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The Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood's karate army

Al Azhar students Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood, the Islamist opposition group with an 88-member bloc in parliament, dances a delicate pas-de-deux with the government. Sometimes it clears its opposition activities with state security, and sometimes it challenges the government head-on.

So what do we make of this report that students aligned with the Brotherhood chose to hold a karate and kung-fu demonstration outside the dean's office of a major state university? 180 students were arrested, according to the Brotherhood's website (in Arabic), along with the number two man in the organization and others. 

The Egyptian government operates a kind of "revolving door policy" for top Brotherhood leaders: they get tossed in the slammer when they cross certain red lines, but are periodically released, presumably for promising good behavior.

Issandr El Amrani, a freelance journalist with long experience in Cairo, says the demo was probably held by "members who would like to take a much more aggressive stance towards the regime and impose itself on campus," and does not represent the revival of the Brotherhood's secret "paramiltary wing." That's long gone. But the radicalization of the younger generation is still worrisome.

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Morning Brief, Thursday, December 14

Iraq and Middle East

Peter Pace and Bush The Joint Chiefs of Staff of the U.S. military asked President Bush for more troops in Iraq. Senator John McCain wants more troops than that.

More abductions in Baghdad by gunmen wearing police uniforms, and more car bombings of Shiite markets.

The elections for Iran's city councils and the powerful Assembly of Experts starts tomorrow. Iran has already rejected a draft U.N. resolution proposed by the Europeans. A team of IAEA inspectors will visit Isfahan tomorrow.

With talks of a "national unity" government going nowhere, Fatah and Hamas have resumed undermining their own cause by shooting each other. PM Mahmoud Abbas may announce a referendum on Saturday to break the deadlock.

Washington

Congressional Democrats are planning to assert more control over expenses for Iraq.

The White House summit on malaria begins today. 

If Democratic Senator Tim Johnson is forced to step down due the possible stroke he suffered yesterday, the Republicans will regain control of the Senate

Europe

Le Pen poster

Give up, conspiracy theorists. Princess Diana's death was a "tragic accident," not a murder, says an exhaustive British police inquiry

Interior Minister Nicholas Sarkozy, who famously called rioting French minorities "scum," is running for president. Now he wants to make amends with French Arabs and black Africans. Even hardcore anti-immigrant politician Jean-Marie Le Pen is reaching out.

Russia doesn't murder people anymore, says a top KGB alumnus. 

Elsewhere

U.S. Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson says the Chinese must "accelerate the reform." His counterpart, Vice Premier Wu Yi, responded politely that America doesn't understand China very well.

Sudan's foreign minister dismissed Tony Blair's call for a no-fly zone, retorting that "threats, blockades and no-fly zones... would not solve the problem" in Darfur.

Ethiopia and the Somalian Islamists who control Mogadishu are girding themselves for war with each other.

More Indian soldiers have committed suicide this year than have died in enemy action.