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Old 11-22-2011   #301
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Default Arab Spring becoming Arab Summer?

http://news.yahoo.com/protesters-rej...213902113.html

Quote:
Egypt's military ruler promised Tuesday to speed up a presidential election to the first half of 2012 and said the armed forces were prepared to hold a referendum on immediately shifting power to civilians — concessions swiftly rejected by tens of thousands of protesters in Tahrir Square, who chanted, "Leave! Leave!"

The latest standoff plunged the country deeper into crisis less than a week before parliamentary elections, the first since the ouster nine months ago of longtime authoritarian leader Hosni Mubarak.
This was of course inevitable, as various factions jockey for power in the post-Mubarak era. I certainly hope nobody is contemplating intervention, but it will be worth watching how the situation plays out. Transitions out of dictatorship are complicated and very challenging, and we've a fair number to observe these days.
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Old 11-23-2011   #302
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I think the Egyptian military liked the status they enjoyed under Mubarak far more than the one they inherited (and that we pushed for in demanding that Mubarak step down).

They don't want to be in charge, but they don't want to end up in a position worse than what they once enjoyed.

As Dayuhan points out, these things are complicated. When dictators fall it is almost always far more the end of the beginning, rather than the beginning of the end.
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Old 11-23-2011   #303
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The danger I see for the US is that if the Muslim Brotherhood gains a substantial slice of the Parliament (they probably will) some elements of the military might wave that as a red flag and try to coax the US into supporting continued military dominance as "the only alternative" to what will be styled as "terrorist rule" or "rule by supporters of and sympathizers with AQ".

I hope we don't fall for it. I'd much rather see the Brothers in Parliament then out on the streets, excluded from power and organizing a rebellion against a tenuous military regime with no shadow of legitimacy.
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Old 11-23-2011   #304
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Agreed. Any solution, no matter how bad in our eyes, that the majority of Egyptians want and recognize, is better than any siltation, no matter how great we think it is, if not so viewed by the Egyptian people.

This is a low trust environment, as is often the case. As a transitional mechanism, the people (and the US) trust their military. Clearly for the people this trust is melting as this transition lingers on. The US Constitution was designed to create a mechanism that diverse people could trust in when they had nothing else that they could. So to the quota system in Lebanon that ensures that no single interest group grows too powerful. Egypt needs a new trust mechanism that makes sense to them. Not us. That should be the 50 meter target.

As an aside, the current Egyptian Defense Attache in Washington is an old friend who I worked and lived with for months during the first Gulf War. I will get to see him a gain in a couple weeks for the first time since the end of the ground war, where parted and went our separate ways. I look forward to catching up and discussing such things with him. What I learned then, was that how the US and how Egyptians see things are startlingly different. We need to respect that difference.
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Old 11-23-2011   #305
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Originally Posted by Bob's World View Post
Egypt needs a new trust mechanism that makes sense to them. Not us. That should be the 50 meter target.
Agreed... but I'd add that this mechanism will not spring full-blown onto the scene. It will evolve, and the process of its evolution is likely to be messy and frustrating. There may be times when we are tempted to try and manipulate or direct that process. I hope we'll resist that temptation, because if we don't we're likely (IMO as always) to set it back or derail it completely.
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Old 11-24-2011   #306
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Default Where is the pressure on the SCAF is coming from?

One of the best comments I've seen on the developing situation in Egypt as we return here in the UK to 'live' media coverage of Tahrir Square and sometimes tiny film clips from others cities than Cairo - oh yes from Australian Lowy Institute too:http://www.lowyinterpreter.org/post/...or-reflux.aspx

Nor has this aspect, with my emphasis been covered:
Quote:
Last Friday the Brotherhood and other Islamist groups took to the streets, ostensibly to protest the SCAF's moves to impose a set of supra-constitutional principles that would limit civilian control of the military and enshrine the latter's ability to intervene in politics. But they quickly lost control of the protest to the second and more vehement source of opposition to the SCAF: namely, the amorphous revolutionary youth who were at the forefront of the 25 January uprising and whose patience with the SCAF's transitional rule has been running out quickly ever since.
I noted in the coverage the return of large numbers of riot police and sometimes the front-line part played by the military police - with the same old tactics.
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Old 11-26-2011   #307
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Default Egypt's army is hijacking the revolution

A London-based RUSI analyst adds:
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This week, Egypt exploded for one simple reason: its army crossed the line. The Egyptian military, buoyed by its apparent role as saviour of the revolution, judged that it could manipulate the country’s democratic transition to keep its privileges intact. It was wrong...
How about this:
Quote:
In short, SCAF, led by the increasingly mistrusted Field Marshal Tantawi, wants to create a political model resembling the Turkey of the 1980s or Pakistan of today – an eviscerated democracy with no control over its national security policy, weighed down by a bloated and self-serving military-industrial apparatus.
On the US stance:
Quote:
Meanwhile, the United States has responded with a staggeringly facile policy. It calls or "restraint on all sides", as if blame for the crisis can be shared around equally.
Link:http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worl...evolution.html
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Old 11-26-2011   #308
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David:

Your last two comments, INMO, accurately reflect the problems and their scope.

The underlying issue is demographic/economic: Huge wells of young people, reasonably well-educated and informationally connected confronting a staid old despot/military structure that just does not function to address the challenges of the masses, or their aspirations (basically, a job, a little bit of freedom, and a some self-worth).

The Arab Spring, as a beginning, is a challenge for large-population Arab countries to find new societal structures for the future. A huge challenge, including to move beyond the many external myths of desert and tribe. Islam flourished in the past as a large, complex, wisdom-right,urban, and international trading empire, so religion is not the limitation.

From here, the endless press coverage of who is in the seat of power this week (or just behind it pulling strings), and whether military or proto-civilian is a diversion.
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Old 12-04-2011   #309
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Default Six-and-a-half minutes of jerky video

From The Guardian and with a strong dose of drama in the language used and assessment of it's value:
Quote:
But although future historians looking back at this period will have ample primary source material available – from a mountain of ballot papers to the hundreds of hours of footage covering rallies in Tahrir Square – their most important asset may prove to be six-and-a-half minutes of jerky video, shot by Bahgat from the heart of the violence.

The film, which consists of a series of clips made over several days at the height of the unrest, directly contradicts many of the claims made by the ministry of interior regarding the type of weaponry deployed by its troops and its insistence that only "reasonable force" has been used to confront protesters.

Better than anything produced by more conventional media outlets, the footage captures the dramatic reality of Cairo's recent clashes. It is also one of the most intense recordings of guerrilla warfare ever produced and has rapidly become a viral sensation, clocking up over 100,000 hits on YouTube.
Link to article:http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011...square-clashes

The YouTube link:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T9JmBTotCWQ

There is an assessment of the revolution that will linger IMHO with the 'guardians':
Quote:
Meanwhile, a police gunman who was caught on camera apparently targeting a protester's eye – prompting cheerful congratulations from his colleagues – has turned himself in after revolutionaries pasted "Wanted" pictures of him across the capital.
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Old 12-04-2011   #310
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Default The writer above quoted has provided a real gem...

Quote:
It is also one of the most intense recordings of guerrilla warfare ever produced and has rapidly become a viral sensation, clocking up over 100,000 hits on YouTube.
He and I have wildly different ideas of what might constitute "intense."

Obviously poorly trained and shotgun armed police could never mount much more than reasonable force or a semblance thereof. That lad really needs to get out more...
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Old 12-14-2011   #311
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Default Trying to make sense of the elections

An IISS Strategic Comment, that includes:
Quote:
The Muslim Brotherhood’s political arm, the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), won over 36% of the vote.......

The real surprise, however, came from the hardline Salafist Nour party, which won 24% of the vote. Long absent from formal politics but focused on preaching their puritanical interpretation of Islam, the Salafis at first seemed fragmented. But this weakness was overcome by considerable resources, good organisation and relentless identity-based campaigning. Pious but so far politically inactive Egyptians came out in support of the Salafis. Many conservative Egyptians traditionally attracted to the Brotherhood probably shifted their votes to the Salafis despite significant political and doctrinal differences between the two groups...

The main liberal coalition, known as the Egyptian Bloc, came third with only 13% in the first round. Together with smaller groups, secular parties gained a meagre fifth of the vote.
Link:http://www.iiss.org/publications/str...-to-democracy/
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Old 12-30-2011   #312
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An Egyptian army officer's diary

Quote:
...
After Mubarak fell and the rule of Scaf (Supreme Council of the Armed Forces) began, the top brass moved quickly to secure the loyalty of all mid-level and junior officers. Whenever a big Friday street demonstration or rally in Tahrir Square took place we would all receive a bonus of between 250 and 500 Egyptian pounds (£26-52), whether or not we had anything to do with policing the protests.

It's ridiculous; at the height of the unrest reserve officer salaries doubled and everyone was getting huge bonuses all the time (an average of 2,400 pounds – £254 – for me in January and February). Most full-time officers didn't really care what was happening politically on the streets, they were just happy with the extra money. Occasionally though you'd hear guilty jokes about how we were the only people who were benefiting from the revolution and the Egyptian people had been screwed over ...

That was especially obvious during the Maspero events [a protest by Coptic Christians and their supporters on 9 October which was attacked by the armed forces, leaving 27 dead]. The media, army and interior ministry have always worked hand in hand for their personal goals, and in this instance they worked to escalate the fitna [an Arabic word denoting chaos and division] between Muslims and Christians, and there was a great deal of ignorance and confusion within the ranks. The Christian minority are seen by many – inside the army and outside – as less important, so they were an easy target. You have to bear in mind that for the most part, officers only watch mainstream Egyptian television and so they never see the YouTube videos showing the darker side of Scaf. They're in denial.

But as the months went on, despite this ignorance and the generous bonus system, dissent against [Egypt's commander-in-chief and current head of Scaf, Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein] Tantawi has grown. Most of the mid-level officers now think of him as Mubarak's right-hand man, and they hate the fact that Scaf's violence has tarnished the army's image in the eyes of the public. Many still disapprove of the current protests because they feel it's not the right time, and also because they're resentful that others can go and demonstrate on the streets when they themselves do not have such freedom. But that attitude is beginning to change, especially as independent TV channels have been airing video clips of the recent violence and the brutality of the security forces is being openly discussed by people like [prominent media personalities] Yosri Fouda and Ibrahim Eissa. More and more mid-level officers are turning against Scaf, and against Tantawi."
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Old 06-14-2012   #313
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I'm no expert on Egypt, but this looks to me like bad news:

http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/articl...&type=politics

Quote:
Egypt court dissolves Islamist-led parliament

Judges appointed by Hosni Mubarak dissolved the Islamist-dominated parliament Thursday and ruled his former prime minister eligible for the presidential runoff election this weekend — setting the stage for the military and remnants of the old regime to stay in power.

The politically charged rulings dealt a heavy blow to the fundamentalist Islamic Brotherhood, with one senior member calling the decisions a "full-fledged coup," and the group vowed to rally the public against Ahmed Shafiq, the last prime minister to serve under Mubarak.
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Old 06-20-2012   #314
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Default Army misrule is turning Egypt into Pakistan

As SWC readers will know we have watched and commented upon the twists and turns of Pakistani decision-making for a long time; not once has Pakistan been likened to Egypt.

Shashank Joshi, from RUSI, has done this op-ed piece, which opens with:
Quote:
The revolution has been cancelled. Everyone go home. It was all a big misunderstanding.

That is the message of Egypt’s military junta who, having hijacked their country’s political future, are turning it into a new Pakistan: a self-destructive and stagnating military dictatorship, limping along in sporadic democratic spurts. It is a squalid and tragic outcome for a country that should have been leading a political renaissance of the Arab world.
He ends with:
Quote:
There is a warning here for outsiders, too. The United States bears some responsibility for feeding the military monster in Pakistan, over the years in which it preferred to funnel cash and weapons to the army in return for short-term co-operation.

Today, Washington should make a different choice in Egypt. It should tell the generals that the billions of dollars of American aid they receive every year, and the cutting-edge tanks and jets, will be conditional on a swift, meaningful and irreversible handover to elected civilians. That won’t fix everything, but it might buy time for a political process to take hold. The junta will respond by threatening to tear up the peace treaty with Israel, but this bluff has grown old. It should be ignored.

Ultimately, it is for Egyptians to decide whether they take to the streets once more, and risk further and perhaps futile bloodshed, or accommodate to military tutelage
Link:http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worl...-Pakistan.html

The hopes of an 'Arab Spring' leading to a better future for the people living there have dulled, in other places are being extinguished and largely for reasons of state have the West has looked away.

For a more detailed examination of the scene in Egypt try:http://www.opendemocracy.net/andrea-...ion-to-nowhere

I noted the point that the generals are the "old guard", anxious to retain their power and wealth. So much so they could actually unite the opposition around democracy, human rights and ejecting the generals - or more fitting "back to barracks".
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Old 06-20-2012   #315
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Quote:
Originally Posted by davidbfpo View Post
The hopes of an 'Arab Spring' leading to a better future for the people living there have dulled, in other places are being extinguished and largely for reasons of state have the West has looked away.
The prologue to an edition of This American Life from last spring is apropos.
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Old 06-20-2012   #316
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The military appears to be betting that it can pull a Pakistan and essentially strip all meaningful power away from the presidency and the legislature.

In return, the Brotherhood has returned to Tahrir. One wonders if the people will be behind them, and for how long. But then again, who would have bet on the people getting this far?

The Obama Administration appears to be willing to let SCAF gut what remains of Egypt's revolution. I suppose the experience of Pakistan hasn't taught them much - or perhaps they simply want to avoid a major Middle East crisis ahead of elections? I don't think events are going to wait for them, though.
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Old 06-20-2012   #317
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Quote:
Originally Posted by davidbfpo View Post
The hopes of an 'Arab Spring' leading to a better future for the people living there have dulled, in other places are being extinguished and largely for reasons of state have the West has looked away.
The initial "Arab Spring" was never going to be more than the first act of a long-running drama. It may yet have kicked off movement toward a better future, but it's going to take some time and some mess to get there. It was never likely that there was going to be a direct transition from dictatorship to the elusive better future.

The West may well be looking away, but I'm not convinced that's a bad thing. Not much the West can or should do to influence the events playing out; it's something Egyptians need to work out for themselves.

Trying to force the Brothers out of power is IMO a bad idea, safer to have Islamists or Communists in Parliament than out on the streets, but MO means exactly nothing...
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Old 06-20-2012   #318
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Quote:
The West may well be looking away, but I'm not convinced that's a bad thing. Not much the West can or should do to influence the events playing out; it's something Egyptians need to work out for themselves.
The West (well, the US) is not going to be able to avert its eyes and be seen as neutral - not when we subsidize the Egyptian military to the tune of $2 billion per year.

The fate of that $2 billion should be in question now, IMO.
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Old 06-21-2012   #319
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Originally Posted by tequila View Post
The fate of that $2 billion should be in question now, IMO.
Completely agree, but don't think for a minute that the generals will hand over power just because we move our money elsewhere, even if we do. First they'll take the line that we need them to contain Islamic extremism. If that doesn't work, they'll make their money elsewhere. Not that hard to do when you're running a country.

The US pays Egypt to not fight Israel, not to move toward democracy. We may choose to renegotiate that deal, but the other party has choices too.
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Old 06-21-2012   #320
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Default Sounds like a poor investment to me.

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Originally Posted by Dayuhan View Post
[T]hey'll take the line that we need them to contain Islamic extremism.
Excellent job they’ve done on that score thus far.
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