William Katz:  Urgent Agenda

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IS THIS THE NEW EGYPT? – AT 8:41 A.M. ET:  Looks more like the old model to me.  Another golden example of Obama's "smart" diplomacy, constructed by people who aced their College Boards, and did little else, Egypt is currently in chaos following the laughable "Arab spring."  Now the army is on the streets, and the right to assemble is pretty much shot.  From BBC: 

The Egyptian army has begun to clear demonstrators and media organisations from outside the presidential palace in Cairo.

It follows violent overnight clashes between supporters and opponents of President Mohammed Morsi that left five people dead and 644 injured.

A deadline of 13:00 GMT for protesters to leave the area was set.

Meanwhile, Egypt's top Islamic body has called on the president to suspend his decree claiming sweeping powers.

The Al-Azhar institution also demanded an unconditional dialogue between the president and his opponents.

The BBC's Jon Leyne in Cairo says this move by one of the most respected bodies in Sunni Islam has put President Morsi under more pressure.

But he adds that it is difficult to see what compromise is possible between President Morsi and the opposition.

The president - who is expected to address the nation later on Thursday - adopted new powers in the decree on 22 November, and stripped the judiciary of any power to challenge his decisions.

Mr Morsi, who narrowly won Egypt's first free presidential election in June, says he will give up his new powers once a new constitution is ratified.

But there is also controversy over the proposed constitution. Critics say the draft was rushed through parliament without proper consultation and does not do enough to protect political and religious freedoms and the rights of women.

The government insists that a referendum on the draft constitution, drawn up by a body dominated by Morsi-supporting Islamists, will go ahead this month despite strong opposition.

COMMENT:  Egypt is the most important Arab country, the seat of Arab civilization.  If it descends into more madness, the entire Mideast can start disintegrating into warring factions.  Obama, of course, will urge dialogue, blame Israeli settlements, and go on vacation. 

And remember that a good part of the world's oil supply comes through the Middle East, and that Egypt's Suez Canal is critical to the journey of many ships.  A disruption in the supply could send prices soaring, further depressing the world's already shaky economy.

December 6, 2012