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January 31, 2011

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Salafi-Jihadist Cleric: "Egypt on the Verge of an Historic Stage in the History of the Islamic Nation"  (MEMRI)
    Prominent Salafi-jihadist cleric Abu Mundhir Al-Shinqiti has ruled that participation in the protests in Egypt is permissible and recommended, since they might bring about the fall of the current Egyptian regime.
    Al-Shinqiti's fatwa demonstrates the high expectations Salafi-jihadis have regarding the outcome of the current uprising in Egypt.

Cairo: Anger Starting to Focus on Israel, U.S. - Melanie Lidman (Jerusalem Post)
    During the main protest on Sunday in downtown Cairo, one man painted a 20-meter-long message: "Go away, Mubarak, you are from the Americans, and you're working for them!"
    Demonstrators are beginning to focus their wrath not just on Mubarak, but also on the U.S. and, to a lesser extent, Israel, blaming both for supporting the Mubarak government.

Mubarak Didn't Predict Uprising Either - Omri Ephraim (Ynet News)
    Maj.-Gen. (res.) Yaakov Amidror, former director of the IDF's Research and Assessment Division said, "There is no way they (Israeli intelligence services) could have predicted this uprising, which Mubarak himself did not predict."
    Former IDF Southern Command chief Maj.-Gen. (res.) Doron Almog said that it was too soon to write off Mubarak's regime, noting, "At this point there is no alternative political power that can lead the masses and take the helm."
    Almog said the Egyptian army "possesses the power to run the country. Mubarak might step down and the army might run the country in the upcoming months. As far as Israel is concerned, this could be good news, because the Egyptian army's leadership has shown restraint in its use of force."

Egypt's Military Behemoth Has Firepower to Crush Uprising - Paul Koring (Globe and Mail-Canada)
    Egypt's military is a million-man behemoth, ranked 10th in the world in size.
  It saps nearly $6 billion from Egypt's coffers annually. Another $1.3 billion in U.S. military aid is mostly spent on new American warplanes, tanks and attack helicopters.
    Its air force includes more than 300 U.S.-built warplanes, and modern American Abrams tanks now clatter down Cairo's streets.

Palestinians Jailed in Egypt Flee to Gaza (Ha'aretz)
    34 members of Egypt's opposition Muslim Brotherhood, including seven members of the Brotherhood's Guidance Council, walked out of prison Sunday after relatives of prisoners overcame the guards, a Brotherhood official said.
    Several thousand inmates were set free, helped by gangs of armed men who attacked the prisons.
    Earlier Sunday, three Palestinian security prisoners, including at least one Hamas member, escaped back to Gaza via a smuggling tunnel.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood Backs ElBaradei Role - Margaret Coker and Summer Said
    Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood has agreed to back the secular, liberal opposition leader Mohammed ElBaradei, 68, as lead spokesman for the country's opposition groups in reform negotiations, suggesting the movement may be positioning itself as a significant political actor in future Egyptian politics. (Wall Street Journal)
        See also ElBaradei Doesn't Like America - Michael Ledeen
    Mohammed ElBaradei is one of the last men I would choose for leading Egypt to a "peaceful transition" to greater democracy. He doesn't like America and he's in cahoots with Iran and the Muslim Brotherhood. (Pajamas Media)
  • Israel Shaken as Turbulence Rocks an Ally - Ethan Bronner
    Israel's military planning relies on peace with Egypt; nearly half the natural gas it uses is imported from Egypt; and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has met with President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt more than with any other foreign leader, except President Obama. "For the United States, Egypt is the keystone of its Middle East policy," a senior Israeli official said. "For Israel, it's the whole arch."
        Israelis worry that a successful overthrow in Egypt could spread to Jordan. And if the Muslim Brotherhood were to gain power in Egypt, that would probably mean not only a stronger Islamist force in Gaza but also in the West Bank, as well as in Jordan, meaning Israel would feel surrounded in a way it has not in decades.
        If Egypt also turned unfriendly, that would quite likely stop in its tracks any further Israeli talk of peace negotiations with the Palestinians, officials and analysts said. There has long been concern that popular sentiment in Egypt is anti-Israel. Eli Shaked, a former Israeli ambassador to Cairo, wrote in Yediot Ahronot, "The only people in Egypt who are committed to peace are the people in Mubarak's inner circle, and if the next president is not one of them, we are going to be in trouble."
        Giora Eiland, a former national security adviser and a senior fellow at the Institute for National Security Studies at Tel Aviv University, said even if Egypt did not cancel its peace treaty with Israel tomorrow or in five years, a government dominated by the Muslim Brotherhood would mean "you can't exclude the possibility of a war with Egypt."  (New York Times)
        See also Israel: Ties with Egypt Must Be Preserved - Matti Friedman
    Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday that his government is "anxiously monitoring" the political unrest in Egypt. "Israel and Egypt have been at peace for more than three decades and our objective is to ensure that these ties be preserved," he said. If Egypt resumes its conflict with Israel, Israelis fear, it will put a powerful Western-armed military on the side of Israel's enemies.
        "Israel has an interest in Egypt being democratic, but through a process that promises sustainability," said Dan Shueftan, director of the National Security Studies Center at Haifa University. "If you have a process that starts with a desire for democracy but then sees radicals take over, then the result at the end of the process is worse than what you had at the beginning."  (AP-Washington Post)
  • House Leaders Push for Obama Pledge to Veto Palestinian UN Resolution - Bridget Johnson
    Key House leaders sent a letter to President Obama on Thursday urging that the U.S. veto a resolution at the UN Security Council that would declare any post-1967 Israeli settlements, including in east Jerusalem, illegal. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) and Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), along with House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairwoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), ranking member Howard Berman (D-Calif.), incoming Middle East subcommittee Chairman Steve Chabot (R-Ohio) and ranking member Gary Ackerman (D-N.Y.), asked Obama to "pledge in response to this letter to veto any UN Security Council resolution that criticizes Israel regarding final status issues."
        "The passage of this resolution would simply isolate Israel and embolden the Palestinians to focus on further such pyrrhic victories, immeasurably setting back prospects for achieving real peace," the lawmakers wrote. (The Hill)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Israel Urges World to Curb Criticism of Egypt's Mubarak - Barak Ravid
    Israel called on the U.S. and a number of European countries over the weekend to curb their criticism of President Hosni Mubarak to preserve stability in the region. Jerusalem seeks to convince its allies that it is in the West's interest to maintain the stability of the Egyptian regime.
        "The Americans and the Europeans are being pulled along by public opinion and aren't considering their genuine interests," one senior Israeli official said. "Even if they are critical of Mubarak, they have to make their friends feel that they're not alone. Jordan and Saudi Arabia see the reactions in the West, how everyone is abandoning Mubarak, and this will have very serious implications."  (Ha'aretz)
  • Cairo Regime Change Could Make IDF Boost Forces in South - Yaakov Katz
    Regime change in Egypt would force the IDF to reallocate resources and possibly increase its strength in southern Israel, senior Israeli defense officials warned on Saturday. "If a hostile regime takes over in Egypt, the IDF will need to restructure itself and would be pushed to the limit in its ability to deploy adequate resources on the various fronts," one defense official said. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also If the Muslim Brotherhood Takes Over, IDF Will Face Formidable Enemy - Yaakov Katz
    If the Muslim Brotherhood grabs the reins in Egypt, Israel will face an enemy with one of the largest and strongest militaries around, built on some of the most advanced American-made platforms. At the moment, assessments in Israeli intelligence circles are that Mubarak will survive. The demonstrations throughout Egypt, while large and growing, do not have an organized leadership behind them.
        Israel's concerns are not isolated to Egypt. One former senior Mossad official said on Saturday that Israel needed to be more concerned with a potential revolution in Jordan. "In Egypt, Israel has the Sinai as a major buffer zone," the official said. "This is not the case in Jordan, where there is a massive Palestinian population that could directly threaten Israel through the West Bank."  (Jerusalem Post)
  • Arab-Israeli Gets 9 Years for Spying for Hizbullah - Jack Khoury
    The Haifa District Court on Sunday sentenced Israeli Arab activist Ameer Makhoul to nine years in prison for spying for Hizbullah. Makhoul handed intelligence to a Hizbullah agent on Israel Security Agency (Shin Bet) installations in the Haifa region and on Mossad offices in the center of the country. He also attempted to pass on information about a military base and sought details about the residence of ISA chief Yuval Diskin. Makhoul is director general of the charity Ittijah (Union of Arab Community-Based Associations). (Ha'aretz)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • Beware Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood - Leslie H. Gelb
    Washington should think hard about fostering a Mubarak-led transition rather than one led by protesters. The devil we know is President Mubarak. The other "devil," now being proclaimed as misunderstood Islamic democrats, is the Muslim Brotherhood. Outside of the government, the MB is the only organized political force, the only group capable of taking power.
        Wishful thinking aside, the MB would be calamitous for U.S. security. The MB supports Hamas and other terrorist groups, makes friendly noises to Iranian dictators and torturers, would be uncertain landlords of the critical Suez Canal, and opposes the Egyptian-Israeli agreement of 1979, widely regarded as the foundation of peace in the Mideast. Above all, the MB would endanger counterterrorism efforts in the region and worldwide. The writer is president emeritus of the Council on Foreign Relations. (Daily Beast)
  • Egyptian Chaos and the Palestinian Question - Herb Keinon
    If Netanyahu was insisting on an Israeli security presence along the Jordan River before the events in Cairo, he will assuredly be even more adamant about it now. The instability gripping Israel's neighbor in the south, as well as Lebanon in the north, will only strengthen Netanyahu's default setting - that any peace accord must be preceded by ironclad security arrangements on the ground, and that those security arrangements can't be a reliance on any third party. Israel must be present.
        What if the events in Egypt spread to Jordan? What if King Abdullah II is overthrown and replaced by Iranian-backed Islamic radicals peering through gunsights on the other side of the Jordan River? Who is Israel going to want on the West Bank: U.S.-led NATO forces, or Israeli ones? With Egypt having a heart attack, the parameters of everything have changed overnight. (Jerusalem Post)

The Two Likeliest Political Outcomes for Mubarak - Stephen J. Hadley (Wall Street Journal)

  • Do we desert a longstanding ally, only to raise doubts about our staying power in the minds of other longstanding allies? Do we remain loyal to a longstanding ally even after he has clearly lost public support, only to alienate a people struggling to win their freedom?
  • At present, the two most probable outcomes of the current crisis are a lame-duck Mubarak administration or a Mubarak departure from power in favor of a transitional government backed by the Egyptian military.
  • Either way, Egyptian society needs time to prepare for new elections and to begin to remediate the effects of years of government oppression. The Egyptian people should not have to choose only between the government-backed NDP and the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood.
  • Non-Islamist parties need an opportunity to emerge to fill in the intervening political space. If given an array of choices, I believe that the Egyptian people will choose a democratic future of freedom and not an Islamist future of imposed extremism.

    The writer was national security adviser to President George W. Bush.
    See also How the Israeli Press is Interpreting Obama's Policy on Egypt - Dore Gold
Precisely when the Egyptian government had its back to the wall with the worst protests in recent history, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs threatened the embattled President Mubarak with a cut in U.S. foreign aid. What kind of signal did the White House press secretary's threat about cutting aid send to King Abdullah of Jordan or to President Saleh of Yemen, as well as to other allies in the Persian Gulf? Did it mean that as soon as an Arab leader gets into trouble, he starts to get disowned? (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)

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