LCCC ENGLISH DAILY
Bible Quotation for
Of The Day
Paul's Letter to the Romans 3/5-18: " But if our unrighteousness commends the righteousness of God, what will we say? Is God unrighteous who inflicts wrath? I speak like men do. 3:6 May it never be! For then how will God judge the world? 3:7 For if the truth of God through my lie abounded to his glory, why am I also still judged as a sinner? 3:8 Why not (as we are slanderously reported, and as some affirm that we say), “Let us do evil, that good may come?” Those who say so are justly condemned. 3:9 What then? Are we better than they? No, in no way. For we previously warned both Jews and Greeks, that they are all under sin. 3:10 As it is written, “There is no one righteous; no, not one. 3:11 There is no one who understands. There is no one who seeks after God. 3:12 They have all turned aside. They have together become unprofitable. There is no one who does good, no, not, so much as one.” 3:13 “Their throat is an open tomb. With their tongues they have used deceit.”“The poison of vipers is under their lips”; 3:14 “whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness.” 3:15 “Their feet are swift to shed blood. 3:16 Destruction and misery are in their ways. 3:17 The way of peace, they haven’t known.”3:18 “There is no fear of God before their eyes
Latest analysis, editorials, studies, reports, letters & Releases from miscellaneous sources
A Region without Logic/By: Yousef Al-Dayni/Asharq
What did Riyadh tell Kerry/By: Rajih Khouri/Asharq Alawsat/June 30/13
Egypt Will Erupt Again on June 30/Eric Trager /Washington Institute/June 30/13
Latest News Reports From Miscellaneous Sources for June 30/13
Two Killed, Four Wounded in Tripoli Clashes
Lebanese Army Denies Arrest of Troops in Syria: Exchanged Footage is Video of 2012 Arsal Ambush
Protesters Opposed to Parliament Extension Attack MP Nadim Gemayel's Convoy
Beirut MP’s bodyguards behaved like militia: NGO
Hezbollah's MP, Raad Says Hizbullah Keen to Maintain Peace, Calls on March 14 to Reconsider Policies
Lebanon’s Sunnis rally, accuse government of pro-Hezbollah bias
Sidon: Muslim Ulemas Regain Sidon's Bilal bin Rabah Mosque
Sidon leaders demand post-Abra probe
Lebanon's House Speaker, Berri Says Monday's Session Ongoing as Parliament Still has 'Full Jurisdictions'
Khalil Accuses Miqati of 'Overthrowing Taef' as Caretaker PM Says MPs Mustn't Exercise 'Full Powers'
LF, Independent March 14 MPs Announce Boycott of Next Week's Parliament Session
Jumblat Slams Army Critics: Spread of Illegitimate Arms Can Only Be Resolved with Dialogue
One Killed in Clash between Army, Gunmen in Tripoli
PM designate Tammam Salam : Formation of Cabinet Critical Demand to Comfort People
Report: Efforts to Form New Government ongoing despite Low Expectations
Sniper fire kills two in north Lebanon
Porous border no excuse for violations: U.N.
President Slieman discusses Cabinet formation with Salam
Syria Army Launches New Homs Offensive, Says NGO
Syrian army, backed by jets, launch Homs assault
22 Million Egyptians Sign Petition Calling for Morsi Departure
Obama Expresses Concern at Egypt Violence
Obama tells Egyptians to talk, not fight
U.S. Warns on Egypt Travel after American among Three Killed
Kerry Extends Mideast Peace Mission
Iran's Rouhani hints will balance hardline, reformist demands
Obama meets privately with Mandela family
Pope warns church leaders against seeking power
Secular MPs Resign and 22 Million Egyptians Sign Petition Calling for Morsi Departure
Lebanese Army Denies
Arrest of Troops in Syria: Exchanged Footage is Video of 2012 Arsal Ambush
Naharnet/The army command denied on Saturday that troops were held captive by the Free Syrian Army inside the neighboring country, after a video exchanged on social media websites portrayed soldiers arrested by the Syrian rebels.“The video and the pictures shared online go back to September 16, 2012 when troops where ambushed by FSA fighters in (the northeastern town of) Arsal,” it said in a communique. It continued: “What was said about the troops being detained in Syrian territories following the army's battles in Abra (neighborhood in the southern city of Sidon) is not true.” The communique lamented the “defamation campaign against the military institution since the eruption of the fighting in Abra, questioning implicating the FSA in the Lebanese crisis during these tough times.” Earlier on Saturday, official sources slammed as “fabricated” a video exchanged on social media platforms that shows army troops being arrested by members of the FSA in a plain region on the Lebanese-Syrian border. “The video and pictures published online showing FSA members seizing military vehicles and kidnapping troops are fake,” the state-run National News Agency said quoting official sources. The video features FSA members cheering after the arrest of kneeling troops, without showing their allegedly Lebanese military suits. The FSA fighters were chanting and celebrating “their second victory of the day, after also defeating the Syrian army.”The footage then shows two vehicles whose number plates have a Lebanese flag. This comes after the army fought the gunmen of Salafist cleric Ahmed al-Asir in Abra neighborhood of the southern city of Sidon in the past weekend. At least 17 troops were killed during the clashes, and dozens were wounded.
PM designate Tammam Salam : Formation of Cabinet Critical Demand to Comfort People
Naharnet /Prime Minister-designate Tammam Salam stressed on Saturday that the formation of a new government can't endure further delay. “The formation of a new cabinet has become a pressing issue given the people's concerns over their country's future,” Salam said via twitter. Earlier on Saturday, Salam held talks with President Michel Suleiman at the Baabda palace. He left without making any statement. Voice of Lebanon radio (100.5) reported that the two officials discussed the formation of the government as the March 8 and 14 alliances are holding onto their stances. Salam had said on Thursday that government formation discussions were still focusing on the first stage of the division of seats among the March 8 alliance, March 14 coalition, and centrists. He stressed that he holds on to his decision not to grant veto power to any side. Hizbullah and the March 8 alliance insist on getting veto power in the cabinet but the March 14 coalition prefers a neutral government.
One Killed in Clash between Army, Gunmen in Tripoli
Naharnet /One person was killed and another wounded on Saturday in a clash between the army and gunmen in the northern city of Tripoli, reported the National News Agency. The clash initially started as a dispute with the army, but escalated into an armed clash when gunmen intervened to resolve it.Abdullah al-Shmaytiyeh was killed and an unidentified woman wounded in the ensuing shootout in Tripoli's al-Baqqar neighborhood. The cause of the dispute remains unknown. Soon after the incident, youths blocked the main road in al-Baqqar.
Human Rights Watch Urges Probe into Alleged Death of Detainee under Torture
Naharnet/A rights watchdog on Friday demanded a probe into alleged abuse of detainees after the deadly battle in the Sidon suburb of Abra between the army and supporters of Sheikh Ahmed al-Asir. Human Rights Watch said there must be an independent investigation into claims the army is committing abuses against people suspected of links to the weekend clashes in which 18 soldiers died. The fighting in Abra was among the worst in Lebanon since the outbreak of conflict in neighboring Syria 27 months ago deepened sectarian tensions. It highlighted widespread Sunni resentment against the army, accused of siding with Hizbullah and being selective in its crackdown on armed groups. Thousands of worshipers on Friday heard Sidon's top Sunni cleric accuse the army of making arrests "without due process.""People are being taken to prison because they are religious or because they wear a beard or a full-face veil," Sheikh Salim Sousan said during Friday prayers in the southern city. "They are being beaten badly, and maybe even dying," he charged. A security source said dozens of people have been arrested since the army seized Asir's Abra headquarters on Monday. Sidon residents claim the bodies of those killed have not been given to their families.
"It is Sidon's right to know how many people were killed, and to know their names. It is Sidon's right to know how many wounded there are, and their whereabouts," said Sousan. He called for an "independent, objective, transparent... investigation" into abuse claims. Human Rights Watch called for an independent judicial investigation into alleged abuses. On Thursday, the army handed over to the military police soldiers suspected of humiliating and beating a man suspected of ties to Asir. "It's not enough to have the military investigating itself," HRW Beirut office director Nadim Houry told Agence France Presse. The army was not immediately reachable, but on Thursday a military source told AFP: "We do not accept this kind of behavior." Sunni clerics, meanwhile, distributed images via Facebook of a body bearing marks of a severe beating.
The body was identified as Nader al-Bayoumy, whom the Association of Muslim Scholars said had "handed himself in" after the Abra clash. Houry said his family insisted Bayoumy was alive after the fighting, but they later received a call to say his body was at the military hospital in Beirut.
Sidon: Muslim Ulemas
Regain Sidon's Bilal bin Rabah Mosque
Naharnet /A delegation of Muslim Ulemas, headed by Sidon Mufti Sheikh Salim Sousan, regained on Saturday control of the southern city's Bilal bin Rabah mosque. The delegation toured the complex that was damaged in the clashes between the army and the mosque's Imam Salafist cleric Sheikh Ahmed al-Asir on Sunday and Monday. Sousan said: “This mosque taught the people peace and stability. It will once again regain its role in the Muslim community.”“The army and the rest of the city's officials will cooperate in order to restore order and normal life in Sidon,” he stressed. Asked by reporters about the discovery of weapons at the mosque, the mufti replied: “We oppose the illegitimate arms and support the army. We demand a society of law and order.” Asked about the people's anger about the clashes, he responded: “Aren't they entitled to be angry given the destruction in their city?” “Israel is our only enemy,” declared Sousan. Commenting on the arrests made in the aftermath of the clashes, he said: “Some of the suspects may be innocent and others may be guilty. I predict that several of them will be released in the upcoming days.”“The fact that someone is religious does not make them a terrorist,” he emphasized. He then announced that the mosque will be reopened in the future and that Sheikh Mohammed Abou Zeid will become its new imam. Eighteen soldiers were killed and 50 were wounded in clashes between the army and armed supporters of al-Asir in Sidon on Sunday and Monday. Meanwhile, State Commissioner to the Military Court Judge Saqr Saqr, who is overseeing the Lebanese Army Intelligence's investigation with the detained suspects, acquitted 29 arrested men on Saturday and handed over the apartment of al-Asir to its owners. By this, the number of acquitted detainees has reached 101, while 40 are still in jail. More than 20 of al-Asir's supporters were killed, according to a security official. Dozens of them were also arrested, but there was no sign of the cleric. The Ulemas accused on Wednesday Hizbullah fighters of taking part in the battles alongside the army, despite assertions by various officials that the army acted alone in combating the gunmen. The army on Thursday handed over a group of soldiers accused of abusing a detainee to the military police for questioning, a military source and the state-run National News Agency said. The move came after amateur video emerged showing a group of soldiers humiliating, beating and kicking a man suspected of supporting al-Asir.
Berri Says Monday's Session Ongoing as Parliament
Still has 'Full Jurisdictions'
Naharnet/Speaker Nabih Berri said on Saturday that the parliament is in a constant state of session in an extraordinary manner with full jurisdictions after the cabinet resigned, saying that Monday's session is still on.
“We want to set things straight... No one can prevent it from legislating, ” Berri said in a press conference from Ain el-Tineh.He said that he is keen to preserve the constitution and the country, pointing out that only the resigned cabinet works within limited jurisdictions and not the parliament. “We are seeking to help the state institutions to rise again,” Berri said, lashing out at those who are accusing him of paralyzing the state.
Berri said that the legislative committee in 2005 said that the parliament was in a constant state of session in an extraordinary manner with full jurisdictions. While in 2013 it told caretaker Prime Minister Najib Miqati that it has limited jurisdictions and can hold urgent sessions only. Miqati had questioned the legality of the session, seeing as it is not aimed at tackling emergency issues. “The parliament is owned by the Lebanese people and not exclusive for the Shiites,” the speaker stated. He called on lawmakers to work on “gaining the people's trust after the parliament's mandate was extended.” “The constitution has set several cases where the parliament can't carry out its jurisdictions, and its the only power that can prevent it from convening,” he noted Parliament is expected to convene on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday in order to tackle a number of draft-laws. The lawmakers had extended their term for 17 months, pushing the legislative elections to November 2014. Concerning Free Patriotic Movement leader MP Michel Aoun's statements that three important draft-laws were disregarded and not put on the agenda of the parliamentary session, Berri said: “Aoun has the right to state and we have the right to reply.” “Regarding the law on those who fled to Israel, it was referred to the administrative and justice committee,” Berri said, noting that a special session was held to discuss the draft-law on the controversial Orthodox Gathering. On the gas pipeline draft-law, Berri said that it was referred to the competent parliamentary committees.
The speaker told reporters that the parliament's bureau set next week's session agenda, which includes around 45 draft-law. He slammed parliamentary blocs that decided to refrain from attending Monday's session, saying: “Lawmakers will be able to vote on all draft-laws, nothing was approved yet.”Berri's decision to hold a parliamentary session next week had sparked controversy among the political foes over its constitutionality in the absence of a cabinet.
Raad Says Hizbullah
Keen to Maintain Peace, Calls on March 14 to Reconsider Policies
Naharnet/Hizbullah MP Mohammed Raad said on Saturday that the party is keen to preserve civil peace in Lebanon, calling on the March 14 officials to reconsider their policies. “We all have an interest in dealing with all matters calmly to maintain the civil peace and to fortify our society,” Raad said. He expressed the party's readiness to rectify all disputes and reach common ground with all foes in order to preserve the country's unity and stability. “Stop interfering in the resistance's arms... It's not debatable anymore,” Raad stated. The March 14 alliance continuously called on Hizbullah to hand over its arms to the state. Hizbullah's announcement that the group is involved in the conflict in Syria had a negative impact on the security situation on the country. Tensions between Sunnis and Shiites have increased significantly because of the Syrian civil war. Shiite back the regime of President Bashar Assad and Sunnis support the Sunni-led uprising.
LF, Independent March 14 MPs Announce Boycott of Next Week's Parliament Session
Naharnet/The Lebanese Forces and independent March 14 MPs announced on Saturday their boycott of next week's three-day parliamentary session.
MP Butros Harb announced on behalf of the independent lawmakers their rejection of the parliament's agenda and their questioning of the legality of the session.
He explained that President Michel Suleiman should have issued a decree to hold an extraordinary parliamentary session in light of the presence of a caretaker government.
Under these circumstances, he stressed that parliament should only meet in order to tackle urgent draft laws and not regular ones. Should parliament meet next week, then it would be eliminating the role of the president and government, warned Harb. The independent March 14 MPs therefore demanded that parliament's agenda be revised. For its part, the Lebanese Forces bloc later held press conference to explain its position, deeming as illegal a parliamentary session that is held in the presence of a caretaker cabinet and which does not address urgent affairs. Parliament is expected to convene on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday in order to tackle a number of draft laws. Caretaker Prime Minister Najib Miqati questioned the legality of the session, seeing as it is not aimed at tackling emergency issues. Media reports on Saturday said that he had informed Speaker Nabih Berri of his refusal to attend the session unless it strictly addresses emergency affairs, mainly the extension of the term of a number of security and military officials.
A caretaker cabinet cannot attend a parliament session unless it was dedicated to tackle emergency issues, said al-Joumhouria newspaper.
Jumblat Slams Army
Critics: Spread of Illegitimate Arms Can Only Be Resolved with Dialogue
Naharnet/Progressive Socialist Party leader MP Walid Jumblat lamented on Saturday the rise of extremism in Lebanon at the expense of moderation, stressing the need to combat it through backing the state and the army.
He said in a statement: “The recent developments demonstrate that the spread of arms cannot be tackled through more arms … but through the return to dialogue.” “The recent chaos is tantamount to a crime against the Lebanese army and attempts to build the state,” he added. “It is a blow to the martyrs who died while performing their national duties to enforce stability and security,” he continued. Jumblat stressed: “We reject any unjustified attempt to tarnish the army's image.” “It is sad and scary to see the posters of former Premier Saad Hariri, who is a symbol of moderation, being torn down in the northern city of Tripoli and in late PM Rashid Karami's square, who in turn was also a symbol of Lebanese national moderation,” he stated. “It is sad and scary to see the moderation advocated by slain Premier Rafik Hariri fail as a result of ongoing policies of incitement and the shortcomings of political leaders,” he added. “It is unfortunate that the confusion within a major political camp has led to this extent of extremism,” he noted in an indirect reference to the Mustaqbal Movement. “The Lebanese are better off adhering to moderation instead of falling victim to the traps of sectarian extremism … that can be thwarted through supporting the state and its institutions starting with the army and security forces,” Jumblat added.
“These security and military forces are the people's last resort in protecting stability through confronting extremist thought even at the expense of popular interests,” he remarked. On this note, he rejected all sides that questioned the role of the army in the recent clashes that took place in the southern city of Sidon between the army and armed supporters of Salafist cleric Sheikh Ahmed al-Asir that took place on Sunday and Monday.
He also demanded that an investigation be launched in the amateur video that showed a group of soldiers humiliating, beating and kicking a man suspected of supporting al-Asir. The army on Thursday handed over a group of soldiers accused of abusing a detainee to the military police for questioning, a military source and the state-run National News Agency said.
Eighteen soldiers were killed and 50 were wounded in clashes between the army and armed supporters of al-Asir in Sidon. More than 20 of al-Asir's supporters were killed, according to a security official.
Dozens of them were also arrested, but there was no sign of the cleric. Sidon Muslim Ulemas accused on Wednesday Hizbullah fighters of taking part in the battles alongside the army, despite assertions by various officials that the army acted alone in combating the gunmen. Addressing the dispute over next week's three-day parliamentary session, Jumblat wondered: “How is that some of the officials are now beginning to respect the balance of power between the parliament and government?”“Wasn't parliament's term extended through the caretaker government's approval?” he asked.
“Why this sudden shift in position?” he asked, accusing some sides of adopting double standards in their political practices. “Shouldn't the needs of this current phase in Lebanon obligate the extension of the term of the army commander, the support of the military institution, and the approval of a number of draft laws that would help improve living conditions in Lebanon?” he wondered. Parliament is scheduled to convene on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday in order to tackle a number of draft laws. Caretaker Prime Minister Najib Miqati has however voiced his rejection of the session, explaining that a regular parliamentary meeting cannot be held in light of a caretaker cabinet. Parliament can only convene to address pressing issues, he said. A number of parliamentary blocs advocated his position, announcing their boycott of the session.
Emerge between Aoun, Hizbullah over Extension of Qahwaji's Term
Naharnet/Divisions have emerged between Hizbullah and the Free Patriotic Movement over the extension of the term of Army Commander General Jean Qahwaji, reported the daily An Nahar on Saturday.
It said that while FPM leader MP Michel Aoun had voiced his rejection to the extension, Hizbullah had never made such a position. Observers told the daily that the division between the allies has prompted the FPM to urge Speaker Nabih Berri to discourage Hizbullah from advocating the extension. General Security chief Abbas Ibrahim reportedly joined these efforts in order to allow the FPM and Hizbullah to resolve this dispute ahead of the parliament session that is scheduled for Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. Disputes have emerged however between Berri and caretaker Prime Minister Najib Miqati over the nature of the session, with the former demanding that it tackle various draft laws and the latter demanding that it only tackle the extension of the term of various security officials, including Qahwaji. This dispute is threatening the postponement of the session. Aoun had declared on Friday that he opposes extending the tenure of the army commander, rejecting what he called “selectivity” in putting draft laws on parliament's agenda. He stressed that extending Qahwaji's term would be illegal and not an appropriate way to “reward” the army after the Abra battle in the southern city of Sidon on Sunday and Monday. “Urgent draft laws were disregarded and not put on the agenda of parliament's session, although they have the priority,” Aoun said after an extraordinary meeting for the Change and Reform bloc. He wondered: “Why should the parliament usurp the cabinet's powers in appointing the army commander?”
Protesters Opposed to Parliament Extension Attack MP Nadim Gemayel's Convoy
Naharnet /Phalange MP Nadim Gemayel's convoy was attacked with sticks, stones and tomatoes on Friday by angry protesters opposed to the extension of the parliament's term, the MP told Future television in a telephone call. “While passing through the neighborhood of Ashrafiyeh, a crowd of angry people groundlessly attacked my convoy with sticks, stones and tomatoes,” he said, estimating the crowd to be civil society activists returning from the sit-in staged in Downtown Beirut protesting the extension of the parliament's term and demanding elections to be held. Gemayel believed that the crowd attacked his car out of anger when they saw that it carried a parliament license plate, bringing down any notion that he could be targeted personally. “All the convoy's cars were smashed,” he added and “one of my companions of the Internal Security Forces was injured in the head”. They however managed to push back the attackers and soon the ISF intervened and cordoned them off. For his part Phalange Party leader Amin Gemayel denounced on Saturday the “unfortunate incident, which indicates a prevailing chaos in the country,” he said stressing the need to take the necessary measures. A Civil Campaign for Electoral Reform staged a sit-in at Beirut's Riad al-Solh Square as the parliament voted in the end of May to extend its own mandate for 17 months after the rival political parties failed to reach an agreement over a new electoral law. Around 100 MPs from all blocs, except the Change and Reform bloc, voted to extend parliament's term until November 20, 2014. Source/Agence France Presse.
Report: Berri, Miqati Differ over Nature of Upcoming Parliament Session
Naharnet/A dispute emerged between Speaker Nabih Berri and caretaker Prime Minister Najib Miqati over the nature of the upcoming three-day parliament session, reported the daily An Nahar Saturday. It said that Miqati wants the session to strictly address the extension of the terms and retirement ages of security officials, while Berri wants it to be a normal legislative session aimed at addressing draft laws. Remarks had been made in recent days that the session may be unconstitutional because of its expanded agenda, which includes some 44 articles. The consultations and legislative authority explained that a caretaker cabinet cannot attend a parliament session unless it was dedicated to tackle emergency affairs, reported al-Joumhouria daily Saturday. Miqati informed Berri, through his advisor Health Minister Ali Hassan Khalil, of the authority's ruling and therefore told him that he would not be able to attend the session unless it addresses the extension of the tenure of security officials. In line with the constitution, he said, he would not attend a parliament session whose 44 articles are not urgent.
In order to do so, stated al-Joumhouria, an extraordinary parliament session is needed to strictly address raising the retirement ago of military and security officials. Meanwhile, Berri's circles told As Safir newspaper on Saturday that article 69 of the constitution stipulates that in light of a caretaker cabinet, parliament would be in a constant state of session in an extraordinary manner until a new government is formed. Later on Saturday, the independent March 14 MPs and Lebanese Forces bloc announced their boycott of next week's session. The parliament session is set to take place on July 1, 2, and 3.
Report: Efforts to Form New Government ongoing despite Low Expectations
Naharnet /Caretaker Social Affairs Minister Wael Abou Faour has maintained efforts to form a new government in light of his recent trip to Saudi Arabia where he held talks with former Premier Saad Hariri and a number of Saudi officials, reported al-Joumhouria newspaper on Saturday. Sources monitoring his talks with Hariri said that “all obstacles leading to the solution over the government deadlock remain.”“None of the proposals that were discussed could yield the desired solution and the formation of a government” they revealed. They instead revealed that the rival March 8 and 14 camps have stuck to their conditions, further complicating the formation efforts. Abou Faour, of Progressive Socialist Party leader MP Walid Jumblat's National Struggle Front, followed up on his Saudi Arabia trip with talks in Lebanon with Speaker Nabih Berri's political aide caretaker Health Minister Ali Hassan Khalil. Despite the low expectations, reported al-Joumhouria, Berri and Jumblat will continue their efforts to overcome the conditions set by the rival parties. It said that Prime Minister-designate Tammam Salam is likely to embark on a new round of talks with President Michel Suleiman in order to schedule his future consultations with political powers. Salam had said on Thursday that government formation discussions were still focusing on the first stage of the division of seats among the March 8 alliance, March 14 coalition, and centrists. He stressed that he holds on to his decision not to grant veto power to any side, saying the representation of the March 8 alliance in the government according to its parliamentary weight leads to the same result. The alliance had been demanding that it be given veto power in a new cabinet, which has been a major obstacle in the formation process. Salam had repeatedly denied that a government with veto power will render it unproductive. The March 14 camp has meanwhile been demanding the formation of a neutral cabinet.
Lebanon Tourism Pays the Price for Syria's War
Naharnet /..Dia's restaurant in the Lebanese resort village of Aley is deserted. Most years, he caters to thousands of rich Gulf Arab tourists and to visiting expats, but this year no one has come. "Usually, there's so many people here that even finding a parking spot is hard. Now, there's so few people that we let them park right outside the entrance," complained the 27-year-old. His neighbor, a cake shop owner, said sales are down by 50 percent compared with June last year. "In other years, we had clients coming in every 15 minutes. Now, it's a miracle if someone enters," he said, hiding his worry behind a smile.
Lebanon is reeling from the spillover of war in neighboring Syria, with deadly sectarian clashes, elections postponed, the absence of a government and the influx of half a million refugees. The Mediterranean country's beaches, superb Roman and Phoenician sites and legendary nightlife are barren. Early this summer, the six oil-producing Gulf monarchies sounded the death knell for this season's tourism when they told their citizens to avoid Lebanon for security reasons. Well-heeled visitors from the Gulf normally account for 65 percent of the country's tourists, but the number of Saudis, Kuwaitis and other Gulf tourists this June is 80 percent lower than in June last year.
An already bad situation grew even worse last weekend when news bulletins carried footage of a major 24-hour firefight in southern Lebanon's city of Sidon, pitting the army against radical Islamists.
Eighteen soldiers were killed. The port city of Sidon is home to a beautiful old district, fish restaurants, souks (traditional markets) and even a soap museum. "As soon as you even utter the word 'weapons' you've killed tourism," Paul Achkar, head of the Lebanese hotel association, told Agence France Presse. "Three hundred tourism establishments have closed down since the start of the year," he said. Although confident that the industry will recover, Tourism Minister Fadi Abboud said the figures for the start of the season were pitiable. "The occupancy rate at hotels in Beirut is barely 35 percent this month, half of the usual at this time of year.
"Outside Beirut, it's catastrophic. We're talking about five percent compared to the usual 35 percent," Abboud told AFP. The atmosphere in Beirut, dubbed party capital of the Middle East, is not so morose, and Christian areas such as Byblos or Jounieh have also fared better than other areas. But Hizbullah bastion Baalbek, home to one of the world's most beautiful and best preserved Roman sites, has been hit hard.
It has been targeted by rockets fired by rebels fighting Syria's President Bashar Assad, after Hizbullah joined the war fighting alongside regime forces. The rocket attacks' only but noted victim was the famed international music festival, traditionally held in the temple of Bacchus, and headline act American soprano Renee Fleming cancelling her trip to Lebanon. It is now expected to be held at a different venue, but without Fleming.
For now, other music festivals at Byblos and Beiteddine remain on schedule. Elsewhere, in northern Lebanon the port city of Tripoli is home to an old souk and a crusader castle. But today, it is also the scene of frequent sectarian battles between supporters of opposite sides in Syria's raging conflict -- Sunni Muslims and Alawites, the Shiite offshoot sect to which Assad belongs.
Many Lebanese living abroad are accustomed to crises afflicting their home country but even they have decided to stay away this summer, fearing they may become trapped.
"Nobody in his right mind would go to Lebanon right now," said Elvira Hawwa, a Lebanese living in Madrid who generally visits relatives every year.
"I won't come this year, and I've also advised my children against going," she said. U.S.-based Leila agreed. "The country is going down the drain," she told AFP by phone from Michigan.
"I was planning on going in June, but I cancelled. We didn't want to go through the hell we suffered during the civil war," she said of the conflict that scourged Lebanon from 1975 to 1990. "Before you could escape through Syria. Now, we'd be trapped." Tourism Minister Abboud said 200 weddings that had been planned for the summer have been cancelled. "This means a $100-million (77-million-euro) loss," he said.The restaurant and nightclub businesses have been hit hard, suffering a 50 percent drop in sales since 2013 began, their union said. Fashion brands have all started their sales early this year, with some slashing prices by as much as 90 percent.
The tourism industry is now looking elsewhere to drum up business, and travellers from Iraq, Jordan and Egypt have begun to arrive."They aren't as worried by the violence," Abboud said.
Syrian army, backed
by jets, launch Homs assault
By Dominic Evans | Reuters
BEIRUT (Reuters) - Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's forces launched a major offensive on Saturday against rebels in Homs, a centre of the two-year uprising, in their latest drive to secure an axis linking Damascus to the Mediterranean. Activists said jets and mortars pounded rebel-held areas of the city which have been under siege by Assad's troops for a year, and soldiers fought battles with rebel fighters in several districts. "Government forces are trying to storm (Homs) from all fronts," said an activist using the name Abu Mohammad. There were no immediate details on casualties but video uploaded by activists showed heavy explosions and white clouds of smoke rising from what they said were rebel districts. Loud, concentrated rounds of gunfire could also be heard. Syrian state media said the army was "achieving great progress" in Khalidiyah neighborhood. The attack on Homs city follows steady military gains by Assad's forces, backed by Lebanese Hezbollah militants, in provincial Homs villages and towns close to the Lebanese border. Three weeks ago Hezbollah spearheaded the recapture of the border town of Qusair, a former rebel bridgehead for guns and fighters smuggled into Syria, and last week secured another border town, Tel Kalakh. Those gains have consolidated Assad's control over a corridor of territory which runs from the capital Damascus, through Homs, to the traditional heartland of his minority Alawite sect in the mountains overlooking the Mediterranean. They have also alarmed international supporters of the rebels, leading the United States to announce it will step up military support. Saudi Arabia has accelerated deliveries of sophisticated weaponry, Gulf sources say.
The interventions by Sunni Muslim Saudi Arabia, a staunch backer of the mainly Sunni rebels, and Shi'ite Hezbollah highlight how the 27-month-old uprising has divided the Middle East along sectarian lines.
Gulf Arab States, Turkey and Egypt support the rebels while Shi'ite Iran and Hezbollah are actively helping Assad's military. Assad's family, which has dominated Syria for four decades, is from the Alawite minority, an offshoot of Shi'ite Islam.More than 100,000 people have been killed in the civil war, which has driven 1.7 million refugees abroad and displaced another four million within Syria's borders.
Hopes of holding a U.S. and Russian-backed peace conference have faded, with rebels reluctant to negotiate while they are on the defensive militarily and tensions between Moscow and Washington exacerbating their deep differences over Syria. Despite losing ground around Damascus and Homs, rebels registered a symbolic victory on Friday when they overran a major military checkpoint in Deraa, the southern city where the uprising first erupted. Rami Abdulrahman, head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said the fall of the army post was strategically significant and could change the balance of power in Deraa, where rebels control most of the old city.The province of Deraa, on the border with Jordan, has been a conduit for rebel arms supplies.(Editing by Janet Lawrence)
Concern at Egypt Violence
Naharnet/U.S. President Barack Obama Saturday expressed concern about clashes in Egypt and called on President Mohamed Morsi to be more "constructive" along with the opposition to end the political crisis. "We are all looking at the situation there with concern," Obama said in South Africa, adding that the U.S. government had taken steps to ensure the safety of its embassy, consulates and diplomats in Egypt. "We would urge all parties to make sure they are not engaging in violence and that police and military are showing appropriate restraint," he said. "Everybody has to denounce violence. We would like to see the opposition and President Morsi engage in a more constructive conversation about to move their country forward."Obama also said that Washington had consistently supported democracy in Egypt, but "it has been challenging given that there is not a tradition of democracy in Egypt". Egypt was braced for nationwide protests against Morsi on Sunday to mark the anniversary of his turbulent first year in office after violence at rival demonstrations killed three people, including an American. Morsi, 62, stands accused by his critics of failing the 2011 revolution that brought him to power and of ignoring nearly half of the electorate of around 50 million who did not vote for him last year. Source/Agence France Presse.
Corbella: PM’s wife puts in hard labour to help out flood victims
BY LICIA CORBELLA, CALGARY HERALD JUNE 27, 2013
Laureen Harper rolled up her sleeves and donned her rubber boots to lend a hand in the massive clean up efforts going on in Calgary on Tuesday. Thick mud covers much of the Mission area and Harper wanted to help the affected residents begin the clean up process. Later in the day, she made the trip to Morley to help deliver much needed supplies to the evacuation centre.
If anyone wondered if living in 24 Sussex Drive has softened up Laureen Harper, they should have seen her go Wednesday.
The prime minister’s wife — along with a whole bunch of Calgary MPs, friends and assistants — cleaned out literally tonnes of garbage from flood-damaged Calgary-area homes, helped deliver tonnes of food at the Morley reserve and then — after putting in a solid eight hours of work and travel, continued on to Exshaw, where she helped clean out a couple more damaged homes.
In other words, this was no political photo op. This was hard, hard work.
The day started down in the Mission neighbourhood at 24th Avenue and 1st Street S.W. right near the old Holy Cross hospital. An entire driveway was piled high with rubble — including mud-soaked drywall, plywood, carpeting and the like.
Harper, who just turned 50 on Sunday, stepped right to the head of the pile and started hauling heavy, dangerous items full of rusty nails into the backs of waiting garbage trucks.
“It’s amazing what you can do with a long line of people who are willing to get a little dirty,” said Harper as the crew — which included Calgary MPs Rob Anders, Deepak Obhrai and Joan Crockatt, PMO staffer Veronica Gerson, Edmonton MP Rona Ambrose and her partner, former rodeo bull rider J.P. Veitch, and Harper’s friend and neighbour from the northwest neighbourhood of Tuscany, Kelli Taylor — made short work of that pile and moved onto another amid the din of rumbling generators.
Even City of Calgary sanitation worker Keith Field, who was operating the crushing mechanism of the garbage truck, was impressed.
“They’re good workers, that’s for sure,” said Field, adding that each truck holds 10,500 kilos of trash.
In no time that truck was full.
Calgary Centre MP Crockatt — who can’t weigh more than 105 pounds covered in mud — helped a resident carry an old washing machine to the roadside and then helped him carry the dryer. The curbsides looked like appliance graveyards. And that was some of the easy stuff to clear. Much of the debris had protruding nails and jagged edges. Forming an assembly line, the work crew, led by Harper, moved from property to property unannounced and just started helping out.
“Isn’t that the prime minister’s wife?” asked Rick Lauzon, 48, as he took a break from shovelling the basement apartment he owns by the river.
“It’s pretty incredible that she’s here, and look at her work,” he marvelled. “Actually, I can’t believe the volunteers. Every day, complete strangers have helped us out.”
People like Neveen Aboushaaban, 33, who lives in untouched Garrison Green.
“I just have to do something to help these people who have lost so much,” says the self-employed real-estate investor. After not finding any rubber boots and work gloves in Calgary, she drove to Red Deer, bought boxes of both and gave many of them to Calgary Ward 8 Alderman John Mar, and kept a few more to distribute to friends who wanted to help.
After filling another garbage truck, the troop moved on to 4th Street and 30th Avenue.
Margaret and Michael Best’s home of 22 years had floodwater’s seven feet deep in their basement.
That’s where three teenage girls from the northeast community of Taradale — strangers just hours earlier — were tearing out drywall in the darkness and handing it up to Harper, who passed it along the assembly line to yet another garbage truck.
Rebecca Hamilton, 18, her sister Jennifer, 14 and their friend Sania Kelly, 17, were even dirtier than Harper, who insisted that they get a photo together.
Margaret Best, a talented artist who has designed coins for the Canadian Mint, said she was overwhelmed with the kindness and help her family was receiving.
“I’m a fan of the Harpers anyway and now this,” she said. “It’s incredible.”
Less impressed was Steve Forrest, who lived on the same block and scoffed at Harper when she disassembled one of Best’s framed watercolours to preserve it while photographers snapped away.
“I don’t need the prime minister’s wife to take apart a framed painting. Right now I need to be able to move into my house.”
But Harper understood his anger and frustration and went back later to comfort the man, whose father is flooded out in High River and whose other family members also suffered damage in the Rideau Park neighbourhood.
“I actually do understand what these people are going through,” said Harper. When she was 17, on Christmas Day 1980, a windstorm destroyed her house in Turner Valley. “The roof weighed seven tonnes and was blown away. Peoples’ barbecues were found a mile away from their home. The next day it rained. We lost everything, so I understand how upsetting and unsettling it is. Your home is your safe place and when it’s torn from you, it’s devastating.”
Later, Harper moved on to Elbow Park to thank volunteers at the Anglican Christ Church, which has been providing free dinners every night for flooded homeowners and volunteers.
Deedee Pritchard, an opera singer, said the whole scene on the street was reminiscent of an opera — full of tragedy but also amazing humanity, colour and ambience.
Across the street, Tom and Debra Mauro, owners of Albi Homes, had set up large tents and doled out hamburgers, chips, drinks and cookies to help the weary residents.
After that, it was off to Wildrose MLA Rob Anderson’s constituency office, where 20 trucks filled with food, water, cleaning supplies, diapers, blankets, pet food, toys, cribs and other essentials drove in a convoy to the Morley reserve west of Calgary.
Once there, another assembly line formed and the more than $50,000 worth of stuff, mostly from Airdrie residents, was unloaded in about two hours of hard slogging into the Morley Community School.
“This is a lot easier to unload,” said Harper as she handed a flat of Mr. Clean to Rona Ambrose. “There’s no mud or nails in this.”
Belinda Left hand wept when she saw the incredible amounts of food being unloaded.
“We had just run out of food — it was all gone so this came just in the nick of time,” said Left hand, 44, who was co-ordinating the hampers for flooded-out families. About 200 homes in Morley were flooded and 60 are unlivable.
“I can really feel the love here,” she added, giving Harper a hug. “We’re all overwhelmed with the generosity.”
Bearspaw First Nations Chief Darcy Dixon, who grew up with Harper in Eden Valley, said: “Having my old friend come out to help has encouraged us all. Laureen knows our people and this donation and help means so much.”
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Opinion: A Region without Logic
By: Yousef Al-Dayni/Asharq Alawsat
There is no doubt that the Middle East as a region has lost its sense of logic and become a theater of the absurd, full of irrational ideas and political stances. This is something that will have an impact for many years to come. It could be more influential than the Nakba [the 1948 Palestinian War], the Naksah [the 1967 Arab–Israeli war], both Gulf Wars, and even the consequences of the September 11 attacks, in terms of magnitude and impact. This is not pessimism; rather, it is an attempt to forecast a painful reality that has been emerging day by day in our region.
There has been talk of Gulf Shi’ites fighting alongside Hezbollah fighters, in opposition to groups of Sunni fighters that want to be free from the implications and historical burden of Al-Qaeda. They are seeking a new image for an armed solution after having been let down by the international community. Syrians are now experiencing a pincer movement of extremism; stuck between the Assad regime and Hezbollah on the one hand, and groups that have adopted Al-Qaeda’s mentality and ideology on the other. For the latter, any talk of terrorism is a political and moral crime, since they consider this negated by the fact that they are fighting Assad.
On a sectarian level, one can easily be besieged by footage, video clips, news, jokes and comments—sent by anonymous sources—all seeking to provoke an abhorrent sectarian agenda. In Egypt, video footage showing a group of Shi’ite men being dragged through the streets appeared amateur compared with the images of extremist Sunni groups—driven by a politically sectarian conflict—besieging Sidon and attacking the military. In the meantime, the Lebanese army does not dare to approach Hezbollah in the same way. Of course, this does not justify the discourse and attitudes of these groups, whose leaders have become stars and symbols in their own right among the Sunni community.
On a political level, those who see crises as opportunities are awake to any possibility, and the state of instability is allowed to further prevail. There are vociferous groups that pressure the Gulf States, yet remain silent over what is happening in Turkey, which serves as a model of political Islam. The most absurd people are determined to grant full legitimacy and support to the failed Muslim Brotherhood governments following the Arab Spring. A prominent example of this is the Freedom and Justice party’s experience in Egypt—led by Mohammed Mursi, who in just one year managed to do untold damage to the economy and the prospects of civil peace.
This theater of the absurd is not confined to the Arab state of affairs alone. It also relates to the way in which the larger countries and international organizations in the West are approaching matters. In Europe, there is a wall of silence about portraying political struggles and disputes as religious ones, ignoring catastrophic factors that could have repercussions in their own region. Sunni groups that have a strong presence in a number of European countries could once again become active and attempt to revive the main objective of Al-Qaeda organizations—targeting Western interests. This fundamental aim has been put on hold due to the change of circumstances. Furthermore, ignorance about Hezbollah’s violations of state sovereignty—and about Iranian support in this endeavor—will open the region up to a limitless proxy war. There is a state of massive destruction caused by the deafening silence from the international community. There is mere speculation as to what Syria might look like after Assad—who has no reason to stay in power in light of the death toll, which numbers in the hundreds of thousands. This is not to mention the millions who have been displaced. The wave of sectarianism and attempts to portray the struggle as a religious one through the lens of a Sunni–Shi’ite war is the major catalyst behind this regional theater of the absurd. By remaining silent and bending over backwards to avoid the general public’s sweeping rage, intellectuals and analysts are committing an unforgivable moral crime. This is something that only serves the Assad regime’s objectives. Bashar Al-Assad is well aware that the majority of his army are fighting for him on ideological, rather than sectarian, grounds. Assad regime forces are dominated by the Ba’athist ideology, and their commitment to Assad has little to do with religious identity. Furthermore, the Iranian voice of political Shi’ism—as seen through Lebanon’s Hezbollah and Yemen’s Huthi rebels—does not incorporate all the Shi’ites in the region. Therefore the rest of the Shi’ites silence over the crimes being committed by their brethren can only be explained as fear of being cast out by the rest of their sect. This, however, resembles someone justifying Al-Qaeda’s crimes on the grounds that it is the only organization now standing up for the Syrian people.
In the midst of this grave crisis, it is natural that we should become illogical and establish an unreasonable theater of the absurd in the same manner that the First and Second World Wars were reflected in the literature of the time. However, justifying such absurd policies and remaining silent about this will only serve to further aggravate the situation due to the absence of voices of moderation and logic. There is a significant section of society that is turning a blind eye to everything that is happening out of fear of the wave of “extremism” now sweeping away the entire region. Now, in our region, sectarian and secessionist voices are only getting louder and louder, including those who want to adopt armed solutions and who view political crises as a business.
There is an ocean of sectarian blood now being shed, and it is our duty not to be dragged towards the calls supporting and inciting this. As Thomas Mann said, “War is a cowardly escape from the problems of peace.”
What did Riyadh tell Kerry?
Rajih Khouri/Asharq Alawsat
In his recent trip to the Gulf, US secretary of state John Kerry said: “If the United States does nothing, and the rest of the world does nothing, then Syria is going to wind up in an even worse condition than it is today.”
This bizarre statement might have seemed less strange had it been issued by somebody else, particularly given that for the last two years and a half years, US officials have been bombarded with two main questions: ‘Why has the US done nothing to stop the massacres in Syria?’ and ‘Why has Washington overlooked the Syrian tragedy, given that Barack Obama has acknowledged that the death toll now exceeds 100,000?’
If Kerry is aware of what could happen in Syria if the international community continues to do nothing, why has the US overlooked this crisis which not only threatens Syria but the entire region, particularly following Iran’s blatant military intervention to support Assad? Does Kerry realize the worst scenario that could play out in Syria? For him, the worst scenario is represented by the prospect of the country being fragmented and radical extremists laying their hands on chemical weapons which they could then use freely against the West.
In fact, Washington’s disregard for the intervention of Iran in Syria, along with its agents, namely Hezbollah and Asa’ib Ahl Al-Haq, will have disastrous consequences.
First, turning a blind eye to Iran’s growing embroilment in the battles in Syria will allow Tehran to extend its influence in the region, particularly after Ali Khamenei announced that “[Iran] will not let Syria fall into the hands of [its] arrogant enemies.”
In a related context, many political analysts believe that the crushing of the Syrian opposition will allow Iran to take over Lebanon to the west and irrevocably take control of Iraq to the east. Iraq could also serve as a platform for Iranian ambitions in the Gulf.
Meanwhile, Iran is seeking to infiltrate Yemen by means of mobilizing the Huthi movement, who have recently received intensive training and advanced weaponry. This latest development prompted Ali Al-Omrani, the Yemeni information minister, to say that Iran’s intervention in Yemen poses a greater threat than Al-Qaeda, while Tehran’s move to take control of Bab El-Mandeb is more dangerous than its nuclear ambitions.
It is the duty of US officials to sense this danger that is far more serious than all of their alleged fears of extremists taking over Syria, particularly after Tehran broadcast footage of volunteers registering their names at recruitment centers to fight in “Iran’s 35th state” [Syria]. Besides this, Iran announced it had widened its security borders to the east of the Mediterranean. This is not to mention that Tehran announced that it intervened in Syria in order to prevent the collapse of the “resistance front.”
Second, Kerry has not gone far enough in warning against the dangerous risks of this conflict taking a sectarian form, creating tensions between Sunnis and Shi’ites across the region. This is something that will doubtlessly affect the entire Middle East, rather than just Syria, Lebanon and Iraq; this conflict could potentially shake international stability and even undermine the Western economy.
Kerry accuses Iran of internationalizing the conflict in Syria by means of Tehran and Hezbollah’s growing military intervention, yet he insists that the US is not necessarily pushing to secure a military victory for the opposition; rather, he says that it is seeking to pressure Assad to enter into negotiations and attend the Geneva II conference. However, this stance only serves to give Iran the green light to continue fighting in defense of the Assad regime. This is a state of affairs that marks the beginning of the decline of the US influence in the region after 30 years of expansionist plans and interference.
This week in Kerry, Prince Saud Al-Faisal and Prince Bandar bin Sultan must have told Kerry the same things they told the French two weeks ago. They will certainly have told Kerry of the risks of ignoring Iran’s intervention in Syria, something that will allow it to gain control of Lebanon and Iraq and thus further interfere in the region’s affairs. This is something that will stir up sectarian hatred and raise concerns in the Gulf States. In fact, Iran’s growing influence in the region even poses a risk to the US and the West, which both appear reluctant to support the Syrian opposition, turning a blind eye to the worst massacre of the age.
Syria cannot bear Washington ignoring this terrible death toll and seeking to achieve a sort of military balance in the battlefield and thus persuade Assad to go to Geneva II. In fact, while the US brings every single bullet transferred to the Syrian opposition under scrutiny, it overlooks the heavy Russian arms and the Iranian fighters flooding the country on the side of the regime.
This is why Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud Al-Faisal was decisive when he told Kerry that Saudi Arabia would not stand idly by, watching what is happening in Syria. The Saudi Foreign Minister stressed that Syria today is akin to an occupied territory, adding that this requires a firm stand and rapid international action.
Egypt Will Erupt Again on June 30
Eric Trager /Washington Institute
Given the opposition's growing rage and the Brotherhood's increasingly confrontational stance, the upcoming nationwide protests are unlikely to end well.
The Middle Egypt governorate of Beni Suef, an agricultural province located 70 miles south of Cairo, is an Islamist stronghold. Islamists won 14 of Beni Suef's 18 seats during the first post-Mubarak parliamentary elections in December 2011, and Muslim Brotherhood leader Mohamed Morsi won nearly two-thirds of Beni Suef's votes in the second round of the 2012 presidential elections en route to an otherwise narrow victory.
Yet Brotherhood Supreme Guide Mohamed Badie, who teaches in the veterinary school of Beni Suef University, hasn't visited his home in the governorate since late March, when activists hoisted anti-Brotherhood banners and surrounded the mosque where he was scheduled to deliver a Friday sermon. "The people planned to attack him and hold him in the mosque," Waleed Abdel Monem, a former Muslim Brother who owns a socialist-themed cafe up the street from Badie's home, told me. The Supreme Guide's son now holds down the fort, and Brotherhood cadres are occasionally called upon to protect his home whenever demonstrations are announced on Facebook.
The anti-Brotherhood backlash that has forced Badie from Beni Suef is the product of mounting popular frustrations regarding the organization's failed governance of Egypt during Morsi's first year in office. Rising food prices, hours-long fuel lines, and multiple-times-daily electricity cuts -- all worsening amidst a typically scorching Egyptian summer -- have set many Egyptians on edge, with clashes between Brotherhood and anti-Brotherhood activists now a common feature of Egyptian political life. And this low-grade unrest may soon intensify: On June 30, the anniversary of Morsi's presidential inauguration, opposition activists will launch nationwide protests under the banner of "Tamarod," or "Rebellion."
The "Tamarod" campaign claims to have collected nearly 15 million signatures (take those numbers with a massive chunk of salt) on petitions that list Morsi's many failures -- such as "the economy collapsed" and Morsi "follows the Americans" -- and demand early presidential elections. If this demand sounds unrealistic, well, it is: There is no legal basis for using a petition drive to force an elected president of Egypt to call for early elections.
To be sure, this is something that many "Tamarod" supporters recognize, which is why they have another goal in mind: channeling popular exasperation with Morsi's presidency into mass protests that will force him and his Brotherhood-dominated government from power. "We will leave our homes [on June 30] and not go back unless the regime steps down, or we will die," said Abdel Fattah Sabry, the chief organizer of "Tamarod" in the Nile Delta city of al-Mahalla al-Kubra. Sabry anticipates millions pouring into the streets -- "this revolution will break all records," he told me -- and forcing Morsi's ouster. Thereafter, he said, the military will appoint an interim presidential council largely comprised of non-Islamists, which would administer new elections.
Of course, this is equally improbable. The only foreseeable way that mass protests could topple Morsi is if things get so violent after June 30 that the military is impelled, against its better instincts, to intervene to stop what would have to be unprecedented bloodshed. But it likely wouldn't end there: An intervention of this sort would bring the military into direct confrontation with Islamists, some of whom would take up the very arms that they were prepared to use exactly a year ago, when they believed that Egypt's then-ruling junta might deny Morsi the presidency. This scenario is one that the military knows and desperately wants to avoid, which is why Morsi will probably still be Egypt's president on July 1.
But that shouldn't be a source of consolation to either Morsi or the Brotherhood because, political titles aside, the country may fall entirely out of their control. "Marches will start from different places, and will reach the presidential palace," said Mohamed Haikal, one of the five "Tamarod" founders. "We will also surround other places: governorate offices and even Egyptian embassies abroad, including in Washington." The activists intend to sit in these locations indefinitely, perhaps fortifying their position by parking hundreds of cars at the various protest grounds. Meanwhile, labor activists in Egypt's industrial areas are planning major strikes to shut down the economy until Morsi goes. "The atmosphere is ready because workers are ready," a labor leader at a major textile factory in Mahalla told me. "On June 30, factories will turn off, and we are organizing in factories all over the country."
Whether or not the June 30 protests achieve the numbers that "Tamarod" anticipates -- and it's impossible to know, because the average person's decision to join an uprising is typically an in-the-moment kind of thing -- the basic, anti-Brotherhood rage that their plans reflect is, indeed, widespread.
The Brotherhood, however, is in complete denial of this. Brotherhood leaders and members contend that Morsi has been a mostly successful president, and they view the planned protests as validation that their long-term project of building an Islamic state in Egypt is progressing. "[Brotherhood founder] Imam Hassan al-Banna told us this would happen 70 years ago," Mahmoud Rashad, the Brotherhood party's media chief in the Nile Delta governorate of Gharbiya, told me. "So I am not worried, but confident that we are on the right track."
At the same time, the Brotherhood views "Tamarod" as a conspiracy by a small, though vocal, minority -- one that it wants to expose by counter-mobilizing more emphatically, and earlier. "We will go even before June 28 in all governorates all over the country to celebrate one year of a legitimately elected president," said Reda Ghanem, another Brotherhood media official in Gharbiya. Indeed, the Brotherhood announced on Friday that it would hold a "series of million-man marches to protect the sharia" during the week leading up to June 30, and it has repeatedly signaled its willingness to confront "Tamarod" directly. As Brotherhood party secretary-general Hussein Ibrahim recently declared, "the people will not allow their will to be assassinated...and will defend their will with everything they own." In this vein, at its mass protest on Friday, the Brotherhood ominously featured Islamist youths performing martial arts.
Of course, the Brotherhood has confronted its opponents violently before -- and the results were disastrous. On December 5, 2012, the Brotherhood dispatched cadres to attack a mass opposition protest outside the presidential palace in Ittahadiya. As the New York Times reported, Muslim Brothers "captured, detained and beat dozens of [Morsi's] political opponents...holding them for hours with their hands bound on the pavement outside the presidential palace while pressuring them to confess that they had accepted money to use violence in protests against him." Seven people were killed in the fighting, and many activists contend that the ruling party's use of violence against its opponents was the point at which they decided they could no longer tolerate Morsi's presidency.
Yet Muslim Brothers still see their December 5 mobilization as the right move. "The MB...saw that what's happening around Ittahadiya as sort of taking off the rule and trying to end the legitimacy of the president," former Brotherhood party spokesman Ahmed Sobea, who now runs the Cairo bureau for the Hamas-owned al-Aqsa network, told me. "So the people went to protect -- to defend -- the palace." Will the Brotherhood once again send its cadres against anti-Morsi protesters? "What the organization or the Muslim Brotherhood [leaders] see is right, we will obey," Sobea said.
Meanwhile, rather than working to calm the political atmosphere at this critical moment, Morsi is doubling down on confrontation. Consider, for example his most recent round of gubernatorial appointments, in which he bucked opposition demands for more inclusive rule by granting governorships to seven more Muslim Brothers. Most astoundingly, Morsi appointed a member of al-Gamaa al-Islamiya, a U.S.-designated terrorist organization, to govern Luxor, which was the site of a horrific 1997 al-Gamaa terrorist attack in which 58 tourists were murdered. Predictably, these appointments set off immediate -- and often violent -- demonstrations, which ultimately forced the governor to resign on Sunday.
Yet, from Morsi's perspective, the al-Gamaa appointment might have been worth the blowback. Two days later, al-Gamaa leader Assem Abdel Maged announced that "the Islamists will face violence with violence on June 30," warning that his organization would respond to violence by declaring an Islamic state from Tahrir Square. And lest one thinks that these are idle threats, take heed: Abdel Maged was imprisoned from 1981 to 2006 for providing "moral and material" support to the assassins of former Egyptian President Anwar Sadat, and he previously shared a prison cell with al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri.
So this is where most Egyptians find themselves on the eve of yet another planned mass demonstration: between an enraged opposition seeking a new uprising whose "success" depends on its ability to foment unprecedented chaos, and an utterly incapable, confrontational ruling party that now counts some of Egypt's most violent political elements as its core supporters. Whatever happens on June 30, it can't end well.
**Eric Trager is a Next Generation fellow at The Washington Institute.
Secular MPs Resign and 22 Million
Egyptians Sign Petition Calling for Morsi Departure
Naharnet /More than 22 million people have signed a petition in Egypt demanding the departure of Islamist President Mohammed Morsi and a snap election, the opposition Tamarod (Arabic for rebellion) group said on Saturday. "Our petition has gathered 22,134,465 signatures," Tamarod spokesman Mahmoud Badr told journalists on the eve of Sunday's first anniversary of Morsi's inauguration when it has called for nationwide protests. This figure is higher than the number of people who voted for Morsi in last year's presidential election -- 13.23 million, or 51.7 percent of the ballots cast.
Previously, Tamarod said 15 million people in Egypt had signed the petition demanding that the president step aside. Morsi supporters have dismissed the petition as invalid, insisting that only elections can decide whether a head of state stays or goes. His term of office is due to end in 2016.
Meanwhile, a group of secular-leaning deputies resigned also on Saturday from Egypt's acting parliament in support of the people, they said.
At least eight deputies formally resigned from the Islamist-dominated Shura Council, Egypt's traditionally toothless upper house which took over legislative duties after parliament dissolved last year.
Several others had tendered their resignations but they are yet to be accepted, upper house speaker Ahmed Fahmy said in a statement.
The resignations come as Egypt is deeply divided between Morsi's mainly Islamist supporters and a broad-based opposition.
The president is accused of betraying the 2011 revolution that brought him to power, concentrating power in the hands of Islamists and failing to manage the country's affairs.
"We gave them a chance to lead a reconciliation but they didn't. The resignation comes to support the popular trend in Egypt," said outgoing deputy Mona Makram Ebeid.
Ihab al-Kharatt, who heads the human rights council at the Shura Council, said at least 22 deputies had quit.
"We resigned in support of 22 million Egyptians who withdrew their confidence from Morsi," Kharatt told Agence France Presse.
The country was bracing on Saturday for the protests marking the first anniversary of Morsi's term in office amid violence in which several people have been killed, including a young American.
Opposition protests have sparked counter-demonstrations by the Muslim Brotherhood and its Islamist allies that have triggered often bloody clashes across the country.
Morsi, 62, stands accused by his critics of failing the 2011 revolution that brought him to power and of ignoring nearly half of the electorate of around 50 million who did not vote for him last year.
Source/Agence France Presse.