Monday, August 13, 2012

Understanding Egypt’s Second Bloodless Coup

No one would have imagined what President Morsi did. We all thought the army was one solid entity that no one could crack and it was well united in it’s dogfight with the Muslim Brotherhood. So what do we make out of the recent decisions of President Morsi to sack the army’s top generals?

I believe that we might have witnessed what I call Egypt’s second bloodless coup in it’s modern history. The first one was in 1952 when a group of young army officers turned against King Farouk and ushered in 60 years of military rule. Yesterday, we witnessed a coup within the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF); generals brushing aside other generals.

I am more inclined towards the theory that Morsi could not have taken such drastic decisions without some support from generals within the military establishment and what we have seen is a coup within SCAF with the help of the President, or to be more specific, with the help of the Muslim Brotherhood (MB).

Let’s take a closer look at the appointees. Tantawi was replaced by Sissy, the head of the military intelligence. He was the only general who openly admitted that the army did in fact carry out virginity tests on female protesters. Not only did he admit the despicable act, he justified it by claiming that it was necessary to protect the army from being accused of rape. He then promised Amnesty International that virginity tests won’t happen again. So if you’re popping the champagne celebrating Morsi’s presumed victory over the military establishment, sorry to mess up your party. Morsi did not purge the army, he basically replaced one bad guy with another.

Sissy’s deputy is Asar, one of SCAF’s well known generals due to his frequent appearances on TV. Asar was an integral part of SCAF and defended every crime the army committed for the past year and a half.  The third high profile appointee is General Sobhy Sedky who has been appointed as chief of staff instead of Sami Anan. Little is known about Sedky except that he was the commander of the Third Army Canal Zone. Revolutionaries in Suez were sentenced to two years in prison by a military court for protesting in front of one of the military bases under his command.

So was Morsi’s decisions “revolutionary” and a cause for celebration? The answer is no. What happened is merely a reshuffle. The top generals were gone, those directly under them took over. And these generals aren’t any better than their previous superiors. The only change however is that now these generals owe their positions to Morsi’s decision to retire Tantawi and Anan. In other words, they owe their new jobs to the Muslim Brotherhood. That leads us to Morsi’s other decision to annul the interim constitutional declaration passed by SCAF just before the elections.

One of the strongest signs of the coup I indicated above was this decision to cancel the constitutional declaration that gave SCAF legislative powers till the election of a new parliament. Morsi could not have taken such a decision unless he was sure his new appointees would not turn against him. At the end of the day, they were members of the same entity that drafted this constitutional declaration. So in order for” level two generals” to get rid of “level one generals”, they had to cooperate with the MB at the expense of the constitutional declaration of course.

Shouldn’t I be glad that finally an elected civilian president is calling the shots? No. Why? Because the MB’s actions in the past year and a half prove beyond a shadow of doubt that they cannot be trusted. As we enter Egypt’s MB era, it gets clearer that the MB are more than willing to use Mubarak era laws and tactics in order to tighten their grip over the country. Just a few days before Morsi’s bold decision, the MB in the Shura Council used Mubarak’s law to self appoint editor in chiefs for the state newspapers. And what was the first decision of Al Ahram’s chief? Cancel the section that monitored how Morsi was delivering on his first 100 days promises. Voila!

Unlike many revolutionaries who threw a party after Morsi’s sacking of Tantawi and Anan, I tend to look at the bigger picture instead of the needle hole. I simply cannot separate Morsi’s latest decision from what the MB did to the state newspapers for example. All dots should be linked. And when you link all the dots, the picture doesn’t look good at all. So sorry, I am not celebrating.

  Posted by BP at 11:41 pm Comments (11)
Wednesday, August 1, 2012

The Sweetness Of Giving Power To The Brotherhood

How Cairo and Alexandria voted in round one of the presidential elections might be one of the most insightful observations from the two elections we had this year. I always imagine this scene when I explain the magnitude of what the Alexandrians and the Cairenes did in round one.

Imagine an Alexandrian walking along the picturesque corniche of Alexandria, a city considered to be the bastion of Islamist power in Egypt. He passed besides Al Qaid Ibrahim mosque and overheard hardliner Salafi preacher Ahmed al-Mahalawi admonishing his followers about voting for Mohamed Morsi lest they go to hell. He walked away from the mosque and approached the headquarters of the Salafi Dawah and overheard another Salafi maniac, Yaser Borhamy, telling his followers to vote for Abdel Meniem Aboul Fotouh because his group have struck a deal with him. What did our Alexandrian friend end up doing? He voted for Hamdeen Sabahy. Alexandria overwhelmingly voted for Sabahy in round one of the presidential elections.

Now, what made areas such as Cairo, Alexandria, Delta, the Red Sea and South Sinai, that voted overwhelmingly for the Islamists in the parliament elections, opt for someone else in the presidential election? Two things: the parliament and the alternative. Dismayed at how the Islamists have performed in the parliament and encouraged by the presence of a viable alternative, millions of Egyptians voted against the same people they’ve elected in parliament.

What does that teach us? If you want to weaken the MB, give them power! Once the MB turn from being the oppressed political group into the ruling class, their holy halos start to disintegrate. People see them as they truly are: a group after its own self interests just as any other political entity. During Mubarak, they have promised that “Islam is the solution”, today many people are starting to see that religion to the MB is simply a bridge they use to reach their political goals, just like any other religion-based right wing party. During Mubarak, the MB have championed the cause for Palestine. A few days ago, Morsi sent Shimon Peres a letter. Voila.

It’s sweet giving the MB power and watching them mess up with it. They’re messing up because they’ve been promising the moon for 80 years. Never promise the moon to a people who finally found their voice.

  Posted by BP at 4:33 pm Comments (2)