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Eurasia Security Watch - No. 281

Edited by Jeff Smith and Sirena Dib
March 22, 2013

Cairo has rejected an offer from the International Monetary Fund for an emergency loan despite the fact that Egypt’s economy is in desperate need of cash. An unnamed Western diplomat claimed that Egypt’s decision to turn down the IMF’s Rapid Financing Instrument (RFI) was an attempt “to bully the fund into giving Egypt the loan” on better terms, which could be worth as much as $4.8 billion. The RFI would have given Egypt $750 million while the conditions of a larger loan were worked out, but Cairo was unhappy with some of the conditions that would have accompanied the loan. Some analysts believe that Egypt’s geopolitical importance might cause Western countries to pressure the IMF into giving Egypt further concession to prevent instability. (Financial Times, March 12, 2013)
A year after being released from prison, the brother of al-Qaeda leader Ayman Zawahiri has become a vocal advocate for Islamists hoping to transform Egypt into a Salafist state. Zawahiri joins other Salafists who have emerged from the shadows after the overthrow of strongman Hosni Mubarak. The Islamist Muslim Brotherhood now running the country looks moderate by comparison, and many Salafis regard the Brotherhood as “opportunists willing to appease secularists at the expense of an Islamist agenda.” Radical Salafists believe even the existence of a parliament is blasphemy, although an official Salafist party, the Nour Party, won 20% of the seats in parliament in Egypt’s most recent election. This has earned the Nour Party the ire of Zawahiri and his colleagues, who “disagree with the very political route they have taken.” (The Los Angeles Times, March 11, 2013)

The Free Syrian Army has seen an influx of eager new recruits from Russia’s Chechnya region. The Chechen fighters are motivated by a desire to wage jihad and fight the Assad regime, a close ally of Moscow. Omar Abu al-Chechen, who heads the jihadist group Brigade of Migrants, released a video last week encouraging Muslims to support the jihad against Bashar al-Assad. In it, al-Chechen said that “(We) have missed many chances, but truly today there is a chance to establish (an Islamic state) on Earth.” Moscow is especially concerned about these Chechen jihadists because the combat experience they are gaining in Syria could be put to use back in Russia when they return. (The Daily Star, March 6, 2013)

The civil war in Syria is sharpening divides in neighboring Lebanon and motivating Sunni factions in the country to more boldly criticize the Shi’ite-dominated government, which supports the Assad regime and the Islamic Republic of Iran. An influential Sunni sheikh, Ahmad Assir, has said “We hope that confrontation will not happen, but [Hezbollah leader Hassan] Nasrallah, with his support for the Syrian regime and the killing of the Syrian people, is pushing us towards it.” (The New York Times, March 14, 2013)

Libya’s Prime Minister has decided to fire Mohsen Derregia, the head of the Libyan Investment Authority (LIA), citing a government policy to remove bureaucrats who performed poorly in their positions. The LIA was established in 2006 to manage Libya’s wealth and has assets worth close to $60 billion. Derregia told Reuters during an interview that the firing was politically motivated. “The worst thing you can do to a financial institution like this is to create uncertainty about its direction… Any delay of restructuring LIA costs us hundreds of millions (dollars) every year. The delay in taking legal action to recover some lost assets will cost us hundreds of millions.” (Reuters, March 12, 2013)

Related Categories: Middle East; Africa; Caucasus

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