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08 February 2011

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walrus

Thank you for your excellent commentary Mr. Al-Misry.

William R. Cumming

Very interesting post. Some reports out of European press indicate arrangements in high-end hotel being made for medical care for Mubarack. More important they seem to confirm that US is deeply involved in negotiations with Mubarack over disposition of his billions.
So would be interesting to know what the military is hoping will happen given the departure one way or another of Mubarack. Again a failure ot accomplish a peaceful transition appears to be in store for Egypt.

FB Ali

Mr Al-Misry (a pseudonym?) does not mention a significant development:

But Mubarak was dealt a significant setback as the state-controlled Al-Ahram, Egypt's second oldest newspaper and one of the most famous media publications in the Middle East, abandoned its long-standing position of slavish support for the regime.

In a front-page leader, the newspaper's editor-in-chief, Osama Saraya hailed the "nobility" of what he described as a "revolution" and demanded that the government embark of (sic) irreversible constitutional and legislative changes. (Report datelined Cairo in The News, Pakistan).

It also seems to me that he is somewhat biased against the MB.

Patrick Lang

FB Ali

Joe the Egyptian. I hope you decide to take up the offer to be a guest author on SST. pl

Clifford Kiracofe

Fascinating insights.

Disturbing as they seem to indicate a possible drift toward the chaotic. MB professors preaching "revolutionary legitimacy" is not a confidence builder. Nor is the giddy incoherence of the middle class "youth" in Tahrir Square.

VP Biden had a frank exchange of views with VP Suleiman:

"In the phone conversation with Suleiman, Biden urged "that the transition produce immediate, irreversible progress that responds to the aspirations of the Egyptian people," according to the White House statement.

It said the two vice presidents discussed "restraining the Ministry of Interior's conduct by immediately ending the arrests, harassment, beating, and detention of journalists, and political and civil society activists, and by allowing freedom of assembly and expression; immediately rescinding the emergency law; broadening participation in the national dialogue to include a wide range of opposition members; and inviting the opposition as a partner in jointly developing a road map and timetable for transition."


If the situation gets too chaotic, one wonders whether we will see a "Turkish" solution: the military just steps in directly. [1960, 1971, 1980] We can also recall Brazil, Chile and so on.

William R. Cumming

General Ali! Please do a regular guest post and reveal many of the poseurs who comment here for their almost total ignorance (ME!)!

FB Ali

Col Lang,

I would be honoured to be a guest author on SST. Thank you!

Lysander

The Generals have chosen to stick with Mubarak and now they are at risk of drowning with him. Here is what I see.

1) The government is not in control. If It was to take control by military force, it needed to do that two weeks ago. Too late now. Resorting to Tienanmen in Tahrir, risks fracturing the army. I hope they aren't dumb enough to try, but VP Suleiman was hinting today he might do exactly that. You can clear out Tahrir with enough riot police, but that doesn't make you win. It will only bring out more protesters.

2) Trying to wear down the protesters and wait them out seemed like an effective plan until today. Now it seems like slow motion suicide. In retrospect it seems obvious. With the wall of fear that kept people at home since 1952 now gone, everyone wants to revel in their new found freedom. When they get used to it, they wont want to give it up.

3) Mubarak can't be saved. If Suleiman wants to at least save himself, he has to toss the old man overboard like a dead rat by the tail. None of this "dignified exit" BS. If he sticks with the "Mubarak will never leave" (And at this rate, September might as well be never since Egypt wont be there anymore) He will drag himself down with him and possibly the whole country.

What can the government do?

1) Dump Mubarak like the aforementioned dead rat.

2) Announce real actual elections with an etched in stone date. Change whatever laws need to be changed to allow a wide number of people to run. Make sure to require a runoff election afterwards, as the MB could win a plurality.

3) Lift the emergency law. Its not like they can enforce it under these circumstances anyway.

4) Above all, preserve the integrity of the army. If they order it to shoot, it will fracture just like the Shah's army did. And then the strongest counterweight to the MB will be lost.

There are no protest leaders to negotiate with. There is no one who can tell the crowds to go home. They can not destroy the protesters. They can only appease them. Whether you like that term or not, it is what it is.

Lastly, the Government always seems to be adopting a strategy that might have worked the week before, but can't work now.

William R. Cumming

Terrific! Let knowledge and experience reign on SST. PL of course already qualifies on that score. And many others.

JohnH

Kiracofe--Do you really believe Biden's account of the conversation with Suleiman? Sounds more self serving spin to me, particularly since it came in the form of a White House statement.

The goal of the US, Israel, and the Egyptian regime is for the regime to rebrand its image ASAP and avoid as much long term polarization as possible.

If Biden said "restrain the MOI's conduct," he most likely meant "be judicious and very, very quiet about the nasty things you must do."

Charles I

Congrats FB. Thanks Pat.

Patrick Lang

JohnH

"he most likely meant "be judicious and very, very quiet about the nasty things you must do."

You have no idea what he meant. you are just being malicious. pl

WILL

Egypt is a "term" of Greek origin for the people of Misr. Likewise the Hellenes never called themselves "Greek," that was a Latin invention.

I don't know if this hebrew etymology squares with the "Egyptian derivation?"

from Easton's dictionary at blueletterbible.com

"Mizraim:

the dual form of matzor, meaning a "mound" or "fortress," the name of a people descended from Ham (Gen 10:6,13; 1Ch 1:8,11). It was the name generally given by the Hebrews to the land of Egypt (q.v.), and may denote the two Egypts, the Upper and the Lower. The modern Arabic name for Egypt is Muzr."

JohnH

I have no idea what Biden said either, only what was published as spin in a White House statement.

Maybe someday Bob Woodward will enlighten us...

WILL

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Egypt#Name

"The ancient Egyptian name of the country is Kemet (km.t) [𓆎𓅓𓏏𓊖], which means "black land", referring to the fertile black soils of the Nile flood plains, distinct from the deshret (dšṛt), or "red land" of the desert.[8] The name is realized as kīmi and kīmə in the Coptic stage of the Egyptian language, and appeared in early Greek as Χημία (Khēmía).[9] Another name was tꜣ-mry "land of the riverbank".[10] The names of Upper and Lower Egypt were Ta-Sheme'aw (tꜣ-šmꜥw) "sedgeland" and Ta-Mehew (tꜣ mḥw) "northland", respectively."

Patrick Lang

will

meem - sod - ra. مصر How do you get "muzr" out of that? pl

Chris

"But the meaning is obvious. If the current constitution is based on the pale interpretation of the separation between Church and state then it might be useful to start talking about this foggy "revolutionary legitimacy".'

I think you are wrong. This has nothing to do with religion. If anything it is unusual for a Muslim Brother to talk this way which is standard revolutionary/insurrectionary theory. If there is revolution, the rime wasting chatter about the minute detail of the, notoriously ignored, constitution cannot be taken seriously.
In real terms there is no Constitution in Egypt and hasn't been since the Emergency 30 years ago.
So don't let us pretend that there is anything sinister about this very commensensical observation by a medical man, who happens to be part of the MB.

Patrick Lang

Chris

When you comment here identify the person you are addressing. pl

Farooq

Saw this interview and it is hard not to get emotional going through the last video part 5

http://thelede.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/02/08/subtitled-video-of-wael-ghonims-emotional-tv-interview/

JohnH

We have few models for Obama's behavior in these circumstances. Sweet words and noble rhetoric conveyed in White House statements are meaningless and reveal nothing about Obama's intentions.

The closest parallel to the current situation was the coup in Honduras, which overthrew President Zelaya to maintain the status quo. At the outset, Obama condemned the coup, which was the first in Latin America in more than a decade. Europe and Latin America quickly condemned it, too.

Obama quickly retreated, doing nothing to seriously challenge the coup, tacitly endorsing the status quo, patiently allowing the regime to consolidate its power, and ignoring massive demonstrations and brutal government repression.

Why would Obama act any differently in Egypt? What would motivate Obama to challenge the status quo, which has served US interests for decades?

The main difference from Honduras is the media. The protests in Tahrir Square have received widespread, positive publicity that the protesters in Honduras never got. Egyptian government goons got negative publicity, while the government goons in Honduras got none.

If Obama wishes to maintain the status quo, which I believe he does, he must primarily manage the perceptions game. He "demands" for reform and restraint.

Reform must be clear but cosmetic, otherwise it risks the status quo. Concessions must be sufficient to convince most Egyptians to go home. And if Egyptians go home, the story disappears. Any Americans who happen to remember the story a week later feel happy about the positive role their government played.

Restraint must also be cosmetic. The government's goons must stop being openly thuggish and start being judicious and very, very quiet.

In Honduras maintaining the status quo required neither reform nor restraint, because the whole event never received any publicity in the US. The government's goons were free to be at their thuggish worst. And no changes were required either, because nobody knew.

To show that Obama is playing anything but a public relations game in Egypt, analysts need to demonstrate that the US (and Israel) have an interest in something besides the status quo or its cosmetically different equivalent.

So far there is no evidence that anyone in Israel or the US has any fire in the belly for something different. Again, actions not words are what count.

Evan Thames

Mr Lang,

Do you really think that US was NOT behind the Egypt uprising?
There was no suitably strong, believable casus belli to set off all these multi-country Color Revolutions across the ME at this time. If the huge spontaneous demos ignited against Iraq attack in 2003 and Lebanon War of 2006 didnt effect cross border change in myriad regimes, why should these comparatively paltry protests do so? It seems the risks taken by uprisers could only have been done with outside guarantee of protection.
TPTB are harnessing long term, genuine and legit grievances of oppressed people to effect their own policy in the region.
Revolutions are very expensive and labor intensive. The timing of first Tunisia, then Egypt, Yemen, Jordan (and others announced for future) indicates coordination and resources at the very highest level.
Then why the confusion in US govt? Certainly all thats transpired was totally predictable and contingencies should have been covered.
Many other solid reasons to believe this whole thing more US covert ops?

arbogast

Does anyone think the government of Egypt represents its people?

We have a Tea Party here in the US which harkens back to the phrase, "No taxation without representation."

Doesn't the cognitive dissonance get a little deafening when we are asked to believe that we have a debt to Mubarak? We have a debt to him? Isn't it the other way around?

He was paid by us to control his population. Absent putting US troops in the streets of Cairo, he's on his own. And given that no one has yet said that the pyramids may conceal WMD, he ain't getting troops.

Obama et al are spectators. It doesn't matter what they say.

Sam Will

JohnH,
I fully agree with your analysis. You're spot on, but the situation remains fluid and the demonstrators show absolutely no sign of letting up. I think that Egyptians see through those US/Israeli/EU machinations and the whole thing will drag out for months. The Mubarak oligarchy, which includes most definitely the Army and all security services will fight any significant change to the existing "order"...It can still go to a Tienanmen situation in my view...

Clifford Kiracofe

"I have no idea..."

JohnH,

I can see that.

Clifford Kiracofe

"The youth try desperately to confront the logic of the MBs in hundred of "discussion rings" ..."

I noted that accoustic guitar (and oud, etc?) and song entertainment are now offered on Tahrir Square in the evenings.

Perhaps Mr. el-Misry could let us know if "Kumbaya" is popular there, particularly as the razer wire goes up, perimeter security tightens, and the guys with the oh so chic forehead marks advocate Islamic "revolutionary legitimacy."
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kumbaya

Noticed that some graphic designer took an old iconic 60s Che poster and replaced Che's face with what seems to be King Tut's...

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