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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.


Indian ‘vanishing ink’ plot in Egypt’s Election

Did Islamic Brotherhood import pens from India with ‘vanishing’ ink to subvert elections in Egypt?

Rumor had it a devious conspiracy was afoot: Egyptians voting for a new president Saturday were being tricked into using pens with disappearing ink so their choice on the ballot would vanish before it was counted.

The claim seems to have emerged two days before the vote. A right-wing, Rush Limbaugh-style TV host, Tawfiq Okasha, known for his backing of the ruling military, accused the Muslim Brotherhood of importing 180,000 disappearing-ink pens from India. He proclaimed that they intended to distribute the pens outside polling stations to voters they believed would vote for Ahmed Shafiq, the former Mubarak prime minister running against the Brotherhood’s candidate, Mohammed Morsi.

“I warn everyone. I warn the Shafiq campaign. I warn all voters,” Okasha shouted on his show on the satellite channel he owns. “The voter will make his mark on the ballot with it and four hours later the mark disappears. The vote counters will open the ballot and find it blank.”

A Brotherhood spokesman, Mahmoud Ghozlan, denied the claims.

There was no concrete evidence for the rumors, but some voters in polling stations around the city were clearly concerned as they marked their paper ballots. Talk of a plot just deepened Egyptians’ worries that the dirty tricks rife in elections under authoritarian leader Hosni Mubarak were still in play and that powers greater than them still manipulate the system, even after a revolution last year aimed at bringing transparency.

“Is this the right pen?” an old man in a traditional galabeya robe shouted, holding one up to the judge supervising at a polling station in Giza, the sister city of Egypt’s capital, Cairo.

The rumor gained further ground when officials suggested the plot was a reality, though they did not accuse the Brotherhood or any other group.

Speaking to journalists Saturday, the interior minister in charge of security forces warned that the pens had indeed been brought in from abroad.

Farouq Sultan, the head of the presidential election commission, said that “once the rumor” spread, the commission asked the Interior Ministry to provide 50,000 pens for the polling centers to use. He and the interior minister said that election workers had been instructed not to let voters use anything but the official pens. Sultan said that “as far as he knew,” some vanishing-ink pens had been discovered in circulation. (via The ‘vanishing ink’ plot in Egypt vote – Yahoo! News).

Anything on Ancient Observatories?

February 15, 2012 19 comments

Is there a common thread between these?

https://twitter.com/#!/KVSarmaJ/status/168668078203351040

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https://twitter.com/#!/KVSarmaJ/status/170048726621097984
https://twitter.com/#!/KVSarmaJ/status/170049829244911616
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In modern Afghanistan-Uzbekistan region, at Ai Khanoum  – meaning ‘Moon Lady’ in Uzbek, was a remarkable archaeological find. This site was handled by King Zahir Shah, and excavated by Daniel Schlumberger, Director of a French archaeological team in Afghanistan. An extensive settlement, was excavated and quite a few gold and silver artefacts were recovered.

Another interesting find were two sundials, calibrated and indexed to the Indian city of Ujjain and to the city of Syene in Egypt .

Arab Spring – Is the West After Gold?

December 14, 2011 1 comment

In the last 60 years, the West has lost ‘market share’ in gold from more than 50% to nearly 20% of global gold reserves!

(Cartoon courtesy - cagle.com; Cartoon by John Darkow, The Columbia Daily Tribune, Missouri.).

(Cartoon courtesy - cagle.com; Cartoon by John Darkow, The Columbia Daily Tribune, Missouri.).

Rivers – shallow and dry

Arab Spring protests have petered out into directionless change – and the outlook seems bleak.

The unspoken element in these regime changes is the ‘personal’ wealth of the Egyptian and Tunisian rulers.

After Ben Ali, the Tunisian leader came to France, fleeing from his own country, the French Government seized a plane reputedly containing 1.5 tons of gold – that ‘belonged’ to the Tunisian ruler.

Gaddafi’s assets have been frozen in UK, USA and Switzerland.

Mubarak’s wealth

Estimates abound.

There is a lower range estimate of US$ 2-3 billion – which most reject as too conservative. CNN’s Tom Foreman puts in an astounding figure of US$40 billion-75 billion. Based on a video transcript, ‘Mubarak is worth somewhere between $40 billion and $75 billion, CNN’s Tom Foreman estimates’. An unsubstantiated report, estimates Mubarak’s gold holdings at US$ 9 billion.

Average prices of gold in February 2011, were in the region of US$45 million per tonne of gold. That would be 2000 tons – one of the largest hoards in the world. More gold than the national reserves of any country – except the Top 5 reserves.

Just carting around 2000 tons of gold – or its cash equivalent would be inviting trouble.

More on Egyptian gold

As the legs on Mubarak’s throne wobbled, gold prices also wobbled downwards – significantly?

Now why would that happen?

Egypt is not a major producer of gold. Production from the Sukari mines (started production in Jun 2009) is now at 1 ton – expected to go up to 14 tons (500,000 oz). Miniscule in comparison to global output at more than 2000 tons.

Alexander Nubia, a Toronto-based mining operator owns gold exploration properties at Abu Marwat that is expected to start production next year – with a potential of 500,000 oz – i.e. another 14 tons.

Total production in Egypt – less than 30 tons.

Egypt is also not a major buyer of gold. Total annual consumption of gold in Egypt is around 50 tons – about 3 weeks of India’s consumption.

Is it that players in the market expected Mubarak’s gold hoard to be dumped into the market?

Libyan Treasures

Libya’s official gold holdings are in the similar range as Egypt’s – some 143 tons. International bodies have estimated Libya’s reserves higher than 143 tonnes.

In March 2011, the IMF estimated Libya’s reserves even higher but the official amount remained 144 tons that were registered by Gaddafi-controlled Libya’s Central Bank.

This apart, Gaddafi surrounded himself with some gold trinkets – pistols, golf clubs, etc. After the capture and killing of Gaddafi, it is unclear the where and what of Libyan gold.

The Fall Of USSR

Western media has been tom-toming how Xerox and fax machines were behind the Soviet collapse.

Not quite. The real story …?

A lot of Nazi and Soviet gold came into the markets, it is surmised, during the 1999-2005 Central Bank Gold Sales agreement – which was put in place to depress gold prices. These depressed gold prices, that coincided with price declines in oil, platinum and other commodities, bankrupted the Soviet economy – and not Xerox and fax machines.

Is Arab gold the reason for this mayhem of regime changes?


2ndlook posts

External posts

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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