CAIRO — Facing the most serious crisis of his presidency, Mohamed Morsi is leaning more closely than ever on his Islamist allies in the Muslim Brotherhood, betting on their political muscle to push through a decisive victory in the referendum on Egypt’s divisive draft constitution.
As tens of thousands chanted for his downfall or even imprisonment in a fourth day of protests outside the presidential palace, Mr. Morsi’s advisers and Brotherhood leaders acknowledged Friday that outside his core base of Islamist supporters he feels increasingly isolated in the political arena and even within his own government. The Brotherhood “is who he can depend on,” said one person close to Mr. Morsi, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations.
Mr. Morsi appears to believe that he and the Brotherhood can deliver a strong vote for the draft constitution in next Saturday’s referendum — strong enough to discredit the opposition, allow him a fresh start and restore some of his authority.
Struggling to quell protests and violence around the country, Mr. Morsi appeared to offer a new concession to his opponents Friday by opening the door to a possible delay in the referendum on the draft constitution, now scheduled for Dec. 15, and even potential revisions by the Islamist-dominated constitutional assembly.
But opposition leaders turned a deaf ear, reiterating their demands to begin an overhaul of the assembly itself. “He has to take these steps, and I hope that he listens to us,” Mohamed ElBaradei, the former United Nations diplomat and coordinator of the opposition front, said Friday in televised response.
But Mr. Morsi’s advisers said he held out little hope of reaching a compromise and planned to continue rallying his Islamist base, a strategy he displayed most vividly in a televised speech to the nation Thursday night. Addressing clashes between his Islamist supporters and their opponents that had killed at least six, Mr. Morsi all but declined to play the unifier, something he could have accomplished by sympathizing equally with those injured or killed on either side.
Instead, he struck the themes with the most resonance to his Islamist supporters, arguing that his backers outside the palace had come under attack by hired thugs paid with “black money” from a conspiracy of loyalists to the ousted president, Hosni Mubarak, and foreign interests determined to thwart the revolution. And he also said that some of the culprits had “direct links” to the political opposition, calling on Egyptians “to stand up to these heinous crimes.”
Mr. Morsi’s turn back toward his Islamist base is a bet that the Brotherhood’s political machine can easily overcome even the re-energized secular opposition. And his advisers argue that achieving even an imperfect constitution will prove his commitment to the democratic rule of law and restore his credibility. But it also contributes to the paralyzing polarization now gripping Egyptian politics. It risks tarnishing both the Constitution and Mr. Morsi as purely partisan and unable to represent all Egyptians. And it makes Mr. Morsi even more dependent on the same insular group that plucked him from anonymity and propelled him to the presidency.
The result could be a hollow victory that perpetuates the instability of the political transition. “O.K., so you will have the referendum on Dec. 15 and you will end up with a ‘yes’ vote,” said Khaled Fahmy, a historian at the American University in Cairo. “On Dec. 16, Egypt will be infinitely more difficult to govern than it already is now.”
Some senior Brotherhood leaders have acknowledged that the bruising battle may hurt their party’s fortunes in the next parliamentary elections, which are set for February if the constitution passes. “I don’t think we will have the same level of trust, and I think our numbers will probably be affected,” one senior Brotherhood leader said Friday, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations.
Some who know Mr. Morsi’s track record as a Brotherhood political leader say his personality may also be a factor. “Morsi is a stubborn guy,” said Shadi Hamid, research director of the Brookings Doha Center and a close observer of the Brotherhood. “He is not known for being very responsive to the people he disagrees with.”
But his advisers say that Mr. Morsi is also singularly dependent on the Brotherhood, Egypt’s best-organized political force, in part because he distrusts his own government, left largely intact after Mr. Mubarak’s exit.
The military has said it will not take sides in the political battle; its generals refused to submit to his authority until three months ago and secured their continued autonomy under the draft charter.
As protesters against the new constitution prepared to march to the presidential palace on Wednesday, Mr. Morsi concluded that he also could not depend on the Interior Ministry to defend it. It had failed to protect more than a dozen Brotherhood offices around the country from attacks over the last two weeks, his advisers said, and he concluded that the ministry’s leaders might step aside rather than take actions that might set off a backlash.
“He called on the Muslim Brotherhood to become a human shield and protect the presidency because he can’t trust the state,” said the Brotherhood leader. “He is isolated.”
The decision led to the night of deadly street fighting between the Brotherhood and its opponents that has only hardened the political divide. The next day, he called out the tanks of the presidential guard, a special unit under his direct control. His advisers say Mr. Morsi is convinced that his opposition in the assembly negotiated in bad faith over provisions of the planned constitution, appearing to agree to compromises only to walk out at the last minute.
Now Brotherhood leaders and some analysts say no compromise would satisfy them.
“The debate is not about the article of the text,” said Essam El-Erian, a senior Brotherhood leader who was in the constituent assembly. “The real debate is, are we going to have a constitution or not? And they are afraid of democracy.”
But as tens of thousands of his opponents rallied outside the presidential palace for a fourth night on Friday, many said they too did not want a compromise because Mr. Morsi had lost all credibility. “We will return you to prison!” demonstrators cried, recalling Mr. Morsi’s months in jail under Mr. Mubarak for his role as a Brotherhood leader. The most common refrain was not about the constitution; it was a call for “the fall of the regime.”
Belgium on Friday raised its terror threat level to the second-highest ahead of the release of a new home-made film on the Internet next week criticising the Prophet Mohammed.
The decision was taken ahead of the release, planned for December 14, of "The Innocent Prophet" which an online trailer says is "from the point of view of an ex-Muslim".
It was produced by former Muslim Imran Firasat in cooperation with infamous American pastor Terry Jones. The film is expected to be extremely provocative. Illustrating this point, when speaking about the film in a trailer launched ahead of its release, Firasat explained: "If we want to know the truth of Islam, we must go deep into the life of Mohamed to find out whether he was a genuine profit sent by God or was he simply a child molester, assassin, and a self-proclaimed profit."
Jones issued a release on his advocacy website stating the intended purpose of the film: "It is our hope and desire that we can present a picture of Muhammad that has possibly not been revealed in the past, that will help people in the Western world, and even Muslims, to better understand this person called Muhammad, his life and teachings. Because as we do that we can better understand Islam and the reaction of Islam around the world as Islam is questioned or criticized."
A British woman who was allegedly kidnapped and gang raped by three men in Dubai has been prosecuted for drinking without a licence, throwing a spotlight on the United Arab Emirates’ archaic legal system, which rights groups say does not do enough to protect victims of sexual assault.
The woman, who cannot be named for legal reasons, claims she was raped repeatedly by the three men who filmed the attack after they lured her into their car as she returned from a night out with friends.
After reporting her ordeal to the police, the 28-year-old found herself in the dock because she admitted she had been drinking earlier that night.
Human Rights Watch has called on the UAE to improve its judicial practices for rape victims, saying those reporting crimes too often end up being charged themselves.
Lulled into a false sense of security by the drinking culture encouraged in the five-star hotels that line the shores of the oil-rich Emirate, expatriates often find themselves on the wrong side of the country’s strict laws. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office says British nationals are more likely to be arrested in the UAE than anywhere else in the world.
Britons who fell foul of UAE laws
Veins Acors, 35, and Michelle Palmer, 37, were charged with unmarried sex and public indecency after having sex on Jumeirah Beach in July, 2008. The couple were sentenced to three months in jail, which was later suspended on appeal.
Ayman Najafi, 24, and Charlotte Lewis, 25, were each sentenced to one month in prison in 2010 after being accused of kissing on the lips in a restaurant. The pair maintained they exchanged a peck on the cheek solely as a greeting.
Businessman Steven Sherriff, 43, was jailed for six months after being accused of pinching a woman’s backside in a bar. Sherriff successfully appealed the verdict but was left in financial ruin after amassing legal bills of up to £70,000.
Rebecca Blake, 29, and Conor McRedmond, 27, were jailed for three months and fined over £1,000 after allegedly having drunken sex in the back of a taxi. The couple denied the charges of unlawful sex and DNA tests later confirmed their innocence.
Game changer : Russian Iskander (SS-26) Mobile Ballistic Missile Delivered to Assadâ€™s Syria
Iskander (SS-26 Stone) Russian Mobile Short Range Balistic Missile
Reza Khalili reported in World Net Daily on Russian deliveries of the Iskander (SS-26 Stone) Mobile Ballistic Missile to Syria, “Russia arms Syria with powerful ballistic missile,”. The Iskander was developed to foil anti-missile defense systems, whether those deployed in Eastern or Central Europe or the Patriot batteries that NATO has just released to Turkey. The US deployed the first Patriot Batteries to Poland in 2010. Syria has criticized Turkey for this deployment. Kahlili notes the threat that Iskander presents to Israel’s missile defense umbrella in the wake of the recent rocket war in Gaza and successful tests of the David Sling intermediate range rocket and missile defense system. Israel had purchased and deployed Patriot batteries following the Scud attacks from Iraq during the First Gulf War in 1991. Kahlili notes:
The [solid fuel] superior Iskander can travel at hypersonic speed of over 1.3 miles per second (Mach 6-7) and has a range of over 280 miles with pinpoint accuracy of destroying targets with its 1,500-pound warhead, a nightmare for any missile defense system.
According to Mashregh, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard media outlet, Russia had warned Turkey not to escalate the situation, but with Turkey’s request for Patriot missiles, it delivered its first shipment of Iskanders to Syria.
Reporting today, Mashregh said the handover occurred when Russian naval logistic vessels docked at Tartus in Syria.
The Iskandar is a surface-to-surface missile that no missile defense system can trace or destroy, Mashregh said. Russia had earlier threatened that should America put its missile defense system in Poland, it would retaliate by placing its Iskander missiles at Kaliningrad, its Baltic Sea port.
Russia’s delivery of Iskanders to Bashar Assad’s embattled regime clearly shows that the security and stability of Syria remains Russia’s red line, Mashregh said. It is unknown how many of these missiles have been delivered but the numbers given are sufficient to destroy any Patriot missiles in Turkey, it said.
The delivery of the missile not only threatens the security of Turkey but also Israel, which would have to recalculate its strategy with its defensive and offensive capabilities.
As reported in a WND exclusive on Dec. 5, Iran’s Islamic regime also sees the toppling of the Assad regime as its red line and has 170 ballistic missiles targeting Tel Aviv in underground missiles
Military Todayreported that Russia had invested $1.2 billion in development and deployment to counter US missile shields in Eastern and Central Europe. Moreover, it has sold 26 Iskander missile systems to Syria. Military Today notes the dangerous versatility of the Iskander (SS-26 Stone);
The Iskander road mobile missile system is equipped with two short-range ballistic missiles, which substantially increases firepower of missile units. Each missile can be independently targeted. System is capable of hitting moving targets, as target coordination can be adjusted while missile is in-flight. The Iskander has several different conventional warheads, including cluster, fuel-air explosive, bunker-busting and electro-magnetic pulse. Minimum firing range is 50 km.
The Iskander was designed to overcome air defense systems. Missile files at supersonic speed, excessively maneuvers in the terminal phase of the flight and releases decoys. In some cases this ballistic missile can be used as an alternative to precision bombing.
Missiles can be launched 16 minutes from traveling or 4 minutes from highest readiness. The second minute can be launched after less than a minute.
Given the deteriorating situation in Syria, if the Iskander (SS-26 Missiles) were to fall into al Qaeda, al-Husra or Jundallah Islamist militia hands in the fundamentalist opposition that would constitute a serious threat to Israel’s yet to be completed missile defense umbrella. The David’s Sling intermediate range defense system will be deployed in 2013 and 2014.
Watch this video of the Iskander (SS-26) Mobile Short Range Ballistic Missile.
Hezbollah's Abdul Latif Fneish, Behaving Just As You Would Expect
Yasser Arafat may have been, relative to what he had to work with, which was billions in aid from the Infidels rather than trillions in undeserved oil-and-gas revenues, the most corrupt and avaricious of all the recent Muslim Arab leaders. Certainly he was far ahead even of Qaddafy, Ben Ali, and Mubarak. And his example has been followed by Mahmoud Abbas and other PLO henchmen. And by Hamas rulers.
And by Hezbollah, too, whose operatives in the West raise money through drugs, car-stealing, and so on. It's what they know best, and besides, the Infidels owe it to them. It's the Jizyah they think they have a right to collect.
From The Daily Star:
Brother of Hezbollah minister charged in drugs scandal
BEIRUT: A brother of Hezbollah Minister Mohammad Fneish was one of seven people to be charged Saturday over the recent case of illegally imported drugs into the country, judicial sources said.
Judge Claude Karam, the public prosecutor for Mount Lebanon, filed charges against seven people, including Abdul Latif Fneish, in the case where illegally imported drugs entered the market through the forging of documents.
The charges filed Saturday included for forging official documents and laboratory reports as well as putting public health at risk by allowing unlicensed drugs into the country and distributing them in the market, the sources said.
The case of illegally imported drugs was brought to light in early November by Future MP Atef Majdalani who said over 100 types of drugs had been illegally imported into the country with forged stamps, health minister signatures and Beirut Arab University laboratory tests.
Referring to the 62 medicines whose documents were discovered to be forged in October by the Beirut Arab University, Health Minister Ali Hasan Khalil said Thursday that all the warehouses involved in the scandal have been shut down and that the drugs were confiscated.
However, Majdalani insists that several hundred other types of medicines were in the country thanks to forged paperwork.
Soon after the scandal came to light, Hezbollah State Minister Mohammad Fneish issued a statement saying he would not protect anyone found guilty in the case.
MIAMI — Mera Rubell was taking time out from greeting the hundreds of visitors at her family’s sprawling contemporary art center here to vent.
“It’s the height of arrogance to dismiss — — ,” she began.
Jason, her son, interrupted: “It’s arrogance. It’s a completely uninteresting story.”
For the moment her husband, Don, had given up on trying to get a word in.
The Rubells, deans of Miami’s bustling art scene, were pushing back against a chorus of complaints that has been growing louder in the weeks leading up to Art Basel Miami Beach, the annual art pilgrimage that began Wednesday and ends Sunday.
Prominent art writers and critics, including Sarah Thornton, Felix Salmon, Will Gompertz and Dave Hickey, have been attacking the art world, arguing that the staggering sums of money being spent on works are distorting judgments about art and undermining its long-term cultural significance.
“Money talks loudly and easily drowns out other meanings,” Ms. Thornton wrote in TAR magazine in a recent article, “Top 10 Reasons NOT to Write About the Art Market.”
In its special edition for the opening day of the fair, The Art Newspaper asked whether “the art world is facing a crisis of values” because of the “pernicious influence of the market on art.”
And in the eyes of many critics, Art Basel Miami Beach — or what Simon Doonan, writing in Slate last week, labeled a “promo-party cheese-fest” — has become a symbol of everything that’s wrong with the art market. The fair’s extraordinary success in just over a decade, and its celebration of wretched excess, have triggered a backlash.
But the Rubells, along with a growing number of other prominent collectors, art dealers and curators, are having none of it. The backlash against the backlash has begun.
“The market supports artists,” Jason Rubell said. Given the limited amount of government support for the arts, he added, “it’s an industry that without commerce doesn’t exist. What do people want — to go back to the recession?”
Ms. Rubell was annoyed that critics seemed to ignore the social, economic and cultural transformation of Miami that the fair and collectors like her have helped bring about. She noted that the Rubells’ 45,000-square-foot art center — where one huge gallery is now filled with works by Oscar Murillo, a 26-year-old Colombian immigrant who lived with and was supported by the Rubells while he created dozens of mural-sized canvases — used to be a Drug Enforcement Administration storage center.
Outside, in the center’s courtyard, visitors like Martha Stewart admired the French artist Bernar Venet’s collaboration with Bugatti, the superluxury sports car brand, on a one-of-a-kind Veyron Grand Sport Venet car (a price hasn’t been set, a Bugatti spokeswoman said, but will undoubtedly be in “the higher end of the millions”).
“I’m grateful to Bugatti, Perrier, Bank of America and other companies,” Ms. Rubell declared. “Their support helps facilitate quality programs and opens exhibits like this” — the Murillo show — “to the public.”
In Miami Beach, at the main fair, the consumer-oriented glitter abounds this week: coffee carts with $20-a-glass Ruinart Champagne; Davidoff cigar rollers; BMW’s artist-designed cars; and Takashi Murakami’s $70,000-and-up commissioned portraits. One could almost imagine that the Barbara Kruger work on display at L&M gallery — a super-sized sign reading “Greedy” on one line and an unprintable expletive on the next — had an invisible subtitle telling the wealthy V.I.P.’s who had come to shop, “I’m Talking to You — Yeah, You!”
Of course, rich patrons have always supported artists, Don Rubell pointed out, from the pharaohs to the Medicis. Today, multimillion-dollar sales represent only a silk-thin layer of a deeply varied and thriving art market. The art world, Mr. Rubell asserted, is “actually becoming more democratic.”
“There’s 20 ancillary fairs” in addition to the high-end main event of Art Basel, he said. “Whatever amount of money you have in your pocket, you can enter this magical world of art.”
The notion that the art market contains multitudes is one with which Marc Glimcher, part of the family dynasty that runs the Pace Gallery, said he agreed.
Sure, he said, there are examples of galleries turning into distribution networks for rich collectors who want what their friends — or rivals — have. It used to be that an artist or gallery would immediately do the opposite of what people were clamoring for, but now, he said, “every foyer in New York City” needs the same painting.
But Mr. Glimcher maintained that there were essentially as many markets as there were individual works of art and that more people than ever before had developed an appreciation for art.
The art market “isn’t like a child we’re all bringing up,” he said, summarizing some of the points he made in a public talk at the fair on Thursday. Rather, he compared it to the African savanna, where lions eat antelopes and every beast is looking for a niche of its own in which to survive.
In another aisle on the fair floor, the New York dealer Fergus McCaffrey said he thought that concerns about the future of art were overwrought. “Miami is a bling-bling kind of place, and there’s a lot of money,” he said, “but real art is happening.”
Still, many in the art world worry that even if superpowered collectors play a useful role in the market, they also exert a disproportionate influence on it. Their particular tastes, however idiosyncratic, can cause a middling artist to be elevated and a great one to be neglected, that argument goes.
“Everything is consumption, and the galleries are very hungry for money,” said Magda Baltoyanni, a dealer from Greece, while resting for a moment in the collectors lounge. “Galleries run the game now, not the museums.”
But powerful collectors, from Eli Broad to Rosa de la Cruz, resisted this notion. “I don’t consider myself a tastemaker,” said Mr. Broad, who founded a new museum at Michigan State University and is opening another in downtown Los Angeles in 2014, and whose foundation regularly donates and lends some of its 1,800-work collection to hundreds of museums. Mr. Broad was at No. 10 this year in Art + Auction magazine’s list of the art world’s most powerful people, which was released on the fair’s opening day.
Enno Scholma, chairman of the Museum Ludwig in Cologne, said he rooted for ambitious collectors like Mr. Broad.
“Here, there is an incredibly choosy public that is committed to buying at the top — we need them for the art market to work,” he said. He added that he loved the bravado of the collectors who come to Miami Beach.
“They’re not sissies,” he said, and “that is essential.”