The Arabist

The Arabist

By Issandr El Amrani and friends.

August 14 in Egypt in numbers

Dead (according to Ministry of Health, and still counting): 525

Wounded: 3,500

Churches, monasteries, Christians schools and libraries attacked (Source) : 56

Days that Mohamed ElBaradei lasted as a civilian figure-head of the army-run "second revolution" before resigning in protest: 28

Other resignations: 0 

Justifications presented by Egypt's non-Islamist media and political parties for the gratuitous murder of hundreds of their fellow citizens, and commendations of the security forces for their "steadfastness" and "restraint": too many to count

It only gets worse from here

You could ask a thousand questions about the violence that has shaken Egypt, from why police decided to move now against Islamist sit-ins and with such brutality after making so much of its careful planning in the last week, to whether the attacks on churches and Christians more generally that erupted in reaction are part of a pre-planned reaction or the uncontrollable sectarian direction political tensions take in moments of crisis. But the question that really bothers me is whether this escalation is planned to create a situation that will inevitably trigger more violence – that this is the desired goal.

The fundamental flaw of the July 3 coup, and the reason those demonstrators that came out on June 30 against the Morsi administration were wrong to welcome it, is that it was based on an illusion. That illusion, at least among the liberal camp which is getting so much flak these days, was that even a partial return of the old army-led order could offer a chance to reboot the transition that took such a wrong turn after the fall of Hosni Mubarak on February 11, 2011. This camp believed that gradual reform, even of a much less ambitious nature than they desired in 2011, would be more likely to come by accommodating the old order than by allowing what they perceived as an arrangement between the military and the Islamists to continue. Better to focus on fixing the country, notably its economy, and preventing Morsi from sinking it altogether, and take the risk that part of the old order could come back.

In this vision, a gradual transformation of the country could take place while preserving political stability through the armed forces.  It would be negotiated and hard-fought, as so many democratic transitions in other parts of the world have been, but the old order would need the talent and competence of a new technocratic, and ultimately political, class to deliver and improve governance. Their hope was that the Islamists would understand that they had lost this round, and that they could be managed somehow while a new more liberal order emerged. This, in essence, was what Mohamed ElBaradei and other liberals bought into on July 3, no doubt earnestly, and what so many other outside of formal politics fervently hoped for: not the revolution radicals want, but a wiser, more tolerant, order in the country.

Unfortunately, among the broad liberal camp in Egypt, those who entertained such hopes are in a minority. Even among the National Salvation Front, as its obscene statement praising the police today showed, most appear to have relished the opportunity to crush the Muslim Brothers and appeared to believe that other Islamists could simply choose to be crushed alongside it, kowtow to the new order, or be pushed back into quietism. It appears that much of the business and traditional elite – represented politically by the Free Egyptians and the Wafd Party among others – falls into that category. They are joined by the security establishment, or deep state if you prefer.

Over the last week there was much talk of divisions between this segment and those symbolically important liberal members of the government, such as ElBaradei, over whether or not to negotiate with the Brothers or break their sit-ins. The camp that eventually won does not just believe that the Brothers are not worth negotiating with. They want to encourage it in its provocative sectarian discourse, its supporters desire for violence, and the push as much as the Islamist camp as possible into being outlaws. Those who nurture such eradicateur sentiment do not so much actually want to physically eradicate all Islamists as to provoke them into a situation where their political existence will be eradicated because they will have opted for violence. They are willing to endure that violence, even a return to the counter-insurgency of the 1990s, and sporadic sectarian and terrorist attacks, because they believe it will strengthen their camp and enable them to permanently block most Islamists from politics. This is why I believe I think that analyses such as this one that argue that such an insurgency is not possible any more are wrong – not only is it possible, but it is desired .

Their thinking is cynical in the extreme, not unlike Bashar al-Assad's push towards militarizing the political conflict he faced in 2011. They are willing to live with the violence, impact on the economy, and other downsides if it strengthens their own power and legitimacy. An Islamist camp that, as elements of it are apparently beginning to, sets fire to churches and attacks police stations is one that becomes much easier to demonize domestically and internationally. But it is also much more unpredictable than Egypt's homegrown violent Islamist movements were in the 1980s and 1990s, because there is a context of a globalized jihadi movement that barely existed then, and because the region as a whole is turmoil and Egypt's borders are not nearly as well controlled as they were then (and today's Libya is a far less reliable neighbor than even the erratic Colonel Qadhafi was then.) 

In their strategy against the July 3 coup, the Brothers and their allies have relied on an implicit threat of violence or social breakdown (and the riling of their camp through sectarian discourse pitting the coup as a war on Islam, conveniently absolving themselves for their responsibility for a disastrous year) , combined with the notion of democratic legitimacy, i.e. that they were after all elected and that, even if popular, it was still a coup. On the latter argument, they may have gained some ground over time both at home and abroad. But on the former, they got things very, very wrong: their opponents will welcome their camp's rhetorical and actual violence, and use it to whitewash their own.

Linkdump 14 August 2013
The Brothers and the Copts

Mariz Tadros writes for the Middle East Institute on the campaign waged by the MB and other Islamists to blame Copts for the fall of the Morsi administration: 

A few days before the protests and throughout the week of demonstrations, media sympathetic to the Brotherhood launched a campaign that represented the protests as a Christian conspiracy against Islam. The campaign was staged with an intensity that was sufficient to catalyze bloody sectarian clashes. On the Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated television channel Misr 25, Noureddin, a program presenter, made a fictitious announcement that Christians were attacking mosques. On an Islamist-affiliated channel, program guest Shaykh Mahmoud Shaaban, a Salafist, concocted a story that Christians had congregated in Tahrir Square and that their main chant was “Jesus is the solution,” as if Christians were countering the Muslim Brotherhood slogan, “Islam is the solution.”

There's a lot more there, and in my experience many Brothers have seen the protests, coup and overall crisis in sectarian terms – even if they did not want to encourage sectarian violence they saw themselves as the victims of a sectarian conspiracy in which the Church and "organized Christendom", for lack of a better word, played an important role. While it's undoubtedly true that the vast majority of Egyptian Christians were anti-MB (after all, Morsi had done little to win them over) this is a convenient recasting of the widespread anger at Morsi and the MB (to include even Islamists, never mind many ordinary Muslims) to energize a base for whom sectarianism has long been a driving motive. This is especially the case in parts of Egypt with large Christian populations, such as Upper Egypt, and it's not surprising that this is where there has been much of the sectarian violence of the recent weeks.

I also paste below an analysis from the excellent newsletter of the Arab-West Report, a inter-religious dialogue NGO and think tank. (Their website has been the victim of an attack, so it's mostly down for now.)

A statement made by al-Qa’ida leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri (Ayman al-Zawāhirī), is believed to be one of the major catalysts for ongoing sectarian clashes between Muslims and Christians and attacks by militants on the Sinai Peninsula and in other areas of Upper Egypt, south of Cairo.  His fiery speech accused Egyptian Christians of seeking a Coptic state in southern Egypt and alleges that they along with “crusaders, secularists, the Americanised military, remnants of Mubarak’s regime and some affiliates of Islamic groups” are responsible for former president Muhammad Morsi’s (Mursī) overthrow and were supported by Gulf money (link).

Violence in Beni Suef, Suhag, Fayum, and other areas of Egypt have led to the deaths of Christians and some Muslims.  Churches have also been attacked and vandalized in many of these areas under a variety of circumstances. In Suhag it is believed that an al-Qa’ida flag was raised on Saint George Church.  Also, one of the Armenian churches in Egypt was tagged with the words “Egypt is Islamist”.  Some attacks have been based on rumors of Christian attacks on Muslims, for example, while in other instances violence has been in protest of Morsi’s removal.  

Egypt’s army said on Wednesday that they have the captured or killed 227 individuals on the Sinai from 5 July to 4 August —103 of who were arrested and 124 of who were either killed or injured (link).  Attacks continue in the northern region of the Sinai Peninsula, most frequently in al-Arish, where several checkpoints have come under fire from militants. Other attacks in the region have included the murder of a Coptic priest in al-Arish and the beheading of a Coptic citizen in Shaykh Zuwwaīd early in July (link).

On August 7, the Prosecutor General ordered the arrest of 11 persons on charges of “murder, attempted murder, arson and possession of unlicensed weapons” following violence on Saturday, August 3, in Minya, a governorate located roughly 250km south of Cairo. The clashes are the latest in a series of attacks on Christians in Upper Egypt, which left one dead and over a dozen injured (link). Last month an attack on a Coptic church in Minya left the premises in a shambles and Father Ayoub Youssef believes that he barely escaped with his life from the attackers (link).

Links 9-12 August 2013

  • Mourad Mowafy: Too early to consider presidential run | Mada Masr
     
    So it begins...
  • Marx’s Lesson for the Muslim Brothers - NYTimes.com
     
    Linkin' not likin'
  • Peace talks: The perfect alibi for settlement expansion | +972 Magazine
  • Une première : Un député boycotte la cérémonie d'allégeance au roi.
  • MP refuses to kneel before king, saying he kneels before God only.
  • La justice espagnole accuse des responsables du Polisario de crimes contre l’humanité
  • Sahara : Ramid ordonne l'ouverture d'une enquête sur les allégations de torture contre des sahraouis pro-polisario
  • hawgblawg: On Bob Azzam's "Mustapha" (a.k.a. "Ya Mustapha")
     
    A great read by Ted Swedenburg
  • Baheyya: Egypt Analysis and Whimsy بهيّة: Fetishizing the State
  • Cairobserver — Imbaba gets countryside-themed park and more
  • Egyptian Chronicles: And The witch hunt against #Elbaradei is on once again
     
    "If there is no ElBaradei in the picture , it will be another third world country coup."
  • The Language of Anti-Shiism - By Fanar Haddad | The Middle East Channel
  • Libya's Most Vulnerable | The Majalla Magazine
     
    On minority rights and the new constitution
  • Lawless Sinai Shows Risks Rising in Fractured Egypt - NYTimes.com
     
    Good piece by Robert Worth.
  • Egypt on the Edge - NYTimes.com
  • Arabs and atheism
     
    Whitaker, with a call-out to Arab atheists who want to share their experience.
  • Brotherhood Document Blames Israel, Iran, Gulf for Egypt Coup - Al-Monitor
     
    Intellectual poverty of document may be best explanation of MB failure, though…
  • Egypt's coup has crushed all the freedoms won in the revolution | The Guardian
     
    Tawakkol Karman.
  • Egypt’s Islamists Turn Violent - By Bel Trew | Foreign Policy
  • LinksThe EditorsComment
    A Moroccan scandal

    My latest for the Latitudes blog of the New York Times looks at a strange controversy that broke out here last week, shaking up the usually very staid (not to saw cowed) political and media scene and pushing the King to the exceptional step of revoking a royal pardon.

    Soon after news of Galván Viña’s release appeared on the independent news site Lakome, it spread across social media. Pardons in other countries can be controversial, too, but this one had everything to shock and anger: Here was a Spanish criminal getting away with abusing Moroccan victims, and a royal prerogative trumping the justice system.

    Last weekend the colonnaded Avenue Mohammed V in central Rabat echoed with the chants of young protesters (“Long Live the People!” “Down with Perverts!”) and their running footsteps, as they dashed away from police squadrons. Other small demonstrations have since taken place in other Moroccan cities.

     

    Egypt after Morsi by Joschka Fischer

    The former German FM writes: 

    But one thing already can be said for certain: the basic distribution of power within Egyptian society has not changed. The military and the Muslim Brotherhood divide power between themselves. The Western-oriented liberals do not have any real power and stand, as we are seeing now, on the army’s shoulders. We should not forget that Morsi’s opponent in the presidential election in 2012 was Ahmed Shafik, a former general and the last Mubarak-era prime minister – certainly no liberal.
    A victory by either the Brotherhood or the military would not be a victory for democracy. Hamas, which has ruled Gaza since 2006, may serve as an example of what the Brotherhood wants: undivided power, including over the military. Likewise, the Egyptian army’s hold on power, beginning in the 1950’s, resulted in a decades-long military dictatorship.
    But there is a third and new factor now in play, one that does not measure power in the same way as the military and the Brotherhood. Through their leadership of the protests for two years, urban middle-class youth have gained their own legitimacy, and, with their technological and linguistic capacities, are able to dominate global debate about Egypt.

    There's some refreshing no-nonsense talk here for a Western politician, but also some odd analysis: when he says the MB retains power, how so? Islamists more broadly retain power, the MB specifically not so sure. And who does he mean by Western-oriented liberals? Not clear to me, and neither who are the middle-class youth.

    The Liberal Dark Side in Egypt

    James Traub in Foreign Policy argues that "what happened in Egypt was not a second 'revolution' against authoritarian rule but a mass repudiation of Muslim Brotherhood rule." He also looks at the intellectual and moral obfuscation that most of the country's "liberals" are engaged in regarding their support for the military coup. 

    Morsy's single greatest mistake, in retrospect, was failing to put [many Egyptians'] fears to rest by ruling with the forces he had politically defeated. He was a bad president, and an increasingly unpopular one. But nations with no historical experience of democracy do not usually get an effective or liberal-minded ruler the first time around. Elections give citizens a chance to try again. With a little bit of patience, the opposition could have defeated Morsy peacefully. Instead, by colluding in the banishment of the Brotherhood from political life, they are about to replace one tyranny of the majority with another. And since many Islamists, now profoundly embittered, will not accept that new rule, the new tyranny of the majority will have to be more brutally enforced than the old one.

     

    Links 4-8 August 2013
  • Constitutionally Imbalanced - Sada
     
    Maati Monji on Morocco's institutions.
  • Les enseignements de l’affaire « Danielgate »
     
    Abdalla Tourabi
  • Libya's greatest security threat: its porous southern border - CSMonitor.com
  • Egypt Coup Causes Rift Inside Jordan’s Muslim Brotherhood - Al-Monitor
  • Baheyya: Public Service Announcement
     
    On police propaganda in Egypt
  • Egypt Christians on the defensive as Islamists wage hate campaign in south - CBS News
  • A Failure of Strategy in the Sahel - Room for Debate - NYTimes.com
     
    Nasser Weddady
  • Analysis: Tunisia eyes 'Egypt scenario' after assembly freeze | Reuters
  • Wadjda and the Saudi women fighting oppression from within | Rachel Shabi | Comment is free | theguardian.com
  • Pierre Loti, l’exotique | Le Magazine Littéraire
     
    Exhibition at Quai Branly.
  • Presidency outlines constitutional committee selection criteria | Mada Masr
  • Arab Islamists, from Opposition to Power: A Critical Appraisal
     
    By Khalil al-Anani [PDF]
  • In Tense Egypt, Bodies Are Surfacing Near Protests
     
    Evidence of torture and murder in Islamist protests
  • Islamist Groups Must Stop Inciting to Sectarian Violence | EIPR
     
    NGO blames police for not protecting Christians
  • Opinion: Brotherhood, wake up | Egypt Independent
     
    Strong column from former deputy MB guide Mohammed Habib.
  • Egypt Bristles As US Pols Urge Freeing Prisoners : NPR
     
    Why send senators into a delicate situation that requires a soft approach?
  • Egypt’s Economy of Dependence - NYTimes.com
     
    As this argues, the coup deepens Gulf power over Egypt.
  • From the Potomac to the Euphrates » Lights Out for Al-Nour?
     
    Cook argues Nour too centrist, to me real issue is coming battle on constitution.
  • Ennahda and the Challenge of Power - Sada
  • Brotherhood second-in-command refuses meeting with foreign mediators - Ahram Online
     
    Suspicious about this story.
  •  

    LinksThe EditorsComment
    "The US doesn't really have a policy on Yemen"

    Brian Whitaker, writing in The Guardian :

    Viewed from Washington, Yemen is not a real place where people are demanding social justice and democracy so much as a theatre of operations in Saudi Arabia's backyard, veteran Yemen-watcher Sheila Carapico told a conference in January.

    In fact, she added, the US doesn't really have a policy on Yemen. What it has instead is a longstanding commitment to the security and stability of Saudi Arabia and the GCC states (Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and United Arab Emirates), coupled with an anti-terrorism policy in which Yemen is treated as an extension of the Afghan/Pakistani theatre. The result, she said, is "pretty much the antithesis" of what Yemenis were aspiring to when they set about overthrowing President Saleh in 2011.

    "Egypt rejects American Satan"

    Remember this headline, in the state-owned newspaper of a supposedly secular, US-friendly regime run by a military that receives $1.3bn in US aid per year.  Via:

    And while we're at it: 

    ‘Zaat’ and her bathroom – and television

    On Mada Masr, Dina Hussein reviews the television adaptation of Zaat, Sonallah Ibrahim's great novel about rising consumerism of Intifah Egypt in the 1970s and 1980s:

    Watching “Zaat” on television today subjects viewers to this alternative representation of history. The series interrupts Egyptian lives to provide the historical background to their struggle today. One could say that Zaat’s story is the historical preamble to Egypt’s revolution. In the novel, Ibrahim describes the transmissions that surround Zaat as the “march of destruction and construction.” And I honestly do not see a better description of Egypt today other than a continuation of this march of destruction and construction. But there is another more basic reason for why the series succeeded in grabbing people’s attention today: empathy.

    Ibrahim’s choice of Zaat as the name of his protagonist is not accidental. In her 1994 book, “Egyptian Writers Between History and Fiction,” Professor of modern Arabic literature Samia Mehrez tells us how “Zaat” is Ibrahim’s “ultimate objectification of the self.” She explains how Zaat in Arabic means an indefinite self; it can mean multiple selves and/or one self. This “objectification of the self”, she adds, is a strategy that Ibrahim uses to break the boundary between the private/individual and the public/collective. Zaat resembles the ordinary; her life reflects the mundane in Egyptians’ everyday life. Ibrahim succeeds in making Zaat’s private life a representation of the collective identity of the nation. This is precisely why her story, especially when televised, has grabbed people’s attention. Watching “Zaat,” particularly the episodes taking place in the 1980s, triggers an intense sense of empathy from viewers who see her as a reflection of themselves.

    The serial went beyond the timeframe of the novel and into the 1990s and 2000s, ending just before the 25 January 2011 uprising.

    ConspiracyLand

    With the media frenzy and the MOI’s warnings on the radio and news tickers asking citizen to beware anything that looks strange and report it (bad time to be Somaya El Khashab in Cairo), more and more people are subscribing to the belief that the lack of evidence for a theory, only proves the conspiracy.

    And it’s not just Egyptians. Recently, I have met a number of Syrians who were convinced that some Alawites joined the Raba’a sit-in to make it look as if the Sunni Syrian refugees in Egypt support Morsi to turn the media and the public against them.

    “(Alawite Syrians) probably thought (Sunni Syrians) got too comfortable here and thought: Let’s stir strife,” bemoaned Ahmed Khalil, who has noticed an increase in stares and snide comments ever since Morsi’s removal. Needless to say, this theory would be extremely difficult to document, yet alone proven to be true, which to Khalil only goes to show that it is true. "No one will admit and no traces will be found...exactly what you would expect from a well-executed plan." Or from an imaginary one.

    In order for any theory to flourish, it needs only be mentioned once, preferably in a question format [ex: Why does group X drink a lot of milk? Could they be paid by Juhayna?], in an article or on late night TV. The viewers/readers and their friends will spread the word faster than fellow channels and newspapers on Facebook and Twitter. By the time it reaches a third and fourth parties, it’s fact and questions implying that one is not readily accepting it as such, or is not sufficiently frightened by it, mostly results in sighs and sidelong glances.

    The following are the fresh and reheated conspiracy theories in Egypt in no particular order:

    Theory I:Chemical weapons in Raba’a.

    The coordinator of an alleged offshoot group of about 2500 MB youth called “Brothers Without Violence,” Ahmed Yahya, called Lamis al-Hadidi a few days to confirm the presence of Free Syrian Army soldiers in Raba’a al-Adaweya for combat training and for a delivery of a patch of deadly chemical weapons (generally believed to be used against them in Syria) to their Egyptian counterparts.

    Theory II:MB borrows liberal conspiracy theory about the Suez Development project.

    The original theory was weaved by “patriots who fear for Egypt” who believed the unpatriotic MB government sold/planned to sell land to Qatar, their biggest financier, and their Zionist partners, who would, in turn, drain Egypt of its resources and its people of life via criminally low wages, mistreatment and overwork. MB recycled the exact same narrative just replacing Qatar with UAE, “the coup’s financier." Now it is “the people who know God” against the unpatriotic liberal government.

    The UAE, the MB says, recently bought franchise rights to land only finished 33 days of mandatory 40 days during which they were supposed to hold an international bidding over the land with the help of the media, according to some “law.” It’s worth noting that the Suez Development Project’s laws were mere drafts (at least until mid-June, unless they managed to pass the draft in complete media silence in the run-up to Morsi's ouster), so it is safe to assume that no law was there to be broken or implemented.

    Regardless, the article goes on to say that UAE invested in the project to sabotage it since, if successful, the project would compete with Dubai and Abu Dubai. The Emiratis, it seems, don't fully grasp the concept of ownership and so can't recognize their profits when generated outside their borders. They are also trying to stall the project altogether for a year and a half to give “their masters in the Zionist entity” a chance to finish a similar project in Eilat. No one has commented on or denied any of this yet.

    Theory III:MB has a list of public figures to kill.

    A blacklist appropriately titled “The Blacklist” was found by a citizen named Ahmed Maselhy in mosque in 6th of October.The list, which was signed by the “Supporters of Legitimacy,” contains 83 names of targeted public figures. With it, an envelope containing a map was found of Egypt divided into 5 countries, a Jewish one for all the Jews, a Christian one, a Nubian one, an Islamic one, and a greater Israel. The envelope also contained a picture of al-Sisi presumably needed to remind forgetful terrorists of the enemy, and pictures of bombs so they won’t forget theirs.One can’t help but wonder if there is a picture of the list and the envelope to remind the terrorists not to forget the list and the envelope out there somewhere.

    Maselhy also found, with the list, a series maps showing the locations of Tahrir, Raba’a, security directorates, Cairo’s International Airport, Suez Canal, Cairo Tower, the MOI and the MOD, Central Security in Rafah, the Etihadia Palace and a number of guard towers for camps belonging to the ministries of interior and defense. All places that even seasoned taxi and microbus drivers have difficulty locating.  

    The targets on the The Blacklist are Gen. Abdulfatah al-Sisi, Mohamed ElBaradei, Magdy el-Galad (al-Watan’s editor-in-cheif who still facing a lawsuit for publishing the list of 100 assassination targets), Lamis el-Hadidi, Amr Adeeb, Tawfik Okasha, Adel Imam (his Ramadan series Al’araf was pretty bad) and Hazem al-Beblawi, to name a few.

    Theory IV:al-Sisi killed Rafah’s 16 soldiers.

    Strategic expert, Major General Tahir Izz al-Din, argues that al-Sisi killed Rafah's 16 soldiers by deliberately failing to detect the attack, when he was in charge of security as the director of Military Intelligence at the time. Al-Sisi then sold out his superiors and said that he did foresee the attack and that he alerted Tantawi and Lieutenant General Sami Hafez Anan, but they failed to act. They were too plotting for Morsi's removal, Sisi told Morsi, who later uses that information to quietly dismiss Tantawi and Anan. This plan was “announced in secret” by the then-head of General Intelligence. Izz also tells us that the head of the Republican Guard, Military Police, Central Security, were going to beat Morsi up and then arrest him at the soldiers’ funeral, which is why he sent Hisham Kandil to fill in for him.

    The MB’s 3000 word essay goes on to say that everything that happened since Feb 11, 2011, is all a conspiracy weaved by Zionists acting through Mubarak who is acting through Zakaria Azmi and ex-field Marshal Tantawi acting through al-Sisi, overlooking his betrayal of trust. Lemon squeezer.

    The liberal narrative of the attack maintains Hamas did in response to the army’s crackdown on their tunnels. Meanwhile, the older MB narrative only blames Tantawi for it.

    Theory V: This entireinterview with Maj. Gen. Shafik al-Bana’s  in al-Ahram’s magazine drops the following bombshells:

    1. Morsi wanted to arrest every member of the SCAF on the 26th of June. Al-Bana says Hamas agents were going to strike at the precise moment the generals nudged each other awake after Morsi’s speech, but luckily, SCAF had Morsi knew better and surrounded the hall with soldiers, forcing Morsi to abandon his plans.
    2. If Morsi stayed in power, Egypt would have been divided into four countries (because that 5 countries plan was just absurd. Surely the seven citizens of Jewish Egypt can be integrated into Greater Israel). According to the US’s plan to give Israel Jordan and everything standing between Israel and Yemen via destruction of armies of Syria, Egypt and Iraq. Classic America.
    3. So far a variety of 10 million weapons has been smuggled into Egypt through Libya by the “Free Egyptian Army,” which mostly consists of Iranians. Needless to say, Morsi personally objected to all of al-Sisi’s proposals to arrest or curb the enthusiasm of his friends in the desert. He even intended for them to be his Revolutionary Guard. Hence, welcoming Iranian "tourists" into Egypt. These Iranian thugs now live in Rehab and 6th of October, Cairo’s crime centers. Their leadership lives in Mohandeseen.
    4. Egyptian army has successfully disarmed all 10000 men of the much-feared MB militias a while back.They have been bravely emptying their storages areas in Sinai since last January. There is no need to fear them now. Or arrest them, after all they are no longer breaking the law by possessing illegal weapons and just what are the chances that they come across some of those 10 million smuggled weapons in Egypt?
    5. MB has been in contact with CIA and Israeli intelligence since 2006. They used to meet them every month in a different country. Omar Suleiman kept record of all that in a black box.
    6. CIA killed Omar Suleiman for MB because they can’t grasp what the word “Homeland” even means. Thus, making it easy for them to divide the country under their rule.
    7. Brothers were never tortured in prison.

    Theories VI & VII: The scheming Anne Patterson gave al-Sisi and the islamists the green light to launch, respectively, the US-backed coup and the US-designed armed resistance to it. Since the two theories are dominant in both camps, they are frequently updated. For instance, al-Watan recently reported an exciting detail iabout how Patterson took a separate elevator when meeting MB leaders in an unnamed hotel. That’s cunning.

    Theory VIII: The not-so-credible media stories accusing the MB of taking 42 kids from orphanages outside of Cairo, "to buy them new clothes for Eid," when they are actually take them to Rabaa to carry signs saying their fathers are martyrs or that they will be martyrs themselves. Unfazed by media accusations of child abuse, MB proudly shared this video of three kids in Paris who mime prayers and then fall flat on their belly to reenact the RG massacre. Talentless children aside, this among other things raised concerns about "brainwashing" children,which ONtv's anchor selectively condemns. Indoctrination of children, necessary. But to be pro-MB and anti-SCAF, bad.

    The video shows footage of kids in marching in shrouds, carrying signs some off camera man gave to them, and then cuts to the anchor who goes on to beg the MB to teach those children about love and dress them in clean galabeyas, or maybe a nice training suit, instead of the shrouds. The children should love Egypt, as opposed to the islamist offsprings, who will regrettably grow up thinking they live in an infidel society where the MB is right.The children should also love the military and the police. He added that islamists really ought to take their kids to a (moderate) mosque, or a club or the market, to teach them to say hello to people and take pictures with officers and on top of tanks. Christians should take their children to the church, he paused to clarify, before finishing his list of the normal family activities a child needs to grow up patriotic.

    All about Sisi

    A few days ago, amidst a flurry of articles about General al-Sisi (see below), someone on Twitter asked me if I would weigh in. I thought I might just begin to write more about what's been taking place over the last month, which I haven't done because I've been on holiday, have not been in Egypt since May, and rather wait till the shrill, hysterical atmosphere in Egypt died down (more on that later).

    Sisi's speech calling for a "popular procuration" to tackle terrorism has made the curiosity about the general justified. By any standards, Sisi – despite having tried hard to emphasize the civilian face of the July 3 coup early on – has taken leadership of the country and President Adly Mansour is an obvious, clearly powerless, fig leaf. Questions about his political ambitions are normal, whether the current media frenzy in his support – including calls for him to run for president – is at his behest or simply the gesticulations of what masquerades as the press in Egypt these days.

    Generally speaking, I find looking at his actions now and in the last year much more instructive than what he may have written in his US Army War College thesis or his behavior as an officer while there. Eric Trager's analysis of that paper, linked below, is right to dismiss the paper as too indicative of anything (although Trager's nonetheless goes to provide some analysis nonetheless, much of it poor; for instance his criticism of Sisi's assertion of the impact of regional conflicts on democracy is odd, considering the obvious impact of war on state resource allocations and economics more broadly – obvious in an Egypt economically devastated by its wars with Israel just as it is in the Western Sahara conflict's impact on the Moroccan economy. But I digress.)

    One can safely ignore the paper as much more than a curiosity (and it's probably best to place it in its context, since it seems to very much address US democracy promotion policies in the shadow of the Afghan and Iraqi wars/occupations) and look at what Sisi has done recently: 

    1. Between February 2011 and August 2012, he maneuvered through a war of succession within the Egyptian military over who would succeed Hussein Tantawy. His position as head of the Military Intelligence put him at odds with both the obvious choice, Chief of Staff Sami Enan, and the head of General Intelligence, Mourad Muwafi. My understanding was that Sisi was Tantawy's personal pick. In any case, he Mubarak's head of Military Intelligence he was a top regime insider and gatekeeper.
    2. Between August 2012 and December 2012, he largely focused on restoring army morale, purging the ranks of senior officers (presumably those whose loyalty he questioned), and withdrawing the armed forces from the political role they had occupied during the SCAF interregnum. His speeches during that period, mostly to the Second and Third Army and to cadets, focused on restoring the armed forces' confidence in themselves and occasionally broached questions of strategy and doctrine (such as reviving long-shelved programs, like long-range missiles.) Even so, the Egyptian military has yet to make any major change in its doctrine, in its threat evaluations, in its procurement, or other factors that an army run for operational readiness (rather than an economic enterprise, social safety net and regime vanguard) might do.
    3. Sisi and the military were not yet ready to assert themselves in December 2012 / January 2013, and quickly scuttled an attempt to act as mediator in the crisis that emerged over Morsi's November 2012 constitutional declaration. Over the next six months, however, the military grew in confidence in speaking out about the country's political situation as Morsi's own position grew more precarious.  Morsi also came to rely on the armed force to a greater extent, notably during their deployment in the Suez Canal zone during the wave of riots there in February and March 2013.
    4. Sisi's growing willingness to speak out in June came in tandem with the success of the Tamarrod campaign, peaking of course with the massive June 30 protests. (Which of course were not 30+ million as so many idiots repeat – but it's interesting that even the army figure, 14m, is quite inflated.) How much coordination there was between the military and that campaign (or those opposition figures that supported it) is open to question, but my gut feeling is that the military made the decision to topple Morsi quite late. It's quite likely that some late events, such as Morsi's speech endorsing jihad in Syria, pushed them to act. But yet again the overall feeling is that Sisi was cautious, trying (in his own view even if Morsi did not see it as such) to give the administration and the MB a way out.
    5. Such caution will probably determine whether or not he runs for president – in other words, he'll wait and see. My understanding is that since August 2012, Sisi has not appointed anyone to replace himself as head of military intelligence (that may have changed more recently). Leaving his current post, now seen as the real power in Egypt, to don a suit and run for president may be risky. The post-Mubarak era is in some respects reminiscent of what happened during the Mamluk era when a powerful sultan died:  sometimes it took a few years, and misfires, before a new figure was able to assert itself. Sisi is popular now, but many (even among conservatives or felool types) were stunned by his speech. The inner sanctum of the Egyptian regime, the top ranks of the military, may not be secured enough to allow for a presidential bid at this stage. Indeed, across the officer corps at large there may be genuine reluctance to be dragged into directly governing again, for all the contempt they probably have for civilians at this stage.

    Conclusion: things are just too uncertain in Egypt right now to judge whether Sisi wants to be president – even if he is popular. It certainly seems like a possibility in a way it never was for Tantawi. But it is also a high-risk strategy, one that may become necessary to galvanize the regime if it becomes more embattled (against Islamists, against the West, etc.) but that will not be necessary at all for Sisi, and his clique of officers, to remain broadly in control of the country, but without frontline exposure.