- By Joshua Haber
Millions took to the streets throughout Egypt on Sunday, and many remained outdoors during the night, to demand the removal of Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi. Opposing the demands for Morsi’s resignation, thousands of Morsi supporters rallied to defend the president’s legitimacy. Protests quieted on Monday, but in the morning anti-Morsi demonstrators stormed the Muslim Brotherhood’s Cairo headquarters, setting the building ablaze with Molotov cocktails and fireworks. Although instances of violence were reported nationwide, the rival protests remained mostly peaceful. However, the Tamarod (Rebel) movement, responsible for setting the June 30 protest date, threatened to launch a campaign of civil disobediance if Morsi refuses to step down by Tuesday. According to a Tamarod statement Sunday, "There is no alternative other than the peaceful end of power of the Muslim Brotherhood and its representative, Mohammed Morsi." But Morsi remained defiant, vowing the continuation of his presidency and calling for "the adoption and application of the constitution." Coinciding with the one-year anniversary of Morsi’s election as Egypt’s first democratically elected president, the protests highlight the country’s intense polarization and widespread popular disenchantment with the lack of economic and political progress.
Syrian government forces backed by Hezbollah fighters assaulted rebel positions in Homs with artillery and aerial attacks, deploying tanks and ground forces to take the old city. Under siege for the second consecutive day, Syrian opposition forces defending Homs claim to have repelled the latest wave of attacks. The country’s third largest city, Homs has been a rebel stronghold since the beginning of the uprising two years ago. The regime’s offensive on Homs follows a series of military gains for Bashar al-Assad’s forces, including the capture of the strategically important town of Qusair, near Lebanon, in early June. Meanwhile, EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton and the foreign ministers of the six GCC states met in Bahrain to coordinate efforts at ending the violence, pledging to "spare no effort in helping to create the appropriate conditions for a successful convening of the peace conference on Syria."
- U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry departed the Middle East after a four-day trip without securing a public commitment from Israeli and Palestinian officials to resume negotiations.
- Iran’s president-elect Hassan Rouhani announced his commitment on Saturday to international "dialogue and interaction with others from an equal position, based on mutual respect and interests."
- A Saudi Arabia court sentenced seven online activists to 10 years in prison for inciting protests through Facebook.
Arguments & Analysis
‘Who Will Save Egypt?’ (Marina Ottaway, Foreign Affairs)
"Egyptians have a lot to be upset about these days, and they are showing it. The one-year anniversary of Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi’s inauguration has brought with it major protests and counter protests, raising fears of renewed political violence. Underneath all the anger lies a basic fact: The Egyptian economy is in deep trouble.
Since former President Hosni Mubarak was ousted in 2011, the state’s revenue has decreased sharply. The business sector is in the doldrums, and investments have dried up as both domestic and foreign investors bide their time waiting for the political fog to lift. At the same time, the government’s expenditures are mounting. The climb is partly a result of salary increases that were granted to government workers since the uprising in an attempt to quell the unrest. More fundamentally, though, the costs of subsidies on food prices and, above all, energy continue to mount as oil prices increase on the world market but Egyptian consumers are charged the same prices as before. Energy subsidies now amount to more than $16 billion a year, with an additional $4 billion devoted to food."
‘The Obama Administration Should Prepare for More Change in Egypt‘ (Brian Katulis, Center for American Progress)
"In the two-and-a-half years since the collapse of the Mubarak regime, Egypt has been embroiled in a complicated series of political, economic, and security transitions. Yet the basic framework and overall policy tools that the United States has used to shape and influence events in Egypt has largely remained the same, with a few minor adjustments. In the past two years, the United States has not made major shifts in its security and economic assistance to Egypt and its methods for engaging Egypt, despite immense changes Egypt has undergone internally.
The United States must prepare for the possibility that it will need to implement a massive overhaul in its bilateral relations with Egypt based on events in that country in the coming days and weeks. A major shift in relations would have spillover implications for longstanding U.S. security strategy for the region on several fronts. Egypt continues to play an important role in advancing U.S. security interests in the region, including continued efforts to deal with security threats in the Sinai Peninsula and the Gaza Strip. But Egypt’s political legitimacy crisis has grown, and the performance of the Morsi government during the past year has left Egypt more polarized and weaker economically, and less reliable as a partner.
The coming weeks could prove to be a pivotal period for Egypt. Ideally, the United States would continue to adapt its policy and attempt to manage the change in Egypt, but if the recent negative trends continue, the United States should be prepared to question the basic framework of its bilateral relationship with Egypt and conduct an overhaul of its current full assistance package."
– Joshua Haber