Egypt

#1
Interesting bit of background from Beruit's Daily Star Saudi approval will continue to shape Egypt’s foreign policy By Barak Barfi
In the months since Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak’s resignation, his successors have signaled a shift in foreign policy by reaching out to former adversaries.

Egypt’s government has welcomed Iranian diplomats and embraced the Palestinian group Hamas. Many interpret such moves as clear evidence of Egypt’s desire for a diplomacy that is not subordinate to American interests.

But Mubarak never entirely fit his detractors’ portrayal of him as an American lackey. In fact, the former Egyptian president’s need to please his Saudi benefactors, not the United States, was paramount in his thinking.

Although he sometimes supported American policies, Mubarak frequently rebuffed Washington when its positions did not align with his own.

Since the end of the October 1973 war, Arab-Israeli peace has been a cornerstone of America’s Middle East agenda. The United States often looked to Egypt, the most important and influential Arab country, to play a leading role in promoting this goal. And, when it suited him, Mubarak played his part.

When the late Palestinian President Yasser Arafat humiliated Mubarak before the U.S. secretary of state and the international media by refusing to sign an annex to an Israeli-Palestinian accord that had been brokered in Cairo, Mubarak told him, “Sign it, you son of a dog!”

On the other hand, when Arab public opinion opposed Palestinian concessions, Mubarak remained aloof from U.S. peace initiatives.

For example, in 1996, he declined President Bill Clinton’s invitation to come to Washington, along with Arafat and the leaders of Israel and Jordan, to settle a bout of Palestinian violence. And when Clinton asked Mubarak to pressure Arafat to facilitate an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal during negotiations at Camp David in 2000, he refused.

Mubarak had a rocky relationship with Israel, and held America’s closest Middle East ally at arm’s length throughout his presidency. For almost 10 of his 30 years in office, Egypt had no ambassador in Tel Aviv.

Mubarak never made an official state visit to Israel, and he frequently refused the requests of Israeli prime ministers to come to Cairo. When the United States sought to extend the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty in 1994, Mubarak mobilized the Arab world against the initiative, because Israel refused to sign the NPT.

Instead, Mubarak’s relationship with the Saudis usually determined the direction of his foreign policy.

When Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1990 and threatened to attack Saudi Arabia, Mubarak quickly dispatched troops to defend the kingdom. He was keen to support the Saudis and their Persian Gulf allies, who provided him with a steady flow of aid and an outlet for surplus Egyptian labor.

Though Mubarak’s opposition to the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in 1991 happened to align with U.S. policy, he was unwilling to back other American campaigns against Arab leaders.

When President Ronald Reagan’s deputy national security adviser, John Poindexter, asked Mubarak to launch a joint U.S.-Egyptian attack against Libya in 1985, the Egyptian president scolded his visitor, saying, “Look, Admiral, when we decide to attack Libya, it will be our decision and on our timetable.”

Mubarak again refused to acquiesce in Washington’s plans to isolate Libya in the 1990s for its involvement in the downing of Pan Am flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland. Instead of ostracizing Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, Mubarak welcomed him to Cairo.

After the United Nations imposed an international flight ban against Libya in 1992, its land crossings with Egypt proved crucial to sustaining Libya’s economy (and possibly Gadhafi’s political survival).

Libya withstood the sanctions in part by importing food and oil infrastructure supplies through Egypt, and by exporting petroleum and steel with Mubarak’s help.

In fact, Mubarak’s Libya policy was driven largely by economic and security concerns, and it rarely took the interests of the United States into consideration. More than 1 million Egyptians worked in Libya, which was also a large export market.

And Gadhafi was eager to help Mubarak subdue Islamist threats to the Egyptian regime. Unlike neighboring Sudan, which harbored Egyptian radicals, like the Al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri, who were bent on destabilizing the country, Libya turned them over to Mubarak.

While Gadhafi delivered terrorists to Mubarak, the Egyptian president declined American requests to do the same.

After Palestinians seized control of the Italian ship the Achille Lauro in 1985, killing an American, then berthed in Egypt, the U.S. asked Mubarak to extradite the men. But Mubarak refused, saying that Secretary of State George Shultz was “crazy” if he believed that Egypt would betray the Palestinian cause.

Egypt’s new leaders have inherited Mubarak’s dilemma, namely how to realize the country’s aspiration to lead the Arab world without angering its Saudi benefactors. For this reason, the Egyptian-Iranian rapprochement will yield more photo opportunities than tangible results.

On opposite sides of religious and ethnic divides, a close bilateral relationship would seem unlikely under even the best circumstances. And, with Egypt in need of massive financial aid to offset the economic losses caused by its February revolution, its leaders can ill afford to alienate the Saudis, who view Iran, not Israel, as the gravest threat to regional stability.

Egypt is entering a new era. But the radical policy upheavals predicted by analysts will prove to be small tremors. Saudi interests will continue to weigh heavily on Egyptian foreign policy. And that, above all, means preserving the status quo.
 
#2
On Salon New mass protests planned in Egypt by Natasha Lennard
But it's not exactly a sign of the religious vs. secular "war" that some say is brewing

Tensions between Egypt's opposing political factions are flaring up. A report by the Guardian suggests that a "war" is developing between the nation's Islamist and secular political forces, as the leftist, secular faction "threatened to bring mass pro-democracy protests back to Cairo, with a "million-strong" occupation of Tahrir Square planned for 8 July unless the ruling army generals abandon their current "roadmap" to democracy."

As the Guardian notes:

Campaigners fear the existing post-Mubarak transition program – which would see September's ballot held under an amended version of Egypt's existing constitution and then allow members of parliament to oversee the writing of a new constitution – may cede permanent power to the Muslim Brotherhood and other religious groups, who are expected to dominate the poll.
Egypt's interim prime minister, Essam Sharaf -- in line with the desires of secular groups -- suggested elections could be delayed to allow the nation's "political landscape," but has since emphasized that the election timetable will not be changed (hence the proposed July 8th protests). Fierce disagreements about the when the constitution will be written and what it will include continue too.

However, the leftist community calling for actions next month seems more concerned with keeping the revolution strong, rather than focusing on the tensions between Egypt's religious and secular groups.

On a Facebook page titled "The 2nd revolution of anger" followed by 55,000 members, the AFP reports, activists urge that the aims of the original uprising -- the foundation of a new Egypt -- be emphasized:

To all rival political forces debating which should come first, constitution or elections, save your revolution first, save Egypt first. Our revolution is collapsing.
This is not to say that concerns about the elections and the new constitution do not also fall along Islamist vs. secular lines -- this seems irrefutable -- but rather that activists in Egypt remain above all committed to the protest movement staying strong and relevant in order to stave off future oppressive regimes taking control of a currently febrile nation.
The MB has solid middle class support and a well established party apparatus, their left of center opponents who where at the forefront of the protests are a diverse and entirely unprepared for an electoral fight.

The Egyptian left lost the recent constitutional referendum that prepared the ground for elections in the summer by a 70 point landslide. This is a very conservative country, with the arrival of Junta backed free and fair elections reactionary Islamists may well be the key power block that shape its future. That probably means one with Sharia law as the basis for all law and a passive aggressive attitude to Israel.

Revolutions often fade with the party of the landlords slipping into the divers seat. The Brotherhood and the generals are the rentiers in Egypt.
 
#3
I'd rather see the Brotherhood than the generals, I think, for Egypt's sake. The generals have had since 1956 to sort their shit out, and it hasn't worked. The beards might be worth a shot, with the knowledge that the generals are in the background, Turkey-style, if it all gets too hairy.
 
#4
I'd rather see the Brotherhood than the generals, I think, for Egypt's sake. The generals have had since 1956 to sort their shit out, and it hasn't worked. The beards might be worth a shot, with the knowledge that the generals are in the background, Turkey-style, if it all gets too hairy.
Any representation is better than a Junta and the Brothers, like HA in Lebanon, know complete control is beyond their grasp. While the Islamists actually agenda is unclear their entusiasm for free elections seems entirely genuine and there is no sign of a Khomeini style event brewing.

The Generals seem to have done a deal with the MB to keep the restive plebs in line. They are doing exactly what Pindi has done with Pakistans much less popular reactionary Islamist parties. In this situation Tantawi is wise to keep his guiding hand somewhat concealed, the armies prestige will be untainted. As with Turkey deep reform won't happen until the army is edged out of power by competent civilians, that may take a long time.

It may be better for Egypt's young progressives if the Brothers vigorously participate in power now rather than later. Whatever government Egypt gets will fail to reach the revolutions expectations. Egypt's structural problems are severe, they'll take decades to fix and further unrest seems likely.
 
#5
U.S. fares poorly in first modern polling of Egyptian views By Hannah Allam | McClatchy Newspapers
CAIRO — Egyptians largely reject U.S. involvement in Egypt and appear split on whether to extend the longstanding peace treaty with neighboring Israel. They overwhelmingly support the revolution and are eager to vote without delay, but haven't yet identified a trusted party or politician to steer the nation toward their vision of an Islam-compatible democracy.

That's the portrait emerging of Egypt's millions-strong electorate as the country prepares for the first vote since the fall of President Hosni Mubarak, according to survey results released in recent weeks by U.S. polling firms. With no single group garnering more than 15 percent of public support and the majority of voters still undecided, the poll results augur a closely contested parliamentary election this fall.

Until this year, such detailed polling was unheard of here — the government strictly controlled what questions outside pollsters could ask. Anything that might have exposed Mubarak's deep unpopularity and Egyptians' pent-up rage over rampant corruption, police brutality and poverty was strictly off limits.

Now, however, polling firms have a mostly free hand to ask what they will — though they apparently still aren't allowed to probe whether the Egyptian military, which runs the country, should continue receiving billions of dollars in aid from the United States. Surveyors have rushed in to take advantage, some even setting up permanent offices in Cairo. Poll workers are crisscrossing the country, popping up in urban slums and rural villages with questions on once-taboo topics.

The result is an unprecedented look at voter attitudes in the Arab world's most populous country.

"Confidence in the military, confidence in the judicial system, corruption in government — all of that used to be out," said Dalia Mogahed, director of the Gallup Center for Muslim Studies and a member of U.S. President Barack Obama's faith-based partnerships advisory council. "We really have seen an opening and a dramatic improvement that allows us to ask, basically, whatever we want."

Results already are out from three major scientific surveys — the Pew Research Center, Gallup and International Republican Institute — as well as from a rash of informal polls conducted by nonprofit groups, local newspaper websites and blogs.

Even Egypt's interim military rulers have jumped on the poll bandwagon, posting a survey last week on their official Facebook page that asked Egyptians to choose their favorite presidential candidate from a list of leading contenders. Professional pollsters dismissed the military's survey as unscientific and limited only to the estimated one-fifth of Egyptians with Internet access; activists complained that the generals were trying to influence elections.

Egyptian web users, however, appeared eager to participate. As of Saturday, more than 185,000 had "voted," with Nobel laureate and former U.N. atomic energy chief Mohamed ElBaradei in the lead. (None of the scientific polls showed ElBaradei with comparable popular support.)

"We have more than 40 million eligible voters and such polls could never reflect the opinions of people living in the countryside who are sometimes illiterate or have no access to the Internet," complained a skeptical Amr Darrag, a senior officer in the Muslim Brotherhood's new Freedom and Justice Party.

Across the board, the more scientific polls' findings reveal a cautiously hopeful Egypt where citizens are happy Mubarak is gone and half as likely now to seek opportunities in another country. Residents express high support for democracy and civil liberties, but are more concerned with the immediate struggles of finding jobs, improving security and feeding their families.

The results also challenge some widely held notions about Egyptian participation and awareness of the anti-Mubarak uprising. Contrary to the narrative of a "Facebook revolution," for example, the vast majority of Egyptians followed the rebellion through television or word of mouth. Twitter, one poll found, "barely registered."

In a result that startled some secular politicians, Egyptians said they were in favor of religious figures playing an advisory role in a democratic government that's "informed by religious values," according to survey results. But for all the fears over Islamists filling the political void, poll findings showed that the Muslim Brotherhood and other religious groups face stiff competition from moderates and liberals.

"This shows us that the coming government most probably will be a coalition government and not controlled by one trend," said Wael Nawara, a senior member of the liberal Democratic Front Party, who's studied the results to better understand constituents. "But it also tells us we need a presidential government, not a parliamentary one, or we might suffer coalition-government problems and start facing the challenges of instability."


Mogahed said Gallup has polled in Egypt for the past decade, albeit with severe restrictions on questioning. Egypt's poll-monitoring body, the Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics, used to strike 30 or more questions from Gallup surveys, she said, and that was even after the firm self-censored to avoid broaching presidential succession, government corruption and other red lines.

For the latest Gallup poll, "Egypt from Tahrir to Transition," the government agency banned only a couple of questions, including one about whether Egyptians support U.S. military aid, Mogahed said. The matter is an especially prickly one for the typically reclusive generals who, as the interim rulers of Egypt, are forced to respond to the revolutionaries' demand to wean the nation from a longtime reliance on foreign aid. Egypt receives an annual U.S. aid package of up to $2 billion, the second highest after Israel.

The Gallup poll found that 75 percent of Egyptians oppose U.S. aid to political groups, and 68 percent think the United States will try to exert direct influence over Egypt's political future. Two-thirds of Egyptians disagreed that the United States is serious about encouraging democracy in the Middle East and North Africa, according to Gallup, perhaps an indication of public frustration over the U.S. government's perceived muted or belated support for Arab Spring uprisings.

"Our scorecard wasn't too good on the polling. It certainly gives us something to work on," said a diplomat based in the region, referring to the suspicion Egyptian respondents expressed toward the United States.

Some of the savviest Egyptian politicians — including presidential contender and former Arab League chief Amr Moussa and advisers to his rival, ElBaradei — have received private briefings on the poll results, presumably to ensure their platforms are in line with voter priorities.

Less seasoned politicians, however, are still unfamiliar with scientific polls and can't grasp how the methodology works in surveying a country as big and diverse as Egypt. Mogahed reassured them that the same approach is used in elections in the United States for more than 300 million people.

Getting politicians to understand and buy into the process is "the hardest thing," she said, adding, "To explain how 1,000 people represent 87 million would require, literally, a class in statistics."

(Special correspondent Mohannad Sabry contributed.)
My bold, this isn't surprising, only journos hang off Twitter feeds and Facebook, often restricted to English speaking traffic. The resulting picture is bound to be skewed. The MB is only standing for 50% of seats so it is a given that the government will be a coalition. The existing constitution only supports a heavily presidential/autocratic, its only been lightly amended.
 
#6
On NightWatch
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Egypt: The Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood (MB) said it will call for and participate in a million man march scheduled to take place in Tahrir Square and other major centers of protest on 29 July. The MB said the march will protest the circumvention of the people's will and aggression against the people's sovereignty.


Comment: Recent indications from the Egyptian Army that it intends to oversee Egyptian political reforms indefinitely appear to have prompted the Brothers to take a public stand, essentially in opposition to the military-backed government for the first time.


A key member of a panel drafting guidelines for Egypt's next constitution says most of the group's 50 members object to giving the military a future role in politics. Legal expert Tahany el-Gibali said Wednesday that the principles will have enough guarantees to protect all Egyptians while also safeguarding the civilian character of the state."


Comment: The significance of the two stories above is that they reinforce the assessment that the Egyptian Army staged a coup against Mubarak, its strongest backer. The Army sacrificed Mubarak in order to preserve its dominance of the political system.


In short, Egypt experienced no democratic revolution. The Brotherhood knows it and intends to take advantage of the fracture between the Army and the activists. There will be more violent civil disorders.
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There's been some fragmentation in the MB, the youth wing has been particularly disgruntled. The above development is interesting, the army are trying to prep the electoral battlefield in favor of the corrupt status quo. No one is having it, this could be the start of a genuinely revolutionary moment. The army appears to need the conservative MB to legitimize it's back room dominance. The Brothers have popular clout and higher ambitions than being stooges for Generals and their bid to maintain Nasser's Rentier State.

See New electoral law unwelcome across Egypt's political spectrum for details.
 
#7
On The Moor Next Door Vague Thoughts on Arab Uprisings
...The Egyptian military has acted as more as a replacement for the old regime than a transitional caretaker since the overthrow of Mubarak. Having been a key pillar in the old regime and having quite strong populist credentials the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) has continued many of the tactics and methods used by the former government to contain popular “excesses” by taking measures to curb protests, punishing demonstrators and using the urban poor against demonstrators. The SCAF has taken on a strongly bonapartist tendency, inciting the popular classes against the secular protest movements in Tahrir by blaming the “revolutionaries” for the country’s economic slow down and for obstructing a return to normalcy. There is a heavy degree of defensive and even vulgar populism in the SCAF’s treatment of protesters and its other opponents and critics physically and rhetorically. Despite the Mubarak trial and numerous other arrests of high profile regime figures, it is unlikely that what has gone on in Egypt since January 2011 can be called a “revolution” so much as an evolution of the previous regime or even a coup. For those with revolutionary agendas, the military’s significant popular prestige is a major obstacle to meaningful political or economic change at the structural level. The Egyptian situation reveals that although demonstrators in Tahrir were able to put the regime in crisis and force it to cut off some fat, they did not divide the elite so significantly that they were left truly vulnerable to the pressure of activists and civil society groups. The Egyptian uprising came with relatively vague objectives and ran up against a regime with a number of middle man social and political buffers between the deep regime and the masses — the labyrinth of security services and police, the public “civilian” regime figures and so on. This meant that a solid program of action never emerged from “the bottom” and that the core institutions of the old regime have basically remained in place.
Key thing here is the lack of real revolutionary political organization within the progressive Twitterati. We have a shambles in these risings. It occurs to me the noise of the much trumpeted new media technology may even be acting as a impediment to deeper revolutionary organization that's largely bult face to face and from a core leadership down. The folk who have this well developed sort of muscle and coherent understandable programs are the Islamists.
 
#8
In the WSJ Egypt's Rulers Stoke Xenophobia By Yaroslav Trofimov

CAIRO—In the final days of President Hosni Mubarak's regime, Egypt's state media whipped up a xenophobic frenzy not seen here since the 1950s, blaming the revolution on alien plots and inciting vigilante mobs to assault and detain scores of foreigners.

After a lull, Egypt's new military rulers are increasingly using the same tactic: portraying pro-democracy activists as spies and saboteurs, blaming the country's economic crisis and sectarian strife on foreign infiltrators, and blasting the U.S. for funding agents of change.

As a result, connections with the U.S. and other Western countries have turned toxic just as the largest Arab country is struggling with a rocky transition to democracy.

Dozens of Westerners, including tourists, reporters and Cairo residents, have been rounded up on the streets and delivered to police stations and military checkpoints by mobs of volunteer spy catchers in recent weeks. Almost all were quickly freed, with the exception of Ilan Grapel, an Israeli-American law student who has been incarcerated since June on suspicion of being a Mossad agent dispatched to Cairo to sow unrest.

The military-inspired xenophobia campaign has been amplified by resurgent Islamists, who are traditionally hostile to any infidel influence in the country, and jingoistic reports in parts of the Egyptian media.

"Any relation with the foreigners is dangerous now," says Hafez Abu Saada, chairman of the Egyptian Organization for Human Rights. "First they've started spreading incitement against foreigners, making people fear them. Now, the conspiracy theories have moved onto anyone in Egypt working with international organizations. This is a strategy to control civil society."

Though the country receives $1.3 billion in military aid from the U.S. every year, Egypt's ruling generals were particularly incensed by the Senate confirmation testimony of the new American ambassador to Cairo, Anne Patterson. She told lawmakers in June that the U.S. had already distributed some $40 million to fund Egypt's democratic transition and civil society.

Egyptian generals have repeatedly condemned as traitors nongovernment organizations that accept American money, and Cairo prosecutors have started an inquiry into these NGOs.

Greeting Ms. Patterson the week of her arrival in Cairo, the July 31 issue of the state-run news magazine October featured on its cover a depiction of the ambassador using blazing U.S. cash to ignite a bundle of dynamite wrapped in an American flag and planted in Tahrir Square, the revolution's ground zero.

The title: "Ambassador From Hell Is Setting Tahrir on Fire."

The acrimony over U.S. pro-democracy funding prompted Washington to recall the U.S. Agency for International Development chief of mission in Cairo, James Bever, who is leaving this month after only 10 months on the job, a U.S. official said.

The continued detention of Mr. Grapel has further aggravated U.S.-Egyptian relations and has been repeatedly raised in meetings with senior Egyptian generals, the U.S. official added. Mr. Grapel and the Israeli government have denied the spying allegations.

In another irritant, the Egyptian military recently said it won't allow Western observers during the parliamentary elections scheduled for November, saying such a presence would violate Egyptian sovereignty.

"In the Egyptian psyche, the West represents occupation, imperialism and colonialism," explains retired Maj. Gen. Ahmed Wahdan, the former chief of operations of the Egyptian army.

Even the more liberal parties vying for power are joining the anti-Western chorus. "America does not want for Egypt to become the largest democratic country in the region," says Al-Sayed al-Badawy, chairman of the secular and liberal Wafd party. "The aim of American funding for Egyptian NGOs is to create chaos and to overthrow Egyptian values and traditions."

The new mood is also affecting the country's economic policies just as Egypt is struggling with the postrevolutionary drop in tourism and foreign investment. In June, Egypt's then finance minister, Samir Radwan, negotiated a $5.2 billion standby loan from the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. He describes the loan as favorable, with "no conditionality whatsoever" and a maximum interest rate of 2.5%—compared with 4.5% demanded by Qatar.

Yet, news of the plan sparked a nationalist outcry in the media and among political parties. "People were still thinking about the old IMF, the new type of colonialism, and all that hot air," laments Mr. Radwan. By the end of June, the military council vetoed the IMF agreement as contrary to Egypt's national interests.

Mr. Radwan has since lost his job in a cabinet reshuffle that also abolished the investment ministry and put an end to the country's privatization program.

Foreign involvement in the system of crony capitalism under Mr. Mubarak was seen by many Egyptians as unfair, and the country's new rulers must take this into account, explains the new finance minister, Hazem El-Beblawi. "Deep in our hearts we are very clear that no country can live alone," Mr. El-Beblawi says. But, he adds, "the immediate popular feeling is resentment, and sometimes you have to listen to the feelings of the people."
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State-run October magazine on its July 31 cover depicted U.S. envoy Anne Patterson stoking unrest and called her 'Ambassador From Hell.'
Looking at the polling data there is little need to stoke anti-US/Israeli feeling, the windy wonder Barry is even less popular than his predecessor.
 
#9
On The Arabist WHAT ISLAMISTS SAY A SECULAR EGYPT WILL LOOK LIKE By Ursula Lindsey
In the (extremely unlikely, not to say nearly unimaginable) event that Egypt took a strong turn towards militant secularism, Islamists here have put together a video (linked to by the Muslim Brotherhood's twitter feed) showing what the future of the country will look like.

Some highlights:

It all starts when in a new constitution in 2012, Egypt no longer designates Islam as the religion of state and removes the references to Sharia as the main source of its legislation.

o In 2013, the Egyptian parliament outlaws poligamy.
o In 2014, women's rights organizations celebrate a new law that gives women equal inheritance rights.
o In 2015, women are prohibited from wearing the hegab in public buildings.
o In 2017, the first movie theater "specializing in porno films" opens.
o Obviously sexual freedom spreads, and tourism declines due to the spread of sexual harassment (Ed. Note: This is particularly ironic for those of us aware of the current rates of sexual harassment).

I don't know what's funnier about this video: the hysterically ominous music; the fact that women's rights groups are represented by a grinning blonde drinking a beer; or the way it ends up describing Bizarro Egypt, where up is down, left is right and Islam doesn't dominate every aspect of public life (politicians get in trouble for opening their speeches with "in the name of God.")

It just goes to show that playing on feelings of fear and indignation (even if you are ascendant and everyone is actually scared of you) is at the basis of most politics. More about the video's predictions after the jump.

o The Ministry of Higher Education decides all students will learn "Islam, Christianity, Judaism and Baha'ism on an equal footing."
o In 2019, there is the first gay marriage in Egypt.
o In 2020, all religious references are removed from official documents and government buildings.
o In 2022, the call to prayer is prohibited.
o In 2024, Egypt and Israel sign a joint defense agreement, and an Egyptian soldiers raises an Israeli flag over Gaza.
o Street fighting breaks out between the religious and secularists.

In the final portion, titles let viewers know that this is what secularists really plan to do, and that all their claims to the contrary ("we're not against religion, just fundamentalism and extremism;" "we just want freedom and equality") are a lie. The video then features images of secularists like feminist Nawal Es-Saadawy, Coptic business tycoon Naguib Sawiris and intellectual and Islamist critic Sayyid El-Qimni.

The video sums up by detailing the disastrous effects of secularism on the West, represented by some charts about church attendance, children born out of wedlock and -- the strongest proof -- a broken egg shell with "marriage" written across it. I can't really argue with the indictment of materialism and celebrity magazines -- and then it all ends with an image of laughing Israeli officials.
My bold, nice touch the Baha'ism bit, I can just imagine some frothing beard reaching for his revolver at the very thought.

Oddly like some of the fear mongering stuff you hear from the insurgent right in the US, I mean a secular Egypt is about as likely as Sharia takeover in Michigan.
 
#10
In The Guardian Israel faces worst crisis with Egypt for 30 years as diplomats flee
Attack on embassy is latest storm to engulf Jewish state as relations with Turkey also deteriorate

Israel is facing its worst crisis with Egypt for 30 years after being forced to airlift diplomats and their families to safety during the storming of its embassy in Cairo by a violent mob.

The siege of the embassy ended, with the 86 Israelis fleeing, only after intervention from the White House following phone calls between the Israeli prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, and US President Barack Obama.

The attack was the latest diplomatic storm to engulf the Jewish state, whose relations with another ally, Turkey, have worsened over the past nine days. Israel is also facing a "diplomatic tsunami" at the UN later this month when a majority of countries are expected to back recognition of a Palestinian state.

The embassy attack, in which a security wall was demolished and a group of protesters reached the door of the embassy's secure area, threatened to cause "serious damage in peaceful relations between our two countries", the prime minister said.

He added that it was a "grave violation of accepted diplomatic practice".

He spent the night with senior officials in a foreign ministry operation room dealing with the crisis. Eighty diplomats and their families were airlifted on an Israeli military plane at 4.40am, but six personnel were trapped inside the building.

"There was one door separating them from the mob," said the official, who described the night as "very dramatic and tense". Eventually the six were rescued by Egyptian commandos following behind-the-scenes intervention by the US.

Obama spoke to Netanyahu during the night, the White House said. He also appealed to Egypt to "honour its international obligations".

David Cameron condemned the attack and urged Egypt to meet its responsibilities under the Vienna Convention to protect diplomatic property and personnel.

Three people died during the overnight protests in Cairo and at least 1,093 were injured, according to Egypt's deputy health minister.

Anti-Israel sentiment in Egypt has been vociferous since the killing of five Egyptian soldiers by Israeli forces in the aftermath of a militant attack last month near the border between the two countries in which eight Israelis died. Thousands of people mobbed the Israeli embassy in Cairo, and Israel was forced to issue a statement regretting the deaths in the hope that it would contain the anti-Israel mood.

Israel has been nervous about the future of its peace treaty with Egypt, signed 30 years ago, since its staunch ally, former president Hosni Mubarak, was forced out of office in an uprising earlier this year. It fears the temporary military government is more attuned to anti-Israel sentiment on the street.
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Ah, the Arab Autumn.
 

Nehustan

On ROPS
On ROPs
#11
So...it might turn out that that peace wall might have some function after all. It'll keep all those foreign duelers, halvers and fulls safe with the Palestinians should tanks roll; Eastern Germany Palestine is not. At least it's not those dreaded (New) Labour (Neu Arbeit) people in power, and there should be enough indoctrination from Shiloh in the camps to make sure those secular IDF (La Illaha, La Illaha, La Illaha) can play Legion should it get hairy. Who knows Banu Israel might actually get free travel to between the two blue lines (i.e. Tigris and Euphrates, Ur, Chaldees!), might take a while and a new constitution in Palestina (Pax Romana, Pax Brittania, Pax Americana? PAX ROMANA...Surat Ar-Rum!) more Yemen/Sheba than Yathrib (il Allah!!). Good job it's Likkud in power (i.e. with some of those SS rejecters/Stern descendants) and not the dreaded labour and their old fashioned (blood) red flag internationalé bollocks...Jerusalem blue flags please!
 
#12
From Middle East Online Egypt military to widen state of emergency
Ruling military council will expand scope of emergency law to target labour strikes, spread of false rumours.

CAIRO - One of Egypt's ruling generals said Monday the military will expand a state of emergency because of a "breach in public security" after protesters stormed Israel's embassy and clashed with police, the state news agency reported.

The ruling military council issued a decree to widen the scope of the emergency law -- restricted by ousted president Hosni Mubarak to narcotics and terrorism cases -- to target labour strikes and the "spread of false rumours."

It will also target acts that "disrupt traffic," the official MENA news agency reported. That could possibly outlaw many of the regular protests held after an uprising overthrew Mubarak in February.

"Widening the scope of crimes liable under the emergency law along with terrorism and narcotics is the result of the security conditions the country is undergoing and the breach in public order," the agency quoted General Mamduh Shahin as saying.

The general, a member of Egypt's ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, stressed the "necessity of confronting thuggery and all who threaten Egypt's security and harm its reputation abroad."

Those arrested under the law face emergency state security courts, which critics say are unfair and result in harsh sentences.

Protesters clashed with police overnight on Friday after demonstrators stormed a high-rise building housing the Israeli embassy and dumped thousands of documents from a balcony.

Three protesters were killed in the clashes, which left more than 1,000 people wounded. Israel's ambassador and many of his staff were evacuated out of the country.
The Arab Spring's great faux revolution rolls on.

If you paid attention to the initial demonstrations it was clear economics and specifically the organized labor's discontent with Egypt's rentier state were as salient as demands for a more representative government seized on by the giddy MSM.

What we have now is Junta of old guard generals behind a facade of the "transitional" SCAF conducting nest feathering business much as usual with an eye on the mob. Their policy positions are now at least swayed by the Cairo Street which Mubarak ignored. However they respond to strikes with laws more draconian than Mubarak enacted using the attack on the Israeli embassy as a pretext. That they stood back and watched that attack until DC pleaded with them to intervene is telling.
 
#13
On Bloomberg Egyptians Cheer Erdogan in Cairo as Turkey Seeks Partnership With Egypt By Emre Peker
Thousands of cheering Egyptians greeted Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan at about midnight in Cairo, where he arrived to establish a strategic partnership.

The crowd waved Egyptian, Libyan and Turkish flags, as well as those of the premier’s governing Justice and Development Party, while chanting, “Egypt-Turkey: one fist” and “brave Erdogan welcome to your second home.”

Turkey’s prime minister is visiting Egypt for the first time since the ouster of longtime leader Hosni Mubarak. He had publicly called on Mubarak to step down in a televised speech broadcast at Tahrir Square, the revolution’s epicenter.

The premier’s hard line against Israel is also attracting supporters in Egypt, where tensions culminated in an attack on the Israeli embassy last week.

“Turkey-Egypt hand in hand, greetings to Egypt’s youth, to the Egyptian people,” Erdogan said while raising a joint fist with his counterpart, Prime Minister Essam Sharaf.

Turkey’s prime minister will meet with religious, military and civilian leaders during his two-day stay, before moving on to Tunisia and Libya to meet with transitional leaders.

The Turkish and Egyptian prime ministers plan to sign an agreement today establishing a Turkish-Egyptian high-level strategic council, according to Erdogan’s schedule.

Erdogan said he won’t visit the Gaza Strip during his three-country tour, which had been a matter of speculation for the past week. He said a trip during his current tour is “out of the question,” although he is “longing to visit Gaza as soon as possible,” according to state-run Anatolia news agency.

The Turkish prime minister’s popularity in the Arab world surged as he has frayed relations with Israel by demandingg an apology for the killing of Turkish activists on a flotilla to Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip last year.
The Islamist tinged AKP government's rise to popular supported dominance over the formidable Turkish Deep State is a successful model many Egyptians will now look too.

Erdogan is clearly working to position Turkey as the leading power in the region and perhaps the Umma. Polling shows Iran is viewed with great suspicion while Turkey enjoys a great deal of prestige amongst many Arab populations and it is rising.

He has little to lose and much to gain by tilting diplomatically against Israel to capitalize on both the Arab and his own Turkish population's gut feelings. DC adores the Jewish State but its more realist interest lie the far more geo-strategic Turks.

This may be no bad thing in the bigger picture even for the Israelis, the Turks are advancing at the expense of the Iranians. They are a pragmatic power Israel can hope to negotiate with. Perhaps not with this diplomatically inept Likud government but a later one.
 

Nehustan

On ROPS
On ROPs
#14
On Bloomberg Egyptians Cheer Erdogan in Cairo as Turkey Seeks Partnership With Egypt By Emre PekerThe Islamist tinged AKP government's rise to popular supported dominance over the formidable Turkish Deep State is a successful model many Egyptians will now look too...This may be no bad thing in the bigger picture even for the Israelis, the Turks are advancing at the expense of the Iranians. They are a pragmatic power Israel can hope to negotiate with. Perhaps not with this diplomatically inept Likud government but a later one.
To be honest if I was an Israeli (which I'm frikkin not despite some people who are supposédly within Islam loving to call me Yahoud! Whatever!) I'd vote Likkud, I think they do the best with a dud hand; they can only really go forward, it wasn't them who broke 'the promise' of 02/11/1917...nor caused the Nakba of '48. If I'd arrived on boats, or been in country when the partitioning was leaked I'd have been pissed off, SS or Kampster...it has basically lead to the last 60 odd years of troubles. If Jakob Shiloh Wettin were in Israel today he'd vote Likkud, liase between the settlers (Muhajiroon) and helpers (Ansari) on the east of the peace wall, and be prepped to roll tanks to defend both sides of the wall. It wouldn't take anyone to say 'I do Nehushtan' he'd reply 'I can do myself thanks!'. It'll be a while until Palestina is free, and I personally have to thank Likkud types for my silver 'new moon' Palestina pendent; Pax Romana!

(edited to add...new mooners I met early summer...Ahlan wa Sahlan to the European Caliphate...it's not quite Vagator...but enjoy Shiloh's swiss account...propagate...new moon sighted over Bacca)
 
#15
In Haaretz U.S. told Egypt it must rescue Israeli embassy workers or suffer 'consequences,' sources say By Barak Ravid
Officials involved in attempt to resolve mob attack on Israeli embassy in Cairo say U.S. Secretary of Defense Panetta managed to speak with head of Egypt's ruling military only after 2 hours of repeated calling.

The United States told Egypt's military rulers during an attack on the Israeli embassy in Cairo that they must act quickly in order to prevent Israeli personnel from being attacked by Egyptian protesters, Haaretz learned on Saturday.

According to senior U.S. source that were involved in the attempt to resolve the Cairo incident, U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta called Supreme Military Council head Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, conveying what the source called a forceful message concerning the need for speed in Egypt's ending of the embassy attack.

"There's no time to waste," Panetta reportedly told Tantawi in the 1 A.M. call, warning of a tragic outcome that "would have very severe consequences."

The U.S. source also said that Tantawi failed to answer incoming calls from U.S. officials throughout the evening, finally answering after more than two hours of attempts.

These reports came after earlier Saturday, a senior Israeli source indicated that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak attempted repeatedly to reach the head of Egypt's Supreme Military Council, to no avail.

According to the Israeli source, the "Egyptians said every time that they were not able to track him down in order to connect the call." After failing to locate Tantawi himself, Netanyahu called head of Egyptian intelligence, Gen. Murad Muwafi.

Barak, in turn, called U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, asking him to discuss the issue with Tantawi, which Panetta was able to do shortly after.
...
The attack's been compared, hysterically, to the taking of the US Embassy in Teheran, I'm reminded of a less known event.

Just after the USSR invaded Afghanistan, the US embassy in Islamabad was stormed. A furious mob was beating on the armored door of the panic room for a couple of hours with the staff locked inside. I'm sure the Pentagon line to Pindi was buzzing with impotent frustration then as well. The door held. Can't recall if the Pak Army intervened finally. It was rumored the ISI had bussed in the mob in the first place.
 
#16
In WAPO Wael Ghonim blasts Egypt’s military By Elizabeth Flock
A former Google executive and the man who became the public face of protests in Egypt Wael Ghonim isn’t pleased with the state of the country post-revolution.

Ghonim took his displeasure to Facebook Thursday, writing an open letter to the commander-in-chief of the Egyptian Armed Forces Field Marshal Mohammed Tantawi. In the letter, Ghonim blasted the military leadership, the slow pace of reform and the absence of a transition to a new, democratic government.

“After weeks and months, the mode of governance in our nation has not fundamentally changed and the excuse has been ‘stability,’ and it did not matter if the result was stability at the bottom of the pit,” Ghonim wrote. He’s not the only one calling for a clearer road map for the country.

This week, seven presidential candidates met to discuss the possibility of demanding elections in as early as February or March.

Last week, the Muslim Brotherhood, which once allied with the military, fumed over the the military's decision to expand an emergency law it had promised to dismantle.

Activists have continued to hold a series of protests about the slow timeline for reform, including a large protest in Tahrir Square last Friday dubbed “Correcting the Path,” which was held to demand an end to military trials of civilians.

The Wall Street Journal points out that the military has not only delayed elections but also implemented “Mubarak-era tactics to repress dissent.” According to Ghonim, these tactics includes the arrests, detentions and accusations of treachery leveled at young Egyptians who “were prominent members of the frontlines of a revolution that the SCAF (Supreme Council of Armed Forces) has described as one of the greatest historical moments in the life of our nation.”

“More groups of youth become frustrated with every day that passes,” he wrote.

Andrew Keen, author of “The Cult of the Amateur,” said Thursday that Ghonim — who became a figure*head of the protests after being arrested and then released in January and who uses Facebook to galvanize protests — would be just a “footnote in history.”

“Ah,” human rights activist Leah McElrath wrote on Twitter Thursday, “but what an interesting ‘footnote’ it will be.”
Full text on The Arabist, I recommend their excellent podcast.

This is significant, Ghonim is a moderate bourgeois voice and advocated patience with the military junta, a sentiment that was common in Egypt. That naive position is becoming untenable as the SCAF is focused on "stability at the bottom of the pit" as he says. Their expansion of the emergency law beyond the bounds of the Mubarak era is clearly counter-revolutionary, dismantling that was the core demand of Tahir Sq. The details of the promised elections are kept deliberately foggy.

Egypt is the pivot of the Arab world, this could all fizzle out in despair or we could be having Arab Spring II in Cario next year and perhaps for real.
 
#17
From The Arabist FIVE JANUARY 25 GAINS THAT HAVE (SO FAR) SURVIVED THE COUNTER-REVOLUTION By Steve Negus
As quite a few commentators have gloomily noted, an Egyptian counter-revolution appears to be in full swing. The Supreme Council for the Armed Forces has vowed to step up its use of Emergency Law and demonstrating a willingness to crack down on street protesters, strikers, critics of the military, NGOs who receive foreign funding, and anyone else who might trouble their hold over the country. Newspapers are again being censored. The Interior Ministry seems to have successfully resisted real reform, at least for the time being. Supporters of the revolution are trying to count the tangible achievements of the January uprising and coming up short, sober observers are reminding us that those who create a revolution rarely get to determine its outcome, and some Edmund Burkes are surveying the scene and declaring that they knew all along that the naive youth of Facebook could never seriously shape the course of Egypt's future, except as pawns.

I would agree that the vision of Egypt's future articulated by protesters in Tahrir is still far from being realized. However, they have already accomplished far more than many would give them credit for doing. Some examples:

1) Egypt's media and political political landscape has become vastly more pluralistic. SCAF has been cracking down on the media, but in a very piecemeal fashion, a few pebbles tossed against the torrent of licensings of newspapers and television channels licensed in the first months after Mubarak's departure. Every major political trend in the country has been allowed to form its own political party. This means, among other things that parties have more internal democracy: Islamists no longer have to huddle together under the semi-tolerated protective umbrella of the Muslim Brothers to avoid prosecution for illegal political activity, but have been free to split off into smaller groups that express their discontent with the parent organization.

2) Liberals have established themselves as a real force in Egyptian politics. Electorally, they may not be as organized as the Islamists, but the leftist/liberal secular-leaning youth are the acknowledged heroes of January. Groups like April 6 and the Revolutionary Youth Coalition now have major name recognition, and polls suggest that they are at the very least competitive with the Muslim Brothers. Prior to January, very few people would have mentioned the Islamists and the liberals even in the same breath as political forces of comparable power.

3) Egypt's political discourse has become increasingly liberal. The demands of the January uprising have hardened the consensus that Egypt needs to have a democratically elected government. And we're not talking about the "democratic transition" offered by Mubarak, where Egypt may be allowed to elect their 20 years down the road, if conditions are absolutely perfect -- pretty much everyone has agreed in principle that the next government must be fairly elected under the supervision of an independent judiciary. And with the exception of a few Salafis, pretty much every group insists that the government be "civil" -- ie, not an Islamic state. You may or may not believe that the Muslim Brothers would not establish a theocracy if given the chance. But in order to implement a radical agenda, a would-be radical vanguard party usually needs to pitch itself as offering a major alternative to the current order. Very few Egyptian politicians seem to have calculated that there is a market for religious radicalism.

The revolution also seems to have strengthened the consensus in favor of individual rights -- leading Islamists have acknowledged a right for Muslims to convert out of Islam, for example, while Coptic activists have become more vocal in demanding that the Church should no longer have the capacity to regulate their personal lives, in particular their right to divorce.

4) Hundreds of thousands of Egyptians have become politically active -- not just in the crowds in Tahrir, but in the workplace as well. Egypt was never quite as compliant as it was portrayed to be, and workers, government employees, professionals, tenants, and other aggrieved groups have always staged strikes and demonstrators to further interests. But under Mubarak, the regime was usually able to keep these groups focused on their specific needs and fairly easily appeased with small concessions. Now, workplace organizations are far more militant, and far more likely to mix their own parochial demands with pressure to keep up reforms at a national level. Also, Egyptian institutions from labor unions to al-Azhar have signalled that they will no longer tolerate their leadership being appointed by the state, and insist on autonomy.

5) The calculus of running the country has been changed. No future government can assume, as Mubarak's did, that it can violate its pledges or make an utter mockery of elections, and only a small handful of activists will turn out to protest, outnumbered by the Central Security forces which surround them. No future autocrat can quite as cocky about rigging elections, about promoting a family member as heir, or otherwise ignoring the desires of the Egyptian public.

None of these successes is irreversible. None are cast-iron guarantees of fair and democratic elections. But they are major obstacles in the path of any would-be strongman who wishes to reestablished an entrenched and lasting autocracy.
Evolution is perhaps a better work than revolution for what has happened in Egypt. The population's expectations of the state have changed, whether and when the state will follow is the question.
 
#18
On The American Interest Will Egypt Have A Revolution? by WALTER RUSSELL MEAD
The Arab Spring has reached its first autumn, and it is still not clear whether Egypt will have a revolution. In my view, it hasn’t had one yet. The Mubarak family attempted a revolution of its own early in the year, replacing the military-business regime that has ruled the country since the 1950s with a dynastic dictatorship. The military beat that revolution back with the help of popular demonstrations; the Mubaraks are gone, but the military state at the core of Eygptian power since Nasser’s time lives on.

The most recent demonstrations in Tahrir Square are trying to change that. Both liberal and Islamic grou
ps fear that the army will continue to rule by stuffing the parliament with cronies who have roots in the old regime. Those fears seem well judged; that is presumably exactly what those who rule Egypt hope to accomplish.

So far, what Turks would call the “deep state” of Egypt — the institutions and individuals who hold the real power, whatever that pretty constitution says — have been able to stave off a direct conflict between the military and the popular forces. My guess is that both sides know that at this point the military would win a direct battle for power and that public opinion, beyond the hard core of Islamists and liberals, would acquiesce. Egypt is not yet in a pre-revolutionary state.

What we are seeing in the streets of Cairo is less a revolution seeking to take shape than a haggling process. The leaders of the Egyptian political parties want to be able to choose all the parliamentary candidates through naming them to parliamentary lists. That would make party leaders the chief power brokers in a parliamentary regime. The military wants more MPs to be elected as individuals, weakening the parties and making it easier for the real powers in the country to manipulate the parliamentary process.


The party leaders argue, not without reason, that one of the banes of politics in developing, corruption-prone countries like Egypt is that MPs engage as freelance operators, selling their votes and allegiance for patronage and other favors. Creating stronger, more ideological parties is a way of fighting that trend. Mature democracies are characterized by parties that stand for something other than the selfish ambitions of political entrepreneurs; the fight to strengthen parties in Egypt is a fight for modern democracy.

There is some merit in this argument, and Egypt is not the only country where reformers have embraced strong party structures as a way to consolidate democracy. Giving party leaders the right to select candidates on the party list is a way of accomplishing that; members of parliament will have to vote as their parties wish or face the loss of their seats in the next election.

But party leaders’ motives are mixed. Power in Egyptian politics for some time to come will be inextricably linked to corruption; no doubt there are some sincere liberal and Islamic activists who intend to use their new power purely for the public good as they see it, but experience suggests that they will be significantly outnumbered by the hacks and timeservers who see political parties as money and patronage machines.

If party leaders have the power to select candidates, it will not so much eliminate corruption from Egyptian politics as centralize it. You will have to pay large bribes to party leaders to get what you want rather than sprinkling lots of smaller bribes among hungry MPs. The party barons will keep the reins of patronage and policy firmly in their hands, forcing young and hungry members of parliament to dance attendance and obey as they work their way up the party structures.

A cynic might see the current wave of demonstrations in Egypt as an attempt by the political party leaders to ensure that as much bribe money as possible flows through them in the future. Cynics are usually at least partly right, and it is very likely that some of the party leaders promoting a party list electoral procedure are well aware of the potential consequences. Others may be young and idealistic now, but if the new system is adopted and takes hold, it is quite likely that over time some of the young leaders will trade idealism for experience in the conventional way and make their peace with some of the less savory consequences of a party list electoral system.

But if cynics are rarely totally wrong, they almost always overstate their case. The fight over party list representation is not just an empty patronage fight; it is also a way to shift power to those who opposed the Mubarak regime; the leaders of the new political powers contending in Egypt today were mostly the “outs” under the old system. Building patronage machines under their control is a way to distance post-Mubarak Egyptian politics from the status quo ante.

This is, however, still a negotiation rather than a revolution. The Egyptian power system is accommodating itself to new realities and the distribution of power within the system is changing. But so far the changes in Egyptian politics are still fairly superficial — and the still-powerful forces behind the current system have every intention of keeping it that way. If it comes to that, the military can probably work pretty comfortably through party leaders; unless either the sincere Islamists or the idealistic liberals dominate the new parliament (unlikely), the deep state is likely to find politicians it can work with.

Incremental reform and slow change looks to be where Egypt is headed for the next little while. That is good news for Egypt’s friends and neighbors — and also good news for most of the Egyptian people. Revolutions in poor countries without many viable economic strategies are often both ugly and futile. Without reform, Egypt’s corrupt nexus of government and business will strangle economic growth and radicalize the people; with too much instability the economy will tank as tourists and foreign investors flee. The good news is that for now at least, Egypt seems to be on the middle path: reforming some of the worst abuses of the Mubarak system but not lurching off in directions that would bring long term harm to its growth prospects.

The bad news is that Egypt remains a heavily populated, resource poor country with a weak educational system and a deeply corrupt political organization. As I’ve written in earlier posts on this blog, Egypt has been trying — and failing– to modernize since Napoleon’s conquest in the late eighteenth century. It hasn’t succeeded yet, and so far the current moment of political unrest does not seem capable of changing Egypt’s historical arc. This is not the first time an idealistic generation of western educated, modern minded, patriotic youth from mostly elite backgrounds has tried to change Egypt; it is unlikely to be the last.
My bold, the Egyptian electoral system is crazily complicated and they are currently tweaking the design to favor elements of the rentier state. The SCAF has been assigning about a third of the seats to "independents", usually well propertied chaps that run outside the party lists. The objective seems to be a weak, divided parliament that is easy to manipulate. I'd compare this to Pakistan rather than Turkey where the Deep State lost most of its grip on power a decade or so ago.

Mead is right to describe the current process as haggling and also that it's meaningful for all that. I'd be less sanguine about whether it represents a return to stasis. Mubarak was a well bribed, largely obedient, servant of DC. There is a clear tilt towards pursuing Egypt's interests driven by a certain populism necessary to the militaries prestige.
 
#19
on The Arabist MASPERO AND SECTARIANISM IN EGYPT By Issandr El Amrani
The clashes that broke out a few hours ago at Maspero, the large Downtown Cairo building near Tahrir Square that houses the Egyptian Radio and Television Union (basically, state TV and radio), are a deeply worrisome turn in Egypt’s fledging transition.

Worrisome because they started off at a protest of Christians (joined by some Muslims) over restrictions on church-building and have taken on a more sectarian overtone than anything we’ve seen so far.

Worrisome because, while the initial spark to the confrontation between the protestors and the army is still unknown, the army crackdown was quite brutal, as these videos show. This marks the first time that the army has taken such an aggressive posture against a predominantly Christian protest, which will easily lead the framing of today’s events as the first time that the military chooses to kill protesting Christians.

Worrisome because state television has behaved thus far tonight much as it did during the 18 days of the Egyptian uprising this winter. In other words, it has deployed propaganda, unverifiable allegations, talk of “foreign agendas” and “outside hands”, and extremely partial reporting. It has repeatedly used sectarian language, with presenters referring to protestors as “the Copts” and using sentences such as “The Copts have killed two soldiers.” On top of this, the military cut off the live TV feeds of several satellite TV stations, including 25TV, al-Hurra, and at a later point al-Jazeera, reducing the independent reporting of an unfolding event. And most of all because TV presenters were urging Egyptians to “protect the army from the Copts.”

Worrisome because many appear to have responded to that call, and tonight on one of Cairo’s main thoroughfares you could see young men marching to that chant of “There is no God but God”, or a woman being attacked simply because she was wearing a cross, or simply because sectarianism has reared its ugly head again after last May’s Imbaba church arson.

Worrisome because this is all happening at a time when the political class is in crisis, its confidence in the SCAF at an all-time low, and the general population is so fed up of all the uncertainty and chaos that it is having buyer’s remorse about the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak.

Most worrisome of all because, taken altogether, this paints a picture of the Egyptian military as resorting to sectarian impulses almost reflexively. It is the flipside of its continued unwillingness, after the sectarian clashes (between civilians as well as between police, military and civilians once fighting had already broken out) of earlier this year, to end once and for all the official discrimination that Copts face when building, expanding or renovating places of worship. SCAF, which rules by decree, could have acted, but did not — and acted weakly in the face of the arson of a church in Aswan last week, which was the cause of today’s protests. And because from so many sides we are getting the old passing of the buck to “foreign agendas” and “foreign hands” in what was[?]


We’ll get a clearer picture of what happened tonight in the next few days, when heads will have cooled and the Twitter-fed hysteria and emotion will have died down (I mean really: you had people on Twitter talking of civil war or another January 28 — it's not). Video evidence already suggests that while the protestors may have been aggressive, the army response — notably running over people at high speed with an armored vehicle — is utterly unnaceptable. And far too reminiscent of similar images in late January of this year.

Here are a few early accounts:

Protests Over Church Attack Kills Several in Cairo - NYT
Cairo Religious Clashes Leave at Least 19 Dead - WSJ
Nineteen killed as Egyptian Christians, police clash - Reuters
19 dead in worst Cairo riots since Mubarak ouster - AP
Death toll, injuries on the rise after Maspero march met with violence - Daily News Egypt
At least 23 dead in Egyptian church protests - FT
My bold, I have a suspicion the SCAF is quite happy to have some emotive wedge issues like Israel and the Copts to tinker with.
 
#20
FRom The Arabist HOW MANY SCAF GENERALS DOES IT TAKE TO SCREW ON A LIGHTBULB? By Issandr El Amrani
(This post is motivated by today's performance by General Adel Emara, in the press conference today in which he explained that the military did not shoot or run over anyone on October 9, among other things.)

Possible answers:

The screwing-on of lightbulbs is a sacred national duty that will be carried out with due haste with by appropriate number of generals according to a set but secret timetable.
The inability to restore the lighbulb to its rightful function is the work of infiltrators and saboteurs!
A foreign hand has stolen the lightbulb, but its plots will be foiled.
No foreign agenda can dictate to us what to do with the lightbulb!
Despite reports and video evidence to the contrary, we assure you that the lightbulb is fully functioning.
Together, the SCAF and the people will ensure that all lightbulbs everywhere are screwed on with one hand!
We refuse the lightbulb's resignation and order it to return to its socket immediately!
How do you know about the lightbulb, spy?
I urge you to contribute your own in the comments.
 

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