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13 February 2011

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William R. Cumming

YES! But not surprising!

chimneyswift

"Does any of this begin to make you uneasy?"

At the moment, no it doesn't. In the midst of a revolution it is unavoidable that official process swings into the unofficial and ad hoc. History teaches us, in fact, that a rush to write a new constitution can be a huge mistake. Too often people write constitutions that are based in unrealistic ideals and a simple not-what-the-other-guys-did short sightedness.

What seems the case to me in Egypt (from far, far away with no direct insight to events or the players therin) is that a group of old, nominally Nasserist Generals has seized executive authority with the prompting and support of their patron the U.S. That they would take time to clarify the role of a long term power player like Suleiman makes sense. They are not used to constitution writing and no matter how unofficially, this is what they are being asked to do, on the fly.

Far more likely, in fact, is that they are confabbing with Gates/Mullen/Wisner et al. (including representatives of other regional actors) and then talking amongst themselves and then going back to the power players, etc.

I remain cautiously optimistic for now. The army has been a clear force for protecting the well being and interests of the people. As long as this remains true, we will see new elections sometime soon. It would not be possible or advisable to attempt to remove all power players from the last 30 years in Egypt. Better that a new order can emerge and then various actors can adapt or resist that as they see fit. The next big question is who runs the elections and when they will be. I hope it is not Suleiman, but then, he seems to be the creature of others around him (especially the U.S.). Perhaps he would not be the worst choice after all.

The one thing we can guarantee is that the next step will be a disappointment to many people. The first few steps after a great idealistic victory always are.

walrus

Col. Lang, the basis for their authority is going to be the approval of the American and European central banks acting under advice from their respective Governments.

If this is not forthcoming Monday morning, then no commercial bank will be able to transact business with their Egyptian counterparts since they would be nakedly exposed to risk of default without their central banks backing.

That means no international trade transactions. No borrowing or lending, no money changing since there is no longer certainty that the Egyptian pound is exchangeable outside Egypt. In addition any IATA airline ticket issued by an Egyptian airline will be void and worthless.

I would imagine that these arrangements will have been hammered out by the Central bankers over this weekend, and I would guess that support for the Generals will be forthcoming, probably with provisos such as a time limit with respect to elections, repression, etc., etc.

I would also imagine the Saudi and Israeli Governments have been consulted.

walrus

P.S. I'm not uneasy....yet. Perhaps I should be?

Patrick Lang

chimneyswift

The day after 9/11 an American billionaire friend called to tell me that "now we live in your world." The point was not that my world had suddenly been created. The point was that "the scales" had fallen from his eyes.

The Egyptian officer corps (the people who count now) are political soldiers who have not fought anyone since 1973. (They did well then under the gifted leadership of men like Shazly and Abu Ghazala. They did not fight in Iraq. They were merely there.) They are self serving political soldiers who are every bit as corrupt about money as Mubarak is. They are much like the Argentinian military who terrorized the country for so long. You give them far too much credit apparently on the basis of a childlike optimism. Your assumption that somehow they are better than Suleiman is laughable. pl

Jake

A funny thing happened on the way to the revolution....

It got hijacked....

Jake

Walrus,

"Col. Lang, the basis for their authority is going to be the approval of the American and European central banks acting under advice from their respective Governments."

I do disagree here. There are over 100 individual banks, many American and the Egyptian Exchange (EGX) operating in country. Like the banks respective governments are going to say what? Banks are commercial entities with their own interests and no one is talking sanctions here...yet.... I do not believe there will be any special stips to any interim banking agreements outside the norm.

"I would also imagine the Saudi and Israeli Governments have been consulted."

Want to bet, so have the Chinese?


steve

Well, Jake, as many have said, the real revolution, for better or worse, is most likely just beginning.

Basilisk

That means no international trade transactions. No borrowing or lending, no money changing


Walrus is correct, IMO. The money has to come first or Egypt will cease to exist as an international entity. Quickly following that is a determination about International treaties and international contracts. I had a sudden vision of when the Soviet Union disappeared. We had a period of intense uncertainties about our arms control arrangements.

No doubt Tel Aviv is wondering about this too.

J

I wonder how long a revolt within 'the Generals' would last?

William R. Cumming

So exactly how is it that the EU/US military and Central Bankers are now deciding Egyptian policy?

If that is the real deal then count out lifting in Egypt the Emergency Decree or holding future more open democratic elections IMO!

Some MSM reporting that H. Mubarack's 18 day hold out from resignation was to ensure safety of his corrupt rakeoffs of last 30 years. If so looks like the USA directly a co-conspirator.

Like I say let him come here and bring and specie and loot with him. We need help with USA deficit. He can buy Treasuries.

And yes the so-called Bond Ghouls do like they make more foreign policy than the President.

JimTicehurst

Looks like the Lions have entered the Arena..
Proof of the Evolution Theory.

Sidney O. Smith III

Looks like the primary strategic objective of the USG is to take steps to ensure that Egypt’s treaty with Israel remains in effect, even if at the expense of the Egyptian people.

So…a military junta results and the US Prez congratulates the Egyptian people for a nonviolent democratic change, referring to the work of MLK. American progressives go wild with glee, thinking it is a return to Berkeley 1967.

The USG will make all kinds of flowery pronouncements about democratic change but one can reasonably speculate that behind close doors, the conversations will go something like this: “If the military junta still want billions in US taxpayer money, then the treaty must remain in effect. ”

Once you step into the extra-legal, it is even more difficult to gauge the situation. Much, I suppose, depends on whether the military junta will break towards the Egyptian people or prefer the lease arrangement with the US dollar.

But long term none of these changes bodes well for Likud Zionism because of that “creator acheytpe” called Islam.

Perhaps as a historical reference -- and Nancy K I hope you are reading this -- is the background of Beethoven’s symphony 3. Wiki describes how Beethoven was enthralled with the ideal of the French Revolution as well as Bonaparte and both inspired him to compose symphony 3. Then, apparently, Beethoven had a defining moment, in which for all intents and purposes, he saw an age of terror. As described by a friend who later wrote…

“I was the first to tell him the news that Buonaparte had declared himself Emperor, whereupon he broke into a rage and exclaimed, "So he is no more than a common mortal! Now, too, he will tread under foot all the rights of man, indulge only his ambition; now he will think himself superior to all men, become a tyrant!" Beethoven went to the table, seized the top of the title-page, tore it in half and threw it on the floor. The page had to be re-copied and it was only now that the symphony received the title "Sinfonia erotica.”

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Symphony_No._3_(Beethoven)

As everyone knows, there is is an incontrovertible and patently obvious parallel between Beethoven’s third symphony and the music and lyrics of Lynryd skynard. Unmistakably, it is. One would think that Ronnie Van Zant spent years studying Jefferson when he said the following:

"To me, there's nothing freer than a bird, you know, just flying wherever he wants to go. And, I don't know, that's what this country is all about, being free. I think everyone wants to be a free bird."
—Ronnie Van Zant, spoken during an interview while fishing.

Clifford Kiracofe

Well, yes, now we have the "soft" coup some of us pointed to over the past couple weeks.

Students in comparative politics now can be thinking about comparative "junta" studies say Latin American and Middle Eastern.

Suppose I will lecture on such this coming week now that the party is over. As an untenured "educational consultant" and semi-retired I'll just say what I think based on experience and not theory.

I might recall my meetings with General Lami Dozo(AF) and Admiral Anaya in Argentina during the Malivinas War as a way into the Argentine case.

General Lami Dozo was kind enough to offer a choice of mate, tea, or coffee. I chose mate as did he. Coffee with Anaya.

And then for the Chilean case I could recall discussion with President Pinochet followed by a nice lunch. Nice lunch but the instant coffee (a Chilean thing) was a little off putting.

Etc.

As some of us said, based on experience: dissolution of Parliament, suspension of the constitution, and direct military rule.

Constitutionalism is a Western thing...Greece, Rome, later Europe, UK, and all that.

A rather exotic plant for the oriental world where "despotism" has deeper roots. Wasn't the oriental cult (forget which one) which Julius Caesar visited transforming himself, oriental style, into a "god" located in Egypt or near there? I forget. "Divus"...

No fresh and noble civilian led "transition government" or "provisional government." Yet...

We now can "await developments" while the MSM wallows in incompetence with the White House and Congress not that far behind. Such is the state of American "leadership" elites...

dh

I'm not in a position to assess the corruptibility of the Egyptian officer corps. But they do hold some pretty good bargaining chips. Suez Canal tariffs, Gaza access, Palestinian reconciliation. Plus they can agree with, or veto, any Arab League initiatives that will surely emerge. As I said somewhere else....this is going to cost the US big money and not just for military hardware.

Jake

Steve Buddy!

"Well, Jake, as many have said, the real revolution, for better or worse, is most likely just beginning."

Please place your seat backs and tray tables in the upright and locked position! We are in for one hell of a flight!

By the way, who's flying this rocket ship?

Jake

JimTicehurst,

"Looks like the Lions have entered the Arena..
Proof of the Evolution Theory."

The question is, who are the lions going to eat first?

batondor

"The Egyptian officer corps (the people who count now) are political soldiers"

from Posted by: Patrick Lang | 13 February 2011 at 11:14 AM

I sent you the following in an email because I thought it was too long*... but after seeing your comment above that reaffirms and clarifies your perspective, I am brought to restate my questions more succinctly:

1) Is the Egyptian Army actually going to field political candidates from it's 'constituency'... and if they do so transparently, what's wrong with that? Beyond those in the military who are truly professional warriors (how big is that number?), it would really seem like those who have served Egypt in uniform should now do so in civilian garb (and perhaps they have some of the expertise that could actually build its economy if they are willing to give up some of their advantages...).

2) If the EA candidates and the MB candidates are the only ones organized for elections, would the outcome necessarily be bad for Egypt?

3) How about for US interests and a chance for the region?

* Feel free, Pat, to cut out what follows if you think this is a worthwhile point of inquiry but that it's too long...

Pat,

... Now, I just listened to the entire John Batchelor Show and have a few questions, if I may:

- Does the Egyptian military have a political "wing" that can mobilize some of the populace electorally?

My understanding is that MB is by far the largest organized political movement - that it gained 20% of the vote in the last election while still an illegal institution! My question is simply whether there are other groupings that will organize themselves in time for elections so that MB and the Army will not be the only organized parties to the elections and, as such, disproportionately represented during the process that follows...

- Is MB significantly integrated in the Egyptian military during the past thirty years?

This comment is intended to be about Egypt, not Israel... but I would be ignoring the obvious if I did not state that I am personally very concerned by the increasing role of religious figures and doctrine in the IDF... and so I'm wondering if the same phenomena might be present in the Egyptian military... and whether you think that would be a good thing or not. Would it contribute to the moderation of MB as new political institutions arise in Egypt or will it ultimately be a disruptive force to the Egyptian state?

- How different is this from Algeria in the early 90's?

For me, the bottom line with MB is NOT whether the treaty with Israel is maintained or not because I believe that the Army and the median Egyptian will either want it to continue or not and that this will be the driving force behind the future of that relationship (for what it's worth, I heard a fascinating statement on the BBC of anecdotal quality in which a protester at Tahrir Square stated that the Egyptian people would continue to respect the treaty... but only if Israel began to show respect for the Palestinians).

My greater concern as an outside observer is whether the internal situation in Egypt might go the same route as Algeria when the FIS performed so well in the elections of 1991. I was living in France at the time and observed it more closely than most Americans, so I just hope it can be avoided in Egypt... and that a repeat of those events can be avoided if the events in Cairo and the rest of Egypt are repeated in Algiers and the rest of Algeria...

PS: I was frankly tempted to criticize this John Batchelor fellow because of his reductionist and ideological view of 'democracy' as a universal and primary aspiration of all peoples from Egypt to China and Zimbabwe. I have no doubt that people all over the world seek 'freedom' on their own terms, but that does not necessarily mean the ballot box or a complete abstraction of tradition or hierarchy.

In conclusion, I apologize for such a long comment. I've been following the news while travelling and have read SST when possible for the informed interpretations offered by you, Brenner, and Silverman et al... and I thank you all for your views of these events as they have unfolded. On the other hand, I'm less inclined to blame or credit the Obama WH for its role because these events were, in my humble opinion, preordained by the simple fact that Mubarak ultimately seemed incapable of accepting and anticipating his own mortality...

JimTicehurst

We will see..Jake...Historically it was Christians and Jews..in Rome...Now we will see how long Our Emperor enjoys the Event..

One could even Anticipate a Point where the United States might stop feeding this LION..Then What..?
What if the United States Dollar withers in the "drought"
With calls for a "New" reserve Currency..will it be
The Lion..and the Bear..or the Dragon..?
We all know who Supplies Iran..The Game is ON..

Jake

"Central Bank of Egypt: Losses caused by protests not calculated"

http://www.almasryalyoum.com/en/news/central-bank-egypt-losses-caused-protests-not-calculated

$34 Billion in reserves is not chump change. But there will be a hurt factor. However I believe that there is too much money involved for any banking institution to be screwing around with....

I say it will be business as normal in a few days... No special stips...

Charles I

Parliament is suspended as well, which makes him PM of nothing.

Fred

Sydney,

I've always been partial to 'give me three steps'... seems to fit when one's hand is caught in the cookie jar, whether in a honky tonk, a board room or the Egyptian presidential palace.

walrus

WRC, perhaps a banker can explain it better than I, but The Government Of Egypt runs bank accounts in its name in the major financial centres, most probably denominated in Dollars, Sterling and Euros. Exactly who are the legal signatories this morning?

As for Egyptian financial institutions and the branches of European and American banks trading in Egypt, on what legal basis can they do business even in Egypt let alone internationally, with a suspended Constitution? On what legal basis exactly is the Egyptian pound a medium of exchange this morning?

As for American and European banks, their central banks are their lenders of last resort. If the Central banks will not cover transactions with Egypt then they cannot do business with Egypt except at vast premiums and then only in Dollars, Sterling and Euros if at all.

The worlds commercial banks must be seeking "guidance" from their central banks as we speak, which is why Monday has been declared a bank holiday in Egypt.

If the White House and its allies wanted to, they could freeze Egypts overseas assets and accounts right now and/or severely limit the range of transactions that can be executed, including refusing to accept the Egyptian pound and requiring all transactions to be in Euros, dollars or Sterling. We did something like this during the Iranian revolution.

To put it another way, the Egyptian Generals first action, venal and self serving or not, must be to get its hands on the Cheque book and get their part of the international banking system running again, that requires our permission, assuming the Chinese or Saudis won't step in and bankroll them.

Lysander

Sanctions are very unlikely for the simple reason that Egypt is too close to Europe and a collapse of the Egyptian economy (how it has managed to get by this long is a mystery) will lead millions of Egyptians to, quite literally, swim across the Mediterranean to Europe. It is a problem that the Europeans would be eager to avoid.

Egypt will have to do something quite egregious to be sanctioned. The Junta not wanting to let go wont cut it.

That said, the junta will let go if the public screams loud enough. My guess is that it will.

Fred

Walrus,

What you say is true, however the first one to then back the current government, legitimate or not, is going to be getting all their business and the profits that go with it. Those who don't, well Julian Assange is not the only member of Wikileaks. I'm sure there are plenty of paper trails many bankers won't want to see the light of day.

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