Posts Tagged ‘man’

The Conundrum of Abu’l Futuh: Why His Broad Appeal?

May 15th, 2012 Comments off

One of the less-predictable aspects of Egypt’s Presidential election race has been the emergence of Abd al-Moneim Abu’l-Futuh as one of the front-runners, if not the front-runner. He will be holding a big rally this coming Friday, apparently intended as a show of strength. The debate last week clearly reflects a perception that the contest is becoming a two-way race between Abu’l-Futuh and Amtr Moussa. Amr Moussa is easy enough to characterize: former Foreign Minister and Arab League Secretary-General, familiar figure in the establishment with just enough distance from the Mubarak administration to have some credibility, Most of the other candidates can be easily characterized as well: Muhammad Morsi as the Muslim Brotherhood’s anointed candidate, the “spare tire” dropped in to replace Khairat al-Shater; Ahmad Shafiq the military stalwart of the Mubarak era; Hamdeen Sabahi the Nasserist; Khalid Ali the liberal, and so on.

Abu’l-Futuh should be easy enough to categorize as well. A physician, he first showed his political colors when, as President of the Student Union at Cairo University, he publicly challenged President Anwar Sadat. Starting out with links to Al-Gama‘a al-Islamiyya, he entered the Muslim Brotherhood, was jailed in 1981 during Sadat’s crackdown on opposition, then rose through the Brotherhood ranks to serve on the Brotherhood’s guidance council. Eased out of the Brotherhood senior leadership in 2009, he was officially expelled last year when he announced his Presidential campaign. It’s not surprising that he has the endorsement of many Islamists, ranging from the hardline Salafi Al-Nour Party and Al-Gama‘a al-Islamiyya, as well as the moderate Islamist Al-Wasat Party,and by many accounts is supported by many members of the Muslim Brotherhood who find Morsi uninspiring. So it’s a fairly classic Islamist resume, if more prominent than most.

So why on earth has he been endorsed by Wael Ghonim, the social-media savvy Microsoft executive who helped fuel the Facebook side of the Revolution, and a fair number of other (but by no means all) Egyptian liberals and secularists? Why is he strongly popular on university campuses?

I’m hardly the first to ask the question. Shadi Hamid’s piece for Foreign Policy last week was entitled “A Man for All Seasons,” and as he puts it:

Aboul Fotouh’s supporters may have hailed from radically different backgrounds, but they believed, above all, in the candidate. They wanted to transcend the old battle lines of “Islamist” or “liberal” and reimagine Egyptian politics in the process.

What those grand ambitions mean in practice is, at times, unclear. As Aboul Fotouh has risen to front-runner status in the first ever competitive presidential election in Egypt’s history, he has become the Rorschach test of Egyptian politics. Liberals think he’s more liberal than he actually is. Conservatives hope he’s more conservative.

Certainly the man has had success in portraying himself as a man who transcends the secular-religious divide. Shadi Hamid again:

Aboul Fotouh’s success stems in part from his ability to neutralize this religious divide. One of his messages — and one that has appeal for liberals and hard-line Islamists alike — is this: We are all, in effect, Islamists, so why fight over it?  . . . Aboul Fotouh is able to make this argument, and make it sound convincing, in part because of who he is. He is the rare figure who has been, at various points in his career, a Salafi, a Muslim Brother, and, today, a Turkish-style “liberal Islamist.”

Abu’l-Futuh’s performance in the debate showed him at his best as a dignified (and unusually tall and thus commanding), well-spoken figure. Not a rabble-rouser, or a wild-eyed radical. He looks like a distinguished medical man, which he is. But is that enough to make him President?

Egypt has never had a genuinely competitive Presidential race until now (if a race in which ten candidates, including three front-runners, were disqualified is “genuinely competitive”); so it is hard to say. And certainly not all secularists and liberals are joining the Abu’l-Futuh bandwagon; many suspect he is really still a Muslim Brother at heart, and some cynics wonder if his “expulsion” and the Brotherhood’s threat to expel anyone supporting him were not ploys to increase his credibility with non-Islamists.

Some of his appeal to liberals may be understood from this post about a campaign rally by the blogger Baheyya,  You might also check out the website Liberal Koshari, which despite a general irreverence endorsed Abu’l-Futuh with reservations:

Aboul Fotouh is not our ideal candidate and we disagree with a number of his views (as we indicated above) and with those who claim he is a “liberal” (as we mentioned above, he is “Islamist-lite” a la Tunisia’s Ennahda). We realize that some of our readers will be disappointed with this endorsement but we think, compared to the other names in the running, Aboul Fotouh is the right man to lead Egypt for the coming five years.

Not exactly a ringing endorsement, and perhaps part of the Abu’l-Futuh phenomenon is driven by this “best of a bad lot” approach. He’s not as bad as the others, so he’ll have to do? That doesn’t seem to explain his more enthusiastic supporters, many of whom self-identify as liberals.

If you’re reading this expecting me to offer some big answer: he’s really still a hardcore Islamist, or he’s a liberal at heart, or he’s really a true middle-of-the-roader, I’m afraid you’ll be disappointed. I think part of the attraction may be that he doesn’t fit so neatly into the stereotypes of the other candidates. But then, when someone seems to be all things to all people, it’s not only cynics who should ask what the man really is for. He wants an Islamic-oriented secular state? He wants a shari‘a based state but doesn’t object to Muslims converting to Christianity? How can these various positions be reconciled; how can one person hold seemingly conflicting positions in their mind at the same time? Or is he really the wave of the future? The ultimate synthesis between secular modernity and Islamism? (UPDATE: Hold the Presses: the Los Angeles Times has it figured out: he’s a “Dynamic Pragmatist.”)

Count me as trying to keep an open mind, but as not buying into the enthusiasm. Of course, I don’t have a vote, and there’s a reasonable chance we’re going to be having lots of time to analyze who this man is and where he would lead Egypt. On the other hand, some polls suggest he’s faltering in the race, though the poll are conflicting and he’s still got his big rally coming up Friday.

I won’t be profiling all of the candidates, but I probably will post on the front-runners before the first round vote.

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"Curveball" confesses to lying about WMDs

April 3rd, 2012 Comments off

Man whose WMD lies led to 100,000 deaths confesses all – The Independent

A man whose lies helped to make the case for invading Iraq – starting a nine-year war costing more than 100,000 lives and hundreds of billions of pounds – will come clean in his first British television interview tomorrow.

But Mr Janabi, speaking in a two-part series, Modern Spies, starting tomorrow on BBC2, says none of it was true. When it is put to him “we went to war in Iraq on a lie. And that lie was your lie”, he simply replies: “Yes.”


“Curveball”, the Iraqi defector who fabricated claims about Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction, smiles as he confirms how he made the whole thing up. It was a confidence trick that changed the course of history, with Rafid Ahmed Alwan al-Janabi’s lies used to justify the Iraq war.

He tries to defend his actions: “My main purpose was to topple the tyrant in Iraq because the longer this dictator remains in power, the more the Iraqi people will suffer from this regime’s oppression.”

The chemical engineer claimed to have overseen the building of a mobile biological laboratory when he sought political asylum in Germany in 1999. His lies were presented as “facts and conclusions based on solid intelligence” by Colin Powell, US Secretary of State, when making the case for war at the UN Security Council in February 2003.

Of course the real crime is not an Iraqi trying to manipulate foreign powers — it’s the US and UK officials who decided to believe him because they wanted the war anyway. And none of these have yet been prosecuted.


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Supreme Council of Cyberspace

April 2nd, 2012 Comments off

Jerusalem Post, Inside Man: Behind Tehran’s ‘electronic curtain’ "The mullahs are intensifying their internet crackdown with a newly formed agency, the Supreme Council of Cyberspace."
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US Public Wants out of Afghanistan as 3 Western Troops Killed by Afghan Troops

March 27th, 2012 Comments off

There were two attacks on US and British troops in Afghanistan on Monday, by members of the Afghanistan armed forces. The American was killed in “the east,” while the two British officers were shot in Helmand province.

The USG Open Source Center translated a Pashto report on the Helmand incidents:

‘ Man in Afghan military uniform kills two ISAF soldiers in south
Afghan Islamic Press
Monday, March 26, 2012
Document Type: OSC Translated Excerpt…

Excerpt from report by private Pakistan-based Afghan Islamic Press news agency:

Kabul, 26 March: An armed man wearing Afghan National Army (ANA) uniform has killed two ISAF soldiers.

ISAF forces say that an armed man who was wearing ANA uniform has shot dead two ISAF soldiers in southern Afghanistan.

(Passage omitted: ISAF statement)

Meanwhile, a well-informed news source in Lashkargah city, capital of Helmand Province (southern Afghanistan), told Afghan Islamic Press this incident took place in a PRT (Provincial Reconstruction Team) centre of foreign forces in Lashkargah city.

Officials in Helmand and Ministry of Defence have not commented so far.

(Description of Source: Peshawar Afghan Islamic Press in Pashto — Peshawar-based agency, staffed by Afghans, that describes itself as an independent “news agency” but whose history and reporting pattern reveal a perceptible pro-Taliban bias; the AIP’s founder-director, Mohammad Yaqub Sharafat, has long been associated with a mujahidin faction that merged with the Taliban’s “Islamic Emirate” led by Mullah Omar; subscription required to access content;’

Bad relations between the US and Afghanis have been fueled by a Qur’an-burning incident, in which the US disposed of the Qur’ans used by prisoners at Bagram prison at an incinerator, and the Panjwai massacre in which a US sergeant stands accused of indiscriminately killing civilians, mainly children.

The gloomy outlook for the war in the short term is being mirrored in a new opinion poll that shows that 69 percent of the US public want to see their country withdraw from Afghanistan. Just last November nearly half of the public still wanted to stay.

Now, only a third say that the US should stick to its timetable for withdrawal by 2014. Most want to get out sooner.

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Lawrance of Homs

March 14th, 2012 Comments off
Here cometh the White Man.  Celebrate his arrival.

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Categories: Arab Blogs Tags: , , , , ,

Man said to be Syrian official defects online

March 8th, 2012 Comments off

Relatives mourn the death of a relative moments after his death, killed by a Syrian Army sniper, at a hospital in Idlib, north Syria, Wednesday, March 7, 2012. The man was shot by a sniper and taken to hospital for medical aid, but died from his wounds.(AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)A man purporting to be Syria’s deputy oil minister has announced his defection in an online video that emerged Thursday, saying he is joining the opposition against President Bashar Assad’s regime to protest its brutal crackdown that has killed thousands so far.

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Yemen’s One-Man Election

February 21st, 2012 Comments off

Yemen is having Presidential elections today. On the one hand, for the first time in some years, there’s only one name on the ballot. On the other hand, for the first time since 1978 (!), ‘Ali ‘Abdullah Salih is not on the ballot. Danya Greenfield at Foreign Policy suggests “Yemen’s Election Might Matter.” And here’s the ballot in case you need time to make up your mind:

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Gaza paramedics: Man dies from gunfire on border (AP)

December 17th, 2011 Comments off

A Palestinian medic runs from a tear gas grenade fired by Israeli security forces during clashes at a weekly protest against a nearby Jewish settlement, in the West Bank village of Nabi Saleh, near Ramallah December 16, 2011. Some 100 demonstrators took part in the protest almost a week after a Palestinian demonstrator died after succumbing to his wounds sustained during a similar protest in the village last week Friday. REUTERS/Darren Whiteside (WEST BANK - Tags: POLITICS CIVIL UNREST TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY)AP – Palestinian paramedics say a man has died from heavy machine gun fire on the tense border between the Gaza Strip and Israel.

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Fred Hof: Asad Regime is a "Dead Man Walking"

December 16th, 2011 Comments off

Frederic C. Hof, one of the State Department’s point men on Syrian policy, has not bothered to mince words:

“This regime is the equivalent of dead man walking,” Hof told the House Foreign Affairs subcommittee on the Middle East today. “But the real question is how many steps remain. I think it’s very difficult to project how much time this regime has.”

Though he specifically says that it is the “regime” that is the “dead man walking,” most reports are treating it as if he were speaking of Asad personally.

Now there are a lot of people speaking in the name of the Administration, or the State Department, who don’t know what they’re talking about and are speaking out of their (inappropriate orifices). I can personally testify that Fred Hof is not one of them. Fred and I were in the same class in the Georgetown School of Foreign Service back in the 60s, and unless I’m mistaken there’s no one in the current Middle East policy/think tank/diplomatic/government/academic community I’ve known as long as he. We don’t see each other that often these days, but when Fred speaks on Syria or Lebanon, I listen. He has a track record. He served a full US Army career before becoming a diplomat. During the Lebanese civil war he was waiting at a checkpoint in Beirut when he took a round from a sniper, probably Syrian, though he recovered. Yet he later negotiated with the Syrian government. He basically wrote, with little credit, the Long Commission report about the bombing of the Marine barracks in Beirut in 1983, and when he retired from the Army some years later, at a surprise party at “Mama Ayesha’s” iconic Arab restaurant in Washington, the then-Commandant of the Marine Corps showed up. How many Army Lieutenant Colonels get the Marine Commandant at their farewell? I also had the privilege of being there.

Fred went on to a long, and continuing,  career in diplomacy. Both before and since he left the uniform behind, he has worked in both Democratic an Republican Administrations as a close advisor to such critical negotiatiors as Philip Habib, Richard Armitage, and George Mitchell.

He published a book on the Israel-Lebanon border line in the 1948-49 war and has written essential monographs about that region and the whole Golan issue.

As I said above, for these reasons, when Fred Hof speaks on Lebanese and Syrian issues, I listen.

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Ash-Sharq Al-Awsat is thrilled: US ambassador appears in Saudi dress

November 25th, 2011 Comments off

How insecure they are.  Saudi mouthpiece of Prince Salman and his sons, Ash-Sharq Al-Awsat, celebrates the fact that US ambassador, the White Man himself, appears with his wife in Saudi dress. (thanks Mohammad)

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