On February 17, Lieutenant-General Sami Enan, Egypt’s former armed forces chief-of-staff, announced that he would be running for president. One can be forgiven for asking: Why? Enan’s candidacy seems impractical and impracticable. Based on what is known publicly, which actually is not very much, it is widely assumed that Field Marshal Abdel Fattah al-Sisi will be the military’s candidate. It seems hard to imagine that if al-Sisi runs, he would have much trouble winning. Despite the crude propaganda in the form of al-Sisi sweets, sandwiches, pajamas, posters, t-shirts, and odes to the man, there are many Egyptians who seem inclined—at this moment—to want the Field Marshal’s firm hand. Enan, whose sterling reputation was tarnished during the 18 months he was the second-in-command of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, does not have the kind of broad appeal of al-Sisi. So what is going on? Why does Sami Enan want to be the president? As with everything in Egypt, Enan’s candidacy may (or may not) be a bit more complicated than a man with an ambition to lead a great country back from the brink. Read more »
Ahmet Erdi Ozturk says that the sphere of authority of Turkey’s Directorate of Religious Affairs should be redefined. Read more »
There will be light blogging for the next week because…well…you can see why. Thanks!
Last week, a knowledgeable and respected DC-based Egypt expert commented that Field Marshal Abdel Fattah al Sisi is “just a cog in the machine.” It is not at all clear what exactly this means. If there is a machine, who is behind it? And if it is not al Sisi, who is it? The “cog in the machine” explanation of Egyptian politics is not new, it has just become more pronounced over the last three years. It ranks high with other myths of Egyptian politics, notably the “evil genius” view of senior military commanders who allegedly pull levers and push buttons in a masterful subterfuge that produces only the outcomes that serve the military’s interests. Perhaps al Sisi is a cog in the military’s machine, but it seems that Egyptian politics are more prosaic. Read more »
The Palestinian-Israeli conflict and the never-ending peace process are back. Not that they ever went away, but the conflict has gotten far more newsprint and bandwidth in the last week or so than it has over the last six months. On Sunday, the New York Times ran three pieces in its “Sunday Review” section that touched on the conflict. Essays by Hirsh Goodman and Omar Barghouti dealt specifically with the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) campaign—an issue bound up in politics and fraught with emotions that is linked to the efficacy of non-violent protest, the fight against South African apartheid in the 1980s, and the long effort to deny the Jewish connection to the territory that is now Israel and the West Bank. Read more »
From the Potomac to the Euphrates examines how debates about Mideast policy in Washington connect to the region, with a special focus on Egypt and Turkey.