If there is anything more bizarre than this, I don't know what it is.
While Sisi was attending the United Nations General Assembly in 2016, back then, Republic nominee Donald Trump and President Sisi met. After the one single meeting between them, both men came out ready to praise one another. President Sisi said he had no doubt Donald Trump would make a strong leader, and Donald Trump paid tribute to Sisi calling him a “fantastic guy.” “I thought it was very productive … We met for a long time, actually. There was a good chemistry there. You know when you have good chemistry with people. There’s a good feeling between us.”
And the official statement that came out of the Trump/Pence campaign was promising.
Mr. Trump thanked President El-Sisi and the Egyptian people for what they have done in defense of their country and for the betterment of the world over the last few years …Mr. Trump expressed to President El-Sisi his strong support for Egypt’s war on terrorism, and how under a Trump Administration, the United States of America will be a loyal friend, not simply an ally, that Egypt can count on in the days and years ahead.
More importantly, Mr. Trump said that if he were fortunate enough to win the election, he would, “invite President Sisi on an official visit to the United States and would be honored to visit Egypt and the Egyptian people who he has a great fondness for.”
Soon afterwards, President Sisi was of the first leaders to congratulate President-Elect Trump. And re a phone call after the presidential inauguration, White House Press Secretary, Sean Spicer, said that Trump and Sissi discussed "ways to deepen the bilateral relationship between the two countries, fight terrorism and boost Egypt's struggling economy.” And Egyptian spokesperson, Alaa Youssef reiterated same, affirming President Trumps appreciation of “the difficulties faced by Egypt in its war on terror and affirmed his administration's commitment to supporting the country.”
And here we are about to see the visit transpire. And while the “chemistry” is there, what do Egyptians hope to gain from the visit? Actually, much.
The first pay off lies in the invite itself, which will be followed by the visit. Less than three months after Trump became president. President Sisi will join only the few prominent visitors that were officially invited to meet Trump including Teresa May, Angela Merkel and Justin Trudeau.
By the same token, the visit tells the world at large that indeed it is beneficial to the US to mend the broken ties and establish better relationship with Egypt, that Egypt is a partner against terrorism, an ally to be reckoned with, and a pivotal role player in the Middle East.
Not only does it give weight to Egypt but it also remedies President Obama’s snub to the Egyptian president, a snub which seriously strained the relations between Egypt and the US. It may assist in eradicating the bitter feelings that lingered after President Obama withheld F-16 fighter jets, cancelled joint military exercises, suspended aid, and remained oblivious to the hardships Egypt was facing.
Under President Obama, Egyptians’ views of the US worsened believing the US caused much of the havoc wreaked in Syria, Iraq, and Libya. The visit, if fruitful, can alleviate mistrust and eradicate skepticism.
During the bilateral discussions about to take place, President Sisi should forgo niceties and corroborate with proof the stance the Muslim Brotherhood undertook and the culprit that is behind much of the terrorism occurring in Egypt. He must convince President Trump that the Muslim Brotherhood should be designated as a terrorist group. The evidence exists; presenting it to the American side wouldn’t be difficult.
Recently the motion designating the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist group was tabled. The State Department’s memo on the motion states “…there’s not one monolithic Muslim Brotherhood,” that while the MB may be connected to terrorist groups, it has many legitimate apolitical activities. It is up to President Sisi to prove otherwise.
In the 60s the West watched as Egypt turned to Russia. When the US left Egypt to fend for itself against terrorism and economic challenges, Egypt turned to other alliances and partners, such as Russia, again, and China, in addition to the Gulf States, while maintaining an aloof and distant relationship with the US. The visit may effect another change: bring the two countries closer in course, mindset, and disposition, as the US retains Egypt as an ally in the region.
While the Arab World is in disarray, this is a valuable opportunity for President Sisi to speak on behalf of the whole Arab World and work on resolving the issues that threaten the area. Without the assistance and determination of the US, it will take longer to resolve the issues in the threatened countries, if at all.
Egypt needs to protect its borders and safeguard Sinai, its territories, and its people in general. It needs to explain to the world its obligation towards itself and the Arab World, and who else can project this to the western world but President Sisi via President Trump.
The US needs a strong ally in Egypt, and Egypt needs a strong ally in the US. This trip may be the turning point in the relations.
The Globe and Mail, by Susannah George
A recent spike in civilian casualties in Mosul suggests the U.S.-led coalition is not taking adequate precautions as it helps Iraqi forces battle the Islamic State group, Amnesty International said Tuesday.
The rights group’s allegations came after the U.S. military acknowledged carrying out a March 17 airstrike in an area of western Mosul where residents say an explosion killed more than 100 civilians. U.S. officials did not confirm there were civilian casualties, but said a probe is underway.
Amnesty’s report also cites a second strike on Saturday that it said killed up to 150 people. The U.S.-led coalition said in a statement that it was investigating multiple strikes in western Mosul that allegedly resulted in civilian deaths.
Evidence gathered on the ground in Mosul “points to an alarming pattern of U.S.-led coalition airstrikes which have destroyed whole houses with entire families inside,” the Amnesty report said.
It said any failure to take precautions to prevent civilian casualties would be “in flagrant violation of international humanitarian law.”
In Baghdad, visiting U.S. army chief of staff, Gen. Mark A. Milley, said Monday that the exact cause of the March 17 explosion was still unknown, adding that “some degree of certainty will be known in the coming days following the investigation.”
“It is very possible that Daesh blew up that building to blame it on the coalition in order to cause a delay in the offensive into Mosul and cause a delay in the use of coalition airstrikes,” Milley told reporters. “And it is possible the coalition airstrike did it.”
Daesh is an Arabic acronym for the Islamic State group.
Initial results from an investigation launched by the Iraqi Defence Ministry showed that the airstrike hit an explosive-laden tanker truck which was heading toward the advancing troops, according to Brig. Gen. Yahya Rasool, an Iraqi military spokesman. The explosion damaged a number of buildings, including the one where IS was holding 130 civilians as human shields and where snipers were deployed on its roof, Rasool said.
“It is a new tactic being used by the members of this terrorist group, using big car bombs against the troops that impact the civilians to inflame the public,” he told The Associated Press. He added that the rules of engagement adopted by Iraqi troops and the coalition had not changed.
Speaking to reporters in Geneva, the spokesman of the U.N. human rights office called on the coalition to work to “minimize the impact” on civilians. Rupert Colville said IS militants are brazenly employing human shields, urging the coalition to “avoid this trap.”
Colville added that the rights office has tallied the deaths of at least 307 people between Feb. 17 and March 22, including 140 from the March 17 airstrike.
Iraqi forces began the assault on IS-held Mosul in October, after months of preparation and buildup. In January, Iraq declared the eastern half of Mosul – the Tigris River divides the city into an eastern and western sector – “fully liberated.” Iraqi government forces are now battling to retake the city’s western half.
Civilians, humanitarian groups and monitoring officials have repeatedly warned of the possibility of increased civilian casualties in western Mosul due to the higher density of the population there and the increased reliance on airstrikes and artillery. Faced with their toughest fight against IS yet, Iraqi and coalition forces have increasingly turned to airstrikes and artillery to clear and hold territory in Mosul’s west.
Unlike in previous battles against IS in urban settings in Iraq, the government instructed Mosul civilians to remain in their homes, to prevent large-scale displacement. In the battles for Fallujah and Ramadi, those cities were entirely emptied of their civilian population while Iraqi forces fought to push out IS.
When the operation to retake Mosul was launched, more than a million people were estimated to still be living in the city, Iraq’s second-largest. Today, the United Nations estimates about 400,000 people remain trapped in IS-held neighbourhoods in western Mosul.
Amnesty International’s report quoted survivors and eyewitnesses of airstrikes that have killed civilians as saying that “they did not try to flee as the battle got underway because they received repeated instructions from the Iraqi authorities to remain in their homes.”
Legitimate political activity complicates designationBy Guy Taylor - The Washington Times - Updated: 9:38 a.m. on Tuesday, March 28, 2017
President Trump has — for the time being — put on the back burner an executive order designating the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organization, according to U.S. officials close to a heated debate inside the administration over the status of the global Islamist movement.
While the White House has declined to comment publicly, officials speaking on condition of anonymity say the administration backed down from a plan to designate the Brotherhood last month after an internal State Department memo advised against it because of the movement’s loose-knit structure and far-flung political ties across the Middle East.
The memo “explained that there’s not one monolithic Muslim Brotherhood,” according to one of the officials, who told The Washington Times that while the movement may well be tied to such bona fide terrorist groups as Hamas, its more legitimate political activities would complicate the terrorist designation process.
The Brotherhood has prominent political factions engaged — at least perfunctorily — in democracy in Jordan, Morocco, Tunisia and several other Muslim-majority nations, and the State Department memo coincided with high-level pressure placed on the Trump administration from at least one of them.
Senior diplomats from Jordan — a close U.S. ally — are believed to have weighed in heavily against the idea of adding the Brotherhood to the State Department’s foreign terrorist organizations list, said the official, because the movement’s political arm in Amman currently holds 16 Jordanian parliament seats.
But debate over the Brotherhood’s status remains biting in Washington, where hard-liners in the fight against radical Islamic terrorism say former President Barack Obama erred for years by failing to target the organization’s promotion of extremist ideology, and that President Trump is now badly fumbling a chance to rectify the situation.
BP (BP.L) has made a gas discovery in the North Damietta Offshore Concession in Egypt's East Nile Delta, its third in the block, it said on Sunday.
The Qattameya Shallow-1 exploration well was drilled to a total depth of 1,961 metres in water depth of around 108 metres, the company said.
"This latest discovery confirms our belief that the Nile Delta is a world-class basin," BP Chief Executive Bob Dudley said in a statement.
The well is 60 kilometres (37 miles) north of Damietta city in northern Egypt. BP has 100 percent equity in the discovery.
BP produces around 40 percent of Egypt's total gas.
(Reporting by Ahmed Aboulenein; editing by Susan Thomas)
WASHINGTON D.C. – Egypt’s state-owned paper Al-Ahram has announced that Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi will meet with President Donald Trump on April 3. The White House has confirmed that Sisi accepted the invitation Trump extended to him just days after his inauguration.
The meeting will be al-Sisi’s first visit to Washington since being elected president in 2014.
Sisi and Trump first met in September on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly, The Guardian reported. Trump described their meeting as having “good chemistry.” Sisi, a general-turned-politician, said Trump would “without a doubt” make a strong leader.
Cairo and Washington could have a warmer relationship under Trump after years of tension between Sisi and Barack Obama and Cairo’s perception that Obama supported the now-outlawed Muslim Brotherhood, The Guardian reported.
As defense minister, Sisi led the military’s 2013 overthrow of the Brotherhood’s Mohamed Morsi following massive protests against the Islamist leader.
Morsi’s removal preceded a crackdown on Islamists and secular pro-democracy activists – a crackdown that was criticized by the Obama administration and led to the suspension of some foreign aid to Sisi’s government.
Unlike Trump, Obama never invited Sisi to the White House.
Egypt and the U.S. have been close allies for most of the almost four decades since Cairo signed a peace treaty with Israel. At one point, The Guardian noted, Egypt became the second-largest recipient of U.S. aid after Israel.
Sisi has made building relationships inside his country and abroad a hallmark of his tenure as president.
In February, he met with American-Jewish leaders in Cairo. Alaa Youssef, Sisi’s spokesperson, said he met with Jewish leaders to strengthen cooperation. The delegation was from the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, an umbrella organization that represents over 50 major U.S. Jewish groups.
At the meeting, Sisi discussed the war on terror, Egypt’s financial challenges, the campaign against corruption and perks for investors. Youssef said that Sisi’s American counterparts expressed appreciation of the president’s efforts on severals fronts, including the war on terror.
Sisi was criticized on Arab social media for meeting with American Jewish leaders.
“Sisi is the biggest Zionist in the Middle East,” Saleh Almansoori tweeted.
On Tuesday, Sisi took part in Egyptian Women’s Day on the occasion of Mother’s Day, the Egypt Daily News reported. “The celebration was held in one of Cairo’s hotels in the presence of high-ranking state officials and the head of the Women’s National Council.”
“Sisi’s speech included praise of Egyptian women and their struggles throughout the different historical stages in Egypt, in addition to their sacrifices in Egypt’s war against terrorism,” the Daily News reported.
“Recently, Egyptian women were on the forefront of promoting revolutions that aimed at achieving freedom and dignity and played an important role in restoring Egypt from the rule radical groups [sic] that worked hard to kidnap Egypt,” Sisi said.
“Moreover, Sisi praised Egyptian women for bearing the hardships that stemmed from the recent economic reforms and proved their efficiency in different positions, such as being parliament members, great scholars, and judges,” the Daily News reported.
Al-Sisi ended his speech by noting the instructions he issued to the government to provide state-sponsored care to children to allow Egyptian women to work outside the home, the Daily News reported.
Brilliant. Cairo Scene, by Nicholas Mehling
Cairo Scene's very own Nicholas Mehling explores the root causes of Israelis' heightened stress levels, and challenges 'alt-right' tabloid Breitbart on whether the bombings outside Israel are to blame for it, or.. you know, the obvious answer.
In the esteemed American 'alt-right' propaganda, I mean news website Breitbart - who gave us such hard-hitting journalism as 'How to Talk About Global Warming with Your Crazy ISIS Relatives at Thanksgiving Dinner' and 'Why Diversity and Equality Groups Should Only Hire Rich, Straight White Men' - has released their next bit of stellar journalism investigating the increased stress that southern Israelis feel about Egypt's clashes with the Islamic State in Sinai. While it's touching that Nazis would shed some crocodile tears for their pretend best friends, we just don’t think that the fascists are being genuine. So, Cairo Scene did our own pretend investigative report to shed light on this troubling development in the democratic, progressive, theocratic (not Saudi), apartheid state on our boarder.
According to Breitbart and the Eshkol Regional Council, anxiety levels in Israel have been on the rise since the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) invaded Gaza in 2014 to stop Hamas from throwing their rocks, which are a “national security threat [according to Israeli law],” and their stress-inducing fireworks which resulted in some property damage. The IDF were just responding to a noise complaint, and, like US police in mostly African-American communities will tell you, when you respond to noise complaints in "hostile territory" sometimes 1,400 women and children can die as collateral damage.
Israel has a long history of being stressed out by its neighbours. During the 2006 invasion of south Lebanon, Israeli settlers constantly complained about those Hezbollah hooligans keeping them awake with their mid-night ruckus. In South Lebanon, or Northern Israel as they call it, “northern” Israelis couldn’t sleep a wink! And can you believe that the Lebanese had the gall to rudely ask them to leave??? Awkwaaaard!
Since the beginning of the Syrian Civil War, Israeli settlers in the 'totally ours' Golan Heights have often complained of loud explosions and blaring noises. We asked one settler homeowner, or home-taker, their thoughts on the situation. “I’ve called the police a number of times to complain about those damn Syrians making all this noise, can’t they just kill each other silently?” He bleats.
Settlers in the Golan have complained numerous times about missiles and jet plane fire over their homes, but when Cairo Scene pointed out that much of these planes and rocket fires were from, in fact, the Israeli army, the relief was palpable; “Oh thank God, if it’s us, then no problem!”
Israel has been pretty stressed out in general since their conception in 1947. According to founding leader Ben Gurion, much of the reason behind kicking out millions of Palestinians was because of stress. “How are we supposed to chill out here, while other people are living so close to us?” He famously said to the UN. Palestinians were guilty of living there, so I guess we understand why Israelis were so stressed out, I mean, would you want someone living in the house you just robbed, especially if God promised it to you (and totally not them)?
However, maybe we are confusing which came first, the chicken or the occupation. In the words of Breitbart founder Stephen Bannon, maybe the Israelis are being “whiny brats.” While Jews were definitely stressed, coming from Europe in 1930s-40s, fleeing the original Nazis (not the modern day wannabes), maybe everyone else got stressed out by Israelis? We asked Sinai residents if they were concerned about Israel’s heightened stress levels due to the bombs and explosions in their city. “We’ve been stressed out from Israel for the past 60 years!!! I’ve been yelling at those rapscallions to stop trespassing on our land! All the bombs that fall on Gaza! How am I supposed to sleep with all this racket??” One resident tells us (although the 20-minute derogatory rant has been omitted). We also asked a Jordanian who made a similar statement. "We cant even think with all the construction, or de-construction, going on in the West Bank; if they're gonna kick all the Palestinians out and move the capital to al-Quds, I mean Jerusalem, then get on with it and be quite!"
After similar responses from people living on Israel’s borders, we felt we had to get to the bottom of the conundrum. We went to Tel Aviv to talk to regular Israelis (you know, the ones that don’t think ethnic cleansing is chill) to ask them who stresses them out, the unanimous opinion was that they were stressed out from the orthodox Israelis, one Tel Aviv resident had this to say, “It’s the settlers and orthodox that stress me out, why do I have to go into the military to defend the Jewishness of the state? I want a secular democratic state where all religions and ethnicities are respected; so I don’t have to worry about some desperate Palestinian stabbing me on the street. If the orthodox want a Jewish state, they should be the ones who actually fight for it, rather than assassinating the only Prime Minister that actually had a solution to all this stress!!
”Finally, it dawned on us, maybe the problem isn’t Israelis or Arabs, maybe it all goes back to the beginning; the right wing. From Islamist (Sunni or Shia) nutjobs, to intolerant settler crazies, ultra-nationalists, greedy corporatists? Or right up to the top of the intolerant food chain; Steve Bannon, his overlord Donald Trump, and the world's right wing zealots in general? While it is both troubling and universal that people would rather see other people suffer in silence than any stress afflicting them personally, and we often don't feel responsible for individuals' feelings of stress and anxiety, this detachment might have only been possible when we could just fuck off to some other country that isn't going through a whole bunch of stress. The problem, however, is that everyone in the world now is stressed! So, where am I supposed to fly off to so I can forget poverty and people dying!?
Because the USA had a sharper decrease in national happiness levels than Pakistan, in the most recent UN World Happiness report, it’s safe to say America hates Trump as much as Pakistan hates the Taliban. So maybe the answer, Mr. Bannon, is that hate speech should be directed at the people who are making our lives a living hell. From our interviews and investigative journalism, it seems that we would be united, and way more chill, if these right-wing psychopaths all burned in fiery damnation (and we don’t mean spiritually). As there is no better stress relief, no matter your religion, ethnicity, creed, or nationality, than watching Nazis burn.
Read on here.
By Reuters, via Daily Mail Online, by Asma Alsharif
CAIRO, March 22 (Reuters) - Saudi-owned retail property developer Marakez is investing 15 billion Egyptian pounds ($829 million) in Egypt and could double that within five years as the country pushes through economic reforms.
Egypt, the most populous Arab country, has been trying to revive its economy since a 2011 uprising ushered in an era of political and economic turmoil, deterring tourists and foreign investors that were major sources of hard currency.
Those efforts received a boost in November when Egypt floated its currency, devaluing the pound, and agreed $12 billion of funding from the International Monetary Fund to support its economic reform programme.
"Three months ago a lot of investors were looking and just seeing a brick wall that we were about to crash into," Marakez Chief Executive Ahmed Badrawi told Reuters.
"They were not seeing any light at all. But after the devaluation, I think a lot -- especially foreign investors -- now see that things are cheaper and that there is a plan and it looks like they will stick to the plan."
Marakez, an Egyptian subsidiary of Saudi Arabia's Fawaz Al Hokair Group, established Egypt's biggest retail mall on a 200 acre site in Cairo's 6th of October suburb in 2011 and is now planning on developing three others in addition to its first residential project in Cairo.
Fawaz Al Hokair Group has retail and real estate operations across the Middle East, North Africa, the United States and Central Asia.
"The group took the view in 2015, when Egypt was pretty much in the thick of it and times were very bad, that we are long-term investors," Badrawi said, adding that its projects will become operational three or four years down the line as Egypt's recovery programme begins to bear fruit.
Marakez will start the second phase of its Mall of Arabia -- a 42,000 square metre extension -- next month and is also planning to launch the residential project on a 21 acre site next to the mall.
It also acquired two sites for malls in the east of Cairo and a third mall in the underdeveloped city of Tanta.
"All of these decisions are taken with the retail background in mind," Badrawi said, pointing to an Egyptian consumer base of 93 million people.
"My investors are ready to pour a lot more money in ... I think that there is scope for double the size of the investment within five years."
While more than $3.5 billion in foreign investment has flowed into Egyptian Treasury bills and bonds since the currency was floated, direct foreign investment in Egyptian projects has yet to attract the same level of interest.
Among efforts to address that is a proposed investment law aimed at slicing through Egypt's notorious red tape to make it easier and quicker for investors to do business, though the legislation has yet to pass through parliament.
Investors also remain concerned about the repatriation of profits, with Egypt still facing a foreign currency shortage and banks prioritising dollar allocations for imported goods.
In 2015/16 Egypt attracted about $6.8 billion in direct foreign investment, but Finance Minister Amr El Garhy said on Monday that he is optimistic that renewed interest in Egypt after the devaluation of the pound will lift the total to between $13 billion and $15 billion in the next financial year.
"A lot of investors have decided that Egypt is now a place where they want to invest ... there is a lot of serious investment money now looking for opportunities," Badrawi said.
"If there is a good economic development path, then more and more of these guys will come in. So as a group, (our) investors took the view last year, `let´s go for it´." ($1 = 18.1000 Egyptian pounds) (Editing by David Goodman)
Ahram Online, by Azza Radwan Sedky
When he came to office, millions were hopeful that Barack Obama would deliver on his promises regarding US relations with Arab countries. He failed.
In August 2008, on a cruise ship heading to Alaska, I sat glued to my cabin TV set. Nothing on that luxurious ship could have enticed me to leave that cabin as I watched the Democratic Party candidate, back then, Senator Barack Obama, speak.
He had me captivated, but I was not alone, for Obama always held his audience spellbound, coming across as articulate and genuine.
Early on, his foreign policy pledges were undeniably bonafide. He vowed to disentangle the US from Afghanistan and Iraq, and close Guantanamo; “No more Iraqs” had gained him many voters. And he became the 44the US president, his being the first black presidency, which exemplified diversity and acknowledgement of the other.
Then he chose Egypt’s Cairo University as the venue from which to speak to the Muslim world, and again I watched in awe. “I have come here to seek a new beginning between the United States and Muslims around the world; one based upon mutual interest and mutual respect.”
“The Holy Quran tells us,” continued Obama, “O mankind! We have created you male and a female; and we have made you into nations and tribes so that you may know one another.”
No other US president had extended the reconciliatory olive branch of peace in that fashion. It was like a new beginning, and I, like millions, was hopeful that Obama would deliver on his promises.
Today, eight years after Obama’s heartening start, we look back and assess his legacy in the Arab world — a legacy of failure.
Though President Bush’s invasion of Iraq remains one of history's most tragic disasters, President Obama’s role in the Iraqi war may have surpassed Bush’s jaded blunder. In 2011, Obama ordered US combat troops to withdraw from Iraq. Regrettably, they left behind an open playing field for the Islamic State (IS), Al-Nusra Front, and other insurgencies to move in. Not only did Obama forsake the Iraqis but he also renounced the US’s role in generating the Iraqi plight.
Iraq, today, remains at the mercy of Islamist militants. And to this Obama comments, “The ability of ISIL to not just mass inside of Syria, but then to initiate major land offensives that took Mosul [in Iraq], for example, that was not on my intelligence radar screen."
Syria will remain the thorn in Obama’s legacy in the Arab world. Siding with the opposition against President Bashar Al-Assad seems irrelevant today in the large scheme of things. As the opposition gained momentum, it got infiltrated by militants and factions from across the world.
The ongoing war left Syria with a humanitarian calamity: over 400,00 dead, a devastated wasteland, and the foreboding title of “the world’s largest refugee crisis.”
President Obama adopted a feint and indecisive role calling the fight against IS “long-term.” He dithered, leaving the door wide open for a multitude of countries to get involved. Neither Syria nor the Syrians themselves truly mattered.
Robert Ford, who resigned in 2014 as US ambassador to Syria over policy disagreements, said: “I’m personally sad that after we thought we had learned lessons in places like Sarajevo, Srebrenica and Rwanda, it's in fact very clear that this administration doesn't really care.”
Today, a ceasefire in Syria is holding as a Russian-backed truce that the US played no role in takes effect.
Intervening in Libya and toppling Gaddafi left the country with a vacuum similar to that created in Iraq. President Obama made sure that the intervention was led by a NATO coalition, and in October 2011 NATO pulled out of Libya. This vacuum was immediately seized by IS.
Once Libya was Africa’s richest state; today Libya is in chaos, torn by civil war, split between Misrata militias on one side and General Khalifa Hiftar on the other.
While Obama was for the change in leadership and saving the lives of innocent Libyans, he never completed the task he initiated. When asked about his failures, Obama responded that failing to prepare for the aftermath of the ousting of the Libyan leader was the worst mistake of his presidency.
Whether in Libya, Iraq, or Syria, IS emerged as the successor after the toppled or targeted regimes left these countries easy prey. Obama’s strategy regarding IS failed; it never seemed wilful or deliberate enough, and yet his administration continued its rhetoric on how it was working to degrade and destroy IS.
The repercussions of this stance are felt across the Arab world.
“An orderly transition must be meaningful, it must be peaceful and it must begin now,” announced President Obama declaring the end of President Hosni Mubarak’s reign.
After Mubarak stepped down, Obama and Secretary of State Hilary Clinton sided with ex-President Morsi, but were never willing to stand with President El-Sisi. As retributive measures, the US withheld F-16 fighter jets, cancelled joint military exercises and, as the final straw, suspended, even if temporarily or partially, $1.3 billion in aid to Egypt.
President Obama had invested much in the Muslim Brotherhood and their leader and he couldn’t forgo that investment without a fuss. Muslim Brotherhood members blatantly raised the Rabaa sign in the White House, even after Egypt designated the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist group.
President Obama gave President El-Sisi a deliberate snub. Egypt was left to fend for itself against terrorism and economic hardship with the US oblivious to its capacity to assist. Soon Egypt was drawing on other allegiances and partnerships, such as Russia, China and France, in addition to the Gulf States, and maintaining an aloof and distant relationship with the US.
The one and only decision made by President Obama which, at face value, sided with the Arab world came too late and, alas, immediately backfired. On the eve of Obama’s leaving office, the US abstained from a UN vote that allowed the UN to demand an end to Israeli settlements. This was followed by a vow from Israeli officials to build thousands of new settlements on occupied Palestinian land in defiance.
President Obama failed miserably in the Arab world, and it is no wonder that Arabs awaited his exit from the Oval Office with anticipation, and are, rightfully or wrongfully, awaiting to see how President Trump handles Obama’s legacy in the coming days.
The writer is an academic, political analyst, and author of Cairo Rewind: the First Two Years of Egypt's Revolution, 2011-2013.
A new film about a successful young woman who wants to upend tradition by becoming a single mother via sperm donation has taken the Egyptian cinema scene by storm.
Bashtery Ragel (Buying a Man) tells the story of Shams, a successful single Egyptian businesswoman who doesn’t want to get married if she can’t find true love. However, Shams has reached a point in her life where she wants a baby and feels she is running out of time. She decides to try to find a sperm donor on Facebook.
The movie tackles several issues that are thorny for Egyptians – sex, for one, artificial insemination and female empowerment. And, not unexpectedly, it has generated a flurry of controversy and media coverage – all of which has translated into profit. The film was the second-biggest winner at the box office in its second week.
The picture’s success was boosted by a canny pre-release marketing campaign in which the producers set up a Facebook page purportedly owned by a woman who was, yes, looking for a sperm donor. The page got thousands of likes and spurred heated debates between commentators. And it generated its own media coverage.
“Needless to say, this is a major religious and social taboo in every Arab and Middle Eastern country,” online publication Scoop Empire wrote excitedly the day after the page went up. “The page was shut down last night, yet the persistent wannabe-mother started a new page, pleading men to take her seriously instead of shaming her, and the donation will be met with a big financial reward.”
The page went viral before the film’s star, Egyptian actress Nelly Karim, announced on live television that the entire episode was, in fact, a PR stunt to promote her latest movie.
No man's land
Screenwriter Inas Lofty said she got the idea for the screenplay when a single friend of hers who had had several failed relationships told her she was no longer interested in finding a man, but wanted to have a baby so she wouldn’t be alone. Realising the subject matter would be difficult for an Egyptian audience, she decided to make the film a rom-com to make it more digestible.
"It would have been hard for the audience to accept the story if it was done as a drama," she told the BBC.
Sperm donation is a delicate topic in Egypt. While there are dozens of fertility clinics in the country, there is also a fair level of embarrassment and shame attached to the subject. And third-party sperm donation is prohibited in Islam. To get around that hitch, Shams proposes a paper marriage, so that the sperm donation would meet religious standards, and to divorce after the baby is born.
While broaching the topic of sperm donation is a bold endeavour, the movie ultimately falls prey to some of the very stereotypes it seeks to challenge. Shams is a successful and accomplished businesswoman, but she is portrayed as aggressive and harsh, spotlighting the pervasive societal attitude that female self-sufficiency and success are somehow unfeminine.
When the main character’s mother finds out the marriage is in name only, she visits the couple and hides all her daughter’s clothes “to force her into wearing something skimpy in front of her so-called husband, as if men are beasts who can’t control themselves when they see a little skin,” reviewer Emad El-Din Aysha wrote in Cairo Scene.
In perhaps the only ending that could make the film a success with Egyptian audiences, the couple ends up falling in love and having kids the old fashioned way.