CRISIS IN EGYPT Counter-revolution brought to you by ...
By Pepe Escobar
It will be a long, winding, treacherous and perhaps bloody road before the
popular Egyptian revolution even dreams of approaching the post-Suharto
Indonesian model (the largest, most plural democracy in a Muslim-majority
country) or the current Turkish model (also sanctioned at the ballot box).
brought by the usual suspects; the Egyptian army; Mubarakism's comprador
elites; and the triad of Washington, Tel Aviv and European capitals.
After more than two weeks of protests on the streets of Egypt against President
Hosni Mubarak, this is what the White House's "orderly transition" is all about
- with Washington still playing all sides even as the Egyptian street smashed
the mirror and defied for good the "stability"/terror imposed on it by the dark
The counter-revolution goes way beyond comments by Frank Wisner, a United
States Central Intelligence Agency/Wall Street asset who is US President Barack
Obama's secret agent to Cairo and a personal friend of the Egyptian president,
on the desirability of Mubarak stay and supervise the transition.
It comes across almost casually as Robert Springborg, professor of national
security affairs at the US Naval Postgraduate School, tells Reuters, "The
military will engineer a succession. The West - the US and the EU [European
Union] - are working to that end. We are working closely with the military ...
to ensure a continuation of a dominant role of the military in the society, the
polity and the economy." Translation; erase the people to ensure "stability".
The tent city in Tahrir Square in the capital, Cairo, is very much aware that
decades of Egypt as a US client-state plus endless International Monetary
Fund/World Bank manipulations created the perfect economic storm that was a key
cause of the revolution. That's also a key cause for the street to want -
according to one of its top slogans - the whole regime brought down. Connecting
the dots, the street also knows that a truly representative, sovereign Egyptian
government cripples the entire US-controlled Middle East power arrangement.
Historically, what Washington always really feared is Arab nationalism, not
crackpot self-made jihadis. Arab nationalism is intrinsically, viscerally,
opposed to the 1979 Camp David peace accords, which have neutralized Egypt and
left Israel with a free iron hand to proceed with its slow strangulation of
Palestine; for As'ad Abu Khalil of the Angry Arab website, every Middle East
expert who worked on the accords "helped construct a monstrous dictatorship in
Former Israeli peace negotiator Daniel Levy, now with the New America
Foundation, spells it out further for the New York Times, "The Israelis are
saying, apres Mubarak, le deluge ... The problem for America is, you can
balance being the carrier for the Israeli agenda with Arab autocrats, but with
Arab democracies, you can't do that."
Correction; in fact it's after Mubarak not the deluge but "our torturer" - Vice
President Omar Suleiman, the head of the Mukhabarat, widely dubbed by
protesters "Sheikh al-Torture", after his performance tossing at least 30,000
people in jail as suspected jihadis, accepting CIA renditions, and torturing
the rendered. Innocents among them include Sheikh Libi, who, under torture,
confessed that Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein's goons were training al-Qaeda
jihadis; former US secretary of state Colin Powell had no qualms using this
"information" at his infamous speech to the United Nations in February 2002
justifying war on Iraq.
Throw the bums into the Nile
Essentially, this is what the Egyptian street wants. Mubarak down immediately.
Suleiman starts a national dialogue with an opposition coalition, observed by a
neutral UN delegation. Then a constitutional assembly is established to amend
articles 77, 78 and 88 of the constitution to enable any Egyptian to be a
candidate for the presidency.
The state of emergency (in effect for over 25 years) is lifted. The judicial
system establishes monitoring bodies for future elections. A national coalition
body is established to monitor the transition during the next six months, and
organize elections according to international standards. New guidelines are set
for legal political parties not vetted by Mubarakism's National Democratic
Party (NDP) but by an independent neutral body. The country starts over with
the rule of law and an independent judiciary.
The youth groups central to the revolution go way beyond. They want; the
resignation of the entire NDP, including Suleiman; a broad-based transitional
government appointed by a 14-strong committee, made up of senior judges, youth
leaders and members of the military; the election of a council of 40 public
intellectuals and constitutional experts who will draw up a new constitution
under the supervision of the transitional government, then put it to the people
in a referendum; fresh local and national elections; the end of emergency law;
the dismantling of the whole state security apparatus; and the trial of top
regime leaders, including Mubarak.
The street simply does not trust the self-described "Council of Wise Men" -
which includes secretary general of the Arab League Amr Moussa; Nobel
prize-winner and Obama adviser Ahmed Zuwail; professor Mohamed Selim al-Awa;
president of the Wafd party Said al-Badawi; powerful Cairo businessman Nagib
Suez and lawyer Ahmed Kamal Aboul Magd - who are all in favor of Suleiman
presiding over the "orderly transition", under the pretext that the opposition
leadership is extremely divided and cannot agree on anything. But to believe
that Suleiman will agree to dissolve his own party, dissolve parliament,
dissolve the police state and change the constitution, they must be all under
the spell of an Orientalist opium dream.
For the moment, the new Wafd party (six seats) and Tagammu (five seats) are the
largest regime-approved opposition parties in parliament (518 seats). Then
there's al-Ghad ("Tomorrow"), founded by Ayman Nour (he contested the last
presidential election and ended up in jail). The Generation Y in the streets
views them all as irrelevant; they congregate around the Kefaya ("Enough")
movement, and have just formed a Youth Front for Egypt.
For the moment the only opposition group spelling out key economic demands is
the brand new Egyptian Federation for Independent Unions; they want a monthly
minimum wage of 1,200 Egyptian pounds (about US$204), annual raises matching
inflation and guaranteed rights to bonuses and benefits.
Obviously nothing will change in Egypt without a new constitution capable of
guaranteeing political rights to Copts, Shi'ites, Baha'i, Nubians, Bedouins,
you name it. At the same time, secular Egyptians, Christians, the brand new
Youth Front for Egypt, Nasserists, New Wafd partisans, socialists, all seem to
agree there is no specter of the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) turning Egypt into
sharia law. Superstar scholar Tariq Ramadan, whose grandfather Hasan al-Banna
founded the MB in 1928, stresses this is "completely an ideological projection
to protect geopolitical interests".
The MB by all local estimates does not represent more than 22% of the Muslim
population; so 78% wouldn't vote for them. Egyptian society already practices
what can be considered a very moderate brand of Islam. Islam is the state
religion; the hijab and the niqab are common, as well as the galabiya
And for those brandishing the specter of the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran
(and who obviously cannot tell a Shi'ite from a Sunni) Egypt's social and
religions composition is completely different from Iran's. What's definitely
more revealing is what the Arab world itself considers to be a threat. An
August 2010 Brookings poll showed that only 10% of Arabs regard Iran as a
threat; instead they consider the US (77%), and even more Israel (88%) as the
Allow me to spread you with democracy
The street has pyramids of reasons to worry. All evidence points out to these
days that shook the world evolving towards a Washington-spun definition of
"stability", with an "orderly transition" conducted by a former torturer and
the regime fully in place, buying time, arguing that all crucial constitutional
changes need to be discussed - plus the internal Egyptian argument that Mubarak
cannot step down now either because it's unconstitutional or because then it
would be chaos.
And as the standoff persists - even with the street still fully mobilized -
what passes for dialogue between the regime and a few sectors of the
opposition, including the usurpers of the revolution, is bound to split the
already divided and essentially leaderless protest movement. Washington is not
exactly unhappy. Nor are the EU minions. The EU's foreign policy chief Lady
Catherine Ashton defends Suleiman - with whom she has spoken - as having a
"plan in place" to meet some of the protester's demands. The crucial operative
word here is "some".
Imagine the result of all this sound and fury, the hundreds dead and thousands
wounded by the regime - in addition to the untold thousands eliminated these
past three decades - being this aseptic "orderly transition" conducted by
"Sheik al-Torture", hailed by politicians and corporate media in Washington,
European capitals and Tel Aviv as a democratic victory for the street
revolution/collective will of the Egyptian people.
Minimalist political/economic reforms are already being dangled as rotten
carrots - even as foreign journalists keep being arrested, goons terrorize
protest leaders and state media remains in Animal Farm mode. Egyptian public
opinion is being slowly, methodically split. The military junta is showing no
cracks. Suleiman and Annan are Washington darlings. Defense Minister Field
Marshal Mohammed Hussein Tantawi is Pentagon supremo Robert Gates' darling.
The military dictatorship certainly wants America to keep spreading democracy
in Egypt - as in aid money paying for Abrams tanks assembled in suburban Cairo,
Boeing selling CH-47 Chinook helicopters, Lockheed Martin selling F-16s (a $230
million contract), Sikorsky selling Black Hawks, L-3 Ocean Systems selling
equipment for detection of submarine threats, CAE from Tampa, Florida selling
C-130H weapons system, plus an influx of 450 brand new Hellfire II missiles,
not to mention the very helpful tear gas canisters from Combined Systems Inc
(CSI) in Jamestown, Pennsylvania.
And don't forget those Pentagon contracts showing the US government spent over
$110 million to buy and maintain Mubarak's fleet of nine Gulfstream jets. Those
in Tahrir Square would be wondering whether any one of the Gulfstreams could be
used to jet him to Guantanamo?
A wily counter-revolution is exactly what the revolution needs right now to
remain on maximum alert. When "orderly transition" is finally seen for what it
is, there's a great probability not only Egypt but the whole Arab world will
become a ball of fire.