Egypt protests: live-feed

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Live feed from Cairo's Tahrir Square Wednesday showing millions of Egyptian protesters celebrating as the Egyptian army's deadline passed for Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi to respond to protesters' demands. From PBS:

Live video from your iPhone using Ustream

Earlier Wednesday, Essam al-Haddad, a top foreign policy advisor to Morsi, warned in a statement posted to his Facebook page that what is happening in Egypt is a military coup:

As I write these lines I am fully aware that these may be the last lines I get to post on this page.

For the sake of Egypt and for historical accuracy, let’s call what is happening by its real name: Military coup. […]

You have heard much during the past 30 months about ikhwan excluding all others. I will not try to convince you otherwise today. Perhaps there will come a day when honest academics have the courage to examine the record. ….

The State Department said Wednesday that it was not taking sides, but it was disappointed that Morsi, in his speech Tuesday, did not offer more steps responding to protesters' demands.

“There are broad immediate steps that could be taken, [including] to call for an end to the violence, specifically violence against women; and… take steps to engage  with [all parties, including] the opposition and the military,” State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki said Wednesday. Continue reading

White House: US not ‘urging’ Morsi to hold early elections

The White House on Tuesday pushed back on a report that American officials are urging Egyptian President Mohammad Morsi to call early elections, in response to the largest anti-government demonstrations Egypt has ever witnessed. The comments seem intended to reduce any perception that Washington is trying to dictate a course of action to the Egyptian leadership.

“It is not accurate that the United States is 'urging' President Morsy to call early elections,” National Security Council spokeswoman Bernadette Meehan said in an e-mail Tuesday to Al-Monitor.

“President Obama has encouraged President Morsy to take steps to show that he is responsive to the concerns of the Egyptian people and underscored that the current crisis can only be resolved through a political process,” Meehan continued.  “As the President has made clear since the revolution, only Egyptians can make the decisions that will determine their future.”

The White House comment, responding to a CNN report Tuesday, didn't rule out that US officials may be discussing the option of early elections with Egyptian officials behind closed doors.

“We are saying to him, 'Figure out a way to go for new elections,'” a senior US official told CNN. “That may be the only way that this confrontation can be resolved.”

President Obama, in a call with Morsi Monday, said the United States does not favor any particular group in Egypt, and stressed only Egyptians can determine their future.

The comments are widely seen in Egypt as a step back from Washington’s past, at least-perceived support for Morsi’s elected, Muslim Brotherhood-dominated government, Egyptian journalist and Al-Monitor contributor Mohannad Sabry said.

(Protesters opposing Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi shout slogans against him and members of the Muslim Brotherhood during a demonstration in Tahrir square in Cairo June 30, 2013. Mohamed Abd El Ghany / Reuters.)

Cairo reported tense but quiet as parliament ordered to dissolve

Al-Ahram reports that Egypt’s parliament has received official orders from Egypt’s military rulers to dissolve:

The secretariat of Egypt’s People’s Assembly on Thursday received an official notification from Egypt’s ruling military council to immediately dissolve the lower house of parliament in line with Thursday’s High Constitutional Court (HCC) verdict.

According to a source who asked to remain anonymous, the Assembly’s secretary-general, Sami Mahran, received the notification, which also prohibits everyone except workers and parliamentary reporters from entering the parliament building.

NY Times’ David Kirkpatrick adds from Cairo:

Egypt’s military rulers formally dissolved Parliament Friday, state media reported, and security forces were stationed around the building on orders to bar anyone, including lawmakers, from entering the chambers without official notice.

The developments … further escalated tensions over court rulings on Thursday … Coming on the eve of a presidential runoff, they thrust the nation’s troubled transition to democracy since the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak last year into grave doubt. Continue reading

The Counterrevolution: Egypt court dissolves parliament

Egypt’s Supreme Constitutional Court issued two momentous rulings Thursday that analysts in Washington and Cairo describe as amounting to a soft coup.

The court ruled that one third of Egypt’s parliamentary seats should be voided, thus effectively calling for the dissolving of Egypt’s recently-elected legislature. It also ruled that  former Mubarak-regime prime minister Ahmed Shafiq be allowed to stand in Egyptian presidential run-off elections, scheduled to be held June 16-17th.

“That’s it for Egypt’s so-called transition,” Marc Lynch, a Middle East expert at George Washington University, wrote at Foreign Policy‘s Middle East channel blog:

“Today’s moves by the Constitutional Court on behalf of the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) seem difficult to overcome and likely to push Egypt onto a dangerous new path,” Lynch wrote. “With Egypt looking ahead to no parliament, no constitution, and a deeply divisive new president, it’s fair to say the experiment in military-led transition has come to its disappointing end.”

“The revolutionary promise of Tahrir Square is clearly slipping away,” said Steve Cook, an Egypt expert at the Council of Foreign Relations, in a call with journalists Thursday.

“Determined counterrevolutionary groups in Egypt appear to have outmaneuvered a variety of new groups that thought in inspiring 18 days in 2011 they had finally done away with the regime that the Free Officers ushered in in 1950s,” Cook said. The court’s move suggests Egyptian players seeking greater democracy “have largely been outmaneuvered by the military and the system is one that goes back to the founding of [the Egyptian military] regime back in 1950s.”

“This is clearly going to go on for a long time,” Isobel Coleman, an Egypt expert who directs the women and foreign policy program at the Council on Foreign Relations, said Thursday. “We are seeing a big push by counterrevolutionary forces.”

Coleman noted a series of decisions in advance of the court’s ruling Thursday suggesting it had been in the works for some time. In particular, she noted the SCAF’s reinstatement of an emergency law Wednesday. A similar law had been in place for thirty years of Mubarak’s rule, but expired May 31st.

But this week, the expired Mubarak-era emergency law “was replicated with a new law, that citizens and human rights groups can be arrested and tried in military courts,” Coleman said, in apparent “anticipation of what they were girding for: some big demonstrations and protests coming up.”

“These counterrevolutionary forces are not moving over,” Coleman said. “The big question becomes what will the major players do.” Continue reading

AP: US democracy groups aided favored groups in Egypt

The Associated Press reports on continued controversy in Egypt over US-funded so-called democracy promotion groups, and allegations by anonymous US officials that the groups are picking sides:

… Interviews and documents obtained by the Associated Press show that the workers’ protest and the broader government crackdown with the raids helped expose what US officials do not want to admit publicly: the US government spent tens of millions of dollars financing and training liberal groups in Egypt, the backbone of the Egyptian uprising. This was done to build opposition to Islamic and pro-military parties in power, all in the name of developing democracy and all while US diplomats were assuring Egyptian leaders that Washington was not taking sides.

“We were picking sides,” said a senior US official involved in discussions with Egyptian leaders after last year’s revolution swept President Hosni Mubarak from power after three decades. The official requested anonymity to discuss sensitive diplomatic matters. […]

 

Of course, it’s worth noting: the US-favored groups seem to have lost big. Continue reading

Iran eases conditions of opposition leader’s house arrest

My colleague Barbara Slavin reports:

Iranian opposition media report that Mehdi Karroubi, the 2009 reformist presidential candidate and former speaker of the Iranian parliament, has had the conditions of his 15-month house arrest lightened so that he can go outside for brief periods and meet with his family.

The report, in Saham News and translated by Radio Zamaneh, suggests both greater confidence by the Iranian government and a perceived need to widen its base in advance of May 23 nuclear talks in Baghdad.

 

According to the report, Karroubi, 74, has literally been given access to fresh air and allowed to open his windows. He can also “stroll in the building’s parking area and lock his apartment door.” Karroubi was permitted to visit his family at their home this week and the detainee’s wife, Fatemeh, has been given permission to visit him twice a week. Continue reading