View Full Version : Egyptian democracy

05-07-2013, 06:06 PM
No thread yet? What's the point of Craner if he's not going to explain all this to us?

05-07-2013, 06:22 PM
This (http://www.dissensus.com/showthread.php?11522-the-revolution-will-be-televised) was the old rolling Arab spring slander gossip lies thread, but agreed. Come on Cramer, explain it all please.

padraig (u.s.)
08-07-2013, 11:15 PM
if no one else will I’ll have a crack at it. haven’t followed this as close as 2 yrs ago or Iran 09 but close enough to get gist I think.

been hashing my thoughts out w/a free minute here and there for last couple days. bit long, bear with:

so economy, not great to begin with, has completely gone to shit since the revolution. Huge increase in poverty, massive debt growth, govt burning through its cash reserves at speed of light, to the point where it can barely fulfill populace’s basic needs (food, water, energy), and that only via huge loans from places like Qatar and Turkey (and U.S.’s annual aid, of course). IMF offering loans but only, of course, on condition of imposing austerity, which would mean cutting food + energy subsidies, which no politician wants to do b/c 1) they’re wildly popular and 2) they’re the only thing keeping lot of people solvent. some of this mess not post-Mubarak govt’s fault, whole region still feeling economic fallout of Arab Spring – lack of investment and total drying up of tourism, latter of which hits Egypt especially hard – but still MB and opposition spent all their time arguing about who and how would govern and very little actually governing. not to say that poor Egyptians don’t also care about creeping sharia and the deep state and whatever else but important economic motivations inspiring huge mass unrest seem at odds with what various factions vying for power are talking about and doing.

the military is smart, knew all they had to was wait and whoever got into power would make a shambles of it sooner or later. even smarter, learned they don’t want the headache of actually ruling, so will put in a puppet government to do it for them. only chance to dismantle security apparatus was right away post-Mubarak, should have been 1st order of business but instead MB and Salafis and secular/left just wanted to argue w/each other. Now they’re fucked, they’ll never be rid of it. also, military has apparently infiltrated the new govt bureaucracy to considerable extent, making it even harder to dislodge.

I wonder if MB or Salafis - who btw hate each other as much if not more than they hate anyone else - are significantly armed. seems unlikely unless one of them makes common cause w/some faction of army. not a free for all like Syria. tho, who knows. think this current relative hands-off approach by military to MB/protests is a release valve for Islamist anger, as well as cleverly using legitimate popular anger as a cover for coup, to make it seem legitimate/non-violent. [UPDATE: well there goes hands off]

Feel like unfortunately pretty much all of what I said a year ago is/came true:

2 other points of note, both of which should also surprise no one: secular liberals + leftists have, after being such a driving force in the revolution, been thoroughly marginalized; the security apparatus of the Mubarak state are still well entrenched and will likely continue being so despite all other factions agreeing (possibly the only thing they agree on) that they are bad. oh yes and as mentioned Egyptian transitory politics are a total clusterfuck. neither a new military state or an Islamist takeover are entirely unlikely. I feel like my repetition of this idea is getting into carthago delenda est territory at this point, but again: to win a revolution is easier than, and don't matter if you can't, win the post-revolution. and the secular left/lib types Westerners like were always going to lose this one. your base can't be a million foreign fucking Twitter followers. social media revolutions are bullshit, especially once all those self-satisfied Westerners move on to the next Kony 2012 and leave you stuck in the shit by yourself. oh yes + Obama + his crew (+ anyone else who's mouth-serviced Arab Spring) left/are leaving those cats seriously in the lurch too. a new beginning indeed.

new military state, albeit through puppet civilian govt rather than directly, thwarts Islamist takeover. secular lib/left can get people onto the street and foreign media coverage but remains excluded from real power – at key moments it can tip the balance between the two big players but couldn’t face down either one on its own.

problem for U.S. and Israel same as always - who to support when there are no good options. bit embarrassing that we immediately cozied up to MB govt, which is now blowing up in our faces - U.S. ambassador big target of protests - but whoever comes in next we'll cozy up to them and they'll take it and won't step too far out of line, cos, you know, $$$ and military aid and etc. ultimately all we really give a shit about is stability and our security. al-Sisi is relatively young and vigorous, has U.S. ties, could easily be our strongman there for the next decade. Obama's Cairo speech, absurd bullshit at the time, grows more risible with every passing day.

padraig (u.s.)
08-07-2013, 11:21 PM
if anyone else who really knows what they're talking about wants to step and tell me all the ways I'm wrong please do

my big question from all this: how much juice does the secular/lib/left really have? know I was a bit harsh on them above, but really they're pretty freaking impressive, especially compared to the opposition in other dictatorships (like, say, Russia). I just wonder if all they can do is mobilize protesters or if they have staying power. did organizers learn from '11 and spend the last year and a half starting grassroots networks like the MB and Salafis have? who is really behind Tamarod and how much influence does it actually have, given the Western media's tendency to overrate who it likes/identifies with?

09-07-2013, 03:46 PM
Thanks for all that and I'm glad you added the 2nd comment. I'm pretty awestruck by the secular/lib/left's ability to mobilise and their sticking power, if not to move beyond that into actual govt or serious non-street organised opposition. My friend was out there recently, working with some independent Marxist media group, and said it was much as you describe in that respect – fabulous ability to diagnose what's wrong, non-existent programme for anything beyond that. She thinks ElBaradei's just an American stooge, but still the best hope in the current circumstances.

On the bright side, they've thrown down some serious markers for what people will and won't put up with. Main concern, beyond the econ ones you lay out, is an MB and/or Salafi return to violence. They may not have much by way of weaponry now, but can't imagine that being a major long-term obstacle if that's how enough of them decide to roll.

30-07-2013, 03:28 PM
If I am reading the tea leaves correctly, the secular left thinks the military is going to crack down on them after they deal with the Islamists.

The military government has appointed an economic team of super-technocrats, and have cash from friendly Arab regimes to pay the bills and slow the painful reforms. The cash from Saudi Arabia or Qatar may actually be American cash being funneled to the military, double secret type stuff. Every faction in Egypt accuses every other faction of being a pawn of the Americans, but the military has taken more aid than any other group over the years.

31-07-2013, 09:59 AM
I think that American military aid goes straight to the military. The Saudi money is Saudi money and has started to flow to the new administration following the removal of the Brotherhood. Before that it was mostly Qatari money donated by the former Emir who spent about a third of Qatar's capital reserves bankrolling the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt before he was, um, "moved aside". All the other GCC monarchs loathe them and would rather fund an Islamist-inflected military and even a secular-tinged National Coalition for Syria than rule by the Brotherhood. In contrast, the Obama administration bet the house on them and Ambassador Anne Patterson is viewed by many Egyptians and the military as a MB lackey.

padraig (u.s.)
31-07-2013, 01:31 PM
The cash from Saudi Arabia or Qatar may actually be American cash being funneled to the military

yeah I'm also skeptical of this. the GCC monarchies are lousy w/cash and (ex. Qatar) legitimately hate the MB, just as Turkey (or, Erdogan) and Qatar legitimately supported it.

we otoh don't care who's in charge so long as they're pliable to our interests, hence we embraced MB, and we'll embrace whoever comes out on top now. almost certainly the military whether directly or by proxy, tho I'm sure we'd even take the Salafists so long as they didn't like, immediately proclaim the caliphate and call for jihad. this kind of problem "I'll support whoever but for fuck's sake just pick someone and stick with em" is hardly new to American foreign policy.

@craner - I thought the new Qatari emir was as much of a fan of MB as his dad tho?

15-08-2013, 12:53 PM
Appalling news over the last week. Some estimates saying as many as 2000 murdered by security forces, MB promising more protests, Erdogan calling for the SC to meet.

How liberal can the liberal secular left be if they're willing to sit back and watch the massacre of their political opponents? How can anyone expect the MB to participate in any form of democratic process after this?

16-08-2013, 11:20 AM
Both very good questions, but the Muslim Brotherhood hostility to "democratic process" rather predates recent events.

16-08-2013, 11:25 AM
It seems that their hostility may have been justified.

$12 billion from the gulf states to depose Morsi. Must be one of the best paid coups ever.


16-08-2013, 11:35 AM
They didn't "pay" for the coup, the money came in after Morsi was deposed, in exactly the same way Qatari money ($8 billion) poured in once he was elected, thus bankrolling the MB and its own constitutional ambitions.

16-08-2013, 11:37 AM
Which, by the way, thousands of people in Egypt considered a different kind of "coup".

16-08-2013, 11:38 AM
They didn't "pay" for the coup, the money came in after Morsi was deposed, in exactly the same way Qatari money ($8 billion) poured in once he was elected, thus bankrolling the MB and its own constitutional ambitions.

Sure, I'd say it was a huge surprise to everyone. An unexpected gift.

16-08-2013, 11:39 AM
Or coup d'état, to be proper and precise.

16-08-2013, 11:40 AM
BTW - please don't construe this as a defence of Morsi and the MB.

16-08-2013, 11:47 AM
Sure, I'd say it was a huge surprise to everyone. An unexpected gift.

Clearly not. But you are deliberately painting a lurid and fantastic picture of an innocent, self-sufficient and righteous Muslim Brotherhood being mercilessly overthrown in an army coup fully financed by wicked Gulf States and after they had joined the democratic process in good faith! That's not the full picture and I see your sympathy as misplaced, not for the people massacred yesterday but for the movement they support and for their leaders.

16-08-2013, 11:47 AM
BTW - please don't construe this as a defence of Morsi and the MB.

Ok. That's what I was hoping to hear.

16-08-2013, 11:52 AM
I could hear you construin' from all the way over here!

16-08-2013, 11:56 AM
I was construing like crazy. I could feel my blood pressure rising.

19-08-2013, 10:54 AM
36 dead in the back of a Police van.

Copts saying that the demonstrations are full of Hamas and Al Qaeda provocateurs.

RPG attack on Police near Rafah: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-23751954

Death toll still rising.

20-08-2013, 01:01 PM

Mubarak to be freed in days, says lawyer (http://www.irishtimes.com/news/world/africa/mubarak-to-be-freed-in-days-says-lawyer-1.1499254)

Mr. Tea
20-08-2013, 01:56 PM
State of emergency declared "because of violent protests", as Radio 1 helpfully informed me on the way in to work this morning. :slanted:

20-08-2013, 02:00 PM
A bizarre twist being is reported in Egypt, where Nobel laureate Mohamed ElBaradai, who was until recently part of the interim government installed after the ousting of Mohamed Morsi, has been charged with "breaching national trust" (Arabic link). The charge is that by resigning as vice-president he gave the impression that the Egyptian authorities were using excessive force. He has been referred to trial on 17 September.

Am I wrong, or is the military saying - 'You had your fun, now back to business as usual'?

20-08-2013, 09:10 PM
Am I wrong, or is the military saying - 'You had your fun, now back to business as usual'?

From Guardian's description looks like this is a civil suit rather than a prosecution.


Mohamed ElBaradei, the Egyptian liberal politician who resigned as vice-president after the mass killing of Islamist protesters last week, will be sued in court over a "breach of trust". ElBaradei, a Nobel peace laureate, stands accused of failing to present any alternatives to dispersing two mass sit-ins in Cairo, as well as disregarding "terrorist crimes" committed by the Muslim Brotherhood there.

ElBaradei was a member of the National Salvation Front, part of the opposition to Mohamed Morsi, who was deposed by the army last month. He has been vilified in the Egyptian media since quitting. He has been called a "traitor" and caricatured stabbing Egypt in the back. The case is being brought by a professor of law, Sayeed Ateeq. ElBaradei is now in Austria with his family.

Speculation about the future of Hosni Mubarak, who was overthrown in 2011, is likely to intensify when a Cairo court hears an appeal on Wednesday against a new period of preventive detention on corruption charges. Mubarak's lawyer said on Monday that he could be freed within 48 hours. His release, even temporarily, would be hugely divisive at a time of extraordinary polarisation and volatility across Egypt.

• This article was corrected on 20 August 2013 because it stated that Mohamed ElBaradei could face criminal charges.

But yeah, 'You had your fun, now back to business as usual'? looks pretty accurate regardless.

padraig (u.s.)
21-08-2013, 09:11 AM
How liberal can the liberal secular left be if they're willing to sit back and watch the massacre of their political opponents?

what's the matter with Egypt's liberals? (http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/worldviews/wp/2013/08/12/whats-the-matter-with-egypts-liberals/)

basically: Egyptian liberals never did the groundwork of political organizing so they don't have a base like MB or Al Nour do. now they're stuck between a rock and a hard place, and b/c they fear Islamists more than military, which at least has long history of secularism (tho its true religion is self-interest), given a choice they'll take military over MB every time even if it means destroying their democratic credentials. also, they may think - wrongly - they can corral the military under secular civilian rule in the long run.

padraig (u.s.)
21-08-2013, 09:31 AM
there was a one-time golden opportunity in 2011 to dismantle the Egyptian deep state. it was squandered. now there's a good chance deep state'll come out of this stronger than it was in 2 or 3 years ago under an ailing Mubarak.

for the record I'm pretty sure given more time (and competence; it sucked at governing) MB would've sought to entrench itself as a theocracy and purge its opposition. but the coup is still pretty much a disaster for anyone interested in a democratic Egypt, if that's what you're interested in.

my question now: does anyone really have the ability to stand up to military and turn Egypt into another Syria? I'm hardly an expert, but it really seems like no. there've been a few armed jihadists out in the desert since forever but the MB isn't Hamas or Hizballah, AFAIK it doesn't have that capability. neither Al Nour. and unlike say, Libya, the Egyptian military is strong and backed by the West.

21-08-2013, 04:36 PM
It shouldn't be ignored that Hamas is at root a Brotherhood branch, even though it has had a semi-independent recent history; also, there are reasons that other Brotherhood branches don't have an armed wing ŕ la al-Qassam Brigades. If anybody feels like it is time to get primed on the MB then I recommend this (http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-Muslim-Brotherhood-Organization-Policies/dp/0230100716/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1377099329&sr=8-3&keywords=muslim+brotherhood) collection which is refreshingly impartial, detailed, broad but also concise. (Actually, that whole series is very good.)

The situation in Egypt seems to me to be as opaque as it comes. I have skimmed newspaper reports from all across the world, watched Al-Jazeera, Sky, BBC, and read all manner of wonks and experts and commentators over the months; I also have a friend working and living in Cairo on and off, a SOAS type who has a totally different take on it but rarely has anything useful to say. Another friend of mine lives next door to an Egyptian who is very secular and very liberal and stranded in a London suburb, and his take is different again; I like hearing what he has to say, particularly about Obama and the Brotherhood, but he never really gets to the nub of it, either. I don't think that anybody can totally explain what has happened to Egyptian society, prestige, culture, or what direction things are heading in or why; this will probably require a long book written by somebody spectacularly good and wise in many years time.

This is slightly different to Syria, which is hard but can be grasped (I think) with a bit of hard work and patience. Egypt has an extra unquantifiable factor. It is the most important Arab country, even though nobody can really tell you why. It continues to make history on behalf of the region, despite a total lack of resource wealth. Its army is no more or less important than Turkey's, except that the army won here but the Generals lost in Turkey. You can't apply the Sunni vs. Shia template to this war, even though the Brotherhood and Salafists are now murdering Christians and Shia.

Whether it turns into Syria will depend on how well the army secures their borders and Sinai and whether anyone has the money and men to fund a war here. It probably is worth keeping in mind that there is a large and loosely tied jihadi network throughout North Africa which could easily seep in, as has happened in Iraq and Syria.

21-08-2013, 07:47 PM
I thought the Syria civil war was just an American conspiracy to drag Iran and its allies into a Vietnam style quagmire with endless war and human loss and a decade of stalemate. Throw in some shipments of SAM Missiles from Libya and an attack on an embassy swarming with CIA agents and it all starts to make sense, or not.

padraig (u.s.)
22-08-2013, 01:57 PM
@craner - not hard to understand Egypt's primacy in Arab world is it? largest population wise by enormous amount, always been strongest and foremost Arab military power, Suez while not as important as ca 1956 still very important, etc. what's happening now and where it's going is trickier but not as much as you say I think. Islamists v. military, impotent liberals, are hardly unique tropes in the Muslim world no? military will probably return to power for the foreseeable future. maybe Islamists will decide to take arms in earnest and in a few years when they've gathered strength there will be a war (as opposed to one-sided street massacres and repression). whoever's on top, U.S. will gladhand and pray for stability.

do get how Syria could be easier to grasp if you can get a handle on all the rebel factions, homegrown militias, outside forces etc, how they relate to each other - kinda reminiscent of the DRC in that way - and who's funding who. (read your Syria writeup btw, think other than the Gulnara Karimova pieces it's the best thing I've ever read by you)

I don't know enough to say why military won in Egypt and lost in Turkey but I do know once it was in power AKP vigorously went after the generals and at least parts of the deep state, which never happened in Egypt beyond Mubarak and his immediate retinue. tbf doubt MB ever had enough strength on its to do so on its own, AKP operating from much stronger position. also for most of Erdogan's reign Turkish economy has been strong, in direct contrast to Egypt's situation.

dunno about those free-floating jihadi networks either. sure they can touch off a powderkeg (Iraq) or make an ongoing war much worse (Syria) but absent a critical mass of armed locals can they can just kickstart one by themselves? I mean, there's just not that many of them relative to an enormous place like Egypt. Egypt isn't Mali, or Syria even. and who would fund this Islamist war, now that Qatar's had its regime change?

padraig (u.s.)
22-08-2013, 02:02 PM
also let me dork out for just a minute w/couple historical reasons for Egypt's modern prominence

Egypt was spared the utter devastation the Mongols wrought on the rest of Arab world cos the Mamelukes turned them back at Ain Jalut. consequently the center of Arab culture shifted from ruins of Baghdad to thriving Cairo where it's since stayed. also more recently Muhammed Ali Pasha secured de facto independence from Ottomans in early 19th c and modernized Egypt while rest of Arab world languished under Ottomans and then European colonial rule for another 100+ years.

alright back the now

22-08-2013, 02:09 PM
Thanks to Oliver and Padraig for your lucidity.

22-08-2013, 03:42 PM
Thank you, Padraig, all I was trying to say is this: the prestige and importance -- based on all the reasons you describe -- are relics. It should not have persisted beyond 1968 and in reality didn't. Symbolically, though, is another matter. That's the intangible.

I think for those reasons it is harder to read, and slightly more mysterious, at least for me, anyway: reasons to do with self-image, pride, vanity, a stark (even for the region) colonial/post-colonial contrast, the sense that civilisations lived and died here even in the recent past, etc. The other countries have this to a certain extent, especially Iraq and Syria, but I think it is more pronounced and mercurial and corrosive in Egypt's, and the dynamics are not quite as straightforward as you suggest. (Although, of course, they might well be.)

(As regards the relative importance of the Turkish and Egyptian army elites, I think Nasser and Ataturk are interesting compare-and-contrast figures. I've always had a soft spot for Ataturk, but strongly objected to the Nasser crush I've witnessed in many a SOAS grad. I am not trying to say that this is right, however.)

The only other thing I can really think of to say about the jihadi thing is that I really do hope you are right, but there is no way that armed groups will not try to get into Egypt to cause chaos, especially when you consider that there already are home-grown salafist groups out burning churches.

I'm thrilled you seem to like the Syria piece, although I hope that wasn't too faint praise.

22-08-2013, 09:44 PM
and who would fund this Islamist war, now that Qatar's had its regime change?

Been meaning to ask, what is the Qatari position now? They (or at least Al-Jaz) were very pro-MB during 2011 (and this year in Turkey) and are allegedly financing rebels n Syria (though which lot I don't know). Or were they never pro-MB, just pro-Islamist anti-Mubarak (and Turkish generals)?

23-08-2013, 09:59 AM
Thank you, Padraig, all I was trying to say is this: the prestige and importance -- based on all the reasons you describe -- are relics. It should not have persisted beyond 1968 and in reality didn't. Symbolically, though, is another matter. That's the intangible.

Surely '73 and the near defeat of Israel (or even 76, when the peace deal was signed) was the high water mark for Egypt's post war 'prestige'?

23-08-2013, 11:49 AM
I suppose so. It's an argument!

In another way, it could be said that '73 was just as, if not more, humiliating for Egypt once the Israelis got their act together, not that that made the Jews feels any better about it. But the humbling of Nasser in '68 was surely the existential wallop of all wallops?

Crackerjack, I don't know about the current Qatari position, but this (http://nationalinterest.org/commentary/the-saudi-qatari-clash-over-syria-8685?page=1) is a very useful explanation of recent background in Syria which also explains (to some extent) why the Qataris bankrolled Morsi and the Saudis are going to bankroll General el-Sisi.

padraig (u.s.)
23-08-2013, 04:41 PM
tend w/droid - Sadat's mojo was derived from regaining Egypt's mojo in 73, not for winning but for restoring Egyptian pride, puncturing Israel's and proving to Israel/the world after 67 that Egyptian military could acquit itself reasonably and hurt Israel even in defeat - but 68, 73, 76, 81 or whenever is just splitting hairs. your point is that all those kind of historical-volksgeist reasons are gone but the status and mystique they bestow remains. now, how much past glories inflate Egyptian self-image and what that does exactly to its politics I have no idea, but I would say 2 things.

1. Culture is power, and that power outlives its actual existence. that's not unique to Egypt.
2. Egypt is the most important Arab country regardless of that stuff. it's not just biggest, it's the biggest by an enormous margin, well over twice any other. for perspective: its pop is roughly equal to Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, West Bank/Gaza and the entire GCC combined. Suez still is and will continue to be one of the most important shipping routes in the world (preferential treatment for our shipping, military and commercial, is one of the things U.S. aid buys). Also, since we dismantled Iraq, Egypt is more important than ever as the U.S. sponsored counterbalance to Iran. Those are all tangible things that have direct impact on Egyptian and regional politics.

things like that, and general regional and historical perspective, make Egypt at least seem understandable to me.

padraig (u.s.)
23-08-2013, 04:44 PM
I should be more clear about jihadi strife. I'd fully expect foreign jihadis to infiltrate and set up shop, for a certain % of domestic Islamists to turn from ballot box to gun in frustration, and for the confluence of those and other factors to escalate the current church burning, occasional bombing etc into a full-on low level but endemic Islamist insurgency which in the short term will contribute to instability and make any reconciliation w/the military even more difficult than it already is, and in the long run could lead to even more serious problems. however, I'd also expect the military to suppress it with extreme brutality. it's not like they're inexperienced at that. if you'll recall, the military crushed Egypt's last Islamist insurgency, in the 90s, with great efficiency, and no one knows that better than al-Zawahiri, since that's where he cut his teeth as a jihadi leader (indeed he was driven to merge EIJ w/AQ as a survival tactic, the story goes). when I say "not another Syria" I don't mean no trouble, I just mean that I don't see it becoming a DRC-style clusterfuck nightmare of all against all war like Syria, or a full blown civil war waiting to happen like Iraq, not any time soon and not w/o a significant weakening of the military and strengthening of the jihadi position.

(that praise wasn't faint btw. the Karimova thing is full stop one of the best essay profiles I've ever read by anyone. I don't understand why don't publish, tbh. I think you could write for like, the Atlantic or some high-brow foreign relations site)

(I too must confess a kind of fascination w/Ataturk. how can you not? he's like a modern Frederick the Great crossed w/Suleiman and a touch of Zapata)

23-08-2013, 07:08 PM
I agree with everything you've just said in those last two posts, Padraig.

23-08-2013, 09:34 PM
Funnily enough, I am blocked from Guli's twitter account. I don't think she liked it as much as you did Padraig.

26-08-2013, 01:42 PM
Interesting NYT report here. Qatar (and Obama :confused:) still perceived as pro-MB inside Egypt.