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Egypt Tag

Even before the bloody beginning of July, U.S. defense authorities had at least one eye focused on Egypt's Sinai peninsula---and now, they're stepping in to make sure that ISIS doesn't gain a more solid foothold in the region. Late last week, a militant arm claiming loyalty to the Islamic State took responsibility for a missile attack on an Egyptian frigate in the Mediterranean. The group claims it used a missile to blow the ship up, but as Time magazine reports, that claim is disputed by Egyptian officials who have said that the frigate was merely set on fire and saw no loss of life. SITE Intel Group posted pictures of the attack to Twitter: Footage, allegedly released by ISIS and showing the attack on the frigate, can be seen here.

Is this officially a series now? We've done Paris, Britain, Copenhagen and Malmö, where people walking the street dressed in attire indicating they are religious Jews face street harassment, mostly by Muslim young men. We also did Montevideo, where the reaction was positive. Here's Cairo, as the Jerusalem Post reports:
An Egyptian journalist conducted an experiment in which he dressed up as a Jew and asked passersby on the streets of Cairo for directions to a nearby synagogue - with nearly serious consequences for his physical safety. The Cairo-based Internet news site DOTMSR sent the journalist to the streets of Cairo dressed in overtly Hassidic garb - sidecurls, skullcap, beard, and a hat. The “Jewish” journalist was then subjected to threats of violence, epithets, slurs, and shoving from hostile locals.... DOTMSR is an Arab-language Internet news site “that broadcasts high-quality news items in Arabic.” It describes itself as a news outlet that “believes in openness, innovation, and an obligation to accepting those who are different.”

The ancient Egyptians worshipped divine bulls...and now it seems to be paying off! The country's stock market has gone bullish after it halted capital gains taxes.
Egypt suspended a capital gains tax on Monday, sending shares soaring after a months-long downturn in which investors had complained of a lack of clarity about the new taxes, with some even taking the government to court. Immediately after the announcement, Egypt's EGX 30 index rose 3.3 percent to 8562.07, according to Egypt's official news agency. By late afternoon, shares were up 6.5 percent. President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi approved a law nearly a year ago which placed a 10 percent tax on capital gains, fueling a sell-off by investors in an economy already battered by years of political unrest since the 2011 uprising. The law had been part of a broader government effort to broaden the tax base as it pushed through a host of tough measures, including slashing fuel subsidies, amending the property tax law, imposing a 10 percent tax on stock dividends and allowing the Egyptian pound to devalue somewhat against the dollar.
Contrast that with President Obama, who used America's moms as an excuse to propose capital gains tax increases.
In a wide-ranging interview with Vox, Obama discusses his proposal to raise capital gains taxes on couples making more than $500,000 a year to help pay for middle-class tax breaks. The rate would go from 23.8% to 28%. Obama tells Vox’s Ezra Klein the capital-gains proposal “would make a big difference in our capacity to give a tax break to working moms for child care.” And, says Obama: “There’s no evidence that would hurt the incentives of folks at Google or Microsoft or Uber not to invent what they invent or not to provide services they provide.”

Amid all the violence and chaos on the streets of Baltimore, I thought I would check on the status of the chaos and violence in Libya. The last time we reported about the region, Egypt's commandos were striking ISIS, its air force was bombing terror strongholds, and its President, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, was calling for a United Nations resolution mandating an international coalition to intervene. As one might have projected, the UN response has been less than robust. So, Egypt is planning another operation.
Egypt reportedly is preparing a large-scale ground and air assault along the Libyan border to oust the Islamic State group from eastern Libya. DebkaFile, quoting military and intelligence sources, said naval and marine forces are assembling at Egypt's Mediterranean ports for a possible assault on Derna, the militants' provincial capital. DebkaFile noted the Islamic State group, also known as ISIS, represents an unacceptable threat to Egypt, and President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi has been warned extremists already have penetrated some Egyptian towns and military units. ISIS fighters are being smuggled through the Sinai Peninsula and Egypt from Syria and Iraq by drug rings, DebkaFile said.

Russia's Vladimir Putin isn't letting the untimely death of an opposition leader distract him from creating Soviet Empire version 2.0. With the Obama Administration suggesting jobs as a solution to ISIS and its brutal ambitions, the Russian leader seems to be forging a key alliance with two countries that are extremely concerned about the terrorist take-over of Libya.
Various unconfirmed reports are emerging indicating that there may be joint international action planned in Libya as early as next week. Egypt is already conducting air strikes against ISIS-linked targets in Derna, close to where Egyptian Coptics were massacred recently, as displayed in a gruesome video. Debka reports that Egypt’s president Abdel al-Fattah al-Sisi is planning further action in Libya, including more air strikes and possible ground troops, within a few days. According to the report, Egyptian commando and marine forces are preparing for sea landings to seize Derna and destroy the terrorist elements there. If this attack is actually launched, it will be the first time in modern times that an Arab country has sent ground forces into another Arab country. Al-Jazeera television reports that the Italian navy is getting ready to carry off sophisticated military drills off the coast of Libya as early as Monday. Although Italy claims that it will be a regular exercise, there are many more vessels taking part in this year’s exercise than have in the past, which Italy explains by saying that they are testing out sophisticated new technologies. ...Some reports indicate that Russia has hinted at a willingness to participate in a naval blockade of Libya to prevent arm supplies from leaving Libya for other countries. Russia could play a role in this because it already has a naval fleet in the Mediterranean.

Egyptian warplanes have bombed ISIS strongholds in the neighboring country of Libya.
Egypt’s air force bombed ISIS targets in Libya at dawn on Monday, a day after the militant group released a video purporting to show the execution of 21 Egyptian Copts there. "Your armed forces on Monday carried out focused air strikes in Libya against Daesh camps, places of gathering and training, and weapons depots," the military said in a statement, using the Arabic acronym for ISIS. It was the first time Egypt confirmed launching air strikes against the group in neighboring Libya, suggesting President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi is ready to escalate his battle against militants seeking to topple his government.
The airstrikes killed 50 militants and destroyed training bases and weapons stockpiles. Egyptian Copts featured in the video that preceded the strikes had been working in Libya and were kidnapped over the course of 2 months, then beheaded by the terror group. Shortly before the jets took off, Egypt's President Abdel el-Sisi said Cairo “reserved the right to respond in any way” to the butchery.

I am happy to see that King Abdullah's robust response to ISIS terror is not being debated for its proportionality; and while I hope that these new metrics are eventually applied to Israel, a look at Egypt indicates that it may soon follow Jordan's lead in the "proportionate" reaction to the savagery of Islamic extremists. As the United Nations engages in more "brokered talks" among Yemen's political factions, including the Iranian-backed Houthis who recently took over power in in that country, Egyptian officials have expressed their concerns. The head of the Egypt's Suez Canal authority, obviously not comfortable with relying on the United Nations, says that the country will respond militarily if the head of thewaterway is blocked by Yemeni militants.
The head of Egypt's Suez Canal Authority said Wednesday his country would send troops to Yemen in case extremist groups attempt to block Bab Al-Mandab strait that links the Red Sea to the Gulf of Aden, Al-Ahram Arabic news website reported. Lieutenant General Mohab Mamish said that Egypt "will not accept" closure of the waterway which "directly affects the Suez Canal and national security." Mamish said events in Yemen are under constant review and that the military is ready to intervene if the strait is blocked. Most ships that pass through Bab Al-Mandab are either going to or coming from Egypt's Suez Canal, one of the country's main sources of income and foreign currency flow.
A close-up image of the area shows that Egypt has reasons to be concerned: the nation takes in $5 billion annually from the canal.

Egypt has three icons that symbolize its ancient glories: 1) The pyramids 2) The Great Sphinx 3) The golden mask of the boy king, Tutankhamun. And while the pyramids and Great Sphinx are safe from the threat of destruction at the hands of Muslim extremists, the famous mask has been damaged by too much care and concern. There are many versions of how the damage happened, but it seems the beard was accidentally knocked off and epoxy, which is designed for use on stone-work and not metal, was slathered on in the repair attempt. Additionally, the mask was scratched in an attempt to remove excess glue that had smeared. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="540"] (Photo: Mohamed El-Shahed, AFP/Getty Images)[/caption] However, it seems that one of history's greatest treasures can be properly restored to its original glory.

In a truly groundbreaking speech made shortly before the terror attacks in Paris, Egypt’s General-turned-President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi said that Islam was, “…in need of a religious revolution.” In response to the tragic events, he condemned the the slaughter that left 12 dead on Wednesday and pledged Cairo's support to fight terrorism.
The Egyptian leader expressed his condolences to his French counterpart Francois Hollande, the families of the victims and the wounded, his office said in a statement. Sisi, in a telegram sent to Hollande, "expressed the Egyptian people and government's condemnation over the terrorist act that the French capital Paris witnessed today," the statement said. Offering his condolences to the victims' families and the wounded, Sisi said "terrorism is an international phenomenon that should be faced and terminated through joint international efforts".
Historically,  Egypt and France have always been important to each other.  For example, when Napoleon sent an expedition over to that country,it reopened  the area to trade with Europe and made it possible to uncover its rich history. Last November, Sisi was greeted with full military honors when he visited Paris.

It looks like Ferguson isn't the only place experiencing violent protests in the wake of a controversial legal decision. In Cairo, crowds erupted when Egypt's former President Hosni Mubarak was cleared of murder charges.
Egyptian police have used tear gas to disperse protesters angry that charges against ex-President Hosni Mubarak over killings during the uprising three years ago have been dropped. About 2,000 people massed in Cairo's Tahrir Square, the birthplace of the 2011 revolution. At least one person was reported killed in the clashes. Mubarak was originally sentenced to life in jail then cleared in a retrial. In a TV interview after the ruling, Mubarak said he did "nothing wrong". The former president, 86, is serving a separate three-year sentence for embezzlement of public funds.
A video report shows the scale of the demonstrations, and indicates Mubarak may be released early, after serving two-thirds of his corruption sentence. Egypt's current leader is trying to calm the storm.
Egypt's President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi stressed on Sunday that "the new Egypt, born after the January 25 and the June 30 revolutions … cannot move backwards," in a statement issued in reaction to the acquittal of former President Hosni Mubarak.

Update: Looks like the fighting is on again after Hamas and/or other Gaza groups started firing rockets into Israel even before the prior truce was over. The question is, how much will it escalate? More updates and coverage in live video and Twitter feeds at bottom of post:

Live Video and Twitter feed at bottom of post Breaking reports out of Egypt indicate that the various "Palestinian factions" have agreed to a 72-hour unconditional truce. This was the original Egyptian proposal which was rejected by Hamas more than two weeks and over 1000 lives ago. Israel reportedly will agree, as it has multiple times before. Let's see if Hamas again uses the truce as an opportunity to launch more surprise attacks.

Prof. Jacobson posted yesterday that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accepted an Egyptian ceasefire proposal. This morning Israel's security cabinet accepted the Egyptian proposal. The New York Times reports:
Israel has accepted Egypt’s proposal for a cessation of hostilities with Hamas and other militant Palestinian groups in the Gaza Strip, the prime minister’s office announced at 9 a.m. on Tuesday, the appointed hour for the start of the cease-fire in the proposal made by Cairo on Monday night. “In accordance with the government directives, the I.D.F. now holds fire,” Lt. Col. Peter Lerner, a military spokesman, said in a statement nearly two hours later, using the abbreviation for the Israel Defense Forces. “We remain alert and preserve high preparedness levels, both defensive and offensive. If the Hamas terror organization will fire at Israel, we shall respond.”
Hamas, as The Washington Post reported, rejected the Egyptian proposal.
A senior Hamas official, Sami Abu Zuhri, called the proposal “unacceptable” and complained that Egyptians have not spoken with the Gaza leadership. The group’s armed wing, the Qassam Brigade, wrote on its Web site that the initiative was “not worth the ink it was written with” and “the resistance will continue until all the demands of our people are met.”
Arutz-7 reports that according to the IDF approximately 35 rockets have been fired into Israel since the ceasefire. One hit a house in Ashdod but there were no injuries:

Egypt has offered a cease fire proposal, as reported by Haaretz at its live blog (times are Israel time):
10:29 P.M. Sources in the Egyptian Foreign Ministry say Egypt has proposed a cease-fire outline to Israel and Gaza: The cease-fire will start at 9 A.M., meaning Israel will stop aerial, naval and ground operations against the Gaza Strip and promise not to engage in a ground offensive or harm civilians. At the same time, all the Palestinian factions will hold their fire. Crossings between Gaza and Israel will be reopened, and restrictions on the passage of commodities and people will be eased, in return for a halt to hostilities. Within 48 hours after the cease-fire, Israeli and Palestinian delegations will arrive in Cairo for continued indirect talks to discuss the details of the truce and its implementation. Egypt will receive guaranties from both sides, and promises to implement the outline. (Jack Khoury) 11:14 P.M. Israel's security cabinet will meet Tuesday morning to discuss the Egyptian cease-fire proposal. A senior minister in the cabinet said that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accepts the Egyptian offer and will bring it to a vote in the meeting that will take place on Tuesday at 7 A.M. "This is a basic proposal that can be accepted as a starting point and after that further discussions on the specifics can be held," the minister said. (Barak Ravid)
This presents an obvious problem for Hamas.

While America's attention has been focused on Iraq, it is easy to forget the month before we were concerned about Russian interventions in the Ukraine and Crimea. On another one of his #SmartPower/vacation tours, President Obama in early June went to Poland to promise that he would send aidto address tensions in the region.
U.S. President Barack Obama promised beef up military support for eastern European members of the NATO alliance who fear they could be next in the firing line after the Kremlin's intervention in Ukraine. Under attack from critics at home who say his leadership on the world stage has not been muscular enough, Obama unveiled plans to spend up to $1 billion in supporting and training the armed forces of NATO states on Russia's borders. The White House also said it would review permanent troop deployments in Europe in the light of the Ukraine crisis -- though that fell short of a firm commitment to put troops on the ground that Poland and some of its neighbors had sought.
This is in addition to the U.S. Army paratroopers who were sent to Poland in April for a series of military exercises in four countries across Eastern Europe to counter the crisis in Ukraine. However, it seems that in some quarters of that country, Polish opinion of our assistance is on par with the substantially decreased popularity of our Commander-in-Chief. A Polish news magazine provided excerpts of a secretly recorded conversation with Foreign Minister Radek Sikorski, during which he called his country's ties with the US "worthless".
According to a transcript of excerpts of the conversation that was published by Wprost on its Internet site, Sikorski told Rostowski: "You know that the Polish-US alliance isn't worth anything." "It is downright harmful, because it creates a false sense of security ... Complete bullshit. We'll get in conflict with the Germans, Russians and we'll think that everything is super, because we gave the Americans a blow job. Losers. Complete losers."

In Egypt, it looks like they have opted to go BIG:
A judge in Egypt on Monday sentenced to death 683 alleged supporters of the country's ousted Islamist president in the latest mass trial that included the Muslim Brotherhood's spiritual leader, defense lawyers said. But in a surprise reversal, the same judge also reduced most of the death sentences handed to 529 defendants in a similar case in March, commuting the majority of them on Monday to life imprisonment. The judge, Said Youssef, said he was referring his ruling on the 683 death sentences for violence and the killing of policemen to the Grand Mufti, the top Islamic official -- a requirement under Egyptian law, but one that is considered a formality. Both mass trials are linked to deadly riots that erupted in Minya and elsewhere in Egypt after security forces violently disbanded sit-ins held by Brotherhood supporters in Cairo last August.
General Sisi apparently has decided not to win the "hearts and minds" of the Muslim Brotherhood. However, he may be winning the support of his people, who have suffered with enormous civil unrest since "Arab Spring" sprung in 2011.

Throwing reporters in jail is worrisome, even if they are from Al-Jazeera.  Did they commit actual crimes, or is it simply an attempt to silence reporting? Egypt to put 20 journalists on trial on terrorism-related charges
Egypt said 20 Al-Jazeera journalists, including both Egyptians and foreigners, will face trial on terrorism-related charges. Among them are three journalists employed by Al-Jazeera English, the Qatari-based international news channel. Award-winning Australian correspondent Peter Greste, Canadian-Egyptian producer Mohammed Fadel Fahmy, and Egyptian producer Baher Mohammed were arrested on Dec. 29 in a raid on a Cairo hotel room, which the network was using as a temporary bureau. The Egyptian government alleges that 12 of the Al-Jazeera journalists remain at large, while eight are in state custody, including Greste, Fahmy and Baher. Authorities have not set a date for the trial or released the full list of the defendants' names. However, in a statement released by the General Prosecutor's office, the Egyptian defendants have been charged with “crimes of belonging to terrorist organizations violating the law, calling for disrupting the law and preventing state institutions from conducting their affairs, assault on personal liberties of citizens and damaging national unity and social peace.”
The report went on to say: Egypt has become among the most dangerous and difficult places to work for journalists. This cannot be news...especially to CBS reporter Lara Logan. Since the ouster of former President Mohammed Morsi, Field Marshal Abdul Fattah al-Sisi has become extremely popular among his countrymen for his aggressive handling of the Muslim Brotherhood. A video report from CCTV Africa offers some intriguing background: