Egypt MP seeks end to constitutional restrictions on presidential terms

A handout picture released by the Egyptian Presidency on Sunday shows Egyptian President Abdel Fattah E-Sissi (R) meeting with General Joseph Votel, Commander of the US Central Command, at the presidential palace in the capital Cairo. (AFP / Egyptian Presidency handout photo)
Updated 26 February 2017
0

Egypt MP seeks end to constitutional restrictions on presidential terms

CAIRO, Egypt: An Egyptian lawmaker started collecting signatures on Sunday for a motion to extend presidential terms and lift restrictions on re-election — a year before general-turned-president Abdel Fattah El-Sisi’s first term is due to expire.
As defense minister, Sissi overthrew elected President Mohammed Mursi, a Muslim Brotherhood official, in mid-2013 following mass protests against his rule and launched a crackdown on Egypt’s oldest Islamist movement.
El-Sissi, now 62, went on to win a presidential vote in 2014. He has not said whether he will seek re-election when his current term ends in 2018, but has made much of his popular mandate and promised to respect the will of Egyptians.
The move by independent lawmaker Ismail Nasreddine to amend article 140 of the constitution would enable Sissi to stay in power longer than the two four-year terms currently permitted.
But the process is still at an early stage. Nasreddine, a low-profile lawmaker, will need the support of 20 percent of MPs to table a discussion on the issue in parliament.
“It will be the right of the president to nominate himself for the office as he wishes... and the right of the people to choose him or reject him,” Nasreddine told reporters, adding that he would begin putting the idea to lawmakers on Sunday.
Even if he is able to push an amendment through parliament by the required two-thirds majority, the constitution also stipulates that any revision be approved by popular referendum.
There was no immediate comment from Sissi’s office.
Sissi has sought to roll back freedoms won during the 2011 uprising that ended Hosni Mubarak’s 30-year rule, promising to restore stability to Egyptians fed up with years of political tumult.
The right to protest has been restricted while democracy and rights groups say they face growing government pressure and accuse Sissi of clamping down on political expression.
Egypt’s last elections took place in late 2015, ushering in the first lawmakers since an Islamist-dominated parliament elected after the 2011 revolt was dissolved by a court in 2012.
The elections saw an electoral bloc loyal to Sissi sweep to victory. On the eve of those elections, the head of the pro-Sissi bloc, told Reuters loyalist lawmakers would likely seek to amend the constitution to further empower the presidency and scale back powers vested in parliament. (Reporting by Mohamed Abdellah, Nashaat Hamdi and Ahmed Tolba)


Cybersecurity firm: More Iran hacks as US sanctions loom

Alister Shepherd, the director of a subsidiary of FireEye, during a presentation about the APT33 in Dubai Tuesday. (AP)
Updated 20 September 2018
0

Cybersecurity firm: More Iran hacks as US sanctions loom

  • The firm warns that this raises the danger level ahead of America re-imposing crushing sanctions on Iran’s oil industry in early November.
  • Iran’s mission to the UN rejected FireEye’s report, calling it “categorically false.”

DUBAI: An Iranian government-aligned group of hackers launched a major campaign targeting Mideast energy firms and others ahead of US sanctions on Iran, a cybersecurity firm said Tuesday, warning further attacks remain possible as America reimposes others on Tehran.

While the firm FireEye says the so-called “spear-phishing” email campaign only involves hackers stealing information from infected computers, it involves a similar type of malware previously used to inject a program that destroyed tens of thousands of terminals in Saudi Arabia.

The firm warns that this raises the danger level ahead of America re-imposing crushing sanctions on Iran’s oil industry in early November.

“Whenever we see Iranian threat groups active in this region, particularly in line with geopolitical events, we have to be concerned they might either be engaged in or pre-positioning for a disruptive attack,” Alister Shepherd, a director for a FireEye subsidiary, told The Associated Press.

Iran’s mission to the UN rejected FireEye’s report, calling it “categorically false.”

“Iran’s cyber capabilities are purely defensive, and these claims made by private firms are a form of false advertising designed to attract clients,” the mission said in a statement. “They should not be taken at face value.”

FireEye, which often works with governments and large corporations, refers to the group of Iranian hackers as APT33, an acronym for “advanced persistent threat.” APT33 used phishing email attacks with fake job opportunities to gain access to the companies affected, faking domain names to make the messages look legitimate. Analysts described the emails as “spear-phishing” as they appear targeted in nature.

FireEye first discussed the group last year around the same time. This year, the company briefed journalists after offering presentations to potential government clients in Dubai at a luxury hotel and yacht club on the man-made, sea-horse-shaped Daria Island.

While acknowledging their sales pitch, FireEye warned of the danger such Iranian government-aligned hacking groups pose. Iran is believed to be behind the spread of Shamoon in 2012, which hit Saudi Arabian Oil Co. and Qatari natural gas producer RasGas. The virus deleted hard drives and then displayed a picture of a burning American flag on computer screens. Saudi Aramco ultimately shut down its network and destroyed over 30,000 computers.

A second version of Shamoon raced through Saudi government computers in late 2016, this time making the destroyed computers display a photograph of the body of 3-year-old Syrian boy Aylan Kurdi, who drowned fleeing his country’s civil war.

But Iran first found itself as a victim of a cyberattack. Iran developed its cyber capabilities in 2011 after the Stuxnet computer virus destroyed thousands of centrifuges involved in Iran’s contested nuclear program. Stuxnet is widely believed to be an American and Israeli creation.

APT33’s emails haven’t been destructive. However, from July 2 through July 29, FireEye saw “a by-factors-of-10 increase” in the number of emails the group sent targeting their clients, Shepherd said.