Mubarak given up, wants to die in Sharm says Saudi official
Egypt’s ousted president has given up and wants to die in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh where he has been living since a popular uprising ended his rule, a Saudi official said on Wednesday.
Hosni Mubarak, 82, has suffered from health problems in recent years and travelled to Germany for gall bladder surgery in March last year. Reports of a further decline have increased since he stepped down on Friday after three decades in power.
An official in Saudi Arabia said the kingdom had offered to host Mubarak but he was determined to see out his days in Egypt. Official confirmation could not immediately be obtained from the Saudi government. (Reuters)
Ex-judge to head Egypt reform panel
Egypt’s new army rulers have appointed Tareq al-Bishry, a retired judge, to head a committee set up to suggest constitutional changes.
Al-Bishry was a strong supporter of an independent judiciary during Hosni Mubarak’s rule and is respected in legal circles for his independent views.
“I have been chosen by the Higher Military Council to head the committee for constitutional amendments,” al-Bishry said on Tuesday.
The Higher Military Council had earlier vowed to rewrite the constitution within 10 days and put it to a referendum within two months. (Al Jazeera)
Protests continue in Egypt despite army admonitions
Despite calls from the Supreme Armed Forces Council to end labor protests, small demonstrations continued on Wednesday.
Central Auditing Organization employees staged a sit-in Wednesday demanding that the organization be given total independence from the government. Employees also called for amending regulations, promotions and a bonus increase, among other demands.
Meanwhile, about 2000 Manpower Ministry employees protested against corruption within a group of investors who were appointed by Minister Aisha Abdel Hadi. Protesters called for bonus pay and a monthly travel allowance of LE 200. (Al-Masry Al-Youm)
After 25 Bahman’s success, the challenges for Iran’s Green Movement
The Iranian regime’s response to the street protests of Monday was predictable. Rather than realising that a sizeable proportion of its people were maintaining serious and justifiable grievances about the ruling elite, institutions of the Islamic Republic have put up a preposterous show of defiance. A large group of Parliamentary deputies openly agitated for violence and asked for Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi to be killed.
The classic line of UK-US-Israel-“terrorist” MKO (Mujahedin-e-Khalq) involvement patterns were put out in full force. The Secretary of the Expediency Council and 2009 Presidential candidate Mohsen Rezaei, a man routinely praised by pundits as a voice of balance and reason on the current Iranian political battleground, called both Mousavi and Karroubi “servants of the Americans” and laid out an ultimatum for the two former Presidential candidates: disown the protests by Tuesday night or face the “fully justifiable” response of the “people”.
The two Green leaders did nothing of that sort. In communiques published on their official website (over which there are some doubts of legitimacy, given that Mousavi has supposedly been cut off from contact since Sunday), both Mousavi and Karroubi praised the behaviour of the people on Monday and stated their determination to persist with their struggle.
Both messages fell short, however, of taking stock of the mood on the streets of Tehran and other cities on 25 Bahman. As relayed by the considerable YouTube footage, the bulk of the slogans shouted by the protestors were directed straight at the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who is now considered the main “culprit” of the current predicament. But no mention of Khamenei is made by either Mousavi or Karroubi, despite the ringing chant on YouTube associating the Supreme Leader’s fate with that of former Egyptian President Mubarak and Tunisian leader Ben Ali. Both Mousavi and Karroubi have also decided to maintain the controversial theme of “loyalty to the Late Imam’s [Ayatollah Khomeini] Values”. Mousavi’s alleged communique even said that such loyalty is the sole desire of the protestors, a comment which completely discounts the frequent and clear calls for the termination of the velayat-e faqih doctrine — introduced and brought forward by Khomeini — as principal element in the leadership of the Islamic Republic. (Enduring America)
U.S. follows two paths on unrest in Iran and Bahrain
The Obama administration has responded quite differently to two embattled governments that have beaten protesters and blocked the Internet in recent days to fend off the kind of popular revolt that brought down Egypt’s government.
With Iran — a country under sanctions pursuing a nuclear program that has put it at odds with the West — the administration has all but encouraged protesters to take to the streets. With Bahrain, a strategically important ally across the Persian Gulf from Iran, it has urged its king to address the grievances of his people.
Those two approaches were on vivid display at a news conference on Tuesday.
President Obama accused Iran’s leaders of hypocrisy for first encouraging the protests in Egypt, which they described as a continuation of Iran’s own revolution, and then cracking down on Iranians who used the pretext to come out on the streets. He then urged protesters to muster “the courage to be able to express their yearning for greater freedoms and a more representative government.”
But speaking to other restive countries, including Bahrain, Mr. Obama directed his advice to governments, not protesters, illustrating just how tricky diplomacy in the region has become. He said his administration, in talking to Arab allies, was sending the message that “you have a young, vibrant generation within the Middle East that is looking for greater opportunity; and that if you are governing these countries, you’ve got to get out ahead of change. You can’t be behind the curve.”
Mr. Obama’s words on Iran, on the other hand, were among the strongest he has ever voiced in encouraging a street revolt, something his administration initially shied away from doing in June 2009, after a disputed presidential election provoked an uprising that was crushed by the government. Later, the administration embraced the protests, but by then the “Green Movement” in Iran had been crushed. (New York Times)
From Tunis to Cairo to Riyadh?
In any authoritarian regime, instability seems unthinkable up to the moment of upheaval, and that is true now for Saudi Arabia. But even as American influence recedes across the Middle East, the U.S. soon may face the staggering consequences of instability here, in its most important remaining Arab ally. While a radical regime in Egypt would threaten Israel directly but not America, a radical anti-Western regime in Saudi Arabia—which produces one of every four barrels of oil world-wide—clearly would endanger America as leader of the world economy. (Wall Street Journal — subscription required)
Teen killed as Iraq guards fire into demo
A teenager was killed Wednesday when private guards shot at protesters who set fire to several Iraqi government offices, in the country’s most violent demonstrations since uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia.
The protests, which also left 27 people wounded, took place in the southern city of Kut, capital of Wasit province, with more than 2,000 demonstrators calling for the provincial governor to resign over poor basic services.
The demonstration began at 9:00 am (0600 GMT) and saw protesters set fire to three buildings — the offices of Wasit provincial council, the governorate’s main administrative building and the governor’s official residence.
Policemen and soldiers fired their weapons into the air in a bid to dissuade protesters, while private security guards employed by Wasit council opened fire directly into the crowd, for which a senior policeman pledged punishment.
Majid Mohammed Hassan from Kut hospital’s administrative unit put the toll at one dead and 27 wounded. He said the fatality had been a 16-year-old boy who suffered a bullet to the chest. (AFP)
Libya: Protests ‘rock city of Benghazi’
Hundreds of people have clashed with police and pro-government supporters in the Libyan city of Benghazi, reports say.
Eyewitnesses told the BBC the overnight unrest followed the arrest of an outspoken critic of the government.
The lawyer was later said to have been released but the protests continued. (BBC)
What the hell is happening in Yemen?
Tuesday, Feb. 15: Al-Jazeera again reports 3,000 anti-government protesters. I think they’re mainly pulling this from the AFP (I can’t find their article from Tuesday) at this point. That is definitely untrue. About 500 pro and 500 anti-government demonstrators were at the old campus of Sana’a University. Police were keeping them apart as a few of them threw rocks at each other. They filed out around 1 PM, which is lunch/qat time. The giant police force in the central of the city AJE mentions, again, is the group of Saleh supporters that are camping out in Tahrir, enjoying the complimentary vittles.
Wednesday, Feb. 16: A few colleagues went to both old and new campuses of Sana’a University today and all of them said there were nothing but pro-government demos. Somehow, we end up with this gem form the AP. They claim that THOUSANDS of policemen blocked THOUSANDS of student protesters from Sana’a University from joining THOUSANDS of OTHER student protesters somewhere else in Sana’a. That’s rich…and impossible. This AP article firmly establishes the Yemeni alternate universe, somewhere in a galaxy far, far away. Maybe in that Yemen the Russian Club has reasonably priced drinks? No, impossible.
Keep in mind that this is only in Sana’a. I can confidently say that demonstrations in Taiz and Aden are quite large and the government is probably trying to contain them more violently. What is actually going on in Taiz is a mystery, I don’t know of any journalists at all working in that city. From the pictures I’ve seen and the things I’ve read earlier in the week, I can confidently say that if a revolution is going to take place in Yemen (its still probably won’t) its going to start in Taiz. By all (credible) accounts, the protests in Sana’a are winding down. There are plans for more protests next week. Look to those demonstrations to see if the grassroots movement is really going to take hold in Sana’a. (Jeb Boone)
Yemen, UK discuss security cooperation
Yemen and Britain discussed here on Wednesday aspects of security cooperation and means of boosting them, especially areas of training and combating terrorism and enhancing the coastguard abilities.
This came during a meeting brought together Interior Minister Mutahar al-Masri and British ambassador to Yemen Jonathan Wilks, who touched on arrangements for holding the meeting of Friends of Yemen and the possibility of supporting security aspects .
The British ambassador hailed the performance of the Yemeni security services , especially in the counter-terrorism unity and the coastguard authority. (Saba Net)
Jordan revokes restrictions on public gatherings
Protest marches in Jordan will no longer need government permission, Jordan’s interior minister said Tuesday, bowing to growing pressure to allow wider freedoms.
In street protests in the past five weeks, Muslim opposition groups, their leftist allies and independent rights activists demanded that the government remove restrictions on free speech and assembly.
Jordan’s King Abdullah II responded by promising changes to pertinent laws, including a controversial election law which critics say allows the king’s loyalists to dominate the legislature, the only elected national decision-making body.
Srour said Tuesday that protesters would still have to inform authorities of any gathering two days in advance to “ensure public safety” and that they would have to observe public order. However, he stressed that the government would no longer interfere in such matters. (AP)