Egypt’s first free presidential election in modern times starts tomorrow, with the front-runners the Islamist Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh and Amr Moussa, a former longtime servant of ousted President Hosni Mubarak.
People walk under a campaign election banner for Mohamed Morsi, the Brotherhood’s official candidate, in old Cairo on Tuesday, May 22.
(Amr Abdallah Dalsh/Reuters)
By Kristen Chick, Correspondent
posted May 22, 2012 at 11:47 am EDT
Tomorrow, Egyptians will go to the polls to choose their president for the first time in modern history, but they are facing a choice of front-runners who represent some of the oldest forces in the state.
On one side is Amr Moussa, a long-time foreign minister under former President Hosni Mubarak. He casts himself as the anti-Islamist candidate, and a vote for experience and stability. On the other is Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh, a long-time member of the historic Egyptian opposition group, the Muslim Brotherhood. Though he was expelled last year, and has attempted to bridge the Islamist-secular polarization of Egyptian politics, in the minds of many Egyptians he is still Ikhwan.
Even a broader definition of “front-runners” doesn’t broaden the spectrum: there is Mohamed Morsi, the Brotherhood’s official candidate, and Ahmed Shafiq, Mubarak’s last prime minister.
“Most of the candidates are old figures. Yes, a number of them were not part of the regime, but they were part of the political establishment during the Mubarak era. … Yes, a number of them were in the opposition, yet it’s clear that we don’t have new, younger faces,” says an Egyptian blogger who goes by The Big Pharoah. Continue reading
Though Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula has just marked its 30th anniversary of liberation from Israeli occupation, the region is perhaps less integrated with the rest of the Egyptian state now than at any time since the Camp David Accords returned sovereignty of the Sinai to Cairo. An influx of arms from Libya and elsewhere is fuelling a growing insurgency amongst an alienated and disenfranchised population and deteriorating relations between Egypt and Israel are threatening to once more make the Sinai borderlands a battleground between these regional rivals.
Egyptian security authorities blame most of the scores of attacks on police since the January 25, 2011 Egyptian uprising on Gaza-based Palestinian militant groups such as Jaljalat, Jaysh al-Islam, Izz al-Din al-Qassam and the local al-Qaeda in the Sinai Peninsula (Egypt Independent, May 1).  However, while radical Islamism and close ties to Palestinian militants in Gaza play an important role in the unrest, there is little question that the core of the Sinai insurgency consists of armed Bedouin who exist largely on the fringes of Egypt’s Nile and Delta-based society.
Law enforcement has declined in the Sinai to the point that the police exist mainly to protect police installations that increasingly resemble improvised fortresses protected by large sand berms and steel walls to repel RPG attacks. The security situation is not helped by continuing protests against the military government by disgruntled police across Egypt, including in the towns of the northern Sinai. The Bedouin tribesmen have little fear of government authorities – security checkpoints are routinely attacked and security men and soldiers assassinated.
Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and its insurgent arm, Ansar al Sharia, continue to execute deadly attacks despite the Yemeni military advances in Abyan governorate. A suicide bomber blew himself up during military exercises in the worst such attack in the Yemeni capital in years. Ansar al Sharia gunmen attacked American contractors in an eastern port city.
A man dressed as a Yemeni soldier blew himself up in a main square near the presidential palace in Sana’a today. The blast occurred in the middle of Central Security Forces (CSF) battalion and killed over 90 soldiers. The battalion, along with several other units, was training for a parade for Yemen’s unification anniversary tomorrow. The Yemeni Defense Minister, Major General Mohammed Nasser Ahmed, and Chief of Staff were present at the exercises, but arrived minutes after the detonation. A man calling himself a representative of Ansar al Sharia told a Reuters reporter that the attack was in response to Yemeni security forces’ advances against the militant group in the south.
The Yemeni military is advancing on Jaar, a stronghold of Ansar al Sharia, in the latest in a series of offensives in Abyan. The advance began on Friday as the army moved in from the north. Fourteen militants and seven troops were killed in an extended battle around Jaar yesterday morning. Yemeni airstrikes targeted a factory used as an Ansar al Sharia base and a militant checkpoint in Shaqra, to the east of Zinjibar. Militants are also reportedly fleeing Lawder, the site of heavy fighting for the past month. The head of U.S. Central Command’s special operations force, Major General Kenneth Tovo, visited the front over the weekend and promised the necessary support. This is the first time that the Yemeni army has pushed this far into Ansar al Sharia-held territory since the insurgent group took control of areas of Abyan last year.
Egyptian media is reporting on complaints concerning medical convoys organized by the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood’s political party which are alleged to be involved with female circumcision. According to a Bikya Masr report:
14 May 2012 CAIRO: A number of Egyptian human rights groups have submitted a communication to the Attorney General Abdel Meguid Mahmoud against the Muslim Brotherhood`s political arm, the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) to investigate the complaints of people in the village of Abu Aziz in the Minya governorate, south of Cairo, over the existence of a large medical convoy organized by the party that wanders streets and does medical examination on people, including female circumcision, or female genital mutilation, in violation of Egyptian law, conventions and treaties signed by Egypt. In Egypt’s legal code, Female Genital Mutilation is criminalized, as well as the inciting by doctors to convince families of the young girls of the need to agree to circumcise their daughters, ‘as a matter of preserving chastity.’ The communication demanded Mervat Tallawy, the head of the National Council for Women (NCW) and Major General Seraj EL Din El Rouby, the Governor of Minya, and Nasr El Sayed , Assistant Minister for primary health care, and preventive medicine, and family planning, to intervene to stop what it called ‘a farce propaganda for free circumcision, which was organized by one of the political parties, in Minya governorate to promote circumcision.’ The communication came after reports were circulated on news websites and social networking websites, including Facebook and Twitter about a convoy organized by the FJP to promote circumcision among girls in Minya. Tallawy, on Sunday, held a meeting with the governor of Minya to discuss the mechanisms of organizing awareness campaigns and seminars for women in the governorate, on how to address and fight against female genital mutilation, ‘which is being carried out by the FJP in the governorate.’ Tallawy called on the Governor of Minya to combat such operations, and to spread awareness in the governorate, and to ‘coordinate with the Council in any issue related to women.’ The National Council for Women denounced the statements issued by the Secretary of the Freedom and Justice Party for the People’s Assembly on female circumcision, pointing out that such an act and calls ‘may put the person who promotes it under penalty of law because FGM is criminalized, and against human rights in general and women in particular. Continue reading
The arrest of the Islamist sect’s operational commander Suleiman Mohammed, and discovery of arms cache, is welcome news for Nigeria, which has been battling Boko Haram for three years.
By Ibrahim Garba, Correspondent / May 11, 2012
Nigeria military task force (JTF) on Friday arrested a high-profile Boko Haram operational commander, along with his wife and five children, during a raid at his residence on Farawa Babban Layi Street in the northwest Nigerian city of Kano.
The arrested operation commander was identified by Nigerian authorities as Suleiman Mohammed, a Yoruba tribe member from Ogbomosho in southwest Nigeria. Sophisticated weapons were recovered during the raid, including a rifle, 10 improvised explosive devices (IEDs), three pistols, and 1,000 rounds of live ammunition. No shots were fired during the raid on Mr. Mohammed’s home.
The arrests are welcome news for the government after a spate of high-profile bombings and shootings across northern Nigeria, violence that has claimed thousands of lives since the Islamist group Boko Haram began its rebellion in 2009. Boko Haram, whose official name in Arabic translates as”People Committed to the Propagation of the Prophet’s Teachings and Jihad,” seek to overthrow the secular Nigerian government and replace the current Constitution with Islamic sharia law, at least in the Muslim areas of the north. Recently, Boko Haram spokesmen have offered to open dialogue with President Goodluck Jonathan, but Boko Haram has shown little room for compromise regarding its main mission, and Nigerian military operations against the group seem likely to continue.
U.S. to deny $800 million in aid to Pakistan; Prime Minister Gilani says there is “trust deficit” between Pakistan and U.S.; ISAF in talks with Pakistan about reopening NATO supply routes; India adopts tougher stance on Siachen; Al Qaeda leader Ayman al Zawahiri gives speech on Qur’an burning in Afghanistan; Gilani denies Pakistani authorities knew of bin Laden’s presence in Pakistan; Commission investigating Bannu jailbreak implicates government officials,police and jail staff; Pakistan successfully tests short range ballistic missile; Red Cross suspends most of its work in Pakistan.
- On Wednesday, a U.S. House of Representatives panel moved to cut the foreign aid budget by about 9 percent, denying the $800 million that the Obama administration “requested for training and equipping Pakistan’s military in counterinsurgency tactics.”
- Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani told CNN that there is a “trust deficit” between Pakistan and the U.S., which is why Pakistan is attempting to negotiate “new terms of engagement and cooperation” with the U.S. In response to U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s remarks that Pakistan needs to do more to combat terrorism, Gilani said that Pakistan and its Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) Directorate were “already working” with the CIA and the U.S., and he questioned what more the U.S. wants.
- International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) Deputy Commander and British Army Lt. Gen. Adrian Bradshaw stated that the ISAF is in talks with Pakistan about reopening the NATO supply routes. The deputy commander said that even though ISAF was managing without the routes, it would be “extremely helpful” for ISAF and also financially beneficial for Pakistan if they were reopened.
- British Home Secretary Theresa May and Prime Minister Gilani said on Thursday that Pakistan and the UK had a strong relationship and were working together to counter extremism and terrorism. Gilani said that the two countries were also cooperating on how to eliminate the threat of improvised explosive devices.
- During his third visit to the Siachen Glacier on May 3 to review the search and rescue operation at the avalanche site, Army Chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani told reporters that India had adopted a tougher stance on Siachen than in 1989. According to Kayani, India was now talking about redefining border lines and re-determining positions on the glacier.
- Continue reading
Many Iranians have complained of disruptions to Gmail and other “foreign” e-mail services in recent months.
May 08, 2012
Iran’s minister of communications and information technology, Reza Taghipour, has sent a letter to the head of the country’s Central Bank, Mahmud Bahmani, asking him to instruct banks to refrain from sending bank statements to e-mail addresses administered by foreign providers.
In his letter, Taghipour says that banned foreign e-mail providers include Yahoo, Hotmail, Gmail, and MSN.
The communications minister has called on banks to only accept national e-mail addresses from customers when they open accounts.
Taghipour has requested that banks provide access to the Internet for customers to be able to create national e-mail accounts at their premises.
The move appears to be aimed at forcing citizens to join the national e-mail system, which many Iranians have been reluctant to use.
Some Iranian websites have reported that the use of the national e-mail is obligatory for those working for the government and state institutions.
By: Mark McNamee
This article is the Featured piece for the April 2012 Issue of Militant Leadership Monitor. To view the entire issue please visit mlm.jamestown.org.
Henry Emomotimi Okah was born in 1965 and raised in Ikorodu, Lagos State, although his family’s ancestral home was in Baylesa State. The fourth child of a Navy officer, his upbringing was described by a sibling as very “British”; he attended private schools and led a relatively privileged life. He earned a bachelor’s degree in marine engineering from the Maritime Institute and, upon graduation, took a position with the Nigerian Merchant Navy. Prior to his career as an alleged rebel leader, he was a door-to-door handgun salesman in Lagos in the 1990s. Okah is believed to have begun his militancy in the late 1990s and early 2000s; in 2003 he left for South Africa where, aside from his stint in prison in Nigeria, he has remained. Although he has denied being a rebel fighting with the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), Okah has admitted that he is sympathetic to the MEND cause (Mail and Guardian [Cape Town], November, 19, 2010).
According to his brother Charles Okah, Henry’s return to his family’s ancestral home in Bayelsa at the age of 19 was the formative experience in his turn towards militancy. Having witnessed firsthand the marked difference between his upbringing in Lagos State and the endemic poverty in the Niger Delta, he retained these images while a student and in his work after graduation (Vanguard, [Yenagoa], October 25, 2010). Building on his experience and contacts in the Navy, as well as his days as a weapons salesman, he eventually began to direct this background toward ostensibly social and economic ends in the Niger Delta. Okah bunkered oil and sold it on the black market, using the funds derived therefrom to suffuse the region with weapons; this process eventually gave rise to a loosely organized network of armed rebels. Over time, these previously disjointed rebels, often hired by Okah and other higher-level militants, as well as politicians, coalesced under the brand name of MEND. This moniker, in actuality, functioned as a catch-all term encompassing various militant groups within the Delta. One MEND leader, Alhaji Dokubo-Asari, noted in 2009 that MEND was created “not as an organization but as a name for the purpose of issuing unified statements” (Sahara Reporters [Lagos], January 1, 2009).
Having helped execute, supply and fund operations in the Delta region from abroad in South Africa, Okah was eventually arrested in Angola while attempting to purchase equipment and arms in September 2007. He was deported back to Nigeria in February 2008 and charged with more than 60 crimes, including treason and terrorism, both of which carry the death penalty. From early 2008, he was held in solitary confinement until his July 2009 release in accordance with an amnesty order handed down by then-President Yar’Adua. Although initially viewed as an outsider, Okah had gained the respect of Delta militants in the 2000s, and his arrest in 2007 greatly enhanced his prestige with the fighters, bringing him an almost celebrity status within the group .
May 3, 2012 | COL Louis H. Jordan, Jr
On January 5, 2012, the President announced new strategic guidance for the Department of Defense titled “Sustaining U.S. Global Leadership: Priorities for the 21st Century” to support proposed cuts in defense spending that are the result of the drawdown of U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. Simultaneously, lawmakers discussed the need to cut forces and change the retirement system for our military in an effort to gain efficiencies in a sort of 21st century “peace dividend.” A key point of this leaner strategy is a move away from a focus on an era of persistent conflict, to one which emphasizes emerging challenges in the Pacific beyond the Korean peninsula.
An element of the new strategy that will have a profound effect on all of us is the abandonment of the “two war paradigm,” which formed the basis of our current force structure and is now the foundation of the “renewed” concept of Air-Sea Battle (ASB). The former was treated as a code of belief by which all budgets were developed, and the latter, a recurring theory since the days of Billy Mitchell, that suggests that machines can do all things all the time. The reality of the matter is that the “Two Major Regional Conflicts” strategy is not absolute dogma, and ASB does not obviate the need for landpower. Even though the ASB concept is not fiscally driven, it is “fiscally informed” and does fit nicely in our challenging economic situation.
So where does that leave the Army? Actually, not in such a bad place, due to the opportunity that the new strategy provides. Opportunity comes in many shapes and sizes as well as from many directions. This one is coming from the end of a long war and some fiscal realities with which we, as a nation, must soon deal.
We have been at this crossroads before. In fact, this institution, the U.S. Army War College, was established by seizing such an opportunity after the Spanish-American War to solve military failings discovered during that conflict. Opportunity was taken hold of once again at the end of World War II with the creation of the Defense Establishment in 1947 and the Department of Defense in 1949, a concept rejected by the Morrow Board a mere 22 years earlier. Ironically, the end of the Vietnam War provided another opportunity, which resulted in the development of Airland Battle Doctrine to counter the possibility of the Cold War going “hot” on the North German Plain. In each case, we were facing a changing threat and a challenging world.
We have the opportunity to reshape our Army into a force that can continue to fulfill the three roles that the American public expects from its profession of arms and to do so within the construct of the new strategy and fiscal reality. Our Army, as the Chief of Staff of the Army so clearly stated in the February 2012 edition of the Association of the United States Army News, must be able to prevent conflict, enable allies and contain enemies, and ultimately win decisively and dominantly. At the same time, our working environment is changing to one which requires land forces to accomplish many nonconventional missions. There are a number of things we can do across the force, and it really means going back to our uniquely American philosophy found in our Constitution of maintaining a navy and raising an army. The American philosophical psyche has always been shy of a large standing army. It is one of the reasons we fought our revolution. So the natural tendency is to reduce the size of the Army after the end of hostilities. Navies however, maintain free access to trade routes. The Air Force falls into a similar category as the Navy by protecting interests of commerce in and from the air. The biggest difficulty that ground forces will face in the new challenging threat environment will be “anti-access” and “area denial” or A2/AD. New threats in the cyber world will require us to look at “terrain” differently. ASB addresses A2/AD. We can re-tool the Army to take advantage of ASB in several ways.