Monday, January 31, 2011
Egypt Threatens TINA doctrine - USA will stop democratic change
Egypt Threatens TINA doctrine - USA will stop democratic change
TINA = (T)here (I)s (N)o (A)lternative (to USA-style faux damocracy and vulgar capitalism
US MILITARY CALLS THE SHOTS (democracy is bad for business)
Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak's appointment of a vice president for the first time in his 30- year-reign may herald the end of his rule. It probably won't end six decades of military control.
"Egypt's government is not so much a Mubarak government as it is a military government," said Jon Alterman, director of the Middle East program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington-based policy group. "Generals and retired generals control much of the government and much of the economy, and they would stand to lose a great deal if Mubarak were deposed."
The army deployed across cities in Egypt after looting and mayhem on the weekend following the withdrawal of the police. More than 3,100 looters and escaped prisoners were arrested, state TV said. The week of protests left 150 dead and 4,000 wounded, Al Arabiya television cited a health official as saying.
Close ties between the military and the ruling elites in countries such as Egypt, Iran and Syria makes a repeat of Tunisian-style regime change unlikely, say analysts including Egyptian author Moustafa El-Husseini.
"Upon retirement, senior officers are given hefty retirement packages and appointed as provincial governors or head of municipalities," he said. One example is Magdy Sharawi, a former commander of the air force, who is Egypt's ambassador to Switzerland.
The appointment of Suleiman and Shafik may help restore stability and reassure investors. (Global capitalist owners)
Egypt's military relies on weapons from companies such as Lockheed Martin Corp. and General Dynamics Corp., the maker of Abrams battle tanks.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton yesterday backed off the threat to reconsider assistance, saying on ABC's "This Week" program, "There is no discussion as of this time of cutting off any aid."
The U.S. contribution of about $1.3 billion a year in defense assistance provides about a third of Egypt's annual military budget, said Bruce Rutherford, an associate professor of political science at Colgate University in Hamilton, New York. Many Egyptian military officers received training at U.S. defense institutes.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates and U.S. Navy Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, called their Egyptian counterparts over the weekend, Pentagon officials said. Mullen spoke with Lieutenant General Sami Hafez Enan, the Egyptian armed forces chief of staff, who led a delegation that cut short a visit to the Pentagon last week amid the unfolding turmoil.
"We have to remember that Egypt is essentially run by the military establishment, who control vast swaths of the economy and essentially dictate regional foreign policy," John R. Bradley, author of "Inside Egypt: The Land of the Pharaohs on the Brink of a Revolution," said in an interview.
The Egyptian armed forces control factories that make a range of products ranging from weapons to drugs, and even home appliances such as cookers. It's the largest army in the Arab world, totaling about 450,000 personnel divided into four services -- the army, air defense, air force and navy, according to globalsecurity.org.
Defense spending in Egypt is 3.4 percent of gross domestic product
WikiLeaks cable shows close US ties with new Egyptian vice president
By Joseph Kishore 31 January 2011
On Saturday, the US-backed president of Egypt, Hosni Mubarak, announced that he was appointing Omar Suleiman, director of the Egyptian General Intelligence Directorate, as his new vice president. Suleiman's appointment to the long vacant position places him at the top of the line of succession for president if Mubarak leaves.
The news was greeted with contempt by the masses of Egyptian protesters who are demanding an end to Mubarak's rule. In addition to having close ties with the military, Suleiman, as head of Egypt's intelligence agency since 1993, has worked closely with the United States and Israel in suppressing the population of Egypt and the entire region.
A document released by WikiLeaks on Friday, reporting an April 21, 2009 meeting between Suleiman and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Michael Mullen, further exposes the close ties between the US, Suleiman and the Egyptian government as a whole. The Obama administration continues to back the Mubarak regime because of the central role that he has played in maintaining US interests in the region
Other documents released by WikiLeaks expose US complicity in Egypt's use of torture against opponents of the regime. (See WikiLeaks exposes US complicity in murder, torture by Egyptian government)
In an article in the New Yorker, Jane Mayer notes that Suleiman, "suave, sophisticated and fluent in English … has served for years as the main conduit between the United States and Egypt."
As the head of Egypt's intelligence agency, Suleiman "was the CIA's point man in Egypt for renditions—the covert program in which the CIA snatched suspects from around the world and returned them to Egypt and elsewhere for interrogation, often under brutal circumstances," Mayer writes.
Mayer cites material in Stephen Grey's book, Ghost Plane, which documents the direct discussions between Suleiman and the CIA. Mayer writes, "Edward S. Walker, Jr., a former US ambassador to Egypt, described Suleiman as 'very bright, very realistic,' adding that he was cognizant that there was a downside to 'some of the negative things that the Egyptians engaged in, of torture and so on. But he was not squeamish, by the way.'"
Another cable, prepared in May 2007, discusses the possibility of Suleiman succeeding Mubarak as president, placing him second after Mubarak's son, Gamal, in the list of candidates. It refers to Suleiman as Mubarak's "consigliere," who "was often cited as likely to be named to the long-vacant vice-presidential post."
"Many of our contacts believe that Suleiman, because of his military background, would at least have to figure in any succession scenario for Gamal, possibly as a transitional figure," the document states.
OPTIMIST DEMOCRACY NOW
Cairo, Egypt—In the second day of defiance of a military curfew, more than 150,000 protesters packed into Tahrir Square Sunday to call on President Hosni Mubarak to step down. The mood was celebratory and victorious. For most, it was not a question of if, but when, Mubarak would leave.
Military tanks have been stationed at entrance points around the square with soldiers forming barricades across streets and alleyways. In another departure from ordinary Cairo life, people quickly formed orderly queues to get through the army checkpoints. Soldiers frisked people and checked their identification cards. One soldier said they were making sure no one with police or state security credentials could enter.
Reports are widespread that many of the looters in Cairo are, in fact, remnants of the police and state security forces that were forced into a full retreat during Friday's mass street revolt. In addition, hundreds, perhaps thousands, of prisoners were released from prisons in Fayyoum and Tora. Many believe it's all part of an organized campaign by the regime to create lawlessness in the city in a last gasp attempt to maintain its grip on power. The headline of Al-Masry Al-Youm today blared: "Conspiracy by Interior Ministry to Foment Chaos."
But those concerns largely evaporate inside Tahrir Square where a blossoming of mass public political expression is taking place. Never before during Mubarak's reign have so many gathered in one place in popular protest. Tens of thousands of people clapped in unison and chanted slogans ranging from the serious and patriotic to humorous rhymes filled with biting wit. Many had spent the night in the square and scores planned to stay longer.
A helicopter hovered overhead and two military fighter jets made repeated flybys, coming in at a lower altitude each time until the noise became deafening. Whatever the intended message, the crowd was not intimidated. They cheered, held up victory signs and waved in defiance. After emerging victorious in Friday's battle with the interior ministry's forces, there is little that can quell the enthusiasm of the Egyptian people or their full-throated call for change.
Mubarak's attempt to placate the mass uprising by naming two of his top party officials, Omar Suleiman, the country's infamous intelligence chief, as his first Vice President and Ahmed Shafik, a former Air Force commander, as Prime Minister have been met with strong opposition amongst the protesters.
"Omar Suleiman is not an option. The people are chanting against him today," said Nazly Hussein, a 30 year-old protester in Tahrir. "People want to bring down the system...I don't think anyone is going home until the president and everyone around him leaves."
Mohamed El Baradei–the Nobel Peace laureate and former head of the International Atomic Energy Agency–arrived in Tahrir Square today to address the crowds. Baradei's reputation is beyond reproach and he commands respect amongst most Egyptians but many say he has lived outside of the country for too long and criticize him for not taking part in earlier street protests. Nevertheless, some are calling on him to be included in some type of transitional government.
The one unifying theme, however, remains Mubarak. Everyone wants him out and it is difficult to imagine what iota of support he holds in any segment of Egyptian society save for his very small inner circle. And so, the people wait. It turns out six days of revolt will not be enough to overturn thirty years in power. But patience is wearing thin.
One man who is sure Mubarak's time is up is my uncle Mohamed Abd El Qudoos [Arabic is phonetic and the English spelling of our last name varies within the family]. A leading opposition protester, Mohamed is the head of the Freedom Committee in the Press Syndicate, which has ties to the Muslim Brotherhood. He has been arrested countless times over the years by police and state security forces for leading small-scale demonstrations. Last week he was arrested on Tuesday and then arrested again during Friday's uprising. A picture of him being dragged away by plainclothes police was shown on international news outlets across the globe. He was eventually released and able to join Saturday's protests. In Tahrir Square Sunday, dozens of people came to pay tribute to his struggle. They shook his hand, kissed him hello and took pictures with him.
"This is a dream come true," Mohamed said, sitting in the middle of the packed square in his standard attire: suit, flag and megaphone. "Remember when I would stand on the steps of the press syndicate to protest? I would stand alone. Now look at everyone. They are all here."
Sharif Abdel Kouddous is a senior producer for the radio/TV show Democracy Now