Egypt shares Trump’s concerns about Iran

A general view of the Bushehr nuclear power plant, some 1,200 km south of Tehran, in this October 26, 2010 file photo. (REUTERS)
Updated 17 October 2017
0

Egypt shares Trump’s concerns about Iran

CAIRO: Egypt has stated its support for US President Donald Trump’s concerns regarding Iranian threats to regional security.
In a statement issued on Sunday, the Egyptian Foreign Ministry reiterated “Egypt’s deep concern regarding Iranian policies which lead to the instability of regional states and affect Arab national security as well as Gulf security.”
The ministry added that the security of the Gulf was “an extension of the national security of Egypt.”
The statement came after Trump decided to decertify Iran’s compliance with the nuclear agreement signed between Iran, the US, the UK, China, Germany, France and Russia in 2015. Trump asked the US Treasury Department to impose “harsh sanctions” on the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), whom he accused of supporting regional terrorist groups.
Trump urged Congress and US allies to find a solution, which guarantees stronger conditions in the nuclear agreement with Iran, in order to ensure its sustainability, to prevent Iran from possessing nuclear weapons, and to limit its destabilizing conduct.
Egyptian Foreign Ministry spokesman, Ahmad Abu Zeid, told Arab News that Trump’s announcement contained many factors, which explain Egypt’s concern regarding Iranian policies.
He reiterated how important Egypt feels it is that the Middle East is a nuclear-free zone, and that it remains free from “other weapons of mass destruction.”
He added that Iran should stop meddling in the internal affairs of Arab countries. “All of which would enhance the stability of the Middle East and help achieve sustainable solutions for the current crises,” he said.
“Egypt is worried about constant Iranian threats to the security and stability of some GCC countries, like Kuwait and Bahrain, due to the relations of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards with some groups which seek to undermine the security and stability of those countries,” Mohammad Abbas Nagi, editor-in-chief of Iranian Selections magazine, told Arab News.
Dr. Mu’taz Salamah, director of the Arabian Gulf program at Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies (ACPSS), told Arab News that he notices a “leap” in the Egyptian statement with regards to the country’s traditional commitment to the security of the Gulf.
Egyptian rhetoric had previously not singled any country out, he explained. But the recent statement specifically highlighted negative Iranian interference.
Nagi explained that lifting restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program after 10 years cold expose the region to danger from both Israel and Iran. “Cairo is concerned about reports regarding Iranian attempts to circumvent the nuclear agreement and preserve a secret military side to its nuclear program,” he said.
However, Egypt is not critical of the 2015 agreement, according to Dr. Iman Ragab, regional security expert at ACPSS.
Ragab said Egypt welcomed the nuclear agreement and considered it in the interest of regional stability. The ministry’s statement, he believes, is an attempt to convince Iran to change its policies toward its neighbors.
Dr. Ahmad Youssef, a political science professor at Cairo University, told Arab News that the Arab initiative is an ideal framework for dealing with Iranian threats.
He added that Egyptian-Gulf awareness of these threats is more consistent than America’s shifting policies regarding Iran, and warned that total investment in any US strategy could be risky.
“We cannot control the results of changing American policies, especially when the US adopts a policy which does not conform with Arab interests,” he said. A sudden change in Trump’s position cannot be ruled out, especially considering the opposition he faces not only from Democrats, but from within his own administration, he added.
Nagi, meanwhile, pointed out that the strategy presented in Trump’s speech has not yet translated into procedural steps on the ground, and that process could take a long time.
Before Trump’s address on Friday, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson clarified that Trump’s decertification of Iran’s compliance with the terms of the nuclear agreement would not mean withdrawing from the agreement. Tillerson added that the Trump administration would not ask Congress to re-impose sanctions on Iran, as that would be “tantamount to walking away” from the agreement.
Tillerson said that he discussed with his Iranian counterpart, Javad Zarif, the possibility of reaching a new agreement “alongside the 2015 accord” dealing with the “sunset clause” (the lifting of restrictions on Iran’s nuclear enrichment program after 2025) and the Iranian ballistic missile program.
While he expected the imposition of additional sanctions against the funding structures of the Revolutionary Guard and some of its elements, Tillerson ruled out the possibility of classifying it as a terrorist organization because of specific dangers and complications associated with categorizing any country’s army in that way.


Egypt restricts yellow vests sales to avoid copycat protests

Updated 4 min 39 sec ago
0

Egypt restricts yellow vests sales to avoid copycat protests

  • Egypt has virtually banned protests, and the general-turned-president El-Sisi often warns that his tough hand ensuring stability is necessary
  • The yellow vests worn by French protesters have become the symbol of the wave of demonstrations that began in November

CAIRO: Egyptian authorities have quietly introduced restrictions on the sale of yellow reflective vests, fearing opponents might attempt to copy French protesters during next month’s anniversary of the 2011 popular uprising that toppled autocrat Hosni Mubarak, security officials and retailers said Monday.
They said industrial safety equipment dealers have been instructed not to sell yellow vests to walk-in buyers and to restrict business to wholesale sales to verified companies, but only after securing police permission. They were told offenders would be punished, the officials said without elaborating.
Six retailers in a Cairo downtown area where industrial safety stores are concentrated said they were no longer selling yellow vests. Two declined to sell them, giving no explanation, but the remaining four told The Associated Press they were told not to by police.
“They seem not to want anyone to do what they are doing in France,” said one retailer. “The police came here a few days back and told us to stop selling them. When we asked why, they said they were acting on instructions,” said another. Both spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals.
Security officials said the restrictions would remain in force until the end of January. They said industrial safety product importers and wholesale merchants were summoned to a meeting with senior police officers in Cairo this week and informed of the rules.
The officials, who have first-hand knowledge of the measures, spoke on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to brief the media. Repeated calls and messages to the spokesman of the Interior Ministry, which oversees the police, to seek comment went unanswered.
The move showcases the depth of the Egyptian government’s concern with security. The past two years, Egyptian authorities clamped down heavily, deploying police and soldiers across the country, to prevent any marches to commemorate the Jan. 25 anniversary of the start of the 2011 uprising. Scores were killed and wounded in clashes during the uprising anniversaries in years before that.
The yellow vests worn by French protesters have become the symbol of the wave of demonstrations that began in November against a rise in fuel taxes but mushroomed to include a range of demands, including the resignation of President Emmanuel Macron.
Egyptian media coverage of the unrest has emphasized the ensuing riots, looting and arson in Paris, echoing President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi’s frequent refrain that street action leads to chaos. He recently outright denounced for the first time the 2011 uprising, saying it plunged the country into economic and political turmoil.
Egypt has virtually banned protests, and the general-turned-president El-Sisi often warns that his tough hand ensuring stability is necessary, pointing to war and destruction in Syria, Yemen and Libya as the alternative. His emphasis on security has taken on added significance amid his ambitious program to reform the economy, which has unleashed steep price hikes, hitting the middle class hard.
Since El-Sisi rose to office in 2014, there have been no significant protests. Still, the government is constantly wary they could return, especially given that the 2011 protests erupted as part of a chain reaction, inspired by Tunisia’s “Arab Spring” uprising.
Rights lawyer Gamal Eid said his Cairo-based Arab Network for Human Rights Information has seen a recent spike in small “social protests,” with the privatization of state-owned enterprises the main issue.
“The government here is talking up its achievements, but it fears a backlash because ordinary people have yet to tangibly benefit from the mega projects underway,” said Eid, who is banned by authorities from traveling while his group’s online site is blocked by the government.
Negad Borai, another rights lawyer, said the government could delay expected price hikes next year “to avoid protests inspired by what’s happening in France.”
El-Sisi led the military’s 2013 ouster of a freely elected but divisive president. He was elected in 2014 and, earlier this year, won a second-term, running virtually unopposed. He has overseen the largest crackdown on critics seen in Egypt in living memory, jailing thousands of Islamists along with pro-democracy activists, reversing freedoms won in the 2011 uprising, silencing critics and placing draconian rules on rights groups.