Cairo streets have been reduced to a ring of hate with neighbor battling neighbor in the continuing intra-country war over the unseating of “elected” president Mohammed Morsi by Egypt’s military.
I’ve held off talking about the political upheaval in Egypt because I know how painful it has been for Egyptians who have emigrated to this country. My wife and I are good friends of a native Egyptian couple and their adult children who I have known for many years. They’re decent, productive American citizens, three holding advanced degrees. You’d be proud to have them for neighbors. The only terror they’ve been associated with was when some dumb-ass anti-Muslim type burned down their mosque located in middle America.
I talked at length with the mother Sunday afternoon because I wanted to get a non-reporter’s take from someone who still keeps in touch with friends in the Egyptian war zone, and that’s what much of Egypt is, a war zone, as the death toll eclipses 800 and heads for a thousand.
The lady who fed me most of the information for this story was raised in privilege in Egypt. Her family members were friends with the Mubaraks, as in Hosni Mubarak, deposed in 2011 after a 30-year stretch as Egypt’s president. She remembers calling him “Uncle” Mubarak growing up and recalls him with great fondness. Until, as she reached adulthood, it became obvious that he had chosen the dark path of corruption; almost an imperative for those who accumulate great power over a period of long leadership of a country.
Mubarak, though an old man of 85 who suffered a recent heart attack, was just convicted with his former interior minister, of being complicit in the deaths of protestors. In addition he stands accused of copping public money and misusing political influence. Prosecutors say he also sold natural gas to Israel for waaaay below market value. And people said the Muslims and Jews couldn’t get along. He appealed the verdict and the court recently adjourned that trial which will reconvene on August 25th. The Murbarak void created the opening that has brought on the screaming hell that is today’s Egypt.
Some things you should know. Egypt has a population of roughly 83 million people. Of that number, around a million are Shiites, 8 million are Christian, mostly Coptic. The remaining citizens are Sunnis. It’s a young country with the CIA World Factbook pegging the median age around 25 years with less than 5% of the population over 65 (in the U.S. it’s over 13%). Egypt is effectively the headquarters of The Muslim Brotherhood (MB) a group that tracks back to the late 20s. MB is at the epicenter of the current crisis.
The MB has had a hand in the unsuccessful assassination attempt of Gamal Abdel Nasser in ’54 and a role in the killing of Anwar Sadat in ’81, an initial ally who later pissed them off. I clearly remember network news accounts that showed a poor guy who had been on the platform with Sadat wandering around in a daze after having his arm shot off. Right-wingers insist American Mosques are crawling with MB sympathizers trying to radicalize moderate Muslims. The right will politically squeeze every last anti-Obama drop they can out of this Egyptian tragedy.
So the MB can be a nasty bunch, but voters apparently remembered the repression, imprisonment and torture of the MB under Mubarak and here the brotherhood was, post-Mubarak, sweeping five elections. The elected president was Mohammed Morsi (most popular of several spellings) who has long been a high-ranking member of the Muslim Brotherhood. He eked out a victory over Mubarak’s former Prime Minister, Ahmed Shafik by some 3 percentage points. My friend’s brother was in the Egyptian Air Force with Shafik who was Senior Commander at the time. He later became CEO of EgyptAir and was the man most responsible for the highly praised expansion of the Cairo Airport. For all his accomplishments, Shafik subsequently fled to Abu Dhabi the minute an investigation was opened into his possibly corrupt activities as prime minister. Several Middle East countries have already offered him asylum.
Morsi hung around from June 30, 2012 until July 3, 2013. After millions of Egyptians demonstrated against his government, the army came in and kicked his butt to the curb apparently because Morsi stuffed the constitution full of too much Sharia law to suit them. Morsi has since been held incommunicado by the military. General Abdul Fatah el-Sisi, is the new power player in Egypt. He essentially led the Morsi coup and directed chief justice of the Supreme Constitutional Court, Adly Mansour, who had connections with both Mubarak and Morsi, to be the figure-head leader while el-Sisi set the agenda and decided when the next elections would be held. For an excellent profile of the strong, silent General, go to Newsweek’s, Daily Beast.
My friend feels strongly that Morsi could not have cared less about Islam and Sharia law. That he was little more than a Sharia manipulator to throw clerics and the deeply religious off the track. She’s also convinced that the relative handful of pro-Morsi demonstrators were comprised of a few true believers, those fooled by his religious mask, many who were bribed and the uneducated, not knowing what the hell they were yelling and shooting about.
She also believes there is a strong perception that America has backed the wrong horse in this one, something this liberal lady shares in common with the right as it elevates this explosive situation to the media max. They blame Obama and the CIA for overthrowing Mubarak, who, as already pointed out, ended up being corrupt as corrupt can be and probably cheated his way into power in virtually every election. in short, he needed overthrowing.
I asked about reformer Mohammed ElBaradei, who served as Egypt’s Vice President for a couple of months after Morsi got the boot. He was the former Director General of the IAEA and a bright, scholarly Nobel Prize winner. She doubted he had a taste for the politics of the office of president after resigning his VP post in the wake of the initial attacks on government buildings and Coptic Christians.
So this appears to be the near-term bottom line. Some more killings with the violence tapering off. Then, there remain two options. Continued leadership of “strongman” el-Sisi for either a short or protracted period of time. I can only guess when new elections will be held. It all depends on when things calm down.
There’s also the possibility that Mubarak may be sprung from jail soon. Oy vey!!!
As for the United States, maybe not their proudest foreign policy moment as Secretary of State John Kerry called the violence “deplorable” and a few other choice words, but did little else of substance. The right may have a point on this one. Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait have recently stepped in with a healthy $12 billion aid package while America is stuck on $1.6 billion. Awkward! And there’s always the Suez to consider and Egypt’s role in keeping the anti-Israel temperature down.
My thanks to my friend for her insight. Let’s hope peace and reason eventually prevail.