January 27, 2013 -Egypt Spirals Out of Control, Chemical Weapon Threat In the North Marc Schulman

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Israel Update
A Daily Analysis
By Marc Schulman

January 27, 2013 -Egypt Spirals Out of Control, Chemical Weapon Threat In the North

While Israel has been involved in the recent elections, and the countries in Europe (and to a lesser extent the United States) have been absorbed following the outcomes of our elections here as well, events in our neighborhood seem to be spiraling out of control. First, Egypt: Events there are serious, any way you look at it. The demonstrations marking the second anniversary of the "revolution" in Egypt began on Thursday. These demonstrations were aimed at the current regime. Anger has developed in Egypt on many levels. First and foremost, antagonism has built among the liberals for having their revolution hijacked. They believe the dictatorship of Mubarak has been replaced by a worse dictatorship of the Muslim Brotherhood. Just as important, is the rage of men and women on the street, who has seen their economic condition go from bad to worse in the two years since the revolution began.

The fury in Egypt is aimed at the current Muslim Brotherhood regime that have not succeeded at all in improving economic conditions. The wrath had totally boiled over in Port Said, when a court there condemned 21 men to death for their part in a soccer riot that claimed 71 lives. It would seem additional people will be found guilty in the near future. The verdict, which took place in Port Said, turned the city into a battleground. Relatives tried to free the prisoners and police shot 30. At this point no one controls Port Said- which almost declared its independence.

The regime, which has only tepid support from the army, has not been able to control the situation. The latest news as I was about to post this is President Morsi has declared a State of Emergency and a curfew in the Suez Canal Provinces. At this point there is talk of Egypt devolving into a failed state. This, from a state that historically, whatever its problems, had prided itself on its institutions of government. Many believe the situation in Egypt is furiously spiraling into a Civil War. All of this reminds me of a conversation I had a year ago with the Arab Affairs editor of one of Israel's newspapers. She told me then that what she really feared was not the Muslim Brotherhood, but rather, Egypt as a failed state, with a million starving people at our borders.

As events with our Southern neighbor spin out of control, events in Syria seem no better. On one hand, Assad seems to be holding out. He his hanging on well beyond what anyone thought he could - thanks, no doubt, to help from Teheran. On the other hand, there seems to be a sense here that Assad may be either: about to lose control of his Chemical and Biological weapons, or thinking of transferring these weapons to a third party. Israel has made explicit warnings on the matter today. In addition, Israel seems to have held a special cabinet meeting to discuss the situation late last week. Today, in what is being described as "a routine move", the newest Iron dome battery, (the latest newly improved model) has been deployed to defend Haifa from attack. Over the weekend Iran warned that any attack on Syria would be considered an attack on Iran, and it would respond in kind. It looks like after a few weeks of calm, we are heading into a storm.

Finally, unofficial coalition talks continue. I have nothing to add from my earlier post about the likely outcome. However, I have just one small observation. It appears that the lead person involved in coalition negotiations for Netanyahu is Natan Eshel. Yes, this is the same Natan Eshel who resigned from government service last year to avoid being charged with sexual harassment. He had to resign from working for the PM office, but apparently it's ok to work at putting together the coalition. Is there no shame?

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