Daily Briefing: Protests Erupt In Egypt’s Tahrir Square (September 26,2019)

2011 demonstrations at Alexandria, Egypt (Source:Wikipedia)

Table Of Contents:

 

Egypt Protests Came as a Total Shock. The Man Behind Them Is Just as Surprising:  Vivian Yee and Nada Rashwan, NY Times, Sept. 22, 2019


Egypt On Edge After First Anti-Sisi Protest For Years:  National Post, Sept. 25, 2019


A Crumbling Alliance in the Middle East:  Talha Köse, Daily Sabbah, Sept. 13, 2019


Understanding Egypt’s Limited Involvement in the Campaign Against Iran: Mohamed Maher,The Washington Institute, Mar. 21, 2019

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Egypt Protests Came as a Total Shock. The Man Behind Them Is Just as Surprising
Vivian Yee and Nada Rashwan
NY Times, Sept. 22, 2019

Under the government of President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi of Egypt, so little dissent is allowed — and what little there is comes at such a high price — that when just a few hundred people across the country called for Mr. el-Sissi’s ouster in a burst of scattered protests on Friday night, it came as a shock.

The apparent trigger for the demonstrations was almost as unexpected: Mohamed Ali, a 45-year-old construction contractor and part-time actor who says he got rich building projects for the Egyptian military and then left for Spain to live in self-imposed exile, where he began posting videos on social media accusing Mr. el-Sisi of corruption and hypocrisy.

In the three weeks since his first video appeared, Mr. Ali has reinvented himself as a whistle-blower, an el-Sisi antagonist, and a protest guru, and his tales of corruption at the top have transformed him into a leading voice of opposition to the president. When the protests erupted, it was at the time and date Mr. Ali had urged from afar.

But the extent, and durability, of Mr. Ali’s out-of-nowhere influence — and his ability to spur further demonstrations — remains to be seen. His surge from obscurity to prominence has also raised questions in Egypt about whether his sudden fame has been helped along or exploited by powerful interest groups in the country, inside or outside the government.

“It is sort of odd,” said Amy Hawthorne, the deputy director for research at the Project on Middle East Democracy. “Who is this person, who is he connected to, what led him to come out with these allegations now? Obviously, he’s very well connected, but who exactly are his connections?”

To at least some protesters, Mr. Ali was less an inspiration than an opportunity to vent their frustrations. “I protested because the way Sisi is ruling is wrong and disgraceful,” said Ali Mohamed, 19, a resident of the working-class Cairo neighborhood of Boulaq who live-streamed some of the Tahrir Square demonstrations on Friday. “Egypt deserves better than for its land to be sold out or for its people to be imprisoned.”

He added: “People were just waiting for the opportunity to protest — Mohamed Ali’s videos are not the real reason why they did. The reason is that people wanted to take action.”

On Saturday evening, about 200 protesters in the Red Sea city of Suez were met with police officers firing rubber bullets, according to posts on social media and a witness. In Cairo, however, there did not appear to be any signs of further protests. The police pre-emptively flooded Tahrir Square on Saturday, where mass demonstrations during the Arab Spring eight years ago brought down President Hosni Mubarak and raised hopes for democratic change.

The test of just how deep Mr. Ali’s influence is could come as soon as this week. In a video posted Saturday evening, Mr. Ali called for a new round of protests against Mr. el-Sisi to take place this coming Friday. “We should stop making gods out of presidents,” he said in the video, exhorting the military to remove Mr. el-Sisi from power.

Though the police did not kill any protesters on Friday, the security forces have not hesitated to use deadly force in the past, and Mr. el-Sisi is likely to order a swift and thorough crackdown if the protests persist. … [To read the full article, click the following LINK – Ed.]
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Egypt On Edge After First Anti-Sisi Protest For Years
National Post, Sept. 25, 2019

Scattered protests in Egypt in the past few days highlight the risk that President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi could face broader dissent, driven by grievances over economic austerity and allegations of official corruption. Just a few hundred took to the streets in Cairo and other cities last Friday, shouting “Leave, Sisi,” after a series of videos by an activist accusing the government of corruption gained traction online.

The rare outburst of anger was enough to damage Egypt’s image of stability under Sisi, who took power after removing President Mohamed Mursi in 2013 following mass demonstrations against the Islamist leader.

Investors have been unnerved by a call for further protests on Friday, with Egypt’s dollar bonds falling and the main stock index wiping out its 2019 gains in just three days. Authorities have meanwhile rounded up hundreds of suspects. Security forces have stepped up their presence in major cities and have been conducting spot checks of mobile phones for political content. Sisi, in New York for the U.N. General Assembly, indirectly accused the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood of stirring up the protests, saying “political Islam” was to blame.

Analysts say it won’t be easy to curb dissent without addressing its economic and political causes. Many Egyptians distrust government promises after three years of austerity agreed with the International Monetary Fund in exchange for a $12 billion loan. Since then, Egypt has introduced the value-added tax, devalued the currency and raised the prices of electricity and fuel.

TURMOIL

Sisi remains popular among many ordinary people for stabilizing Egypt after the fall of Hosni Mubarak in 2011 led to turmoil that scared away tourists and foreign investors, and brought the public finances close to collapse. But the austerity measures, which were accompanied by a crackdown on dissent, heaped pressure on many. The number of Egyptians living below the poverty line rose to 32.5% in the 2017/18 financial year from 27.8% two years earlier. “What happened is a very serious warning, the situation is not totally under control,” said Mohamed Zaree of the non-governmental Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies.

He said most people who took to the streets were not members of organized political parties “which shows that there is public anger.”

The protesters lack leaders, political affiliations and coordination, analysts said. The crowds were spontaneous, making the protests difficult to control. “It’s not clear whether protests will escalate or fizzle right now,” said Michele Dunne, director of the Middle East Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. “But if not this week, protests are likely to return in the coming weeks and months.”

Several Cairo residents said hardship was driving the protests, and they might join in if they could be sure of safety in numbers. “It depends on the size of the protest. If many people join, I might too,” said a driver who gave his name only as Abdallah. “If numbers are too small it is too unsafe,” he said before adding: “People are fed up.” … [To read the full article, click the following LINK – Ed.]
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A Crumbling Alliance in the Middle East
Talha Köse
Daily Sabbah, Sept. 13, 2019

A little more than two years ago, the most powerful actors in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), namely Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), cooperated with Egypt to form a new alliance in the region.

President Donald Trump’s administration in Washington explicitly supported this ambitious alliance, which portrayed itself as the new powerhouse to reshape the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) and the Crown Prince of the Emirate of Abu Dhabi, Muhammed bin Zayed (MBZ), were the leading figures and sponsors of this project. Egypt was considered the military might behind this alliance, together with Saudi Arabia and the UAE’s financial sponsorship.
Trump’s senior adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner, Kushner’s team in Washington and the right-wing Israel lobby were also the critical minds behind this new alliance.

The weaknesses of Iraq and Lebanon, economic difficulties in Jordan, and fragmented governments and civil wars in Syria, Libya, and Yemen were considered opportunities to implement new effort to reshape the entire region. Conditions looked convenient for the main actors to actualize the idea of creating hegemony in the MENA region.

This alliance perceived Iran, Turkey, and Qatar as the most important obstacles to creating this region-wide hegemony. The main message in this new order was “either you are with the U.S., or you are against the U.S.”

This alliance even unrealistically imagined forming a NATO-style military alliance of Arab nations. The coalition got involved in proxy wars in Libya and Yemen. They tried to get involved in regime change processes in Tunisia, Algeria, and Sudan. Egypt’s example and the Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi regime was a great success story for the objectives of this alliance.

They wanted to spread versions of Egypt’s counter-revolutionary experience across the entire region. The masterminds of this alliance were against Iran’s expansionism, and they supported the idea of suppressing Shiite influence across the entire region.

Another target was the Muslim Brotherhood. They considered Qatar and Turkey fundamental support bases for the Muslim Brotherhood. They targeted Shiites, Islamists and moderate democratic actors. Both Shiites and Islamists are genuine local actors rooted in the region, and their significance does not come from the outside support of regional actors. Indeed, external attacks and threats bring them together and lead to their further politicization.
Rather than preferring a divide-and-conquer strategy, the alliance unrealistically started an aggressive fight in the entire region. They did not refrain from targeting Turkey and Iran, Shiites and Islamists, democratic institutions and press freedom at the same time.

They expected to gain the support of Western capitals, think tanks, policy institutions, universities, and the press with generous financial rewards and PR campaigns. The ambitions of this alliance were beyond their capacity. … [To read the full article, click the following LINK – Ed.]
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Understanding Egypt’s Limited Involvement in the Campaign Against Iran
Mohamed Maher
The Washington Institute, Mar. 21, 2019
After U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s last visit to the Middle East, Cairo has attempted to appear aligned with Gulf States’ efforts against the Iranian regime, at least rhetorically. Egypt’s participation in the Warsaw summit against Iran—which Pompeo had publicly announced in Cairo one month earlier—was perhaps intended to emphasize that Egypt is not opposed to the regional and international tide against Iran. However, Egypt’s apparent reluctance to becoming deeply involved was highlighted by the Polish Foreign Minister Jacek Czaputowicz’s announcement that Egypt was likely to send a vice-minister in contrast to the participation of ministers from most other participating Arab states. This is just one of several signals that suggest a relative ambivalence in Cairo over the current international campaign against Iran.
Indeed, regarding practical measures, Cairo is far from playing an influential role in this campaign. On the contrary, Cairo has actually begun to take steps to draw closer to the country seen by many Arab leaders as the foremost threat in the region. Just days before the Warsaw Conference, Cairo officially participated—perhaps for the first time—in the celebrations of the Office of the Iranian Interests Section in Cairo on the occasion of the 40th anniversary of the Iranian revolution. The Egyptian Foreign Affairs Ministry sent the deputy foreign minister for Asian Affairs, Ambassador Khalid Tharwat, to participate in the celebrations of the Iranian revolution, in a step that increased speculation about the future of relations between the two countries.
The state of Egyptian-Iranian relations has fluctuated greatly over the years; initially, relations between Egypt and the Shah’s government were quite warm, peaking after the marriage of King Farouk’s sister to the then-Crown Prince Muhammad Reza Pahlavi in 1939. However, the Iranian Revolution shifted the nature of these ties dramatically: at a time when there was some hesitance from the international community towards the new regime in Tehran, Egypt was one of the first countries to show open hostility towards the Iranian Revolution. Then-President Anwar Sadat fiercely attacked the Iranian revolution, with Cairo offering the deposed Iranian Shah Muhammad Reza Pahlavi and his family refuge and protection. Even with the death of the Shah in 1980, he was laid to rest in Cairo with an impressive military funeral in which Sadat and a number of world leaders participated.
The Islamic Republic responded in kind, especially after Egypt signed the Camp David Accords with Israel. After Sadat’s assassination, for example, the municipality of Tehran renamed one of its major streets in honor of Khalid Islambouli, the terrorist who had been implicated in the assassination. For the past several decades, diplomatic relations had been nearly entirely cut off between the two countries, limited to Interests Section offices located in the capitals of the two countries.
The Muslim Brotherhood’s rise to power in Egypt after the 2011 revolution shifted this dynamic once again, leading to a historic rapprochement between the two countries. In August 2012, the Iranian capital welcomed Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi—the first time a sitting Egyptian president had traveled to Iran since the 1980s. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad soon reciprocated with a visit to Egypt. In spite of the deep ideological differences between the two parties, they represented two sides of the same coin of Islamic extremism. Unsurprisingly, Iran attacked the new regime in Egypt after Morsi’s ouster, presenting it as an extension of the Sadat and Mubarak regimes. … [To read the full article, click the following LINK – Ed.]

 

For Further Reference:

Egyptian Authorities Threaten to ‘Decisively Confront’ Protesters:  Ruth Michaelson, The Guardian, Sept. 26, 2019 — Egyptian authorities have made it clear that they intend to use force to quell Friday’s planned demonstrations against the rule of President Abdel Fatah el-Sisi.

Egypt: Key Findings On Public Opinion 2018-2019:  Arab Barometer, Sept. 10, 2019 –– Egyptians with different levels of income and education seem to have incredibly disparate perceptions of the Egyptian reality.

WATCH:  What is Likely to Happen Next in Egypt? TRT World, Sept. 22, 2019, YouTube – Will Egyptians carry out another revolution? Geopolitical risk specialist Sami Hamdi explains what some possible scenarios for Egypt are as mass protests take place across the country.

Wrap-up: Sisi Talks Palestinian Cause, African Issues at UNGA 74:  Egypt Today, Sept. 23, 2019 — Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi has arrived in New York on Saturday morning, where he is set to give a speech during the meeting of the United Nations General Assembly, as the chairman of the African Union this year.

How Muslim Brotherhood Drove Systematic Social Media Scheme Against Egypt Egypt Today, Sept. 21, 2019 — Terrorism comes in many forms, and when a terrorist organization realizes it is losing armed confrontations, it seeks other hidden devious schemes to destabilize countries from the inside.