Monday, 19 August 2013

Egypt: A Cockpit of Domestic and International Power Politics.

On the Washington's reaction to the Egyptian coup, Jonathan Steele writes,
'It was taken aback by the anti-Mubarak protests in 2011 and hesitated for days before persuading General Hussein Tantawi, the top military man of the time, to tell Mubarak to resign. It supported Morsi's removal after the event (and perhaps in advance), claiming the army is "restoring democracy" in John Kerry's phrase'.
Is there really any evidence, however, that Washington was not taken by surprise by the coup ? Or plotted it ? The reason that Washington has not cut the funding to the Egyptian military is more because it has to depend on it to preserve 'stability' against any threat from radicalised Islamists that come from the nature of the coup.

The Egyptian military has been armed and trained by the US since the 1979s to protect the state against threats from jihadists, including the Muslim Brotherhood in the 1980s and 1990s, and secure the Suez Canal, the border with Israel and strong relations with Saudi Arabia.

SCAF knew it could crush the Muslim Brotherhood without Washington being able to do anything to stop it even it it wanted. The overdependence upon oil and Egypt's geostrategic significance to the Western powers, as well as the potential threat of Cairo moving towards closer ties with China, ensure that.

As, unfortunately, do the lucrative multi-billion dollar arms deals that Washington has with Egypt. The $1.3 billion given to the Egyptian military is a form of subsidy to the US arms industry and firms such as Lockheed Martin and General Dynamics to boost sales, one that 'preserves jobs' and US manufacturing.

However, even if Washington did cut aid, the Egyptian military is a power in its own right and can use revenue from its own vast business empire in Egypt and money from Saudi Arabia to buy weapons in order to preseve 'stability'. Moreover, Egypt bought $800 million in Chinese weapons after 2003 and $600 million from Russia.

Egypt is now the focus of an arms race that is tied to geopolitical rivalry in the oil and gas rich Middle East. Indeed, the US itself has sought in the last decade to boost arms exports to Egypt so that the vital sea route to the Gulf of Aden, Persian Gulf and Indian Ocean is maintained against threats.

With China making inroads into Saudi Arabia and developing oil and trade deals, Washington is going to be wary of losing influence should Egypt turn towards the east as well as it has shown signs of doing not only under the old regime but under Morsi as well.

Morsi Lost a Brutal Power Struggle.

Steele goes on to claim of US statesmen that,
'They seem to have forgotten that Mohamed Morsi was elected president by millions of people in a free vote..... Morsi's rhetoric was often crudely partisan but his actions were not so one‑sided or narrow, given that he tried to appease the military by appointing several Mubarak-era technocrats to his cabinet'
Morsi was elected with 51% of the vote in a presidential election against a rival candidate he narrowly beat on a turnout of 43%. This came after the lower house of the Egyptian Parliament was dissolved after the Supreme Court decreed there has been electoral irregularities in Muslim Brotherhood seats.

Essentially, what has happened since the 'Arab Spring' of 2011 is a brutal power struggle between the old regime and the Muslim Brotherhood that has sidelined the more secular democrats and liberals and presented Egypt with a choice of either supporting the old regime again or identifying with the 'martyrs'.

The electoral turnouts prior to the coup in elections were dwindling as Egyptians saw they had no real choice. After the People's Assembly was dissolved in June 2012, there seemed to be few safeguards against Morsi's attempt to ram through a constitution that did not have popular support.

Apart, that is, from the Egyptian army which got rid of Morsi and a new constitution that had been approved of just above 60% of voters in a referendum in December 2012 in which only 37% of voters bothered with. No checks and balances on the president's authority has been guaranteed before his election.

By failing to try to rule for all Egyptians and, ironically, by thinking he had put the army on his side ( they retained a direct role in politics even under his new constitution ) at a time of economic collapse which any new government would have faced problems with, Morsi sealed his and his party's fate.

The irony is that the Muslim Brotherhood tried in November 2012 to strip civilian courts such as the SCC of their power while having done nothing to restrain the power of the military courts whose position was actually protected under the new constitution promulgated by the Muslim Brotherhood.

The Muslim Brotherhood's failure to restrain the power of the Egyptian military and to end the military trials that Mubarak introduced, precisely because civilian courts were not effective enough in imprisoning Muslim Brotherhood members, will now be used against them.

By failing to work with those who wanted to restain the power of the Egyptian army, while consistely alienating other groups who had participated in the struggle to be rid of Mubarak's dictatorship, the Muslim Brotherhood helped to expedite the rule of the army.

Patrick Cockburn got it right in The Independent ( Egypt on the brink of a new dark age, as the generals close in for the kill )
'Right up to the giant rallies in Egypt on 30 June Morsi believed the mass petition against his rule was "absurd and unconstitutional". He convinced himself, against compelling evidence to the contrary, that the Egyptian armed forces had accepted a subsidiary role so long as their interests were protected. By policies of sustained ineptitude Morsi and the Brotherhood forced together a strange and awkward alliance against themselves of officials from Mubarak's police state, the military establishment, anti-Mubarak leftists and liberals, businessmen, Copts, intelligentsia and even Salafists'

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