The Middle East Channel

Egyptians rally over Islamist governor appointments

Egyptians rally over Islamist governor appointments

Protests have continued for a third day in Egypt’s tourist destination of Luxor, in Upper Egypt, over the appointment by President Mohamed Morsi of Adel al-Khayat as the new governor. Khayat is a member of Gamaa Islamiya, the ultra-religious group responsible for a 1997 attack at Luxor’s Hatshepsut Temple that left 58 tourists dead. Among the demonstrators are many tourism workers, who are concerned about their jobs and preserving the area’s heritage. Egypt’s tourism minister, Hisham Zazou, submitted his resignation on Wednesday in protest of Khayat’s appointment, but Prime Minister Hisham Qandil rejected his resignation. Protests have also erupted in Monufiya against the appointment of Ahmed Sharawy as the new governor. Demonstrators have blocked entry into the local governorate office and cut phone cables. Morsi appointed 17 new governors across Egypt Sunday, including eight Islamists, seven of whom belong to the ruling Muslim Brotherhood party. Many analysts see the appointments as part of an effort to shore up support ahead of what are expected to be large anti-government protests set for June 30, the anniversary of Morsi’s election.

Syria

The United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has placed six ancient sites in Syria on its endangered World Heritage list. According to UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee, "due to the armed conflict situation in Syria, the conditions are no longer present to ensure the conservation and protection of the Outstanding Universal Value of the six World Heritage properties." The endangered list includes the city of Aleppo, which has sustained severe damage from fighting including the destruction of the minaret of Umayyad mosque, as well as the cities of Damascus and Bosra, the northern villages of Syria, the Roman ruins at Palmyra, and the castles of Crac des Chevaliers and Qal’at Salah El-Din (the Fortress of Saladin). Meanwhile, Syrian opposition forces launched an attack on the main M5 highway that goes through Aleppo to the Turkish border. According to the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, rebel forces had seized an army checkpoint on the Ariha-Latakia section of the road. Some opposition groups said opposition fighters had seized three check points, and would need three more to cut off the Syrian army’s access to the highway. Fierce fighting has continued int the northern city of Aleppo, and rebel sources have reported that opposition fighters have received Russian-made "Konkurs" anti-tank missiles from Saudi Arabia. Another new threat to the Syrian regime is the country’s rapidly weakening currency. The Syrian pound fell about 30 percent last weekend, in part with the U.S. announcement that it will begin arming some Syrian rebel groups. 

Headlines  

  • Britain’s Supreme Court ruled sanctions invalid that were imposed on the commercial Iranian bank, Bank Mellat, because they were sought through a secret court.
  • Iraqis in the Sunni dominated provinces of Anbar and Ninevah, where protests against the Shiite-led government have raged for months, voted Thursday in provincial elections that had been delayed over security concerns.
  • A Qatari court has issued prison sentences to five people convicted of negligence in a 2012 deadly mall fire in Doha that killed 19 people, including 13 children.
  • Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to Lebanon said the kingdom will deport Lebanese citizens "who financially support" Hezbollah. 

Arguments and Analysis

Syria: The G7+1 Communiqué‘ (Frederic C. Hof, Atlantic Council)

"In the end, perhaps it is enough that the West signed up to nothing in Northern Ireland that would tie its collective hands. President Obama told interviewer Charlie Rose recently that Syria is not Iraq, and that ‘serious’ US national security interests are engaged by the impact of what is happening inside Syria on American allies and friends on Syria’s periphery. How to stop the Assad’s shelling and bombing campaign of terror against residential areas is the key question facing the US administration. Until that issue is satisfactorily addressed, Syrians will suffer needlessly, friendly countries will be swamped by refugees and security challenges, and Geneva II will not likely happen. Kofi Annan had it right long before he left the stage: unless and until the Assad regime takes the necessary de-escalatory steps, nothing meaningful can happen diplomatically. Borne aloft on the shoulders of Iran and Hezbollah, however, Bashar al-Assad’s idea of diplomacy has nothing to do with Geneva I or Geneva II."

In Libya, Militias Rule‘ (Anas El Gomati, Al-Monitor)

"Repatriating security infrastructure in Tripoli began under former Minister of Interior Shuwail in the last few months. However, Libya’s other cities and border towns are littered with militias clinging onto vital infrastructure. With weapons trading between Algeria, Mali and a string of recent bombings in Niger, the inability to control this infrastructure confuses any coherent intelligence gathering, or wider national security strategy.

The ease and access to infrastructure to conduct terrorist activities is one of the biggest problems facing the Libyan state, shackling the democratic transition within an atmosphere of uncertainty.

A reformed, doctrinal security service that respects human rights must be a parallel initiative. By reforming and reinstating the most feared of Libya’s security services, Ali Zidan can begin to monitor and gradually improve the security quandary. A unified communication system to instill coherence in the process is only the beginning of a long-term process. International assistance will come in its droves in order to rebuild this feared arm of the state. The question for Zeidan will be where to draw the line between security and sovereignty to begin to navigate the country to safety."

–Mary Casey and Joshua Haber