The United States nears deal for $1 billion in Egyptian debt relief

A team of U.S. State Department economic officials is nearing an agreement on $1 billion in debt relief to Egypt, and plans for increased U.S. investments. The United States has traditionally given Egypt $1.3 billion a year in military assistance, as the country has remained a strong U.S. ally in the region, particularly in its ...

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CAIRO, EGYPT- JULY 31: US Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta (L), meets with Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi (R), at the Presidential Palace, on July 31, 2012, in Cairo, Egypt. Secretary Panetta is on a four day trip to the Middle-East with stops in Tunisia, Egypt, Israel and Jordan before returning to Washington. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

A team of U.S. State Department economic officials is nearing an agreement on $1 billion in debt relief to Egypt, and plans for increased U.S. investments. The United States has traditionally given Egypt $1.3 billion a year in military assistance, as the country has remained a strong U.S. ally in the region, particularly in its commitment to a peace treaty signed with Israel in 1979. However, the aid package was delayed for nearly 16 months by political turmoil and the change of the administration after last year's revolution. The United States has been suspicious of the new Islamist government under President Mohamed Morsi, and in turn, Egypt has been frustrated by U.S. constraints on aid funds. Egypt is working to overcome a $25 billion budget shortfall, attempting to stabilize the post-revolution economy. Morsi has also requested $4.8 billion in low-interest loans from the International Monetary Fund.

Syria

The United Nations has reported that more than 100,000 people fled Syria in August, and activists estimate that around 5,000 people were killed in the deadliest month since the beginning of the uprising in March 2011. Head of the International Committee for the Red Cross (ICRC), Peter Maurer, met with President Bashar al-Assad to discuss the humanitarian crisis caused by the conflict in Syria. Assad said he would continue to support the ICRC's work in Syria provided that it remained "independent and impartial." The Former U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan had led a diplomatic effort to end what has become a civil war in Syria, but resigned in August. He was officially replaced on Saturday by Lakhdar Brahimi, who said,  "It is a very, very difficult position." Violence continued in Damascus over the weekend with an opposition bombing of the Syrian army's General Staff headquarters injuring four people. At the same time, Syrian army bulldozers destroyed at least 20 buildings in the western Sunni al-Zayat and Farouk neighborhoods, where insurgents have allegedly been sheltered. Additionally, government airstrikes in the northern town of al-Bab, near the Turkish border, killed between 19 and 25 people.

A team of U.S. State Department economic officials is nearing an agreement on $1 billion in debt relief to Egypt, and plans for increased U.S. investments. The United States has traditionally given Egypt $1.3 billion a year in military assistance, as the country has remained a strong U.S. ally in the region, particularly in its commitment to a peace treaty signed with Israel in 1979. However, the aid package was delayed for nearly 16 months by political turmoil and the change of the administration after last year’s revolution. The United States has been suspicious of the new Islamist government under President Mohamed Morsi, and in turn, Egypt has been frustrated by U.S. constraints on aid funds. Egypt is working to overcome a $25 billion budget shortfall, attempting to stabilize the post-revolution economy. Morsi has also requested $4.8 billion in low-interest loans from the International Monetary Fund.

Syria

The United Nations has reported that more than 100,000 people fled Syria in August, and activists estimate that around 5,000 people were killed in the deadliest month since the beginning of the uprising in March 2011. Head of the International Committee for the Red Cross (ICRC), Peter Maurer, met with President Bashar al-Assad to discuss the humanitarian crisis caused by the conflict in Syria. Assad said he would continue to support the ICRC’s work in Syria provided that it remained "independent and impartial." The Former U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan had led a diplomatic effort to end what has become a civil war in Syria, but resigned in August. He was officially replaced on Saturday by Lakhdar Brahimi, who said,  "It is a very, very difficult position." Violence continued in Damascus over the weekend with an opposition bombing of the Syrian army’s General Staff headquarters injuring four people. At the same time, Syrian army bulldozers destroyed at least 20 buildings in the western Sunni al-Zayat and Farouk neighborhoods, where insurgents have allegedly been sheltered. Additionally, government airstrikes in the northern town of al-Bab, near the Turkish border, killed between 19 and 25 people.

Headlines  

  • A Bahrain court has upheld sentences for 20 opposition leaders involved in last year’s uprising, in a move that is likely to escalate protests and clashes.
  • After a six-year long legal battle, Israeli forces evicted several hundred Jewish settlers from the unauthorized West Bank outpost of Migron, in the largest evacuation since the 2005 withdrawal from the Gaza Strip.
  • An Egyptian woman broadcasted the news on Egyptian state TV wearing a headscarf for the first time in decades, when an unofficial ban came into place under Mubarak, sparking debate on Islamisization.
  • At least 42 people died and 24 were injured when a bus crashed in a ravine in Morocco on Tuesday in what was reported as the worst bus accident recorded for the country. 

Arguments & Analysis

When It Pays to Talk to Terrorists’ (Paul Thomas Chamberlin, The New York Times)

"Munich – and the lessons learned from it – played a pivotal role in shaping American views on terrorism: Terrorists were bloodthirsty fanatics bent on spreading destruction and anarchy. Negotiation with such extremists was futile and immoral. The only acceptable response was to crush them.

This was essentially America’s response to terrorism for the next four decades as the frequency and ferocity of attacks rose. As terrible as Munich was, the response from President Richard M. Nixon did nothing to help the situation; rather it played into the hands of the most militant Palestinian factions, ensuring that the violence would continue.

Most scholars of the Palestine Liberation Organization now agree that attacks like the one in Munich were designed by Yasir Arafat‘s rivals to shift power away from moderates and into the hands of more radical factions. The string of attacks attributed to the Palestinian Black September Organization between November 1971 and March 1973, of which Munich was the most dramatic, were actually an indication of the rifts within the P.L.O. While events like Munich seized headlines, a growing number of moderates within the P.L.O. – most notably Arafat – were putting out feelers about the prospect of a two-state solution in the Israeli-Palestinian dispute."

Lakhdar Brahimi: the patient peacemaker’ (Oliver Miles, The Guardian)

"In retrospect it is clear that Annan’s high international profile as former UN secretary-general raised expectations which could not be met. Brahimi raises no such expectations because he is less well-known and because of his modest personal style, as exemplified by his BBC interview. But he knows the protagonists in the Syrian crisis as well or better than Annan, and he has the advantage of being an Arab – from far-away Algeria, therefore not automatically seen as taking sides.

But what about the brick wall? What can he actually do? So long as the Syrians are determined to go on fighting, the fact – however unpalatable – is that nobody can stop them. But it is also a fact that even civil wars come to an end, either because the bloodletting goes on until one side or both can fight no longer, or because the parties realise in time that they cannot achieve a military solution and must compromise.

The Lebanese civil war, which lasted from 1975 to 1990, is an example. Lebanon is of course Syria’s neighbour and the two countries have much in common, although the Lebanon war was a very different story. A feature of that war was countless ceasefires, broken countless times; the lesson to be drawn is not that ceasefires are useless, but that eventually the firing stopped. Peacemaking paid off."

Evacuating Migron: An exercise in futility’ (David Newman, The Jerusalem Post)

"There are over 300,000 Jewish residents in West Bank settlements. It is, as Meron Benvenisteso famously wrote (and was so strongly criticized for writing by his colleagues on the Left back in the 1980s) an irreversible situation. No Israeli government, of the Right or the Left, will ever be able to bring about an evacuation – forceful or otherwise – of so many settlers and their families.

While the settler movement, spurred on by the Gush Emunim activists and their national-religious fervor and ideology as far back as the aftermath of the 1973 Yom Kippur War, may not have succeeded in implementing its dream of Jewish sovereignty over the entire West Bank, and while it was unable to prevent the signing of the Oslo Accords in the 1990s, or the evacuation of Gaza six years ago, has nevertheless succeeded in thwarting the implementation of a clean-cut two-state solution.

It has achieved this through its endless political and settlement activity over a period of almost 40 years – and into the third generation of settler activists, many of whom were born, grew to adulthood and had their own children as residents of the West Bank (Judea and Samaria).

It has succeeded in thwarting the idea of a two-state solution based on a simple demarcation of a border and a clean line of separation between the territories of independent Israeli and Palestinian states. Even those who for decades have believed that this is the only just solution for the two peoples living between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean must surely realize that what was a realistic territorial solution until about a decade ago, and what could have ostensibly been implemented in the past, is no longer a reality, given the dynamic growth of the settler population and the intensity with which it will resist, en masse, any attempts to implement a mass evacuation."

By Mary Casey

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