Archives For Egypt June30

Egypt’s Martial Media, Ctd

Brendan James —  Aug 22 2013 @ 8:29am
by Brendan James

Joshua Hersh notes that the creeping censorship of the Egyptian press post-coup is actually “self-censorship, growing out of an instinct for conformity”:

In the final years of the Hosni Mubarak era, private television networks and newspapers had opened the door to critical coverage of the regime; their encouragement and reporting helped pave the way for the revolution. There was hope that with a toppled regime might also come a truly independent press, one of the few institutions that could steer the country as it tumbled through a tumultuous post-revolutionary era.

But now, when the official state-run television channel puts a banner reading “Egypt Fighting Terrorism” in the corner of its screen (referring, of course, to the Brotherhood), the private networks do so as well. Over the weekend, the privately owned OnTV treated viewers to a highlight reel of the police clearing the Brotherhood sit-in, set gloriously to the soundtrack of “Rocky.”

This was the only coverage of the event many of those watching would have seen; local newspapers and television stations give no information about the number of Brotherhood dead, and have never shown images of them. And when reports broke on Wednesday that the former dictator Hosni Mubarak might be imminently released from prison, the local media took hours to mention the news. In the interim, they covered the traffic.

Capturing Egypt’s Killings

Patrick Appel —  Aug 21 2013 @ 5:13pm
by Patrick Appel

Max Fisher has an interview with Egyptian photographer Mosa’ab Elshamy. He reflects on “how significant events really end up taking seconds”:

As a photographer you always have to keep the shutter on — we call it the burst mode. I have full sequences, and sometimes it starts with somebody standing, but in the sixth or seventh photo, he’s got a bullet through his head, and it all took less than a second.

The consequences of that moment, of this guy getting shot or avoiding a bullet that killed someone else — it’s a very significant thing, and more often that’s becoming lost. I try to focus on that in my pictures, I try to include as few people as possible; just a man sitting with a killed friend of his, or a mother mourning next to a daughter. It’s a very individual act, one person killing another person.

Check out a Flickr gallery of Elshamy’s work here.

All Eyes On Egypt

Brendan James —  Aug 21 2013 @ 1:02pm
by Brendan James

PAKISTAN-EGYPT-UNREST-PROTEST

Madawi Al-Rasheed observes how the Saudi theocracy is keeping its own Islamist opposition in order as Egypt burns nearby. King Abdullah recently set the tone, declaring full support for the junta in Cairo:

The king’s message was clear: zero tolerance for all those who use Islam to pursue political agendas, sort of an oxymoron in the Saudi context as the state itself had been manipulating, co-opting, and promoting Islam for agendas that are nothing but political. The foundation of the state itself is a process of instrumentalizing Islam to revive the Al-Saud control of vast territories, under the pretext of purifying Arabia from blasphemy, innovation, and atheism. The Muslim Brotherhood and its likes appear to be latecomers to the project of politicizing Islam.

King Abdullah’s message, supposedly meant for Egyptians, did not go unheeded among the many Saudi Islamists who abhorred their government’s support for the Egyptian coup. Since July 3, they have turned into defenders of Morsi and the Brotherhood, issuing statements on social media condemning their own government for backing the coup.

A small group of activists launched an online petition to gather signatures against the aid that had been promised to Egypt immediately after the coup. Following the circulation of the petition, a couple of veteran activists such as Mohsin al-Awaji were briefly detained while many other Islamists remain banned from travel, most famous is Sheikh Salman al-Awdah whose television program “you have Rights” was abruptly stopped on an Islamist independent television channel. The government is carefully watching the hyperactivity of Islamists and their statements on television and online, which have so far strongly condemned the Egyptian coup and their own government’s unequivocal endorsement of General Sisi.

Michael Koplow notices that Turkey’s government is alarmed for the opposite reason, as an Islamist party supportive of the Brotherhood:

[T]he specter of crowds massing in the streets and the military overthrowing the government hits a little too close to home for Erdoğan given what he was dealing with in June and the history of Turkish military coups. Erdoğan’s biggest claim to fame is his defanging of the military, and even after demonstrating that Turkish civilian control (and undemocratic intimidation) over the army is complete with the Ergenekon verdicts a couple of weeks ago, no Turkish prime minister – and certainly no Turkish prime minister with Erdoğan’s background – is ever going to feel completely safe from the long arm of the military. Erdoğan looks at what is taking place in Egypt through a distinctly Turkish prism, and in many ways his views on the Egyptian coup are actually a complex psychological projection of his fears about his own position. …

Erdoğan sees the army removing an elected government amidst accusations of policy overreach and undemocratic behavior, and he imagines a nightmare alternate universe where the same could happen to him.

Previous Dish on the region’s reaction to Morsi’s ouster here and here.

(Photo: Islamic political party Jamaat-e-Islami activists march in support of ousted Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi in Karachi, Pakistan on August 20, 2013. Supporters of Morsi announced new demonstrations as Egypt grew increasingly polarised and the death toll in four days of violence topped 750. By Asif Hassan/AFP/Getty Images)

What Happens If We Cut Off Egypt?

Patrick Appel —  Aug 21 2013 @ 10:54am
by Patrick Appel

Noah Millman is unsure:

America already has had the experience multiple times of cutting off clients who have crossed a red line of one sort or another. For example, we abandoned the Shah when he had plainly lost the support of his people. This did not win us any goodwill once the Iranian revolution brought to power a profoundly anti-American regime – because the Iranians had not forgotten America’s longstanding support of the Shah, and because the Ayatollahs had their own reasons for setting themselves up in opposition to America.

For another example, in response to Pakistan’s escalating program of nuclear weapons acquisition – and, not incidentally, in response to the collapse of the Soviet Union – beginning in 1990 the United States increasingly distanced itself from Pakistan. Over the course of the next decade, Pakistan still developed a nuclear arsenal, a generation of Pakistani officers grew up without relationships with the United States, and Pakistan became deeply involved in the Taliban regime in Afghanistan. We all know what happened next.

His larger point:

On a relative basis, Egypt is much less-influential than it was fifty years ago. On an absolute basis, though, it’s a much, much bigger country. If we decide that Egypt doesn’t much matter to us, I think we can safely say that we’ve decided that the Middle East doesn’t much matter to us.

Which it well might not. But I am not shocked that the American government is reluctant to decide on the fly and under the pressure of rapidly-changing circumstances in one country to significantly reorder its priorities in this part of the world.

by Chas Danner

Bobby Ghosh thinks the US and international community overestimate Egypt’s importance:

Cairo is no longer the region’s cultural heart: Egypt doesn’t produce great art, music or literature. Arab TV audiences are much more likely now to be watching Turkish soap operas, Lebanese music videos and Qatari satellite news channels. Egyptian universities are now laughably bad, and the Gulf states prefer Indian, Pakistani and Filipino labor to Egyptian. Egypt’s media scene is a regional joke.

After decades of mismanagement by corrupt generals and bureaucrats, Egypt is an economic basket case. It has few valuable resources to sell the world, and its mostly impoverished people don’t have the money to buy anything from the world, either. Even the Chinese, who aren’t deterred by political instability or violence, aren’t exactly queuing up to invest in Egypt.

Ghosh adds that Egypt poses no conceivable threat to Israel, and that its political weight within the Arab world has been eclipsed by other countries like Qatar and Turkey. He thinks Egypt’s symbolic value is waning as well:

The Arab Spring was an import from Tunisia, but it once again made Egypt a laboratory of a new, powerful political idea: post-totalitarian democracy. Egypt’s size meant its democratic experiment would be watched more closely than, say, Libya’s. Alas, as we’ve seen this summer, that experiment has failed. Rather than show the way forward, Egypt is in full retreat. It now falls to Tunisia and Libya to show that the Arab Spring wasn’t simply a replay of the Prague Spring.

As for Egypt, it seems now that its main relevance in regional and global affairs is as a potential source of trouble. Its combination of instability, corruption and ineptitude makes Egypt fertile soil for radicalism and Islamist militancy.

Ghosh makes some interesting, contrarian points, but Egypt’s political influence and cultural exports aside,  I don’t think the world is going to stop paying attention anytime soon either. What happened in Egypt in 2011 was undoubtedly the emotional high point of what may have only been the first phase of the Arab Spring, and for that reason I think many around the world will remain engaged and hopeful.

by Chas Danner

Many Feared Dead As Egyptian Security Forces Clear Cairo Protest Camps

Adam Shatz believes that the counter-revolution is in full swing:

To each setback they have undergone since the overthrow of Mubarak, Egypt’s revolutionary forces have responded with the reassuring mantra: ‘revolution is a process.’ But so is counter-revolution, which seems to have prevailed for the foreseeable future. It won not only because the army and the feloul (remnants of the old regime) had superior resources at their disposal, but because they had a unified sense of their aims, something the leaderless revolutionaries conspicuously lacked. The revolution has been a ‘process’ in the manner of a 1960s happening, a meeting of different, often bickering forces that shared the stage only to go their own way after Mubarak’s overthrow. While accusing one another of betraying the revolution, both liberals and Islamists, at various intervals, tried to cut deals with the army, as if it might be a neutral force, as if the people and the army really were ‘one hand’, as people had once chanted in Tahrir Square. Neither had the ruthlessness, or the taste for blood, of Khomeini, who began to decapitate the Shah’s army as soon as he seized power. While the old regime reassembled its forces, Egypt’s revolutionaries mistook their belief in the revolution for the existence of a revolution. By the time Abdel Fattah al-Sisi seized power on 3 July, the revolution existed mainly in their imagination.

(Photo: Feet from the bodies of supporters of deposed Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi lie on the floor of the Rabaa al-Adaweya Medical Centre in the Nasr City district on August 14, 2013 in Cairo, Egypt. By Ed Giles/Getty Images)

Realism Isn’t Always Realistic

Patrick Appel —  Aug 20 2013 @ 11:22am
by Patrick Appel

Egypt Public Opinion

Douthat makes smart points:

I think in general, the kind of realism on display in our relationship to Egypt has been a better model for dealing with problematic governments in unstable regions than some of the alternatives, from Iraq to Libya, that recent presidencies have experimented with.

But there also moments when the ground moves, and you have to take a step back and reassess whether the approach that realism seems to dictate is actually realistic. So, for instance: There is a difference between supporting a longstanding, creaking dictatorship on terms negotiated during the Cold War and supporting a second-generation junta that’s just deliberately overturned a democratic election. There is a difference between supporting a leadership, however corrupt, with a proven record of delivering relative stability and a leadership that so far is mostly delivering bloody chaos. And there’s a difference between supporting a government that’s willing to bend to your wishes at crucial moments and a government that seems intent on embarrassing you while telling the world it doesn’t need your help.

Larison adds:

When a client is engaged in behavior that seems both self-destructive and dangerous to us, it is irresponsible for the U.S. to continue the relationship as if nothing is amiss. That’s a standard that the U.S. ought to apply to all of its client relationships, but it certainly applies in the case of Egypt.

(Chart showing that the public supports cutting aid to Egypt from Pew)