The Arabist

The Arabist

By Issandr El Amrani and friends.

Al Araby: Mubarak responsible for bombing

Al Araby's page 1 top of the fold screaming red headline today read: "President Mubarak is politically responsible for the return of terrorism." Here is a translation of much of the accompanying article written by the paper's editor-in-chief Abdallah al-Senawy.

Among the stranger theories that have been circulating in some sectors of public opinion is that which blames the terrorist operation at Al Azhar on some state agencies in order to justify the extension of the Emergency Law and justify a strike against the Islamic movements. The notion is almost surreal, closer to a farce. But it is an expression of the growing and dangerous credibility gap between the angry streets and the ruling authorities.

Since the opposition political forces have all gone about denouncing the use of violence and have questioned its goals and motives, what happened at Al Azhar may deepen the crisis in Egypt. The ruling regime may make political use of the terrorist operation which killed foreign tourists to justify dragging its feet towards political reform. It may try to convince the United States to ease up on the pressure, because matters may get out of hand, which would harm the interests of all parties. Washington, however, for its part, may see this operation as evidence that closing all political and social channels of participation breeds terrorism. This is what necessarily means applying stronger pressure to force the Egyptian regime towards rapid political reforms.

The angry forces in the Egyptian street, from its perspective, may look at the dangerous development (the bombing) and consider it evidence of the inability of the Emergency Law to protect Egypt’s security, and may conclude that the slow pace of political and constitutional reform lead to congestion in the streets which allowed violence to return to Egypt. Thus the regime of Hosni Mubarak bares the responsibility for terror’s return to Egypt. The parties to the controversy have staked out their positions and the equation will only become more complex and sensitive. This may lead to chaos with a smell of blood in the air. This here is the entire danger which the ruling regime alone, bares responsibility for, because there is no alternative to total political reform.

Al Senawy mentions the conspiracy theory about the security services being behind what happened at Al Azhar. I had gingerly alluded to the idea in my post following the bombing. Abu Aaardvark put it much more bluntly in his post on the bombing.

Joining Al Araby in pointing the finger of blame at the government was Al Misry Al Yom's Magdy Al Mihana in today's paper:

We have previously mentioned that an individual or a limited number of people were responsible for what happened. But we haven’t previously mentioned the political and security atmosphere Egypt is living in these days—and in which occurred this terrorist act. This atmosphere is present on both the level of political activity, which has witnessed a palpable stifling despite ongoing sessions of what they call a national dialog between the parties, and on the level of security itself.

My fear and the fear of many is that an increase in the acuteness of this political and security suppression will lead to more of these terrorist attacks, attacks for which the state and the security apparatus bare the responsibility— because the state holds the key positions of power, and thus holds the keys to reducing or increasing this acute suppression.

Fearing that Thursday's bombing will be used by the government to curtail democratic reforms, the opposition has decided to go on the offensive, alleging that the lack of democratic reforms is responsible for what happened. It seems to me a clever strategy, that will play well both at home and abroad. It will jive nicely with the post-9/11 conventional wisdom in the US and elsewhere, that oppression breeds terrorism. It is essentially a preemptive strike by the opposition against a possible US retreat on pressuring the Egyptian regime.

Much of what I have been reading lately indicates a growing acceptance of US pressure among the opposition. Ibrahim Eissa's two most recent columns in Al Dostor spring immediately to mind, but even reading Abdallah Al Senawy in Al Araby, the tone seems different to me whenever he's talking about US meddling in Egypt. And this opposition strategy seems to be directed abroad as much as internally.

Al Araby also ran a short interview with an Egyptian judge, talking about discontent with the pace of reform among some Egyptian judges, especially the younger ones. It raised the possibility of a judicial boycott of the elections. A judicial boycott would mean judges would refuse to perform their role as overseers of the electoral process. The interviewed judge, Ahmed Mekki, is vice president of the Court of Cassation. He further added that he hopes that the newly created oversight committee, a part of the new constitutional amendment, will not be composed of judges working in the Ministry of Justice.

The composition of this election oversight committee, which will make many of the key decision concerning the presidential elections, will be one of the hotly debated items between the opposition and the NDP. According to what I've heard and read, the NDP would like to see the committee composed of three judges and four independent public figures. The opposition is insisting that the all seven members be judges. In the words of Abdel Ghafar Shokar, one of the Tegammu Party leaders, "Because our past experience is that the people who say they are independent are not independent. They are people who say they are indpendent but they are not, they are allies of the NDP."

Other signs of a growing opposition campaign.

LONDON, April 4 (Reuters) - Egyptian activists have formed an opposition group in exile in Europe seeking to remove President Hosni Mubarak from office by mobilising public support and international pressure, a spokesman said on Monday.

Ahmed Saber, spokesman for the Save Egypt Front, said the group would coordinate with opposition factions inside Egypt, including the Kefaya (Enough) Movement and the suspended Labour Party.

"We will organise protests outside Egyptian embassies in Europe and the United States, and will mobilise the public through a satellite television channel," said Saber, an academic who runs a financial advising firm in London.

"The (Mubarak) regime has left us with no other choice by refusing a peaceful solution," he told Reuters. Asked if this meant calling for a popular revolt, he said: "Yes. Egypt is not less than a country like Ukraine."

An opposition-run satellite station based in Europe and broadcast in Egypt could make an interesting addition to the dismal Egyptian broadcast media. Muhammad Farid Hassanein, at the helm of the Save Egypt Front, said the station will be up and running by this Fall, in time for the presidential elections.

Al Araby reported today that Saber, an economics professor at the University of London who left Egypt 17 years ago, is an ex-member of the National Democratic Party. Hassanein was one of the first people to declare their intentions to challenge Mubarak for the presidency. His vocal calls for increased US pressure on Egypt, and his recent travels to Israel, however, have scared many people away from his movement-- both among Egyptians abroad and among the opposition inside Egypt. The Kefaya movement has denied publicly in recent days any coordination between the two groups.