Anti-Americanism Is Here To Stay

Supporters Of Ousted President And Opponents Continue To Wage Street Battles

Marc Lynch observes that, in Egyptian politics, “anti-Americanism is a surefire and cost-free political winner”:

Typically, this would be the time for me to call for renewed public diplomacy to try to combat anti-American misconceptions and convince Egyptians of American intentions. But let’s be real. American efforts to push back against the most outlandish allegations are certainly worthwhile, but have obvious limitations. No, American battleships are not moving toward Egypt to launch an invasion. No, Ambassador Patterson did not conspire with the Muslim Brotherhood or offer to sell the pyramids to Israel. No, Obama is not a member of the Muslim Brotherhood and isn’t going to be impeached over secret payments to them. All well and good, but entrenched opinion is unlikely to be moved.

Meanwhile, Tarek Masoud traces Morsi’s missteps:

[T]he sin of the Muslim Brotherhood was not that it failed to work with liberals, but that it failed to work with the old regime. For the almost the entirety of its time in power, the Brotherhood has demonstrated a remorseless, unyielding obsession with rooting out Mubarak’s National Democratic Party from Egypt’s political life. This extent of the obsession was on full display in one of the last speeches of Morsy’s presidency. Before a crowd made up of equal parts dignitaries and rowdy Muslim Brothers from the provinces, he railed against the remnants of the ancien regime — commonly called the fulul — and then took a few minutes to tell an unflattering story about a man named Kamal el-Shazly, who was Mubarak’s parliamentary enforcer — and who has been dead since 2010.

This odd detour into what is now ancient history reveals the extent to which Morsy and his Brothers viewed as Egypt’s primary problem as not the crumbling of its economy or the decay in public order, but the continued presence of Mubarak’s allies and appointees in almost every corner of the state apparatus. “One year is enough,” the president declared, suggesting that the gloves were soon to come off and a full-blown purge was in the offing. In the end, he was the one who was purged.

(Photo: A man displays a poster picturing the crossed face of U.S. President Barack Obama as tens of thousands of people attend a rally in Tahrir Square against ousted Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi on July 7, 2013 in Cairo, Egypt. By Carsten Koall/Getty.)

“Modernizing Without Westernizing”

Patrick L. Smith reads events in Turkey, Iran, and Egypt as a sign that “modernization has to be separated from Westernization if it is going to occur constructively from here on out”:

Making the two equivalent is a 500-year-old habit among Westerners, begun when Vasco da Gama landed in India in 1498.

My candidate for the greatest distinction of our time is that people will be able to become modern while keeping their own cultures, traditions, histories, values and so on. Can we explain the fate of Egypt’s Mohamed Morsi in any other context? A year ago the secularized elite despised the army and all the gore and repression it stood for. These same people now embrace the army because it removed from office a properly elected president who happens to be Islamic. This week the Army gave them what they apparently wanted: a new cabinet of 34, with not one member of an Islamic party in it.

In the end, one does not worry much about the emerging nations. They have the force of history at their backs. Modernizing without Westernizing is what the concept of Islamic democracy is all about, for instance. It is a search for institutions that are built by, and reflect, the people who are going to live by them. “Inevitable” is not too strong a term for this process, hard and long and full of reversals as it will prove to be.

Ask Michael Hanna Anything: Blaming America

In our final video from Michael, he explores the complicated, often paradoxical perceptions that many Egyptians have toward US influence over their government. He also follows up with some pushback on the idea that US influence in the Middle East is somehow in decline:

Michael Wahid Hanna is a Senior Fellow at The Century Foundation, where he works on issues of international security, international law, and US foreign policy in the broader Middle East and South Asia. He appears regularly on NPR, BBC, and al-Jazeera. Additionally, his Twitter feed is a must-read for anyone interested in Egyptian politics. Our ongoing coverage of the current events in Egypt is here. Michael’s previous answers are here. Our full Ask Anything archive is here.

Ask Michael Hanna Anything: Obama’s Record On Egypt

Michael thinks the Obama administration’s approach to Egypt is getting worse, not better:

The Economist wonders how much influence Obama actually has:

On a two-day visit to Cairo [this week], William Burns, America’s deputy secretary of state, met members of the military-backed interim cabinet, but Tamarod and the Salafists’ Nour party, which won the second largest number of seats at the last parliamentary election, declined to see him. The Brotherhood says it did not engage in discussions with him either.

It is not clear that Mr Burns would have had much to say to them, anyway. At the moment, America lacks a clear policy toward Egypt. Barack Obama has not publicly addressed the crisis, perhaps for fear of seeming meddlesome. Away from the cameras he is said to be trying quietly to influence events, but it is hard to see how he hopes to reconcile America’s democratic values with its immediate interests in Egypt, not least to ensure that Egypt’s treaty with Israel holds firm. Meanwhile, Mr Obama’s critics at home say his public reticence is due both to a lack of interest and to a confused analysis—a critique that dates back to his supposedly tardy and wobbly reaction to the Arab spring. A more likely explanation that unsettles Americans all the more is that the American president simply lacks the leverage to influence events in Egypt.

Michael Wahid Hanna is a Senior Fellow at The Century Foundation, where he works on issues of international security, international law, and US foreign policy in the broader Middle East and South Asia. He appears regularly on NPR, BBC, and al-Jazeera. Additionally, his Twitter feed is a must-read for anyone interested in Egyptian politics. Michael’s previous answers are here. Our full Ask Anything archive is here.

Ask Michael Hanna Anything: Next Steps For Egypt

In today’s video, Michael explains why Egypt’s military and political leaders must pursue reconciliation and reform if they want the current transition to be successful:

Meanwhile, last night in Egypt there were more deadly clashes between security services and pro-Morsi protesters. Last week, Ahmad Shokr offered a succinct overview of Egypt’s precarious new order:

Egypt is still ruled by the armature of the old regime. Two and a half years of elite factionalism — the inability to forge a stable alliance — have set off a game of musical chairs. In this period, the momentum has rotated among Islamists, liberals, state bureaucrats, businessmen, military and security officials, and Mubarak-era dregs. They share a fetish for capturing the state but also the lack of a novel vision for dealing with Egypt’s deep structural problems. Attempts by any combination of these figures to restore full-fledged authoritarianism are likely be tempered by some level of public disobedience. At the same time, there is no revolutionary coalition strong enough to begin overturning the undemocratic and inegalitarian legacies of previous regimes. A balance of weakness has set in whereby no side in Egyptian politics is able to claim outright victory.

More distressing, perhaps, is a societal mood that is becoming more inclined toward intolerance and scapegoating.

Egypt’s unsavory climate of chauvinism, intransigence, opportunism and deceit from almost every side has been made worse by Mursi’s ouster and its bloody aftermath. Media outlets are constantly in search of fifth columnists to demonize, whether as “terrorists” or as “infidels.” The Brothers are portrayed as traitors with a penchant for violence who must be forcibly subdued. For their part, the Brothers paint the revolt against their rule as a little more than a conspiracy hatched by the old regime. They insist their resistance to the army is peaceful, but the string of violent acts by Mursi supporters — the killing of protesters in Cairo and Alexandria, the intimidation and mob attacks directed at Christians in Minya and Marsa Matrouh — tells a different story. There were even accusations that the interim president is secretly a Jew.

Thanassis Cambanis remains confident in Egypt’s revolutionary people-power:

Egypt can survive many more waves of revolt, election and coup, and it will, until the political order begins to reflect more of the will of the people. The latest roadmap repeats most of the mistakes of 2011 (for detailed explanations of how, read Nathan Brown and Zaid Al-Ali). The Egyptian public has developed a profound intolerance for arbitrary authoritarian rule; for opaque, paranoid leaders; for governments that ignore the country’s collapsing economy and standard of living.

Revolutionaries might not represent the majority, but they are now a maturing, key constituency. They are unlikely to embrace fascism or fiats from anyone: not the military, not the Brotherhood, not the old political parties. That’s the underlying signal of Egypt’s latest revolt. Until Egypt’s power brokers recognize the core demands of the public and begin to address them, the public isn’t likely to go away.

Michael Wahid Hanna is a Senior Fellow at The Century Foundation, where he works on issues of international security, international law, and US foreign policy in the broader Middle East and South Asia. He appears regularly on NPR, BBC, and al-Jazeera. Additionally, his Twitter feed is a must-read for anyone interested in Egyptian politics. Michael’s previous answers are here. Our full Ask Anything archive is here.

Ask Michael Hanna Anything: What The West Doesn’t Get About Egypt

In our latest video from the Arab world expert, Hanna notes how frequently the West oversimplifies Islamism:

Along these lines, H.A. Hellyer points out the overly binary way that last week’s violence has been interpreted, both in and outside of the Egypt:

Pro-Morsi campaigners insist that the Muslim Brotherhood is non-violent and has no weaponry, and they focus all attention on the killings that took place at the pro-Morsi sit-in in front of the Republican Guard, at the hands of state forces. On the other side, anti-Morsi commentators argue that the Brotherhood is essentially a militia; that the sit-in was armed; and that the Brotherhood tries to redirect attention to the deaths that have taken place elsewhere at the hands of pro-Morsi activists. The media in Egypt is primarily imbued with the latter, with little nuance — the international media and pro-Morsi outlets in the region are generally concerned only with the first narrative.

Again, reality lies in between, and with elements of both.

The Muslim Brotherhood undoubtedly has weaponry — such was evident when the headquarters was attacked during the uprising. However, there is really no evidence that heavy weaponry was at the sit-in — at best, according to eye-witnesses and civil rights groups, the weaponry was mediocre and much of it homemade. Certainly, it would be difficult for anyone to justify the break up of a sit-in, resulting in dozens of casualties, with the level of firepower used by the army. One suspects that privately the state agrees, and that this was a mistake arising from a tense situation and probably Morsi-supporters resisting arrest — but we will probably never hear that line in any state broadcast. At the same time, the reality is that on top of this tragedy, many civilians have been attacked, and killed, by pro-Morsi forces around the country in the past week — and the killings are often sectarian.

Of course, recognizing the truth of both narratives, at the moment, is unthinkable. Sins of omission, as well as commission, are rife — either due to unfamiliarity with Egypt altogether, or clearly partisan agendas. Objective media is, unfortunately, rare indeed. The importance of that kind of coverage and analysis cannot be overestimated at such a crucial time — not simply because good information is rare to come by, but because so much poor disinformation is so utterly common. On Egypt, right now, truth really is the greatest victim. It is a victim worth rescuing, and right now, it seems that the best source of information is going to be direct access to eyewitnesses of particular controversies, as well as civil rights and human rights organizations.

Michael Wahid Hanna is a Senior Fellow at The Century Foundation, where he works on issues of international security, international law, and US foreign policy in the broader Middle East and South Asia. He appears regularly on NPR, BBC, and al-Jazeera. Additionally, his Twitter feed is a must-read for anyone interested in Egyptian politics. Our ongoing coverage of the current events in Egypt is here. Michael’s previous answers are here. Our full Ask Anything archive is here.

Ask Michael Hanna Anything: The Surprise Of June 30th

Michael Hanna points out how shocking it was for the June 30th protests to not only come together as fast as they did, but grow to a size that far eclipsed the protests of 2011:

Nisral Nasr thinks the political landscape in Egypt is too foggy to tell whether the coup will be in the service of democracy:

There is no particular reason for now to believe that the Egyptian Armed Forces are the modernizers envisaged by American academics in the 1960s.  Nor is there reason to believe that the Muslim Brotherhood is the carrier of democratization through an Islamic state as envisaged in the 1990s and early 2000s.  Of course the governments after 1952, invariably led by Army officers, pursued industrialization policies for strategic reasons.  So, too, the Muslim Brotherhood leadership pursued open elections for their own strategic reasons.  Neither the Army nor the MB are or were particularly committed to the wider principles that academics like to read into these policy choices.

Sarah Carr declares that “the debate is semantic and tedious, and the nomenclature will not be decided now”:

I will not weigh in on the coup/revolution debate other than to say millions of Egyptians were on the ground demanding Morsi’s removal while military jets drew hearts in the skies above them, and then Defense Minister Abdel Fattah al-Sisi announced that Morsi had (forcibly) buggered off. Nothing has changed. The real revolution will happen when army involvement in politics is a distant relic of history.

Elsewhere, the Big Picture is up with a new gallery compiled from the past week in Egypt.

Michael Wahid Hanna is a Senior Fellow at The Century Foundation, where he works on issues of international security, international law, and US foreign policy in the broader Middle East and South Asia. He appears regularly on NPR, BBC, and al-Jazeera. Additionally, his Twitter feed is a must-read for anyone interested in Egyptian politics. Our ongoing coverage of the current events in Egypt is here. Michael’s previous answers are here. Our full Ask Anything archive is here.

Will We Cut Egypt’s Aid? Ctd

Ali Gharib sides with Elliott Abrams on aid to Egypt. He doubts the withdrawal of US money will undermine the country’s ailing economy:

[A] common objection goes like this: Egypt is in tough economic straits, and cutting off both military and economic aid could plunge the whole economy—and society—into a chaotic tailspin. (Because the military dominates the economy, controlling between 10 and 30 percent of it, the military aid factors in here too.) Along with various members of Congress, Secretary of State John Kerry made this point: ”A hold up of aid might contribute to the chaos that may ensue because of their collapsing economy,” Kerry said. “Their biggest problem is a collapsing economy.”

The U.S. gives about $1.5 billion total in aid to Egypt. Since Morsi’s ouster, Gulf Arab countries like Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates pledged $12 billion—which appears to not be directed solely at the military. In other words, the Gulf Arabs have already rushed to fill the breach, with more—and more flexible—aid. The Egyptian economy won’t be peachy keen any time soon, but U.S. aid, in the context of the Gulf Arab money, will hardly make or break it.

Max Fisher counts Hagel’s close relationship with the head of the army as another reason we haven’t called it a coup and suspended aid:

The Egyptian defense minister who officially announced on state TV that the military had removed Morsi, a general named Abdel Fatah al-Sissi, also turns out to be friendly with U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, according to a revealing story by The Wall Street Journal. They’re not old fishing buddies, exactly, but they had lunch two months ago, the foundation of a personal relationship that was, according to a senior administration official who spoke to the Journal, “basically the only viable channel of communication during the crisis.”

For the Obama administration, then, alienating Sissi would have left the United States without a “viable channel of communication” with one of its most important allies in the Middle East. That raises the potential costs of condemning the coup significantly, and may help explain why the United States is eager to preserve the relationship.

More Dish on the debate over Egypt’s aid here, here and here.

Ask Michael Hanna Anything: The Future Of Islamism?

Michael explores the complexities of political Islam throughout the Middle East, and stresses that Islamists must not be repressed or otherwise excluded from the democratic process:

Michael Wahid Hanna is a Senior Fellow at The Century Foundation, where he works on issues of international security, international law, and US foreign policy in the broader Middle East and South Asia. He appears regularly on NPR, BBC, and al-Jazeera. Additionally, his Twitter feed is a must-read for anyone interested in Egyptian politics. Our ongoing coverage of the current events in Egypt is here. Michael’s previous answers are here. Our full Ask Anything archive is here.

The Arab World’s Tiny Giant

Doug Bandow profiles Qatar, the minuscule nation throwing more and more weight around in the Middle East:

This activist foreign policy rests on a docile population at home. Observed Jane Kinninmont of Chatham House: “Qatar’s behavior is explained partly by its complete lack of fear of domestic unrest.” As a result, Sheikh Hamad has given his own people none of the democratic freedoms he promotes abroad. [Christopher] Blanchard called the emir’s course one of “very limited political liberalization.” The only opinions that matter are those of members of the ruling family. Indeed, the baby steps taken, including formally granting the franchise to women, “constitute a facet of the Qatari state-branding strategy, since they are designed to legitimize the Qatari regime in the eyes of the international community,” argued [Professor Sultan] Bakarat.

But not all of Qatar’s foreign policy decisions have paid off. Jeffrey Goldberg notes that “Qatar pumped a lot of money into Mursi’s Muslim Brotherhood government” and that “Mursi represented its main chance to advance the cause of Islamic fundamentalism.” Goldberg also takes Qatar-funded Al Jazeera to task for spreading Muslim Brotherhood’s bile:

If it’s been a bad week for Qatar and Al Jazeera, it’s been a very bad week for the network’s star broadcaster, the televangelist Yusuf al-Qaradawi, a Sunni cleric who is a spiritual leader of the Muslim Brotherhood. Qaradawi has been Al Jazeera’s most important star for many years. His show, “Shariah and Life,” is seen by millions across the Middle East.

As I reported this week, Qaradawi is an extremist’s extremist: He endorses female genital mutilation (he doesn’t refer to it that way, of course); he has called for the punishment of gay people; he has provided theological justification to insurgents who targeted American troops for death in Iraq (though he’s hypocritically silent on the decision of his Qatari patrons to allow the U.S. to locate a Central Command headquarters on their soil); he has defended the idea that the penalty for some Muslims who leave Islam should be death; and also, by the way, he believes that Hitler’s Final Solution was a nifty idea.