Egypt's Minister of Defense General Abdul Fattah el-Sisi, who is also head of the armed forces, said the current political crisis "could lead to a collapse of the state" which could "threaten future generations." His comments were posted on the military's Facebook page after five days of protests and violence have killed an estimated 52 people. Most of the violence has been in Port Said, Ismailia, and Suez, which President Mohamed Morsi declared under emergency law. Thousands of people took to the streets Monday night, ignoring the curfew in the provinces along the Suez Canal. Chaos has been particularly bad in Port Said with deadly clashes between security forces and protesters, who have declared the city independent from the rest of Egypt. Most of the violence had subsided on Tuesday. But, Sisi's statement, coming from the biggest institution in Egypt with a major economic and security role, sent a powerful message. Morsi invited political leaders for a national dialogue on Monday, but the opposition National Salvation Front (NSF) did not participate, citing "unfilled demands." NSF also said talks would be "useless under the status quo."
The bodies of at least 65 people apparently summarily executed were found in the Bustan al-Qasr district of Syria's northern city of Aleppo. According to the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, the people were found mostly with their hands tied behind their backs and with bullet wounds to the head, and they believe the death toll might reach 80. It is unclear who carried out the killings, but both government forces and opposition fighters have been accused of employing such tactics over the course of the two year conflict. Control of Aleppo is roughly split between the Syrian army and the opposition forces, and Bustan al-Qasr has been hotly contested. Additionally, after five days of clashes outside a government intelligence complex in Deir el-Zour, opposition fighters overran the facility, freeing at least 11 people held in a prison there. Meanwhile, the United Nations reported the number of registered refugees who have fled the conflict in Syria has reached about 712,000. The estimate surpassed 500,000 on December 11; more than 200,000 people have fled Syria in the last seven weeks. The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said it is struggling to keep up with the dramatic increase of people mostly entering Jordan, Turkey, Lebanon, Egypt, and North Africa.
Arguments and Analysis
BP and ExxonMobil take up opposite sides of the front lines in Iraq (Steve LeVine, Quartz)
"For more than a year, ExxonMobil has stood as the backbone of Kurdistan politics, validating its independence as a global petro-player. Now, BP has taken up the mantle for the opposing side, shoring up Baghdad in a tense standoff at the city of Kirkuk.
In doing so, it may be the first time in modern oil's century-and-a-half-long history that oil companies have taken up front-line positions as the allies of opposing armies.
In summer 2011, ExxonMobil decided to flout a Baghdad dictum against signing oil deals in Iraq without its permission, and negotiated a rich drilling contract with the autonomous region of Kurdistan. As you can see in the map below from the Independent, the deal encompassed disputed provinces just between Kurdistan and Kirkuk. Kirkuk is the principal fault-line between the two sides, the site of a massive oilfield that both claim."
The Failure of Egyptian Politics (Khaled Elgindy, Tahrir Squared)
"Two years ago, Egyptians from all walks of life-Muslims and Christians, men and women, rich and poor, young and old-stood side-by-side and shoulder-to-shoulder in Cairo's Tahrir Square to demand an end to sixty years of dictatorship. This week, as Egyptians mark the second anniversary of the revolution, the contrast between the iconic images that defined the eighteen-day uprising and where Egypt is today could not be more stark.
Two years after launching their historic revolution, Egyptians are more divided than ever, and as the weekend's deadly clashes have shown, violence has become the rule rather than the exception at Egyptian protests. Beneath the surface of the ever-present split between Islamists and non-Islamists that has dominated Egyptian politics for much of the last two years lie a number of other deep and growing fissures in Egyptian society along generational, class, and sectarian lines, and which occasionally erupt into open conflict and violence.
The toxic nature of Egyptian political discourse, framed increasingly in existential and zero-sum terms, continues to inspire violence by both supporters and opponents of the current government, including the violent confrontations surrounding President Morsi's controversial decrees and the crisis over the constitution at the close of 2012. Far from consolidating Egypt's path toward stability and democracy, the election of the country's first civilian president last summer and the adoption of a new constitution last month have only deepened the atmosphere of polarization and mutual delegitimization that has dominated Egypt's transition since the ouster of Hosni Mubarak."
--By Jennifer Parker and Mary Casey
AFP/Getty Images/KHALED DESOUKI
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