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Arab Spring: Will Egypt Surprise the US By Getting Closer to BRICS & Iran?

August 21, 2012 2 comments

Egypt’s new President will first visit China and Iran – and not Yumm-Rika. US officials worried?

John Bull's dreams were rudely shattered by Nasser. John Tenniel cartoon in Punch, after the Fashoda (1898) Incident between France & Britain, which was resolved diplomatically.  France agreed to British supremacy over Egypt. Nasser blew away British dreams of continued imperialism.

John Bull’s dreams were rudely shattered by Nasser. John Tenniel cartoon in Punch, after the Fashoda (1898) Incident between France & Britain, which was resolved diplomatically. France agreed to British supremacy over Egypt. Nasser blew away British dreams of continued imperialism.

Election Time

After tumultuous elections, coloured by scandals of imported pens from India, a new government is finally in place in Egypt.

But not before US NGOs, behind the Arab Spring protests, and subsequently trying to influence elections were exposed, disgraced and sent back home.

Post Nasser Egypt had neither the respect of the Islamic world or the Emerging Economies countries. Mubarak’s Egypt was fully paid-up member of US Kowtowing Club | Cartoon by Bryant Arnold Published: 10-Feb-11 by cartoonaday.com

Post Nasser Egypt had neither the respect of the Islamic world or the Emerging Economies countries. Mubarak’s Egypt was fully paid-up member of US Kowtowing Club | Cartoon by Bryant Arnold Published: 10-Feb-11 by cartoonaday.com

The new government headed by Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohamed Morsy is probably deriving some lessons from Egypt’s Nasserite past.

Up the Nile

After all, it was under Nasser that Egypt threw the British, French and Israeli invaders back into the sea – and the desert.

Nasser, with Nehru,  Tito and Sukarno were also significant forces in global diplomacy which challenged the Western grip on global power equations – a first in 200 years.

Any new regime’s first visit is usually a diplomatic signal of direction – and Morsy’s forthcoming visits are ominous signs for the US.

Will Egypt's future be an amalgam of Iranian Independent Islamism and China's aggressive economic growth model?  |  Cartoon title Egypt's Future by Mike Keefe on 02/03/2011; courtesy - intoon.com

Will Egypt’s future be an amalgam of Iranian Independent Islamism and China’s aggressive economic growth model? | Cartoon title Egypt’s Future by Mike Keefe on 02/03/2011; courtesy – intoon.com

Egypt’s President Mohamed Morsy is heading for China and Iran — a path-breaking visit that is unlikely to please the United States, which has gone overboard to cultivate relationship with the new leadership in Cairo.

Mr. Morsy will land in Beijing on Monday, before heading for Tehran to attend the summit of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) there. This will be the first visit by an Egyptian President to Iran since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

The importance of the visit has not been lost on the Iranians.

“Since long time ago, Egypt and Iran as two big Muslim countries have had close ties and played key roles in the Islamic civilisation,” observed Ali Larijani, the Speaker of Majlis, Iran’s Parliament.

Iran-Egypt relationship had greatly soured during the regime of the former President, Hosni Mubarak — evident from the absence of embassies in their respective capitals.

Analysts point out that the region’s geopolitical map may fundamentally realign if the Egyptian President’s visit to Tehran leads to a robust re-engagement between the two heavyweights. Prior to Mr. Mubarak’s exit, Iran, Syria and Lebanese Hizbollah had been facing-off with a pro-West alliance of Egypt and the Gulf monarchies led by Saudi Arabia. The sharp antagonistic divisions among the Arab and Muslim countries of the region had also well suited Israel, which, since the 1973 Arab-Israeli war, has not been threatened by a united front of regional countries.

Behind the scenes

There has been considerable behind-the-scenes preparation for Mr. Morsy’s visit. Last week, Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Mr. Morsy confabulated effusively in Makkah on the sidelines of the emergency summit of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC).

Breaking ranks

While still in Makkah, Mr. Morsy broke ranks with host Saudi Arabia and Qatar by proposing a “contact group” on Syria, formed by a coalition of Tehran, Cairo, Ankara and Riyadh. Iran immediately welcomed the Egyptian proposal, with Iranian foreign policy spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast praising the initiative as the means “to review and follow up on [regional] issues so that peace would be established in the region as soon as possible and tensions would ease”.

New ties

A senior official from the Muslim Brotherhood said on condition of anonymity that the new Egyptian leadership was seeking a deeper engagement with the Brazil-Russia-India-China-South Africa (BRICS) grouping, and Mr. Morsy’s visit to Beijing at the invitation of his counterpart, Hu Jintao, was a step in that direction. The Syrian situation as well as the Palestinian question is likely to feature prominently during Mr. Morsy’s stay. Commercial exchanges as well as opening the floodgates for Chinese investments in post-Mubarak Egypt would be another possible focal area of discussions.

U.S. efforts

Observers point out that the two visits follow a feverish effort by the Obama administration to woo the Muslim Brothers. Within the space of one month since Mr. Morsy was elected President, three top Obama administration officials have called on the new Egyptian President in Cairo.

These include Deputy Secretary of State William Burns, whose visit was followed by a trip to Cairo by his boss, Hillary Clinton. Also in the queue shortly afterwards was Defence Secretary Leon Panetta, who was well positioned to engage Egypt’s civilian as well as military leadership. However, Mr. Morsy surprised all when he purged the Mubarak era military top brass, headed by Field Marshal Mohamed Tantawi, the Defence Minister.

via The Hindu : News / International : Morsy on path-breaking visit to China, Iran.

Mohammed Morsy. Photo date: August 21, 2012; courtesy: thehindu.com; source: AP

Mohammed Morsy. Photo date: August 21, 2012; courtesy: thehindu.com; source: AP

Big Cheese

For Morsy, the important issue will be to have a more substantive foreign and economic policy – beyond making futile, anti-US gestures.

Nasser’s biggest failing – and Nehru’s biggest success, was precisely this. While Egypt floundered, the direction in India was clear.

Egypt and India were in roughly the same boat after WWII. Poor, unstable, recently decolonized, without an industrial base, a backward military force, an antagonistic neighbour funded and controlled by the West, low literacy levels, food insecurity – the entire gamut.

Has Egypt found direction? Again! | Cartoon by by Clay Bennett on Tuesday, February 1st, 2011; source & courtesy – timesfreepress.com

Has Egypt found direction? Again! | Cartoon by by Clay Bennett on Tuesday, February 1st, 2011; source & courtesy – timesfreepress.com

For a Few Billions More

Post-Sadat Egypt has mortgaged its independence to US policy for a few billion dollars in aid. Mubarak’s wealth was estimated in billions between US$10 billion to US$60 billion.

Morsy’s Egypt is a difficult place. Will Morsy’s independence take Egypt out of a fundamentalist orbit of Saudi Wahabbism into a Indo-Chinese politico-economic development idiom?

God knows, Egypt needs that.


Gold Prices – Blip, Dip or Flip

December 21, 2011 Leave a comment

After two weeks of softness in gold prices, weak players with long positions are out. Asian buying support seen. Gold prices stable for four days.

European liquidity crisis behind gold 'dumping' by Euro-banks? 2ndlook thinks its gold from deposed Arab leaders (Tunisia, Egypt & Libya) which has found its way into markets. |  Cartoonist Mike Luckovich on Nov 29 2011; source & courtesy - caglecartoons.com  |  Click for larger source image.

European liquidity crisis behind gold 'dumping' by Euro-banks? 2ndlook thinks its gold from deposed Arab leaders (Tunisia, Egypt & Libya) which has found its way into markets. | Cartoonist Mike Luckovich on Nov 29 2011; source & courtesy - caglecartoons.com | Click for larger source image.

Three sides of the coin

The slide in gold prices has brought out Gold-Bust supporters and the Gold-Boom buyers in full force.

Is this US$300 drop in gold prices in the two weeks of December 2011,

Just a blip on the bull run in gold prices?

Or is it a medium term dip in gold prices?

Or is it a beginning of the end for the gold bubble?

All three sides marshall enough ‘facts’ and ‘data’ to sound convincing.

What is not told

What the mainstream media is not telling you, is being told – only on 2ndlook blogs – How Arab gold from Egypt, Tunisia and Libya that may have been dumped by European banks in the market.

As usual the market has the last laugh.

Gold for delivery in February (GC2G +0.51%) rose $8.60, or 0.5%, to $1,626.00 an ounce on the Comex division of the New York Mercantile Exchange during Asian trading hours.

The rise put the metal on track for a second session of gains, after trading up 1.3% in Tuesday’s North American session.

Gold has been pressured in recent months, amid Europe’s deepening sovereign-debt crisis.

Year-end selling by funds and tight liquidity in European interbank money markets have also contributed to recent price falls.

Anne-Laure Tremblay, precious metals analyst at BNP Paribas, said increases in liquidity by central banks should support gold prices in 2012 and possible rises in inflation expectations.

“Gold should also be boosted by strong physical demand, notably in Asia and Europe,” Tremblay said.

However, she added that “with high uncertainty likely to remain a major feature of the markets, gold could be vulnerable to further episodes of price correction.”

BNP Paribas was forecasting gold to average $1,775 an ounce in 2012 and $2,150 an ounce in 2013. (via Gold futures extend gains in Asian trading – Metals Stocks – MarketWatch).

Is the US Treasury or the US Federal Reserve buying gold? This Chinese cartoonist seems to suggest that. |  Cartoonist Luojie, China Daily, China  on 9/28/2010 12:00:00 AM;  Source & courtesy - caglecartoons.com  |  Click for larger source image.

Is the US Treasury or the US Federal Reserve buying gold? This Chinese cartoonist seems to suggest that. | Cartoonist Luojie, China Daily, China on 9/28/2010 12:00:00 AM; Source & courtesy - caglecartoons.com | Click for larger source image.

Go East, young man

And here is one more take on the gold prices which seems to suggest that with Asian (read as India+China) demand strong as ever, this dip in prices is just a good buying opportunity.

2ndlook will go with that.

Paradoxically, optimism is actually bolstered by the widespread suspicion the slide was triggered by central bank selling — a once-radical idea now so generally accepted that the bullion bank UBS, usually very circumspect about official-sector activity, felt able to say on Friday that “larger moves were also likely taking place behind the scenes, judging from the considerable market chatter about official liquidation.”

The reasoning here: Once the abnormal, politically motivated selling ceases, gold will revert to a higher equilibrium.

But the most concrete reason for optimism emerged on Friday: It became apparent that the lows of Thursday had uncovered large Eastern physical demand.

UBS commented that “the physical market has now responded: Combined turnover on the [Shanghai Gold Exchange] this week has been consistently strong and is about 53% higher than the previous week’s, while demand from India is shaping up to be the strongest weekly offtake since early October.”

Over at LeMetropoleCafe, a correspondent reported very high local premiums for gold in the key gold-buying markets of China and India on Friday, suggesting strong local demand, and headlined: “Year-end gold menu: Bear Curry or Bear Chow Mein?” (via The East Is Gold? – Peter Brimelow – MarketWatch).


Looking Back At Arab Spring

December 14, 2011 Leave a comment

Is the Arab world going to get a better deal? Was it empty rage – or is there a road-map?

Who was toppling these puppets? | Cartoonist - Saieb Khalil; source & courtesy - doroob.com | Click for larger source image.

Who was toppling these puppets? | Cartoonist - Saieb Khalil; source & courtesy - doroob.com | Click for larger source image.

Gushing coverage

Nine months ago, the gushing coverage of Arab Spring  in the mainstream media bordered on hyperbole. Mainstream media boosted these ‘protests (which) may have now acquired a life of their own’ and ‘sweeping changes … coming to the Arab lands, where authoritarian regimes are the norm’ and how ‘present protests, could be a game-changer’.

Throwing cold water on an overjoyed world of Twitterati, Chatterati, Bloggerati, Paparazzi was in danger of being called cynical – even as they claimed credit for this ‘change.’

Egypt’s influential Al Ahram ran this column 3 months ago, pretty much confirming that the Arab Spring was another round of games between Arab puppets and their Western masters. Will Russia’s support to the Syrian regime mean anything?

It is clear now the whole Arab Spring is not as spontaneous as appeared at first glance. While the regimes across the region were indeed corrupt and dictatorial, they were all supported by the West. But so was the opposition.

The moment came when they were perceived as passed their due date, and with the neocons in office by 2000 and PNAC’s “new Pearl Harbour” on the horizon, it was possible to proceed with Yinon’s plan to create dynamic chaos in the Middle East. The Arab Spring is, in an eerie way, a natural conclusion to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. A sort of “If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em”, American style.

It has taken various forms so far, with a breezy boot to Zein Al-Abidine bin Ali in Tunisia, a pair of handcuffs to Hosni Mubarak in Egypt, a burnt face to Ali Abdullah Saleh in Yemen, impending assassination to Gaddafi, and who-knows-what to Al-Assad. The only ones to escape unharmed are the Gulf sheikhs and the kings of Morocco and Jordan, who are so compliant that they need only a tap on the shoulder to do Washington’s bidding. Oh yes, Algeria’s President Abdel-Aziz Bouteflika is still hanging on, but not even the neocons dare to overthrow him and reopen civil war wounds from the 1990s.

That is not to denigrate the revolutionaries across the region, nor to dismiss their heroic struggles to achieve independence in the face of the Western intriguers. Among the prominent new leaders are Muslim Brotherhood leaders such as Tunisia’s Rachid Ghannouchi and Egypt’s Essam El-Erian. Their popular Renaissance and Freedom and Justice parties are projected to win the plurality of seats in upcoming elections, and they have no use for the imperialists. Then there is rebel military leader in Tunisia Abdullah Hakim Belhaj who plans to take the US to court for torturing him and then rendering him to Libya. There are few secular heroes in the region that can vie with the long-suffering Islamists. (via Al-Ahram Weekly | Region | Russia’s Middle East dilemma).

If only the Arab spring was better equipped – with ideas that mattered.

Instead of empty rage.


Can Arab Spring Be Successful?

November 24, 2011 Leave a comment

Was the overthrow of Mubarak another spontaneous ‘revolt’? What is the road-map? Any agenda?

It was clear then - and clear now. This is just empty rage - without any clear agenda or roadmap.  |  Cartoon by By William Warren  |  February 1, 2011  |   Image source and courtesy - libertyfeatures.com  |  COPYRIGHT 2011 LIBERTY FEATURES SYNDICATE - ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

It was clear then - and clear now. This is just empty rage - without any clear agenda or roadmap. | Cartoon by By William Warren | February 1, 2011 | Image source and courtesy - libertyfeatures.com | COPYRIGHT 2011 LIBERTY FEATURES SYNDICATE - ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Time and place

When people are dying and suffering, it is no time to say I told you so …

Except when the situation demands that!

Nine months ago, 2ndlook warned about the gushing coverage of Arab Spring  in the mainstream media on these ‘protests (which) may have now acquired a life of their own’ and ‘sweeping changes … coming to the Arab lands, where authoritarian regimes are the norm’ and how ‘present protests, could be a game-changer’. 2ndlook threw cold water on an overjoyed world of Twitterati, Chatterati, Bloggerati, Paparazzi went ahead and claimed credit for this ‘change’.

Aladdin’s Lamp – Old despots for new

Are Arabs talking of Western style’ democracy’ and ‘freedom‘?

Like ‘freedom’ in the USA, with 20 lakh prisoners – the largest prison population in the world? Or ‘religious tolerance’ like single-faith Switzerland where a third mosque with minarets was not allowed? Is it political freedom, like Europe which believes that a two-party collusive democracy is better than one-party conspiring oligarchy?

Maybe, build on ethnic-diversity like the Danes who want to pay Muslims to leave Denmark. Why not even aim for a ‘fair’ legal-system like Britain, where hundreds of thousands of people have been arrested to build a DNA data-bank – ostensibly to help in criminal identification. To be like the West today, that has the lowest levels of diversity – ethnic, linguistic and religious diversity. And makes the most noise about freedom and human rights.

Is democracy a solution - or a temporary respite from malignant dictatorships  | Cartoon by Carlos Latuff; February 2011; source and courtesy - desertpeace.files.wordpress.com  |  Click for larger source image.

Is democracy a solution - or a temporary respite from malignant dictatorships | Cartoon by Carlos Latuff; February 2011; source and courtesy - desertpeace.files.wordpress.com | Click for larger source image.

How bad were these ‘despots’

Indeed, a case could be made for these stable despots who have sent packing in Tunisia and Egypt.  In both Tunisia and Egypt, people have seen economic progress, without dependence on oil – unlike most of Islāmic Middle East.

Compared to Turkey’s per-capita, or oil-inflated Oman’s US$ 25,000 or petro-daddy  Saudi’s US$ 23,300, Tunisia with US$ 9100 per capita and Egypt with US$ 5900 come out favorably. Tunisia or Egypt did not favor the beheading or amputation routine of Iran or Saudi Arabia – or mass-imprisonment regimes like USA, UK or China. Like all modern-State-nations, concentration of wealth is a ‘given’ – regardless of Europe, USA or Islāmic Middle-East.

There was neither a shining vision, nor economic necessity, or relative oppression, which triggered these revolts. Instead of an ‘elected’ Hosni Mubarak, Egyptians got Army Rule. Was that a satisfactory or a desirable outcome? Does empty rage count as a reason to expose nations to unknown rulers and uncertainty? Unknown devils instead of known devils? Does a change in government without modifying governance-model make any difference?

Without a viable ‘reason’ for revolt, what made so many people come out in the open?

I can get no satisfaction

It is no satisfaction that this outcome was forewarned in the 2ndlook post.

Egypt’s military rulers apologized Thursday for the deaths of dozens of pro-democracy protesters and vowed to prosecute those responsible in its latest attempt to appease the tens of thousands who have taken to the streets demanding that the generals immediately step down.

Police and protesters also agreed to a truce negotiated by Muslim clerics after five days of fierce street battles that have left nearly 40 dead.

The fighting around Cairo’s central Tahrir Square, which began Saturday, has been the longest spate of uninterrupted violence since the 18-day uprising that toppled longtime authoritarian leader Hosni Mubarak on Feb. 11. It has deepened the country’s economic and security woes ahead of the first parliamentary elections since Muabrak’s regime was toppled. Voting is scheduled to begin on Monday.

The military statement came two days after Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, the head of the military council that assumed control of the country after Mubarak stepped down, promised in a televised address to hold a presidential election in the first half of next year but did not offer an apology for the killings. (via Truce Halts Fighting In Cairo’s Tahrir Square | Fox News).

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