Square one, but not forever

Former intern Ala’ Alrababa’h has provided this interview with Ahmed Maher, leader of the April 6 Movement in Egypt, kindly translated by Ghazi Jarrar and also published in  Arabic at Ghurbeh Blog – مدونة غربة:

Q: Through speaking to Egyptians in the past days, I noticed that the majority is not only anti-Muslim Brotherhood, but they are also pro-military rule. The question here is, do they not recollect the post-Mubarak military government and the troubles it brought?

A: They do not remember that year. They consider military rule better than Brotherhood rule, even if it entails more oppression. This discourse is common among Egyptians today – accepting the military’s shortcomings. On the contrary, the Army is a little better than the Muslim Brotherhood. We tested the Brotherhood through the ballot box. For Egyptians’ today, the Brotherhood is worse. Egyptians are ready to [accept military rule]. Of course, the current propaganda is huge, and very organized.

Q: The Army’s propaganda? Read more…

Peace Picks, September 23-27

1. Peace and War: The View from Israel

September 23, 2013 // 3:00pm — 5:00pm

Wilson Center, 6th Floor

The Middle East seems permanently in crisis. Join us for a  analysis of Israel’s view of the region, its challenges and opportunities—and the U.S.-Israeli relationship from two former Israeli officials deeply involved in matters of negotiations and national security policy, with comments from Doran and Miller.

Event Speakers List: 

Aaron David Miller // Vice President for New Initiatives and Distinguished Scholar

Historian, analyst, negotiator, and former advisor to Republican and Democratic Secretaries of State on Arab-Israeli negotiations, 1978-2003.

Gilead Sher // 

Head of the Center for Negotiations, the Institute for National Security Studies, Tel Aviv and former Israeli Chief Peace Negotiator

Amos Yadlin // 

Director of the Institute for National Security Studies, Tel Aviv and former chief of Israeli military intelligence

Michael Doran // 

Roger Hertog Senior Fellow, Foreign Policy, Saban Center, Brookings Institution

RSVP: http://www.wilsoncenter.org/event/rsvp?eid=28667&pid=112 Read more…

Reshaping Afpak aid

In the next 15 months, the US presence in South Asia will be drastically reduced, with profound consequences for regional governments and Washington’s aid programs. The future of brittle economies and political structures could hinge on effective support from the international community, including the US.

Those themes emerged on Thursday afternoon at the Middle East Institute’s panel discussion on how US aid and development programs can contribute to the stability of Afghanistan and Pakistan following the withdrawal of US combat forces from Afghanistan.  The panel included Dr. Vanda Felbab-Brown, senior fellow with the Center for 21st Century Security at Brookings; Polly Nayak, an independent consultant; Ambassador Robin Raphel, the US coordinator for non-military assistance to Pakistan; and Alex Thier, the assistant to the administrator for policy, planning, and learning at USAID. The Middle East Institute’s Dr. Marvin Weinbaum moderated the panel.

Following the withdrawal of foreign combat forces from Afghanistan, the US government will reprioritize and reallocate aid to the region. While a main objective of US aid programs in the two countries is to win the hearts and minds of the people, Nayak said, the US government should refocus development priorities based on a new set of goals. Corruption has plagued foreign assistance programs in this region, she said, and that must be addressed if the Obama Administration expects to win support for its policies. Read more…

Op/ed diplomacy

Iranian President Rouhani’s appeal for constructive dialogue, published by the Washington Post last night, is a good deal more interesting, both for what it says and what it doesn’t say, than President Putin’s drivel, published by the New York Times a week ago.  Rouhani ends with an appeal:

I urge [my counterparts] to look beyond the pines and be brave enough to tell me what they see — if not for their national interests, then for the sake of their legacies, and our children and future generations.

This seemingly anodyne appeal is very much to the point in this context.  What Americans see “beyond the pines” is a serious threat that Iran might become a nuclear weapons state.  They don’t like that, because it would encourage further proliferation and render the balance of power in the region unstable, with possibly catastrophic consequences.  While Ken Pollack thinks we could manage the risks, there is overwhelming support in the United States for a preventive approach.  Iran, most Americans think, should not be permitted to build a nuclear weapon, or get so close to being able to build one that it could not be stopped.

On nuclear technology, Rouhani is admirably frank about Iran’s interest : Read more…

Heartbreak and loveless marriages

Wedenesday morning’s event at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace was yet another panel focused on Syria, focused on the interests and perspectives of the domestic and international parties currently involved in the crisis.  Moderated by Marwan Muasher of the Carnegie Endowment, the discussion included Ambassador Nasser al-Kidwa, deputy to Arab League Envoy to Syria Lakhdar Brahimi, Karim Sadjadpour of the Carnegie Endowment, Paul Salem of the Carnegie Middle East Center, and Andrew Weiss also of the Carnegie Endowment.

Ambassador al-Kidwa focused his remarks on the future of negotiations in Syria. He believes the Geneva Communiqué drafted last June is still relevant today and provides practical solutions for Syria. The US decision not to strike on Syria but rather focus on placing Syria’s chemical weapons under international control shows its commitment to the Geneva Communiqué. The framework agreement on chemical weapons between the US and Russia is a positive development.

The UN is currently working on a resolution that will mostly likely incorporate much of the strong language used in the US-Russia agreement. Al-Kidwa believes that it will be adopted under Chapter 7 with some language regarding using necessary force if there is no compliance from the Assad regime. He sees a real possibility for negotiations between the opposition and the Assad government.  He argues that regional players and the international community have an unusually important role. Read more…

Out in the cold

Reuters published this piece today, under the title “What is next for Syria’s opposition?”:

The Syrian regime is crowing victory. The Russians are satisfied at preventing an American military intervention. President Obama is glad to have avoided a Congressional vote against it. Israel is pleased to see Syria’s chemical weapons capability zeroed out, provided the framework agreement reached last week is fully implemented. Even Iran is backing it, while continuing to deny that the regime was responsible for using chemical weapons.

What about the Syrian opposition?

The agreement on chemical weapons leaves them out in the cold. Bashar al-Assad is now vital to implementation of the agreement and will procrastinate implementing it for as long as possible. While destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons capability is supposed to be completed by mid-2014, the logistical challenges involved are colossal. Just accounting for and collecting the 1,000 tons of material will be an enormous task, before getting to deployment of observers and physical destruction, which will likely require shipping the material out of Syria to Russia. Wartime conditions will double the difficulties and prolong the process, even if the regime decides to cooperate fully. That’s unlikely. Read more…

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