Featuring the works and commentary of Andrew Bruss

Monday, January 31, 2011

Israeli/Egyptian Peace Treaty Violated… Sort of.

Israel has agreed to let Egypt raise their troop levels in the Sinai Peninsula in light of the protests that have dealt a potentially fatal blow to Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.

Given the tense security situation on Israel's southern border, Egypt can add 800 soldiers to the Sinai Peninsula regardless of the stipulations of their peace treaty.

The past week of protests have resulted in prison breaks that have freed thousands of prisoners. Additionally, the influx of security forces to Cairo and Alexandria left the Rafah Border Crossing between Egypt and the Hamas-dominated Gaza Strip unpatrolled. Hamas operatives are reported to have broken into Egypt in order to assist the Muslim Brotherhood in their opposition to [former?] President Mubarak.

The late Egyptian President Anwar El Sadat worked with then-Prime Minister Menachem Begin and Peanut Farmer Jimmy Carter to build a peace between Israel and Egypt following four wars fought between the two sides. After conquering the territory in 1967, Israel returned the entirety of Sinai to Egypt in exchange for normalized relations, as well as a promise that the peninsula would remain demilitarized.

The 1979 Egypt-Israel Peace Treaty, signed at the White House, has been respected for over 30 years. However, the Muslim Brotherhood has said their first order of business if swept into power would be ending the treaty. Given the political instability facing the most populated country in the Arab World, there is ample reason to assume the long-standing peace may be nearing its end.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Hamas Exaggerates Crisis in Egypt

Photo courtesy of AFP

I received the following alert from STRATFOR: “The Egyptian police are no longer patrolling the Rafah border crossing into Gaza. Hamas armed men are entering into Egypt and are closely collaborating with the Muslim Brotherhood. The Muslim Brotherhood has fully engaged itself in the demonstrations, and they are unsatisfied with the dismissal of the Cabinet. They are insisting on a new Cabinet that does not include members of the ruling National Democratic Party.”

According to hospital reports, 31 deaths are confirmed from in Alexandria alone.

CNN’s Ben Wedemen is reporting that armed thugs are roaming the streets of Cairo and that a truck load of riot police leaving Cairo this morning “looked defeated.”

Following last nights announcement by President Hosni Mubarak that his government would resign (while he stays in power) word on the Egyptian street is that his speech was not met with anger, but with laughter. Mubarak’s move is highly unlikely.

As we speak, protesters are outside the United Stations in New York numbering in the thousands.

This crisis is far from over…

Friday, January 28, 2011

Report: Egyptian police clash with army

Photo courtesy of AP
As we speak, top Egyptian military brass are meeting in the Pentagon, and unconfirmed reports are coming from Al Jazeera  that the Egyptian army is clashing with riot police on the streets of Cairo. Riot police have been brutal in their crackdown on protests, going as far as to shoot live ammunition, causing several deaths.

Although protesters are clearly on the opposite side of the conflict as riot police, the army has been welcomed with open arms. President Mubarak has dispatched the army to impose his curfew but the protesters on the streets are welcoming them as brothers. So far, the army has not seemed interested in violently suppressing protests.

- According to CNN's Fred Pleitgen, protesters at the Information Ministry in Cairo are chanting, "The people and the army, we are one!"

- Delta Airlines has suspended service fo Cairo.

- The U.S. State Department has issued a travel alert to Americans in, or traveling to Egypt.

We are all hands on deck over here at andrewbruss.com and will continue to keep you posted as things in Cario continue to unfold.

In the meantime, here's a video of masses of Egyptian protesters forcing back a line of riot police over a Cairo bridge.

Egyptians hit the streets: Tunisian style

Photo curtesy of Reuters
Egypt has been following in the footsteps of their North African neighbors in Tunisia by taking it to the streets with the goal of overthrowing a long-serving despot. Hosni Mubarak has been at Egypt’s helm since the assassination of his predecessor, Anwar Sadat in the October of 1981. The ruling Egyptian opposition party, the Muslim Brotherhood, is outlawed but has been coming out in en masse to support protests, which as we speak, are torching police stations in Cairo.

The military has imposed an evening curfew on all Egyptian cities, but according to CNN’s Ben Wedeman, tens of thousands of angry Egyptians are defying these orders with extreme prejudice.

After the fall of Tunis, plenty of Middle Eastern observers speculated that the spark that light their revolutionary fire could spread. That appears to be what we’re seeing in Egypt. Israeli officials, always observing their neighbors to the South, speculate that although these protests will cost Mubarak greatly, he has the military force to impose a solution.

The fear in Jerusalem is that Islamists will hijack the pro-democracy movements. Shlomo Brom, director of the program on Israel-Palestinian relations at the INSS told the Jerusalem Post: “It’s true that pro-democracy voices are being expressed – and that is positive – but we don’t know how it will end,” Brom said. "Even in Tunisia, where the Islamists are weak, we don’t know how it will end. We can’t forget that in Iran, at the end of the 1970's, the uprising against the shah was led by [pro-democracy] youths who took the streets – but this was taken over by Islamists in the end.”

Al Jazeera (whose Egyptian offices have been closed by force according to the networks head of new media) are reporting that protests have spread to Jordan, where thousands of reinvigorated protesters are demanding that their Prime Minister steps down. Additionally, tens of thousands of protesters have taken to the streets of Yemen’s capital, demanding the resignation of President Ali Abdullah Saleh after 30 years of power.

Following the fall of Tunis, the speculation was that any follow-up movements would attack the pro-Western dictators throughout the region. With Egypt and Jordan and even Yemen on the brink, the big question is: how much longer can this trend continue without spreading to Saudi Arabia?

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

State of the Union: How Obama got his groove back

The talking heads seem pleased with the President's State of the Union address and I have to agree. Although it took over 50 minutes of his 71 minute speech to even mention Afghanistan, Obama addressed the primary concerns of average Americans: jobs, health care, a toxic political climate, and the misconceived notion that American exceptionalism is dead. The State of the Union address is generally an over glorified pep-rally, but while catering to his audience, Obama assured his electorate that we are still the same innovative country that beat Kremlin Joe to the moon.

Obama’s speech deserves due criticism for making bold claims without offering any specifics. He pledged to make substantial gains in clean energy and deficit reduction, but what the speech lacked in substance was made up for with constructive rhetoric that both sides of the aisle could agree upon.

This year there was no “both sides of the aisle.” In light of the tragedy in Tuscan, members of both parties showed unity by sitting with colleagues from similar areas, or even with similar interests (looking at you congressional women’s baseball team!). The president spent more time talking about respecting our political differences than he spoke about national security, and although that may disgust policy wonks, after two years of bruising political battles over health care, financial reform, Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, and Obama’s birth certificate, the encouragement of civil discourse is something that can ring true with any American.

Following the bruising mid-term elections, plenty of folks speculated that Obama was a one-termer already in a lame duck phase. Obama's second State of the Union proved the opposite. Now that our struggling economy is a burden on both parties’ shoulders, Obama demonstrated less of a partisan tone and vocally embraced Clinton-esque centrism.  Although the new congress was sworn in a few weeks back, tonight was the ceremonial kick-off to the second phase of Obama’s first administration. His approval ratings are up, and now that the Republican obstructionists have taken the House, America gets to see what their president is really made of. 

Monday, January 24, 2011

The Next Hundred Years...

China and Russia will fragment, our energy will come from space, and the United States’ greatest geopolitical competitors will be Turkey and Japan. That is how STRATFOR founder George Friedman predicts things will pan out over the next century. Far from futurism, Freidman bases his predictions on a vast knowledge of global history, as well as statistics pertaining to shipping routs, energy consumption, political cycles and birth rates.

Imagining Turkey as a Eurasian powerhouse isn’t that hard to fathom, but the boldest prediction Freidman makes in The Next 100 Years: A Forecast for the 21st Century is that by 2080, Mexico will be challenging the United States for dominance of North America.

Friedman accurately notes that if you told someone in 1946 that Japan and German would be among the worlds largest economies within 30 years, they would laugh in your face. If you’d told someone in 1970 that by the new millennium China would be the worlds fastest growing economy, they would be even more likely to call you a liar and a demagogue. However, we know these truths to be self-evident. Japan is now the second largest economy in the world, and if I were smart, I’d start learning mandarin.

Friedman writes that the key to the United States’ geopolitical dominance for (at least) the next hundred years is our complete control over all the worlds oceans, something only possible thanks to our Pacific and Atlantic coasts. Thanks to these coastal boarders, North America is assured to be the geopolitical center of gravity for the next century. Mexico’s vast civilian population in the South Western United States will play a big part in the borderland going back and forth between the two nations towards the end of the century. This, Friedman predicts, will turn into the first war on American soil since Texas was Mexican territory. Thankfully that won’t happen until we’ve mastered the delivery of space-based energy to the earth’s surface and have militarized space stations.

Friedman’s analysis as the founder of STRATFOR is purchased by Fortune 500 companies, various intelligence agencies, as well as major nation-states across the globe. While his predictions for the next hundred years may not prove 100% accurate, they’re worth reading about.

Did I mention that Poland's sphere of influence will come to dominate Germany?

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Hezbollah Topples Lebanese Government

Hezbollah has to keep making life difficult for everyone. I knew they hate the United “Great Satan” of America, as well as the “Occupied” State of Israel, but they must really have a grudge against the people of Lebanon. What other explanation could there be for quitting the Lebanese coalition government like a first term Alaskan governor?

I’ve got an explanation. They were involved in having the country’s former Prime Minister murdered and are about to pay the piper. The late Rafik Hariri was killed in February of 2005 when explosives were detonated as his motorcade drove down the streets of Beirut. It has long been speculated that Hezbollah and their Syrian puppeteers coordinated the political assassination. The murder resulted in a wave of political change in Lebanon that resulted in occupying Syrian forces being sent packing all the way back to Damascus.

A UN-backed tribunal into the killing is expected to announce their findings shortly and it has Hezbollah shaking in their sandals. The organizations leader, Hassan Nasrallah, has asked current Lebanese Prime Minster (the son of Rafik Hariri) to denounce the tribunal as an Israeli/American conspiracy, but the younger Hariri has refused.

The tension has been building in Lebanon over the tribune and nobody is sure what will happen. Gabi Ashkenazi, current Chief of Staff of the Israeli Defense Forces, has speculated that although unlikely, the pressure from the reports could encourage Hezbollah to step up their attacks against Israel in order to draw attention away from the findings and win some public support. Observers have long speculated that the Iranian-funded Lebanese organization could respond by boycotting the current coalition government (as they’ve opted to do) or to launch a full-scale coup d’├ętat.

The stink they’ve thrown over a report that hasn’t even announced its findings does not exactly prove their innocence before the eyes of the world community. Given the regional ramifications attacking Israel would cause, they would need the approval of their Iranian masters to launch such an operation. Regardless of what the tribunal announces, or how things play out, it is fair to speculate at this time that the collapse of the Lebanese government is only the beginning.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

"Those kids" Beat Senior Citizen With His Own Cane.

I’ve been reporting on Charlestown since August and for all the thefts and assaults I’ve reported on, it’s fair to say the crime-beat has gotten uglier.

A 70-year old man was beaten with his own cane on New Years Eve by a bunch of punk kids. Previously, a group of kids attacked maintenance workers clearing snow, shooting one of them in the back with a BB gun. On the same night, (a night residents have dubbed “hell night”) another youth blocked a car in the street, before forcing a family out of their vehicle, and driving off in their car. The Boston Police Department made 2 arrests in the most recent assault, but residents of the housing projects where the crime occurred feel this is part of a bigger problem.

I attended a meeting at the community center in the Mishawum Park Housing Developments and people couldn’t stop talking about unruly kids. Some folks said they think they need to beat their kids harder. Others said it was an issue of parents taking responsibility for kids.

In the article I wrote for Patch.com, I quoted Dianne Grant saying, “We keep saying ‘those kids,’ but they’re our kids!” One woman pointed out that kids have made a tradition out of throwing rocks at Cab’s and if they keep it up, “One of those cabbies is going to fucking kill one of these kids.”

As far as parenting, it seems that there’s too much stick available and not enough carrot, and this is not a passing of judgement. Frustrated mothers said they are willing to supervise kids if they’re provided a venue, but the community centers all close early due to budget cuts.

For the most part, the BPD officers in attendance said the community breed’s good kids and that the youth causing trouble are the same handful they have to keep dealing with.

We’re not parenting specialists over here at andrewbruss.com. As a once-youth with plenty of energy and the occasional disdain for authority, I know how hard it can be to channel that energy into something positive. Some kids use sports. I found journalism. Here’s hoping the youth of Charlestown find what they need. And soon…

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Bird Accused By Saudi Arabia Of Spying For Israel

Saudi Arabia arrested a vulture on suspicion of spying for Israel. Seriously.

The vulture was part of a research project at Tel Aviv University into long-term migration patterns of birds. However, when the bird strayed into Saudi airspace, the “Tel Aviv University’ tag on its ankle led to a prompt arrest over concerns the bird was a Mossad Agent.

According to the Israeli daily newspaper, Haaretz: “The accusations went viral, with hundreds of posts on Arabic-language websites and forums claiming that the "Zionists" had trained these birds for espionage.”

Andrewbruss.com readers may be wondering what information a vulture could provide that a spy satellite could not. Your guess is as good as mine.