Thursday, June 21, 2012

Egypt: From Tahrir Square Back To Military Rule

When massive street protests propelled President Hosni Mubarak out of office 18 months ago, Egyptians proudly called the event a revolution. Now that revolution is looking more and more like a palace coup, with the Mubarak ouster cleverly camouflaged in the language of democracy by a military working to prevent the total collapse of the old order. By jettisoning a leader who had stayed past his sell-by date, the generals — suddenly sympathetic to the protesters — bought time to re-engineer their hold on power even as the military played its Islamist and secular challengers against each other.
The Military Shows Egypt Who's Boss, Time Magazine, July 2, 2012

In response to the Time Magazine article above, by Tony Karon and Abigail Hauslohner, that Democracy has suddenly been snatched away 18 months after Tahrir Square, Daniel Pipes responds that the Egypt's Palace Coup was to be expected:

Some of us, of course, have been saying precisely this for almost 1½ years, from even before Husni Mubarak's resignation. Mubarak had displeased the generals, especially his efforts to found a dynasty, and they took advantage of the Tahrir Square demonstrations to bounce him. Simple, no?

...The starry-eyed quality of press reporting on the Middle East upheavals, symbolized by the silly term "Arab spring," meant that most Westerners have been clueless about developments in the region.
Michael Totten also finds the euphoria in Egypt following Mubarak's ouster was misplaced:
There never was much hope for the country after Hosni Mubarak was toppled. The army took him out, not the people. The people yearned for liberty from Mubarak, but they did not yearn for liberty as Westerners understand it. Some did, of course, but the majority didn’t. The results of last year’s parliamentary election—where radical Islamist parties beat secular parties by a whopping 2-to-1 margin—made that abundantly clear.
What isn't clear is what will happen next.

Daniel Nisman, Ron Gilran, intelligence managers at geo-political risk consulting firm Max-Security Solutions in the Middle East, write that Mohammed Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood have been blindsided--and stripped of real power:
Assuming Morsi indeed won, under the new configuration he will enter office stripped of his legislative backing, while forced to consult with the SCAF over any major political decision or appointment. Morsi will be unable to make decisions on foreign policy, nor flood government ministries with Brotherhood members without approval from the military. According to the SCAF, these measures will remain in place until the drafting of Egypt’s permanent constitution - which will likely take months to be completed.

...For Islamists like the Muslim Brotherhood, control over the constitution would provide a vehicle to gradually mold Egypt’s government and society according to their religious ideology. The decision to field a presidential candidate was meant to compliment the power of the parliament, which until last week was tasked with forming the constituent assembly. By wresting away control over both the constitution and major presidential powers, the SCAF has left the Brotherhood’s leadership in a considerable predicament. Morsi now finds himself alone at the top, unable to implement the goals that the Brotherhood has pursued so patiently for decades.
But Totten notes that this is far from over and Muslim Brotherhood will not go quietly:
This could be read as good news, I guess, for those who wish to see Islamic rule stopped at all costs, but before the anti-Islamists pop the champagne corks, don’t forget that Algeria’s psychotic civil war began when the state voided an election where the Islamists won at the polls. Egypt isn’t prone to civil war the way Lebanon and Iraq are, but I wouldn’t rule it out categorically yet.
The one question not addressed here is the implications for Israel: Will the coming increased tension and instability provide Israel will a respite from the sudden increase in terrorist attacks, or whether it is that very chaos that has given rise to the spike in rocket attacks, and may lead to even more?

Hat tip: MP

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