeping crackdown on Islamists, under the baseless contention that they are inherently dangerous.”

The New York Times described sentencing to death of former President Morsi and 100 other Brotherhood members as “deplorable.” It describes the Brotherhood as having renounced violence in the 1970s.

However, Morsi and the defendants were sentenced for his involvement in prison breaks in 2011 that freed 20,000 inmates, including Morsi himself. The Egyptian government says the attacks were well-orchestrated and involved participation by the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas and Hezbollah.

Tawfik chastises the Times for failing to mention that the prison break was a violent operation that resulted in the deaths of prison guards and inmates and freed members of Hamas and Hezbollah.

The Egyptian ambassador also excoriated the Washington Post in February for “toeing the Muslim Brotherhood line” and advised it to be more balance in order to “save whatever is left of your credibility in the Arab world.”

Egyptian President El-Sisi came into power after the popularly-supported military intervention in July 2013 overthrew the Muslim Brotherhood government. The move had the support of a broad spectrum of Egyptian society with public endorsements from secular-democratic activists, the Grand Sheikh of Al-Azhar University and the leader of the Coptic Orthodox Church.

The overthrow came after Morsi (whose election itself was marred by charges of voter fraud) seized far-sweeping powers for himself, essentially negating any semblance of a democratic government.

El-Sisi is often characterized as an anti-democratic strongman; a depiction that his government is now challenging.

He argues that these strongman tactics are necessary because a democratic transition cannot be completed without stability, economic development and a confrontation with Islamism (also known as Political Islam). He asks the West to understand that there is a “civilizational gap between us and you” and it will take time to modernize.

A study commissioned by the Egyptian government criticized its heavy-handedness but concluded that banning Islamist parties is required for the country’s stability and democratic development. It recommended a program to separate politics and religion.

The Egyptian government sees the Islamic State (ISIS) as a natural outgrowth of the Muslim Brotherhood. Its website warns that the Muslim Brotherhood has a network of fronts in America that are disguised as civil society organizations.

El-Sisi called for a reformation in Islamic interpretation in January 2014 and made a dramatic call on the Islamic religious establishment to address problematic teachings this January that received widespread media coverage. He has explicitly said that Egypt should be “a civil state, not an Islamic one” and defined the ideology of the enemy as Political Islam in an interview on FOX News Channel.

El-Sisi is also confronting Islamist terrorism internationally, in addition to its fight against Islamic State in the Sinai Peninsula. His government is an enemy of Hamas and is as minimally anti-Israel as can be expected of an Arab leader.

Egypt has conducted airstrikes on ISIS in Libya and is materially supporting the Libyan government in its civil war against Islamist forces. Egypt and Libya are complaining about a lack of American backing. A new Egyptian-backed offensive is said to be in the works.

El-Sisi is assembling an Arab rapid-reaction force of 40-50,000 troops that can quickly be deployed to fight Islamic State and other terrorists. Egypt is also taking part in the Arab military intervention against the Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen.

El-Sisi also made a historic visit to a Coptic Christian church during mass on Christmas Eve. He challenged the Egyptian honor culture when he apologized to a woman who was raped in Tahrir Square.

Major American media outlets have fallen for the falsehood that the Muslim Brotherhood is non-violent. It is true that the Egyptian government is often criticized for its human rights record, but coverage of those accusations should not automatically exempt the Brotherhood and other Islamists from blame.

If the New York Times values objective reporting, then it must mention the Brotherhood’s calls to violence in its coverage as well as the many other instances of violence that the group has been involved in.

Also see:

Muslim Brotherhood Steps Up Terror in Egypt, While U.S. Provides Cover

PJ Media, by Patrick Poole, June 2, 2015:

What are we doing? As the bodies pile up, the churches burn, and an MB statement justifies killing politicians, judges, security, and media, Kerry’s State Dept. hosts MB visits and lobbies to keep them off terror lists. (Also read: “More MB Leaders Arrested“.)

In recent weeks, the Muslim Brotherhood has stepped up their terrorist activity and made unmistakable calls for more violence in Egypt, effectively dropping the “moderate” mask that gave cover to Western analysts and government officials going back to the Bush administration.

This policy has nonetheless stayed intact — the Obama administration continues to meet with and be advised by Brotherhood officials.

A March 2007 Foreign Affairs article, “The Moderate Muslim Brotherhood,” provided talking points to the D.C. foreign policy “smart set” advising a continuance of this charade. At the time, I was one of the few analysts publicly challenging claims of the Brotherhood’s “moderation,” and I documented elsewhere the foreign policy disaster wrought by embracing the Muslim Brotherhood and other so-called “moderate” Islamists.

Just days before my arrival in Cairo last year, two Muslim Brotherhood members were killed in a shootout with Egyptian security forces as they attacked a police checkpoint in the Nile Delta. At the same time, the ISIS-linked Sinai terrorist group that has been waging a terror campaign there released a suicide bomber video showing one individual who was know to have been involved in the Muslim Brotherhood protests that were broken up by Egyptian authorities in August 2013.

As I traveled into Upper Egypt I saw churches and ancient monasteries that had been burned down by Muslim Brotherhood mobs, complete with graffiti identifying those terrorist acts with the group. I interviewed Coptic church officials who gave testimony to the direct role of Muslim Brotherhood officials in those attacks, which were responsible for the destruction of more than 70 churches and 1000+ Christian homes in the space of just a few days:

Egypt32

But when the United Arab Emirates gave terrorist designations to two U.S. Muslim Brotherhood groups in its efforts to stamp them out last November, the State Department weighed in on behalf of the Muslim Brotherhood.

Calls by the Muslim Brotherhood for increased violence by their members have escalated over the course of this year:

  • A group called the “Revolutionary Punishment Movement” closely tied with the Brotherhood issued a statement in early February warning all foreigners and diplomats to leave the country by February 28 or possibly be faced with becoming targets in their attacks.

***

The open question: what will the Obama administration’s do in response to this escalating terror campaign?

As Muslim Brotherhood attacks continued last year, 20 members of the House of Representatives co-sponsored a resolution calling for the designation of the group as a terrorist organization. That bill, H.R. 5194, noted in its findings that the U.S. government itself has already designated branches, leaders and charities of the Muslim Brotherhood as terrorist organizations, and that terrorism has been integral to the group since its founding.

As terror attacks directly tied to the Muslim Brotherhood increase, and as the group issues more open calls for violence, perhaps Congress will consider reintroducing the resolution from the previous congressional session. Will the United States leave Egypt, one of its allies and the largest Arab country in the world, to fend off the ongoing terror campaign on its own just so the Obama administration isn’t forced to admit their embrace of the Muslim Brotherhood has been a catastrophic, deadly failure?

Read it all

Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood Videos Call for Violence

Muslim Brotherhood supporters in Egypt (Photo: © Reuters)

Muslim Brotherhood supporters in Egypt (Photo: © Reuters)

Clarion Project, by Ryan Mauro, June 2, 2015:

Egypt has released three videos of Muslim Brotherhood television networks in Turkey advocating violence against the Egyptian police, foreigners, embassies and interests in the region connected to countries that support President El-Sisi.

On Thursday, the Brotherhood’s English-language website announced a decision for revolution “with all its means and mechanisms” against the Egyptian government. The announcement references a declaration signed by 150 Islamic scholars that is less ambiguous in calling for jihad, also published in English.

The first video is from the Muslim Brotherhood’s Rabaa TV network launched in Turkey in 2013. The Egyptian government says the host in the video is a member of the Al-Gama’a Al-Islamiyya terrorist group.

The host is seen reading a statement from the “Revolutionary Youth Coalition;” a group that is almost certainly a Brotherhood front established to give itself plausible deniability while inciting and orchestrating terrorism. The vague terminology is an attempt to give its cause greater legitimacy by appearing more inclusive and broad-based.

The Brotherhood station reads the statement that demands the departure of all foreign Arabs, foreign Africans, embassy personnel, foreign companies and tourists by the end of (last) February. All governments must end their support for the Egyptian government “or else all of their interests in countries of the Middle East will be exposed to severe assaults or will be put in situations that nobody wants.”

The threat warns that henceforth there will be “no concessions or mercy.”

The second video is dated February 24 and is from a satellite network named Misr Alaan that the Egyptian government says was founded by the Brotherhood last year. The Arab press says it was launched from Turkey with Brotherhood sponsorship.  The network’s staff said its purpose is to reach a broader audience than the other Islamist channels in Turkey.

The video comes with an English translation that shows the host of a show explicitly urging the murder of Egyptian police and unspecified revolutionaries to rout the Egyptian soldiers who aid the police in the confrontation. His instructions are clear: “Kill them.”

“I say to the wives of all officers and the sons of all officers: Please be aware, your husbands will be dead. Your children will be orphans,” the host says while adding the sons of police officers may be kidnapped and claiming that the revolutionaries have the home addresses of the police.

The third video, also from Misr Alaan, shows a statement being read by a spokesman calling in from the “Revolutionary Punishment Movement,” continuing the pattern of using new, non-descriptive titles.

The speaker is asked about his group and he only says that it is a youth movement involved in the revolutions since the beginning, referring to the ousting of Egyptian President Mubarak. He condemns the arrests of female members of the group and declares there will be “reciprocal treatment.”

The speaker calls for the kidnapping and killing of Egyptian security personnel by the “lions” of this revolution. He then gives out the names of specific police officers to target without any interruption from the host.

On Thursday, May 28, the Brotherhood’s English-language website carried a statement by spokesperson Mohamed Montaser announcing “a final decision, after consulting its popular base, that the revolutionary option with all its means and mechanisms is its strategic choice from which there will be no retreat.”

The announcement appears to be a response to a reported rift within the Brotherhood between the older and more pragmatic leadership and the more militant youth advocating violence and disruption to society. It reiterates the legitimacy of the Brotherhood leadership and claims that it is inclusive of the youth.

Also see:

MICHAEL YOUSSEF TALKS STRAIGHT ON ISLAM

Supplicating_Pilgrim_at_Masjid_Al_Haram._Mecca_Saudi_ArabiaPhilos Project, by Andrew Harrod, May 27, 2015:

Arab-American pastor Michael Youssef writes that “militant Islamists demand conformity to an ancient and merciless code of laws” that stems from the “original and authentic Islam of the seventh century.” Youssef’s compelling new book Jesus, Jihad, and Peace: What Bible Prophecy Says about World Events Today expounds on that claim, offering a fascinating analysis from an Egyptian native about Islam’s essential character and its relationship to the free world.

Not everyone will agree with Youssef’s analysis. Those who see militant Islam as a perversion of the faith will be troubled by Youssef’s claim that Islamic Republic of Iran’s founder Ayatollah Khomeini “was not expressing a distorted view of Islam.” Youssef cites global supremacy as a “basic Islamic doctrine,” and sees Khomeini’s statements as perfectly aligned with Koranic teachings. According to Youssef, “Genuine biblical Christianity does not impose itself, but Islam, by contrast, is a religion of law, submission and punishment with a history … of massacres, enslavement, torture and brutality far exceeding the crimes of the Crusaders.”

Some apologists claim that Islam is a religion of peace, suggesting that the word “Islam” comes from the Arabic salaam. But Youssef contends that “anyone with even the most elementary knowledge of the Arabic language knows that Islam comes from aslama, or ‘total submission.’”  Efforts to rebrand jihad as warm and fuzzy (like a recent attempt by the Council on American-Islamic Relations) “appear more intended to confuse than educate.” The idea of jihad as an inner struggle is actually “relatively uncommon” among Muslims, Youssef says.

What many do not know – although this idea is well understood by those who take the Koran seriously – is that Islam’s central religious text leaves no room for moderation. While God blesses Jews and Christians (and Sabeans) in Koran 2:62, Youssef points out that “Muslim scholars generally interpret this verse as a blessing on the Christians and Jews who lived before Muhammad and his complete revelation.” Muslim orthodoxy additionally maintains that “any nonliteral interpretation of the Koran is a compromise with Western godlessness.”

Youssef correlates Islam’s harshness with that faith’s “unknowable deity,” or Allah in Arabic. In Islam, God is an “entirely separate form of being – remote, aloof and distant,” while the “Christian assertion that we are created in God’s image is blasphemy.” The Muslim view of Allah is intertwined with the Arab view of leadership in which rulers must be absolute monarchs or dictators. Youssef points out that because Muslims see Allah as an unyielding and vengeful god, “they tend to interact with others in a judgmental, unforgiving way.”

Youssef sees Islam as a threat to both Muslims and non-Muslims. “Almost since its inception, Islam has been at war with itself,” Youssef wrote, adding that Shiites and Sunnis “have battled and killed one another in order to prove themselves to be the purest, most zealous, most dogmatic Muslims of all.” Meanwhile, the existence of Israel on land that Muslims believe once belonged to the House of Islam strikes at the heart of Islamic ideology. “Muslims will not rest until the Jews either accept the Islamic religion or leave Palestine.”

Youssef speaks about a “growing trend in Muslim countries … toward Islamic fundamentalist ideology, regardless of which branch of Islam is advocated.” Under Egyptian dictators Anwar Sadat and Hosni Mubarak since 1973, for example, Islamic governments became more radical in an attempt to appease the extremists. Yet jihadists still assassinated Sadat in 1981 and a Muslim Brotherhood-dominated uprising deposed Mubarak in 2011. “Appeasing extremists never earns their gratitude — only their contempt,” Youssef remarks.

Outside of Muslim-majority societies, “‘Islamophobia’ is merely a label that radical Muslims use to silence and intimidate … a form of jihad.” With such tactics, “universities are becoming willing accomplices in squelching free speech, oppressing women and girls in the Islamic world and advancing … a ‘stealth jihad’ agenda for America.” “Islamically correct” views also dominate media organizations like the New York Times. “America, following in the footsteps of Europe, has made a seemingly suicidal decision not to defend its culture from being infiltrated and undermined by Islamists,” he says.

“Islamic extremists see Christianity as the most potent ideological threat they face — far more potent than other religions, communism or atheism,” Youssef writes, adding that Christianity blocks the advancement of Islam on virtually all geographic, historical and ideological fronts. Radical Muslims view Christians and other non-Muslims as infidels who are faithless and treacherous.

But Youssef is careful to note that most Muslims are not radical. In 2013, in Youssef’s native Egypt, “Muslims threw off the yoke of political Islamism and provided a historic proof that there are truly moderate Muslims and that extremists are probably no more than 20 percent or so of the Muslim world.” But a May 2014 Pew poll showing 13 percent support for Al-Qaeda across 11 Muslim countries approximated 208 million Muslims, a not-so-small number that Youssef says worried him. He also wonders why Muslim moderates who “interpret the Koran according to their own conscience often do not speak out against the excesses of the fundamentalists who do not hesitate to respond with force and cruelty.”

Notwithstanding Islam’s “false worldview,” Youssef says that he has “genuine affectation and appreciation for Muslim people,” among which he has “many dear friends and acquaintances.” “My heart aches for the Muslim,” he writes, adding that the “Christian concept of salvation for sinners is completely unknown in Islam.” On this earth, Muslims can never know if they have done enough to earn Allah’s favor. “Islam is surrender without any guarantee of peace.”

Ultimately Youssef recognizes that this struggle is not just a material one — it’s ideological. “No matter how many terrorists you kill, there are always more lining up to take their place in the name of entrenched Islamic doctrines,” he concludes, emphasizing the need for a war of ideas. “Though the War on Terror is critically important in restraining the jihadist onslaught, war alone is not the answer. We must also fight for the hearts and minds of those who would do us harm.”

U.S. Congress Hears Testimony on Need to Work With Egypt, Encourage Reform

Subcommittee Chairman Ros-Lehtinen Questions Witnesses at Hearing on Egypt 2 Years After Morsi

Subcommittee Chairman Ros-Lehtinen Questions Witnesses at Hearing on Egypt 2 Years After Morsi

CSP, by Olivia McCoy, May 20, 2015:

On Wednesday morning, May 20th,  the House Committee on Foreign Affairs Subcommittee On Middle East and North Africa, looking at the state of Egypt after the ousting of President Mohammad Morsi.  This hearing follows the assassination of judges and prosecutors in Sinai this past Saturday when Morsi was sentenced to death. Recently there has an increase in attacks on judges in Egypt following convictions of Muslim Brotherhood members.

During the hearing, both the representatives and the witnesses emphasized the importance of continuing to strengthen our relationship with Egypt, while not condoning the social injustices taking place under Sisi’s regime. The witnesses stressed the importance of Egypt striking the balance between security and democracy, and argued for an increased military relationship with Egypt as Sisi continues his efforts against Muslim Brotherhood and Jihadist groups in the Sinai.

Egypt’s president, Abdel el-Sisi, has reportedly destroyed 80% of weapon smuggling tunnels leading out of the country. The current Egyptian government has also begun arresting members of the Muslim Brotherhood and sentenced Morsi to death. All three of the witnesses agreed that they did not believe Morsi and affiliates will eventually be executed, but Mr. Tadros argues that the government is using the ruling in order to send a message that they are willing to take all necessary steps to stop Muslim Brotherhood from growing and continuing to fight the government.

In response to questions posed by Rep Lois Frankel (D-FL), Dr. Eric Trager urged the U.S. to better coordinate its policy on Libya and Sinai with Egypt. The panelists agreed that there is a real threat to Egypt from the Islamic State, specifically coming from Libya.

While commenting Russian relations with Egypt, Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) turned heads when he stated, “I think it’s a good thing that the Russians are helping Sisi”. The representative expressed that he thought it was “outrageous” that the U.S. gave Egypt helicopters without proper defense mechanisms to counter jihadist attacks. Rohrabacher argues Russia selling weapons to Egypt is a “good thing” because it will strengthen the military when fighting jihadists.

The witnesses disagreed arguing that relations between Russia and Egypt pose a problem to the United States, who should keep an eye on the relationship between Russia and Egypt. Their opinions stemmed from the concern that unlike the United States, Russia won’t push for more democracy and improved human rights.

Democracy was a strong theme throughout course of the hearing. Dr. Okail revealed that Egyptian media speaks favorably of Russia because it provides a simple relationship. Russia does not push for greater democracy as the United States does. Mr. Tadros argued that the United States should invest in creating Egyptian institutions that allow citizens to raise concerns about their government in a democratic manner. The witnesses revealed that the current Egyptian Regime, under Sisi, has been incredibly restrictive about the press and TV programs. Dr. Okail commented on the importance of the Internet and pushing for an unrestricted Internet where people can have a cyber forum to voice their concerns, whether that be through Facebook or other websites. She revealed that currently, many Egyptian civilians do not have access to the Internet.

The lack of free speech in Egypt was concerning to the panelists and representatives alike. Mr. Tadros revealed that atheists have received prison sentences up to three years for posts on Facebook, and that human rights defenders, both domestic and international, have been arrested. All three panelists agreed that the U.S. cannot influence Egypt in a more democratic direction while the government still faces a threat from the Muslim Brotherhood. Ultimately, all three witnesses agreed that the United State’s idea of democracy can’t be sustained in Egypt until new, independent institutions are created to defend it.

Egypt remains an important ally because of the critical role they play in control of the Suarez canal and as a buffer between territories controlled by the Islamic State. The United States needs to continue strengthening our military relationship with Egypt while condemning the government’s infringement on democratic rights such as free speech.

***

Also see:

Former Egyptian President Sentenced To Death Over 2011 Prison Escapes

Mohammed Morsi

Mohammed Morsi

By gmbwatch on May 17, 2015:

Global media are widely reporting that an Egyptian court has sentenced deposed Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi to death in connection with a 2011 prison break out during which hundreds of Muslim Brotherhood members escaped four jails in Cairo as armed gangs took advantage of the chaos of the Arab Spring. According to a Washington Post report:

 May 17, 2015 CAIRO — A Cairo court sentenced ousted president Mohamed Morsi to death Saturday on charges of conspiring with foreign militants to break out of prison during Egypt’s uprising four years ago.

The verdict, which can be appealed, marks a stunning blow to the pro-democracy revolt that saw thousands of Egyptians rise up against an increasingly corrupt police state.

Security forces had arrested Morsi, a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, during the 18-day rebellion in 2011, and he escaped from prison several days later. He was then elected president in the country’s first free and fair democratic elections in 2012, before Egypt’s military ousted the Islamist leader in a dramatic coup a year later.

Saturday’s verdict appeared to criminalize the events of the 2011 uprising against the regime of Hosni Mubarak, alleging that Morsi and fellow Islamists conspired with Hamas and Hezbollah operatives to escape incarceration and stage a violent revolt against the state.

Read the rest here.

Last month, the GMBDW reported that an Egyptian court had sentenced Morsi to 20 years in prison without parole for the killing of protesters in December 2012.

Reaction to the sentencing are already beginning to pour in from elements of the Global Muslim Brotherhood. A Middle Eastern news portal is reporting that Hamas has describe the court decision as “deplorable”:

May 16, 2015 Palestinian faction Hamas on Saturday slammed an Egyptian court verdict that sought capital punishment for a number of group members over charges of breaking out of an Egyptian jail in 2011.

Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri described as ‘deplorable’ the court’s decision to refer 106 defendants, including two Hamas members, to the grand mufti, Egypt’s top religious authority, to consider possible death sentences against them.

‘It is a politicized case, and the verdict has tainted the record of the Egyptian judiciary,’ Abu Zuhri told Anadolu Agency.

He argued that defendants in the case ‘included martyrs, prisoners and members of the [Palestinian] resistance.’

Turkish media is reporting that President Recep Tayyip Erdo?an has said that “Egypt is returning to the old Egypt”:

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdo?an slammed the West for not taking action against Egyptian rulers after a court sentenced the country’s deposed leader Mohammed Morsi to death over his role in a 2011 jail break.

‘Egypt is returning to old Egypt. You know what old Egypt is about, don’t you?’ Erdo?an asked supporters at a rally in ?stanbul on Saturday, held hours after the Egyptian court ruling was announced. ‘[Egyptian President Abdel Fattah] al-Sisi cannot be stopped.

The West does not take a position against the coup maker Sisi. While the West is abolishing the death penalty, they are just watching the continuation of death sentences in Egypt.

They [Western leaders and Sisi] meet and display solidarity.’

The United States has also criticized the Morsi sentencing.

We reported on legal proceedings against Dr. Morsi in August 2014 when we discussed Egyptian news agency reports that he had refused to answer a prosecutor’s questions about allegations that he leaked classified documents to Qatar via Al-Jazeera. We reported in February 2014 that Egyptian prosecutors had accused ousted President Mohammed Morsi of leaking state secrets to Iran’s Revolutionary Guards.  We reported in October 2013 that Dr. Morsi’s trial on charges of inciting the murder of protesters was to begin that November.

In June 2012, the Egypt Independent published a revealing profile of Mohamed Morsi.

For a compendium of the extremist statements made by Morsi, go here.

A Game of Chicken in the Gulf of Aden

shipsNER, by Jerry Gordon and Ilana Freedman, April 24, 2015:

On the morning of April 21, 2015,   newspapers and media reporters trumpeted a headline that the Saudis were ending their month long air campaign against Houthi rebels in Yemen.  The halt reflected concerns of the Obama Administration over the deteriorating situation in Yemen and the increasing role of Iran. The operation, named “Decisive Resolve”, allegedly led by the Saudi coalition with US administration backing, had destroyed a missile base, armored vehicles, and planes held by Houthi forces. The Houthi militias were allegedly allied with Yemeni strongman and former president of Yemen for over thirty years, 73-year old Ali Abdullah Saleh.  Saleh, who has survived political isolation, sanctions, civil war, and assassin attempts, created an alliance with the Houthis, his former enemies, in a bid to return to power in Yemen. Latest reports indicate that Saleh has left Yemen, perhaps to join party members in discussions with Saudi Arabia and coalition members of the Gulf Cooperation Council about resolving the conflict.

Saudi Air Strikes in Yemen WSJ 4-22-15

Since the Saudi air strikes began on March 26, more than 1,000 civilians have been killed. The Saudis were seeking to restore the internationally-recognized and US-backed President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, who served as president of Yemen from February 2012 until January 2015, when he was forced to resign after Houthi rebels raided his home and put him under house arrest. He subsequently escaped and fled to Saudi Arabia just as the Kingdom-led coalition began an air campaign against Houthi rebels on March 26, 2015.

Only hours after the first announcement of the cessation of Saudi air strikes, Saudi Arabia’s Ambassador to Washington Adel al-Jubeir appeared at an Embassy press conference to announce the resumption of limited air attacks.  The Ambassador told reporters:

The Houthis should be under no illusion that we will continue to use force in order to stop them from taking Yemen over by aggressive action. We are determined to protect the Yemeni people and counter any aggressive moves that the Houthis may undertake. When the Houthis or their allies make aggressive moves there will be a response. The decision to calm matters now rests entirely with them.

In view of continued Houthi fighting in the central city of Taiz and against secessionist forces in Aden on the southern coast. This phase of the Saudi operation in Yemen was named “Renewal of Hope”, and was launched amid reports that the Houthis have surrounded the city of Aden on three sides.  In a later press conference on April 22nd, al-Jubeir said, “We will not allow them to take Yemen by force.”

The Houthis quickly put out a statement seeking the lifting of Saudi air and naval operations, and offering to hold political talks under UN auspices.  The defiant Houthi threatened to invade Saudi Arabia if the bombing continues.

A flotilla of nine Iranian vessels, seven commercial vessels escorted by two Iranian frigates, exited the Persian Gulf slow steaming down the Sea of Arabia towards a rendezvous in the Gulf of Aden. Nine US vessels were already positioned there. Nevertheless, that group has been joined by the USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN-71), an aircraft carrier capable of carrying 90 F/A-18 fighter jets and helicopters. The Roosevelt was accompanied by the USS Normandy (CG-60), a guided-missile escort ship. They came from the Fifth Fleet base in Bahrain in the Gulf, presumably to shadow the Iranian flotilla.

The Saudis, with the aid of Egyptian naval vessels, have established a virtual blockade of Yemen preventing deliveries of food, civilian goods, and weapons from Houthi ally, Iran.   The UN Security Council passed a resolution barring the supply of advanced missiles to Yemen.

Pentagon Chief Ashton Carter made his first comments on the dispatch of the US carrier and guided missile cruiser to the Arabian Sea while on a trip to California.  Carter told them that “he was not prepared to say whether the U.S. would be willing to forcibly stop and board one of the Iranian ships if it tries to cross into Yemen.”  Further, he said:

We have options. We’re not at that point. We’re at the point of trying to get the parties back to the table.

Still, he said the U.S. is making it clear to Iran that “obviously fanning the flames or contributing to it by any party is not welcome to us.”

President Obama in an MSNBC interview said:

Right now, their ships are in international waters. What we’ve said to them is that if there are weapons delivered to factions within Yemen that could threaten navigation, that’s a problem. And we’re not sending them obscure messages — we send them very direct messages about it.

On the other hand, senior defense and military officials told NBC News that American warships were prepared to intercept the convoy of Iranian ships, because they were suspected of carrying weapons to Houthi rebel forces in Yemen.

Several versions of their mission have already been floated by various government offices. The White House, Pentagon and State Department have issued statements to the effect the US carrier battle group is there to monitoring sea lanes. White House Spokesman Josh Earnest said, “the principle goal is to maintain freedom of navigation and free flow of commerce in the Gulf of Aden and in the Red Sea”.

On the other hand, Pentagon spokesman Army Col. Steve Warren suggested that there could be a flight of refugees across the narrow Bab al Mandab that separates Yemen from the horn of Africa. The US naval vessels might be conveniently positioned to prevent a disaster similar to the one last weekend in the Mediterranean that witnessed over 700 people attempting to flee from war-torn Libya, drowned when the overloaded fishing boat capsized.

The stories may be inconsistent, but one thing is clear. If history is any measure, the Iranian flotilla is certain to be carrying weapons and supplies to aid the Houthi forces, not the humanitarian assistance they claim is to alleviate the Saudi and Egyptian blockade of Yemeni ports.  The US administration has been clear that the shadowing US naval forces have not been given orders to enable them to hail and board Iranian vessels. They are concerned that boarding the Iranian ships might create an incident that could threaten a successful outcome in the ongoing nuclear in which President Obama and  Secretary of State Kerry have invested so much effort. The negotiations the Administration appears committed to closing a deal offering so-called signing bonuses of $30 to 50 billion in release of oil revenues.

These statements by Pentagon and Administration spokespersons reflect the quandary in which the Administration now finds itself, and they can’t seem to get their story straight.  In the midst of problematic negotiations on a possible nuclear agreement with Iran, which the Administration appears to want to complete at all costs, the US is also allegedly backing Saudi Arabia with both intelligence and weapons in the fight against the Iran-backed Houthi.  The American position in this conflict is far from clear.

One possibility not mentioned in any of the media is the possibility that the American presence is neither to stop the Iranian ships, nor to board them, but to keep the other countries’ naval officers from boarding them. The purpose of this mission would be to maintain our nuclear negotiations with Iran moving forward without the suggestion of our threatening them in another theater.

The situation in the region is extremely complicated and America’s mission there is uncertain. While appearing to support the Saudi position, the US has also provided intelligence to the Houthi, ostensibly to ward off threat of a resurgent AQAP. And while appearing to be a deterrent to Iranian arms delivery to the Houthis, the massive American presence on the scene may be, in fact, a deterrent to other ships whose mission is to board the Iranian cargo ships should they approach the port in Aden.

Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia is existentially concerned about Iranian expansion of its hegemony into Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, and Yemen, where Iranian Quds Force and Revolutionary Guard “consultants’ have been active in expanding their control. In Iraq, they have been training Shia militia in the war against the Islamic State.

In response to the Iranian threat, Saudi Arabia has undertaken action to subjugate the restive Shia majority in Bahrain, home port for the US Fifth Fleet, and in the oil rich Eastern Province with a large Shia population.  The Saudis are spending billions to complete security fences on its northern and Southern borders, and the Kingdom has reportedly mobilized 150,000 troops for possible action in Yemen.

The situation is the Arabian Sea is fluid. The latest reports indicate that despite the strong words from Iran, their ships have now turned around and are heading back toward the Strait of Hormuz. At this writing, they are reported to be heading east in the Arabian Sea, south of Salalah, Oman.

Failed US Policy    Less than a year ago, President Obama hailed Yemen as a foreign policy ‘success’ story in its drone campaign against Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. But with the fall of Yemen’s capital Sana’a to Houthi forces and the flight of ousted President Hadi to Saudi Arabia, the vacuum in the country has been filled by open conflict between Sunni tribes loyal to AQAP, those units loyal to Hadi, and secessionist forces in Aden. America’s precipitous and humiliating departure from Yemen was more than proof that our policy had been anything but successful.

Effectively Yemen is a failed state.  When the mobs attacked it, the US Embassy closed in panic, leaving 4,000 American citizens stranded in a country that was rapidly falling into chaos and bloody fighting. The US special operations contingent decamped to Camp Lemonnier across the Bab al Mandab at AFRICOM headquarters in Djibouti.  The former US special ops Yemen bases were overrun and destroyed. Without local intelligence from within Yemen, the counterterrorism drone campaign against the AQAP was effectively been shut down.

The current game of chicken on the high seas in the Gulf of Aden is a dangerous one, not the least because it is difficult to understand what the end game is supposed to be. The problem now is that the Iranian Ayatollah and his Revolutionary Guards commanders may relish such a confrontation with the US, Saudi and Egyptian naval contingents to see who would blink first in the game of chicken.  Some might consider the Iranian flotilla as a possible causus belli. After all the UN Security Council adopted a resolution barring the shipment of missiles into Yemen.

The dangerous confrontation seems, for the moment, to be averted. Iran’s ships have turned back, perhaps temporarily. We don’t know why, or what their long range game plan may bring.

The irony the Administration found itself in over the looming confrontation in the Gulf of Aden was that the US might have had to rely on the Saudis and the Egyptians, both of whom America had supplied weapons to, but over whom the US now has little to no control.  The looming question is whether a satisfactory denouement with Iran would even be possible were Iran already a nuclear state.

That Iran is on the brink of acquiring nuclear weapons is no longer the question. All evidence points to this being the case, ongoing talks with P5+1 and the so-called 13 year ‘deal’ notwithstanding.  Latest reports say that Iran is on the ‘nuclear threshold’ with less than three months before it has full nuclear weapons capability. The Iranian nuclear threshold concerns the Saudis, Gulf Emirates, Egypt, and Israel. Israel has not been diffident in the past about intercepting and boarding commercial vessels carrying illicit cargoes of missiles from Iran supplying proxies Hamas and Hezbollah.

In the game of chicken still being played out in the Arabian Sea, it remains to be seen whether the Obama Administration has the resolve to stare down this latest move by Iran, or is the President more than likely blink first?

Ilana Freedman is a veteran intelligence analyst, specializing in Islamic and related sources of terrorism and their impact on the Western world. Jerry Gordon is a Senior Editor at the New English Review

***

Also see:

Morsi Sentenced to 20 Years for Bloody Crackdown

3328300925CSP, by Aaron Kliegman, April 21, 2015:

Standing in a soundproof glass cage inside an Egyptian courtroom, former Islamist President Mohamed Morsi listened as Judge Ahmed Youssef of the Cairo Criminal Court sentenced him to 20 years in prison for inciting violence and the torture of protestors outside the presidential palace in December 2012.

Members of the Muslim Brotherhood and supporters of Morsi attacked and detained protesters who objected to the president’s referendum on an Islamist-drafted constitution, leading to significant violence that resulted in the deaths of at least ten people.

12 Muslim Brotherhood leaders and Islamist supporters also received 20-year sentences, including prominent figures Mohammed el-Beltagy and Essam el-Erian. The judge dropped murder charges for Morsi and the others and said that the punishments were connected to the “show of force” and unlawful detentions linked to the case.

Morsi can appeal his conviction but is standing trial for three other cases, two of which relate to charges of espionage. In one case, Morsi and other Brotherhood defendants are “accused of spying and leaking confidential general and military intelligence documents to Qatari intelligence and the Qatari satellite channel Al Jazeera.” Qatar’s support of terrorism is much noted in the press, and this case suggests the possibility of Morsi putting Islamist loyalty before his country’s national security.

Morsi is also accused of working with Hamas – a terrorist group and the Palestinian wing of the Muslim Brotherhood – and Hezbollah – an Iranian proxy terrorist organization – to smuggle arms and organize training groups, among other activities, including supplying Iran and Hezbollah with state secrets.

The third case is connected to a 2011 jailbreak. 19 members of the Muslim Brotherhood, including Morsi, allegedly broke out of an Egyptian prison and collaborated with Hamas and Hezbollah to do so. Morsi is also scheduled to start a fifth trial in May on charges of insulting the judiciary.

When Tuesday’s sentence was announced, Morsi was generally silent and raised the r4bia, the four-finger sign of the Muslim Brotherhood, a far different reaction than earlier in the trail when he repeatedly shouted, “I am the president of the republic!” and did not recognize the court as legal.

Muslim Brotherhood spokesman Mohamed Montasser threatened on Twitter that “sentencing the president won’t pass. The revolution will be ignited, popular anger will increase and we promise you unexpected revolutionary surprises.”

Morsi’s sentence and the Brotherhood’s call to violence is the culmination of the Brotherhood’s fall from power after Morsi was elected president of Egypt in June 2012. Morsi’s ties to Islamist groups and terrorism, however, far precede his reign as Egypt’s leader, going back to his early life and manifesting in significant, troubling ways when he came to power through being ousted from office.

Mohamed Mohamed Morsi Issa Ayyat was born on August 20, 1951 in Sharqiya, Egypt on the Nile River Delta. He studied engineering at Cairo University, earning a bachelor’s degree in 1975 and a master’s degree in 1978. He traveled to the United States for his doctorate in engineering, which he received in 1982, at the University of Southern California, where Morsi joined the Muslim Student Association, the Muslim Brotherhood’s leading front group in the U.S.

The Muslim Brotherhood is the primary international Islamist organization intent on imposing sharia law under a caliphate and is the group from which most other jihadist organizations – including terrorist groups like al-Qaeda – are created.

After Morsi joined the Brotherhood and finished school, he stayed in academia as an assistant professor at the University of North Ridge in California until returning to Egypt in 1985 to teach at Zagazig University; he remained a professor there until 2010.

The future Egyptian president rose through the ranks of the Muslim Brotherhood as a loyal soldier, not a man of ideas but an “implementer of policy.” Abdel-Sattar el-Meligi, a former senior Brotherhood figure who left the group, said that “Morsi has no talents but he is faithful and obedient to the group’s leaders, who see themselves as above the other Muslims. Morsi would play any role the leaders assign him to, but with no creativity and no uniqueness.”

In the late 1980s, Morsi was a member of a Brotherhood “anti-Zionist” committee near his hometown, which rejected normalization with Israel. He reportedly will not meet with Israelis but will not stop others from doing so.

Morsi later joined the Brotherhood’s Guidance Bureau in 1995 before being elected to parliament in 2000 as an independent candidate; the Brotherhood was banned from seeking elected office under Egyptian leader Hosni Mubarak. Morsi, however, was the group’s spokesman in parliament and served until losing his seat in 2005.

In 2007, Morsi led the Brotherhood’s attempt to create a political platform that called for restricting the Egyptian presidency to Muslim men and forming a council of Islamic scholars to approve or disapprove all legislation as sharia-compliant. Some Brothers, especially youths, disapproved of such overtly political actions and wanted to focus on social services, but Morsi helped purge the organization of such dissenters.

Morsi continued to be active in the Brotherhood and fighting Mubarak’s rule. Mubarak was an authoritarian ruler but an ally of the U.S. who ensured peace with Israel, stabilized the country, and was relatively tame compared to other contemporary authoritarians.

Mubarak was deposed from power in February 2011, and the Brotherhood subsequently formedthe Freedom and Justice Party, with Morsi as its chairman. The Islamist organization became the most organized political party in the country, and Morsi was eventually chosen as its presidential candidate.

After initially overtly calling for the implementation of sharia law in Egypt, Morsi later disguised his rhetoric to have a more centrist appearance. Morsi became Egypt’s first democratically elected president in June 2012, although there is evidence that the election was rigged. He quickly forgot his campaign’s centrist approach and surrounded himself and filled his cabinet with Brotherhood-affiliated personnel. He even united with Salafist organizations to hold a large demonstration after taking power.

Beyond mishandling Egypt’s economy and being unable to revive it and falling back on his promises of social justice by making the Brotherhood dominant, Morsi almost immediately took steps toward autocratic rule.

First, Morsi seized legislative and constitutional-writing authorities and also removed much of the military leadership in August 2012. In November, Morsi issued a decree granting him far-reaching powers and saying his orders were not subject to judicial oversight until Egypt had a new constitution – an effort to ensure the Brotherhood crafted an Islamist constitution for Egypt.

The constituent assembly then rushed a version of the constitution to approval despite the objections of liberals, secularists, and the Coptic Church. Morsi soon issued another decree authorizing the military to protect polling places and national institutions until a referendum on the draft constitution occurred, a move many said amounted to martial law. Morsi’s trend to autocracy only increased into the year 2013, causing more Egyptians to become outraged and protest Morsi’s policies.

Meanwhile, Morsi was the first Egyptian to travel to Iran since the Iranian Revolution in 1979, and hosted then-president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, an anti-American, anti-Semitic Holocaust denier, in Cairo in February 2013. Morsi also said that, while the peace treaty with Israel should not be abandoned, it should be reviewed. On Egyptian television in 2010, Morsi called Jews “apes and pigs.”

Eventually in the summer of 2013, one year after Morsi was elected, General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi led the military removal of Morsi from power, exercising the apparent will of the Egyptian people. Egyptians became increasingly outraged over Morsi’s policies, and protests became massive, numbering in the millions. Sisi later became president of Egypt and is still in office today.

Morsi’s fall from power was his own doing. He galvanized Egypt’s anti-authoritarian feelings against Mubarak and made grand promises, but once in power, he tried to make himself an autocrat to institute an Islamist system. Furthermore, his anti-western and anti-Israeli sentiments, along with his dealings with terrorist organizations and unfriendly countries, put him at odds with American interests. The Egyptian people sensed danger as Morsi governed and took to the streets calling for change.

Morsi’s sentencing on Tuesday signals the end of his influence and of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, at least for the near future, but the Islamist organization remains active throughout the world. There are Brotherhood leaders like Morsi who are seeking power both in Egypt and elsewhere to impose identical policies and governance. It would be wise to recognize such individuals before they gain control of a country. Otherwise, history will at the very least repeat itself, if not worse.