Wednesday, 23 April 2014

EGYPT AND LEBANESE HIZBULLAH HEADING FOR HISTORIC STRATEGIC UNITY

Egypt's interim president Adly Mansour (R) and Foreign Minister Nabil Fahmy (L) meeting with Lebanese Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil (C), at the presidential palace in Cairo on March 10, 2014. 

Hezbollah, Syria, and Egypt on the verge of an understanding?

Al-Akhbar English

A meeting in Beirut a few days ago between Egyptian Foreign Minister Nabil Fahmy and Lebanese Industry Minister and Hezbollah MP Hussein al-Hajj Hassan marked the beginning of a dialogue between the two sides. It also complemented a series of behind- the-scenes contacts between Cairo and Tehran to open new channels of communication and end the war in Syria. Documents of meetings that Al-Akhbar obtained reveal an initiative proposed by Iran a while ago that suggests gradually transferring presidential powers in Syria to a national government. Will Saudi Arabia accept it?

Not many people paid attention to the political breakthrough that took place in Beirut during the visit by Egyptian Foreign Minister Nabil Fahmy on March 20. The visit marked the first public meeting between the Egyptian diplomat and Industry Minister and Hezbollah MP Hussein al-Hajj Hassan. This meeting sends an important message to Hezbollah, Syria and Iran. But does it mark the beginning of a shift in Egypt?

At first, the party was reluctant to accept the Egyptian invitation but, as usual, it gave precedence to national interest over personal sensitivities and the meeting took place.There is information that Hezbollah, like Egypt, is interested in promoting openness and understanding. At first, the party was not very happy with the framework within which the meeting took place. There was a kind of disappointment with the Egyptian minister who began his quick visit to Lebanon by meeting the head the Lebanese Forces Samir Geagea and most other Lebanese leaders. And instead of asking to meet Hezbollah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah, he asked that a Hezbollah minister visit him. At first, the party was reluctant to accept the Egyptian invitation but, as usual, it gave precedence to national interest over personal sensitivities and the meeting took place.
How did both sides read the meeting?

First, Hezbollah:

The party understands that Egypt needs to strengthen its relationship with Saudi Arabia right now for financial reasons and to complete the process of containing the Muslim Brotherhood and consolidating the authority of Field Marshal Abdel Fattah al-Sisi so that he can become president soon, and he will.

This understanding does not rule out a sense of disappointment and disapproval however. Some of this disapproval has to do with the way the Egyptian authorities deal with Hezbollah on the judiciary and media level. How is it possible to lump the Lebanese party with the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas in the legal case of the jail break at the 2011 Wadi al-Natroun prison as though Hezbollah is active inside Egypt? An accusation the party has denied repeatedly. The case is not based on any legal evidence according to Hezbollah, but is politically motivated.

The party denies that a Hezbollah cell played a role in releasing prisoners, including Hezbollah activist Sami Shihab, from Cairo prisons. First, Shihab was arrested on charges related to a nationalist cause, namely aiding Palestinians. The party bit its tongue when it came to arresting its activist in a case Shihab should have received honors for, not put behind bars. After he managed, with his comrades, to escape from an Egyptian prison during the chaotic period that followed the ousting of former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, all the party did is smuggle him out of Egypt when they learned of his escape. Any other claims are false. This is Hezbollah’s firm position and it has evidence to support it.

Many parties close to Hezbollah see a lot of exaggeration in the Egyptian perception of the relationship between Iran and Hezbollah with the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas. There is currently no financial ties or direct support for the Muslim Brotherhood. And the relationship with Hamas is still being tested. The Palestinian movement is expected to reevaluate its position with respect to what happened in the past three years. It is also expected to reposition itself as a resistance movement inside Palestine and not as part of a Muslim Brotherhood project in the region.

Hezbollah never felt comfortable with former Egyptian President Mohammed Mursi. The Muslim Brotherhood president disappointed many when he went to Iran and gave a speech that was unworthy of the hospitality he received or the place he was visiting. His hostile position towards Syria and Hezbollah and his decision to cut ties with Damascus created even more disappointment. Furthermore, when former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad came to Cairo, he was not well-received and was badly treated even at Al-Azhar University. Nevertheless, Hezbollah and Iran faced two choices, either return to the ghost of Mubarak’s era with Ahmed Shafik who ran against Mursi in the presidential elections or back Mursi. They reluctantly backed Mursi.

Second, Egypt:

People close to Fahmy said that his visit to Lebanon is important even for Egyptian domestic politics because of what Lebanon represents in terms of diversity and pluralism as opposed to the ideas of religious intolerance and terrorism.Information indicates that there are four observations from the Egyptian side:

- The Egyptians stressed that starting their foreign minister’s Lebanon tour with a visit to Geagea was the result of a logistical mistake that has to do with the embassy and preparations for the visit. They realized later on the repercussions of this mistake.

- People close to Fahmy said that his visit to Lebanon is important even for Egyptian domestic politics because of what Lebanon represents in terms of diversity and pluralism as opposed to the ideas of religious intolerance and terrorism. That is why there is genuine interest in helping and training the Lebanese army and a willingness to contribute to the effort of arming it.

- A simple meeting between Fahmy and a Hezbollah minister means a lot. First, it broke the taboo placed on meeting with Hezbollah especially that it coincided with the trials in Cairo and because there is an Egyptian opposition to the role the Lebanese party is playing in Syria. Second, it is a meeting on a ministerial level. This saves Egypt any embarrassment while at the same time it paves the way to have other meetings in order to promote further cooperation through the ministries.

- The Egyptian side emphasized that the meeting with Hezbollah means that Egypt is open to all Lebanese parties and does not discriminate between one side or another. The Egyptian foreign minister was keen in all his meetings to avoid giving an opinion about the presidential candidates in Lebanon. Cairo does not want to interfere in this issue according to Fahmy’s inner circle.

What happened at the meeting?

The Egyptian minister said: “Cairo supports the role of Hezbollah as a resistance party.” He also said that there are many disagreements between the party and Cairo including its involvement in the war in Syria. But these disagreements do not rule out the desire for both sides to come together and to develop this rapport for the interest of both countries in order to protect Lebanon and the Resistance.

Al-Hajj Hassan explained that Hezbollah decided to participate in the war in Syria because of the great dangers that beset Lebanon. He said that the threat of terrorism was more serious than some people thought. He gave several examples including the issue of border areas and the town of Arsal. He also stressed that the party is worried about the targeting of the Lebanese army and that it supports the army and stands behind it. He emphasized that Hezbollah respects the constitutional frameworks and wants to elect a president according to these frameworks and the predetermined deadlines. He described the dangers of sectarian strife and how the party has worked hard to avoid them. He stressed Hezbollah’s desire to see Egypt resume its pioneering role at a very critical juncture in the history of Palestine.

In this sense, the meeting was fruitful and it coincides with an Egyptian desire to remobilize relationships on a regional level. Fahmy drew a very successful roadmap for Egyptian foreign relations. This meticulous diplomat, son of the diplomat Ismail Fahmy who resigned because of Camp David, was not close to the military establishment. Some viewed him with a measure of skepticism because of his relationship with Mohammed al-Baradei and for studying and teaching in the United States. Their view, however, changed dramatically after his success in establishing strategic relations with Russia and expanding Egypt’s choices and that of the military leadership towards India and China. Fahmy became the real architect of Egypt’s current foreign policy. Sisi realized his great potential especially when US Secretary of State John Kerry rushed to visit Egypt on the eve of the Russian delegation’s arrival in an effort to convince Cairo of the need to maintain the primacy of the US-Egyptian relationship. Kerry praised the Egyptian leadership in Cairo at the time but he was reprimanded in the White House while Fahmy, Sisi, and the new leadership smiled.

It is through the prism of this strategy that Fahmy regards the need to reestablish regional relationships with Saudi Arabia and Iran. He is certain that the Syrian crisis cannot be solved without Cairo, Tehran, Riyadh and Ankara. There have been several initiatives on this issue. Famed Egyptian writer, Mohammed Hassanein Heikal, visited Nasrallah. Some claimed that he was not officially tasked to do so. But people close to the Egyptian minister confirm that he was indeed asked to make this visit. This paved the way for the meeting between the Egyptian and Iranian foreign ministers a while back. Fahmy’s meeting with Hezbollah in Lebanon came in this context too. Paving the way towards Iran has begun despite the sensitivity of Egypt’s current relationship with Saudi Arabia.

The terms of a new Iranian initiative

Cairo was never, and will never be, happy with Turkey’s adventures in Syria.Ideas regarding the Syrian crisis were exchanged recently between Iran and Egypt. Iran proposed an initiative but Egypt believed it is weak because the other side might reject it. Information indicates that this initiative included four points.

- A comprehensive cease-fire at a national level.

- Forming a national unity government consisting of the regime and the internal Syrian opposition.

- Laying the grounds for a new regime by transferring presidential powers to the government whereby the government will enjoy wide-ranging powers in the years to come.

- Preparing for presidential and parliamentary elections.

Cairo believes that the basics of the Iranian initiative are good but not sufficient. This initiative might develop later if consultations expand to include Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Iran and Turkey.

The Egyptian position is changing. Surely, Egypt did not head the list of Arab countries that refused to hand Syria’s seat at the Arab summit to the opposition Syrian National Coalition (SNC) but Cairo did not oppose this decision. It preferred, however, to remain in the shadows for reasons having to do mostly with its relationship with Saudi Arabia and with the Syrian opposition.

Cairo knows that the SNC is in a tight position because of its current divisions. It is also aware that the legal grounds to hand over Syria’s seat to the opposition do not exist. It knows that the SNC’s head, Ahmad Jarba, who is seeking to renew his term, wants to get rid of nine members of the coalition. It is also aware of the difficulties that the opposition is facing on the ground. It is therefore weaving serious security relations with Syria. Reestablishing diplomatic ties, however, requires a Syrian initiative that has not materialized yet that would include the release of detainees from the opposition National Coordination Committee and other bodies such as Rajaa al-Nasser.

In addition, there is the position of the Egyptian army, which always repeats that Egyptian national security is organically tied to the national security of Syria and its army. Cairo was never, and will never be, happy with Turkey’s adventures in Syria. It might have even sent something of a warning in this regard.

There is no doubt that Cairo needs Syrian initiatives. There is also no doubt that its relationship with Saudi Arabia limits its ability to maneuver. But there are important changes on the Arab scene that might help it in the next phase. A prominent Kuwaiti MP for example says that Kuwait’s official position and that of some Gulf countries now supports Syria, fighting terrorism, preserving the Syrian army and encouraging a political solution that entails the survival of Syrian President Bashar Assad. He stresses that the emir of Kuwait literally told him so.

Does the meeting between Fahmy and Hussein al-Hajj signify the beginning of major changes? Definitely. But we are still at the beginning of the road.

ON THE wESTERN-TURKEY-GULF-LIBYAN-SYRIAN-HAMAS DEATH SQUAD ALLIANCE AGAINST EGYPT


SOURCES: Syrian jihad coming to Egypt with help from Turkey, Qatar and Obama

[source]

The struggle for Egypt is on the verge of a major escalation as the key sponsors of the jihadist cause in Syria are now committed to a similar campaign against Egypt.

The overall strategic objective is to prevent the emergence of an inward-looking regional order based on the Arab heartland, shielded by the Fertile Crescent of Minorities, and thus excluding the external forces. A strong and stable Egypt is considered a cornerstone of such a regional posture.

Because Russia is the primary supporter and sponsor of the emerging regional order, the sponsors of the jihadists are convinced the U.S. Barack Obama Administration supports them just as Obama is supporting their jihad in Syria.

Jihadist sources directly involved in the sponsorship of jihadist causes in Syria and Egypt just reported on the comparable effort against Egypt.

According to these jihadist sources, “attempts to create a Free Egyptian Army in Libya have been identified, with the participation of the Muslim Brothers and Al Qaida and under Qatari-Turkish-Iranian patronage, in addition to plans to target vital installations, including Cairo International Airport, the storming of prisons to free Muslim Brothers detainees, and spreading chaos to sabotage the presidential elections.”

The Libyan intelligence services allegedly permit — or at least cannot control or constrain — the advance preparations.

“Factories in Libya are making Egyptian Army uniforms and distributing them to members of the Free Egyptian Army, in preparation to enter the country in the future and implement those schemes and awaiting the zero hour, which will be set by the intelligence agencies that control them,” the sources said. Large quantities of weapons, vehicles and other equipment are being delivered to the Egyptian groups and stored in the Darna self-declared “Emirate” in Libya’s Cyrenaica region, pending dispatch into Egypt. Most of the combatants engaged were reported to be experienced jihadis, mostly not of Libyan citizenship, but including a considerable number of Sudanese and other fighters who had gained experience in Syria and elsewhere.

The Emir (Commander) of the Free Egyptian Army is Sharif al-Radwani. He is currently running the training camps and weapon storage site of the Free Egyptian Army in Libya. In recent years, Sharif al-Radwani participated in the jihads in Syria, Lebanon, and Afghanistan-Pakistan. The key commander responsible for coordination with foreign sponsors and intelligence services is Ismail al-Salabi. He is a senior member of the Al Qaida high command. Significantly, Ismail al-Salabi is a friend and confidant of the head of Qatari intelligence, Ghanem al-Kubaisi, and both meet frequently.

The senior commanders are also coordinating with the supreme leaders of the clandestine arm of the Muslim Brothers the launch of terrorist operations inside Egypt. The jihadist sources specified that “Kami al-Saifi and Ismail al-Salabi, who are both in Al Qaida, were in contact with the Muslim Brothers’ (Ikhwan) Deputy Supreme Guide Khairat al-Shater and have a special role to play in creating instability prior to the upcoming presidential elections”.

The overall activities in the training camps in Libya suggest that the Free Egyptian Army is comprised of a few distinct elements, each of which joined after building expertise and cohesion in other jihadist fronts, mainly Syria and Libya. The best organized and best trained are the “Al Qaida elements” under the command of Sufian al-Hakim. They joined the training camps as a cohesive unit with well-defined cells and networks, including inside Egypt. They receive weapons, ammunition and other sophisticated equipment in the camps.

The first cells are already being smuggled across the Libyan borders. The largest element of the Free Egyptian Army is comprised of Egyptian students who fled to Libya. The military commander of these forces is Abu-Fahd al-Zaz, a veteran of the fighting in Syria who returned to Libya to help launch the jihad in Egypt. The liaison officer with the Qataris in the training camps is Abu-Ubaida, a veteran al-Qaida commander who had worked with the Qataris in Libya, Syria and other sensitive projects. Qatari intelligence and military officers are present on Libyan soil and visit Abu-Ubaida frequently to inspect the camps and get progress reports.

Significantly, the Free Egyptian Army is being organized and run separately, but parallel, to the ongoing expansion of the armed jihadist groups in and out of the Sinai, particularly the Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis (Supporters of Jerusalem) forces. The Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis started as Sinai-based and Egyptian off-shoots of the Hamas forces in Gaza affiliated with the Egyptian Muslim Brothers (of which the Hamas is an extension). [The U.S. Department of State has announced the designation of Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis as a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) under Section 219 of the Immigration and Nationality Act and as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist entity under section 1(b) of Executive Order (EO) 13224.]

In mid-July 2013, soon after the Egyptian military overthrew the Morsi Administration and saved Egypt from collapse, the Muslim Brothers established a command post at the Gaza Beach Hotel in the Gaza Strip. The primary mission of the command post is to organize and run the Islamist resistance and, should the need arise, a civil war in Egypt. The Muslim Brothers cooperate closely with the Hamas and the various Al Qaida-affiliated neo-salafist and jihadist forces in Sinai.

The Gaza Beach Hotel command post is run by Mahmud Izzat Ibrahim, a senior deputy of the Supreme Guide, known as “the Iron Man”. Hamas sources claim that he is Muslim Brothers senior leader Khairat al-Shater’s right-hand man and deputy for special projects in the underground/clandestine apparatus. Initially, there were at least six Egyptian senior operatives in the Gaza Beach Hotel, as well as a few Hamas and other Arab jihadist leaders help the Egyptians. In mid-August 2013, the number and seniority of the Egyptians at the Gaza Beach Hotel command post rose markedly.

Most important was the arrival of the supreme leader of the clandestine arm of the Muslim Brothers. Both the real name and nom-de-guerre of the commander are unknown. The most senior Hamas officials are referring to him as “Mr X” and hold him at great reverence.

The key to the power of “Mr X” is that he received his “takfiri” (ie: a Muslim who accuses another of apostasy) education from Sheikh Abdul Meguid al-Shazli, the mentor of both Shater and Supreme Guide Muhammad Badei. Some 20 senior commanders and operatives of the Muslim Brothers’ clandestine apparatus arrived with “Mr X”, bringing the total of Egyptians at the Gaza Beach Hotel command center to more than 30, on top of the few dozen Palestinians and other Arab jihadists who assist in running operations not only in Egypt but also throughout the Middle East.

The Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis in its current structure and role was funded in late-August 2013 by the Muslim Brothers leadership. The turning point was a deal between Deputy Supreme Guide Khairat al-Shater and Muhammad al-Zawahiri — Ayman’s brother and leader of the Egyptian Islamic Jihad – which brought the Hamas special operations command and numerous takfiri networks inside Egypt into the deal. As part of the agreement, the Muslim Brothers committed to supplying both Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis and Hamas with weapons from Libya which would be delivered through the Gaza tunnels.

Qatar agreed to fund these weapons and both Qatari and Turkish intelligence officials coordinated the weapons purchase and delivery with their Libyan counterparts. Little wonder that Hamas officials often refer to Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis as “the military wing of the Muslim Brothers” in Egypt. However, the Muslim Brothers’ supreme leadership remained apprehensive about their dependence on the Gaza Strip and the Sinai, and therefore, explained the jihadist sources, “kept planning to form its own militia”: the Free Egyptian Army.

Meanwhile, according to jihadist sources, Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis was being converted into an elite jihadist force “made up of Hamas militants, youth of the Brothers, and fighters trained in Afghanistan”. Indeed, the Gaza Beach Hotel command post is coordinating closely with Ramzi Mowafi – the Egyptian Al Qaida leader known as the Chief of Sinai – and the jihadist army in the Sinai. The first manifestation of the new cooperation is the emergence in the Sinai of a new jihadist group – “The Communicators with the Mahdi” – which, although comprised mainly of Palestinian members of the Hamas and Islamic Jihad from the Gaza Strip, is focused on fighting the Egyptian Security Forces.

Autumn 2013 saw the beginning of sustained operations at the heart of Egypt.

The first strikes were amateurish and caused extensive harm to bystanders. The Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis apologized and explained that the attackers “did their best in terms of monitoring and planning so as to avoid injuring any innocent Muslim”. Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis stressed that the ultimate objective of the mujahedin was “attacking [the Government] without inflicting harm in the ranks of the Muslims” and called on all Egyptian Muslims “to come together around their mujahedin brothers in their war against” the security forces. An individual identified as Abu-Osama al-Masri emerged as the chief spokesman of Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis.

In Winter 2013-2014, Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis became sufficiently strong and stable to escalate operations throughout the heart of Egypt, from Cairo to the Delta and Suez Canal cities.

The Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis networks have since carried out numerous car-bombings, shooting attacks and assassinations of senior security personnel. The jihadist commanders consider this the beginning of a long jihad which would ultimately restore Islamist government to Egypt. The jihadists are escalating their jihad to destabilize Egypt through “the battle for avenging the Muslims of Egypt.” According to the jihadist sources, the primary objectives of Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis are “to target vital installations, mainly the bombing of the Aswan High Dam, which was at the top of their target list, in addition to targeting a number of churches, places of worship, and police and army facilities”.

The jihadist sources stressed that once the Free Egyptian Army, the new forces of the Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis, and a myriad of localized jihadist-takfiri networks are unleashed, Cairo would be shocked by the spread and magnitude of the violence. The jihadist leaders and their sponsoring states were convinced that “Egypt is in a real crisis” and that Cairo was incapable of meeting the new challenge.

“The ignorance of the security forces and intelligence services of these new elements of terrorism is disastrous,” the jihadist sources claimed.

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

KWAWE NKRUMAH, WIFE AND CHILDREN


Courtesy of brother Gamal Nkrumah, Kwame Nrukumah's son.

"April and May, two breathrakingly beautiful months, for me personally they have a particular emotional appeal. My Father left this earthly realm in April and my Mother in May. This is a 164 photograph of the opening of the presidential residence flagstaff house zoo in Accra. Father was estatic, he loved animals, and Mother was her most graceful self. Africa must unite. I feature with my dearest Sister Samia, CPP Chairperson."

Sunday, 13 April 2014

PUBLIC EVENT: Radical Black & Asian Publishing: Legacies & Continuing Challenges


Radical Black & Asian Publishing: Legacies & Continuing Challenges
Sat 10 May 1-230pm
Bishopsgate Institute
London EC2M 4QH

As part of the The London Radical Bookfair & Alternative Press Takeover

Chair: Sukant Chandan - Sons of Malcolm
Speaker: Eric Huntley - Bogle L'Overture Books / Radical Black and Third World Bookfair (1982-1995)
more speakers tbc

At the London Radical Bookfair & Alternative Press Takeover one day event, we will be holding a panel on the experience and legacy of radical anti-imperialist, Black and Asian publishing of previous generations, and the continuing challenges and importance of developing publishing today for the struggle of the GlobalSouth against white supremacy and imperialism and for our collective Liberation.

We are delighted to have on this panel Eric Huntley, who with Jessica Huntley and their Bogle Overture books (and the related Walter Rodney bookshop which used to be in West Ealing, in West London) helped to organise with several other Black and Asian radical publishers the International Book Fair of Radical Black and Third World Books between 1982 - 1995.

The challenges remain for those interested in the on-going Liberation struggles of the GlobalSouth to develop analysis, culture, theory, history and fictional and children's books in relation to the newer generations in new political contexts of the world struggle with new forms of publishing especially in the realm of the digital age.

(This event will be filmed, live streamed and uploaded onto youtube, by attending this event you are giving permission to be possible filmed)

Friday, 11 April 2014

ZUMA / SOUTH AFRICA BOYCOTT AFRICA-eUROPEAN UNION SUMMIT



President Jacob Zuma says the EU should not decide who attends the EU-Africa Summit.

SA joins other African countries in boycotting EU-Africa Summit

[source]

South Africa has come out in support of the African Union call to shun the European Union-Africa Summit in Brussels this week.

The countries are of the view that European Union is dictating the composition of Africa's delegation.

There are some controversial inclusions and omissions. President Jacob Zuma has joined leaders like Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe boycotting the summit. Pretoria will be represented on a ministerial level.

The European Union-Africa summit is a gathering of 90 countries from two continents attended by 65 heads of states and government.

On the agenda is trade and political relations but there will be some notable absentees.

“I think that time must pass wherein we are looked as subjects, we are told who must come, who must not come, we have not attempted to decide when we meet Europe; who must come and who must not come. It is wrong and causes this unnecessary unpleasantness. I thought the AU and EU are equal organisations representing two continents but there is not a single one of them who must decide for others,” says President Jacob Zuma.

Eritrea has been barred from attending because of its human rights record. The SADR, also known as Western Sahara is also excluded because of its territorial dispute with Morocco, which is not an AU member.

Sudan was invited, but it’s President, Omar al-Bashir shunned the event. He is wanted by the ICC for human rights atrocities.

Grace Mugabe was not granted a visa to travel with her husband and Egypt, which has been suspended from the AU, got the nod.

Analysts say that the continent should decide on its own delegates.

"The position of the African Union is that it should be up to the African Union rather than the European Union to decide which African leaders are accepted or not .

It seems SA is taking a stand to say you have no right to exclude particular African leaders," says Political Analyst Steven Friedman.

Friedman adds that the diplomatic gesture will have no bearing on trade relations between South Africa and the EU, Pretoria’s biggest trading partner.

The EU finds itself in the midst of another diplomatic wrangle. It signed an agreement with Ukraine forging closer economic ties, in a show of support following Russia's annexation of Crimea.