Thursday, July 11, 2013

Arlene Kushner: Was Egypt Under Morsi Less Unstable Than We Thought?

From Arlene Kushner:
July 11, 2013

Elusive Facts

Well, I did write in my last posting was that "there are often conflicting reports on any given situation, so that nailing down the facts is a challenge."
But did I have to make the case myself?
My correction today has to do with the identity of Egypt's newly appointed interim prime minister. I wrote on the 9th that it was Samir Radwan.
But it isn't. 
I didn't pull this name out of the air.  I read on reputable English language Egyptian sites, first that he was the front runner, approved by the Islamist Nour party, and then that he had been offered the position.  Silly me.  I assumed that was it.
The real new interim prime minister is Hazem El-Beblawi (below).  Like Radwan, he is a liberal economist and served as finance minister (although after Mubarak was brought down); he was also approved by the Nour party.  He is now busy moving ahead and trying to form a government.
Perhaps most significantly, he has secured commitments of billions from Gulf states, which should serve to keep things together until a viable economic plan can be put in place.

Hazem El-Beblawi
Credit: Shorouknews
According to the NYTimes, $12 billion has come in already from Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Kuwait.  These are states delighted to support a counter to the brotherhood. 
The Times story is actually fascinating:
"The streets seethe with protests and government ministers are on the run or in jail, but since the military ousted President Mohamed Morsi, life has somehow gotten better for many people across Egypt: Gas lines have disappeared, power cuts have stopped and the police have returned to the street.

"The apparently miraculous end to the crippling energy shortages, and the re-emergence of the police, seems to show that the legions of personnel left in place after former President Hosni Mubarak was ousted in 2011 played a significant role — intentionally or not — in undermining the overall quality of life under the Islamist administration of Mr. Morsi.

"When Mr. Mubarak was removed after nearly 30 years in office in 2011, the bureaucracy he built stayed largely in place. Many business leaders, also a pillar of the old government, retained their wealth and influence.

"Despite coming to power through the freest elections in Egyptian history, Mr. Morsi was unable to extend his authority over the sprawling state apparatus, and his allies complained that what they called the “deep state” was undermining their efforts at governing.

"While he failed to broaden his appeal and build any kind of national consensus, he also faced an active campaign by those hostile to his leadership, including some of the wealthiest and most powerful pillars of the Mubarak era."
Read: Sudden Improvements in Egypt Suggest a Campaign to Undermine Morsi
If this report is accurate, there may be less instability inherent in Egypt's situation than what is being described by commentators.
The US, it should be noted here, has decided it will honor its commitment to deliver four F-16 jets to Egypt in the coming weeks, part of a package of 20 jets to be supplied in total this year.  The first four were delivered in February.
The deal, made originally with Mubarak in 2010, was inherited by Morsi, and is not being overturned now.  Unrest in the country remains a concern, but better fighter jets in the hands of the military than a Brotherhood regime.
With this announcement, it becomes clear that the US has decided not to consider the change of regime a "coup."  There's a great deal of facile talk about responding to the demands of the people.
Whether Egypt needed (or needs) these jets at all is another story. But it must be understood that this is part of the $1.3 billion in aid supplied to Egypt by the US: aid money allocated to Egypt is turned back to the US for the jets.
El-Beblawi is not the only one moving ahead: The Brotherhood continues to try to stir up the unrest to the maximum, while the military is playing tough, bringing charges against Brotherhood leaders.
The military is gearing up for a major operation against Islamists in the Sinai, which Israel is expected to approve. A report, based on an ostensible Egyptian security source, is being floated that the military has killed 32 Hamas gunmen who were in the Sinai. But this is not confirmed -- and in fact is denied in several quarters.
Whether it's the case or not, Hamas has clearly taken a hit in terms of support with the downfall of Morsi and the ramifications of this have yet to play out.
A rocket was launched into the area of southern Israel adjacent to Gaza this afternoon.  No one was injured.  There is speculation as to whether Hamas, post-Morsi, is trying to flex its muscles.
According to experts at IHS Jane's Intelligence Review who have studied satellite imagery, Saudi Arabia has a (hitherto unknown) missile base deep in the desert, with ballistic missile launching pads that have markings pointing to Tel Aviv and to Tehran.
Seems the Saudis -- who despise and fear Iran and, as a result, have increased their "discreet back channel communications" with Israel -- are covering all their bases, or what they perceive to be their bases.  While they are major instigators of terrorism, I do not think they are about to launch missiles on us. 
A deputy editor at IHS Jane's Intelligence Review qualified the assessment thus:
"We cannot be certain that the missiles are pointed specifically at Tel Aviv and Tehran themselves, but if they were to be launched, you would expect them to be targeting major cities. We do not want to make too many inferences about the Saudi strategy..."
The Saudi armaments are dated and it is believed an update is in process.

Read: IHS Reveals Saudi Arabia's Undisclosed Missile Site
Here's yet another example of the ever-elusive nature of "truth":
Maariv has reported, -- relying on "sources in Washington" -- that Netanyahu "was willing to release 40 Palestinian prisoners with blood on their hands… even without any Palestinian commitment to return to the negotiating table."
According to this report, the US and Israel have both already informed Abbas about the impending release.
However, according to Haviv Retig Gur, writing in the Times of Israel, a senior official in the prime minister's office says this report has "no basis in reality."
George Will has always been a savvy and literate commentator of the world scene, and I am pleased to share what he says here, in a piece called "Egypt's preferable tyranny" (emphasis added):
"Former Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi knows neither Thomas Jefferson’s advice that 'great innovations should not be forced on slender majorities' nor the description of Martin Van Buren as a politician who 'rowed to his object with muffled oars.' Having won just 52 percent of the vote, Morsi pursued his objective — putting Egypt irrevocably on a path away from secular politics and social modernity — noisily and imprudently.
"It is difficult to welcome a military overthrow of democratic results. It is, however, more difficult to regret a prophylactic coup against the exploitation of democratic success to adopt measures inimical to the development of a democratic culture.

"Tyranny comes in many flavors. Some are much worse than others because they are more comprehensive and potentially durable. The tyranny portended by Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood promised no separation of politics and religion, hence the impossibility of pluralism, and a hostility to modernity that guaranteed economic incompetence. Theologized politics, wherein compromise is apostasy, points toward George Orwell’s vision of totalitarianism — 'a boot stamping on a human face — forever.'"
Read: Egypt’s preferable tyranny
Then, please! see Harold Rhode's important and insightful article, "Honor and Compromises in Middle East Leadership" (emphasis added):
"Why couldn't Egypt's deposed President Morsi admit mistakes? Why couldn't he 'compromise' with the military and stay in power? And what can one learn from Morsi's behavior about the concept of leadership in the Middle East?

"In the Middle East, leaders almost never admit that they made mistakes: doing so would bring shame...on them. Shame in the Middle East is about what others say about you -- not what you think of yourself. While to some extent this is true in Western culture, in general Westerners are more susceptible to feelings of guilt, rather than shame. The Western concept of compromise -- each side conceding certain points to the other side in order to come to an agreement -- does not exist in the Middle East. What is paramount is preserving one's honor...People will go to any lengths to avoid shame; they are prepared to go to jail, risk death, and even kill family members (usually females) to uphold what they perceive as their honor and that of their family. The consequences of dishonor are always permanent and always collective, often extending to the entire family and even the entire clan.

"This battle to avoid shame at all costs indicates why Morsi, Erdoğan, Saddam, Assad, Arafat, and Abu Mazen – when they either have painted themselves into a corner -- or have been painted into one -- can never back down.

"If our policy-makers could understand this cultural imperative, they might better be able to understand why we constantly fail to achieve our policy goals, and how better to achieve them.

"...Both Arafat and Abu Mazen, both of whom have led the Palestinian people, cannot sign any agreement with Israel to end the Israel-Palestinian conflict and recognize Israel and a Jewish state. When, at Camp David in 2000, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak offered Arafat 97% of everything said he wanted, Arafat jumped up and said that he could not sign such an agreement: he 'didn't want to have tea with Sadat' – a reference to the Egyptian leader who had been assassinated at least partially for having signed an agreement with Israel. Arafat knew that had he signed, he would have been regarded as having backed down from a confrontation and therefore shamed; been considered a traitor by his people, and most likely killed.

"U.S. President Clinton, in a display of how little he really understood about leadership and the values of the Middle East, looked on at Arafat's reaction in amazement. But no compromise would have been possible. Egypt, during its negotiations with Israel for the peace treaty signed in 1981, held out for 100% of what it asked for -- and got it. Had Arafat gotten 100% of what we wanted, Israel would no longer exist.

"The same holds true for the Palestinian Authority's current leader, Abu Mazen, to whom, later, Israeli Prime Minister Olmert offered an even better deal than had been offered to Arafat. Condoleezza Rice, like President Clinton, also looked on in amazement at Mahmoud Abbas's reaction...

"The same condition continues to hold true today. Why Secretary of State Kerry and the Obama administration believe they can persuade Abbas to sign an agreement guaranteeing Israel's right to exist in any form is astonishing. These leaders can lead only so long as they are not perceived as a shamed sell-out and traitor."
Read: Honor and Compromise in Middle East Leadership
Please share this far and wide, my friends, with people who require this education -- particularly decision-makers.
What galls me is why people such as Clinton and Rice, who experienced astonishment at the PLO intransigence, do not stand up now and tell Americas -- leaders and electorate -- that negotiations are just not going to work.  Bill Clinton, in particular, is a duplicitous enabler, smiling at his wife when she was secretary of state, and at Obama, when in truth he knows better.  Terribly naive, I guess, to expect honesty, forthright pronouncements for the sake of the nation.  They just play the game.  Let's pretend, and let's pressure Israel.
Rhode mentions Erdogan as one of those unable to back down.  Remember the Netanyahu "apology," which distressed many of us when it was made?  It had been predicted that this would bring a normalization of Israeli-Turkish relations.  It has not happened and is not likely to happen.
And now Erdogan is struggling with his own (relatively low key) unrest.
Michael Oren is leaving his position as Israeli Ambassador to the US in September.  He will be replaced by Ron Dermer, a very good man. Dermer has been a close advisor to the prime minister, to his right.

Ron Dermer

Credit: Jewish student leaders

Today Oren gave an interview to Haaretz; it typifies the sort of positions he's taken that make me glad he's leaving. 
Stating that Obama is a "true friend" to Israel, he said that the president was misunderstood:
He "tried to make peace with the Arab world...This was misunderstood in Israel...
"And when an American president goes to Egypt and goes to Turkey and doesn’t come to visit us, it causes a sense of insecurity..."
Excuse me? What a gross oversimplification of the situation.  Oh that I would have the time and space necessary to expand upon this.
Oren was then asked questions about Netanyahu's readiness to go to war against Iran in spite of world objections.  He said there is no escape from our responsibility as a sovereign nation to act on our own behalf.  He believes the prime minister is capable of handling such a mission.
"Netanyahu now faces a Ben-Gurion-type dilemma. The question he faces is similar to the question that faced Ben-Gurion in May 1948 and the question that Levi Eshkol faced in May 1967." [Re: whether to go to war]
Read: Oren: Netanyahu ‘certainly’ capable of handling Iran threat
And so?
© Arlene Kushner. This material is produced by Arlene Kushner, functioning as an independent journalist. Permission is granted for it to be reproduced only with proper attribution. 
If it is reproduced and emphasis is added, the fact that it has been added must be noted.

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