Hosni to Morsi to Sisi - Africa

Hosni to Morsi to Sisi

Posted by Aneela Shahzad on

pic shows Tahrir Square, Cairo, Egypt on the eve of the 20011 Egypt Revolution (Arab Spring)

Mohammad Morsi was the first democratically elected president of Egypt in its 5000 years history, including the era of the Pharaohs. Even the great Gamal Abdul Nasser came to power as a result of overthrowing the British-backed monarchy in 1952.

But the problem with the western prejudice mind is that it does not accept the freedom of choice if the choice is going to be ‘religion’ – it does not believe in one vote for every conscious individual, if the ballot turns in favor of a non-secular party – it is then deemed as mob-rule and majoritarianism. So Morsi was never the desired fruit of a well-executed Arab Spring in Egypt; he was a mis-fruit.

A Little History

Britain occupied Egypt in 1882, ending 340 years long Ottoman rule over the country. The British maintained the ruling Muhammad Ali Dynasty under their patronage, controlling the country through them. In 1922, Britain declared Egypt's independence but practically the British still controlled the country via the puppet king.

The Free Officers Movement resulted in the 1952 Revolution that forced King Farouk to abdicate and as a result, first General Muhammad Naguib and later Colonel Gamal Abdul Nasser assumed power in Egypt, forcing British advisers and military presence out of Egypt.

Nasser, who was the first free president of Egypt, was an advocate of pan-Arabism and set his country on modernization and socialist reforms. He nationalized the Suez Canal and became a hero of the Arab world for his political victory in the Suez Crisis. His charismatic personality led Syria and Yemen to enter the United Arab Republic under his command (between 1958 and 1961). And foremost of all he was the flag bearer of Arab resistance against Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestine.

Nasser died in 1970, five million mourners attended his funeral in Cairo; King Hussein, Arafat and Gaddafi were some of the many world leaders that publically expressed great distress at this demise. At that difficult time Vice-President Anwar Saddat was made to succeed Nasser without an election.

Sadat moved away from Nasser’s policies. He took Egypt away from the socialist camp and into the Capitalist one. His economic policy by the name ‘Infitah’ was an "opening the door" to private investment in Egypt, which opened Egypt’s resources to the western world. Anwar made the Egypt–Israel Peace Treaty after the Yom-Kippur War(1973), under which the Sinai would be returned to Egypt - in return of ending all sorts of hostilities against Israel. This was a decisive victory for Israel, which meant that the united Arab front against it had been broken. Sadat also made moderate relations with the Muslim Brotherhood of Egypt. In 1981, Vice-president and former Chief Air Marshal Hosni Mubarak took power after the assassination and the following coup d’état.

Hosni Mubarak

Hosni remained in power for 43 years from 1981 to 2011. Hosni had a tight control on state security and political dissidence was not tolerated. In his era Egypt depended heavily on US aid and therefore the capitalist free-market was largely entertained. The rich-poor gap increased exponentially, as the political and military elite devoured on all economic opportunities.

In Hosni’s Egypt, severe poverty was 20%, unemployment was over 10% and inflation 12%. There was widespread corruption & half the population lived on $2 a day or less. The Muslim Brotherhood gained popularity by banking on popular anger toward the government for increasing poverty and corruption and Mubarak had to crush them by more authoritarian power, by suspending the constitution and by dismantling civil liberties.

In the 1980’s Mubarak implemented agriculture sector liberalization policies under USAID and World Bank instructions. The "market-oriented" reforms created export-led growth which resulted in widespread dispossession of small farmers and a further alliance between economic and military-political elites. Again in 1991 Mubarak signed an Economic Adjustment Program with the IMF, which demanded more liberalization of trade and prices, more privatization, more labor flexibility and cutting of several social safety net measures. Out of 314 state-run companies, 209 were privatized by 2005, leading to massive unemployment. The IMF praised the privatization program in 2006 for having "surpassed expectations". Wealth and power was concentrated in the hands of a tiny elite of the country - USAID and IMF had help make Mubarak and his elite the new pharaohs of Egypt. Bread riots and labor protest became common. According to a report, in 2006 alone, there were 220 major strikes in one of the largest strike wave in Egypt in decades.

Arab Spring

So unlike the Arab Springs in other Arab states, revolt against the government in Egypt was ripe. Mubarak’s authority disallowed meetings of more than five people at one place, media and news were heavily censored – in this dispirited air Facebook and other social media platforms quickly became popular among young Egyptians. But the question is, did the Muslim Brotherhood alone have the resources and expertise to organize such a revolution, which would sustain presence of millions in the Tahrir Square for weeks?   

It turns out that Ahmed Maher Ibrahim, who set up the support site for the April 6 Movement on Facebook had ties with US NGO Freedom House. According to a leaked US Embassy cable Maher and others in the team were funded by the NGO. The April 6 and Kefaya declared UN IAEA head ElBaradei as their presidential candidate. ElBaradei, who had been out of Egypt for over 30years, made a coalition called National Association for Change (NAC) which included members of Kefaya and the Muslim Brotherhood.

Kefaya, which was at the heart of mobilizing the Egyptian protest demonstrations, was a National Endowment for Democracy’s project, a Washington-based NGO. According to RAND’s study on Kefaya, ‘the United States has professed an interest in greater democratization in the Arab world, particularly since the September 2001 attacks … as President George W. Bush noted in a 2003 address to the National Endowment for Democracy, “As long as the Middle East remains a place where freedom does not flourish, it will remain a place of stagnation, resentment, and violence ready for export’.

Regarding the technical help recommended for Kefaya, RAND says, ‘…the United States should help reformers obtain and use information technology, perhaps by offering incentives for US companies to invest in the region’s communications infrastructure and information technology. US information technology companies could also help ensure that the Web sites of reformers can remain in operation and could invest in technologies such as anonymizers that could offer some shelter from government scrutiny. This could also be accomplished by employing technological safeguards to prevent regimes from sabotaging the Web sites of reformers’.

The same National Endowment for Democracy, had done the 2003/4 Color Revolutions in Georgia and Ukraine and the failed Green Revolution against Iran’s Ahmadinejad in 2009 projects before.

So if the Muslim Brotherhood linked-up with Washington-linked activist in a bid to use their expertise in making a successful revolution against Mubarak, perhaps NED linked-up with the Brotherhood to use its broad-based popularity in the people, to gather a greater mob that would join their social media groups. Again if NED and Freedom House were backed by Washington to bring democracy and diminish terrorism after 9/11 – why did they join with the Brotherhood, whom had borne Osama Bin Laden and Ayman al Zawahari in the first place? 

Muhammad Morsi

The Arab Spring was a success in Egypt and the state machine arrested Hosni and his sons.

In the elections after Mubarak’s detention, Muslim Brotherhood leader Muhammad Morsi won by a 51.73% of the vote in June 2012. Morsi deemed his victory as an "Islamic awakening" in the Middle East and condemned the Nov 2012 Operation Pillar of Defense by Israel on the Gaza Strip, asking for a ceasefire. Morsi sent Prime Minister Hesham to Gaza to express solidarity with Gaza and Hamas and sought to strengthen anti-Israel rebel groups in the Sinai region. This was unacceptable for Israel and its friend the US.

Most of all the Brotherhood was unacceptable to the military/business elite that had looted the country for four decades. The deep-state conspired against Morsi by creating acute electricity and gas failures, which fed widespread anger and frustration. Al Jazeera reported how Washington had funneled money to secular opposition groups in Egypt, it said:

‘Documents obtained by the Investigative Reporting Program at UC Berkeley show the US channeled funding ... [that] ... vigorously supported activists and politicians who have fomented unrest in Egypt, after autocratic president Hosni Mubarak was ousted in a popular uprising in February 2011’.

This time the youth group, Tamarod, again linked to NED, and the Army collaborated in the protests to the coup. General Sisi was the Army Chief. The New York Times reported, ‘General Sisi is well known in Israel’s defense establishment from his past roles in military intelligence and in northern Sinai… even after Mr. Morsi appointed General Sisi as his defense minister, the general’s office continued to communicate and coordinate directly with Israel’.

On 30 June 2013, protests erupted across Egypt, calling for the president's resignation. In response, the military gave Morsi a 48-hour ultimatum by to meet their demands and to resolve political differences, or else they would intervene. On 3 July he was arrested in a military coup by General Sisi.

Later the courts, speaking the language of the pro-US lobby, accused him and the Muslim Brotherhood for conspiring with foreign groups in Iran, Lebanon and Gaza to conduct espionage and commit terrorist acts inside Egypt. And that the Brotherhood aimed to establish an "Islamic emirate" in North Sinai. Today Morsi awaits a death sentence for his alleged crimes, while Mubarak has been safely set free by the deep state that he had patronage for 4 decades.

Abdel Fattah el-Sisi

Sisi was director of military intelligence under Mubarak & had had extensive military training in both UK & US. After the Morsi coup Obama pretended to be unhappy with Sisi for derailing democracy in the country, but actually it was Morsi’s Islamist Democracy that was unacceptable for the West. Trump on the other hand, who is known for his unpredictability and pesky talk, has praised Sisi from the days of his election campaign.

At a difficult time for the United States, when it is being seen as a losser and retreating in almost all fronts that it has opened in the last 2 decades, from Afghanistan to Libya and from Ukraine to Yemen – and when experts have speculated an isolationist America, especially with the coming of Trump and the fear of a breaking EU – the Middle East and more so the Palestinian Issue can prove to be the pivot upon which the future will balance its outcomes.

So gaining strength and friends in the Middle East and letting the world know that US interests are still safe in the Middle East, is a vital need for US to sustain its grounds and retain its global hegemon image. Egypt has certainly been a vital friend in the Arab World since the time of Anwar Sadat. The West cannot forget how one man in Egypt had stood against Israel and how he could lead the rest behind him – only the death of Nasser had brought some respite for the Israelis from successive wars against it. So for the US and its Allies the difference between Morsi and Sisi would be an existential one with regards to Israel.

In early April, 2017, first Sisi and later King Abdullah of Jordan were received by Trump in the White House. Their reassurances have given Trump a chance to embolden US positions in the Middle East. In November, the IMF had approved a loan of $12 billion to Sisi. The loan requires Egypt to cut subsidies on basic goods & cut public spending. It requires boost of private sector which will open Egypt’s resources to US investors. As a result of these policies prices of basic goods have sky-rocketed once again. Bread Riots erupted in Egypt in March – but these are real-people’s riots, with no millions of demonstrators, no Facebook/Twitter organization & no media coverage.

Unmoved with such genuine riots, and oblivious to the general aspirations of the Arab world against Israeli aggressions on the Palestinians, Sisi has pledge to ‘fight Islamist militants together’ with the US. And in Egypt Islamist Militants are the Palestinian Freedom Fighters that have taken shelter in the Sinai since their ousting from Lebanon.

Sisi represents the first visible success in the long string of Arab Springs that seemed to have gone haywire for the US. And this reassurance may embolden the US and their Allies to return to the Syrian Theater and try their last bet to concur the Middle East – however much blood may it take!

The question is, if the Arab Spring uprisings were truly a revolution by the real people of Egypt, where are the people now, when Mubarak’s General is ruling them with the same policies that have devastated them economically and morally for the last 4 decades. Will it take another 4 decades for the people to come out in the streets again? But no, for Morsi they came out within a year of his election – because they had democratically elected him!