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Friday, August 30, 2013

Obama to Strike Syria, Britain Rejects Plan

President Obama is still planning to hold “limited” military strikes on Syria, despite Britain’s rejection of the plan. Last night, Britain’s parliament voted against participating in or backing US-led military strikes on Syria in response to the Assad regime’s alleged chemical weapons attack of last week. The US is expected to launch a military strike sometime after Saturday, when UN investigators leave Syria. US officials insist they have evidence that proves that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was behind the attack, but US lawmakers are questioning the President’s apparent willingness to engage in military action in the Middle East, with neither a popular mandate, broad international backing or congressional approval. Analysts say that the planned military strike does not intend to force Assad from power.

tensions rise in cairo over planned protests

The Muslim Brotherhood and other groups that oppose the army-backed interim government have called for massive protests today across Egypt, and are mobilizing under the new slogan “The people recover the revolution.” Another senior leader of the Brotherhood, Mohamed El Baltagy, was arrested yesterday, and tensions in Cairo rose after unidentified gunmen shot and killed a policeman and a bystander at a police checkpoint in Cairo’s Heliopolis neighborhood this morning. The Egyptian Ministry of the Interior has declared that it retains the right to use live ammunition in breaking up any protests that might occur. Meanwhile, several political groups in Egypt are under government investigation and hundreds of political dissidents and activists remain in detention on charges of espionage.

US Ambassador Responds to Accusations

On the eve of her departure, US Ambassador to Egypt Anne Patterson penned a sternly-worded response to state newspaper Al-Ahram, denouncing recent coverage as “outrageous, fictitious, and thoroughly unprofessional.” The editor in chief of the influential paper accused Patterson of taking part in a conspiracy with Islamists to divide Egypt into two parts – north and south – and of “spreading chaos.” These accusations come at a time when the army-backed military government is cracking down on political dissenters, strikers and members of the Muslim Brotherhood party. Patterson has been criticized by local media for being biased in favor of the Brotherhood. In her response, Patterson called the accusations absurd and irresponsible, and added: “I am particularly disturbed to think that Al-Ahram, as the flagship state-run paper in Egypt, is regarded as a representative of the government’s viewpoint. We will, therefore, raise this article at the highest levels of the government.”

Government ban on Al Jazeera

Three ministers in the interim Egyptian government announced that they would take steps to ban the Qatar-based Al Jazeera news network on grounds that it is threatening the country’s unity and harming national security. Al Jazeera closed their offices in Egypt on July 3 after security forces raided the news channel’s office. The head of the channel, Ayman Gaballah, said “We are not facing a legal problem but rather an issue of freedom of expression,” adding that their license states clearly that they can operate in Egypt. Four Al Jazeera English journalists were detained by Egyptian security forces on Tuesday and remain in police custody.

Tamarod Organizer discusses possible Sisi Presidential Bid

Mahmoud Badr, the head of the group Tamarod or “Rebel,” said in an interview yesterday that he might back General Abdul Fattah al-Sisi for president, “if the country is still unstable.” Tamarod was responsible for organizing the mass protests that led to President Morsi’s removal from power by the Egyptian military. In response, Tamarod quickly distanced itself from Badr’s statements. “Announcing support for a candidate at a time when there is no established plan for elections, no constitution or any official candidates, would be an uncalculated, unreasonable step,” a spokesperson wrote on the group’s Facebook page.

Weekend Read: Syrian Heavy Metal Bands Rock On During War

An Al-Monitor feature about an exiled Syrian rock group.



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