In an unprecedented article published in Al Shorouk newspaper on 19 October, the prominent Egyptian-American academic, Amr Hamzawy, berated Egypt’s left-wingers and liberals for their support of the 3 July coup. He said that ever since the coup at the beginning of July, democrats in Egypt have had time to sort the wheat from the chaff.
The article pointed out that the liberals and left-wingers who backed the military intervention, “isolated” the elected president and suspended the Constitution, which displayed an incredible lack of commitment to democratic principles. Communists, socialists, Nasserists and Arab nationalists have all shown us that they are unwilling to make political compromises. By agreeing to take part in the de facto government imposed by the military with total indifference to democratic legitimacy, such political groups pushed their ideologies into a long, dark tunnel. The fact that they not only keep quiet about the repression and state killings but also take part tells us all we need to know about such people; they have stripped themselves of all moral and political credibility.
On the media campaigns, the author said they had succeeded in influencing people and this probably contributed to how the Muslim Brotherhood and their religious allies were portrayed; as being irrational politically whilst being caught up in acts of violence and incitement. In turn, this pushed liberal and left-wing principles towards neo-fascism under which the return of repressive practices reminiscent of the security state became acceptable to the general public. It also prompted the use of phrases such as “war on terror,” “the security solution is the only solution,” “the need to exclude the religious right-wing,” and “human rights, civil peace, and transitional justice are luxuries Egypt cannot afford while facing terrorism,” and so on.
Such involvement in the repressive state apparatus has made it clear that democratic movements in Egypt cannot count on the left-wing and liberal politicians to help them regain the rights and freedoms that people fought and died for in the January 25 Revolution. If anyone was in any doubt about this, the rush by these politicians to back the coup leader, Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi, as president should have confirmed it. They are indifferent to the deception being practiced on the people of Egypt; the concepts of justice and accountability are being replaced by their demands that the state should act “decisively,” as if promoting bloodshed and killing is the way to end bloodshed and killing in society and restore democracy.
They also act as if stability is achieved when the state uses force and violence rather than justice and the law. These dark voices control the public arena and insist on silence or vocal support; no dissent is allowed as Egyptian politics joins the ranks of the fascist elites of the past. Contemporary norms around the world, ironically in the Western countries which have condoned the coup, promote negotiation, tolerance and respect in order to build civil society and democracy. Egypt today indulges in violence and “security solutions” while promoting hatred and exclusion.
Hamzawy noted that new initiatives have already borne fruit, such as the “No to Military Trials for Civilians” group. Self-criticism is leading to the rebuilding of links between rights and freedoms, elections and referendums, legislative and executive institutions subject to responsibility and accountability, as well as between those in the security forces who are neutral and stick to the rule of the law and citizens whose dignity is preserved and who can participate in the management of public affairs.
Since 3 July, the pro-democracy movement’s acknowledgment of the need to distance itself from the parties and movements that failed the 2013 exam has been matched by the economic, financial and media elites’ lack of commitment to the principles and values of democracy. Out of pure self-interest, the latter have restored a repressive regime against the interests of the people of Egypt.
The way forward for the pro-democracy movement, according to the author, is to learn from the lessons of the past couple of years. The future will be difficult, but their success will depend on how well they can re-boot themselves based on this invaluable, if painful, experience.
- Egypt Aid: Elections versus Democracy (nationalinterest.org)
“If one thing has become clear in the wake of last week’s military coup d’état against Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi, it’s that democracy promotion is not a core principle of neoconservatism,” writes the astute commentator Jim Lobe. Lobe points out that a few neocons (he cites only Robert Kagan) did stick with the pro-democracy position but “[a]n apparent preponderance of neocons, such as Daniel Pipes, the contributors to the Wall Street Journal’s editorial board and Commentary’s Contentions’ blog,” tended to sympathize with the coup.
Even Kagan’s support for democracy was far less than an endorsement of Morsi’s right to govern, which he labeled “majoritarian” rather than democratic. Kagan wrote: “He ruled not so much as a dictator but as a majoritarian, which often amounted to the same thing. With a majority in parliament and a large national following, and with no experience whatsoever in the give-and-take of democratic governance, Morsi failed in the elementary task of creating a system of compromise, inclusiveness, and checks and balances.” (“Time to break out of a rut in Egypt,” “Washington Post,” July 5, 2013
It should be pointed out that if democracy required compromise, inclusiveness, and checks and balances, it is hard to believe that many countries conventionally regarded as democracies would pass the test. Certainly, Israel, as a self-styled Jewish State, would not. (The Founding Fathers of the United States in creating the Constitution took steps to try to prevent the liberty of individuals from being oppressed by a “tyranny of the majority” —democracy itself being negative term—but this has not been the case in all modern democracies.)
Instead of a military coup, Kagan held that a better approach would have been to leave Morsi in office but to rely on international pressure to compel his government to change its policies. Kagan contended that Morsi “deserved to be placed under sustained domestic and international pressure, especially by the United States, the leading provider of aid to Egypt. He deserved to have the United States not only suspend its bilateral aid to Egypt but also block any IMF agreement until he entered into a meaningful, substantive dialogue with his political opponents, including on amending the flawed constitution he rammed through in December as well as electoral law. He ought to have been ostracized and isolated by the international democratic community.” In short, Kagan advocated the use of international pressure to essentially prevent the democratically-elected Morsi government from enacting measures in line with its election mandate–and the fact of the matter is that in all of the elections Islamist parties won a significant majority of the overall vote–and force it to attune its actions to the demands of the “international democratic community,” that is, the Western nations aligned with the United States. (None of the previous statements should be considered an endorsement of Morsi’s policies but only a recognition that his government was far more attuned to the democratic process than has been the military junta, with its dissolution of a democratically-elected parliament, arbitrary rule, mass arrests, and killing of protestors against which the neocons would react with scathing moral outrage if committed by Assad or the Islamic Republic of Iran.)
It should be pointed out that while few, if any, neocons actually sought a restoration of the democratically-elected Morsi government, there were different degrees of sympathy for the coup. Max Boot, for example, viewed the coup largely in pragmatic terms, as opposed to democratic ideals. The danger was that the removal of the Muslim Brotherhood might cause them to turn to violence. “On the other hand,” Boot wrote, “if the military didn’t step in, there would have been a danger that the Brotherhood would never be dislodged from power,” which would seem to have been in his mind the greater danger even if the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamist parties commanded the great majority of votes. (“America’s Egypt Policy After Morsi,” Contentions, Commentary, July 5, 2013,
More affirmative on the coup was Michael Rubin of the American Enterprise Institute: “I never thought I would celebrate a coup, but the Egyptian military’s move against President Muhammad Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood regime is something the White House, State Department, and all Western liberals should celebrate.” Rubin put something of a positive spin on the military’s goals: “The military isn’t seizing power for itself — but rather seeking a technocratic body to ensure that all Egyptian communities have input in the new constitution, a consultative process that Morsi rhetorically embraced but upon which he subsequently turned his back.” (“What Obama should learn from Egypt’s coup,” July 3, 2013, http://www.aei-ideas.org/2013/07/what-obama-should-learn-from-egypts-coup/)
A similar interpretation was offered by Jonathan S. Tobin in his Contentions Blog for “Commentary Magazine” (July 7, 2013, http://www.commentarymagazine.com/2013/07/07/obamas-second-chance-on-egypt-coup/): “[T]he coup wasn’t so much a putsch as it was a last ditch effort to save the country from drifting into a Brotherhood dictatorship that could not be undone by democratic means.” Tobin continues: “[R]ather than setting deadlines or delivering ultimatums to the interim government that has replaced Morsi and his crew, the United States should be demonstrating that it will do whatever it can to help the military snuff out the threat of Islamist violence and then to proceed to replace Morsi with a more competent government.” This “more competent government,” however, did not mean democracy. “In the absence of a consensus about democratic values,” Tobin wrote, “democracy is impossible and that is the case in Egypt right now.”
David Brooks likewise wrote on July 4 in his piece “Defense of the Coup” in the “New York Times”: “Promoting elections is generally a good thing . . . . But elections are not a good thing when they lead to the elevation of people whose substantive beliefs fall outside the democratic orbit. It’s necessary to investigate the core of a party’s beliefs, not just accept anybody who happens to emerge from a democratic process.” But Brooks shows little optimism about democracy in Egypt, holding that the “military coup may merely bring Egypt back to where it was: a bloated and dysfunctional superstate controlled by a self-serving military elite. But at least radical Islam, the main threat to global peace, has been partially discredited and removed from office.” And contrary to the neocons’ nation-building: “It’s not that Egypt doesn’t have a recipe for a democratic transition. It seems to lack even the basic mental ingredients.”http://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/05/opinion/brooks-defending-the-coup.html?_r=0)
While many commentators have portrayed the neocons as naïve adherents of universal democracy, which would make it appear that their positive presentation of the Egyptian coup, or at least failure to strongly criticize it, constituted a complete reversal in their thinking, in actuality, they never adhered to the fundamental tenets of democracy without significant qualifications. As I pointed out in “The Transparent Cabal” (which devotes an entire chapter specifically to this issue), the idea of instant democracy would seem to have been simply a propaganda ploy to generate public support for war. When writing at length on exporting democracy to the Middle East, the neocons generally argued that it was first necessary for the United States to “educate” the inhabitants of the Middle Eastern states in the principles of democracy before actually implementing it. For instance, in September 2002, Norman Podhoretz, one of the godfathers of neoconservatism, acknowledged that the people of the Middle East might, if given a free democratic choice, pick anti-American, anti-Israeli leaders and policies. But he held that “there is a policy that can head it off,” provided “that we then have the stomach to impose a new political culture on the defeated parties. This is what we did directly and unapologetically in Germany and Japan after winning World War II.” (Quoted in “Transparent Cabal,” p. 215). Similarly, in the book, “An End to Evil: How to Win the War” (2004), David Frum and Richard Perle asserted that establishing democracy must take a back seat when it conflicted with fighting Islamic radicals: “In the Middle East, democratization does not mean calling immediate elections and then living with whatever happens next.” (Quoted in “Transparent Cabal,” p. 216)
Max Boot, in the “Weekly Standard” in October 2001, argued “The Case for Empire.” “Afghanistan and other troubled lands today,” Boot intoned, “cry out for the sort of enlightened foreign administration once provided by self-confident Englishmen in jodhpurs and pith helmets.” (Quoted in “Transparent Cabal,” pp. 216-217) David Wurmser supported the restoration of the Hashemites and the traditional ruling families in Iraq as a bulwark against modern totalitarianism “I’m not a big fan of democracy per se,” exclaimed Wurmser in an October 2007 interview. “I’m a fan of freedom and one has to remember the difference. Freedom must precede democracy by a long, long time.” (Quoted in “Transparent Cabal,” p. 218) Paul Wolfowitz was enraged by the Turkish military’s failure to sufficiently pressure the Turkish government to participate in the war on Iraq. “I think for whatever reason, they did not play the strong leadership role that we would have expected,” Wolfowitz complained. Presumably, Wolfowitz would have preferred a Turkish military coup over the democratic repudiation of American policy goals. (“Transparent Cabal,” p. 219)
Regarding Israel itself, it would seem that if democracy were the neoconservatives’ watchword, they would work to eliminate Israel’s undemocratic control over the Palestinians on the West Bank and try to make the country itself more inclusive—and not a state explicitly privileging Jews over non-Jews. The neoconservatives would either promote a one-state democratic solution for what had once been the British Palestine Mandate (Israel, Gaza, and the West Bank) or else demand that Israel allow the Palestinians to have a fully sovereign, viable state on all of the West Bank and Gaza. Instead of taking anything approaching such a pro-democracy stance, however, the neoconservatives have done just the opposite, backing the Israeli Likudnik Right, which takes an especially hostile position toward the Palestinians with its fundamental goal being the maintenance of the exclusivist Jewish nature of the state of Israel and its control of the occupied territories.
As Jim Lobe correctly points out, it is not democracy but rather “protecting Israeli security and preserving its military superiority over any and all possible regional challenges” that is “a core neoconservative tenet.” Thus, the neocons used democracy as an argument to justify the elimination of the anti-Israel Saddam regime. And the neocons saw the elimination of Saddam as the key to the elimination of Israel’s other Middle Eastern enemies. They currently support democracy as an ideological weapon in the effort to bring down the Assad regime and the Islamic Republic of Iran. To repeat, the obvious common denominator among these three targeted countries is that they have been enemies of Israel.
The Egyptian military, in contrast, has been quite close to Israel (about as close as possible given the views of the Egyptian populace), whereas the Muslim Brotherhood, like other Islamic groups, has expressed hostility toward Israel, even though Morsi had not taken a hostile position toward the Jewish state. The fact of the matter is that neocons took a tepid approach to the 2011 revolution against Mubarak, though most retained their pro-democracy credentials at that time by expressing the hope that he would be replaced by liberal democratic secularists, and expressed the fear of a possible Muslim Brotherhood takeover. (See Sniegoski, “Neocons’ Tepid Reaction to the Egyptian Democratic Revolution,” February 4, 2011, http://mycatbirdseat.com/2011/02/neocons%E2%80%99-tepid-reaction-to-the-egyptian-democratic-revolution/) Since that fear actually materialized, it was not really out of character for the neocons to support the military coup.
While there were definite harbingers for the current neocon support for the overthrow of a democratic government, however, what does seem to be novel is the tendency on the part of some neocons to openly express the view that democracy was not possible at the present time, at least when applied to Egypt. This was hardly a new idea among the Israeli Right where, as pointed out in “The Transparent Cabal,” it was held that most Middle Eastern countries were too divided to be held together by anything other than the force of authoritarian and dictatorial rulers. Oded Yinon in his 1982 article, “A Strategy for Israel in the Nineteen Eighties” (translated and edited by Israel Shahak in a booklet entitled, “The Zionist Plan for the Middle East”) recommended that Israel exploit this internal divisiveness by military measures in order to enhance its national security. War that would topple an existing authoritarian regime would render a country fragmented into a mosaic of diverse ethnic and sectarian groupings warring among each other. If applied on a broad scale, the strategy would lead to a Middle East of powerless mini-statelets totally incapable of confronting Israeli power. (“Transparent Cabal,” p. 50)
Lebanon, then facing divisive chaos, was Yinon’s model for the entire Middle East. He wrote: “Lebanon’s total dissolution into five provinces serves as a precedent for the entire Arab world including Egypt, Syria, Iraq, and the Arabian peninsula and is already following that track. The dissolution of Syria and Iraq later on into ethnically or religiously unique areas such as in Lebanon is Israel’s primary target on the Eastern front in the long run, while the dissolution of the military power of those states serves as the primary short-term target.” (Quoted in “Transparent Cabal,” p. 51)
The eminent Middle East historian Bernard Lewis, who is a right-wing Zionist and one of the foremost intellectual gurus for the neoconservatives, echoed Yinon in an article in the September 1992 issue of “Foreign Affairs” titled “Rethinking the Middle East.” He wrote of a development he called “Lebanonization.” “Most of the states of the Middle East—Egypt is an obvious exception—are of recent and artificial construction and are vulnerable to such a process,” he contended. “If the central power is sufficiently weakened, there is no real civil society to hold the polity together, no real sense of common identity. . . . The state then disintegrates—as happened in Lebanon—into a chaos of squabbling, feuding, fighting sects, tribes, regions, and parties.” (Note that Lewis held that Egypt, which some neocons have emphasized lacks any domestic consensus, was an “obvious exception” to this problem.)
David Wurmser, in a much longer follow-up document to the noted “A Clean Break” study, entitled “Coping with Crumbling States: A Western and Israeli Balance of Power Strategy for the Levant,” emphasized the fragile nature of the Middle Eastern Baathist dictatorships in Iraq and Syria, and how the West and Israel should act in such an environment. (“A Clean Break,” which included Wurmser and other neocons among its authors, described how Israel could enhance its regional security by toppling enemy regimes.) (“Transparent Cabal,” pp. 94-95)
While some neocons now maintain that Egypt lacked the necessary national consensus for viable democracy, they still take a pro-democracy stance toward Syria and Iran, as they had earlier taken toward Saddam’s Iraq. But as the neocons’ own expert on the Middle East, Bernard Lewis, indicated, these countries would tend to be less hospitable to democracy than Egypt. Why would neocons take a position contrary to that of their own expert? One can only repeat what was said earlier: an obvious difference would be that these countries are enemies of Israel—the fragmentation of these enemies would advance the security interests of Israel. In contrast, the replacement of the democratically-elected Muslim Brotherhood with military rule would improve Israeli-Egyptian relations; therefore, it is necessary to portray the role of democratic voting in Egypt in a negative light—that is, it would lead to chaos. Thus, it is not so much that the neocons are naïve democratic ideologues, but rather that they use ideas as weapons to advance the interests of Israel, as those interests are perceived through the lens of the Likudnik viewpoint. In summary, the current positions taken by the neocons confirm what I, Jim Lobe, and a few others have pointed out in the past.
An arrest order has been issued for ousted Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi over suspected links to Hamas. State media reports the Muslim Brotherhood leader has already been questioned and confronted with the evidence.
Morsi has been detained for 15 days and will be subjected to questioning over suspicions Hamas helped orchestrate his escape from prison in 2011, reported Reuters, citing Mena state media. Morsi has allegedly already been “confronted with the evidence.” During the uprisings that overthrew former President Hosni Mubarak two years ago there were a number of attacks on police stations that led to the escape of Islamists and political inmates.
The accusations set against Morsi also include killing officers and prisoners and kidnapping soldiers.
The ousted president has been held in an unknown location since he was removed from office on July 3 by the military.
The Muslim Brotherhood has condemned Morsi’s detention as “ridiculous” and a “return to the Mubarak regime.”
The UN has urged the Egyptian military to free Morsi along with other Brotherhood leaders “without delay.” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon calls “on the interim authorities to ensure law and order along with guaranteeing the safety and security of all Egyptians.”
Egypt is preparing for another day of violent protests as Morsi’s followers and the military opposition have both planned mass rallies.
The two groups are at loggerheads over the future of the Arab world’s most populous country. A military official told Reuters that the army has given the Muslim Brotherhood until Saturday to join the so-called “road map” to new elections.
The Brotherhood fears a military led crackdown on the political party that won the Egyptian elections last summer.
“We are continuing our protests on the streets. In fact we believe that more people will realize what this regime really represents – a return of the old state of Mubarak, with brute force,” Brotherhood spokesman Gehad El-Haddad said.
In some of the worst violence since the unrest began in Egypt, 50 Morsi supporters were gunned down at a Cairo barracks on July 8 by security forces.
The United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia will give Egypt money in the wake of its political and economic crisis. The UAE will provide Cairo with $1 billion and lend it a further $2 billion, while Saudi Arabia will give Egypt a $5 billion aid package.
The UAE loan would be in the form of a $2 billion interest free deposit in Egypt’s central bank, state news agency WAM reported on Tuesday. Abu Dhabi will also to give Egypt $1 billion.
The UAE delegation to Cairo included the Gulf country’s national security adviser, foreign minister and energy minister. The visit was to “show full support to the people of Egypt – political support, economic support,” Egyptian foreign ministry spokesman Badr Abdelatty told Reuters.
The UAE was one of the first countries to congratulate Egypt following the army’s decision to oust the Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohamed Morsi.
“The UAE stands by Egypt and its people at this stage and trusts the choices of its people. Egypt’s security and stability are the basis of Arab security,” WAM quoted UAE National Security Advisor Sheikh Hazza bin Zayad as saying.
The UAE’s foreign minister also stated that the Egyptian army proved that it was a “strong shield” and “protector,” which guarantees that the country embraced all the components of the people.
Saudi Arabia also approved a $5 billion aid package to Egypt Tuesday, comprising of a $2 billion central bank deposit, $2 billion in energy products, and $1 billion in cash, Saudi finance minister Ibrahim Alassaf said. [...]
Multi-billion-dollar aid from Saudi Arabia and the UAE is another sign that these two countries had a hand in the military coup which took place in Egypt, believes RT’s contributing analyst in London, Afshin Rattansi.
“We now realize it is much more a Saudi-backed military coup. And as for this General al-Sisi person, who is a former military attaché in Saudi Arabia, he is Saudi’s man… Saudi Arabia, they’ve taken over the largest country in the Arab world,” Rattansi said.
He also described the current interim leaders of Egypt – President Mansour and Prime Minister Beblawi, as “puppets of Saudi Arabia”, who will be ousted at once if they attempt to criticize Saudi Arabia or the UAE. … Full article
The road that has been taken in Egypt is a dangerous one. A military coup has taken place in Egypt while millions of Egyptians have cheered it on with little thought about what is replacing the Muslim Brotherhood and the ramifications it will have for their society. Many people in cheering crowds have treated the Egyptian military’s coup like it was some sort of democratic act. Little do many of them remember who the generals of the Egyptian military work for. Those who are ideologically opposed to the Muslim Brotherhood have also cheered the military takeover without realizing that the military takeover ultimately serves imperialist behaviour. The cheering crowds have not considered the negative precedent that has been set.
Egypt was never cleansed of corrupt figures by the Muslim Brotherhood, which instead joined them. Key figures in Egypt, like Al-Azhar’s Grand Mufti Ahmed Al-Tayeb (who was appointed by Mubarak), criticized the Muslim Brotherhood when Mubark was in power, then denounced Mubarak and supported the Muslim Brotherhood when it gained power, and then denounced the Muslim Brotherhood when the military removed it from power. The disgraced Muslim Brotherhood has actually been replaced by a far worse assembly. These figures, whatever they call themselves, have only served power and never democracy. The military’s replacements for the Muslim Brotherhood – be it the new interim president or the leaders of the military junta—were either working with or serving the Muslim Brotherhood and, even before them, Hosni Mubarak’s regime.
The Undemocratic Egyptian Full Circle
Unlike the protests, the military takeover in Egypt is a blow to democracy. Despite the incompetence and hypocrisy of the Egyptian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood’s leadership, it was democratically elected into power. While the rights of all citizens to demonstrate and protest should be protected and structured mechanisms should securely be put into place in all state systems for removing any unpopular government, democratically-elected governments should not be toppled by military coups. Unless a democratically-elected government is killing its own people arbitrarily and acting outside the law, there is no legitimate excuse for removing it from power by means of military force. There is nothing wrong with the act of protesting, but there is something wrong when a military coup is initiated by a corrupt military force that works in the services of Washington and Tel Aviv.
Things have come full circle in Cairo. The military oversight over the government in Cairo is exactly the position that Egypt’s corrupt military leaders wanted to have since the Egyptian elections in 2012 that brought the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party into power. Since then there has been a power struggle between the Egyptian military and the Muslim Brotherhood.
Expecting to win the 2012 elections, at first the Egyptian military fielded one of its generals and a former Mubarak cabinet minister (and the last prime minister to serve under Mubarak), Ahmed Shafik, for the position of Egyptian president. If not a Mubarak loyalist per se, Shafik was a supporter of the old regime’s political establishment that gave him and the military privileged powers. When Ahmed Shafik lost there was a delay in recognizing Morsi as the president-elect, because the military was considering rejecting the election results and instead announcing a military coup.
The High Council of the Armed Forces, which led Egypt’s military, realized that a military coup after the 2012 elections would not fare too well with the Egyptian people and could lead to an all-out rebellion against the Egyptian military’s leadership. It was unlikely that many of the lower ranking soldiers and commissioned officers would have continued to follow the orders of the Egyptian military’s corrupt upper echelons if such a coup took place. Thus, plans for a coup were aborted. Egyptian military leaders instead decided to try subordinating Egypt’s civilian government by dissolving the Egyptian Parliament and imposing a constitution that they themselves wrote to guarantee military control. Their military constitution subordinated the president’s office and Egypt’s civilian government to military management. Morsi would wait and then reinstate the Egyptian Parliament in July 2012 and then nullify the military’s constitution that limited the powers of the presidency and civilian government after he worked with the US and Qatar to pacify Hamas. Next, Morsi would order Marshall Tantawi, the head of the Egyptian military, and General Anan, the second most power general in the Egyptian military, into resigning- neither one was a friend of democracy or justice.
Was Morsi’s Administration Really a Muslim Brotherhood Government?
Before it was ousted, the Muslim Brotherhood faced serious structural constraints in Egypt and it made many wrong decisions. Since its electoral victory there was an ongoing power struggle in Egypt and its Freedom and Justice Party clumsily attempted to consolidate its political control over Egypt. The Muslim Brotherhood’s attempts to consolidate power meant that it has had to live with and work with a vast array of state institutions and bodies filled with its opponents, corrupt figures, and old regime loyalists. The Freedom and Justice Party tried to slowly purge the Egyptian state of Mubarak loyalists and old regime figures, but Morsi was forced to also work with them simultaneously. This made the foundations of his government even weaker.
The situation for the Muslim Brotherhood in 2012 was actually similar to the one Hamas faced in 2006 after its electoral victories in the Palestinian elections. Just as Hamas was forced by the US and its allies to accept Fatah ministers in key positions in the Palestinian government that it formed, the Muslim Brotherhood was forced to do the same unless it wanted the state to collapse and to be internationally isolated. The main difference between the two situations is that the Muslim Brotherhood seemed all too eager to comply with the US and work with segments of the old regime that would not challenge it. Perhaps this happened because the Muslim Brotherhood feared a military takeover. Regardless of what the reasons were, the Muslim Brotherhood knowingly shared the table of governance with counter-revolutionaries and criminals.
In part, Morsi’s cabinet would offer a means of continuation to the old regime. Foreign Minister Mohammed Kamel Amr, Morsi’s top diplomat, was a cabinet minister under Marshal Tantawi and served in key positions as Mubarak’s ambassador to the United States and Saudi Arabia. Morsi’s cabinet would only have a few members of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party whereas the ministerial portfolios for the key positions of the Interior Ministry, Defence Ministry, and the Suez Canal Authority would be given to Mubarak appointees from Egypt’s military and police apparatus. Abdul Fatah Al-Sisi, Mubarak’s head of Military Intelligence who has worked closely with the US and Israel, would be promoted as the head of the Egyptian military and as Egypt’s new defence minister by Morsi. It would ironically, but not surprisingly, be Al-Sisi that would order Morsi’s arrest and ouster after extensive consultations with his American counterpart, Charles Hagel, on July 3, 2013.
The Muslim Brotherhood and the Obama Administration: An Alliance of Convenience?
As a result of the Muslim Brotherhood’s collaboration with the US and Israel, large components of the protests in Egypt against Morsi were resoundingly anti-American and anti-Israeli. This has to do with the role that the Obama Administration has played in Egypt and the regional alliance it has formed with the Muslim Brotherhood. In part, it also has to do with the fact that Morsi’s opponents – even the ones that are collaborating with the US and Israel themselves – have capitalized on anti-American and anti-Israeli sentiments by portraying Morsi as a US and Israeli puppet. In reality, both the United States and Muslim Brotherhood have tried to manipulate one another for their own gains. The Muslim Brotherhood has tried to use the Obama Administration to ascend to power whereas the Obama Administration has used the Muslim Brotherhood in America’s war against Syria and to slowly nudge the Hamas government in Gaza away from the orbit of Iran and its allies in the Resistance Bloc. Both wittingly and unwittingly, the Muslim Brotherhood in broader terms has, as an organization, helped the US, Israel, and the Arab petro-sheikhdoms try to regionally align the chessboard in a sectarian project that seeks to get Sunnis and Shias to fight one another.
Because of the Freedom and Justice Party’s power struggle against the Egyptian military and the remnants of the old regime, the Muslim Brotherhood turned to the United States for support and broke all its promises. Some can describe this as making a deal with the “Devil.” At the level of foreign policy, the Muslim Brotherhood did not do the things it said it would. It did not end the Israeli siege on the people of Gaza, it did not cut ties with Israel, and it did not restore ties with the Iranians. Its cooperation with the US allowed Washington to play the different sides inside Egypt against one another and to hedge the Obama Administration’s bets.
The Muslim Brotherhood miscalculated in its political calculus. Morsi himself proved not only to be untrustworthy, but also foolish. Washington has always favoured the Egyptian military over the Muslim Brotherhood. Like most Arab militaries, the Egyptian military has been used as an internal police force that has oppressed and suppressed its own people. Unlike the Muslim Brotherhood, the Egyptian military gives far greater guarantees about the protection of US interests in Egypt, Israel’s security, and US sway over the strategically and commercially important Suez Canal. Furthermore, the Muslim Brotherhood had its own agenda and it seemed unlikely that it would continue to play a subordinate role to the United States and Washington was aware of this.
Revolution or Counter-Revolution?
Indeed a dangerous precedent has been set. The events in Egypt can be used in line with the same type of standard that allowed the Turkish military to subordinate democracy in Turkey for decades whenever it did not like a civilian government. The Egyptian military has taken the opportunity to suspend the constitution. It can now oversee the entire political process in Egypt, essentially with de facto veto powers. The military coup not only runs counter to the principles of democracy and is an undemocratic act, but it also marks a return to power by the old regime. Egypt’s old regime, it should be pointed out, has fundamentally always been a military regime controlled by a circle of generals and admirals that operate in collaboration with a few civilian figures in key sectors.
Things have really gone full circle in Egypt. The judiciary in Egypt is being aligned with the military or old regime again. Mubarak’s attorney-general, Abdel Meguid Mahmoud, who was removed from power in November 2012 has been reinstated. The Egyptian Parliament has been dissolved again by the leaders of the High Council of the Armed Forces. President Morsi and many members of the Muslim Brotherhood have been rounded up and arrested by the military and police as enemies of the peace.
Adli (Adly) Al-Mansour, the Mubarak appointed judge that President Morsi was legally forced to appoint as the head of the Egyptian Supreme Constitutional Court, has now been appointed interim president by the High Council of the Armed Forces. Al-Mansour is merely a civilian figure head for a military junta. It is also worth noting that the Egyptian Supreme Constitutional Court, like much of the Mubarak appointees in the Egyptian judiciary, has collaborated with the Egyptian military against the Muslim Brotherhood and tried to dissolve the Egyptian Parliament.
Mohammed Al-Baradei (El-Baradei / ElBaradei), a former Egyptian diplomat and the former director-general of the politically manipulated International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), has been offered the post of interim prime minister of Egypt by the military. He had returned to Egypt during the start of the so-called Arab Spring to run for office with the support of the International Crisis Group, which is an organization that is linked to US foreign policy interests and tied to the Carnegie Foundation, the Ford Foundation, and George Soros’ Open Society Institute. Al-Baradei himself has been delighted every time that the Egyptian military has announced a coup; he supported a military takeover in 2011 and, to his benefit, he has supported it in 2013. Where he could not secure a position for himself through the ballot box, he has been offered a government position undemocratically through the military in 2013.
Many of the Muslim Brotherhood’s supporters are emphasizing that an unfair media war was waged against them. The Qatari-owned Al Jazeera Mubasher Misr, Al Jazeera’s Egyptian branch which has worked as a mouth piece for the Muslim Brotherhood, has been taken off the air by the Egyptian military. This, along with the ouster of Morsi, is a sign that Qatar’s regional interests are being rolled back too. It seems Saudi Arabia, which quickly congratulated Adli Al-Mansour, is delighted, which explains why the Saudi-supported Nour Party in Egypt betrayed the Muslim Brotherhood. Other media linked to the Muslim Brotherhood or supportive of it have also been censored and attacked. Much of the privately owned media in Egypt was already anti-Muslim Brotherhood. Like Gran Mufti Ahmed Al-Tayeb, many of these media outlets were supportive of Mubarak’s dictatorship when he was in power, but only changed their tune when he was out of power. The point, however, should not be lost that media censorship against pro-Muslim Brotherhood media outlets does not equate to democratic practice whatsoever.
The figures that have supported the military coup, in the name of democracy, are themselves no friends of democracy either. Many of these opportunists were Mubarak lackeys. For example, the so-called Egyptian opposition leader Amr Moussa was highly favoured by Hosni Mubarak and served as his foreign minister for many years. Not once did Moussa ever bother or dare to question Mubarak or his dictatorship, even when Moussa became the secretary-general of the morally bankrupt and useless Arab League.
The Egyptian Coma Will Backfire on the US Empire
Despite the media reports and commentaries, the Muslim Brotherhood was never fully in charge of Egypt or its government. It always had to share power with segments of the old regime or “Washington’s and Tel Aviv’s men.” Key players in different branches of government and state bodies from the old regime stayed in their places. Even President Morsi’s cabinet had members of the old regime. The discussions on Sharia law were predominately manipulated by the Muslim Brotherhood’s opponents primarily for outside consumption by predominantly non-Muslim countries and to rally Egypt’s Christians and socialist currents against Morsi. As for the economic problems that Egypt faced, they were the mixed result of the legacy of the old regime, the greed of Egypt’s elites and military leaders, the global economic crisis, and the predatory capitalism that the United States and European Union have impaired Egypt with. Those that blamed Morsi for Egypt’s economic problems and unemployment did so wrongly or opportunistically. His administration’s incompetence did not help the situation, but they did not create it either. Morsi was manning a sinking ship that had been economically ravaged in 2011 by foreign states and local and foreign lenders, speculators, investors, and corporations.
There was an undeniable constant effort to sabotage the Muslim Brotherhood’s rule, but this does not excuse the incompetence and corruption of the Muslim Brotherhood. Their attempts at gaining international respectability by going to events such as the Clinton Global Initiative hosted by the Clinton Foundation have only helped their decline. Their hesitation at restoring ties with Iran and their antagonism towards Syria, Hezbollah, and their Palestinian allies only managed to reduce their list of friends and supporters. All too willingly the Muslim Brotherhood seemed to let itself be used by the US, Israel, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar to pacify Hamas in an attempt to de-link the Palestinians in Gaza from the Resistance Bloc. It continued the siege against Gaza and continued to destroy the tunnels used to smuggle daily supplies by the Palestinians. Perhaps it was afraid or had very little say in the matter, but it allowed Egypt’s military, security, and intelligence apparatuses to continue collaborating with Israel. Under the Muslim Brotherhood’s watch Palestinians were disappearing in Egypt and reappearing in Israeli prisons. Morsi’s government also abandoned the amnesty it had given to the Jamahiriya supporters from Libya that took refuge in Egypt.
The United States and Israel have always wanted Egypt to look inward in a pathetic state of paralysis. Washington has always tried to keep Egypt as a dependent state that would fall apart politically and economy without US assistance. It has allowed the situation in Egypt to degenerate as a means of neutralizing the Egyptians by keeping them divided and exhausted. The US, however, will be haunted by the coup against Morsi. Washington will dearly feel the repercussions of what has happened in Egypt. Morsi’s fall sends a negative message to all of America’s allies. Everyone in the Arab World, corrupt and just alike, is more aware than ever that an alliance with Washington or Tel Aviv will not protect them. Instead they are noticing that those that are aligned with the Iranians and the Russians are the ones that are standing.
An empire that cannot guarantee the security of its satraps is one that will eventually find many of its minions turning their backs on it or betraying it. Just as America’s regime change project in Syria is failing, its time in the Middle East is drawing to an end. Those who gambled on Washington’s success, like the Saudi royals, the Muslim Brotherhood, and Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Erdogan, will find themselves on the losing side of the Middle East’s regional equation.
As the battle for Qusayr winds down, regime forces are preparing to wrest Aleppo from the Syrian opposition, which overran the city last July.
According to Syrian security sources, the Syrian army has begun building up its forces in several areas in preparation to storm opposition-controlled Aleppo. The sources explained that they are in the process of surrounding the city in order to cut off the oppositions supply lines.
If it were to succeed, then the regime would have managed to regain two of Syria’s most important governorates: Homs and Aleppo.
Homs was the “capital of the Syrian revolution,” until government troops retook the city. Ten months have passed since opposition fighters managed to flood Aleppo by the thousands, surprising both the regime and the city’s residents. The city had remained solidly in the loyalist camp for more than a year into the Syrian crisis and no one expected it to fall into the hands of the opposition so quickly and easily.
Government sources attributed the fall of Aleppo to the collusion of Mohammed Mufleh, the former chief of Syrian Military Intelligence in Hama, with the opposition’s Tawhid Brigade. According to military sources, Mufleh was paid a large sum of money to facilitate the passage of thousands of opposition fighters into the city.
Military sources maintained that the Aleppans were not particularly welcoming of the opposition, which committed massacres against whole loyalist families, like the Bazzi clan. The same sources estimated the number of fighters in the city may have now reached 20,000.
Mufleh’s defection and the role he played in Aleppo is old news by now. What has not been known until now, however, is his relationship to the Muslim Brotherhood’s Tawhid Brigade, particularly in its initial phases.
Reports suggested that the intelligence chief – before announcing his defection – was in cahoots with Tawhid as it tried to establish its hold in the areas of Aleppo and Idlib.
The relationship reached a point in which Mufleh was prepared to hand over all the weapons at his disposal to the brigade. Tawhid waged a series of successful side battles with other armed groups, accusing them of working for the regime.
After Mufleh’s defection, contacts between Tawhid and commanders loyal to him continued. The breaking point, however, came when these commanders requested that Tawhid “lay down its weapons and declare that it will enter into negotiations with the regime,” only to discover that the opposition brigade had opened up new channels with Turkey and Qatar, before finally announcing its loyalty to the Muslim Brotherhood.
- Syria: Border Clashes Pit FSA Against Kurds (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Have Washington and Tel Aviv Miscalculated Events in al-Qusayr (alethonews.wordpress.com)
CAIRO — Egypt would not sell any more state- owned companies, President Mohamed Morsi said Tuesday.
In his speech to steel industry workers in Helwan district in Cairo on the eve of Labor Day, Morsi said there will be no more selling of the public sector again, stressing that the private sector could not be an alternative for the public sector.
“Egypt encourages the private sector, but this does not mean disregarding the public sector,” he said.
“We will continue the way of late President Gamal Abdel-Nasser who wanted to establish a huge industrial castle in Egypt,” Morsi said, noting that manufacturing and exporting are real indicators for the development of a country.
Egypt’s 25 January Revolution produced few economic benefits for the country’s poor even though they were instrumental in overthrowing the old order. The Muslim Brotherhood has other economic priorities, including pushing measures that further economic liberalization in Egypt.
Given the Egyptian media’s focus, it might be difficult to believe that Egypt’s 25 January 2011 Revolution was not one of the educated middle class. On the TV screen, these shiny young faces appear on talk shows, portrayed as the leaders of the revolution.
But 28 January 2011’s “Friday of Anger” belonged to the marginalized who – using the tricks they learned in their daily battles with the state apparatus in the slums – were able to defeat the police forces. Regardless, the media see the revolution differently: “This is the revolution of dignity and not of the hungry,” they say.
This discourse paved the way for state repression of social demands. It even reached a point where the media began depicting Egypt’s working class – those that bolstered the revolution’s ranks with its mass mobilizations – of deliberately aiding the counter-revolution through strikes that hurt the economy. The first law issued by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) following their rise to power banned strikes.
As time passed, the voices of social justice were replaced by the murmurings of political battles. These politicians, who have the upper hand in the media, wanted a piece of the revolutionary pie after disregarding its true heros.
Post-Revolution, Little Help for the Poor
Even before the revolution, experts close to the ruling National Democratic Party saw signs of unrest rooted in growing poverty. This was clear in the First Investment Report: Towards a Fair Distribution of the Fruits of Growth prepared by the General Investment Authority in 2009, which warned of sharply rising poverty rates.
Despite the steady economic growth in the last decade of Mubarak’s rule, the proportion of the population living below the national poverty line rose from almost 17 percent of the population in 2000 to 22 percent in 2008, according to the latest figures available from the World Bank.
Nevertheless, when SCAF took power after the fall of Mubarak, they ignored these facts and rejected the expansionary budget presented by Minister of Finance and prominent NDP member Samir Radwan. Instead, the first post-revolution budget was austere: workforce training funds were scaled back to 1 billion Egyptian Pounds ($151 million) from an original 2 billion, and funds for low-income housing were never raised by the expected EGP500 million ($75 million).
Furthermore, SCAF sought to protect the rich from any burdens, such as the tax increase proposed by Radwan on the distribution of capital gains by financial institutions.
Although the last days of SCAF’s rule witnessed an open struggle between the military class and Islamist forces, the conflict was not an indication of different economic policies. “The Islamist parties, which between them won a majority in the 2011-12 parliamentary election appear to favor the continuation of a broadly pro-market policy…” explained an April 2012 report from Chatham House titled “‘Bread, Dignity and Social Justice’: The Political Economy of Egypt’s Transition.”
The new Egyptian Constitution is a glaring example of the bias of the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) towards market liberalization. It stipulated linking salaries with production for the first time and neglected to set a ceiling for agricultural property.
But the constitution aligns with the Brotherhood’s previous positions: the group had been the primary opponent of agrarian reform during the Nasser era and endorsed a 1992 act liberating the relationship between landlord and tenant on agricultural land. The act had abolished gains won by peasants and was faced with wide-scale opposition in 1997.
The knockout blow to the MB’s popularity might be their attempt to implement a package of reforms for tax laws, which was frozen by President Mohamed Mursi a few hours after being announced. It would’ve raised sales taxes on several cement and communications goods and led to a steep increase on the commercial advertising tax – a move that could have hiked up the sales prices of nearly all goods and services.
It seems the MB has learned a lesson from the bread uprising against President Anwar Sadat in January 1977. At the time, the MB magazine al-Daawa described the protests as a “communist conspiracy.”
While the revolution seems to have resulted – at the very least – in a minimum wage increase to EGP700 ($105), the collapse of the Egyptian Pound against the US dollar this past January has precluded any benefits from such a raise.
History books will cite January 25 as the moment of undoing for the dictatorial rule of Mohammad Hosni Mubarak. What we don’t know is what will be said about the scale of the change brought about by the uprising.
It is impossible to make confident predictions at present. Questions only raise more doubts as to the ability of Egypt’s new rulers to bring about major change. But as social theorist Samir Amin points out: “The Egyptian people are brave and will not be afraid to start a second and a third uprising.”
The events of the past two years prove that Amin’s assessment is realistic. The ongoing struggle over Egypt is the clearest sign that the country’s new rulers have not managed to establish a strong enough hold to last as long as their predecessors.
A formidable media machine continues in its efforts to restrict the Egyptian people’s uprising. Many people inside and outside Egypt wanted to persuade the masses that the underlying goals of their protest movement could be reduced to a mere change of president. These people have assumed powerful influence within the state’s institutions and seek to re-establish their control over the public and private sectors of the economy. They want Egypt and the Arabs to behave as though change has been accomplished.
This takes us back to Amin, who noted the menace posed by foreign powers in Egypt. He referred to a cooperative endeavor by the US, Israel, and Gulf states to ensure Egypt’s continued reliance on a policy of “begging from abroad” so as to better maintain its “assistance for US policies in the region.”
He observed that while “Mubarak’s Egypt supported the US invasion of Iraq…today’s Egypt under the Muslim Brotherhood assists the policies on Syria.” The end goal is for Egypt to acquiesce “to the Zionist scheme to eliminate the Palestinian presence within the occupied territory.”
There is no need to repeat Amin’s views on economic policy. The evidence that Egypt’s new rulers are resuming past economic policies is overwhelming. There will be no change in how the country’s economic, social, financial, and monetary policies are shaped. Hence the cruel joke that “Khairat el-Shater is Gamal Mubarak with a beard.”
Nobody can deny the Egyptian people’s massive achievement in bringing down a corrupt and tyrannical ruling clique that was subservient to the colonial West and submissive to the Zionist enterprise. But the story doesn’t end with the Muslim Brotherhood winning a narrow majority at the polls and claiming legitimacy to do what it likes with the country. Whatever misgivings there may be about the condition of the new opposition in Egypt, it has tough questions to face.
– What became of the legacy of Mubarak’s rule? What does the Islamic mantle mean when it is donned by rulers who pursue the same policies that they once said caused poverty, ignorance, and misery?
– Freedom of expression cannot be deemed a gift from the country’s new rulers. Egyptians are demanding guarantees that the gains made so far are not reversed. Can we expect a rotation of power in a few years time? Will Egypt’s new rulers help to recover its unified national identity, or will we see more ugly images of sectarian divisions?
– What real change has there been in the country’s foreign policy? What role does it play in reviving collective Arab action? Or has that been surrendered to the medieval monarchies of the Gulf? Is Egypt acting to regain its rights, sovereignty, and freedom with regard to supporting the people of Palestine?
– Can anyone provide any evidence that the money stolen by the National Democratic Party under Mubarak and his clique is being recovered? Or is the looted national wealth merely passing from one regime to the next?
Once again world public opinion faces a most bizarre political event: an alliance between political forces on the extreme Right and the Left, including collaboration between NATO regimes and Marxist sects. The apparent ‘unity of opposites’ is a response to alleged policy and institutional changes made by center-left and center-right regimes, which adversely affect both economic and political elites as well as the popular sectors.
The circumstances, under which this unholy alliance takes place, vary according to the type of regime, its policies and the class orientation of the opposition. The best way to analyze the left-right alliance is to examine the cases of Egypt and Argentina.
Egypt: The Alliance between Mubarak-Appointed Judges, Secular Liberals, Leftist Intellectuals and Disenchanted Workers
To understand the alliance between the corrupt remnants of the Mubarak state apparatus and their former political victims from the center-left and secular-right, it is essential to examine the political context, which has evolved since the overthrow of the Mubarak dictatorship in February 2011.
While Islamist and secular democratic forces played a major role in mobilizing millions of Egyptians in ousting the hated US-Israeli client, Hosni Mubarak, it was the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) and their fundamentalist rivals, the Salafis, who won the majority of votes in the subsequent elections and formed the first democratically-elected government in Egypt.[i] In the beginning, the Muslim Brotherhood was forced to share power with the ‘transitional military junta’, which had seized power immediately after the ouster of Mubarak. Subsequently President Mohamed Morsi, from the Muslim Brotherhood, convoked elections to a constituent assembly and nominated a commission to write a new constitution. This was backed by a majority of the newly-elected Egyptian parliament. Reflecting the Muslim Brotherhood’s electoral victory, the constitutional commission was dominated by its supporters. Many secular liberals and leftists rejected their minority status in the process.
Aside from his work on the constitutional front, Morsi negotiated a financial loan package of $4.5 billion with the IMF, $5 billion from the EU and an additional one billion dollars in US aid. These aid agreements were conditional on President Morsi implementing ‘free market’ policies, including an ‘open-door’ to foreign investment, ending food and fuel price subsidies to the poor and maintaining the humiliating Mubarak-era treaty with Israel, which included Egypt’s participation in the brutal blockade of Gaza.
While the despised US-Israel-backed dictator Hosni Mubarak may have been ousted from power and a new democratically-elected legislature had taken office (temporarily) along with President Morsi, Mubarak supporters continued to dominate key positions in the ministries, the entire judiciary, military and police. Thus powerfully ensconced, the Mubarak elite strove in every way to undermine emerging democratic institutions and processes. The Minister of Defense, Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, shielded the police officials and paramilitary forces responsible for the jailing, torture and murder of thousands of pro-democracy demonstrators. Mubarak-appointed judges arbitrarily disqualified legislative and presidential candidates, invalidated democratic elections and even ordered the closing of parliament. They then moved to outlaw the elected constituent assembly and the commission set-up to draft the new Egyptian constitution.
In other words, Mubarakites, embedded in the state apparatus, were engaged in an institutional coup d’etat to retain power, destabilize and paralyze the democratically-elected Morsi regime and create political disorder, propitious for a return to their dictatorial rule.
It was the Mubarak-appointed judges’ power-grab that eliminated the separation of powers by imposing arbitrary judicial decisions and powers over and above the hard-won electoral rights of Egyptian citizens and their elected legislature. The judges’ self-proclaimed assumption of legislative and executive supremacy was a direct assault on the integrity of the emerging democratic process.
When President Morsi finally moved to counter the Mubarak-allied judges’ dismissal of legitimately-elected bodies by assuming temporary emergency powers, these judges and their cheerleaders in the Western media accused him of subverting democracy and violating the ‘independence’ of the judiciary. The Western ‘liberal’ outcry at Morsi’s so-called ‘power grab’ is laughable given the fact that they ignored the naked ‘power grab’ of the judges when they dismissed Egypt’s parliament, its free elections and the writing of its new constitution under the leadership of Egypt’s new president. These cries of ‘democracy’ ring hollow from a judiciary, which had shamelessly legalized countless murders, tortures and dictatorial acts committed by Mubarak for over 30 years.
The judges’ democratic posturing and cries of injustice were accompanied by theatrical walkouts and protests aimed at mobilizing public opinion. Apart from a few thousand die-hard Mubarak holdovers, these judges managed to attract very little support, until secular liberals, leftists, trade unionists and sectors of the unemployed decided to intervene and try to win in the streets what they lost at the ballot box.
The popular protests, in contrast to the judges’ defense of Mubarak-era privilege and their blatant power grab, was based on Morsi’s failure to tackle the problems of growing unemployment and plummeting income, as well as his acceptance of IMF demands to end public subsidies for the poor. The secular-liberals joined forces with Mubarak-era judges in their clamor against ‘authoritarianism’ and pushed their own secular agenda against the Islamist tendencies in the regime and in the drawing up of the constitution. Pro-democracy youth sought to exploit the legislative vacuum created when the right-wing judges dismissed the parliament and put forward a vague notion of ‘alternative democracy’ … presumably one which would exclude the votes of the Islamist majority. The trade unions, which had led numerous strikes after the fall of Mubarak and remain a force among factory workers, joined the protests against Morsi, rejecting his embrace of the corporate elite. Even some Islamist groups, disgusted with Morsi’s accommodation with Israel and the US, also joined and took to the streets.
The US and the EU took advantage of the judges’ protest to step in and warn Morsi to abide to a ‘power sharing’ agreement with the Mubarak officials and the military or lose financial aid.
Washington has been playing a clever ‘two track policy’: They support Morsi when he implements a neo-liberal ‘free market’ domestic agenda using the Muslim Brotherhood networks to contain and limit popular protest among Egypt’s poor while threatening US aid if he vacillates on Mubarak-era agreements with Israel to starve Gaza. The White House insists that Morsi continue supplying cheap gas to Tel Aviv, as well as backing ongoing and future NATO wars against Syria and Iran. But the US and EU also want to keep the old reliable Mubarak power centers in place as a check and veto on Morsi in case a powerful anti-Zionist, populist urban movement pressures his regime to backtrack on the IMF program and the hated treaty with Israel.
The constitution, presented by the commission, is a compromise between Islamists, neo-liberals and democratic electoralists. This constitution undermines the judges’ power grab and allows the Morsi government to prosecute or fire the corrupt Mubarak-era officials; it guarantees the primacy of private, including foreign, property; it privileges Islamic law and provides ‘space’ and possibilities for Islamist leaders to restrict the rights of Egyptian women and religious minorities, notably the Coptic Christians.
A democratic vote on the constitutional referendum will test the strength of the pro and anti-government forces. A boycott by secular, liberal and populist-democratic forces will only demonstrate their weakness and strengthen the reactionary coup-makers embedded among the Mubarak-era officials in judiciary, police, military and civilian bureaucracy.
The Left and democratic-secular movements and leaders have formed an opportunistic, de-facto alliance with the Mubarak elite: a marriage of ‘the police club’ with its former victims, ‘the clubbed democrats’ of the recent past. The progressives overlook the danger of the judges’ creeping coup, in their blind effort to undermine the Muslim Brotherhood and the Morsi regime: It’s one thing to oppose Morsi’s reactionary agenda and the anti-popular votes of a reactionary legislature; it’s something totally different to promote the ouster of a democratically-elected legislature by hold-over judges pushing for the return of despotism. Undermining the democratic process will not only adversely affect President Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood but also the democratic opposition. The prime beneficiaries will be the right-wing forces encrusted in the State.
The anti-Muslim Brotherhood demonstrators, who are the clear losers in democratic elections and a minority in the country, burned and trashed the offices and meeting places of the Brotherhood and assaulted their supporters in the worst traditions of the Mubarak era. The self-styled ‘pro-democracy’ activists’ assaults on the Presidential palace and their rejection of Morsi’s call for dialogue has opened the way for the return of military rule. The military command’s thinly veiled threat was evident in their pronouncement that they would intervene with force to maintain order and protect the public if violence continues. The coincidence of prolonged street disorder and assaults on electoral politics with military overtures to take power have a distinct smell of a barnyard confabulation. The right-left alliance makes it difficult to decipher whether the violence is a staged provocation to bring the military back to power or an expression of leftist rage at their electoral impotence.
For strategic, pragmatic and principled reasons, the Left should have denounced the Mubarak-appointed judges the moment they outlawed the elected legislature. The Left should have demanded the ouster of these judges and military leaders and combined their demands with a campaign against Morsi’s ties with the imperial West and Israel and a repudiation of the IMF program. By backing these corrupt judges, progressives gained the short-term support of the Western media and governments while strengthening their strategic enemy.
Argentina: The Right-Left Alliance
President Cristina Fernandez is representative of the center-left regimes, which predominate in Latin America today. Her recent resounding electoral victory[ii] is a product of the popular uprisings (2001-2003), the social reforms and independent foreign policy pursued by her predecessor (and husband) Nestor Kirchner (2003-2007) and several popular reforms implemented under her Presidency.
But like all center-left regimes, President Fernandez (2008-2012) has combined conservative, neo-liberal and populist progressive policies. On the one hand, Fernandez has encouraged foreign mining companies to exploit the Argentina’s great mineral resources, charging very low royalty payments and imposing very few environmental restraints, while, on the other hand, she nationalized the abusive Spanish multinational oil company, Repsol, for non-compliance with its contract.
The government has substantially increased the minimum wage, including for farm workers, while opening up the country to overseas land speculators and investors to buy millions of acres of farmland. The government has allowed highly toxic-chemicals to be sprayed on fields next to rural communities while increasing corporate taxes and controls over agro-export earnings. The government passed legislation to restrict monopoly ownership of the mass media promising to expand media licensing to local communities and diverse social groups, while doing little to limit the power of big agro-export firms. President Fernandez has supported Latin American integration (excluding the US) and welcomed radical President Chavez as a valuable partner in trade and investment and diversified markets. At the same time Argentina has grown increasingly dependent on a narrow range of agro-mineral (‘primary goods’) exports to the detriment of domestic manufacturing. Presidents Fernandez and Kirchner encouraged trade union activity and, until recently, supported hefty increases in wage, pension and medical benefits, drastically reducing poverty levels – but they did so while maintaining the wealth, land, profits and dividends of the capitalist class.
The Argentine President was able to support both the economic elites and the working class as long as commodity prices and international demand remained high. However, with the economic slowdown in Asia and decline in commodity prices and therefore state revenue, the President is being squeezed from both sides. By the end of the first decade of the 21st century, the elite attacked the government more ferociously, led by the big and medium-size landowners and exporters. They demanded the government revoke its increase in export taxes and currency controls. The upper-middle and the affluent middle class of Buenos Aires, backed by supporters of the previous military dictatorship, organized mass marches and demonstrations to protest a medley of government policies, including limits on dollar purchases, inflation and inaction amidst rising crime rates.
Around the same time, conservative and radical leftist trade unionists organized a general strike – ostensibly because wage increases had failed to keep up with ‘real’ rates of inflation (double the ‘official rate’ – so they claimed). The major media monopoly, Clarin, organized a virulent systematic propaganda campaign trumpeting the demands of the economic elite, fabricating stories of government corruption and refusing to comply with the new government legislation in hopes of staving off the dismantling of its huge media monopoly.
The US and EU increased pressure on Argentina by excluding it from international capital markets, questioning its credibility, downgrading its ratings and promoting a virulently hostile anti-Fernandez mass media campaign in the financial press.
The destabilization campaign has been orchestrated by the same economic elites who supported the brutal seven-year military dictatorship during which an estimated 30,000 Argentines were murdered by the juntas. Elite opposition is rooted in reactionary social and economic demands, i.e. lower taxes on exports, deregulation of the dollar market, their monopoly of the mass media and a reversal of popular social legislation.
The ‘left opposition’ includes a variety of movements including Marxist grouplets and trade unions who demand salary increases commensurate with ‘real inflation’ as well as environmentalists demanding tighter controls over agro-chemical pollution, GM seeds and destructive mining operations. Many of these demands have legitimacy, however some of the Marxist and leftist groups have been participating in protests and strikes convoked by the right-wing parties and economic elites designed to destabilize and overthrow the government. Few if any have joined with the government to denounce the blatant US-EU credit squeeze and imperial offensive against Fernandez.
This de-facto Right-Left alliance on the streets is led by the most rancid, authoritarian and neo-liberal elites who ultimately will be the prime beneficiary if the Fernandez regime is destabilized and toppled. By joining general strikes organized by the far-Right, the left claims to be ‘furthering the interests of the workers’ and ‘acting independently’ of the economic elite. However, their activities take place at the same time and same location as the hordes of wealthy upper middle class protestors clamoring for the ouster of the democratically elected center-left regime. The left grouplets maintain that they are in favor of building a ‘workers state’ as they march abreast with the rich and militarists. Objectively, their capacity to catalyze a revolution is nil and the real outcome of their ‘opportunism’ will be a victory for the agro-export elite – mass media monopolies – US-EU alliance. The ‘leftist’ workers protest is mere window dressing for the destabilization of a social-liberal democracy and will help return a far-right regime to power!
The majority of the workers, pensioners and trade unionists reject any participation in the bosses’ general strikes – even as they voice their legitimate demands for better pay and the indexing of wage rates to the real inflation rate. However they join with the government in rejecting the international creditor demands and US judicial rulings favoring Wall Street speculators over Argentina’s social interests. Nevertheless, the left-right protest resonates with many rank and file employees, especially when export revenues decline and the Fernandez regime lacks the funds to maintain the social spending of the past decade.
The political challenge for the consequential Left is to defend democracy against this opportunist ‘Left’-Right onslaught while defending workers’ interests in the face of a decaying center-left regime bent on pursuing its contradictory program.
Conclusion: The Dilemmas of Capitalist Democracies
The capitalist democracies of Egypt and Argentina face similar Left-Right alliances, even though they differ sharply in their socio-economic trajectory and social bases of support. Both Argentina and Egypt have emerged from brutal dictatorships in recent years: Argentine democracy is nearly 30 years old while Egyptian democracy is less than a year old. Argentine democracy, like Egypt’s, has been confronting powerful authoritarian institutions leftover from the dictatorial period. These are entrenched especially in three areas: the military and police, the judiciary and among sectors of the capitalist class. They all benefited from the special privileges granted by the dictators.
In Argentina, over the past decade, Presidents Kirchner and Fernandez succeeded in purging the state apparatus of criminals, murderers and torturers among the military, police and judiciary. In Egypt, the Morsi regime, in its short time in office, hesitated at first, but then moved forward replacing some Mubarak military commanders and promising to investigate and prosecute those Mubarak-appointed officials involved in the killing and torture of pro-democracy demonstrators. The Egyptian reactionaries struck back: Mubarak-appointed judges denied the legality of the democratically elected legislature and constituent assembly. In Argentina, powerful agrarian interests and the right-wing mass media conglomerate, which had backed the dictatorships, struck back as the government moved to end the corporate media monopoly and tax concessions to the agro-export elite. The conflict between the dictatorial right and the democratic center-left in Argentina and the conflict between the Mubarak judiciary and the Islamist neo-liberal elected regime is partially obscured by the active involvement of leftists, secular liberals and other ostensibly ‘pro-democracy’ forces on the side of the Right.
Why has ‘the left’ crossed the line, joining forces with the anti-democratic right?
Their opportunism arises primarily from the fact that they did so poorly in the elections and do not see any role for themselves as an electoral opposition. By joining with the right-wing protests, the left and secular liberals mistakenly imagine they can revive their faltering support.
Secondly, the Left senses the economic and social vulnerability of the elected regimes because of the global and local crises, exacerbated by declining export revenues. They hope to attach their political demands to those of the upper and middle class protestors who have been mobilized by the Far Right.
Thirdly, by joining forces with the Right, allied with the US and EU, the leftist protestors hope to gain international (imperial) support, recognition, respectability and legitimacy … temporarily. Of course if the Right succeeds, the Left will be marginalized and discarded as ‘useful idiots’.
The imperial threats to cut off credits, loans and markets to both regimes should logically have led to a united front – a tactical alliance – between the Left and the embattled regime, especially in the case of Argentina. In the case of Egypt, secular liberals and leftists should have joined with the Morsi regime to oust the remnants of the brutal Mubarak regime. They should have supported the elected legislature, even while challenging Morsi’s pacts with the IMF, the US, EU and Israel. Instead, secular liberals appear to agree with the regime in its reactionary socio-economic policies. Worse, by joining with the reactionary judges in totally rejecting the referendum vote on the new constitution, the Left missed an opportunity to mobilize and challenge the regime and educate the public about its specific reactionary clauses.
By opposing the progressive democratic process as well as the regime, the Left has opened the door for the Right to return. By forcing incumbent presidents to ‘make a deal’ or compromise with the elite, the left is further isolating themselves. Both Morsi and Fernandez are vulnerable to leftist pressure and, over time, popular and class-based movements could find themselves in a position to pose a real alternative…. if they clearly and honestly reject the authoritarian and imperialist right. By joining in opportunist alliances to score some small victories today, they foreclose any possible role in the near future of forming progressive democratic leftist governments. By burning government offices and destroying the electoral offices of the Muslim Brotherhood, the self-styled ‘democrats’ are creating the basis for the seizure of state power by the military.
[i] In the parliamentary elections the two major Islamist parties polled over 27 million votes (18 million for the Muslim Brotherhood and Morsi), the liberal-left opposition received approximately 7.5 million votes and the Mubarac-era parties got 2 million. The Islamist parties totaled about two-thirds of the electorate, which translated into the same proportion of elected legislators (358 out of 508). The liberal-left parties received slightly over 26% of the vote and the Mubarak parties got about 8%. The anti-Morsi rioters are a clear and decisive minority and their violent assault on the governing regime is, by any measure, an attempt to impose minority rule, denying and marginalizing the nearly 18 million voters who elected the Morsi Government and Muslim Brotherhood-dominated Congress.
[ii] Cristina Fernandez was first elected in October 2007 with 45.3% of the vote, a 22% lead over her nearest rival. In the most recent elections in October 2011, she was re-elected with 54.1% of the vote, a 37.3% margin over her nearest competitor.
James Petras is a Bartle Professor (Emeritus) of Sociology at Binghamton University, New York. He is the author of 64 books published in 29 languages, and over 560 articles in professional journals, including the American Sociological Review, British Journal of Sociology, Social Research, Journal of Contemporary Asia, and Journal of Peasant Studies. He has published over 2000 articles in nonprofessional journals such as the New York Times, the Guardian, the Nation, Christian Science Monitor, Foreign Policy, New Left Review, Partisan Review, Temps Moderne, Le Monde Diplomatique, and his commentary is widely carried on the internet. His most recent books are: The Arab Revolt and the Imperialist Counterattack (Clarity Press 2012) 2nd edition, The Power of Israel in the United States and Rulers and Ruled in the US Empire: Bankers, Zionists and Militants, (acquired for Japanese, German, Italian, Indonesian, Czech and Arabic editions), Zionism, Militarism and the Decline of US Power, Global Depression and Regional Wars: The United States, Latin America and the Middle East, and War Crimes in Gaza and the Zionist Fifth Column in America. He has a long history of commitment to social justice, working in particular with the Brazilian Landless Workers Movement for 11 years. In 1973-76 he was a member of the Bertrand Russell Tribunal on Repression in Latin America. He writes a monthly column for the Mexican newspaper, Le Jornada, and previously, for the Spanish daily, El Mundo. He received his B.A. from Boston University and Ph.D. from the University of California at Berkeley.
The Supreme Administrative Court (SAC) ruled Saturday to uphold the verdict of the High Constitutional Court (HCC) deeming the People’s Assembly, formed after national polls in November 2011 unconstitutional. The assembly was dissolved on the basis of that verdict.
Although the SAC adjourned a similar case Saturday appealing the dissolution of the People Assembly, parliament’s lower house, to 15 October, only hours later it ruled in a different case in favour of the HCC verdict.
The dissolution of the People’s Assembly was a matter of great controversy in past months since HCC decision 14 June. The Muslim Brotherhood, forming the largest bloc of the former People’s Assembly, vociferously opposed the verdict together with other Islamists, with many of their lawyers working to saving the assembly through legal appeals.
Upon his inauguration, President Mohamed Morsi, who hails from the Brotherhood’s ranks, declared the People’s Assembly reinstated. However, after his decision was deemed legally flawed, parliament did not resume its functions, waiting for the Administrative Court’s final verdict on filed appeals.
Several Brotherhood members, including acting chairman of the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) and former MP Essam El-Erian as well as secretary general of the FJP and former Parliament Speaker Mohamed Saad El-Katatni were amongst the most prominent figures confirming there was a legal possibility that the assembly would be reinstated.
Their statements were repeatedly criticised by legal experts who argued that the reinstatement of the assembly was unlikely considering that the HCC had already ruled on its unconstitutionality.
Meanwhile, the newly appointed justice minister, Ahmed Mekki, earlier criticised the HCC for issuing its verdict dissolving the elected parliament, arguing that in light of the political situation at the time it should have postponed cases related to parliament along with other politically charged cases.
The general assembly of the HCC in response condemned Mekki’s statements implying their verdict was “politically motivated.” In its statement, the HCC described his criticism as “unacceptable interference” in the court’s work, insisting that all the court’s verdicts were based on constitutional legitimacy, refuting claims they were politically biased.
The SAC in issuing its verdict Saturday also confirmed that the HCC was the body with the final say on the matter. The SAC stated that only the HCC has the authority to decide whether the People’s Assembly should be dissolved or not on the basis of the constitutionality of the elections law that governed prior polling.
Earlier on Saturday Muslim Brotherhood lawyer Abdel-Moneim Abdel-Maqsoud expressed his lack of hope that the dissolved People’s Assembly could be reinstated after the SAC adjourned the parallel case to mid-October.
The latest constitutional addendum dictates that new parliamentary elections should follow the approval of a new constitution by two months. Around 70 per cent of the constitution is reported to be in final draft form, with progress being made on the remainder. Some expect to see a full draft sometime in October.
Leading Brotherhood members also made earlier statements indicating that in the case that the People’s Assembly was not reinstated and new elections take place, the FJP — the political arm of the Brotherhood — will run for 100 per cent of available parliamentary seats.
Other similar controversial cases still awaiting the court’s final verdict include the case against the constitutionality of the Shura Council (parliament’s upper house) and a similar case against the Constituent Assembly, tasked with drafting Egypt’s new constitution, which was chosen by the dissolved People’s Assembly.
- Former MP charges Egypt’s Morsi with ‘sacrificing’ People’s Assembly (azzasedky.typepad.com)
Thousands of Jordanians have taken to the streets across the country in protest against a hike in fuel prices for the second time in three months.
Chanting anti-government slogans, the protesters from the capital, Amman, to the southern city of Maan rallied late Saturday, demanding the immediate resignation of the country’s Prime Minister Fayez Tarawneh.
“The royal palace is standing between the people and their rights,” the protesters chanted.
The Jordanian government said the fuel price rise was necessary, arguing that the costly fuel subsidies have caused a rampant budget deficit.
Jordanians, however, blame the royal palace and corruption as the real reasons behind Jordan’s economic crisis.
The Saturday evening demonstrations, organized by the Muslim Brotherhood, were the largest to hit the country in months.
Jordanians have been holding street protests since January 2011, calling for political reforms, transfer of royal power to the people and an end to corruption.
Since the demonstrations began, the Jordanian King has sacked two prime ministers to appease the protesters.
The king has also amended some articles of the 60-year-old constitution, ostensibly granting the parliament a more assertive role in the decision-making process.
- Jordanian Websites Go Dark in Protest of Proposed Legislation to Censor Internet (techpresident.com)
- Jordan hikes gasoline prices for second time this year (worldbulletin.net)
- Jordanians detained after tomato attack on PM motorcade (dailystar.com.lb)
- Jordanians Protest Internet Censorship Law With SOPA-Style Blackout (eff.org)