What comes after the crackdown in Egypt?
The Egyptian army’s efforts to clear supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood from camps around Cairo has led to hundreds of deaths and a deepening political crisis. So what is the future for Egypt, and how is the rest of the world likely to react? Heba Saleh, Cairo correspondent, and David Gardner, senior international affairs commentator, join Gideon Rachman.
Army chief Gen Abdel Fattah al-Sisi on an anti-Islamist protester's placard. US president Obama is depicted as a supporter of the Muslim Brotherhood. Getty
When the army and security forces ignored pleas for restraint from Egypt’s allies in the US and Europe, moving to crush the Muslim Brotherhood protest camps that spread across Cairo after the July 3 coup d’etat that toppled President Mohamed Morsi, they had reason to feel supremely confident.
What General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and his colleagues have done is to restore the security state – an action that should not be confused with re-establishing security.
This restoration is edging towards the status quo ante the Tahrir revolution that overthrew Hosni Mubarak in 2011. It started before the coup, with the constitution Morsi and the Brothers railroaded through last December. Most of the controversy excited by this Islamist-tinged charter was caused by the way it ignored liberal, Christian and women’s concerns over fundamental rights and freedoms. Alarmingly little attention was paid to the way the Brotherhood sought to co-opt the military by embedding the army’s privileges and prerogatives even beyond the powers it enjoyed under Mubarak.
By Catherine Contiguglia
♦ The violence in Egypt has put Western diplomacy in a quandary that goes beyond a face-off between principles and interests, says Gideon Rachman. The United States and Europe must condemn the violent crackdown and cannot back a violent anti-democratic group, but by withdrawing all support from the current military government, they may find themselves powerless to influence events.
♦ International efforts to bring the warring camps in Egypt to the negotiating table have failed, but in order to end the violence, more diplomacy will be needed the FT writes in an editorial. Washington must suspend aid to Egypt’s military until parties agree to talks, the release of Mohamed Morsi must be on the table, and pressure needs to be exerted on the Muslim Brotherhood with the help of Turkey and Qatar.
♦ In choosing to not respond strongly to the violence in Egypt, the United States seems to be missing how grave this development is for Egypt and the region, writes Michael Hirsh in the National Journal. Hopes for a moderate Muslim participation in democracy are dashed, and extremism will likely replace it, while Egypt could end up reverting to a military junta regime.
♦ Amidst the horror, blood and mud within the camps of Morsi supporters, the work from an improvised gallery of comic artists from Brotherhood-affiliated papers continues to paper the walls.
♦ The idea of democracy for any potential Muslim voter was destroyed in the violence in Egypt, writes Robert Fisk in the Independent, and though what the future holds is unclear, what is certain is the initial feeling of unity that came with the Arab Spring no longer exists in Egypt.
♦ The most disturbing question raised by the violence in Egypt, writes Issandr El Amrani on the Arabist blog, is whether the escalation of violence is part of the desired goal, rather than a consequence. Some liberals who came out in favour of the coup of Mohamed Morsi may have thought it would lead to a better transition to democracy, but they were in the minority – most “appear to have relished the opportunity to crush the Muslim Brothers.”
♦ The US under-the-radar approach to the leadership in Egypt following the coup of Mohamed Morsi may have been appropriate to facilitate negotiations, but that time has passed, writes Marc Lynch in Foreign Policy. After the bloody crackdown on Morsi supporters, the United States must step away from the current regime.
♦The failure of the United States to follow their own laws and suspend aid to Egypt following the coup of Mohamed Morsi in which the army played a “decisive role” makes them complicit in the bloody crackdown on Morsi supporters, the Washington Post writes in an editorial. Their continued resistance to calling Morsi’s ouster a coup even after the crackdown is self defeating as continued support of the military will lead to a dictatorship rather than restore democracy.
♦ It is still the Egypt of Hosni Mubarak, writes Steven Cook in Foreign Policy. Political leaders on all sides have promoted narrow interests at the expense of what is best for Egypt, including the Muslim Brotherhood that carried on in Mubarak’s tradition of “whoever ruled could do so without regard to anyone who might disagree.”
Supporters of ousted president Mohamed Morsi are detained by security forces at the Rabaa al-Adawiyya protest camp. Getty
Egypt’s security forces on Wednesday launched a much-anticipated operation to clear supporters of ousted president Mohamed Morsi from two protest camps in the capital, leaving scores dead and prompting protests around the country from Mr Morsi’s Islamist sympathizers, who clashed with police and attacked churches in southern Egypt.
Polarisation between opponents and supporters of the president increased dramatically in the wake of the popularly-backed coup that removed Mr Morsi, Egypt’s first democratically elected president, from office on July 3. He has languished in detention since, prompting his supporters to accuse the security forces of undermining democracy. Opponents of the former president accuse him of trying to impose an Islamist vision on Egypt and say the military coup was needed to ‘save’ the country. International efforts to mediate between Mr Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood group and the interim government, backed by the powerful defence minister Gen Abdel Fattah Sisi, failed as neither side showed willingness to compromise.
As the Islamist protest camps became increasingly disruptive in the traffic-choked capital and leaks of an imminent operation to clear them grew, the protesters vowed they would remain until Mr Morsi was restored to power, with some claiming they would rather die as martyrs than give up their protest. Warnings by activists, rights groups and some politicians that their forcible removal could ignite a cycle of violence were ignored and the Arab world’s most populous nation is once again riven by unrest.
Here is our pick of background reads on the latest episode in Egypt’s turbulent transition.
♦ Detroit became the largest US city to file for bankruptcy. Time magazine looks at the decay of the city. The Washington Post’s Ezra Klein points out Detroit is not alone.
♦ Sunday’s election for the upper house of Japan’s parliament is expected to give Prime Minister Shinzo Abe a stronger platform from which to shoot the “arrows” of his radical economic reforms, but some fear he may also strike a more nationalistic tone.
♦ Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny was freed on bail Friday after being sentenced to five years in prison on embezzlement charges the day before. Our Charles Clover examines how his jailing tells you a lot about how political repression has evolved in Russia over the years. Masha Lipman looks at how the Putin government chose to eliminate their political opposition the hard way.
♦ The Guardian’s Patrick Kingsley examines the shooting of Muslim Brotherhood supporters outside the Republican Guards’ club in Cairo and finds that it was a coordinated assault on largely peaceful civilians.
♦ Marc Lynch at Foreign Policy argues that Washington should make a “much broader, more vigorous effort to engage publicly and privately across all Egyptian political groups and segments of the population” – but now is not the moment, with so much anti-American rhetoric swirling around.
♦ They were the irreplaceable loot from the art heist of the century. But to Olga Dogaru, a resident of a tiny Romanian village, burning them was the only way to save her son from prosecution. The problem is that he is the man charged with orchestrating the brazen theft last October of works worth hundreds of millions of dollars from the Kunsthal museum in Rotterdam. And the works were masterpieces by the likes of Picasso, Monet and Gauguin.
Chief justice Adly Mansour is sworn in as interim president the day after Mohamed Morsi is ousted (Getty)
Among Egyptians of all political stripes, there is a pervading conviction that talented and top-notch specialists who know their jobs well can help fix the nation’s myriad problems. The interim government installed by the military after the overthrow of Mohamed Morsi’s Islamist-dominated government has begun a flurry of appointments of so-called technocrats to key government posts.
It has appointed economist Hazem Beblawi as prime minister and named another noted economist, Ahmed Galal, as finance minister. It has begun assembling a constituent assembly that will be filled with experienced judges and legal experts. Mohamed ElBaradei, the former UN nuclear chief and Nobel laureate, has been sworn in as a vice-president for foreign affairs.
But the belief that a government of competent, cleverly-placed and politically neutral technocrats can solve problems as deeply entrenched as those Egypt faces is at best questionable and at worst fantasy.
♦ An Egyptian doctor observes the pro-Morsi protests outside the Republican Guard barracks in Cairo and the subsequent military intervention that wounded hundreds and killed 51 people, mostly protesters. Egyptian authorities have cracked down on Muslim Brotherhood businesses — reportedly shutting some down. The FT writes on the debate between Islamists and the military over who is to blame for the violence. The FT’s Geoff Dyer questions whether the United States still has influence in the country — with the military or the Islamists.
♦ For German chancellor Angela Merkel, the allegations of collaboration between US and German intelligence services may be an election problem, since data protection is a sensitive issue for Germans. She has sent a team of intelligence and interior ministry officials to Washington for an explanation of US activities. The New Yorker analyses Mr Obama’s motives for spying and whether it is justified.
♦ With a debt burden of $18bn and city infrastructure plunging in quality, Detroit may have to file bankruptcy — an extremely rare act for so populous a city — and may even sell the collections of the Detroit Institute of Arts.
♦ Eliot Spitzer resigned in 2008 after a call-girl scandal. However, the former governor of New York, is running for comptroller — the city’s third-highest elected office. But he is met by resistance from Wall Street executives — since he advocated reigning in their salaries — and by others who question his moral integrity. In a satire, the New Yorker reported yesterday that the former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi is considering running for office in New York City because New Yorkers are much more forgiving of political mistakes than Italians.
Egyptian soldiers stand guard on the streets of Cairo on Thursday (Getty)
If it looks like a military coup and has the effect of a coup – then it probably is a military coup. President Obama’s inability to use the “c” word, in relation to Egypt, is not because he has difficulty grasping what has happened. It is because, as soon as the United States declares that the Egyptian government has been overthrown by a coup, it is legally bound to cut off aid to Egypt.
Lying behind the question of whether to call this a coup lies a deeper western confusion. Western governments like to deal in clear moral categories: freedom-fighters versus dictators, democrats versus autocrats, goodies versus baddies. It makes foreign policy easier to understand, and easier to explain to the folks back home.
♦ The Egyptian military reasserted its privileged political position by removing Mohamed Morsi from power. Troops surrounded the state broadcasting headquarters and General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, the army chief of staff, delivered a televised speech announcing the takeover. Morsi’s authoritarian governing style exacerbated the huge challenges Egypt already faced – including a moribund economy and intense political polarisation, reports the FT’s Borzou Daragahi. David Gardner says that Morsi’s government, the liberals and Mubarak’s “deep state” are just as much to blame for Egypt’s stormy state of affairs as the generals.
♦ The Indian newspaper Patrika has achieved success through itsreputation for credibility – it doesn’t take political bribes, which is increasingly common among other Indian newspapers – and for public interest advocacy – it focuses on hyperlocal coverage.
♦ Lithuania’s president, Dalia Grybauskaite, has backed a deal to break up the Russian export monopoly that supplies gas to Lithuania by anchoring a ship off of a small nearby island to process deliveries of liquefied natural gas for homes and businesses.
♦ Le Monde reports that France has a “big brother” similar to the American Prism system that systematically gathers huge amounts of information on internet and phone activity.
♦ The FT’s Chris Giles argues that Carney’s “forward guidance” plan for the BoE may be too risky, even though it is based on a strategy used by other central banks including the US Federal Reserve and Bank of Japan.
♦ The price of Egypt’s revolutionary passion is exceedingly high, says Roula Khalaf. “What lies ahead, at least in the short term, is another huge leap into the unknown.”
♦ The Middle East descends into chaos as the US reverts its focus back to Israel.
♦ Khaled Fahmy, a professor at the American University in Cairo and an anti-Morsi activist, lays out the seven deadly sins of the Muslim Brotherhood, highlighting the vast divide between them and the opposition.
♦ Anyone who thought the military had been swept aside in Egypt was wrong, argues H.A. Hellyer, a fellow at the Brookings Institution. “The Egyptian military is not, and never has been, an ideological institution. Its main concerns have been to maintain its independence vis-à-vis the rest of the state, and to ensure the stability of Egypt – without which it would be forced to involve itself in the mess of governing tens of millions of Egyptians.”
♦ Europe’s spying businesses are thriving, despite the uproar over privacy.
♦ China’s slowdown is dragging Hong Kong down, argues William Pesek at Bloomberg.
♦ The Guardian interview twenty-somethings in Europe, who are highly educated and yet missing out on homes, pensions, independence and steady employment.