Egypt braces for rival protests ahead of Morsi’s anniversary

Egypt is bracing for rival protests approaching President Mohamed Morsi’s first anniversary in office. Opposition activists have planned massive demonstrations for Sunday in what they call a "second revolution" demanding Morsi’s resignation. To counter the opposition, thousands of the president’s supporters are expected to hold a rally in Cairo on Friday in support of Morsi’s ...

GIANLUIGI GUERCIA/AFP/Getty Images
GIANLUIGI GUERCIA/AFP/Getty Images
GIANLUIGI GUERCIA/AFP/Getty Images

Egypt is bracing for rival protests approaching President Mohamed Morsi's first anniversary in office. Opposition activists have planned massive demonstrations for Sunday in what they call a "second revolution" demanding Morsi's resignation. To counter the opposition, thousands of the president's supporters are expected to hold a rally in Cairo on Friday in support of Morsi's "legitimacy." It is unclear what degree of support either group will garner. Concerns are growing that Sunday's protests could turn violent. Morsi has exerted his power, deploying the army to government ministries and the Suez Canal, initiating legal proceedings against judges, and challenging dissent in the media. Political tensions have already spurred clashes killing five people and wounding 400 others in recent days. Al-Azhar, Egypt's top religious authority, released a warning Friday saying, "Vigilance is required to ensure we do not slide into civil war." The Egyptian army has expressed reluctance to intervene, but has said it will act if politicians cannot reach a consensus.

Syria

Attacks in the Christian quarter of Syria's historic Old City have killed at least four people on Thursday. One of the attacks was a suicide bombing according to Syrian state TV. Opposition sources confirmed four people were killed, but said the attack was caused by a mortar bomb. No one has claimed responsibility for the attacks, which were among the worst to hit the area, which is designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site, since the conflict began in March 2011. According to the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, government shelling has killed four women and four girls in the town of Karak in Syria's southern province of Daraa. Syria's state news agency reported Syrian forces were chasing "terrorist cells" in Daraa and along the border with Jordan, however did not mention Karak. In the Kurdish-dominated town of Amuda in Syria's Hassaka province members of the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) opened fire on a protest killing at least three people and wounding 10 others. Demonstrators were protesting the detention of three Kurdish activists by the PYD, who said they were arrested for drug dealing. The PYD has taken responsibility for security in Amuda since regime forces withdrew in July 2012. Since then, Kurdish anti-Assad activists have accused the PYD of collaborating with the regime. Meanwhile, in an interview with the Financial Times, Syria's Deputy Prime Minister for the Economy Kadri Jamil showed little concern for crippling western sanctions and Syria's financial crisis, citing significant foreign support. He said, "It's not that bad to have behind you the Russians, the Chinese, and Iranians. Those three countries are helping us politically, militarily -- and also economically."

Egypt is bracing for rival protests approaching President Mohamed Morsi’s first anniversary in office. Opposition activists have planned massive demonstrations for Sunday in what they call a "second revolution" demanding Morsi’s resignation. To counter the opposition, thousands of the president’s supporters are expected to hold a rally in Cairo on Friday in support of Morsi’s "legitimacy." It is unclear what degree of support either group will garner. Concerns are growing that Sunday’s protests could turn violent. Morsi has exerted his power, deploying the army to government ministries and the Suez Canal, initiating legal proceedings against judges, and challenging dissent in the media. Political tensions have already spurred clashes killing five people and wounding 400 others in recent days. Al-Azhar, Egypt’s top religious authority, released a warning Friday saying, "Vigilance is required to ensure we do not slide into civil war." The Egyptian army has expressed reluctance to intervene, but has said it will act if politicians cannot reach a consensus.

Syria

Attacks in the Christian quarter of Syria’s historic Old City have killed at least four people on Thursday. One of the attacks was a suicide bombing according to Syrian state TV. Opposition sources confirmed four people were killed, but said the attack was caused by a mortar bomb. No one has claimed responsibility for the attacks, which were among the worst to hit the area, which is designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site, since the conflict began in March 2011. According to the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, government shelling has killed four women and four girls in the town of Karak in Syria’s southern province of Daraa. Syria’s state news agency reported Syrian forces were chasing "terrorist cells" in Daraa and along the border with Jordan, however did not mention Karak. In the Kurdish-dominated town of Amuda in Syria’s Hassaka province members of the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) opened fire on a protest killing at least three people and wounding 10 others. Demonstrators were protesting the detention of three Kurdish activists by the PYD, who said they were arrested for drug dealing. The PYD has taken responsibility for security in Amuda since regime forces withdrew in July 2012. Since then, Kurdish anti-Assad activists have accused the PYD of collaborating with the regime. Meanwhile, in an interview with the Financial Times, Syria’s Deputy Prime Minister for the Economy Kadri Jamil showed little concern for crippling western sanctions and Syria’s financial crisis, citing significant foreign support. He said, "It’s not that bad to have behind you the Russians, the Chinese, and Iranians. Those three countries are helping us politically, militarily — and also economically."

Headlines

  • U.S. retired General James Cartwright is the target of a Justice Department investigation into the leaking of classified information on the 2010 Stuxnet cyber attack on Iranian nuclear facilities.
  • A series of bombings targeting crowded cafes late Thursday killed at least 22 people in and near Iraq’s capital of Baghdad.
  • Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have released details of what they say are "credible allegations of torture" by authorities of detainees in the UAE, including around 94 activists.

Arguments & Analysis

Syria’s Metastasising Conflicts‘ (International Crisis Group)

"In short, the evolution of regime and opposition alike has made both military and negotiated solutions even more elusive, while transformation of the broader strategic context has made prospects for escalation even more probable. In the words of a former U.S. official, what once was a Syrian conflict with regional spillover has become a regional war with a Syrian focus. That is frightening.

The war is metastasising in ways that draw in regional and other international actors, erase boundaries and give rise to a single, transnational arc of crisis. The opposition increasingly resembles a Sunni coalition in which a radicalised Sunni street, Islamist networks, the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood, Gulf states and Turkey take leading roles. The pro-regime camp, encompassing Iran, Hizbollah, Iraq and Iraqi

Shiite militants, likewise appears to be a quasi-confessional alliance.

By its own admission, Hizbollah is directly engaged in a far-reaching battle against those it denounces as Sunni fundamentalists (takfiris) allied with Israel, thereby laying the predicate for long-term involvement. Iraqi Shiite fighters are growing in numbers, and Iran’s participation is expanding. Sunni sheikhs around the region are themselves using uninhibited sectarian language to urge followers to join the fight. The conflict has reignited tensions in Syria’s most fragile neighbours — Iraq and Lebanon — which recently had their own civil wars."

No Horizon in a Perpetually Unstable Palestine‘ (Nathan Brown, Carnegie Endowment)

"What appears to be the power of positive thinking to outsiders often appears deeply delusional to those on the inside. It is rare to hear forced optimism from either Palestinians or Israelis, except perhaps from those on political extremes who see existing trends as vindication of their maximalist positions.

The main criticism of the generally bleak understanding of the current moment is that giving in to defeatist thinking offers no alternative solution. It is difficult to respond except to say that such alternatives may have existed — such as taking Palestinian reconciliation seriously — but even they may be losing whatever promise they once had. There is too much in the way of entrenched interests, weak leaders, and short-term thinking to avoid the conclusion that it is unlikely that any one of the parties to the dispute or any external diplomatic effort will offer a realistic possibility of change.

With so much turmoil in every neighboring country, it seems more likely that any new opportunities — for good or ill — will emerge from some unanticipated change in a regional environment that is very much in flux. If such an unexpected shock does not occur, then it may well be that the current unsustainable situation will outlive many of those now describing it as such."

— Mary Casey & Joshua Haber

<p>Mary Casey-Baker is the editor of Foreign Policy’s Middle East Daily Brief, as well as the assistant director of public affairs at the Project on Middle East Political Science and assistant editor of The Monkey Cage blog for the Washington Post. </p> Twitter: @casey_mary

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