1. Jacob Lippincott is on the ground in Cairo. Here’s his latest update:

    Violent street fights are tearing apart the downtown area, the capital’s economic and cultural nerve center. Secular activists, football hooligans, and grubby street children fight police on the Nile Corniche, an open promenade that runs along the famous river. Meanwhile, gangs of thugs prey on peaceful activists, local businesses, and passers-by in the city’s shadowed side streets.

    Women are being viciously targeted. Over the last week, there have been more than a dozen brazen gang rapes and sexual assaults in and around Tahrir Square. In one particularly harrowing case, a gang of youths took turns raping a 19-year-old woman, mutilated her vagina with a knife, and left her naked on the street. She is reportedly still in critical condition in a Cairo hospital, suffering from internal injuries.

    I personally witnessed one of these assaults in Tahrir. Some tried to help the woman, while others joined in the assault. There were masses of people pushing past each other to get away, and I, along with everyone around me, was pressed against a wall, unable to help, flee, or move.

    Keep reading

     

  2. PHOTO: REUTERS/Ibraheem Abu Mustaf

    September 14th marks day four of anti-U.S. protests sweeping across the Arab world. The escalating violence, stoked by an online movie trailer mocking Islam’s Prophet Mohammad, has left four dead in Libya, including U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens. More deaths have been reported in Yemen. Indonesian and Afghani officials are working to keep a lid on protests in their countries by blocking the YouTube video fueling demonstrators’ anger.

    How far will the protests go, and where will they lead?

    (Source: theweek.com)

     

  3. "Chris took his work seriously, but never himself," says Molly Phee, who entered the diplomatic corps with Stevens and now serves in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. “He was an avid student of Islam and the Middle East, and consistently strove to build the proverbial bridge between our two cultures in the face of sometimes overwhelming antagonism and bitter misunderstanding.”

    A look back at the heroic life of Ambassador Chris Stevens

     


  4. The American ambassador to Libya, Chris Stevens, and three diplomatic security officials were murdered yesterday for being associated with a country that allows stupid people to say stupid things … On Twitter, the first instinct of a lot of Americans was retributive justice. But the U.S. government’s sensitivity about the mood of the violent protesters is maddening but necessary. Being aggressive would cause more unnecessary dying.
    — 

    Columnist Marc Ambinder analyzes the government’s cautious response to yesterday’s killings in Libya. 

    Read more: The American ambassador to Libya is murdered

     

  5. Syria has a huge stockpile of chemical weapons, and The Wall Street Journal reported Friday that Syrian soldiers were moving some of the weapons out of storage.

    Syria’s former ambassador to Iraq, Nawaf Fares, said Assad is like a “wounded wolf” and would "eradicate the entire Syrian people" if the 17-month uprising against his regime gets close to toppling him.

    Would Syrian President Bashar al-Assad use chemical weapons on his own people?

     

  6. Syrian rebels announced Monday that they were abandoning their commitment to U.N.-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan’s ceasefire plan, because, they said, the regime of President Bashar al-Assad had never respected it anyway. In the wake of the May 25 Houla massacre, which has been blamed on pro-Assad forces, opposition fighters had given the government until last Friday to end the violence. After the deadline passed, Free Syrian Army forces reportedly killed 80 government soldiers in a surge of attacks over the weekend.

    The ceasefire is history: The latest violence makes it official, says Linda Carbonell at Lez Get Real. Assad compares the killing in Homs and Houla “to a surgeon removing a cancerous growth to save the life of the patient.” When a leader considers his people to be a cancer, there can be no peace.

    Is Syria’s ceasefire officially dead?

     

  7. More than a year into their revolution, Egyptian voters are going to the polls, and for the first time in recent memory, they don’t know the winner ahead of time. The election, which will continue on Thursday, pits secularists against Islamists, and revolutionaries against old regime figures. Here, some critical questions about the election, and what the result will mean:

    Will Egypt going Islamist? The Associated Press writes:

    A victory by the fundamentalist Muslim Brotherhood’s candidate Mohammed Morsi will likely mean a greater emphasis on religion in government. The group, which already dominates parliament, says it won’t mimic Saudi Arabia and force women to wear veils or implement harsh punishments like amputations. But it says it does want to implement a more moderate version of Islamic law, which liberals fear will mean limitations on many rights.

    More key questions on Egypt’s historic presidential election

     

  8. President Bashar al-Assad agreed Tuesday to a six-point peace plan drafted by U.N. special envoy Kofi Annan. The catch: he’s not stepping down.

    Under the deal, Syria agrees to six things:

    (1) “Address the legitimate aspirations and concerns of the Syrian people”
    (2) Stop the fighting, and the use of heavy weapons in populated areas, with the intention to end all violence
    (3) Allow a two-hour daily pause in other fighting to allow humanitarian aid and evacuation of the injured
    (4) Release more prisoners that the regime has “arbitrarily detained”
    (5) Allow journalists to work in the country freely
    (6) Respect “the right to demonstrate peacefully.”

    But considering Syria’s history of “credibility gaps,” how much of this will Syria actually do?

     


  9. A year later, Libya is still a mess

    Columnist Daniel Larison writes

    One year after the U.S., Britain, and France began their war in Libya, the harmful consequences of Western intervention are readily apparent. The internal disorder and regional instability that the West’s assault created were foreseen by many critics. And yet, Western governments made no meaningful efforts to prepare for them. No one planned to stabilize Libya once Moammar Gadhafi was overthrown, and the National Transitional Council (NTC) rejected the idea of an outside stabilization force, which has left Libya at serious risk of fragmentation and renewed conflict. Intervention “on the cheap” may be more politically palatable in the West because of the low cost to Western nations, but it can still be quite destructive for the countries affected by it. 

    Libya is now effectively ruled by the militias that ousted Gadhafi, and some militias run parts of the country as their own fiefdoms independent of any national authority. The most powerful militias in the western cities of Zintan and Misrata have refused the government’s calls to disarm. These militias believe that remaining armed allows them to retain political influence in the new order that they fought to create.

    Amnesty International has documented numerous cases of abuse and torture of detainees by local militias, and there have been many reports of reprisals against civilians living in perceived pro-Gadhafi areas. Militia rule is made possible by the weakness of the NTC, which never had real control over armed rebel forces during the war, and still does not. Plus, the council’s opacity and corruption have been rapidly de-legitimizing it in the eyes of Libyans. 

    But the Libyan war’s worst impact may have occurred outside of Libya. The neighboring country of Mali, which also happens to support U.S. counter-terrorist efforts in western Africa, has been roiled by a new Tuareg insurgency fueled by the influx of men and weapons after Gadhafi’s defeat, providing the Tuareg rebels with much more sophisticated weaponry than they had before. This new upheaval benefits al Qaeda in the Maghreb (AQIM), and the Tuareg uprising threatens the territorial integrity of Mali. The rebellion has also displaced nearly 200,000 civilians in a region that is already at risk of famine, and refugees from Mali are beginning to strain local resources in Niger, where most of them have fled. "Success" in Libya is creating a political and humanitarian disaster in Mali and Niger. 

    Read the rest of the column here

     

  10. This explains a lot. Britain’s Guardian newspaper says it has obtained 3,000 emails from accounts used by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his wife, Asma. They paint a picture of a ruling family “remarkably insulated from the mounting crisis and continuing to enjoy a luxurious lifestyle,” buying high-priced goods online, trading entertaining video clips, and downloading music from iTunes. Here, some of the most compelling revelations from the emails:

    • The Assads listened to country music as Homs burned
      The day after Assad’s military began its deadly shelling of rebel neighborhoods in the city of Homs, the embattled dictator sent his wife a video of country crooner Blake Shelton’s song “God Gave Me You.”
    • Asma is “an internet shopaholic”
      "While the country erupted" around her, Assad’s U.K.-born wife, went online to buy diamond and onyx necklaces, a Ming Luce vase, and $15,000 worth of candlesticks, tables, and chandeliers.
    • President Assad sidestepped sanctions — to get iTunes downloads
      Assad used a third party with an address in the U.S. to get around Washington’s sanctions so he could get music and apps from Apple’s iTunes. His purchases reportedly included the iPad game Real Racing 2, and tunes by singer Chris Brown.
    • Friends abroad say: Come stay with us!
      A daughter of Hamid bin Khalifa al-Thani, the emir of Qatar, recently urged Asma to convince her husband to avoid being killed by fleeing Syria, and to “re-start a normal life,” suggesting that Doha is a good place for exiled leaders.
    • President Assad sidestepped sanctions — to get iTunes downloads
      Assad used a third party with an address in the U.S. to get around Washington’s sanctions so he could get music and apps from Apple’s iTunes. His purchases reportedly included the iPad game Real Racing 2, and tunes by singer Chris Brown. 
    • The Assads and their friends aren’t totally out of touch
      Asma sent a friend a note about a pair of $4,000 Christian Louboutin heels. The reply: “I don’t think they’re going 2 b useful any time soon unfortunately.” 

    For more information on the uprising in Syria, here is a link to all our recent coverage. 

     

  11. The children of Syria’s revolution: The Red Cross is still shut out of Homs’ Bab Amro district — which was a rebel stronghold before a ruthless crackdown — and the latest reports from inside tell grisly tales of the military targeting boys for execution. Nevertheless, across the country, Syrians of all ages continue to protest President Bashar al-Assads’ violent reign. More photos available here

     

  12. Just when it seemed matters couldn’t get any worse in Syria, Monday happened. President Bashar al-Assad pushed through a referendum (denounced as “a farce” by Western leaders) allowing him to stay in power until 2028. And Mother Jones uncovered an encyclopedia-sized document containing details on where to find thousands of government opponents. Meanwhile, violence raged throughout the country, as Assad continues to mercilessly kill anyone demanding change. Here, a by-the numbers look at the bleeding:

    9,000 — Citizens killed by Assad’s forces over the past year, according to opposition groups

    144 — People killed by government forces on Sunday and Monday, according to opposition groups

    718 — Pages of names on an apparent government “hit list” detailing the whereabouts, activities, and personal details of thousands of targeted dissidents, according to Mother Jones

    186,000 — Average tweets per hour about Egypt’s uprising in January 2011, according to Slate

    3,000 to 6,000Average tweets per hour about the Syrian uprising in February 2012

    More numbers here

     

  13. The hunt for Moammar Gadhafi may be over, but the hunt for his hidden riches is still underway. The late Libyan leader’s stash now has an estimated worth of $200 billion, which would have made him the richest man in the world, with as much wealth as Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, and Carlos Slim combined. But the question remains: Where is all the money?