Geopolitics

A Grim Warning From Egypt's Interior Minister: 'We Will Shoot Intruders'

Earlier this month protesters attacked the Israeli Embassy in Giza and hurled stones at officers in the city's Security Directorate. Anyone tempted to try the same thing on the Interior Ministry can expect to be shot, Interior Minister Mansour Al

Police on the streets of Cairo on Jan. 25 (RamyRaoof)
Police on the streets of Cairo on Jan. 25 (RamyRaoof)
Magdi el-Gallad and Yousry el Badry

CAIRO -- Egypt's interior minister, Mansour al-Essawy, couldn't have made himself any clearer. Anyone who attempts to break into the Interior Ministry will be shot, Al-Essawy said in an interview with Al-Masry Al-Youm.

The Interior Minister's comments come on the heels of a Sept. 9 attack by protestors on the Israeli Embassy in Giza. Demonstrators also gathered near the Saudi Embassy and Giza Security Directorate, hurling stones at the security forces inside.

Al-Essawy said he will not allow police stations to be broken into and gave instructions to the Giza security chief to use live ammunition in the event that the Directorate headquarters is breached.

He also responded to an investigative report published last week by Al-Masry Al-Youm that found that during the 18-day revolution that ousted President Hosni Mubarak, the Interior Ministry - then headed by Habib al-Adly - used snipers to kill protesters. Al-Essawy said that the ministry does not have a sniper department, but that some officers from its various departments have taken a sniper training course, which is organized in coordination with the armed forces. Over the past 40 years, nearly 1,400 officers have taken the course, al-Essawy said.

During the uprising in January, fires were set off at several police stations, which the Interior Ministry had blamed on "thugs." Some critics, however, say the fires were part of a conspiracy by the authorities to create chaos and sabotage the revolution.

In his interview, Al-Essawy challenged claims that upwards of 1 million people participated in the Tahrir square revolution. The Interior Minister noted that the total surface area of the square and surrounding streets is 100,000 square meters, which can accommodate a maximum of between 300,000 and 400,000 protesters. The number of protesters who assembled in Tahrir on Jan. 28 - dubbed the "Friday of Anger" - was 200,000 to 300,000, he said.

Al-Essawy also said that the Ministry's headquarters was evacuated on Jan. 30 and added that if he were there on that day, he would not have left the building. He said he would have fired at anyone who entered the building, since he is a policeman who is aware of his rights and duties.

Read the full story in English

Photo - RamyRaoof

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Geopolitics

Iran-Saudi Arabia Rivalry May Be Set To Ease, Or Get Much Worse

The Saudis may be awaiting the outcome of Iran's nuclear talks with the West, to see whether Tehran will moderate its regional policies, or lash out like never before.

Military parade in Tehran, Iran, on Oct. 3

-Analysis-

LONDON — The Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said earlier this month that Iranian and Saudi negotiators had so far had four rounds of "continuous" talks, though both sides had agreed to keep them private. The talks are to ease fraught relations between Iran's radical Shia regime and the Saudi kingdom, a key Western ally in the Middle East.

Iran's Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian has said that the talks were going in the right direction, while an Iranian trade official was recently hopeful these might even allow trade opportunities for Iranian businessmen in Saudi Arabia. As the broadcaster France 24 observed separately, it will take more than positive signals to heal a five-year-rift and decades of mutual suspicions.


Agence France-Presse news agency, meanwhile, has cited an unnamed French diplomat as saying that Saudi Arabia wants to end its costly discord with Tehran. The sides may already have agreed to reopen consular offices. For Saudi Arabia, the costs include its war on Iran-backed Houthis rebels fighting an UN-recognized government in next-door Yemen.

The role of the nuclear pact

Bilateral relations were severed in January 2016, after regime militiamen stormed the Saudi embassy in Tehran. Amirabdollahian was then the deputy foreign minister for Arab affairs. In 2019, he told the website Iranian Diplomacy that Saudi Arabia had taken measures vis-a-vis Iran's nuclear pact with the world powers.

It's unlikely Ali Khamenei will tolerate the Saudi kingdom's rising power in the region.

He said "the Saudis' insane conduct toward [the pact] led them to conclude that they must prevent [its implementation] in a peaceful environment ... I think the Saudis are quite deluded, and their delusion consists in thinking that Trump is an opportunity for them to place themselves on the path of conflict with the Islamic Republic while relying on Trump." He meant the administration led by the U.S. President Donald J.Trump, which was hostile to Iran's regime. This, he said, "is not how we view Saudi Arabia. I think Yemen should have been a big lesson for the Saudis."

The minister was effectively admitting the Houthis were the Islamic Republic's tool for getting back at Saudi Arabia.

Yet in the past two years, both sides have taken steps to improve relations, without firm results as yet. Nor is the situation likely to change this time.

Photo of Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei in 2020

Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei in 2020

commons.wikimedia.org

Riyadh's warming relations with Israel

Iran's former ambassador in Lebanon, Ahmad Dastmalchian, told the ILNA news agency in Tehran that Saudi Arabia is doing Israel's bidding in the region, and has "entrusted its national security, and life and death to Tel Aviv." Riyadh, he said, had been financing a good many "security and political projects in the region," or acting as a "logistical supplier."

The United States, said Dastmalchian, has "in turn tried to provide intelligence and security backing, while Israel has simply followed its own interests in all this."

Furthermore, it seems unlikely Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei will tolerate, even in this weak period of his leadership, the kingdom's rising power in the region and beyond, and especially its financial clout. He is usually disparaging when he speaks of Riyadh's princely rulers. In 2017, he compared them to "dairy cows," saying, "the idiots think that by giving money and aid, they can attract the goodwill of Islam's enemies."

Iranian regime officials are hopeful of moving toward better diplomatic ties and a reopening of embassies. Yet the balance of power between the sides began to change in Riyadh's favor years ago. For the kingdom's power has shifted from relying mostly on arms, to economic and political clout. The countries might have had peaceful relations before in considerably quieter, and more equitable, conditions than today's acute clash of interests.

If nuclear talks break down, Iran's regime may become more aggressive.

Beyond this, the Abraham Accord or reconciliation of Arab states and Israel has been possible thanks to the green light that the Saudis gave their regional partners, and it is a considerable political and ideological defeat for the Islamic Republic.

Assuming all Houthis follow Tehran's instructions — and they may not — improved ties may curb attacks on Saudi interests and aid its economy. Tehran will also benefit from no longer having to support them. Unlike Iran's regime, the Saudis are not pressed for cash or resources and could even offer the Houthis a better deal. Presently, they may consider it more convenient to keep the softer approach toward Tehran.

For if nuclear talks with the West break down, Iran's regime may become more aggressive, and as experience has shown, tensions often prompt a renewal of missile or drone attacks on the Saudis, on tankers and on foreign shipping. Riyadh must have a way of keeping the Tehran regime quiet, in a distinctly unquiet time.

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