Monday, February 24, 2014

Egyptian Government Unexpectedly Resigns


In a televised address Monday, Egypt's interim Prime Minister Hazem el-Beblawi announced the resignation of his cabinet. Beblawi gave no reason for the government's departure, however the move could pave the way for army chief Field Marshal Abdel Fattah al-Sisi to declare his bid for presidency. To run for president, Sisi would need to first leave his post as defense minister. According to an Egyptian official, the cabinet resigned so that Sisi would not appear to be acting alone. The announcement came amid a number of strikes over the past few days including by public transport and textile workers, doctors, and garbage collectors. Beblawi acknowledged the sharp increase in strikes, but claimed no government could address all the demands of its people in such a short amount of time. He said the government "made every effort to get Egypt out of the narrow tunnel in terms of security, economic pressures, and political confusion." Interim President Adly Mansour has asked Beblawi to run the government's affairs until a successor is named, according to the state-run newspaper al-Ahram.


The U.N. Security Council unanimously approved on Saturday a resolution on humanitarian access in Syria, threatening "further steps" in the event of non-compliance. There was concern that Russia and China, which have previously vetoed three resolutions on Syria, would block the move. However, Russia's ambassador to the United Nations Vitaly I. Churkin said Moscow supported the resolution because "many Russian considerations were borne in mind." References to the International Criminal Court and threats of targeted sanctions were removed from the initial text. The resolution "demands that all parties, in particular the Syrian authorities, promptly allow rapid, safe and unhindered humanitarian access for U.N. humanitarian agencies ... including across conflict lines and across borders" and calls for an end to attacks on civilians, including the use of "barrel bombs." Meanwhile, a top al Qaeda representative and commander of the Salafist group Ahrar al-Sham, Abu Khalid al-Suri, was killed Sunday along with six other fighters from the group by a suicide attack on its base in the northern city of Aleppo. Al Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahri had reportedly sent Suri to mediate conflicts between Islamist factions fighting in Syria. No group has taken responsibility for the attack, but it is believed to have been carried out by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. Fighting between rival Islamist groups has killed up to 2,000 people since early January. 


  • Israeli police killed American-Israeli inmate Samuel Sheinbein, who was jailed for committing murder in the United States in 1997, after he shot three guards.
  • Prosecutors accused ousted President Mohamed Morsi of leaking state secrets to Iran's Revolutionary Guards and conspiring to destabilize Egypt, in the second hearing of his trial on espionage charges.
  • Attacks across Iraq, including shelling in Ramadi, shootings in Mosul, and bombings in Baghdad, have killed at least 17 people since Sunday.

Arguments and Analysis

'Concern Grows Over Academic Freedom in Egypt' (Ursula Lindsey, New York Times)

"'I won't publish anything critical while I'm here,' said a political scientist currently working in Egypt who asked not to be identified for fear of reprisals from the authorities. The foreign researcher, who had previously done work on the Muslim Brotherhood, said that under Mr. Mubarak, even though the Islamic group was an illegal organization, the authorities did not object to academics meeting with its members.

Now 'they don't want anyone to present anything that is sympathetic or humanizing' of the Islamist group, which the government has officially designated a terrorist organization, the researcher said."

'Old sores lie at the heart of Sinai's spike in violence' (Sharif Nashashibi, The National)

"The motives of militants in the region have been dangerously over-simplified and misunderstood. The authorities are portraying violence there as part of their war against Islamist terror that was unleashed by Mr Morsi's supporters. Conveniently, this label fosters support from a frightened public.

However, Sinai residents' grievances are long-running, and many have little to do with Mr Morsi or Islam, though both factors play a part, particularly in recent months. The grievances include demands for greater autonomy, the selling and resettlement of their land under Mr Mubarak, and economic, political and social marginalisation."

--Mary Casey & Cortni Kerr


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