Time To Cut Off Cairo’s Aid, Ctd

Larison seconds the idea:

The U.S. can’t constructively influence what the Egyptian military and its interim government do, and it should stop pretending that it can. [Cutting off aid] isn’t going to remedy any of Egypt’s ills, but it would be the first step in acknowledging that it is beyond the ability of the U.S. government to remedy them. In the meantime, it does nothing but harm America’s reputation to be backing a coup government that kills civilian protesters in the streets. It costs the U.S. very little to end that support, and it gains the U.S. nothing but grief to continue the status quo.

Ali Gharib joins the chorus:

Reconciliation now seems hopeless; Egypt is shattered.

The Washington Post editorial board, with whom I frequently disagree, correctly noted that the Obama administration’s actions make it “complicit in the new and horrifyingly bloody crackdown.” At least one liberal, the Egyptian politician Mohammed El Baradei, resigned the position he took as vice president after the coup. There can be no justification for America and its leaders in the Obama administration to not also resign its role as the military regime’s funder.

Bloomberg’s editorial agrees:

Egypt’s generals must be made to understand that the kind of brutality that took place today in Cairo has consequences.

Time To Cut Off Cairo’s Aid

After today’s grotesque violence, I think the balance of the argument has decisively shifted. There is no way the US can aid a government that guns down its citizens in the streets. Those who argued for it long ago have been vindicated by events. Lynch, in a powerful post, agrees:

With blood in Egypt’s streets and a return to a state of emergency, it’s time for Washington to stop pretending. Its efforts to maintain its lines of communication with the Egyptian military, quietly mediate the crisis, and help lay the groundwork for some new, democratic political process have utterly failed. Egypt’s new military regime, and a sizable and vocal portion of the Egyptian population, have made it very clear that they just want the United States to leave it alone. For once, Washington should give them their wish. As long as Egypt remains on its current path, the Obama administration should suspend all aid, keep the embassy in Cairo closed, and refrain from treating the military regime as a legitimate government. …

The hard truth is that the United States has no real influence to lose right now anyway, and immediate impact isn’t the point. Taking a (much belated) stand is the only way for the United States to regain any credibility — with Cairo, with the region, and with its own tattered democratic rhetoric.

Meanwhile, Mike Giglio reports on being arrested and beaten by Egyptian police. He wasn’t alone:

I was arrested along with an Egyptian freelance photographer, Mahmoud Abou Zeid, and a French freelance photographer, Louis Jammes. They were in the same area during the clashes and also rounded up. Both were beaten after identifying themselves as journalists. Also, in detention, I ran into the award-winning French photo and video journalist Mani. (He doesn’t use his real name.) Mani had been on the Rabaa side of the demonstration, trying to film. For what it’s worth, he says he saw no weapons on the pro-Morsi side, just rocks and sticks. This was my impression, too. I was on the Rabaa front line just before the fighting started and saw no arms; only sticks, and then fireworks that were launched at the police from the side streets.

Other journalists were killed. Gideon Rachman doubts that, at this point, elections can heal the country:

Egypt may hold elections, at some point. But it is inconceivable that the army – having effectively declared war on the Muslim Brotherhood – will risk allowing them to win elections, again. Many Egyptian commentators argue that the Brotherhood are, anyway, much less popular than when President Morsi won election. But it seems highly improbable that the army will risk testing that proposition at the ballot box. If Egypt has any elections in the near future, they will be a sham.

End the aid.

Egypt Is Erupting Again, Ctd

Egypt Is Erupting Again, Ctd

Overnight Dish coverage on the latest outbreak of violence here. Juan Cole notes that the interim Egyptian government was divided on how to handle the protesters:

Egyptian press has been reporting for a couple of weeks that there were sharp divisions within the interim government regarding how to deal with the large Muslim Brotherhood sit-ins, which were demanding the reinstatement of deposed president Muhammad Morsi. The Interior Ministry, Gen. Mohammad Ibrahim Mustafa and the Defense Minister Gen Abdel Fattah al-Sisi wanted to use force to disperse the pro-Morsi demonstrators. Deputy Prime Minister Ziad Baha Eldin and Vice President for foreign affairs Mohamed Elbaradei are said to have called for a gradual approach, of simply not allowing anyone who left the square to return and counting on attrition to thin out the crowds over weeks. Others in the government wanted to disperse the crowds by force immediately. They argued that anything that looked like a massacre of Brotherhood members would weaken Egypt’s standing in Europe and the US. While last weekend it seemed that Elbaradei had prevailed, by Wednesday morning the hard liners had won out.

Cole’s bottom line:

 The military had appeared to wish to treat the Brotherhood members as members of a conspiratorial and manipulative covert organization. They may now have a green light to proceed in that way.

Shiraz Maher worries that the Muslim Brotherhood will turn violent:

Following the Baathist takeover of Syria in 1963, existing tensions within the Muslim Brotherhood caused the group to schism between, broadly speaking, its Damascene intellectuals who favoured engaging with the regime and its more radical rural members led by conservative leaders in Aleppo. By the mid-1970s the intellectuals had fled (mostly to Europe) while the radical faction was effectively at war with Hafez al-Assad before being crushed several years later in Hama.

The Egyptian Brotherhood could fracture along similar lines. While the official language of their leadership continues to counsel against violent opposition, they are finding it increasingly difficult to exert complete control over the movement. ‘We will burn everything,’ a Brotherhood supporter told CNN this morning. ‘We will turn into bombers.’

Al Jazeera, the BBC, and the WaPo are live-blogging. Al Jazeera’s live-stream is here.

Egypt Is Erupting Again

Visit Sunny Nasr City!

Elias Groll takes note of a novel tourism campaign:

A group calling itself Rabaa Tour is trying to attract tourists to the most unlikely of places in Cairo: the central battleground between security forces and Muslim Brotherhood members. For weeks, Brothers and their supporters have been occupying the area around Rabaa al-Adaweya mosque, and Egyptian officials have repeatedly threatened to clear the sit-in. With tens of thousands of people camped out there, any effort to sweep away the protesters, who are clamoring for the reinstatement of ousted President Mohamed Morsy, will surely result in bloodshed. But this is where Rabaa Tour would like you – yes, you – to come visit in order to learn the truth about the protesters. They even have a slogan: “Heard enough? Time to see!”

Groll says the group, which falls “on the Islamist side” of the Egyptian divide, is “doing outreach in a way the Brotherhood never quite understood”:

Having operated underground during the Mubarak regime, the Brotherhood came to power with a rigid hierarchy and an abiding respect for its leaders. That made the organization remarkably bad at democratic politics. So it should come as no surprise that the Brotherhood never even attempted to pitch itself to Western audiences as something other than a scary Islamist body.

The Rabaa Tour seems to understand that. “Our goal is not to convince people to join us or to adopt our objectives,” the group writes on their Facebook page. “It’s just for people to know the truth and to respect our right of having a peaceful sit-in without being attacked!” With the military regime branding them terrorists and with the likelihood of further violence in Cairo all but certain, the plea by these young people to be considered on their own terms is a powerful one.

Will The Generals Give Up Power? Ctd

The Economist worries that, in the interest of gaining leverage, the US has given a pass to Egypt’s junta for killing scores of pro-Morsi demonstrators:

After the killing, Barack Obama kept his counsel. It fell to John Kerry, the American secretary of state, to speak out—and then he merely called on Egypt’s leaders to “step back from the brink”. Likewise in Britain David Cameron, the prime minister, left it to William Hague, the foreign secretary, to rap the generals over the knuckles. America’s protest at the ousting of Mr Morsi had been to delay the supply of some F-16 fighter jets to Egypt. But that modest gesture was more than undone just before the shootings. In an unwise precedent, the administration declined to say Egypt had suffered a coup, because to do so could have triggered an automatic block on aid.

The Muslim Brothers—and other Muslims across the Middle East—will conclude from all this that the West applies one standard when secularists are under attack and another when Islamists are. Democracy, they will gather, is not a universal system of government, but a trick for bringing secularists to power. It is hard to think of a better way for the West to discourage the Brothers from re-entering Egypt’s political process.

David Rohde remembers that the US has “used the same logic in Pakistan,” to no effect:

Washington has given $11 billion in military aid to the Pakistani army in the name of maintaining American “influence” in Islamabad. From new equipment to reimbursements for Pakistani military operations, the money flowed year after year, despite complaints from American officials that the Pakistanis were misusing funds and inflating bills. … One of the lessons from the last decade in Pakistan is that money might buy American officials a seat at the table. But Pakistani generals — or Egyptian generals — will not necessarily listen.

And they will definitely blame their problems on us. For the last decade in Pakistan, military officials have used pro-military media outlets to spread a message that an all-powerful United States is behind the country’s ills. Some of the same patterns are emerging in Egypt. Pro-military Egyptian media blame the United States for the country’s problems.

General al-Sissi is already blaming the US for “turning its back on Egyptians” by not sending him fresh F-16s. He also insists that he and his generals are willing to give up power:

[Lally] Weymouth: Aren’t the Americans warning the interim government against any further civil strife or bloodshed?

Sisi: The U.S. administration has a lot leverage and influence with the Muslim Brotherhood and I’d really like the U.S. administration to use this leverage with them to resolve the conflict.

Whoever will clean these squares or resolve these sit-ins will not be the military. There is a civil police and they are assigned to these duties. On the 26th of [July], more than 30 million people went out onto the streets to give me support. These people are waiting for me to do something.

Weymouth: How can you assure the U.S. that you don’t want the military to rule Egypt—that the army wants to go back to its barracks?

Sisi: Mark my words and take me very seriously: The Egyptian military is different from other militaries around the world.

Weymouth: Do you really want to have civilian rule here?

Sisi: Yes, absolutely.

Recent Dish on the military coup here.

Will The Generals Give Up Power?


Amid reports that the Egyptian military will be reinstating Mubarak-era security measures, Ahmed Feteha highlights concerns (WSJ) that General Sisi will become the country’s next dictator:

In the weeks since Mr. Morsi was removed from office, Gen. Sisi has been the country’s most popular figure. State-run media regularly compare “the field marshall of the people” to larger-than-life Egyptian leaders like Anwar Sadat and even Ahmose, the pharaoh who expelled the Hyksos invaders from the country 3,500 years ago.

Even after Saturday’s bloodshed, the media largely echoed the official line blaming the Muslim Brotherhood, not Gen. Sisi’s rallying cry against the Islamist group. But in throwing over Mr. Morsi, Gen. Sisi is largely responsible for alienating Islamists, who account for at least a quarter of the population. On Friday, as pro-army crowds gathered, the government added fuel to the fire by filing criminal charges against Mr. Morsi for collaborating with the Hamas militant group during the 2011 Egyptian revolution.

Gen. Sisi has promised that he has no desire to rule. But many find it hard to believe that he will head back to the barracks after seizing the heights of Egyptian political life. And with hundreds of thousands of supporters chanting Gen. Sisi’s name in Tahrir Square, the little-known general is increasingly looking like Egypt’s king rather than its kingmaker.

The Guardian‘s editorial board is similarly worried:

[Sisi] has begun to adopt a special tone of intimacy, that of the leader in deep discussion with his people, which suggest he sees himself in the line of descent from Nasser. …

The Egyptian army’s overweening sense of entitlement is an aspect of the country’s political pathology. An army that has seen no combat for a generation and faces no serious challenge from external enemies nevertheless absorbs massive resources, enjoys marked privileges, and arrogates to itself special political rights. Egypt should be reducing the influence of its military, not reinforcing it. But, in the immediate future, the decisions of the army, and what are probably now its rather nervous civilian allies, are critical. They must release Brotherhood leaders, find a formula for the rehabilitation of Morsi and a framework for talks that the Brotherhood can accept. Otherwise there will soon be more blood on Cairo’s pavements.

But John Beck sees signs that the military’s recent authoritarianism will soon erode popular support for Sisi:

“I think, it’s clear that the issue is the role of the military in politics. Sisi is very much at the forefront in the process of undermining the democratic process,” says Maha Azzam, an associate fellow on the Middle East and North Africa program with the Royal Institute of International Affairs. “I think as each day passes… it’s becoming less credible to stand by what is becoming clearly both a coup and a military takeover and a return of the old regime,” she added. “There’s no grey. You either stand with the military takeover… or you stand against the coup.”

More and more Egyptians may be falling into the latter camp. The Salafist Nour Party — a former ally of the Muslim Brotherhood which then supported the military’s ouster of Morsi — said in a statement on Wednesday that the call for protest “foreshadows civil war.” Other, more secular groups who welcomed Morsi’s ouster also saw Sisi’s announcement as a move designed to provoke violence and create an excuse to impose curfews and increase the military’s hold on power. “We are stuck in the middle between military and fundamental authoritarianism,” says Bassam Maher, an activist and NGO worker.

He added, that while many “revolutionary” activists are becoming increasingly suspicious of Sisi’s motives, they have been reluctant to stand against the military directly because they do not wish to be thought of as aligned with the Muslim Brotherhood or other Islamist groups, which they also oppose. Many activists describe themselves as paralyzed and conflicted about opposing the army’s recent moves.

(Photo: Opponents to deposed Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi hold portraits of Egyptian army chief General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi as they demonstrate at Itihadiya main street in Cairo on July 26, 2013. Hundreds of thousands of anti-Morsi protesters gathered in Cairo’s Tahrir Square and around the Itihadiya presidential palace in response to Sisi’s call for Egyptians to show their support for a security clampdown on ‘terrorism’. By Fayez Nureldine/AFP/Getty Images)

Egypt’s Inbetweeners

Steven A. Cook offers the pros and cons of the new interim government:

There are reasons to like the transition that [interim President Adly] Mansour and the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) have set up, notably its sequence. The generals have put constitutional revisions before parliamentary and presidential elections, which will avoid the destabilizing politics that occurred during the transition from Mubarak to Morsi, when Egyptians voted for a parliament and a president whose responsibilities had yet to be enumerated. Once elected, politicians sought to maximize their powers and, in turn, enshrine their prerogative in a new constitution. Even so, there is an undeniable flaw at the heart of the new process — it does not match the politics of the moment.

Egypt’s new cabinet is an emblem of that problem. It is a transitional body intended to guide Egypt for a mere nine months, yet it took two weeks of navigating a thicket of competing personalities, with axes to grind and conflicting worldviews, to put together. The result is far from stellar. It is basically a collection of retreads with backgrounds in the transitional cabinets of Essam Sharaf (prime minister between March and November 2011) and Kemal Ganzouri (prime minister between December 2011 and August 2012), as well as a group of second-rung Mubarak officials. This means that, collectively, Egypt’s new leaders have nothing to show in the way of accomplishments during their previous stints of service.

Recent Dish on Egypt here and here.