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Egypt: Mubarak's violence « Previous | |Next »
February 3, 2011

The current part of the process of political contestation in Egypt may be an end game for the Mubarak regime, but Mubarak is not going any where fast. He is now using his security forces and police to unleash violence against the pro-democracy protesters. He is trying to ride out the protests and to hold on.

Egypt, he says, faces a “choice between chaos and order”. Hence the state-sponsored violence to create chaos----The violence is organized. The army stood by and watched as the pro-Mubarak forces tried to reclaim the streets by spilling blood.

BellSMubarak1.jpg Steve Bell

Mubarak's tactics are to create chaos to justify his continued rule in the name of order. It indicates that Egypt’s order and stability is dependent on coercion and unleashing violence and chaos on the nation’s youth. The violence is a prelude to demands that the army take control to keep the "two sides" apart.

This is the regime and its backers in Washington Plan B, which is to ride out the uprising with their basic authoritarian prerogatives intact. Suleiman and his entourage intend to stage an “orderly, peaceful transition” (to use the Obama administration’s phrase) from the reign of one arbitrary autocrat to another, adorned with the trappings of more liberal democracy.

Simon Tisdall in The Guardian says in reference to the state violence:

This was not the performance of a defeated man. Mubarak may be down but he's not out. And judging by today's events in Tahrir Square, he and the military-dominated clique around him clearly feel they have done enough, for now, to get the Americans off their backs, flex their still considerable muscle, and reclaim the streets for the regime. All the talk about reform and elections and negotiations can wait, whatever Barack Obama says.Today's immediate message to the people from an unvanquished, still vicious regime: it's over – go home, or else.

This is the counter revolution without the mask of reasonableness of the last few days that was worn to keep the Americans at bay. Presumably the army is willing to allow the protests to the point Mubarak would agree to stand down, and for the pro-democracy protesters to accept that concession and go home now.

The protesters are no longer willing to accept an autocracy backed by the US because of Israel and Iran.--ie., Egypt is an anchor of stability in the Middle East. Most secular liberal activists in Egypt reject with contempt the argument that regional stability can come at the expense of their right to choose their government. The problem for the US is that there’s no way for Egypt to be democratic and exclude the Islamists from political participation.

So we have the Muslim Brotherhood conspiracy theory from Fox News, the neocons and the Israel lobby. This holds that this deeply conservative sect is “really” the driving force behind the movement to overthrow Mubarak. The Brotherhood is cast in the role of the Leninists in 1917--ie., the popular protests presage a takeover of Egypt by the Muslim Brotherhood. The subtext is that regime change is bad for a nuclear armed Israel because a more democratic Egypt would be far less willing to keep the Palestinians penned up in Gaza.

Israel, of course, supports the Mubarak regime unquestionably. They want Arab allies to support their long term strategy to have an Arab majority ruled by a Jewish minority between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu responded to the ongoing events in Egypt by urging that "regional stability and security" be preserved and he asked Western governments to work to save the regime of President Hosni Mubarak.

Even if Mubarak continues to hang on, what is clear is that a transition of power is already under way. The structures of a police state have been challenged by the people and found, to the surprise of many, to be weaker than imagined.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 7:02 AM | | Comments (12)


The US's support for Mubarak echoes of the winter of 1978-9, when US and British politicians rushed to Tehran to prop up the shah as millions demonstrated against his brutal regime.

Tony Blair, a neo-con, said that the Egyptian president had been, "immensely courageous and a force for good" – this is a man who has jailed and tortured tens of thousands of political prisoners – because of his role in maintaining peace with Israel.

Change in Egypt had to be "stable and ordered", Blair explained, because the Muslim Brotherhood might be elected and public opinion in the Middle East could "end up frankly with the wrong idea".

Netanyahu's gloomy predictions are that Egypt becomes a new Iran. What then for Israel if Egypt becomes an Islamic Republic ?

The Israelis warn that the right analogy is not with Europe in 1989 but with Iran in 1979. A broad popular uprising, with many secular and leftist elements, is taken over by the Islamists – because they are better organised.

The first reaction by the west to the democratic movement on the street is to evoke the Islamist spectre.

The sight of the Egyptian people throwing off the yoke of tyranny of Mubarak's police state, and courageously demanding free elections, fills the US and Israel with fear. Egypt is heading toward democracy. Big trouble lies ahead.

Why? Because they're Arabs who don't like Israel (which they see as an occupying country) and are motivated by anti-Israeli hatred.

Israel is now hunkering down, frightened of what the future will bring. What if the new government in Egypt revokes the peace treaty? The Muslim Brotherhood is not only taking over Egypt, but also marching on Israel.

The old order in the Middle East is crumbling. Israel is clinging to the old, collapsing regional order of tyrants in the name of preserving "regional stability and security". The tyrants are good because they forcibly repress the radical forces seeking change in the region.

Gary a few independent commentators in the USA whose opinions I respect argue that the army is not doing Mubarek's bidding, but rather the reverse.

The contrast between the conservative response to trouble in the Iranian streets in 2009 and the present situation in Egypt is startling. But Peter provides the explanation: it's not about the welfare of tens of millions of Iranians and Egyptians. It's all about what's best for less than eight million Israelis.

"'s not about the welfare of tens of millions of Iranians and Egyptians...."

Has anyone else noted the shift in the discourse. My goodness, they're not even TRYING to bluff any more.

American Exceptionalism is firmly out there.... loud and proud! No questions asked!

After decades of paying lip service to freedom and democracy, they're hardly even bothering these days.

After aggressively exporting "freedom" to SE Asia, Afghanistan, Central America, and Iraq.... the so-called conservatives have put that pony out to pasture.

Apparently they now feel quite safe in exposing their narrow-minded, self-serving, ill-conceived motivations.

Who needs friends, eh?

The violence unleashed yesterday by Mubarak was predictable--its from the playbook of struggling dictators.

From the US perspective that happened after a series of highly public American warnings against such violence and an immediate, meaningful transition.This violation of clear American public red lines means that there's really no choice for the Obama administration--it cannot go wobbly at this point: Egyptian regime headed by Hosni Mubarak is no longer one with which the United States can do business, and that a military which sanctions such internal violence is not one with which the United States can continue to partner.

So argues Marc Lynch.

What that means is that Obama should announce an immediate suspension of military aid to Egypt, while ordering the Pentagon to send a quiet message to Egyptian military commanders that aid will resume as soon as Mubarak steps down; and that Suleiman governs openly and explicitly as a caretaker ensuring constitutional reforms and September elections.

The Israeli Lobby's take. They can be quite nasty.

For them Israel and its "security" is what is paramount. They see what is happening in Egypt through the clash of civilizations prism--ie.,between Islamic fundamentalism and the Western World. On their account the Muslim Brotherhood's aim is to take over the Egyptian state through the democratic process – and then bring an end to democracy. Then it will annul Egypt's 1979 peace treaty with Israel.

The new Egypt will follow the model of Iran:--ie., become a regime that employs extreme violence to crush their potential and real rivals to maintain power. They see what is happening in terms of Russia 1917 with the Islamists (the Muslim Brotherhood) standing in for Lenin and the Bolsheviks.

I can clearly visualise the conversation between Hosni Mubarak and his Israeli friends:

M. "Well, it's been fun, but the US doesn't love me any more so it looks like I've got to go!"

Israeli: "What? No, Hosni, no, no, no! We still love you, and we want you to stay even after you're dead and mummified. You're our guy for a thousand years!

M. "Yeah, well, thanks, but you know if the US turns against me I'm all washed up!"

Israeli: "Hosni, Mate, leave it to us. You don't need to pay any attention to Obama. He's got a smart mouth but no real political clout. He can talk all he wants, but the US political machine won't follow unless we say so.

M. "Really? You can just tell Obama to go jump in the lake?"

Israeli: "Sure. You've seen us do it before, with the settlements. We can play the US political machine like a piano. Now, Hosni, you just sit tight and leave the Americans to us. In a couple of months all this will seem like just a bad dream..."

we can agree that the resolution of the conflict in Egypt between a popular uprising and an entrenched autocrat currently depends on decisions and actions to be taken by the army.

The army has been the backbone of the state under the three men who have ruled Egypt for the past 57 years--Nasser, Sadat and Mubarak. The army will look after the army and is dependent on the US army for its modern equipment. They have been part of a regime that has been, and is, opposed to radical change.

Mubarak is thumbing his nose at America--get lost. He takes billions from the US and then bites the hand that feeds him. He ain't going nowhere---not matter what the Americans say about him needing to go.

In the Guardian Noam Chomsky writes:

...Washington and its allies keep to the well-established principle that democracy is acceptable only insofar as it conforms to strategic and economic objectives: fine in enemy territory (up to a point), but not in our backyard, please, unless properly tamed.

He adds that a common refrain among pundits is that fear of radical Islam requires (reluctant) opposition to democracy on pragmatic grounds.He responds:
While not without some merit, the formulation is misleading. The general threat has always been independence. The US and its allies have regularly supported radical Islamists, sometimes to prevent the threat of secular nationalism.

The Egyptian protesters are well aware of the close ties between officials in Cairo and Washington and they are not happy about the US training and tear gas shells supplied to the Egyptian police and military.

The US is now backing Omar Suleiman, and the political transition he is leading and calling for a process of orderly reform. The Us is indicating that Mubarak should remain in office through the transition period.

The US's failure to press for Mubarak's immediate resignation will dismay many anti-government protesters who have failed to force the president out despite mass demonstrations across the country.

There is suspicion of Suleiman because of his past, but there is even greater concern that he will serve American interests which, among other things, are believed to be partly about containing the influence of the Muslim Brotherhood