While Syria’s civil war dominates the world’s attention, less dramatic and telegenic events in Egypt retain the power to decide if popular uprisings will succeed in establishing a democratic alternative to tyranny in the Arab world.
Something of that magnitude has just happened in Cairo. Arguably it is just as significant as the ousting of Hosni Mubarak in February last year. The system was decapitated but continued in the form of the military council, which assumed transitional rule. On Sunday the heads of that system, which has dominated Egypt for decades, were toppled – apparently with its acquiescence.
In forcing the departure of his defence minister and Hussein Tantawi, the head of Scaf (the Supreme Council of Armed Forces ), President Mohamed Morsi was not just getting rid of an ageing field marshall who had been central to the Mubarak era, and replacing him with the youngest member of Scaf, establishing the continuity of the system.… Seguir leyendo »
Before meeting Vladimir Putin, it’s best to get acquainted with his horse. Each year a group of academics and journalists is invited by the Russian government to agonise about the fate of Russia. What results is a cross between a seminar and group therapy. The last day is set aside for the guv’nor himself.
Anticipation is spiced by uncertainty. No one knows until the last minute where, or even if, the meeting will take place. Last year the group was flown from Moscow to Sochi, bussed past the fevered reconfiguration of the subtropical landscape for the Winter Olympics, to an opulent guesthouse on the Black Sea coast.… Seguir leyendo »
It is heartening to know that even alleged Russian spies have problems with their computers. Anna Chapman complained about the difficulties she had establishing a private wireless local area network to her handler UC-I, so that she could communicate with the van parked outside the coffee shop. Suspicions were mutual. C or Moscow Centre never quite understood why the couple who went under the name of Richard and Cynthia Murphy had to buy that house in New Jersey: «We are under the impression that C views our ownership of the house as a deviation from the original purpose of the mission,» they said in an intercepted message.… Seguir leyendo »
For much of the last two decades, at least as far as any American president was concerned, Russia and the post-Soviet space have been the Wild East, an exciting new petro-chemical rich frontier in which the natives were weak and disorganised, and the west was free to roam. The argument that Russians behaved the way they did because they could not get over the loss of their empire, somehow did not apply to the other side in all of this – those who claimed victory at the end of the cold war and continued to expand into the vacuum created by Russia’s retreat.… Seguir leyendo »