The fingerprints in the Alexandria explosion

The targeting of the Coptic Church in the Egyptian city of Alexandria was the most dangerous event in the first week of the New Year. In addition to the tragic character of the mass and barbaric killing which affected the believers in a place of worship, a series of signs surrounding the incident prompt its perception as being a dangerous factor in the context of an entire course and not just an individual phenomenon. Throughout history, the Coptic Church in Egypt had a pan-Arab, liberational and anti-colonial position. It fought against the Camp David accords, while its head the honorable Anba Shenouda represented one of the major symbols of national unity and the fight against normalization with Israel. This rendered him the object of harassments and harmful measures adopted by the Egyptian authorities during the days of the late president Anwar al-Sadat and President Hosni Mubarak. In the meantime, the facts prove that since the seventies, the United States has been interfering in Egypt to develop or strengthen Islamic extremism, and was behind the use of Egyptian universities as a main source for the recruitment of disgruntled young men involved in Islamic organizations or for their mobilization to fight in Afghanistan through the mujahidin office which was established by the American intelligence in cooperation with the Egyptian, Jordanian, Saudi, and Pakistani governments. The Egyptian weight was qualitative and quantitative, which is now being reflected in the structure of Al-Qaeda’s network and branches ever since Ayman al-Zawahiri’s wing joined Osama Ben Laden. The Egyptian authorities and the active forces in the Egyptian community are mostly responsible for what happened, while the reactions on the street were limited to the prevention of the exploitation of what happened to generate sectarian conflicts which the extremist and dubious Islamic and Coptic groups have been trying to launch and expand. In conclusion, it is worth pointing to the fact that the American and Western estimates in regard to the Egyptian situation spoke during the last few months about a possible state of rebellion and turmoil due to the suffocating social crisis. It is thus our duty to ask whether Lebanon’s experience in preventing political change through sectarian division is activating a plan aiming at shifting the Egyptians’ attention away from their real crises by leading them toward sectarian infighting.

Arab affairs

The Palestinian entity and the self-determination right

The military operation carried out by the Israeli occupation forces in Hebron last Friday, constituted a sample of the actual status of the Palestinian authority and its role and proved the reality of what is wanted by the Israelis when dealing with the Palestinian negotiator whom they are asking to be the agent, informant and policeman for the Mossad. This operation constituted a new scandal at the level of the security cooperation formula between the Palestinian authority and the Israeli occupation, a scandal which is raising more criticism within Fatah especially in regard to the behavior of the Palestinian command which is busy with the struggle over power and the financial and the political conflicts between President Abbas and his team on one hand and a number of influential figures led by Mohammad Dahlan —who is the most involved in security cooperation with Israel— on the other.
The Palestinian police released six Hamas elements who were previously arrested on specific charges: the preparation for operations targeting the occupation. Their release was the result of a Qatari mediation between Hamas’s command and the Palestinian authority.

The Arab file

Egypt and the world were shocked with the targeting of the Coptic Church in Alexandria on New Year’s Eve, as this operation claimed the lives and caused the injuring of many Egyptian Copts. From the Egyptian Al-Arish port, the aid convoy Asia-1 arrived to the Gaza Strip to break the Israeli blockade which has been imposed on it, although it was obstructed by Israeli boats. In the meantime, Iran invited the ambassadors of some states to visit its nuclear sites. The US responded to the invitation by calling it a masquerade, praising on the other hand the positions of the Sudanese president who visited the South for the last time before the referendum. These are the headlines carried by the Arab papers at the beginning of the New Year.

At least five thousand people participated on the evening of Saturday-Sunday in the funerals of the victims of the explosion that targeted the Coptic Church in Alexandria and resulted in the death of twenty one people and the injuring of seventy nine. The participants raised slogans and refused to accept the condolences of President Hosni Mubarak.

The commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard air forces Amir-Ali Hajizadeh, announced that his force shut down two unmanned ‘western spy planes’ in the Gulf. Iranian defense minister general Ahmad Wahidi announced that the Iranian navy force was provided with ‘new Cruise missile systems’ built by the Aerospace Industries Organization affiliated with the Defense Ministry. In the meantime, the head of the Iranian organization for nuclear energy, Ali Akbar Salehi, announced that the Bouchehr nuclear reactor will be connected to the national electricity network by mid-February.
Iraq and Iran signed an agreement to activate a package of joint issues between the two countries. Acting Iranian Foreign Minister Salehi who visited Baghdad, announced his country’s support of independence and full sovereignty in Iraq. Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari announced for his part that “the meeting resulted in an agreement to activate a series of joint issues between the two countries, namely in regard to the joint committee assigned to follow up on the joint border issue and draw up a plan to consecrate the border.

At the beginning of this new year, the observers were surprised to see the eruption of violent protests in Algeria, leading to the death of several people and the injuring of dozens. The riots had spread to eighteen provinces in a snowball effect and were staged in protest against the rise affecting the prices of basic products and the spread of unemployment. Similar events had been witnessed in Tunisia due to the same reasons. It is worth mentioning that close aides of President Abdelaziz Bouteflika cautioned that these events might be part of a plan to weaken or undermine the regime in place and may be due to political rather than economic reasons.

Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir assured that the Northern government will be one of the first to welcome the establishment of the Southern state in case the Southerners choose secession. Al-Bashir who conducted a historical visit to the capital of South Sudan, i.e. the city of Juba, stressed the willingness to provide all forms of technical support expertise and training to the new state. He said: “we are more eligible to support it than any other state,” calling for the staging of the upcoming referendum with calm, integrity and transparency and without any pressures. For his part, the head of the foreign relations committee in the American congress, Senator John Kerry warned following meetings with Sudanese officials in Khartoum that Sudan will face a critical moment in its modern history after the referendum. He said that the United States played an important role in ending civil war, which made the referendum possible, praising Al-Bashir’s speech during his visit to Juba by describing it as being very encouraging and constructive. He added that the referendum’s staging in peace will herald new relations with Washington.

The Israeli file

Netanyahu refuses to accept the proposals of the Palestinian authority
Maariv mentioned that Netanyahu refused to accept the proposals of the Palestinians. Indeed, Israeli envoys as well as Netanyahu himself turned down official documents which the Palestinians tried to present to them, considering they favored the Palestinian positions at the level of the key issues. Netanyahu also refused to read the official document presented to him by Abbas during a meeting held at the house of the prime minister in Western Jerusalem, knowing that this document featured the solution for the two key issues which they were supposed to discuss during the first stage, i.e. the security arrangements and the border issue.

The approval of the settlement freeze
The prime minister surprised the members of the Knesset-affiliated foreign affairs and security committee, when he assured that Israel had approved the freezing of the construction of the settlements for three months. Yediot Aharonot carried a report saying that the majority of the members of the Israeli Cabinet supported the government’s plan to erect hundreds of housing units in the West Bank before the launching of the settlement freeze. However, some ministers, at the head of whom is the minster of planning Uzi Landau, opposed the plan of Netanyahu, saying: “The decision to freeze the settlement activities in the West Bank goes against human rights.”

Dagan: Hezbollah’s strength is increasing and Iran does not possess nuclear weapons
Israeli media outlets quoted the outgoing Israeli intelligence chief, Meir Dagan, as saying that Iran will not be able to acquire nuclear capabilities, at least not before 2015. He added that Iran was facing numerous technical obstacles in developing its nuclear capabilities and that it has so far been unable to overcome them.
The report, which was carried by Yediot Aharonot indicated that several Israeli security sides believed it would be better to confront the Iranian nuclear project politically and economically instead of confronting it militarily, so that it does not cause great damage to Israel. He pointed out that Hezbollah’s strength had exceeded what was owned by 90% of the states around the world and that it could strike the domestic front in Israel.
Under the headline “Gambling on Damascus”, Haaretz carried an article by Aluf Benn talking about Syria’s importance in ensuring the success of the peace talks in the Middle East.
The writer started his article by asking: Who can save Israel from its predicament in light of the obstruction of the negotiations with the Palestinian authority, the increase of the international pressures on Israel and the threats of the Labor Party to withdraw from the government. The author answers by saying that the ‘friend’ Syria is the one that can help Israel exit this predicament.

Lebanese affairs

The tribunal, a card in the American compromises
It has become a given that the special tribunal for Lebanon is closely linked to complex and branched out compromises being made by the United States in secret and in public over the situation in the region. As it was revealed by Sudan’s recent events, i.e. that what interested the American administration were the oil and gas privileges rather than the rights of the families of the victims in Darfur, it became even clearer that Washington is not concerned about truth and justice at the level of the assassination of Rafik al-Hariri, as much it is interested by its plan to protect its influence in Iraq and Israel’s security. In both cases, the international tribunals, their decisions and warrants have been turned into pressure cards to meet the requirements of the settlements and understandings that guarantee the American-Israeli interests.
All the available information points to the fact that the Syrian action toward the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia was fruitful during the Damascus and Riyadh summits between President Al-Assad and King Abdullah, and that they reached practical results and understandings over the ways to prevent the detonation of the Lebanese domestic situation through an indictment issued by the international tribunal and accusing elements from Hezbollah – as it was recently assured by the French foreign minister. It is clear that the American administration wants to exploit the indictment which was postponed upon special requests more than once, at a time when confusion is prevailing over the tribunal’s circles due to what affected the investigation apparatus and the tribunal’s administration in terms of resignations and scandals.

Lebanese file

It is with the following headlines that the Lebanese newspapers inaugurated the first week of the year 2011
French Foreign Minister Michele Alliot-Marie stressed that the protection of Lebanon’s unity was still possible, indicating that Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri was ‘concerned about that.’ She believed that the special tribunal for Lebanon’s possible accusation of elements from Hezbollah of having assassinated Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri “only affects individuals and not a party or sect.” She recalled that “Hezbollah has deputies inside the institutions” and indicated “the special tribunal for Lebanon is the result of an international will. No one can annul it or prevent it from conducting its work.”
Hezbollah Deputy Secretary General Sheikh Naim Qassem described the International Tribunal as being “an international corruption tool. Since its establishment, it never aimed at uncovering the truth and all the pieces of evidence point to the fact that it is American and Israeli.” He added “it is a mutilated tribunal aiming at restoring the American interests and at striking the resistance and the rejectionist powers.” He concluded by saying “this is a false and harmful fact for Lebanon. This is why we all approved and cheered in favor of the success of the Syrian-Saudi talks because they go against what the Americans want. We are enthusiastic about this solution because it will protect the country and without it no one will win.”
For his part, General Michel Aoun said in response to a question about the settlement that is currently being talked about: “I do not want to tackle an issue whose developments are not being addressed with me directly. I want to know who fabricated the false witnesses and who killed Prime Minister Hariri, and consequently will not be pleased by any other solution. This does not mean that I can reject it alone.”
In an interview with Al-Hayat newspaper, Prime Minster Saad al-Hariri said: “The Saudi-Syrian understanding to ensure stability in Lebanon was completed months ago and before King Abdullah went away to receive treatment.” He assured that this settlement will not retreat and that “the steps and answers are required from the others and not from us. Anything else is an attempt to thwart the Saudi-Syrian efforts.” Al-Hariri added: “Any commitment on my end will not be implemented before the other side implements its own commitments. This is the basis of the Saudi-Syrian efforts.”
Speaker Nabih Berri confirmed in a statement “the positive character of the recognition of the Saudi-Syrian initiative’s outcome,” regretting however the attempts to blame the other side. He explained: “The team required to present a position in this regard is known and it is certainly not the opposition.”

News analysis

The American policy and regional stability
Among the traditional ideas in the Arab political mind is the assumption that the American economic interests in the region impose an insistence on the prevalence of stability and the avoidance of disturbances and crises.
It is on this basis that the theory of American sponsorship of peace was promoted, along with the concept of the peace process and the decisive American role in sponsoring the settlement of the Arab-Israeli conflict, for which the Arab countries expressed their willingness to engage while offering many concessions.
The goal of achieving regional stability is actually being obstructed by the United States and Israel which are activating wars and crises and trying to obstruct the available opportunities for the formation of a regional bloc that would sponsor stability and that includes so far Syria, Iran, Turkey, Qatar, and even Saudi Arabia ever since the eruption of the Yemeni crisis. This regional bloc is prone to expand if the Americans lift their hands off the will of many concerned capitals, while so far this group has proved to be highly efficient in dealing with the crises detonated by the American policies – with Israel’s involvement- in Iraq and Yemen. It is now testing a new and important arena in Lebanon where its success will be dependent on its ability to overcome the strong American dam.

The American file

The information carried by the American papers in regard to the congressional investigations into the funds spent by the army commanders in Iraq and especially General David Petraeus seized a lot of attention. The American papers issued last week also followed the coverage of the explosion which targeted an Egyptian church on new year’s eve, describing it as being the worst attack against the Christian minority in the country. In that same context the papers tackled the repercussions of the explosion and the eruption of clashes between the Christians and the Egyptian police due to the attack on the church.
On the Pakistani level, the papers talked about the assassination of the governor of the Punjab province, agreeing that his assassination will lead to the escalation of the situation in Pakistan, the increase of sectarian violence and to religious divisions between the Muslims and the Christians.
They also paid close attention to Iran’s invitation to Russia, China and many European Union states to visit its nuclear facilities, stressing the United States’ exclusion from the invitation.
The American papers talked about the return of the leader of the Sadr Movement Sayyed Muktada al-Sadr to his headquarters in Najaf on Wednesday, after four years spent in Iran.
The New York Times mentioned that Al-Sadr was engaged in a lethal war against the American troops in Iraq before moving to Iran, adding that he arrived to Al-Najaf with a large number of his senior aides.
The paper quoted the deputy director of the American peace institute as saying that any government which owes its existence to the Sadrists and is not strongly supported by the leader of the Iraqi bloc Iyad Allawi will be close to Tehran, a thing which Washington does not wish to see for the time being.

The British file

The British papers issued this week shed light on Sudanese affairs and considered that the border divisions that were drawn up by colonialism were no longer sacred and no longer constituted a red line. Some even fear that the situation will reach a point in which the entire African continent will be Balkanized. David Smith wrote in this context an article headlined: Will the referendum in Sudan mean the Balkanization of Africa?
The papers also talked about the return of leader of the Mahdi Army Sayyed Mukatda al-Sadr from exile to Baghdad, after having spent four years in Iran.
For its part, The Times considered that the explosions which targeted the Coptic Church in Egypt had two dangerous meanings, extending beyond the official calls for calm.
The explosion could mean on one hand that after several attempts, Al-Qaeda organization has managed to infiltrate Egypt through the exploitation of the discontent of wide factions of the Egyptian people, before which all the ways were blocked due to corruption and political oppression.
On the other hand, it could mean that the followers of the Christian religion, i.e. the largest Christian minority in the Arab world, have become the scapegoats for the majority to cover up the falsification of the elections, and are being used by the administration to oppress any action which might point to any objections or oppositions.

New Orient News ">New Orient News