Desecrating the Constitution (Political Blasphemy)

History repeats itself once again as some political and media vultures of are starting a slow yet an organized campaign seeking the amendment of the Egyptian constitution approved by the Egyptian nation in 2014 to extend the presidential terms from four years to six years per term. If passed, this would provide President Al-Sisi with four extra years should he win a second term in the upcoming presidential elections.

These shameful attempts to bypass the Ironclad clauses of the constitution and extend the terms by two years for a total of six years per term instead of the current four year terms are an assured road to hell if implemented. Despite that the clause governing the Presidential terms is held by an Ironclad one that prohibits any form of change or alterations under any pretexts, there are still among parliament representatives including Representative Ismail Nasr Al Din and others who wish to desecrate the constitution by an attempt to extend that term thus rendering all what has been stipulated then voted for by an overwhelming majority of Egyptians in the constitution referendum in 2014 as useless.

Men for all Seasons:

These heinous attempts will only serve the Islamists claims against the incumbent President Abdel Fattah Al Sisi that he has absolute power and a dictator. It will certainly not benefit the President’s legacy regardless of any achievements he may attain in the proposed four extra years. On the contrary, it will taint these legacies should such a shameful proposed amendment passes in the parliament or even in referendum. Among that group of political vultures are the same groups who pledged allegiance to former President Mubarak for long years and then disavowed him after the tides changed post the January 2011 revolution.

Certainly, they couldn’t care less about the nation highest interests democracy or a president’s legacy but they definitely care a lot to be among the inner circle of close confidants of the President as long as he stays in power. These types of men for all seasons TV anchors, journalists, politicians, etc represent a clear and present danger to Egypt’s future and stability in a no less capacity than the terrorist masterminds of Muslim Brotherhood and their affiliates who seek to destroy the nation from within to rule it. All of the above thrive within dictatorships and cannot survive in free democratic nation where the power transition is done in a civilized manner befitting a great nation such as Egypt.


Another ridiculous reason they are propagating to move forward with these proposed amendments is that that terms should accommodate the President’ economic plans for the country which indeed a farce. In any country an elected president should place his economic plans to fit the Presidential terms whether they are 4 years or more depending on the constitution of that country and not vice versa. This ludicrous reason would mean that any future presidential candidate could claim that he has economic plans that could last 20 years for example and then constitution should be amended for him to be given two terms with 10 years each. Once again it is the President that to adjust the economic plans according to the constitution and not the opposite.

These vultures have not the historical lesson from the smooth Power transition in 2014 from Interim President, the Honorable Judge Adly Mansour to elected President Abdel Fattah Al Sisi which was done in the most civilized manner since the establishment of the Republic in 1954. That transition should have served as an example to follow in Egypt’s political life from that date onwards to the next elected president following President Al Sisi. Any tampering with this process regardless of the causes is an imminent danger to the Egyptian state which cannot be allowed by any means.

Historical Blunders:

The former 1971 constitution of Egypt originally included a two term presidency clause with 6 years each and it was approved during late president Al Sadat first term in power. However, following the Camp David peace treaty with Israel in 1979 and the opposition against it led by leftists and Islamists, some political advisors of President Sadat advised him to have a minor yet a catastrophic amendment on the two terms clause to include the statement “A maximum of two terms or for further terms” which rendered the two terms rule as null and void.

Sadat’s had personal plans to step down in 1982 after the completion of the Israeli withdrawal from Sinai. However, his advisors claimed that an opposition leader may rise to the presidency and cancel the treaty with Israel thus jeopardizing Sadat long years of negotiations and peace treaty. In fear of this unrealistic possibility happening, President Sadat passed the amendment and it was approved in the parliament in a very ominous day for Egypt. What occurred later is that Egypt’s war and peace hero was assassinated in October 6th 1981 and never had the chance to benefit from the amendment. However, his vice president and successor former President Mubarak benefited greatly from that amendment and ruled Egypt for the next 30 years till 2011.

Accordingly, fear of the unknown has created a constitutional and political disaster for Egypt that ended up with a revolt in 2011 which Egypt’s is still paying the price for till this day in every aspect. Egyptians cannot afford to repeat that ominous past for the sake of two extra years per term which eventually will open the door for further amendments in the very number of terms so instead of two terms, it will be three terms or indefinitely such as the former constitution of 1971 ended with. There is no logical or political reason to do that especially that the President has another full term should he win the 2018 elections which is he is poised to do given his immense popularity.

The Egyptian Constitution is not tailor-made document fit for one president or another and every single clause in it has to be respected in order to guarantee the desired political stability. Amending the constitution clauses especially those concerning the presidential terms or years is the gate to hell that should be kept sealed shut. Those who are concerned about stability of Egypt or its economy should know that only a proper democratic system which secures the peaceful transition of power between elected Presidents is the sole guarantee for a flourishing economy, security and prosperity in general.


Moreover, should this heinous amendment pass it will provide immense unwarranted credibility to the terrorists propaganda against Egypt of the past few years. These amendments would be a gift to every enemy of the Egyptian nation to prove they were right all along and that their vile terrorism was some form of fighting for freedom. The President and all the men of honour of this great nation should never allow this to happen and provide a leeway for terrorist propaganda from the likes of Al Jazeerah even carry a shred of truth under any pretext. Any further extensions for the presidential years or terms will haunt President AL Sisi and open a Pandora box of trouble from International media that were against his presidency and now they will be given new ammo after they were finally discredited.

Sanctity of Constitutions:

Discussing such proposed amendments on the presidential terms let alone approving it is a desecration to the constitution and desecration to thousands of Egyptians who died for a hard earned freedom and fighting terrorism to pave the way for a free Egyptian state.  That Free State should be free from terrorism and tyranny under any religious or political pretext. Moreover, attempts to discuss any of these preposterous amendments is jeopardizing the state national security and eliminating all of the June30th revolution political gains.

No other achievement for Al-Sisi will supersede cementing the pillars of a democratic political life and peaceful transition of power. Late South African leader and Nobel prize laureate Nelson Mandela didn’t simply secure his great place in history by leading his country into three decades of struggle to end the vile apartheid system in South Africa, but his true greatness were manifested in ruling South Africa for only one term thus setting the precedence for a healthy democratic political life to last forever. Such has been the trait of great leaders and President Al Sisi will hopefully follow that path for he has already steered Egypt through dark times and an ongoing vicious war on terrorism while attempting to rebuild Egypt’s economy on modern basis.

Moreover, the President has repeatedly confirmed that he will not stay in power for a single day more than what is already stipulated in 2014 constitution. Accordingly, President Al-Sisi is urged to stop this political blasphemy at bay and prove once again that the future of Egypt’s democracy and stability are his paramount goals which will be indeed his crowning achievement.

For any civilized and democratic nation, the Constitution is the holy book of politics and defiling it in such manner is the equivalent of a political blasphemy.


A self-fulfilling prophecy

Published in Al Ahram Weekly on 9/8/2017

The clash between the US and Russia is a distraction from the real war that both countries should be fighting, which is the war on terrorism, writes Hany Ghoraba

When Donald Trump was sworn in as 45th president of the United States, the pro-Clinton American media accused him of forging secret ties with the Russian authorities and particularly Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The accusations became the daily topic of pro-Clinton campaign media outlets, and the campaign supporting Democratic Party elections candidate Hillary Clinton aimed initially at using them to cover up huge blunders during the campaign that led to the decisive defeat of Clinton against Trump. However, the campaign did not end there, as sectors of the US security apparatus got involved in the investigation process, seeking to find evidence in support of the allegations.

On 29 July, US lawmakers passed a bill to impose economic sanctions on Russia over its alleged interference in the 2016 US presidential elections, its annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea region, and its involvement in the Syrian civil war. This package of sanctions seemed likely to stir up a wave of counter-measures, and fewer than 24 hours later Putin expelled 755 US Embassy staff and reduced US mission staff in Russia to 455 by September.

In response to the expulsion, US Vice President Mike Pence has continued the US rhetoric against Russia, citing Russian involvement in international crises and in undermining democracies around the world, along with an old list of accusations often repeated on similar occasions.

The allegations made by US lawmakers against Russia are unproven, however, and there is a lack of irrefutable evidence that could incriminate Russia of having had a hand in manipulating the US elections in favour of Trump, as many Democrats have claimed. With the matter still under investigation, the allegations certainly did not warrant a new set of sanctions to sour the already strained relations with Russia.

Moreover, accusing Russia of intervening in the Syrian war is laughable because this is what the US has been doing since the early days of that war. That said, the Russians can be credited with turning the tables on the Islamic State (IS) group and helping to contain the terrorist nightmare in Syria.

But with diplomatic ties between Russia and the US at their lowest for many years, the US public has the media and hardline Democratic Party politicians to thank for the self-fulfilling prophecy of worsening relations with Russia.

As investigations into the possible interference of the Russians in the elections continue, it seems unwise to jump to conclusions over allegations of hacking the elections in favour of Trump. At the same time, it seems not to have occurred to the accusers how the centuries-old elections system of the US could be disrupted in a computer hack and the divulgence of some emails from Clinton, if the contents of these e-mails were not already incriminating or damaging to the Democrats.

It seems that Democratic Party leaders and Democrats in general have not been able to grasp that Clinton was not as popular as they had led themselves to believe. The fact that she lost the 2008 party primaries against the young and inexperienced African-American candidate Barack Obama should have served as an early indicator of Clinton’s real election chances.

Despite her illustrious career as a US senator and secretary of state, she was marred by negative baggage collected during her long years of public service. Coupled with her heightened sense of self-entitlement, Clinton, along with her campaign, refused to acknowledge changes at the grassroots level and thus lost the chance to win the presidency.

The US media and Democratic Party have become frenzied by the idea that Russia should be punished because of its alleged role in the defeat of their glorious candidate. This frenzy is not just harmful for the Democratic Party, however, but also for the United States and even for world peace.

AVOIDING COLD WAR: The current clash with Russia is what the US media and politicians have produced through campaigns against the country and Trump’s alleged relations with it. It has thus been the result of a self-fulfilling prophecy. The question now is whether those who pushed the situation onto the present collision course will be willing to take responsibility for its repercussions.

Confrontational rhetoric and economic sanctions against the Russians have never yielded results before, and they are highly unlikely to do so in the current situation. Similar sanctions following the Ukrainian crisis led to the deeper involvement of Russia in Ukraine and Russian military intervention in the Syrian civil war in favour of Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad, thwarting American plans to depose him.

Moreover, discussions about arming Ukraine will not only harm the Ukrainian people and their government by placing them in the crossfire between two major powers, but they will also likely lead to a similar reaction from the Russians who will likely retaliate by either ramping up their army on the Ukrainian border, breaking the ceasefire in the conflict zones, or even carrying out a highly provocative act like arming North Korea.

The world cannot afford to regress to Cold War policies and the proxy wars that characterised the four decades following World War II, with wars across the globe being fought out by third parties to serve American or Russian ambitions.

The clash between the US and Russia is a distraction from the real battle that both countries, along with other civilised nations, should be fighting, which is the ongoing war on terrorism. IS, Al-Qaeda and Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated jihadists still represent a clear and present danger that threatens global stability, the world economy and the security of nations. These terrorist organisations will flourish if the major powers shift their focus from the war on terrorism, and they will likely rally their strength to attack the civilised nations.

For many, American-Russian relations in 2017 are reminiscent of an episode of US actor and director Kevin Spacey’s TV show House of Cards, in which international crises may be sparked to serve the personal gains of politicians notwithstanding the dire consequences they may have for others.

It is a time to heal the differences between the nations, especially the major powers, and not to widen rifts or recall old grudges when the war on terrorism is far from over.

Original Post in Al Ahram Weekly

The EU and Qatari blood money

Published in Al Ahram Weekly 2/8/2017

Many European Union governments are still playing politics with terrorism in the Qatar crisis, risking their own national security for economic gains or political influence, writes Hany Ghoraba

In the midst of the Arab quartet’s feud with Qatar, a dubious and controversial stance by several European Union governments has been displayed that seems to favour the terrorism-supporting regime of Qatari Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani. This has left many baffled in the Middle East, especially in the four countries representing the anti-terrorism coalition, namely Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain.

It is a stance that has been neglecting the fair demands of the quartet, which seeks to stop the Qatari government from further endorsing terrorist groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood, the Islamic State (IS) and various other Al-Qaeda affiliates. The activities of these groups have wreaked havoc in the quartet countries along with others including, but not limited to, Libya, Iraq, Syria and Yemen.

For countries that have been under constant attack from the likes of Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated groups such as IS and Al-Qaeda, it has seemed unfathomable that EU governments would take such a passive stance and avoid pressuring Qatar to cease promoting terrorist groups and activities.

However, the reason for such a lenient stance takes us beyond political or security considerations towards financial reasons.

Regarding Qatari investments in the United Kingdom, on 12 June this year British Foreign Minister Boris Johnson urged Qatar to clamp down on the funding of terrorism, thus acknowledging the destructive Qatari role in the region. However, he also added that the quartet should ease its blockade on Qatar in a contradictory statement aiming to appease both sides in the conflict but failing to do so and instead triggering quartet disappointment at the weak British position.

It is no secret that UK Prime Minister Theresa May’s government is facing tough economic conditions at present, and the UK cannot afford to anger any of the belligerents in the Qatar conflict because they all have stakes in the British economy.

When countries face terrorism threats and manage to identify the financiers of them they usually take stringent measures to monitor and punish those financiers, as the British government did back in 1980s and 1990s against the former Qaddafi regime in Libya that sponsored the Lockerbie airplane bombing along with other terrorist activities. However, the case with Qatar seems to be different, and Britain has been unwilling to take a stand against this Gulf state’s support for terrorism.

Following the UK referendum decision to leave the EU, the so-called Brexit, the British government has been desperate for every penny it can get to cover the growing bill of the forthcoming Brexit. Qatar, being one of the biggest foreign investors in the British economy, receives special treatment despite its well-known ties to terrorist groups worldwide. It has already invested over 35 billion pounds sterling in the British economy, and it is expected to add another five billion in investment in the coming five years.

Over recent years, the Qatar Investment Authority (QIA) has bought major British assets and infrastructure projects in Britain that include chunks of Heathrow Airport owner BAA, the Shard skyscraper and sections of the Canary Wharf financial district in London, and major names in the British retail and hospitality sector including the Harrods stores and the Claridges Hotel in London.

These economic interests keep British politicians silent and even complacent in protecting Qatari aggression against its Gulf neighbours and other countries in the region. However, that policy is already backfiring on the UK, with more threats of attacks resulting from terrorists affiliated with IS, a group the Qataris have long endorsed and have even blatantly hosted some of its supporters on the Qatari TV channel Al-Jazeera.

PRO-QATARI STANCE: In Germany, the government of Chancellor Angela Merkel has a notorious history of supporting Islamist governments in the region that have included the ousted Muslim Brotherhood Morsi regime in Egypt, the ill-fated Al-Nahda government in Tunisia, and the Islamist dictatorship led by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Turkey until the recent feud between the two countries.

The German government has been comfortable dealing with Islamist governments across the Middle East, and it has protected the Muslim Brotherhood presence across Germany.

It was thus not surprising that German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel should label the demands of the Arab quartet “very provocative” despite his government’s full knowledge of the ill deeds, conspiracies, and plots of the Qatari regime against the four members of the quartet. Unashamedly, Gabriel is sympathising with the aggressor and calling the victims’ demands “provocative” — something that renders his statement extremely provocative in itself.

However, Gabriel’s views seemed to change after a tour of the Arab Gulf and meetings with his Saudi counterpart Adel Al-Jubeir. After these occurrences, Gabriel said that his country no longer perceived the 13 demands made by the quartet as infringing on Qatar’s sovereignty, contrary to his earlier statements a week before.

Germany remains another recipient of Qatari investments. The Qataris have substantial investments in German economic giants such as Deutsche Bank, Hochtief, Siemens and Volkswagen. The Germans would hate these investments to be affected by the current crisis, so they are taking a very cautious position and are attempting to endorse a political solution to it. This, they believe, will avert Germany’s losing any of the belligerents’ business, considering the huge business interests the country has in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain.

It is unfortunate that many EU governments are still in the business of playing politics with terrorism, while risking the national security of their own states over economic gains or political influence. The quartet vs Qatar crisis has shown that the old politics of acquiring gains from terrorism still prevail in Europe, where European politicians have mimicked the actions of other European officials who have handed the keys to international sporting events to the Qataris on a golden platter.

Thanks to disgraced world football figures such as former FIFA officials Michel Platini and Sepp Blatter, the Qatari-owned network BeIN Sports is monopolising international sporting events broadcasting in the Middle East and many other regions. Such is the calibre of the European officials who helped in awarding one of the smallest countries on the planet the honour of hosting the biggest sporting event in the world, namely the FIFA Football World Cup in 2022.

With European leaders positioning themselves in the crisis and their keenness to keep Qatari investments rolling in despite their own national security interests, it is unlikely that Europe will witness an end to the rising tide of IS and Al-Qaeda-related attacks on its soil any time soon. In fact, the UK has extended a courtesy to Qatar by rejecting a ban on the Muslim Brotherhood, a group openly supported, propagated and financed by the Qatari government.

In the light of the above, the quartet leaders cannot sit idly by in the face of EU leaders’ stances towards Qatar and their lack of comprehension of the reasons behind the firm stance of the quartet against it. The British and German governments must realise that they are also dealing with regional players that hold much bigger assets and investments than Qatar will ever do. British economic ties with Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain are much more important than those with the Qataris. The combined economic, strategic and political weight of these countries renders Qatar negligible in comparison despite its gas wealth and large investments in the UK.

The same thing applies to Germany, whose investments and commercial ties with the quartet countries are enormous. Both these European countries and others that choose to follow suit may risk major losses to their interests in the region should they decide to side with a terrorist-supporting regime against the fair demands of the quartet alliance. This message must be clear to EU leaders because during a war on terrorism countries must choose sides and accept the consequences of their choice.

For the time being, it seems that legendary UK pop group The Beatles have been proven wrong when they sang “money can’t buy me love” because Qatari blood money is buying a lot of love from EU officials and politicians.

Original post in Al Ahram Weekly

The Tillerson affair

Published in Al Ahram Weekly in 26/7/2017 (Online Only)

It is time for the Trump administration to come clean and state which side of the Qatar crisis it stands on, writes Hany Ghoraba

Following the path of his predecessor, John Kerry, former oil tycoon and US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is swiftly turning to be another controversial and inept chief diplomat for his country. The 65-year-old former Exxon CEO has been nothing but a source of disappointment and dismay in the eyes of the Quartet alliance that includes Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, all of which are united against the terrorism-financing and supporting Qatari regime.

Quartet alliance leaders may seek the support of the US administration, which on paper claims to fight terrorism worldwide. However, the alliance is not reliant on that support or approval. In fact, the role of the United States, though crucial, is more of a mediatory one in this case and it is highly unlikely that either the US or EU will persuade the alliance of the innocence of Qatar given its continued destructive role in the region and worldwide.

FRATERNISING WITH TERRORISM FINANCIERS: Much to the dismay of many in the region and after the meeting of Tillerson with his Qatari counterpart 11 July, Tillerson was praising Qatari regime figures due to their commitment to and signing of a new meaningless Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for fighting terrorism. This self-proclaimed achievement is utterly useless in light of the Qatari regime’s adamant drive to financially and politically endorse terrorist groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood, the Islamic State and the Taliban from Qatar, where leaders of these groups are finding asylum.

AMERICAN BASE IN QATAR: Tillerson is seemingly on a mission to manipulate both sides of the conflict and gain maximum benefits for the United States which entails upholding the status quo, mainly so the United States won’t be forced to change the location of its current Al-Udeid airbase located in Qatar with all the logistical problems and costs that could entail. However, if he is successful in his approach it would translate into Qatar’s continued financing and support for terrorist activities across the region, which is unacceptable by all means. It is understandable that the presence in Qatar of the biggest American military base in the region leaves the Trump administration in a bit of quandary. However, Trump himself didn’t seem too keen on keeping the base in Qatar should it interfere with the interests of the United States and the war on terrorism, and expressed explicitly that there are other options than keeping it there.

THE TILLERSON CONTROVERSY: “The nation of Qatar has unfortunately been a funder of terrorism, and at a very high level,” said Donald Trump on 9 June. One wonders what part of that historic speech Tillerson missed before embarking on his Middle East shuttle tour that included Qatar. The provoking nature of Tillerson’s statements that followed his meeting with officials in Qatar exacerbated the situation with the Quartet alliance. These statements also sparked the perception that the United States approves or is even colluding with the terrorist backing provided by the Qatari regime, in breach of what was agreed during the Arab-Islamic-American Summit that took place in Riyadh in May. The Trump administration, thanks to Tillerson, is failing to resolve the escalating crisis between Egypt and Arabian Gulf States on the one hand and Qatar on the other.

While President Trump attempts to rectify some of the huge blunders of US policies of the past six years by ordering the CIA to cease all operations supporting the so-called “Syrian opposition”, which was mainly composed of various Islamist and Jihadist groups, Tillerson is seen fraternising with officials of the country that has been financing these very groups that ransacked and destroyed entire towns in Syria, Libya and Iraq. The Qatari regime is directly responsible for the miseries of millions in the aforementioned countries, added to Egypt and all countries suffering from the Muslim Brotherhood, Islamic State and Al-Qaeda.

It is unfathomable that the US secretary of state would be so deluded. Accordingly, President Trump is urged to clearly decide which side his administration is on. He has to practically reaffirm his commitment to fighting terrorism and regimes that support it, regardless of their identity. Trump is required to reassess his secretary of state’s stance, to assure that he would cease and desist sending these abhorrent mixed signals that display a total lack of comprehension on how far the rift between the Arab Quartet alliance and Qatar has grown. Trump should realise that the current situation will endanger US interests in the Middle East.

Tillerson and some of the Qatari-affiliated Western media, has been trying desperately to provide the perception that the embargo against Qatar is not working and the Quartet should lift it, which is an oxymoron. They never explained why are they so keen on lifting an embargo that is — according to them — useless and ineffective in the first place. Moreover, the same groups are attempting to underline the importance of Qatar to alliance countries, which is a fallacy since Qatar is of no major economic, strategic, military or cultural importance to the region. Despite Qatar being a gas-rich country, to most Middle East countries that is equivalent to the importance of a sand vendor in the middle of the desert.

The Obama administration created unprecedented havoc in the Middle East with twisted policies that provided a catalyst to the rise of Islamist and jihadist groups all across the region. Chief allies and perpetrators of that policy were the Qatari and Turkish regimes who trained, abetted and financed most of the terrorist groups in the region since 2011. Qatari Prince Tamim Al-Thani is still defying regional powers in his latest televised speech 21 July where he mentioned that Qataris has a different definition of terrorism, and thus tougher measures may be taken by the Quartet to compel the Qatari regime to abandon its destructive policies.

Dealing decisively with Qatar: President Trump claimed to reject these policies and vowed to reverse them upon his ascent to the presidency. Thus far this promise has been mostly rhetorical. Nothing concrete has been done on the ground, including on the promise to ban the Muslim Brotherhood and its affiliates in the United States. The Arabian Gulf crisis is Trump’s chance to meet his promises of fighting effectively the terrorism financiers.

Tillerson’s approach is not only in contradiction to the Arab alliance against terrorism, but also his own president’s words last month. His continued demands for lifting the embargo is not going to work since Qatar didn’t even meet the most basic of demands and is continuing its provoking policies. Moreover, the embargo against Qatar by Egypt, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Bahrain doesn’t breach any international or United Nations accords since these nations are sovereign who have simply taken stringent measures to protect their national security. It’s noteworthy to remember that the United States embargoed the Castro regime in Cuba for over 55 years, and even without the Cubans supporting terrorist activities.

Many in the West are downplaying Qatar’s role in the international wave of terrorism post-2000 and believe that Qatar is too small of a country to play such a role. They are right about one thing: that Qatar is not alone in this role and the Turkish regime plays a similar role as well. However, the size of Qatar has nothing to do with the havoc it created. Western media pundits and politicians may need to remind themselves how miniscule diseases are that nonetheless destroy the human body. A malicious but small sized country can still do a lot of damage if left unchecked, and Qatar cannot be allowed to get away with its crimes anymore.

Original Post in Al Ahram Weekly

Egypt’s global firepower

Published in Al Ahram Weekly 19/7/2017

Despite fighting on multiple fronts in the war on terrorism, Egypt’s Armed Forces continue to improve in ranking as a formidable world military power, writes Hany Ghoraba

At times of war, armies are weakened by continuous fighting and the drainage of their financial, weaponry and manpower resources. However, against all the odds the Egyptian army has nevertheless been able to contradict this traditional state of affairs and turn the disadvantages resulting from fighting a war on terrorism on multiple fronts that include Sinai and Libya into a miraculous ascent within the ranks of world armies from 18th in early 2015 to 10th in July 2017, according to the Global Firepower Ranking.

Undoubtedly, Egypt’s army is now in the major league, and despite its fighting on multiple fronts in the war on terrorism it continues to improve in the world rankings as a formidable power and a force to be reckoned with despite the economic constraints and security odds stacked against it.

Global Firepower is an informative website that ranks the world’s armies according to some 50 different parameters, including the economic power and population of the country from which they come. The site doesn’t factor in the experience of battle-hardened armies in comparison to ones that have hardly witnessed any military actions in recent years, however.

Economic, geostrategic and logistical factors are factored in to the extent that most of the top 20 ranked armies in the world today are from countries with strong economies. This is a manifestation of the old Roman saying, attributed to the writer and politician Cicero, that “the sinews of war are money.” Accordingly, the site has factored in such economic conditions, bearing in mind that a war can take a long period, but also neglecting the fact that some wars could end in a matter of days, and sustaining the armed forces for long periods as a condition for the strength of an army may not be as simple as it seems.

Firepower, ideally, should be measured by actual firepower and not by economic conditions that can vary and fluctuate even in a strong country. For example, the United States is normally and deservingly ranked number one in military terms, but its economy is burdened by $20 trillion in debt, and this could be a destructive factor at any moment. Nevertheless, without a doubt American military supremacy is only rivalled at certain levels by Russian, and, further off, by Chinese capabilities.

Should economic conditions be factored in here and the US find itself in a confrontation with China, the Chinese will likely use their economic power against the US, causing a direct hit to the economy. However, even so the fact that the American military with all its firepower would still be standing and accordingly theoretically be able to fight a war, even a long one, despite any economic constraints shows that firepower is still firepower.

In other words, if a soldier is carrying a firearm, then he has a firepower amounting to the calibre and number of bullets that firearm can discharge. The fact that his wallet may contain $10 or $1,000 is irrelevant, as the firepower of that soldier is unaffected by his purchasing power. Accordingly, factoring economic conditions in can sometimes be misleading as a weaker country economically can still bring about the military defeat of a wealthier one if it has the necessary firepower.

Despite its excellent ranking of 10th place in the Global Firepower Ranking, Egypt should continue its military modernisation programme with further purchases and training that should include all sectors of the military. This should be done bearing in mind the costs and the maintenance requirements of any equipment acquired, because as a rule of thumb an army should not procure 50 tanks if it only needs and can service 15. It is easy to purchase arms, but the training and maintenance of this equipment to keep it in combat-ready form can be extremely costly in the long run.

INDIGENOUS ARMS MANUFACTURING: Some armchair experts downplay the Egyptian military ranking because they claim that the military industry in Egypt is not up to the standard of its Western counterparts.

Such accusations, while containing some truth, are unfair since the local or indigenous manufacturing of arms, while seemingly appealing as an idea, does not guarantee any form of supremacy in war. In fact, the opposite can be the case. For instance, years of boycott by the West has forced the Iranian army, once amongst the world’s elite military forces, into the indigenous manufacturing of arms. The results have been far from optimal, and the quality of the arms produced has set back the entire army, rendering it a second grade one in comparison to its former glory before the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran.

When it comes to arms manufacturing, it is the quality of the production that matters, not the quantity. Aside from the American and Russian armies and to a lesser extent the French and British ones, no other country is able to fully manufacture its military equipment and arms efficiently.

As a result, Egypt only manufactures equipment in which it can excel, such as training jets, drones, armoured vehicles, light tanks, air-defence systems, short, medium and long-range missiles, various kinds of guns and firearms, rocket-propelled grenades, mines, ammunition and so on. However, for heavier equipment such as tanks, attack helicopters and fighter jets, these are either partly manufactured in cooperation with foreign partners or imported entirely.

Theoretically, the Egyptian arms industries can manufacture fighter jets and training jets such as the Tucano, Alpha and K-8. These are almost entirely manufactured in Egypt and are testament to that fact. However, fighter jets and air superiority leave no room for trial and error as equipment of this sort is the backbone of any modern military, and accordingly such jets are imported from the United States, France, Russia and China, which have been pioneers in the field for decades.

In its currently difficult economic circumstances Egypt cannot afford to set up an ambitious programme to manufacture fighter jets as the country does not have the luxury to spend 46 billion euros, as the French did to manufacture the Dassault Rafale fighter aircraft, only to wait for over a decade to find its first buyers. Similarly, the Americans spent over $400 billion developing their latest F-35 masterpiece, and this still has technical issues.

Egypt cannot afford to enter a race of this sort, especially since Egyptian pilots cannot be seen to be using inferior jets to protect Egypt’s skies. Accordingly, purchasing such state- of-the-art equipment from abroad is imperative and the most logical solution to keep the Egyptian military’s strength and superior capabilities. Unlike in sports events, in a war there is no silver medal for second place but only defeat and destruction.

As for the importance of Global Firepower rankings, these could be seen as more or less similar to the FIFA world football rankings that list the rankings of national football teams on a monthly basis. The Firepower ranking is an excellent indicator of the strengths of each world army using statistics and over 50 independent parameters.

However, just like the FIFA rankings, the Global Firepower rankings are an indicator based only on current time, meaning that like in football if Germany or Brazil are ranked as No 1 this is an indicator of the strength of these national teams based on their latest results and records. However, this ranking does not guarantee that either Brazil or Germany will defeat a slightly lower-ranked team such as Holland or France in a friendly or official game because there are many parameters that could come into play with every game played.

Similarly, the United States as a supreme military power is not guaranteed a positive outcome from any conflict that it might enter into with lower-ranked armies. The Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan wars are proof of that assertion. That said, however, the United States army can wield huge power, and it has a power projection capability that is second to none, with its six fleets and 10 naval super-carriers that can bring war to the door of any rising threat.

The rankings accordingly cannot precisely forecast the outcome of any given war because the war theatre is a complex matter and hundreds of parameters must be factored in in order to project a result.

For all intents and purposes and regardless of its prestigious ranking in Global Firepower, the Egyptian military remains an instrument of peace. The world has realised the importance of Egypt’s maintaining a powerful military since it is a vanguard of civilisation from possible barbaric attacks from the likes of the Islamic State group, Al-Qaeda or any other group that may emerge as a result of the chaos that followed the Arab Spring.

The Egyptian military thus remains a colossus of peace in a region faced on all sides by terrorism, extremism and sectarianism.

Original Post at Al Ahram Weekly

Qatar — the terrorist haven

Published in Al Ahram Weekly on 12/7/2017

The Qatari regime has been behaving like the havens that harboured pirates in the Caribbean centuries ago, and it must look forward to a similar fate, writes Hany Ghoraba

In the 17th and 18th-century Caribbean, some ports were controlled by pirates and buccaneers of the Spanish Main and turned into safe havens for pirates from elsewhere. Among these ports were Tortuga, Barataria Bay and Port Royal where wanted pirates found the safety to enable them to repair their ships, sell their loot, and divide up their plunder away from the eyes of the British, French, Dutch and Spanish fleets that were roaming the seas in search of the pirate ships in order to capture or sink them.

The Golden Age of piracy lasted for about two centuries, during which time these safe havens became prosperous ports in the Caribbean. It seems today that history may be repeating itself, as the most pressing issue of the hour is terrorism and just like the pirate havens of long ago there are now terrorist havens where terrorists, especially Islamist ones, can find shelter, protection and financing for their vile activities.

The most notorious terrorist haven in the world today is undoubtedly the rogue state of Qatar where many of the world’s terrorist groups had or have links, offices and financial resources provided through Qatari government-affiliated banks and propagated by the Islamist propaganda machine the Al-Jazeera television network.

Last Friday, a vile terrorist attack on a security outpost in the Egyptian city of Rafah resulted in the killing and injuring of some 26 special forces soldiers who had stood their ground during the attack and managed to kill 40 terrorists. This treacherous attack was not the first to take place in Sinai, and like earlier ones it has led to Egypt and its allies in the region to point the finger at the involvement of the Qatari regime in terrorist activities in Egypt and other countries in the region since the Arab Spring revolutions in 2011.

Terrorist attacks financed by Qatar have become more common since the 30 June Revolution in Egypt. The Qatari government is still defying most of the rest of the world and its Arab neighbours by blatantly harbouring wanted terrorists who are on the blacklists of Interpol along with many national security agencies. However, the Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated regime is defying such pressures and has been continuing its blatant financing of terrorist organisations in Egypt, Libya, Syria, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Iraq and the UAE.

The blind support of the Qatari regime for the Muslim Brotherhood group stems from the fact that Qatari Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani and his family were religiously tutored by none other than the Egyptian-born Qatari radical Sheikh Youssef Al-Qaradawi who is regarded as an influential Muslim Brotherhood scholar. Since the rise of the radical spiritual leader of Iran Ayatollah Khomeini to power in the 1979 Islamic Revolution, hardly any other radical cleric has had the same influence as that exercised by Al-Qaradawi. He sought shelter and political asylum in Qatar in 1961 after being convicted in Egypt of inciting terrorism, and he has since played an integral role in the spread of Islamism across the region.

Al-Qaradawi , who can be nicknamed the “Arab Rasputin” because of his influence over the ruling Al-Thani family in Qatar, persuading it to adopt the twisted beliefs of the Muslim Brotherhood, has been instrumental in turning the Al-Thani family into a blatant political supporter and financier of Brotherhood activities in the region. For nearly two decades, Al-Qaradawi has managed through his weekly broadcast on Al-Jazeera, Al-Sharia wal-Hayah (Life and Islamic Law), to spread the doctrines of the Brotherhood. The 90-year-old scholar today remains one of the most dangerous and influential Islamists in the world, and he has incited violence across the region, even issuing fatwas (Islamic legal rulings) calling for the killing of the region’s rulers.

The Egyptian authorities are urged to file an international lawsuit against Qatari regime figures for aiding in the committing of war crimes and terrorist activities. Qatar should be made to pay reparations to Egypt and other countries in which Qatari intelligence has bankrolled terrorism activities, such as Libya, Syria and Iraq. The Qataris have also orchestrated attempts to overthrow the regimes of the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia.

These countries now possess evidence that should be presented to the United Nations and the International Criminal Court in order that these bodies can thoroughly investigate the involvement of the Qatari intelligence services in terrorism activities.

UNSEEN ENEMIES: In traditional wars, there is usually a clear sense of the combatants as the belligerents are usually easily identifiable. However, in the war against terrorism, battles are marred by treachery and acts of cowardice that are endorsed by regimes such as the one in Qatar.

The Qatari ruling house does not seem to lose any sleep over the hundreds of thousands of casualties it has caused across the Middle East over the past decade as a result of its activities, with millions more being displaced or into forced migration. It certainly does not care about the brave Egyptian soldiers who paid with their lives to defend Egypt’s borders from the raids of Islamic State (IS) group-affiliated terrorists.

It is time for this regime to face international condemnation and for its rulers to be placed on the international watch list of criminals for their role in supporting, financing and propagating terrorist activities that have led to the demise of countless people across the world.

The newly formed Axis of Terror comprised of the Turkish, Qatari and Iranian regimes will not hold for long. Despite their recklessness and hostility, the Turkish and Iranian regimes do not want to be involved in a major conflict in which they will gain nothing but will face economic sanctions and more international condemnation.

Forming an Axis of Terror against the Quartet alliance of Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain will not reap them any long-term rewards, especially for the Turks who cannot risk their strong economic ties with the aforementioned countries. Should an economic boycott go into effect as a result of Turkey’s support for the Qataris, the country will lose billions of dollars in export contracts and projects. Similarly, Iran, despite being a menace in the region, will prefer to avoid direct military confrontations as a result of its losses in the Iraq-Iran War in the 1980s.

The Qatari regime still believes that it can bluff its way out of an increasingly tense situation by calling upon the involvement of both the Turkish and Iranian pariah regimes. In so doing, it is stamping itself with the mark of terrorism by calling upon these terrorist-supporting regimes for assistance. There are also tight limits on what these two countries can do in supporting Qatar, presumably stopping at emergency logistical or economic assistance, since neither the Turkish nor the Iranian regime is likely to want to enter a full-scale conflict with regional giants such as Egypt and Saudi Arabia to protect the ailing Qatari regime.

The media war that the Qatari regime is waging in a desperate attempt to save its skin and lift the blockade against it will not reap fruitful results. The joint declaration by the blockading countries and their renewed ultimatum to the Qatari regime on 5 July only confirmed that the Middle Eastern powers are resolute about ending the Qatari’s regime tomfoolery and attempts at destabilisation of the region. The latter has already paid a hefty price for such megalomaniacal actions, including the peaceful people of Qatar itself who have found themselves in the crossfire as a result of their government’s vainglory and greed.

Similar to the Caribbean pirate havens of the 17th and 18th centuries, Qatar is flourishing in terms of money and prosperity, but if history is any guide those same pirates who once lived like kings in pirate havens eventually met their doom. The terrorists that Qatar is harbouring are unlikely to meet a different fate.

Original Post in Al Ahram Weekly

Britain’s enigmatic elections

Published at Al Ahram Weekly on 22/6/2-17

The outcome of the recent parliamentary elections in Britain may signify that the UK is struggling to reformulate its identity after the referendum to leave the European Union, writes Hany Ghoraba

In one of the most surprising outcomes for a British election in a long time, the British public recently stripped the ruling Conservative Party of the majority in the British parliament that it has enjoyed since 2015. The outcome of the elections came as a surprise, as did the shocking vote for the United Kingdom to exit from the European Union in a referendum less than a year earlier. A radical shift from right-wing politics to left-wing ones, one way of reading the results of the recent elections, has left observers baffled about the sudden shifts in British public opinion that have characterised recent voting patterns.

On the one hand, Great Britain voted to exit from the EU in 2016 due to the economically taxing, interventionist and lenient immigration policies adopted by the organisation. These policies have seemingly irked the majority of the British public for years and have now led them to vote for complete independence from European laws and regulations. On the other hand, the same nation in less than a year from the Brexit vote in many cases voted for left-wing Labour Party candidates in the parliamentary elections. Some of these candidates are pro-EU, rendering the task of exiting the union an even harder one for incumbent Prime Minister Theresa May who has pledged to respect the voters’ choice in the Brexit referendum.

There are many explanations as to why British voters did not consolidate May’s powers to finalise a quick exit from the EU. One of these is that there are still many in Britain under the shock of the result of the Brexit vote, which was to them surprising as it was even to some of its own advocates. Apparently, the country was not prepared economically, politically or even socially to exit the EU, which despite its various shortcomings has seemed to be a stabilising factor for the UK. The outcome of the recent elections may signify that the British nation is still struggling to formulate its identity and desired path after the Brexit vote.

Many in Scotland are demanding a new referendum on independence from the UK, for example, similar to that in 2016 which barely missed voting to exit the union. The reason for such a demand is that a good majority of Scots still believe in the EU and may wish to leave the UK in order to rejoin it. If the past few years serve as any indicator, the wishes of the Scots could turn into reality and the world could witness an independent Scotland rejoining the EU while the rest of the UK exits from it.

The biggest winner of the recent elections may be the Labour Party, which has managed to close the gap between its number of seats in parliament and that of the majority Conservatives. The party, headed by controversial leader Jeremy Corbyn, has been celebrating some surprising gains. Corbyn has not been shy about rubbing shoulders with notorious figures including members of terrorist organisations such as Hamas, Hizbullah and the Muslim Brotherhood. His association with these did not deter many British voters from voting for his party’s candidates in the elections even as they risked seeing Corbyn becoming the next prime minister.

There is currently a period of waiting in Britain as British citizens absorb the effects of the surprising Brexit vote and hope that the positive results of it will soon be felt. For the time being, the average British citizen may well feel dismay at having to contribute to paying the hefty Brexit bill charged by the EU to Britain without any immediate or even foreseeable tangible results. This may have encouraged the anti-Brexit camp to gain momentum during the parliamentary elections.

May made the same mistake as former prime minister David Cameron in misreading the British political scene and voter feelings before calling for an early snap election that she thought would strengthen her powers. She believed that she required a reinforced mandate before tackling the tough negotiations for the Brexit from the EU. Unfortunately, the election backfired, and she has weakened her position in the negotiations further.

A year before, Cameron lost the Brexit referendum after rushing into it apparently unaware of its possible consequences. The end result was a political stunt that cost him his position as prime minister and Britain its membership of the EU. Something similar applies to May, who has weakened her position significantly as prime minister and has now been forced to try to rule with a precarious and very limited majority in a coalition with another party. She did not learn from her predecessor’s blunder, and she was overconfident in seeking a larger mandate.

May is now left with few choices to form a stable government that can survive a vote of confidence. The most likely, yet equally undesirable, of these choices is to ally the Conservative Party with the Northern Irish Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), which won 10 seats in the elections, simply to secure a majority vote on upcoming bills in parliament. However, while this move may secure a marginal majority, it has its own political drawbacks.

The possible deal with the DUP represents a challenge and a possible risk to the Good Friday Peace Agreement of 1998, and Northern Irish Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams warned on 15 June that an agreement with the DUP was a breach of the agreement and would jeopardise the peace. A similar concern has been expressed by Scottish first minister Nicola Sturgeon, who referred to “deep-seated concerns” over the possible deal with the DUP and the impact of any such deal on the future of peace in Northern Ireland. However, the most stark warning came from within the Conservative camp itself, as former prime minister John Major warned that the Conservative-DUP agreement would threaten the hard-earned peace in Northern Ireland.

May might be able to save the Tories their majority even with the loss of seats in the last elections. However, in this process she may open a Pandora’s Box of problems as a result of being perceived as meddling in Northern Ireland in favour of the Unionists who will now be an ally of the Conservatives in the UK parliament. This will remove the impartiality of May’s government on volatile Northern Irish issues. That is one Pandora’s Box that May cannot afford to open, as it might place the UK under the threat of revived violence in Northern Ireland.

The British nation is moving between right-wing policies and far-left ones, rendering the political spectrum unpredictable. Undoubtedly, there are a lot of British voters who now regret voting for exiting the EU despite its shortcomings. That regret stems from the hefty costs that the nation will have to bear as a result of the unforeseen expenses and complications that the exit will entail.

The British public is still struggling to find a pathway to the future as the majority seems dismayed by both left- and right-wing policies and has been seeing no improvement in the overall standard of living. Brexit has not thus far boosted the economy, ended illegal immigration, or stemmed terrorism activities. Moreover, many jobs may now be lost as a result of the Brexit and the loss of European funding for facilities provided to Britain as a member of the EU.

With Article 50 triggered, signalling the beginning of the two-year process for the UK to exit the EU, the world’s oldest democracy is now at a crossroads in terms of redefining its economy, politics and social policies in the light of the Brexit reality that will sever its 44-year membership of the EU. The next two years will witness Britain sailing into uncharted waters, at least until British citizens accustom themselves to the post-EU era which will have its own set of challenges on all levels.

However, things may not be all doom and gloom as some have predicted. After all, Britain has all the necessary tools for survival, including a strong economy, a powerful currency, an industrious population and a large cultural output. If these tools were to be used skilfully by the British nation, it would pass the post-Brexit period with flying colours.

But such challenges will still require a calibre of leadership that Britain has not seen since the resignation of former prime minister Margaret Thatcher in 1990. Thus far, May has yet to prove herself worthy of Thatcher’s seat.

Original Post in Al Ahram Weekly