The Middle East Channel

G20 leaders split on military action on Syria

G20 leaders split on military action on Syria

World leaders at the G20 summit in Russia are split on the issue of military strikes on Syria. According to British Prime Minster David Cameron, the issue had "flared up" over a dinner hosted by Russian President Vladimir Putin Thursday night. U.S. President Barack Obama has support from Britain, France, Canada, and Turkey while China and Russia oppose military strikes. Germany and Italy are insisting action be taken through the U.N. Security Council. Meeting separately with Obama, Chinese President Xi Jinping called for a political solution on Syria saying, "a military strike cannot solve the problem from the root." The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power said on Thursday that the United States had given up trying to work through the Security Council, accusing Russia of holding it hostage. Russia has reportedly sent another ship to the eastern Mediterranean reinforcing its presence off the coast of Syria. According to Interfax, the ship departed from the Black Sea port of Sevastopol Friday morning with "special cargo." Meanwhile, for the first time since the beginning of the conflict in March 2011, the Syrian government is offering a bounty for anyone who brings in a foreign "terrorist," the term the regime uses for all rebel fighters. In a televised statement, authorities offered 500,000 Syrian pounds to anyone who captures a "non-Syrian terrorist" and 200,000 pounds for information that could facilitate their capture. 


  • U.S. officials reported they have intercepted an order from Iran to Shiite militia groups in Iraq to attack the U.S. Embassy and other U.S. interests in Baghdad in the event of a U.S. military strike on Syria.  
  • The Egyptian government has denied reports that the social solidarity ministry has decided to revoke the Muslim Brotherhood’s NGO status.
  • Libya’s supreme security committee admitted it seized the daughter of former intelligence chief Abdullah al-Senussi for "her own protection."
  • Morocco’s ruling Islamist party and the main opposition party, National Rally of Independents, have brokered a deal to form a coalition government, ending the political deadlock caused by the Istiqlal pullout in May.
  • The European Court of Justice has ruled that the EU should unfreeze the assets of seven Iranian banks and other business saying there was insufficient evidence for sanctions. 

Arguments and Analysis

A Coup too Far: The Case for Reordering U.S. Priorities in Egypt‘ (Shadi Hamid and Peter Mandaville, Brookings)

"Despite President Barack Obama’s pledges to support Egyptian democracy and place the United States on the ‘right side’ of history, American policy had stagnated well before the coup. Conventional wisdom on the U.S. role has remained largely the same: American influence over this, or any, Egyptian government is minimal. With Cairo consumed by a seemingly unbreakable political impasse, Washington lacks the money and leverage to do much more than help along the margins.

It is our contention that this prognosis on U.S.- Egypt relations is fundamentally flawed. The Obama Administration’s decision to maintain its aid flows in early July 2013 — despite a legal obligation to suspend assistance after a military coup — suggested not a lack of leverage, but the absence of the political will to use it. Even before the army’s intervention, there were at least two clear points where the United States could have used its leverage with the Egyptian military but chose not to, including the March 2012 NGO crisis and the June 2012 dissolution of the country’s first democratically elected parliament. While the army represents the institution with which the United States has the closest working relationship, Washington’s failure to call Egypt’s leaders to account also extends to Muhammad Morsi’s presidency, which had exhibited growing authoritarian tendencies. The extent of the leverage that the United States has or does not have cannot be assessed outside the broader context of American policy. Rather, leverage either accumulates or atrophies depending on past decisions."

Understanding Egyptian Nationalism‘ (Bassem Sabry, Al-Monitor)

"One of the most persistent and remarkable elements of the post-January revolution anti-Islamist movement in Egypt has been its struggle to articulate a coherent and attractive intellectual frame and political banner, one that could appeal to a wide public and stand at least toe-to-toe with Islamism.

But if the current discourse and what appears to be a growing public sentiment especially since June 30 continue, then Islamism might have just found its strongest challenger in quite some time in what is a revived and rejuvenated Egyptian nationalism, with army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi as its central and visibly popular figurehead. This nationalism is not a precise ideological construct, but rather a complex and multi-faceted concept with many elements that are the subject of some debate. But there are generally several historical milestones that are often considered to be critical points in its history and development.

The predominant view is that the rebirth of the idea began with the ascension of Muhammad Ali and his family to the throne of Egypt in the early 1800s. Ali, who was neither born in Egypt nor ethnically Egyptian, enacted a series of reforms that are widely considered the historical birth of the modern Egyptian state, and managed to strengthen Egypt’s relative independence from the Ottoman Empire (which was officially based upon the Islamic identity) and with it the Egyptian national identity."

–Mary Casey & Joshua Haber