Saturday, August 17, 2013

Egypt -- Weekend Reading List

I'm compiling these links in a single blog post. Each deserves separate treatment, but hopefully Google is meticulous enough to discover them the context of the last seventy-two hours.

The list properly begins with Rami Khouri's hopeful remarks.
For readers who missed it I copied the whole column yesterday. 

 When Political Clods Collide
by Rami G. Khouri
Released: 17 Aug 2013

BEIRUT -- Thursday of this week was a bad day in modern Arab history. The four leading Arab cities of recent eras -- Baghdad, Damascus, Beirut and Cairo -- simultaneously were all engulfed in bombings and urban warfare, mostly carried out with brutal savagery and cruelty against civilians in urban settings. Even more problematic is that the carnage was predominantly the work of locals, not foreign invaders or predators. 
[More at the link.] 
► Juan Cole's blog post is a must-read. 
Ten reasons Washington    won't    is reluctant to cut aid to Egypt...
 It’s not about Democracy: Top Ten Reasons Washington is Reluctant to cut off Egypt Aid
another 80 people died in violence in Egypt on Friday, as Muslim Brotherhood crowds protested the military crackdown on their sit-ins that cost hundreds of lives this week. Some of the violence resulted fro police heavy-handedness, some from an armed Brotherhood attack on a police station. The continued unrest upped the pressure on the Obama administration to cut off military aid to Egypt. It is the only legal and ethical thing to do, but here are some reasons it has been difficult for Washington to take that step.

1. The US doesn’t give much aid to the Egyptian people per se. Only $250 mn a year out of $1.55 bn is civilian. The aid is to cement a relationship between the Egyptian officer corps and the Pentagon.

2. The military aid, $1.3 billion a year, is mostly in-kind, a grant of weaponry . It must be spent on US weapons manufacturers. It is US arms manufacturers like Lockheed-Martin and General Dynamics (and their employees) who would suffer if it were cut off.

3. The Congress gave the Egyptian Generals a credit card to buy weapons, and they’ve run up $3 billion on it for F-16s and M1A1 tanks. If the US cancelled aid, the US government would still have to pick up that bill.

4. Even most of the civilian aid is required to be spent on US goods and materiel. It is corporate welfare for the US

5. The aid was given as a bribe to the Egyptian elite to make nice with Israel. Given the chaos in Sinai, and Egypt’s instability, Congress is more worried about that issue than at any time in 40 years.

6. The Israelis asked the US not to suspend the aid.

7. Congress even structured the economic aid to require some of it help joint Israeli-Egyptian enterprises in Egypt, so some of the aid to Egypt actually goes to . . . Israel.

8. It is not generally recognized, but the Egyptian military provides a security umbrella to Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the UAE against Iran (and sometimes Iraq). The Gulf oil states also have powerful Washington lobbies and want Egypt to continue as a Gurkha force. Children, can you say oil?

9. Many in Congress don’t actually disagree with the generals’ actions in overthrowing the Muslim Brotherhood-backed Freedom and Justice Party and driving it underground, since they agree it is a terrorist organization

10. Behind the scenes Egyptian military intelligence has helped the US track down Muslim extremists and in the Mubarak era ran black sites where they tortured suspected al-Qaeda for Washington. The US deep state would like to ramp that relationship back up.

1. Lockheed Martin
Amount: $259 million
2. DRS Technologies
An Egyptian army Apache helicopter flies over
a crowd of pro-military demonstrators
 in Tahrir Square in Cairo on July 26, 2013.
(Ed Giles/AFP/Getty Images)
Amount: $65.7 million

3. L-3 Communication Ocean Systems
Amount: $31.3 million

4. Deloitte Consulting
Amount: $28.1 million
5. Boeing
Amount: $22.8 million
6. Raytheon
Amount: $31.6 million

7. AgustaWestland
Amount: $17.3 million

8. US Motor Works
Amount: $14.5 million

9. Goodrich Corp.
Amount: $10.8 million
10. Columbia Group
Amount: $10.6 million

Andy Carvin is an NPR reporter. His name is not on this list but he passed it along anyway. Anyone following all these names via Twitter will be very well-informed indeed. I scored six out of twenty-three which I think is not too bad. 
If Rami Khouri sez something is important, it's important. And here he points to a short NY Times piece by Rick Gladstone.

The ferocity of the attacks by security forces on Islamist protesters in Cairo this week appears to have been a deliberate calculation of the military-appointed government to provoke violence from the Muslim Brotherhood and its allies, a number of Arab and Western historians of Middle East politics said Friday. 
The objective, they said in interviews, was to demonize the Islamists in the eyes of Egypt’s broader populace, validate the July 3 ouster of the Islamist president and subvert any possibility that dialogue would reintegrate the Muslim Brotherhood into Egypt’s mainstream politics. 
While many said it seemed premature to call the violence in Egypt a precursor to civil war, they said the hatreds unleashed on all sides presaged a possible future of low-level insurgency by embittered, alienated Islamists. Some drew parallels to Algeria, where the military also intervened to subvert Islamist ascendance in democratic electoral politics more than two decades ago, leading to a horrific period of mayhem and repression.
Gladstone's list points to several other commentators, but this reference to Issandr el-Amrani jumped out at me. I have followed this guy for years and long before I found out his real identity I already knew he read everything by everybody the moment it got published. He's an awesome analyst and that is not a word I use often. 
“The crackdown on the 14th was intended to provoke the Islamists to react violently — I’m fairly convinced of that,” said Issandr el-Amrani, a journalist and political analyst who blogs as the Arabist, a widely followed Web site. “If you look at what happened since the July 3 coup, the international community wanted to see some kind of compromise arrangement, and I think the military in Egypt felt trapped by that, felt that it would have to make concessions.” 
Mr. Amrani, a Moroccan American who has lived in Egypt for years, said he believed there had been “an understanding between the military and the security services, whose entire history has been against the Muslim Brotherhood, and the secularists, who saw this as a historic chance to put the Muslim Brotherhood out of business.” 
While the consequence might return Egypt to another era of repression, he said, “they felt they could live with that — there would not be any sharing of power with the Islamists.”
Others are listed making excellent observations for the reader who has time.

►Joseph Dana is another journalist whose opinions I value. Again, if he passes along a link it's worth looking at.

BY Peter Hessler

This rather cynical analysis may be closer to the truth, unfortunately, than most polite observers want to admit. After an opening paragraph we have this...
In Egypt, though, it’s striking how many people expected this violence. In Cairo last month, I met with a foreign diplomat friend, who told me she had heard from security personnel that they would let the sit-ins go on for roughly a month, but would forcibly remove them before the end of August. “It’s Ramadan, so not much is happening, and traffic disruptions aren’t such a big problem,” the diplomat said at the time. She was referring to the Brotherhood’s strategy of organizing daily marches that blocked Cairo traffic. She said that the military would lose patience after Ramadan, which ended last week, and it wanted the city to return to normal before the new school year begins, in September. When I spoke with police, they seemed to accept and even welcome the inevitability of violence. There’s a long history of animosity between the Brotherhood and the security forces, and, in a country with no democratic tradition, officers viewed the protests as an indulgence rather than a right. Last month, I asked an officer in Upper Egypt what he thought about the ongoing Brotherhood demonstrations in Cairo. “If you take a toy away from a child, won’t he fuss for a while?” the officer said. “So let them fuss for a while.” 
But there was always an expectation that eventually the military would draw the line. On Tuesday, when I telephoned a good friend from Cairo, the situation was still peaceful, but he insisted that the military would act within the next two days. He had no inside information—just a sense from the mood on the street. “The Army feels pressure from the people,” he said. “People in Cairo want the Army to do something. They’re saying that the army seems weak if it can’t get rid of the sit-ins.” This morning, after the death toll rose into the hundreds, and the interim government declared a state of emergency, I called my friend again. “Now that we’re in a state of emergency, the police and the army can do whatever they want,” he said. He expected that the majority of Egyptians would approve of this course of action, and blame the Brotherhood for resisting security forces. “The Brotherhood are losing every bit of popular support they once had,” he said. “Nobody is happy with them. There isn’t the least bit of sympathy for them. It’s like dogs dying in the street. Nobody cares.”
And this is how it ends... 
...After the coup last month, I travelled to Upper Egypt, because I was curious to see how people outside the capital interpreted these events. Upper Egypt is home to about forty per cent of the country’s population, and it played an important role in the post-revolution elections, with the Brotherhood winning vast majorities in the region. But most people I talked to last month had discarded their affection for the Brotherhood. “I was very sympathetic to them,” one man told me, in the town of El-Balyana. “I was sympathetic with Morsi until they removed him. And now I’m going to be sympathetic with whoever comes next!” 
“We’re just like football fans here,” an engineer named Mohamed Latif told me, in a village called El-Araba. “When somebody scores, we cheer. But it doesn’t matter. Do you really think that anything we do here matters? Why do you want to talk to us? I voted for Morsi, and I prayed for him, but he failed. I’m against what happened. We should have kept him as an honorary figure. We could have given the power to the Army and others, but left Morsi as the President in name.” 
I asked him if he believed that the coup had been a mistake. “No,” he said. “He failed. I won’t vote for them again. I don’t want democracy.” He continued, “Does China have democracy? How is its economy doing? I don’t care about democracy and freedom.”
Afterthought.  Here is a link to Tank Post, a slightly prescient bit of whimsy I put together last week. Enjoy.
Added later...
It should be noted that not everything published about Egypt is smart and insightful. The Arab world is not responding with one voice by any means. And the Muslim Brotherhood is taking a drubbing, even being tossed into the same basket as modern terrorists, despite a long history of defending the faith. 
Haykal Bafana is one of several people I rely on for reports about Yemen. He's from Singapore but I think his family is from Yemen and he works in Sanaa. He is very smart and well-informed. And if he sez something is loony, you can believe it. 

Riyadh, Amman back Cairo against ‘terrorism’
17 August 2013

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia and Jordan on Friday threw their support behind Egypt as it sought to restore law and order, with Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah calling on Arabs to be united against attempts to destabilize most populous country in the region. 
“The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, its people and government have always stood with the cause of its brothers in Egypt against terrorism, deviation and sedition” King Abdullah said in a message on Saudi television. 
“I call on the men of Egypt, Arab and Muslim nations, the noble scholars, thinkers and conscientious people, men of reason and writers to stand as one and with one heart in the face of attempts to destabilize a country that is in the forefront of Arab and Muslim history,” he said. 
“We have been closely following the developments in our brotherly nation of Egypt. The events there are pleasing only an enemy that hates to see a stable and secure Egypt. On the other hand, it is deeply painful for all who wish to see stability and unity prevailing in Egypt,” the king added. 
“Those who have interfered in its affairs must know that they are stoking the fire of sedition and backing terrorism, which they claim to fight,” the king said, hoping that they would return to their senses sooner than later. 
King Abdullah, stressing the Islamic and Arab character of Egypt,, said: “Somebody’s utterances on the subject will not change the situation. The country has the potential and strength to return to a safe shore. That day, the enemies will realize that they were wrong.” 
Egypt, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates later welcomed the king’s statement. 
Jordanian Minister of Foreign Affairs Nasser Judeh said that his country stands by Egypt in its quest "to impose the rule of law, recover and restore security, safety and stability."
He also stressed Jordan's support for the Egyptian people's will to renounce terrorism and all attempts to interfere in their country's internal affairs. 
In a statement to Petra, Judeh praised the King Abdullah in support of Egypt. Judeh said Egypt remains a key Arab nation and that attempts to tamper with its security and safety have to be resisted.
Anyone still trying to connect the dots should look to Juan Cole's list above, bullet point #8. Children, can you say oil?

And those puzzled why the US aid package is not being used to "teach them a lesson" should be reminded that the amount of American tax money sent to Egypt is pocket change to their oil-rich friends in the neighborhood and that "aid" (which is in reality an infusion into the US economy via the military-industrial complex) would never be missed. It could be replaced in a flash. 

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