Egypt on the brink as protests turn violent again
The U.S. walks a tightrope over Egypt, car bomb strikes Hezbollah stronghold, and proxy war riles Iran’s Arab minority. Today is Friday, August 16 – the one-year anniversary of South Africa’s mine killings – and this is the World Wrap, brought to you by @clarerrrr.
A member of the Muslim Brotherhood and supporter of ousted Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi shouts slogans in Cairo, August 16, 2013. REUTERS/Louafi Larbi
Friday rage day. Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood called for a “Day of Rage” on Friday following this week’s deadly crackdown by security forces. The protests and subsequent army response soon turned violent, with at least sixteen people reported dead.
Deeply polarized after months of political turmoil, Egypt stands close to the abyss of chaos with Islamist supporters refusing to accept the toppling of Mursi, which followed mammoth rallies castigating his trouble-plagued, year-long rule. They have demanded the resignation of army commander General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and the reinstatement of Egypt’s first freely elected president, who is in detention and has not been seen in public since his downfall.
To signal his displeasure, President Barack Obama announced in a speech yesterday that the U.S. would cancel this year’s joint military exercise with Egypt. Many observers, however, saw the move as a slap on the wrist – Reuters columnist David Rohde called the administration’s response “feckless” and argued it is time to cut off U.S. aid. The U.S. gives Egypt roughly $1.55 billion annually, making the country one of the top recipients of U.S. aid. Washington already had lost credibility in the eyes of many Egyptians by declining to call the ouster of democratically-elected President Mohamed Mursi a coup.
Critics argued that Obama had done too little, too late and that his administration has repeatedly sent mixed messages – among them its failure to brand Mursi’s ouster a military coup – thereby eroding its ability to influence events. A bipartisan group of U.S. Middle East experts said the cancelling of the military exercise was necessary but fell far short of what is needed to meet U.S. objectives in Egypt.
Washington’s conflicting interests have sent mixed messages; the U.S. seeks to protect its interests in stability and military cooperation by not alienating Egypt’s generals, but also wants to appear to back democracy.
Lebanese army soldiers, military policemen, security forces and Hezbollah members inspect the site of a car bomb that occurred on Thursday in Beirut’s southern suburbs, August 16, 2013. REUTERS/Sharif Karim. Click here for more Reuters photos of the blast.
Hit on Hezbollah. A car bomb attack on Thursday killed at least 24 people in a Hezbollah stronghold in southern Beirut.
A Sunni Islamist group calling itself the Brigades of Aisha claimed responsibility for the attack and promised more operations against Hezbollah. Residents of southern Beirut say Hezbollah, backed by Iran and Syria, had been on high alert and stepped up security in the area after warnings from Syrian rebels of possible retaliation for the group’s support for President Bashar al-Assad.
A witness told AFP that the explosion felt like an “earthquake,” and an AFP photographer reported seeing two burning buildings and vehicles on fire. Hezbollah’s support of the Assad regime in Syria has intensified sectarian tensions in Lebanon. The government said today that it would investigate whether the explosion was a suicide attack.
Proxy war could blow back into Iran. An attack by Arab insurgents in Iran shows how the Islamic Republic’s support of the Assad regime could backfire by rousing an underlying threat.
The Ahwazi Arabs are a small minority in mainly ethnic Persian Iran, some of whom see themselves as under Persian “occupation” and want independence or autonomy. They are a cause célèbre across the Arab world, where escalating ethnic and sectarian rivalry with Iran now fuels the wars in Syria and Iraq and is behind political unrest from Beirut to Bahrain [...] Now some Ahwazis see themselves as part of a larger struggle between Shi’ite Iran and the Sunni-ruled Arab states across the Gulf, which back opposing sides in the Syrian civil war.
Tehran denies its Arab minority is largely discontent.
Nota Bene: A student’s death touches nerve in austerity-hit Greece.
Cannabis capital - Europe’s marijuana capital isn’t Amsterdam. (Global Post)
Set the record straight - NSA leaker Edward Snowden says the media has been misled. (Huffington Post)
Rainbows for Russia - Swedish Olympic athletes paint their nails in support of LGBT rights. (Washington Post)
Egypt’s ire - A working-class neighborhood in Cairo tries to make sense of the turmoil. (New York Times)
Spoon savior - Women who fear being forced to marry abroad told to hide cutlery in underwear. (The Guardian)
From the File: