- Doubts emerge regarding future Iran diplomacy as conservatives rally for Rouhani, Tehran snubs U.S.
- Egyptian campaign against Hamas smuggling tunnels may open vital diplomatic opportunity for Kerry peace push
- Analysts: After E.U. blacklisting, time for the U.N. to take steps against Hezbollah
- Egypt army chief calls for pro-peace demonstrations amid violence linked to pro-Morsi demonstrations
What we’re watching today:
- The Associated Press is reporting that Iran will snub the U.S. and decline to invite representatives from Washington to the August 4 inauguration of President-elect Hassan Rouhani, two days after the outlet reported that "all the world’s leaders" including "American and European leaders" would be invited to the event as a sign of good will. The AP emphasized at the time that Rouhani had pledged to pursue "greater openness" toward the West. Meanwhile Iranian media reported on a pro-Rouhani rally held by Iranian conservatives, which came after weeks of declarations and explanations by Iranian officials to the effect that the president-elect -- a clerical revolutionary and regime insider -- would seek to reinforce the regime's ideology.
- Egyptian army Chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has called for peaceful protests against a wave of violence that has swept across the country, after weeks in which unrest surrounding pro-Morsi demonstrations left scores dead and injured. Recent clashes have brought just this week's death toll to at least twelve. Al-Sisi's call was almost immediately echoed by the Egyptian youth movement Tamarod, which weeks ago led a petition followed by mass protests calling for the removal of Egypt's then-president Mohammed Morsi. The protests swelled into the largest national anti-government protests in human history, and the army eventually intervened in response and stripped Morsi of authority. For their part, Islamists supporting Morsi vowed more protests today, as the security environment across the country continues to deteriorate. A bomb thrown at a police station in Egypt's Nile Delta killed one person and injured at least 19. An attack on military officers in the Sinai left a soldier dead.
- A report in The Guardian outlines at length a series of economic cascades rippling across the Gaza Strip, as the Egyptian army moves to destroy the smuggling tunnels that link the Hamas-controlled territory to Egypt's Sinai Peninsula. The Egyptian military blames Hamas for violence in the country stretching back to the 2011 Arab Spring revolution, both directly and as a result of the labyrinth of subterranean smuggling tunnels maintained by the Palestinian terror group, which are used by jihadists to facilitate attacks against Egyptian soldiers and civilians. Jonathan Schanzer, vice president of research at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, suggested this week that Hamas's precarious position presents a diplomatic "window of opportunity that should not be ignored" to boost the Israeli-Palestinian peace initiative being promoted by Secretary of State John Kerry. Schanzer suggests that another round of economic setbacks may see Gazans "grow frustrated with their Islamist rulers" and seek to overthrow them. Such a political development has been taken in some corners of the foreign policy community as a vital prerequisite to Palestinian statehood. Hamas's rivalry with the Palestinian Fatah faction has consistently prevented Palestinian officials from bringing the Gaza Strip and the Fatah-controlled portions of the West Bank under a single Palestinian government. Palestinian diplomats reserve two areas for a single Palestinian state. A single state governed by opposing governments would almost by definition constitute a failed state.
- Analysts are calling on the United Nations to mobilize sanctions against Hezbollah, in the aftermath of a European Union decision to blacklist the Iran-backed terror group and to disrupt its activities. The E.U. on Monday formally and unanimously acknowledged that the so-called military wing of the Iran-backed group was a terror organization. The move enables European officials to among other things monitor Hezbollah operatives and freeze known assets of some Hezbollah figures. The Wall Street Journal early today also commented on the E.U.'s decision, noting that it was at best a "half-victory" against the terror group inasmuch as it established a false distinction between the group's military wing and its so-called political wing. The Journal cited a statement from Hezbollah spokesman Ibrahim Mussawi in which he commented that "we have no wings that are separate from one another." He added that "what's being said in Brussels doesn't exist for us." Mussawi's stance echoes statements stretching back years from other Hezbollah figures, as well as analysis by the U.S. intelligence community.
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