Archive for the ‘Egypt’ Category

Egypt: Egypt’s Liberals and their Illiberal Reflexes

August 20, 2013 3 comments

The two pieces below offer serious criticism of Egypt’s liberal politicians and movements. Their lack of organization and their successive electoral defeats to the MB can only be blamed on their non-cohesiveness and division, anarchy, incoherence and self-righteousness. They forget that democratic politics is not about sit-ins and uprisings, but about organizing. Only those who can organize and mobilize their base and reach out to other voters win elections and enjoy the spoils of power. This simple lesson of politics, Egypt’s liberals were (and still are) unable to comprehend. And so when came the time to choose between a return to autocracy and authoritarian rule, and democracy, they chose autocracy and authoritarianism, which shows that their understanding of democracy is very limited and their authoritarian and illiberal tendencies are self-defeating and ominous. An in so doing, they ushered in a dark era for Egypt and a return to a police state.

I am harsh on the Egyptians liberals–and in a previous post i called them the illiberal-undemocrats–because i consider myself one. I don’t support and will never support the MB, but i admire their organizing and mobilizing powers. I also recognize that they won 5 successive elections, fair and square, and they earned the right to rule Egypt and finish their electoral terms. The spokesman for Al-Nour Party told Steven Cook– from the Council of Foreign Relations–in December 2011, “You watch, when the religious do well [in the elections] the liberals will run to the army.” And this is exactly what happened. If Egypt’s liberals want to defeat the MB, they must organize, put together a coherent platform, unit, talk to the folks of Egypt, convince them of their programs, and mobilize them to vote. Calling on the military to solve your own endemic problems might very well prove to be a very costly mistake that will ruin the liberals’ credibility, and hunt Egypt for the foreseeable future.

What’s the matter with Egypt’s liberals?

By Max Fisher, Updated: August 12, 2013

EGYPT-UNREST-POLITICSThe narrative arc of Egypt’s liberal movement, just two years ago a remarkable story of overcoming impossible odds and helping to oust President Hosni Mubarak, has since taken a turn toward tragedy of its most classical form. The hows and whys are complicated, but the movement’s setbacks, at times self-inflicted, have been tougher to ignore since the July 3 coup that removed President Mohamed Morsi. Many of them have so enthusiastically embraced military rule – and, at times, violence against Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood supporters – that observers are wondering whether Egypt’s liberals can still really be considered liberals.

Just today, The Washington Post’s Bill Booth and Sharaf Al-Hourani report from Cairo that Egypt’s liberals are pushing for the military government to crack down on the Muslim Brotherhood’s sprawling – and child-filled – protest camp in downtown Cairo. The liberals, including the movement’s political leaders, “make these calls knowing that a crackdown by the military or police against a committed, cohesive, religiously inspired opponent could lead to bloodshed,” Booth and al-Hourani write.

To me, the movement is starting to look less driven by liberalism than by secular nationalism, hardly a force unique to Egypt but one that has a deep history here, including under Mubarak’s reign. Many have pointed to parallels with the rise of Egypt’s first nationalist military leader, Gamal Abdel Nasser, in the 1950s. Vendors in liberal-dominated protest areas of Cairo have been selling posters of the new military ruler, General Abdel Fata el-Sissi, alongside posters of Nasser and his successor Anwar Sadat (but not of Sadat’s successor, Mubarak; maybe it’s still too soon). The world has something of an ugly history with nationalist movements that celebrate autocratic military rulers and back state violence against fellow citizens, so people are naturally worried.

The Council on Foreign Relations’s Steven Cook, a passionate and long-time observer of Egypt, has written a forceful and important entreaty to the Egyptian liberal movement, charting its missed opportunities since February 2011. That initially included, he writes, “revolutionary navel-gazing that distracted the civil/secular/alleged liberal groups from doing the kind of political organizing that was necessary” as well as “an ongoing sacralization of the uprising and its many different leaders, which made it beyond the pale to offer any kind of critical analysis of those eighteen days [in early 2011] or its aftermath.”

The “civil/secular/alleged liberal” movement, as Cook calls it, doesn’t appear to be behaving much differently this time around than it did in mid-2011, after Mubarak fell. It’s not organizing politically, although this is its second opportunity to do so in just three years. But maybe most worrying, as Cook writes, is that some of the groups “have made common cause with remnants of the old regime and the military,” which he warns “undermines their claims to be democratic” and makes them “potential pawns in a game that anti-revolutionary forces are playing aimed at restoring some semblance of the old order.”

I wrote Steven to ask him what pushed him over the edge, to write his constructive but frank criticisms of Egypt’s liberals, and why it’s become so controversial within Egypt to even hint at potential criticisms of the movement, most notably by calling the July 3 ouster of Morsi a “coup.” Here’s his response, which he kindly agreed to let me publish:

The alleged liberals have been making me a bit nutty for a while. Last spring I wrote a post called “Egypt: The Art of Being Feckless” so it’s been a theme for a little while.

What pushed me over the edge was the coup, but it goes back to the immediate period after the uprising when these guys either couldn’t or wouldn’t do the political work necessary. Instead, they kept going out into the streets. Morsi was obviously no democrat. He had made a mockery of the revolutionary promise of Tahrir Square, but so did the liberals — at least the ones who supported him (how could they not know what the [Muslim Brotherhood members] were up to?!?!) because they themselves failed. The presidential election had not a single candidate that represented the revolution or liberal ideas. That is telling. Now these folks have welcomed the army back. These are very bad choices.

Indeed, you couldn’t question the revolution. Suddenly, all the people who had wanted a better Egypt were acting like Bolsheviks. Now, they say that the army’s intervention is a course correction and that it will be good for democracy. In one sense, they are correct. Morsi and the MB were working hard to institutionalize their power, which was going to make it hard to dislodge them in the future, but the alleged liberals are now back to where they were during the Mubarak period: In a choice between the authoritarianism of the regime (in this case what might shape up to be some semblance of the old order) and the Muslim Brotherhood, the liberals will choose the army. The spokesman for [Salafist political party] al Nour told me in December 2011, “You watch, when the religious do well the liberals will run to the army.” He was dead on!

Also, the calls for revenge against the MB by some liberals makes the hair stand up on the back of my neck. Don’t get me wrong, I have always been deeply suspicious of the MBs. I thought we couldn’t make a real judgement until they actually had an opportunity to govern, but based on everything I read and know about their history, I was not inclined to believe that they would be a force for democracy.

I think Amr Hamzawy and Hossam Bahgat are the only true liberals in Egypt.

The comparison of Egypt’s liberals to such ideological movements as Bolshevism is not as unusual as you might think. The New York Times’ Cairo bureau chief David Kirkpatrick, speaking on NPR a few weeks ago, compared the post-coup mood in Egypt to that of Europe in the early 20th century when it was reshaped by ultra-nationalism. “It’s how I imagine Europe in the first part of the 20th century might have felt during the rise of fascism,” he said. “It may not last. It may be just a momentary national hysteria, but at the moment there is a surreal-seeming enthusiasm for the military … even by people who just a few months ago were calling for the end of military rule.”

That doesn’t mean that el-Sissi is about to invade the Sudetenland, of course. Plenty of nationalist movements have arisen over the past century without leading to anything so dramatic, but they are rarely anything resembling liberal. But those echoes are a reminder that nationalist movements are driven from the bottom-up as well as the top-down.

Egypt, Wake Up!

by Steven A. Cook
August 12, 2013

Supporters of deposed Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi listen to a speech during a protest in Cairo (Suhaib Salem/Courtesy Reuters). Supporters of deposed Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi listen to a speech during a protest in Cairo (Suhaib Salem/Courtesy Reuters).

In recent weeks I have written a bit about how developments in Egypt are reminiscent of the 1950s.  Over the last five weeks, the historical parallels have been, at times, uncanny to the Free Officers’ crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood beginning in October 1954.  I stand by that work, but now I am beginning to believe that in at least one respect, the summer of 2013 is a lot like the summer of 2011.  Those who have been following Egypt will remember two years ago when activists staged a the three week-long Tahrir sit-in and there were seemingly endless “Fridays of ….” including:

  • Friday of Purging the Remnants of the Mubarak Regime from Egypt
  • Friday of Renewing the Revolution and in Memory of the Martyrs
  • Second Friday of Anger
  • Friday of Retribution (aka “Ministry of Interior Purification Friday” or “Honoring the Martyrs’ Rights Friday”)
  • Friday of Determination
  • Friday of Last Warning
  • Friday of Decision
  • Friday of Unity
  • Friday for the Love of Egypt
  • Friday of Correcting the Path
  • Friday to Reclaim the Revolution

During that summer there were also the demands to bring Hosni Mubarak to trial and the attendant protests once he was in the dock as well as an ongoing sacralization of the uprising and its many different leaders, which made it beyond the pale to offer any kind of critical analysis of those eighteen days or its aftermath.

This was of course all revolutionary navel-gazing that distracted the civil/secular/alleged liberal groups from doing the kind of political organizing that was necessary when parliamentary elections rolled around in late November and early December of 2011.  These same groups do not seem to have learned much from that moment, setting themselves up to underperform once again.

It’s been a busy summer in Egypt:  military intervention, a Muslim Brotherhood sit-in (for five weeks and counting) at Rabaa al Adawiya Mosque that the government is vowing to break up, the July 26 March against violence and terrorism, actual violence and terrorism in the Sinai Peninsula, revisions to the disputed December 2012 constitution, and tumult within the Zamalek football (soccer) club along with a host of economic problems that have not gone away since the military pushed Mohammed Morsi from power.  That’s enough for a few years, but it’s all happened—with the exception of the Sinai problem, which has been ongoing—since July 3. The Egyptians with whom I have spoken recently are tired.  They have been riding the exhilarating peaks and depressing troughs of the uprising for thirty months.  In the words of one friend, “We need a break.  Just for one month.”

Put down the Twitter.  Turn off the talk shows.  Get back from the North Coast.  Put a hold on blogging.  Get to work organizing. In case anyone has not noticed, the clock is ticking.  It’s mid-August.  Before anyone blinks it will be Eid al Adha in mid-October and then the political season will begin. The military has begun a political process in which there will be elections sometime between January and April of next year

Defense Minister Abdelfattah al Sisi is not likely to accede to last minute appeals from civil/secular/alleged liberal groups for more time.  Under his predecessor, Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces delayed elections because the new political organizations—and the Obama administration—pleaded to give them more time to build, in the parlance that democracy promoters love, “capacity.”   Virtually everyone feared that the Muslim Brotherhood and the defunct National Democratic Party, apparently rising from the dead, would use their superior organizational skills to win/buy votes and thereby dominate the People’s Assembly.  The only thing the extra time did was create an environment in which the very same people who had petitioned the military for more time denounced the officers for wanting to hold onto power indefinitely, culminating in calls for the Field Marshal’s death in late November 2011.  When the elections took place, the feloul were shut out, but the Brothers and the Salafis of al Nour did very well together garnering 65 percent of the 498 seats, and the civil/secular/so-called liberal groups securing 15 percent.  Not bad, but it was clear they did not have a broad appeal.

The Muslim Brotherhood’s egregious mistake and the military’s intervention have for better or worse given the groups that did not do well during the 2011-12 parliamentary elections a new opportunity at the ballot box.  There is no evidence that they are doing anything about this new lease on life provided courtesy of the Egyptian armed forces.  It’s entirely unclear if anyone on the non-religious end of the political spectrum is doing any political work or merely relying on the fact that the Brothers so botched their time in office that they will be a non-factor in politics for some time.  Maybe.  Their supporters seem highly motivated.  Even if the Brotherhood says now that it will not legitimate the political process resulting from a coup, or the military makes good on its promise to clear the area around the Rabaa al Adawiya mosque, who knows what will happen in six or nine months.

The fact that some revolutionary groups and democracy activists, who claim to be liberal, have made common cause with remnants of the old regime and the military undermines their claims to be democratic.  It also makes them—if they are not careful—potential pawns in a game that anti-revolutionary forces are playing aimed at restoring some semblance of the old order.  This effort is likely not as organized as some media reports might suggest, but no one can deny that that there are groups embedded within the state who want nothing more than to roll back the uprising. This is all the more reason to get out on the hustings to convince Egyptians that they have something new and appealing to offer.  If they do not, Egypt’s democrats will soon discover that their allies of the moment will not look all that different from their adversaries of the past.

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Egypt: الي عبيد البياده

August 20, 2013 Leave a comment

By: Abdel Aziz Boussaid

تركز ميليشيات السيسي على تبرير و تعريف افعال اﻷجرام في قتل المصريين للعالم الخارجي لكن ﻻ تعلم كيف تدير دولة للمصريين. بينما ينتفض بعض مؤيدي السي دفاعا عن صنمه و افعاله وﻻ تجد منهم من يدافع عن حرمة دم المصري .

بينما يعتبر البعض ان الدفاع عن السيسي هو دفاع عن الدولة و مؤسساتها و ﻻتجد تعريف لهذه الدولة المباركية المجرمة القاتلة الفاسدة وﻻتجد بينهم من ينتفض رافضا الظلم بينما ينهمك في صناعة تمثال جديد انكسر قبل ان يكتمل. و اخرون منهمكون في دعوات عنصرية للكراهية و لكن تجدد المبرر في تسمية جهزت لهم تحت مسميات عالمية جهزت لتتعامل مع انكار عدم اﻷنسانية و الشيزوفرينيا التي تبرر اي افعال باسم الحكم اذا ظننت ان ميليشيات السي تقتل المصريين باسم شعار محاربة مايسميه كلابه محاربة اﻷرهاب فانت واهم. اما ظننت ان يدافع السيسي عن مايسميه البعض المدنية فانت واهم فهو هدم اي بوادر لﻷنسانية داخلك بكل وحشية. اما اذا ظننت ان السيسي يقاتل عدوك فانت واهم فهو يقتل افضل ابناء الوطن متحالفا مع اعدائك..اذا ظننت ان السيسي يفعل كل ذلك بدافع اي شعارات انت رددتها و سميتها وطنية فانت واهم فهو اسقط ضحايا تفوق قتلى العدو الصهيوني في حروب مصرمعه مع العلم هم من وطنك..اذا ظننت ان السيسي يبحث عن صالحك و من هو اولى بحكمك تحت ضرب النار فانت واهم فهو يبحث عن الكرسي تحت اي ثمن و ﻵيكترث بك او ماتسميه انت ديموقراطية او حكم الشعب..اما اذا ظننت انت ان السيسي سيحكم مصر بعد كل ذلك حتى لو خرج له طاغية اخر يلقب بخادم الصهيوامريكين يدعوه ليحارب معه ارهابه فانت واهم..اما اذا ظننت انت ان اي طاغية اخر سيهرب من عقاب لله

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Egypt: Video–The lynching of an Egyptian citizen by the baltagia of Al-Sisi

August 20, 2013 Leave a comment

Warming: This is a hard video to watch. The images are tough and it shows the lynching of a normal Egyptian citizen by the thugs, the baltagia, of Gen. Al-Sisi. We don’t know if he died or not, but the likelihood that he died is high.

What is even more troubling is that this lynching takes place in front of the police and with their blessing. The police officers on the scene look away while a normal citizen comes under the vicious attacks of a vicious and violent mob of baltagia. I guess, this is the democracy that Gen. Al-Sisi, all his supporters, and the Egyptian military want for Egypt; a democracy ruled by mobs and baltagia.

الاحتباس الحراري: هذا هو شريط فيديو من الصعب مشاهدة. هذه الصور هي صعبة. الصور يظهر اعدام المواطن العادي المصري من قبل البلطجية، وbaltagia، الجنرال السيسي. ونحن لا نعرف إذا مات أم لا، ولكن احتمال أنه مات مرتفع.

ما هو أكثر إثارة للقلق هو أن هذا القتل يحدث أمام الشرطة ومع مباركتهم. ضباط الشرطة على الساحة ننظر بعيدا في حين يأتي المواطن العادي في ظل الهجمات الشرسة من مجموعة من الغوغاء عنيفة من البلطجية. وأنا أعتقد، هذه هي الديمقراطية من الجنرال السيسي. هذه هي الديمقراطية من أنصار الجنرال آل الأخت. وهذه هي الديمقراطية من الجيش المصري يريد لمصر؛ ديمقراطية يحكمها الشوارع الغوغاء والبلطجية.

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Egypt: Al-Qaeda Revival–how the coup in Egypt revives Al-Qaeda & threatens U.S National Security

August 18, 2013 7 comments

And so it began on July 3rd, 2013.

There is very little doubt to those of us who have observed the Middle East for decades and still are linked to that region through either cultural or linguistic ties that the greatest defeat of Al-Qaeda was the Arab Spring. What the Arab Spring did to Al-Qaeda, the U.S. fearsome military might couldn’t.  The Arab Spring dealt such a blow to Al-Qaeda that it destroyed its main ideological and intellectual claim, rendering it another empty and bankrupted run-of-the-mill terrorist group. But that has changed. It changed on July 3rd in Egypt. On that day, Al-Qaeda got its biggest and scariest victory that it could not hope for, thus increasing the threat to U.S. national security. General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and the Egyptian pseudo democrats and liberals handed to Ayman al-Zawahiri the gift of a lifetime, which he was desperately looking for. On July 3rd, while pseudo democrats were dancing in Tahrir Square, al-Zawahiri and his compeers were joyfully dancing in their caves. The military coup in Egypt, the ousting of Morsi from power, and the bloody massacres of the Muslim Brothers throughout Egypt this last month have revived oAl-Qaeda, and pose a clear danger to U.S. national security.


To understand why Al-Qaeda got revived, we have to understand where Al-Qaeda draws its force that has sustained it even under 10 years of relentless military assaults.

Al-Qaeda’s main intellectual and ideological claim is that Islamists parties would never be allowed to rise to power, win elections, compete politically, and rule any Arab or Muslim country. Al-Qaeda leaders like Al-Zawahiri or Bin Laden have always argued that there is a conspiracy between the West—read Israel and the United States—and Arab autocrats, like Mubarak and now General Al-Sisi, to keep Islamist parties from winning and prospering. This ideology and belief of the West and their “deviant” and puppet Arab autocratic leaders–such as Nasser, Sadat, Mubarak, Al-Assad or Al-Saud family and leaders of other sheikdoms–have always conspired to oppress Islam and Islamist parties is deeply embedded in the ethos of Al-Qaeda and all radical islamist movements. This is by no means an original idea of Al-Qaeda; it actually goes back to Islamist thinkers such as Sayyid Qutb and even before him Jamaluddin al-Afghani. However, this is the most powerful and most alluring and mesmerizing idea upon which the whole radical Islamist ideology is based. Qutb famously wrote

“When we [Muslims] came here to appeal to England for our rights, the world [the West] helped England against the justice. When we came here to appeal against Jews, the world [the West] helped the Jews against the justice. During the war between Arab and Jews, the world [the West] helped the Jews, too.”

This is a recurring theme in Qutb’s writing. A theme that the West, which is composed of America, Israel, and England mainly, has always sided against and fought Islam and Muslim communities throughout the world. From there, Qutb develops his idea that the only way to change the destiny or the future of the Muslim world is to fight the West, its ideas, and its puppets that are ruling and oppressing the ummah. Declaring that we are living in a time of Jahiliyyah, Qutb argues that the only way for the Muslim world to reach freedom is for a revolutionary vanguard to physically fight this Jahiliyyah through preaching, and through coercive power, which is another word for Jihad. Thus, Qutb justifies the killing of Muslims by Muslims, and the fighting of Muslims leaders.

This very simple idea became powerful over time, and the whole radical Islamist movement has been founded it and thrived because of it—one element of that movement is Al-Qaeda.  It is also the idea that divided the Muslim Brotherhood as an organization for a long time. A fierce intellectual battle was waged inside the MB between those who favored Qutb’s claim and those who opposed it. Since Qutb didn’t believe in democracy and advocated for a sort of anarcho-islamist system (he famously said that “A Muslim has no nationality except his belief”, which means that a pious Muslim doesn’t even need a state or its institutions including democratic representation since a truly Islamic state wouldn’t need a ruler nor judges or army or a police because a Muslim intrinsically obeys the divine laws), it was necessary for those who wanted to defeat Qutbism view of Islam to not only justify democracy from an Islamic perspective, but to also embrace it and make it their own. The fight between the moderate and the radical anarcho-Islamists finished by pushing the radical toward violence, and the moderate toward democratic values. These democratic values represent the core belief of the Egyptian moderate and modern MB. It is a political movement that believes firmly in democratic rules and process. And it is from it that the Freedom and Justice Party was established and rose, and went on to win the presidency and a majority in both chambers of the Egyptian parliament.

With the Arab Spring came the rise to power of Islamist moderate political parties in Tunisia and Egypt. Those parties competed in fair and transparent elections, and won. Not only did the electoral victories of Islamist political parties such the Freedom and Justice Party (حزب الحرية والعدالة) and the Tunisia’s Ennahda Movement (حركة النهضة) represent a victory for the moderate and democratic wing of the Islamist movement, but it also represented the defeat of Qutb’s doctrine, which by extent was a drastic mortal blow to Al-Qaeda’s intellectual and ideological raison d’être.

Since Islamist parties can arrive to power through democratic means, why would they need to fight? This very simple syllogism bankrupted Al-Qaeda as an organization. There is no need for Jihad because gaining power and ruling can be obtained through democratic means. Therefore, all those who are attracted or believe in moderate Islamist ideology need to do is to form a political party, organize, and participate in elections.

But what would happen if there were no peaceful mechanisms to gain power? That’s where the Egyptian coup turns into a shot of revivatol into Al-Qaeda’s arm.

From September 11th 2001 to July 2013, the United States fought Al-Qaeda mercilessly.  As an organization, Al-Qaeda has been severely degraded. It lost several battles. It was crushed and kicked out of Afghanistan, which was its unified command and control base. Afghanistan provided Al-Qaeda with training grounds, logistics, security and protection, formidable fund raising platform, a launching pad for attacks, and a magnificent symbolic place where all aspiring Jihadists who believe in Qutb’s view of Islam would converge to reinforce the ranks of the organization.

After the invasion and occupation of Afghanistan by the U.S, Al-Qaeda migrated and established a foothold in several countries—Pakistan, Yemen, Iraq, Algeria, Mali and so forth—but it was never able to recreate the stability that Afghanistan provided the organization.  On the run, Al-Zawahiri and Osama Bin Laden were forced to decentralize the organization and spread it as a franchise that could be sold across the Arab/Muslim World. It was no longer needed for aspiring Jihadists to travel all the way to Afghanistan to join the group, but just move to a nearby franchise. The result of that is the fragmentation and decentralization Al-Qaeda across the globe. So, we have Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, Al-Qaeda in Yemen, Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, Al-Qaeda in Iraq, Al-Qaeda Central in Afghanistan, Central Al-Qaeda in Pakistan, El-shabaab in Somalia and Yemen, and recently Al-Nusra Front in Syria.  In addition to this large list of franchises, Al-Qaeda moved into the Internet age and marked its presence online, which makes it accessible to everyone with a computer and an Internet connection and serious list of grievances against the West—e.g., the Tsarnaev brothers and the Boston Marathon attack (I will soon write another post on the transformation of terrorism over the last 10 years).

Despite the large numbers of franchises and its presence on the web, Al-Qaeda’s lethal capabilities have substantially diminished. The lack of communication and coordination among the different leaders of the different franchises, scarcity of resources, internal divisions and conflicts, in addition to a relentless drone war conducted by the Obama administration severely weakened Al-Qaeda.  Operationally, Al-Qaeda was barely standing. To add insult to injury, in May 2011, the U.S military forces killed its charismatic (and psychopathic) leader, Osama Bin Laden.

So without its founder and charismatic leader, and without a centralized command and control structure, operationally Al-Qaeda was in agony. Its recruitment efforts faltered and its operations had all the hallmarks of amateurism. The only thing that has allowed Al-Qaeda to survive and endure the assault of American, European, and Arab countries military forces is its ideology that girded its base.  This belief that the West and its puppets in the Arab Muslim world will always conspire to never allow for an Islamist political party to exist and win, let alone to rule an Arab or Muslim country, persisted and proved to be hard to defeat with military weapons. Only an idea can defeat another idea, as the old saying goes. Radical Islamists have always argued that Islamist parties do well in the polling booths, but the military and the West will always confiscate their victories. Radical Islamists always substantiate this claim by pointing their accusatory finger toward Algeria and the electoral victory of the FIS in 1991, only to be taken away by a military coup encouraged by France; Turkey and the electoral victory of The Welfare Party (Refah Partisi, RP) taken away by a military coup encouraged by the European Union and the US in 1997; Gaza and the electoral victory of Hamas only to be thwarted by the United States and Israel; and now they can add to that already long list Egypt and the victory of MB in 5 consecutive elections only to be overthrown and physically crushed by the military with the acquiescence of the West.


The leader of Al-Qaeda, Aymen al-Zawahiri has been preparing all his life for this exact moment. And we didn’t have to wait for long to hear from him. From his cave in Pakistan where he’s believed to dwell, we heard his last message, which was nothing but a severe rebuke to MB for believing in democracy. One day after the military coup, El-shabaab released a statement in which they blamed the MB and Morsi for attempting to gain power by following the democratic process. On August 3rd, Al-Zawahiri followed up with another statement in which he settled old scores with his mortal enemies, the Muslim Brotherhood. In it, Al-Zawahiri argues

The government of Mohamed Morsi was not attacked because it was the government of the Brotherhood; rather, it was an attack on any Islamic direction, for the Brotherhood government had sought to appease America and the secularists with what it could.

To Al-Zawahiri, the MB is as evil as America and the West combined. It represents the threat that if successful, it could bankrupt the organization he leads.

So as expected, al-Zawahiri’s “I told you so!” was heard loud and clear throughout the Muslim world.  Not only has al-Zawahiri been proven right by the Egyptian generals, he has also been reinforced in his belief by the tergiversations of western leaders. Instead of a clear condemnation of the Egyptian coup, we heard a slight collective sigh of relief coming from European capitals and the White House. For the first time, a military coup is not a coup, but a “correction” of the political course, or “a military-backed popular revolution,” and many other nonsensical semantic gymnastics and confusions.  These tergiversations are seen as a clear proof and even a confirmation that the West doesn’t want an Islamist party to rise to power in any Arab or Muslim country.

What will happen to all this new young generation of Egyptian Islamists who came to firmly believe in democracy as the only way to arrive to power? Not only have their dreams and aspirations been dashed and smashed, but they have also been persecuted and massacred. After all, they formed a party, supported it, played by the rules, and won. So, “why are we vilified? and why is our victory stolen?”  they might ask.  Undoubtedly, all of them will go through all the stages of grief, but a large portion of them will stop at the second stage—i.e., the anger stage. And this is where the “I told you so!” will resonate so true them. It will become their mantra, and its seductive powers will increase, and its pull will become irresistible. And so, some of them will join Al-Qaeda with a clear conscience knowing that they have tried everything legitimate in their power to do the right thing. We are talking about a very young educated, intellectually capable, English speaking, and electronically savvy generation. The new possible recruits of Al-Qaeda will become a formidable and hard force to stop. Naturally, their first target on the list will be the United States. The narrative of the whole coup will fit like a glove in the old and almost defeated Qutbism ideology to revive it, and give it a booster shot that will carry it for the next half a century.

This is what the Egyptian military coup did. It revived Al-Qaeda from its ideological death; it blew a breath of fresh life in its agonizing corps; and it provided it with a new batch of recruits. It is in the utmost national security interest of the United States to stop this madness that is happening in Egypt. It is in our security interest to see that a fair and equitable solution is to be found. We cannot allow for another country to undermine our security, especially when we have legitimate reasons and grievances against the Egyptian military. Everyone knows the outline for a negotiated solution to this crisis. It is not hard to spell out: 1) all military violence must stop immediately; 2) all prisoners must be released; 3) Morsi must be released so he can bring a semblance of legality to the anarchy that Egypt has dove in; 3) Morsi should be tasked with organizing early presidential elections; 4) a national unity interim government must be formed to oversee the drafting and the ratification of a new amended constitution; and finally 5) the organization of legislative elections.

The key to these 5 steps is in the hands of general Al-Sisi. The United States has to use all its diplomatic and coercive power to pressure Al-Sisi to back off from the edge of the abyss. The longer we wait, the greater becomes the prospect of instability and of a protracted civil strife. The long-term national security of the United States dictates that general Al-Sisi must act, not only in the interest of his own country, but also in the interest of ours.

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Egypt: Short Film Documenting the Massacre of Rabaa Adawiya 08-14-2013

August 16, 2013 19 comments

This is the first shot film documenting the horrific massacre of Rabaa Adawiya. It is very graphic, and some of the scenes are tough to watch. But words cannot possibly describe last scene.  What we see here is almost a genocide. Snippers on roof tops purposely targeting unarmed civilians, sustained fire directed at protesters, adult men and women and even children shot in the head, and so forth and so on.

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Egypt: A Tale of a Horrific Massacre 08-14-2013

August 15, 2013 19 comments

The Egyptian security forces moved in to disperse the sit-ins in the different squares of Cairo and other cities. The results, as we expected it, was a bloody massacre. The death toll, according to different news agencies, is between 300-400 deaths and several thousands of injured.

Of course, this is not surprising to me or to you if you have been reading my previous posts. I repeatedly warned that the situation in Egypt was rapidly degrading, and the window of opportunity to resolve this crisis peacefully with a quick return to the democratic process was closing fast. Well, after today’s massacre that window is almost shut. There is still hope, but that hope, as of now, is on life support.

How can i describe and narrate today’s massacre? Well, there is no need to do that. I will let you assess the brutality of the security forces through this photo essay. As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words.

Screen shot 2013-08-14 at 8.19.21 PM



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Tunisia: Tunisia doesn’t have to follow in Egypt’s steps.

August 7, 2013 Leave a comment

This is a good analysis on the Tunisian situation with a comparative framework with the Egyptian situation by a veteran quality journalist who covered the Middle Eastern politics of decades. Abdel Bari Atwan is the former editor of London-based Al-Quds al-Arabi, an independent, pan-Arab daily newspaper, from 1989 to June 2013.

Tunisia can step out of Egypt’s shadow

Though protesters have reason to demand change, Al Nahda, unlike the Brotherhood, has shown a willingness to compromise for the sake of national unity

  • By Abdel Bari Atwan | Special to Gulf News
  • Published: 20:00 August 4, 2013
  • Gulf News

  • Image Credit: REUTERS
  • Demonstrators shout to demand the ouster of the Islamist-dominated government during a protest outside the Constituent Assembly headquarters in Tunis August 3, 2013.

Egypt has long produced the historical and political blueprint for the rest of the Arab world, but Tunisia led the way in the Arab Spring, and the ouster of President Zine Al Abidine Bin Ali preceded that of Hosni Mubarak by several weeks.

Now, however, the military coup in Cairo and the failure of former president Mohammad Mursi’s Islamist-led government have inspired a new wave of protests in Tunisia and calls for the ruling Troika to step down. Can Tunisia’s fledgling democracy step out of Egypt’s long shadow?

It is a striking paradox that many of those who fought so hard to achieve democracy are willing to use the most undemocratic means to remove an elected government that is not to their liking.

It is in the very nature of democracy and elections that the results will not please all of the people all of the time. Given time, a mature democracy allows for debate and consensus.

Many suspect that exterior, as well as interior forces are at work in the current bid to derail the Arab Spring. When the wave of revolutions seeped from the fringes of the Arab world (Tunisia) to its heart, Egypt, the West became alarmed. Tony Blair, the architect of the destruction of Iraq, begin to talk about “controlled change” in the region, which was exemplified by the military intervention in oil-rich Libya.

When Islamist parties triumphed at the ballot boxes in both Egypt and Tunisia, Blair spoke up again, urging western governments to help the “liberal and democratic elements” in those countries and claiming (outrageously, surely, given the success of Erdogan’s Islamist government in Turkey) that religious parties were unable to offer “real democracy”.

Now those ‘liberal and democratic elements’ have championed the coup in Egypt, and violent protests in Tunis have seen the Tunisian army becoming actively engaged in street politics, shutting off Bardo Square to demonstrators and declaring it a “closed military zone”.

At home, these events will please the remnants of the former dictatorships, slow the pace of real change and further destabilise the region.

Abroad, Israel and its friends will be heartened by the challenge to hostile Islamist policy-makers — particularly in the case of Egypt, a key partner in the peace process. The military court in Cairo made this connection clear when it ordered that Mursi be detained for questioning over his ties with Hamas.

Al Qaida and like-minded groups have been quick to exploiting the security vacuum in both countries. They have all but taken over the Sinai and have established several new bases in Tunisia which is already surrounded by hotbeds of radicalism in Libya, Mali and Algeria. I am told that a Kalashnikov from Libya can nowadays be purchased in Tunis for just $20 (Dh73.4).

Last week, eight Tunisian soldiers were gunned down by men believed to be Al Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) members. The group may also be behind the assassinations of leading secular opposition figures Shukri Belaid and Mohammad Brahmi, which precipitated the current unrest.

Paradoxically, while its critics blame the Tunisian government for security failures, the ongoing protests and strikes by the country’s biggest union, the Tunisian General Labour Movement (UGTT) distract the army from its real purpose and weaken the state apparatus still further.

I do not wish to give the impression that I consider Mursi’s or the current Tunisian government blameless. They have both made many, glaring errors. My concern is for the stability of the region which, I feel, is best maintained through the ballot box.

Egypt is now in the hands of the army, and may remain so for years to come, but I believe there is still hope for a successful transition to democracy for Tunisia.

Unlike Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, the Al Nahda party (which won the most seats in the December 2011 elections) has not tried to monopolise power, appointing independents and politicians from other parties to key ministerial roles. As a result, a new generation of experienced leaders of every hue is in the making.

Perhaps most significantly, the Tunisian army is small (just 27,000 soldiers) and has not, historically, played a political role. Tunisia has been a civil state since 1956 when it gained independence from France and Habib Bourgiba took the helm.

By contrast, Egypt has an army of 1.5 million and the coup which brought Jamal Abdul Nasser to power in 1952 ushered in nearly 60 years of military rule when first Anwar Sadat and then Mubarak succeeded him. Mursi, a civilian, failed to last a year in office.

Tunisia’s protesters have many reasons to demand change. The current government’s mandate expired in December 2012 (elections were for a one-year term only) and it has angered the public by postponing elections and by failing to deliver the new constitution.

These mistakes might have been avoided by a president other then Munsif Marzouqi. On the day of the 2011 elections, I met Al Nahda leader, Rashid Gannouchi, and he told me that he intended to offer Al Baji Qaed Al Sibsi the presidency. As foreign minister under Habib Bourguiba and prime minister responsible for marshalling elections immediately after the revolution, Al Sibsi’s experience would have stood the National Constitution Assembly (NCA) in good stead in such turbulent times. Al Gannouchi bowed to political pressure and agreed to appoint Marzouqi instead.

Although I do not expect Al Nahda (which is a comparatively mild Islamist party) to retain its dominance of the Tunisian political scene, I believe that Al Gannouchi — who I know well from his years in exile in London — may play a key role in resolving the current crisis and returning Tunisia to the path of democracy. A pragmatist, Al Gannouchi is willing to compromise for the sake of national unity and has already responded to the escalating protests with a commitment to complete the constitution by October 23 and to hold elections on December 17, the third anniversary of the uprising.

If the NCA can hold on to power until then, I am cautiously optimistic that Tunisia will emerge from the post-revolutionary period with a properly elected, national unity government and take the lead over Egypt once again towards a brighter future.


Abdel Bari Atwan is the former editor of the pan-Arab newspaper Al Quds Al Arabi. His latest book is After Bin Laden: Al Qaida, the Next Generation.

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