• The chairperson of the US Senate Homeland Security Committee, Joseph Lieberman, has added his voice to those who seek an independent (independent of the White House) investigation of national security leaks to the world media
• Syrian Government Forces continue to escalate their attacks
across the country Sunday, employing artillery barrages in the flashpoint city of Homs, as well as the suburbs of Damascus and Aleppo, and various towns. In addition, the UN News Service reported that the head of the United Nations Supervision Mission in Syria (UNSMIS) today warned that escalating violence in the Middle Eastern country is hampering the ability of UN observers to carry out their work. The UN estimates that more than 10,000 people, mostly civilians, have been killed in Syria and tens of thousands displaced since the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad began some 16 months ago.
• Frightening news from Egypt: A well know Salafi-jihadi cleric was sought for a ruling on the “status” of members of the Egyptian military. The reply was that Egyptian soldiers “as a collective” are considered infidels, and the preferred manner in “dealing” with them must be left for a later time; presently the battle was ideological. Editor’s Note: Considering the Commentary to the right of this column, conditions in Egypt is uncertain for every segment of its population including its military. The chance of outright civil war is great and that is a tragedy beyond the unnecessary and tragic loss of life.
• Radio Free Europe reported that Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov says Russia has not been taking part in discussions with the United States or other countries about a political transformation in Syria that would involve President Bashar al-Assad leaving office. Then he added, which can only be described as comical, that Moscow does not “get involved in overthrowing regimes.”
• Voice of America: “U.S. military has confirmed it runs ‘broad ranging’ intelligence operations in Africa, though it stopped short of verifying a report that it has set up small air bases across the continent to keep watch on terrorist groups. While the Washington Post newspaper reported that the U.S. military has set up about a dozen air bases in Africa to conduct surveillance, in countries that include Burkina Faso, Uganda, Ethiopia, Djibouti, Kenya and the Seychelles. Kenyan military officials have denied the United States is using Kenyan territory or airspace to conduct regional surveillance missions, as mentioned in a Washington Post newspaper report describing expanding U.S. intelligence operations across Africa.
• Not surprisingly Swiss ignore new Iran oil and bank sanctions. Benjamin Weinthall of the Jerusalem Post reported from Berlin that the” Swiss government’s policy to reject sanctions targeting Iran’s Central Bank and European oil trade has prompted criticism from the US government. With a new round of EU and US Iran sanctions to be implemented on July 1, there is growing frustration from the American side that the Swiss have failed to join the Western coalition trying to stymie Iran’s nuclear work.”
• You have to be of a certain age to remember the following: They were accused of taking part in the release of sarin gas in train cars on the Tokyo subway system during the morning rush hour on March 20, 1995. Twelve people died and thousands more were poisoned. The cult’s founder, Shoko Asahara (whose real name is Chizuo Matsumoto) has been sentenced to death by hanging for those killings and 15 others blamed on the group. Eleven other Aum members have also been convicted of murder and sentenced to die. Asahara, the cult leader, who is legally blind, at one time had a following numbering in the thousands. He told cult members he wanted them to help unleash turmoil that would trigger a third world war so they could seize power and take over Japan. Voice of America announced that Japan was breathing a long-awaited sigh of relief, as newspaper sellers hawked an extra edition with a banner headline that the country’s last remaining top fugitive has been apprehended. The police official said Katsuya Takahashi, 54, on the special Most Wanted list, has been taken into custody following a manhunt that began in 1995 and served with an arrest warrant for murder and attempted murder.
• MEMRI reports– Egyptian cleric Safwat Higazi announced to his followers in Egypt that “Our capital shall not be Cairo, Mecca, or Medina. It shall be Jerusalem, Allah willing. Our cry shall be: ‘Millions of martyrs march toward Jerusalem.'” “The United States of the Arabs will be restored…. The capital of the Caliphate – the capital of the United States of the Arabs – will be Jerusalem, Allah willing.”
• IRIN reports that fears of violence in northern Afghanistan after the drawdown. Recent violence allegedly sparked by the behavior of local police and militia groups in northern Afghanistan has raised fears that the planned withdrawal of international forces could lead to renewed violence even in the generally more peaceful north. “Violence has been increasing. Since the Karzai government has been in power we have not seen such high levels of violence here,” said Nadira Geya, head of the Directorate of Women’s Affairs in the northern province of Kunduz. “Before, we didn’t have cases of militia killing women – not even once a year. This year we have already seen several cases.”
• Global Security reports– what could be captioned as :”More of the same”: that “Iran’s intelligence ministry announced the capture of a number of prime suspects in the killings of two of the country’s nuclear scientists, and claimed the detainees were linked to Israel, IRNA news agency reported. “The main elements behind the killings…were arrested and moved to detention following an investigation of at least 18 months involving surveillance in Iran and abroad,” said a statement from the ministry published by state media.
• In a not good news report for the United States, Reuters’ Brian Ellsworth tells us from Caracas that “Venezuela is building unmanned drone aircraft as part of military cooperation with Iran (including China and Russia). President Hugo Chavez claims that his aircraft only has a camera and was exclusively for defensive purposes. While claiming that “We are a free and independent country” one must wonder why US prosecutors are investigating the drone production in that country. [/column]
[column]Commentary: I Told You So: Political Chaos in Egypt
I cannot tolerate people who say: “I told you so!” But I did tell you. The Egyptian Spring Revolution ran its bumpy course and presently has more than its front wheels in an impenetrable ditch. The people, if not the political system, have moved from exaltation to frustration to near exhaustion. This is or has already created a vacuum for the military to once again take control of that nation. In retrospect the reason is clearer, as it always is, as to what the future course of events were to be when the revolution first burst upon the public squares of Egypt.
Some write that Egypt has now “suffered a political earthquake”. But earthquakes are not always predictable. One did not need a magic mirror to predict that country’s present political and social chaos. When the slow but predictable outcry of the people in Tahrir Square reach a monumental proportion, the Muslim Brotherhood was all but invisible. It was the black leopard crouching, hidden in a tree, waiting for its prey to meet a moment of vulnerability. Then, the world’s oldest and one of the largest Islamist movements moved to the forefront of the political discussion, and contrary to its public face during the height of street protest and violence, did a double turn and announced through its political arm, the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), that it would move to fill the political void created by what seemed like the evitable political demise of the Mubarak Government. At that moment and simply stated, its well known positions regarding sharia law, women’s rights, and Egypt’s relations with Israel should have sent a shudder though the West. Most politicians applauded the birth of another democracy. Except that democracy.
The election process began in a move toward a new government. However, of the newly elected 100 member Egyptian Assembly, there were only six women and six Christians who were elected. Christians comprise about 10 percent of Egypt’s 85 million people. Within all those elected, there were almost none, it is claimed, who could be defined as skillful or knowledgeable in either constitutional or human rights issues.
When, thereafter, the newly elected Assembly convened for the first time to vote for those who would draft the country’s new constitution—it’s very first and most important and substantial act, one quarter of the Assembly (the lower house) walked out in protest. Walked out because they complained that the Muslim Brotherhood’s political arm, the FJP, along with an ultraconservative Islamist Nour Party, effectively froze out of the legislative process a group of liberal and non-Muslim legislators. The liberal bloc of the elected members consisted of three separate parties who, along with the non-Muslim legislators, stated their objection that the Islamist-dominated law makers had imposed their will on the minority in the process of choosing who would draft the new constitution. In other words, no voice was given to the religious and political minority in the constitutional process. The political process then began to tumble almost uncontrollably. Decrees were issued, mediation between groups took place, and peace was brought to create a parliament and draft a constitution. Then the unsettling CNN reports flashed on our television screens: In the midst of electing a new president, after weeks of trying to determine who and who was not permitted or could be considered for that position, there was “sort of a coup”. “Sort of ?” Suddenly I had visions of Tahrir Square at the on start of the Spring Revolution, with the faces of a jubilant and defiant population celebrating the birth of their new democracy. And before most realized it, the new voices of the “new democracy” were calling for end to all relations and treaties with “America” and “Israel”.
On June 15th, there was a political bombshell! Egypt’s highest court ruled that one third of the parliamentary seats in the Islamist controlled parliament were invalid. This announcement invited the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces –that country’s interim ruling military council that had been hit with arrests within its own ranks—ruled that if any part of the parliament has been judicially declared illegal, then by “logic” the entire legislature should be dissolved.
Al-Jazeera reported that this string of events triggered a new level of chaos and confusion in the country’s leadership and a politically divided country with a population exhausted by the process. By week’s end the Country’s Constitutional Court added additional fuel to the fire by declaring that a law passed by the new Islamist controlled Parliament (that would control the election process and would have barred any member of the Mubarak government from running for office) was unenforceable. That ruling permitted the fallen government’s last prime minister to stand for election as president of the new republic. Parliament, controlled by Islamists who had long been antagonistic to the military, had only been in session for one month before it was dissolved. The end results were that the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces was once again in control of the country. It would determine the makeup of the 100 person group to draft the country’s new constitution. By weeks end (June 15) there was a new constitution, as the Muslim Brotherhood announced that they would put “all their efforts” into securing the presidential election.
Notwithstanding that a parliamentary government did not exist, having been dissolved by the military, a presidential election was held the weekend of June 16 and 17. Monday morning June 18, the Muslim Brotherhood claimed victory and then, confronting the military head-on, declared that the dissolved parliament would write its own constitution. As I was about to place this Commentary on the blog, the front page of multiple news services ran the photograph of the opposition presidential candidate. The headline was he too was proclaiming victory. Therefore, as of June 19th, Egypt has two constitution, two proclaimed presidents and a dissolved Parliament.
How strong will the military stand? Can the Muslim Brotherhood generate sufficient public outcry to overcome the role of the military? In this atmosphere, can there be a compromise between the two? All this while a substantial minority within Egypt has their fate in the hands of competing wills. If the Brotherhood wins the battle, its historical voice is an indicator that the minority will be trampled. Beyond the pyramids, who succeeds in running the government will have an impact on not merely the lives of those that live in that ancient country but on the politics beyond the Mid East.