EGYPT: MORSI’S ISLAMIST MOBILIZATION, ARMY’S OPPORTUNISM, “LIBERALS”’ RESISTANCE, JIHADI RESURGENCE & TANKING ECONOMY YIELD WEAK STATE, POLITICAL STASIS

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(Please Note: articles may have been shortened in the interest of space. Please click link for the complete article – Ed.)

 

 

F-16s to the Muslim Brotherhood: Dore Gold, Israel Hayom, Feb. 1, 2013—The latest American crisis with Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood president, Muhammad Morsi, came out into the open on January 14, 2013, when the New York Times published a report on its front page that three years earlier he used blatantly anti-Semitic motifs for describing "Zionists" as “…bloodsuckers who attack the Palestinians, these warmongers, the descendants of apes and pigs.”
 

Morsi's Guns: The Officers Backing Egypt's President: Joshua Stacher, Foreign Affairs, February 4, 2013—In recent months, the Egyptian military has struck a quiet alliance with the country's president, believing that he and the Muslim Brotherhood will keep winning elections. In return for their support, the generals got a draft constitution that protected the many of their core interests. Yet the military also preserved its appearance of neutrality — leaving it room to change horses should the Brotherhood fall behind.

Jihadists on the Nile: Aaron Zelin, Real Clear World, Jan. 21, 2013—Jihadist groups are emerging as a major threat in Egypt because of three developments: the permissive atmosphere for Islamist mobilization in general since Hosni Mubarak's February 2011 ouster, the ruling Muslim Brotherhood's tolerance toward its fellow Islamists, and the weakness of the Egyptian state. To help inhibit violence by such groups, Washington should approach Cairo with a mix of economic inducements, diplomatic pressure, and intelligence sharing.

 

On Topic Links

 

Egypt: Free People Not Going Quietly Into the Sharia Night: Robert Spencer, Front Page Magazine, Feb. 1, 2013

 

Death and Fear are at Center of Islamic Society: Nonie Darwish, Gatestone Institute, Feb. 5, 2013
Morsi’s Goon Squads Kill 2 Activists; US ‘Disturbed’: Tzvi Ben-Gedalyahu, Jewish Press, Feb. 5, 2013
Think Again: The Muslim Brotherhood: Eric Trager, Foreign Policy, Jan. 28, 2013

Analysis: Is Egypt Facing Another Revolution?: Ariel Ben Solomon, Jerusalem Post, Jan. 29, 2013
‘Socioeconomic Time Bomb’ Ticking in Troubled Egypt: Patrick Martin, The Globe and Mail, Jan. 31 2013

 

 

 

F-16s TO THE MUSLIM BROTHERHOOD
Dore Gold

Israel Hayom, Feb. 1, 2013
 

The latest American crisis with Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood president, Muhammad Morsi, came out into the open on January 14, 2013, when the New York Times published a report on its front page that three years earlier he used blatantly anti-Semitic motifs for describing "Zionists" as “…bloodsuckers who attack the Palestinians, these warmongers, the descendants of apes and pigs.” The interview was videotaped and distributed by MEMRI, which has been documenting and translating from Arabic the statements of leaders across the Middle East for many years.

To make matters worse for Morsi, he was also filmed addressing a rally in 2010 in the Nile Delta at which he declared: “We must never forget, brothers, to nurse our children and our grandchildren on hatred for them: for Zionists, for Jews.” This video clip was actually broadcast on Egyptian television….

What has made the revelations about Morsi's comments especially problematic was that during January, the U.S. supplied four F-16 fighter aircraft to Egypt, out of a total package for 20 such fighters that was originally signed when President Mubarak was still in power. The U.S. will also be supplying 200 Abrams tanks to Egypt.

As a consequence, when Senator John Kerry appeared before Congress prior to the vote on his confirmation as the next secretary of state, he was asked how the U.S. could provide advanced arms to a country led by a president, like Morsi, who had such values that were antithetical to everything for which the U.S. stood. More practically, Senator Rand Paul (Rep.–Kentucky) asked Kerry if the new U.S. warplanes would be a threat to Israel or even to America.

For decades the U.S. has developed means to preserve Israel's qualitative military edge, even as Washington supplies advanced weapons to the Arab states. In the latest sale to Egypt, a publication specializing in the U.S. defense industry points out that at this point, Egypt will not receive the same advanced air-to-air missiles that Israel deploys on its F-16s, thereby assuring Israeli air superiority vis-a-vis the Egyptian Air Force.

Undoubtedly, there will be U.S. officials who will argue that arms sales to Egypt will at least keep the Egyptian armed forces friendly to Washington. In his first major struggle with the Egyptian army, however, Morsi showed that he was willing to challenge its general staff when he forced General Tantawi to retire. Every senior Egyptian officer now knows that his advance up the chain of command will be dependent on the approval of the Muslim Brotherhood regime.

Some Egyptians are reading into the completion of the F-16 sale a political signal from Washington towards the Egyptian regime and its opposition. It is being seen as a kind of vote of confidence in Morsi and his government. Ambassador Hussein Haridi, a former assistant foreign minister, told the Egyptian newspaper, al-Ahram, in mid-January that the sale indicated that the level of support for Morsi and the Brotherhood was continuing, despite the demonstrations against his regime that were already underway in mid-December.

But there is a more fundamental issue that needs to be addressed in this discussion about advanced arms for Egypt. Morsi's statements point to the fact that he is still strongly tied to the hard-line ideology of the Muslim Brotherhood , which it must be remembered is a revolutionary movement that could down the line put at risk important Arab allies of the U.S.

Indeed, during 2011, Jordanian officials accused the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood of being involved in growing street disturbances in Amman. In December 2012, security forces in the UAE uncovered a Muslim Brotherhood plot to overthrow its government. Egyptian nationals were arrested and imprisoned. Cairo sent a high-level delegation, including Morsi's intelligence chief, to Abu Dhabi to help reduce tensions with the UAE, but they came back empty-handed. Both the UAE and the Saudi press have been notably critical of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood in recent months.

Indeed the Muslim Brotherhood over the years has been seeking to overthrow existing Arab regimes, replacing them with a unified Arab state. The Arab Spring has provided new opportunities for the movement to realize its long-term goals. Eventually, the ideology of the Muslim Brotherhood seeks the re-establishment of the caliphate, whose global regime will cross current state borders.

There is a history of Egyptian adventurism towards neighboring states that could be rekindled in the future if it were to have the backing of a strong Islamist ideological orientation. Take for example the case of Saudi Arabia. In the 19th century, during the rule of Muhmmad Ali, Egypt dispatched an expeditionary force into the heart of the Arabian Peninsula, occupied the capital of the first Saudi state, and sent its Emir to Istanbul for execution. In 1962, when Egypt was led by President Nasser, it intervened in the Yemen Civil War with tens of thousands of troops and even used its air force to strike border towns in Saudi Arabia, which was backing the opposite side.

Right now, Egypt has too many troubles at home to follow this kind of aggressive political agenda. Morsi just declared a state of emergency and a curfew in Suez, Ismailia, and Port Said after escalating violence in those cities. But in the long-term, if Egypt adopts the Muslim Brotherhood program in its relations with the rest of the Middle East, then Israel will not be the only state that should be concerned.

Arms transfers do not change the balance of power overnight, especially if only a few aircraft are involved. The present sale represents a qualitative upgrade for Egypt, which until now has only received older models of the F-16. However, it would be more advisable to build up Egypt's ability to assure its internal security in places like Sinai, where al-Qaeda affiliates have built up for themselves a substantial foothold. But investing in weapons for projecting Egyptian military power over long distances should be re-thought until its leadership clarifies what its intentions are with respect to its Middle Eastern neighbors.

 

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MORSI'S GUNS: THE OFFICERS BACKING EGYPT'S PRESIDENT
Joshua Stacher

Foreign Affairs, February 4, 2013

In recent months, the Egyptian military has struck a quiet alliance with the country's president, believing that he and the Muslim Brotherhood will keep winning elections. In return for their support, the generals got a draft constitution that protected the many of their core interests. Yet the military also preserved its appearance of neutrality — leaving it room to change horses should the Brotherhood fall behind. Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood think of themselves as uniquely qualified to rebuild Egypt. Moreover, they believe that they were entrusted with doing so during this year's election. Their miscalculation, though, was to think that the rest of Egypt felt the same way.

Once again, Egyptian protestors have taken to the streets to lash out against the disappointing political transition there. This latest turmoil, which began on the second anniversary of the January 25 uprising, is worse and has lasted longer than previous confrontations. Last week, the fighting was most intense in Suez, Ismailia, and Port Said, where police fired tear gas, birdshot, and live ammunition into the crowds, leaving over 60 Egyptians dead and another 1,000 injured. There is also a video circulating of police brutally beating a man, who had been stripped down to his underwear. But the state's continued use of force has done little to stop civil disobedience.

The government has blamed this latest uprising on foreign troublemakers and unruly youth militias, such as the newly established quasi-anarchist group the Black Bloc. On January 27, Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi belatedly addressed the nation, urging calm while imposing a curfew, and declaring martial law in the cities along the canal. Morsi ended his speech with a threat: "If I see that the homeland and its children are in danger, I will be forced to do more." But further cracking down on citizens would not curb violence in Egypt. In fact, it would only reinforce protestors' claims that the state continues to repress citizens and that the transition has been a sham. 

The Egyptian Ministry of Interior remains the country's most virulently detested institution. In 2009, it employed a total of 1.7 million people, including nearly 850,000 policemen and 400,000 officials in the dreaded State Security Investigations Service (SSI). Under the Mubarak regime, the police and the SSI were responsible for a copious amount of unwarranted domestic surveillance, corruption, torture, and police brutality. The regime also used the police and the SSI to steal elections, limit freedom of expression, and repress the opposition. 

Today, little has changed. The SSI has simply been replaced by Egypt's Homeland Security agency, which is just as violent as its predecessor; it is the same organization with a new name. One domestic nongovernmental organization claims that, in Morsi's first 100 days, 88 people were tortured and 34 were extra judicially murdered in police stations across the country, but not a single person connected to the new government's coercive apparatus has been found guilty of a crime.

In fact, only two police officers have been sentenced in connection with any violence since the 2011 uprising. Shielded by Egypt's political elites, the Interior Ministry has made few personnel changes. To be sure, there have been some forced retirements, but most Mubarak-era officials and generals have been placed in other parts of the bureaucracy, where they enjoy high salaries and guarantees of immunity for their past crimes. The men who have taken over the vacant positions are old-regime deputies. Thus, the hierarchy, culture, and philosophy endure.

Reluctance to reform the Interior Ministry might have been expected from the military. But, given that Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood were the victims of the state's iron fist for so long, it is surprising that they are equally keen to keep the old system in place. Their desire to stay in power, it seems, has led them to lie with strange bedfellows. In addition, the transition from military to civilian rule was structured such that the winner of the presidential elections would be forced to compromise with the old regime. As a result, the president, together with the short-lived parliament and the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), has ignored or blocked efforts by groups such as the National Initiative for Rebuilding the Police to professionalize and reform the security sector. And recent judicial rulings continue to place the police beyond the law, which encourages them to keep defending the regime, as opposed to serving the population.

The military, which oversaw the haphazard transition that lasted 17 months, also fills a tricky role, caught between the government and the growing number of unsatisfied citizens. When pressed for a reaction to the current tensions, the defence minister, Abdul Fattah el-Sisi, issued a statement that appeared to simultaneously side with the government and the protesters. El-Sisi did not endorse Morsi's leadership, but he urged protestors to return home for the sake of the state. Because the military feigns objectivity, some, such as Mohamed ElBaradei, have suggested that the military should sponsor a national unity government.

It is highly unlikely, however, that the military will intervene. Undoing the results of the most competitive election in Egypt's history, in which 52 percent of the population turned out, could spark widespread outrage. Similarly, the military is not strong enough to govern. It barely survived intact the first time it intervened in national politics. Furthermore, the military does not want to be in the spotlight. Generals are happy to privately wield power while Morsi takes the heat publically. Plus, the military is pleased with the new constitution's articles that expanded its influence.

And, although disruptive, the recent protests have not threatened to bring down Morsi's government. Egypt is not on the verge of collapse, nor is such an outcome likely even if violence persists. The number of demonstrators is high, but it is not the critical mass that gathered during the 18 days of mobilization that culminated in toppling Mubarak. Still, the government needs to make substantial changes to calm tensions….

The security services need to be dissolved and reconstituted with new personnel. There needs to be civilian leadership, as well as legal training about human rights and an outlawing of torture. As long as an unreformed police force is responsible for responding to protests, bloodshed will persist. Meanwhile, the lack of change and political progress makes revolutionaries feel that peaceful, democratic avenues of participation and reform are blocked. Elected state officials remain partisan and weak, the formal opposition remains fragmented, and the state apparatus continues to operate with an outdated mentality. And so Egyptians keep taking to the street.

 

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JIHADISTS ON THE NILE

 

Aaron Zelin
Real Clear World, Jan. 21, 2013

Jihadist groups are emerging as a major threat in Egypt because of three developments: the permissive atmosphere for Islamist mobilization in general since Hosni Mubarak's February 2011 ouster, the ruling Muslim Brotherhood's tolerance toward its fellow Islamists, and the weakness of the Egyptian state….
Following the 2011 revolution, the military junta that replaced Mubarak granted amnesty to many Islamists, including individuals with blood on their hands. Many of these figures renounced violence, and some established political parties, but others remain completely unreformed. These latter jihadists are radicalizing Egypt's domestic political scene and threatening U.S. interests.

Two Egyptian "Ansar al-Sharia" groups, whose names echo those of other regional jihadist organizations, are particularly worth noting. Gamaat Ansar al-Sharia in Egypt (ASE), which was founded in mid-October 2012, focuses on internal "reform," including application of sharia, compensation for the martyrs of the revolution, purging the judiciary and media, allowing bearded officers, and not relying on riba (usury) in financial transactions. Similar to the Ansar outfits in Tunisia and Benghazi, Libya, ASE runs local community services such as distributing sheep for ritual slaughter during the Eid al-Adha holiday and providing food for the needy.

By contrast, al-Taliah al-Salafiyah al-Mujahediyah Ansar al-Sharia (TSM), which was formed this month but officially declared in mid-November, is more internationally focused. Run by former members of Egyptian Islamic Jihad (EIJ) who post their press releases to al-Qaeda-affiliated online forums, it emphasizes liberating foreign-occupied Muslim lands, supporting foreign mujahedin, resisting the foreign ideologies of liberalism and communism, repelling the implementation of secular laws from Europe, and stopping the "Christianization" of Egyptian education. Unlike ASE, TSM does not publicize any social services that it provides; much of its public profile since Mubarak's ouster has been in the form of articles, books, and fatwas regarding the Egyptian transition.

 

Meanwhile, the emergence of former EIJ figure Muhammad al-Zawahiri, brother of al-Qaeda leader Ayman, has given these groups a public face. Zawahiri was released from prison in March 2012 and has since promoted the global jihadist worldview through local and international press interviews. While he denies being an al-Qaeda member, he agrees with its ideological outlook and, through Twitter, instigated last year's September 11 protests outside the U.S. embassy in Cairo that culminated with the breaching of the compound's walls and desecration of the U.S. flag. He also cooperated with TSM's Ahmed Ashoush to plan Salafi jihadist participation in an early November demonstration in support of sharia. And in December, he catalyzed a boycott of the constitutional referendum, criticizing the Muslim Brotherhood's "sharia sins" and arguing that the new charter was insufficiently Islamist.

While these groups and figures have only small followings — as evidenced by the unimpressive turnout at their occasional Tahrir Square sharia protests — there is substantial risk that they will gain followers in the coming months. The relative openness of post-Mubarak Egypt has afforded them unprecedented opportunities for proselytizing. Moreover, they will likely draw followers away from Salafist political parties, whose members may become disillusioned with a political process that they already view as a "necessary evil."

Egypt's declining internal security will give jihadists ample recruitment opportunities as well. Instability in the Sinai could also provide them with new training grounds, allowing them to return to their Nile Valley communities with newly developed skills for attacking civilians or the state. In addition, instability in northern Sinai and attacks against Israel could jeopardize the bilateral peace treaty.

The Egyptian government has done little thus far to curtail the jihadist emergence. While neither the military nor the Muslim Brotherhood wants to see jihadist groups rise, both fear the domestic political repercussions of taking them on too directly; in particular, the Brotherhood is worried that confronting fellow Islamists would benefit its Salafist competitors. The military further views the problem as a policing issue for which the Interior Ministry is primarily responsible.

 

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Egypt: Free People Not Going Quietly Into the Sharia Night: Robert Spencer, Front Page Magazine, February 1, 2013
Survey after survey, as well as the election results that put the Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohammed Morsi in the presidential palace, show that most Egyptians want Islamic law. But those who do not are not submitting quietly to Sharia tyranny.

Death and Fear are at Center of Islamic Society: Nonie Darwish, Gatestone Institute, Feb. 5, 2013—The most influential Sunni leader in the Middle East has just admitted what many of us who grew up as Muslims in the Middle East have always known: that Islam could not exist today without the killing of apostates.

Morsi’s Goon Squads Kill 2 Activists; US ‘Disturbed’: Tzvi Ben-Gedalyahu, Jewish Press, February 5th, 2013—The U.S. State Department has told Egypt it is “extremely disturbed” by the video of Egyptian police brutally beating and dragging a naked near the presidential palace as the Muslim Brotherhood makes the Obama administration’s enthusiastic welcome of the regime more problematic.
 

Think Again: The Muslim Brotherhood: Eric Trager, Foreign Policy, Jan. 28, 2013—"They're democrats." Don't kid yourself. Long before the Jan. 25 revolution that ousted Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, many academics and policymakers argued that his main adversary — the Muslim Brotherhood — had made its peace with democracy. This was based on the assumption that, since the Muslim Brotherhood participated in virtually every election under Mubarak, it was committed to the rule of the people as a matter of principle.

 

Analysis: Is Egypt Facing Another Revolution?: Ariel Ben Solomon, Jerusalem Post, Jan. 29, 2013—Since the January 2011 overthrow of Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak, political unrest and divisions, violent protests and crackdowns have beset the country. Overseas investments and tourism have dropped, and the country’s foreign currency reserves have plummeted.

 

‘Socioeconomic Time Bomb’ Ticking in Troubled Egypt: Patrick Martin, The Globe and Mail, Jan. 31 2013—Egypt’s economy is growing at the slowest rate in two decades and official figures put unemployment at 13 per cent. Youth unemployment, one of the drivers of the revolutionary movement in 2011, is now 25 per cent for people between the ages of 25 and 29, and 41 per cent for those 19 to 24.

 

 

 

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