Saturday, August 31, 2013

The Muddle East

Everything is the Middle East is the fault of USA and Israel .. and if you dig deeply you will also find British hands too, this is the accepted conventional wisdom in this wonderful region. So let’s now move on to get some clarity on what has been going on in this great neighborhood. 

The Muslim Brotherhood was formed in Egypt in late 1920’s as Islamist resistance against the  British… Between the 1920’s and the 1950’s the Brotherhood cooperated alternately with Nazi Germany, the British and the Egyptian King …lots of interesting history, lots of accusations and smoking guns, sometimes a bit more!

The British used the Muslim Brotherhood against Nasser and Egyptian army in the 1950's ... but the Muslim Brotherhood were fierce fighters against the British before 1952!

Starting from the 1960's Saudi Arabia and the USA became the main backers of the Muslim Brotherhood, seeing them as counterbalance to Nasser and Egypt which was then in alliance with the Soviets pushing socialist Arab nationalism, dangerous stuff!

Egypt and Israel went into wars in 1948, 1956, 1967 and 1973, but have signed a peace treaty in1979 and have since then been at peace…

Egypt’s Nasser helped Start the PLO and Fateh to combat Israel in the 1960's ... 

Israel countered by supporting the establishment of Muslim Brotherhood in Palestine to be known as Hamas as counter balance to the PLO ... later Hamas turned on Israel..

Everyone is scared of Iran ...

Iraq and Iran had a ten year war then Iraq invaded Kuwait ..everyone then invaded Iraq ..Iraq fired rockets on Israel ..

Qatar, a country with immense wealth and very few people, was worried that Saudi might just take it, so it became buddies with Iran and started Al Jazeera Satellite TV

Iran hates the USA ...

Qatar invited the USA to have massive military base, the largest US airbase in region, is now in Qatar, the most friendly Gulf Arab State to Iran ...

Qatar helps Hamas, but has minimal animosity towards Israel, indeed some commercial ties ...

Iran hates Egypt, USA and Saudi so it is siding with the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt ...

USA is neutral on Egypt, gets blamed by both liberals and Islamists for supporting the other side ...

In Syria, Iran and Russia fight the Muslim Brotherhood and Al-Qada and other non Islamist Sunni forces ...

AlQada is off shot of Muslim Brotherhood who thought it too moderate, they occasionally ally again. One has a green flag, the other a black flag .. Both flags could be seen in Pro Muslim Brotherhood and pro Morsi marches in Egypt … 

Saudi Arabia supports Egypt against Muslim Brotherhood, Qatar supports Muslim Brotherhood against Egypt ....

Israel is, largely, minding its business, building more settlements and facts on the ground ...  The Palestinians are divided .. Hamas like the Muslim Brothers in Egypt and Syria and the PLO like Egypt and Saudi, later is supporting Syria Muslim Brotherhood.....

Anything that goes wrong is blamed on Israel and the USA so don't tire your brain if you are from the muddle east, it's easy!

And if you are American, the mission in Syria is very clear, as you can see from this tidy picture of the Muddle East, so let's bomb Syria!

August 31, 2013

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Was The Massacre At Rabaa A Surprise?

Was the massacre at Rabaa a surprise? Could the outcome  have been different?

Short answer is no!

This conclusion results from a basic understanding of the fundamental structure of Egyptian Police and the Egyptian Ministry of Interior (MOI).  A structure that was designed to protect the state from the citizens rather than protecting the citizens as its core mandate. Following are some thoughts I have on the topic
1. Use of conscripts: The vast majority of the the central security “soldiers” are conscripts. I was once told that at conscription intake times, all university graduates automatically get assigned into the army, then  the remainders are asked, who is literate and who is illiterate and the ones who can’t answer the question are the ones that taken for Central Security. I am not trying to mock them, but simply state that it is often, the poorest, least educated, and probably least intellectually capable are the ones that do wind up at the MOI and its Central Security apparatus.
2. Training of soldiers and indeed officers at Egyptian militaristic institution is all based on compliance and the use of humiliation to gain this compliance. The recruits are frequently beaten, imprisoned, tortured  to ensure their compliance. The compliance could be over cleaning an officer’s car, shining his shoes or picking his groceries, could even be for their staff officers who are often the nastiest. 
3. Egyptian police structure is fully like that of an army, national structure, four year college officers, including extensive study of law accompanied by beating and abuse of those who don’t comply with instructions, not exactly the best of times, to let topics like human rights sink in. Officers graduate and move up the ranks, Captain, Colonel, Brigadiers, all the way to Generals. Most leave traditional policing, for extended periods, to engage in other functions within the MOI: ID cards, car registrations, drivers license,  permits, prisons and countless other administrative tasks that make up the huge MOI Empire. A police general may be some twenty years removed from any traditional policing work. Contrast this with simple city based policing, where police officers receive qualify within 6 to 12 months and remain fully focused on policing in their own communities, with this huge cadre of police officers and hundred of thousands of illiterate police foot soldiers.

4. Egypt MOI and Policing in Egypt operates on a national level, so an officer from Alexandria is assigned to Aswan, then Mansoura then Port Said etc. and is almost never allowed to work within his own immediate community in actual policing work. A throw back to the days of the colonialists, when the British and French Administrations rotated their people lest they went native on them and became too attached to the communities they were there to control. This also offers the MOI a tool of reward and punishment, so an officer from Cairo who may take human rights a bit too seriously gets despatched to the Gaza border until he cools down.

The above factors and doubtless, many others are what lead me to conclude that, until fully re-engineered from the grounds up, it will be hard to expect different results from the MOI than what we have witnessed over the last few years. If the protest is armed, partially armed or even lightly armed as the Muslim Brotherhood defendants claim Rabaa was, then the blood letting would indeed be worse. We should not forget that hundreds of protesters died in the early days of Jan25 revolution and, there was no dispute that, those were indeed peaceful unarmed protestors.

Until the Police and MOI structures are fundamentally altered to resemble that of a modern police force, expect more mass needless killings, more torture and more brutality. Sadly President Morsi had the mandate to do just that; to reform the MOI, but he failed to get serious reform even on the agenda. Indeed Morsi praised the role of the police during Jan25 and pursued a policy of appeasement and coaptation with the MOI. 

August 23, 2013

Friday, August 23, 2013

Egypt’s Duck Problem

I love the American saying “if it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck and it looks like a duck it’s got to be a duck” for those that don’t get it, perhaps a briefing on the duck test may help. The Egyptian Government and many Egyptians continue to be baffled as to why most of the world outside continues to view the dismissal of Mohamed Morsi from his role as the president of Egypt on July 3, 2013 as a military coup.

Morsi did not want to leave office, he was adamant on staying on as president of Egypt, against the will of the masses and his obvious loss of any mandate. The Egyptian Military gave Morsi a week’s notice and then another 48-hour last chance, but Morsi wouldn’t willingly step down, or call an early election, or a referendum on his remaining in office. Finally, Egypt top generals informed Morsi that he was no longer president and that he was to be taken by the military for safekeeping. It is very hard for any objective person to name the manner of deposing Morsi as anything other than a military coup.

The Egyptian Military and the virtually all Egyptian politicians argued that deposing Morsi should not be considered a coup, because the military only acted to prevent a civil war and that unprecedented numbers of Egyptians were rising against Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood. There was considerable debate over how many millions of Egyptians actually hit the streets on June 30, 2013 to call for the removal of Morsi from power. Estimates of the size of demonstrations ranged from six millions to over thirty million Egyptians on the streets demanding Morsi’s ouster. Many argued that the mass Cairo demonstration exceeded the previously largest known gathering of protest in human history, the demonstrations in Rome on February 15, 2003 against the Italian participation in the Iraq War.

To western liberal ears, the size of the demonstrations is largely immaterial, in a democracy, the masses get a chance to vote and turf out their leaders. Indeed those mass demonstrations in Rome failed to halt Italy’s participation in George W Bush’s Coalition of The Willing! So while Egyptians kept on saying, it is not a military coup and we have massive support to remove Morsi from power, devout democrats kept hearing military coup to remove an democratically elected president, anger and recriminations ensued. The western liberals accused the Egyptian liberals of being no democrats, sore losers, who are fundamentally ignorant of democracy. On the other hand, most Egyptians defaulted into conspiracy theories and played the jingoistic card to suggest alignment of interests between The West and the Muslim Brotherhood.

As a supporter of the June 30 protest and a participant in the Tamrrod campaign to impeach Morsi, I am baffled by this inability of the Egyptian Government and Egypt’s liberals to communicate their case more effectively. Yes, I do support the military coup that removed Morsi from power! And yes, I do call it a military coup! The removal of Morsi was ultimately a result of his own coup on legitimacy and assuming dictatorial powers to force an Islamist Constitution down the throat of the Egyptian people. The mass protests started against Morsi following his dictatorial and illegal assumption of judicial and legislative powers in November 2012, Morsi had many months to fulfill his promise of compromise and amending the constitution, but failed to do so, failed to commence any serious dialogue and was proceeding deeper down a path of gaining more control of various institutions of the state. Despairing of Morsi moving to return to legitimacy and reversing his own coup, we Egyptians had no choice but to stage our own coup to return the country to democracy. Did the military and various institutions of the state facilitate and aid the campaign against Morsi? Yes, but they only did so, after sensing the deep anger and hatred we, ordinary Egyptians, who had earlier looked at Morsi with hope, ultimately turned against him

There is serious risk that the militant struggle between Islamist forces and the state would help usher in a new military dictatorship and Egypt’s War on Terror would wind up being the excuse to suppress freedoms, in the name of security. The anti Morsi coalition that took to the streets on June 30, 2013 encompassed a broad spectrum of views, from those who long to the return to the Mubarak era, to true and genuine advocates of democracy, equality and justice. It helps to call things by their true names to minimize chances of entering an 1984 like era, and hence let’s start out by saying why we support our military coup. Let's all say, I know it's a only coup but I like it! 

August 23, 2013