On the deep state

I have – alongside Steven Cook, Philip Giraldi and Gonul Tol - a short piece out in the NYT's Room for Debate on the subject of deep states. The other articles are largely Turkey-focused (because of one interpretation of the AKP's recent electoral victory an inversion of the deep state as experienced in Turkey in the 1980s). I take a slightly contrarian view on deep states, pointing out that shadowy networks of interests are not always bad and arguing that in Tunisia, these worked to avert a wider crisis that could have easily gone in the direction of what happened in Egypt. Generally, though, when you hear about the deep state, it's not good news - and when you don't hear about it, it does not mean it's not there.


Issandr El Amrani

Issandr El Amrani is a Cairo-based writer and consultant. His reporting and commentary on the Middle East and North Africa has appeared in The Economist, London Review of Books, Financial Times, The National, The Guardian, Time and other publications. He also publishes one of the longest-running blog in the region, www.arabist.net.

Cold Comfort for Egypt

Paul Mutter writes in with a Egypt-Russia comparison.

With the Muslim Brotherhood taking a clear majority in the parliamentary elections (followed by the Nour Party), SCAF now finds itself with a more concrete array of forces to work to manage. 

SCAF is neither incompetent nor omnipotent. But "uncivil society" – a term historian Stephen Kotkin uses to describe the Eastern European equivalent of "the hybrid military-civilian deep state and its manipulations" – has strong roots in Egypt. And while many former Warsaw Pact nations offer encouraging examples of how newly emerging civil society can mitigate the old guard's machinations, there is one former Warsaw Pact member whose post-communist history does not offer an encouraging example for Egypt's near-future, and that is Russia. The convergence of Egypt's civilian and military management with the aspirations of both the Brothers' and Salafis' leadership.

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In Translation: Egypt's deep state

This week’s translation comes from al-Tahrir, the newspaper edited by Ibrahim Eissa that is among the most critical publications of SCAF and the security services to come out since the January uprising. The writer of this column is Ezzedine Choukri-Fishere, a former high-level Egyptian diplomat who has woked on the Middle East peace process and in Sudan in various capacities, both for his country and the United Nations. He is also a novelist — his latest book has just been shortlisted for the Arabic Booker — and teaches International Relations at the American University in Cairo. His website is here. We previously feature Ezzedine (a friend of ours) in this hilarious video, in which he berates state television by introducing them to the concept of remote controls.

This column echoes a lot of my own thinking about recent events, notably hinting at a trend within the Egyptian deep state that is seeking to re-establish itself, manipulating politics (including the elections) and pushing SCAF towards confrontation and state media towards incitation against the revolutionary movement. This is a worrying development, even perhaps raising a question about whether one hand of the state knows what what the other is doing.

As always, we rely on the fantastic Arabic translation services of our partner, Industry Arabic. If you need anything translated from Arabic — a technical or legal document, a media article, a report — check them out.

Goodbye to Military Rule

By Ezzedine Choukri-Fishere, al-Tahrir, 20 December 2011

The coup-makers who dragged the Military Council into adopting the approach of the State Security Investigations Service (SSI) in the way it handles revolutionary forces have damaged the Military Council, the image of the army and the army’s status in the new political order.

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