Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Israel and US opposition to democracy in Egypt

This should not be a controversial proposition. The United States supported the Mubarak dictatorship for 30 years because of Israel. The United States right now supports dictatorships in its other effective colonies of Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Kuwait, Bahrain, Yemen and others because of Israel. Israel is why the United States is the most vigorous adversary of democracy outside of its borders in the world. Israel is why the United States today supports the dictatorship in Egypt which took power from an legitimately and fairly elected government.

How do we know that Israel is why the United States supported the Mubarak dictatorship? Because that's what Barack Obama and Joe Biden said:

Biden: Mubarak Is Not a Dictator, But People Have a Right to Protest
(PBS Newshour, January 27, 2011)

JIM LEHRER: The word -- the word to describe the leadership of Mubarak and Egypt and also in Tunisia before was dictator. Should Mubarak be seen as a dictator?

JOE BIDEN: Look, Mubarak has been an ally of ours in a number of things and he's been very responsible on, relative to geopolitical interests in the region: Middle East peace efforts, the actions Egypt has taken relative to normalizing the relationship with Israel.

And I think that it would be -- I would not refer to him as a dictator.

Obama interview: the transcript
(BBC World Service, June 2, 2009)
Justin Webb: Do you regard President Mubarak as an authoritarian ruler?

President Obama: No, I tend not to use labels for folks. I haven't met him. I've spoken to him on the phone.

He has been a stalwart ally in many respects, to the United States. He has sustained peace with Israel, which is a very difficult thing to do in that region.

But he has never resorted to, you know, unnecessary demagoging of the issue, and has tried to maintain that relationship. So I think he has been a force for stability. And good in the region. Obviously, there have been criticisms of the manner in which politics operates in Egypt.

And, as I said before, the United States' job is not to lecture, but to encourage, to lift up what we consider to be the values that ultimately will work - not just for our country, but for the aspirations of a lot of people.

It is also openly known that while Egypt's elected commander in chief did not have direct relations with Israel, the general who led the coup against him did:
Israel Sees a Chance for More Reliable Ties With Egypt and a Weakening of Hamas
(New York Times, July 6, 2013)
While Mr. Morsi served as head of state, Israel’s only line of communication with Cairo was through the Egyptian military and security establishment, which is now controlling Egypt’s political process. Perhaps more reassuring to Israel is the role of Gen. Abdul-Fattah el-Sisi, the top commander who led the move to depose Mr. Morsi.

General Sisi is well known in Israel’s defense establishment from his past roles in military intelligence and in northern Sinai. An Israeli expert said that even after Mr. Morsi appointed General Sisi as his defense minister, the general’s office continued to communicate and coordinate directly with Israel. 
Turkey's Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said that Israel is behind the US and Western idea that it is not democracy for a party that wins an election to take power:

Erdoğan suggests Israel behind coup in Egypt, has evidence
(Today's Zaman, August 20, 2013)

"What is said about Egypt? That democracy is not the ballot box. Who is behind this? Israel is. We have the evidence in our hands," Erdoğan said. "That's exactly what happened."
He's mostly right about that. The idea that winning elections is not democracy is wrong but also uniquely applied to Israel's region. That idea seems to be used for one reason only, for Westerners to justify denying the power to set and execute policy to officials who are accountable to voters in Israel's region. In Israel's region, militaries tied and accountable to the US have to remove elected officials to protect democracy, and secular rights. And while they are at it, they can also continue to cooperate with Israel as directed by their US embassies and military bases without any oversight from the voters of their countries.

Did the Mossad send a coup plan to Abdel Fattah el-Sisi from its headquarters in Tel Aviv which Sisi then executed? I would guess not. Did US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel know about and approve the operation that led to the coup in advance, supporting it ultimately because of it offers strategic benefits to Israel? I would guess so. 60 years later, the US admits its role in the coup against an legitimate elected government in Iran. The US is far more widely and closely involved with Egypt's military in 2013 than it was in Iran in 1953. Maybe the extent of Hagel's knowledge of and involvement in this coup in Egypt will be revealed later.

Ties between the US, Israeli and Egyptian militaries

Abdel Fattah Al Sisi, Egypt Army Chief, Turns On Morsi, The President Who Promoted Him
(Reuters, July 3, 2013)


A career military man, Sisi was groomed for a leadership role after serving in top roles in the command, intelligence and diplomatic branches of the armed forces.

Among his previous postings were a stint as defence attache in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, and command positions in the Sinai Peninsula which borders Israel and in the Northern Military Region which includes the second city of Alexandria.

"He had been carefully prepared for a high command position," said Robert Springborg, an expert on the Egyptian military based at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California.

Apart from his comparative youth among top ranking commanders, two other attributes made him a good fit for the Islamist Mursi seeking a new generation of military leaders.

In a military known for its secularism, Sisi is a devout Muslim, whose wife is said to wear the niqab full-body covering. And after a year at the U.S. Army War College in Pennsylvania in 2005-2006, he was comfortable with the United States, which funds Egypt's military with $1.3 billion a year.

"Insiders in the U.S. government and military were aware of him. He was a name that was mentioned when people talked about next generations," said Springborg.

He had a favourable reputation among those who worked with him in the American military, although his course work was described as showing Islamist leanings, Springborg said.

"Islamic ideology penetrates Sisi's thinking about political and security matters," he said, citing material Sisi produced while at the course.

Steve Gerras, a retired Army colonel who was Sisi's faculty adviser at the college, described him to Reuters as a serious student and pious Muslim, open to the United States and passionate about Egypt's future.
How American Hopes for a Deal in Egypt Were Undercut
(New York Times, August 17, 2013)
The Israelis, whose military had close ties to General Sisi from his former post as head of military intelligence, were supporting the takeover as well. Western diplomats say that General Sisi and his circle appeared to be in heavy communication with Israeli colleagues, and the diplomats believed the Israelis were also undercutting the Western message by reassuring the Egyptians not to worry about American threats to cut off aid.

Israeli officials deny having reassured Egypt about the aid, but acknowledge having lobbied Washington to protect it.

When Senator Rand Paul, Republican of Kentucky, proposed an amendment halting military aid to Egypt, the influential American Israel Public Affairs Committee sent a letter to senators on July 31 opposing it, saying it “could increase instability in Egypt and undermine important U.S. interests and negatively impact our Israeli ally.” Statements from influential lawmakers echoed the letter, and the Senate defeated the measure, 86 to 13, later that day.

What exactly is democracy?

Suppose someone tells you Barack Obama should not be President of the United States. Why not? Because democracy is not just votes, but it is also values. And Barack Obama is too socialist to qualify to lead the United States. Your answer should be that the voters of the United States are the only party fit to judge whether or not Obama is too socialist or if his socialism should or should not bar him from the presidency. Further, you should answer that the voters of the United States voted to give Obama a four year term and during that term he, and only he, is authorized by the voters to carry out the duties outlined in US governing documents as the responsibilities of the holder of that office. In an extraordinary circumstance, the elected legislature of the United States has the authority to remove Obama from office. Failing that, democracy means Obama serves the term he was elected to.

Democracy does not mean "good". The United States was founded as a white-supremacist state with a slave labor based economy dedicated to taking by force over two billion acres of land from Native Americans. The United States is, as I write this, directing a civil war in Syria that has caused over 100,000 Syrian people to die. The United States is openly and thoroughly dedicated to the idea that preventing fewer than six million Jewish people in Israel from suffering the indignity of living under non-Jewish rule the way white South Africans live under non-white rule is worth any amount of suffering, dictatorship and restriction of rights and liberties for the hundreds of millions of people in Israel's region who are not Jewish. The United States is a bigoted nation. The United States is not a good nation. The United States is an evil nation according the the values the US itself claims to uphold. But the United States is a democracy.

Apartheid South Africa was in the 1940s, like the United States, a racist democracy. Nazi Germany, until the decree that its leadership was no longer subject to removal by voters, was a democracy. Democracy does not mean good. Democracy does not mean values.

Democracy means policy-makers can be emplaced and removed in an orderly fashion according to pre-established procedures by voters. Therefore to remain in positions to make and execute policy, officials are accountable to the people of the country, in effect to the voters. And really that's all democracy means. Democracy leads to secular governments in countries whose voters prefer secular government. Democracy leads to socialist government if the voters prefer socialism. Democracy means anti-socialism if and only if the voters of the country express that they prefer an anti-socialist government. Democracy means Islamism in a country where Islamists can or do outvote anti-Islamists.

If you or I believe government should be secular, and the voters of a country believe their government should be Islamic, then democracy means a government you or I don't like should be in power in that country.

The United States is in an interesting position, being the most vigorously active anti-democratic nation in the world while at the same time claiming democracy as one of its founding principles. No nation does more outside of its borders to oppose the idea that the policy makers of a country should be accountable the people of that country than the United States does in Israel's region on behalf of Israel. The United States has for decades supported relatively pro-Israel dictatorships in Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Yemen and others because governments accountable to their people in those countries might pose strategic threats ultimately to Israel.

In order to resolve the tension between claiming democracy as a value and opposing policy-makers being accountable to voters In Israel's region, Western commentators distort the definition of democracy itself.

From there we get the statement: democracy is not about elections, it is about values. I've only heard this statement made in the context of countries in the Middle East, and then to justify denying the people of countries in the Middle East the ability to hold policy-makers accountable in elections. Egypt's military should remain accountable not to the elected officials of Egypt, but to the US Embassy and military bases in Egypt and the US in order to protect Israel from Egypt's voters.

Claims that Mohammad Morsi or the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood were not democratic, coming from sources that did not offer such criticisms to either Hosni Mubarak during the 30 years that he had US support or Saudi Arabia today, including Barack Obama who refused to call Mubarak a dictator, are transparent advocacy of Egyptian policy being accountable, on behalf of Israel, to the United States and not to the voters of Egypt.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Some articles regarding Egypt

Study shows opposition to Morsi ouster rises to 69%
(Middle East Monitor, August 13, 2013)

A recent field study indicates that the number of Egyptians opposed to the overthrow of Dr Mohamed Morsi as President has risen to 69 per cent. Only around 25 per cent of Egyptians support his current detention, while 6 per cent prefer to keep their opinion to themselves.
Morsi Spurned Deals, Seeing Military as Tamed
(New York Times, July 7, 2013)
The abrupt end of Egypt’s first Islamist government was the culmination of months of escalating tensions and ultimately futile American efforts to broker a solution that would keep Mr. Morsi in his elected office, at least in name, if not in power.
Israel Sees a Chance for More Reliable Ties With Egypt and a Weakening of Hamas
(New York Times, July 6, 2013)
While Mr. Morsi served as head of state, Israel’s only line of communication with Cairo was through the Egyptian military and security establishment, which is now controlling Egypt’s political process. Perhaps more reassuring to Israel is the role of Gen. Abdul-Fattah el-Sisi, the top commander who led the move to depose Mr. Morsi.

General Sisi is well known in Israel’s defense establishment from his past roles in military intelligence and in northern Sinai. An Israeli expert said that even after Mr. Morsi appointed General Sisi as his defense minister, the general’s office continued to communicate and coordinate directly with Israel.


“It’s good that the Muslim Brotherhood has gone,” said Zvi Mazel, a former Israeli ambassador to Egypt. “If they had stayed in power for another two or three years, they’d have taken control of the military and everything else, and Egypt would have become like Iran.”
Gaza’s Economy Suffers From Egyptian Military’s Crackdown
(New York Times, July 25, 2013)
Along with the takeover in Cairo, the Egyptian military stepped up its campaign against Islamic militants operating against its forces in the rugged Sinai Peninsula, which borders Gaza. The clampdown has resulted in the destruction or closing of around 80 percent of the tunnels that run beneath the Egypt-Gaza border, long used for smuggling weapons and fugitives but also for construction materials restricted by Israel, cheap fuel and other goods.

So now, Abu Eida has no cement or gravel to operate his factory, one of the biggest in Gaza, the Palestinian coastal territory. Manar al-Batsh, an accountant at the plant, said 40 employees were sitting at home.

“If the crisis lasts until the end of this month, we won’t be able to keep those workers on our payroll,” he added.
Sudden Improvements in Egypt Suggest a Campaign to Undermine Morsi
(New York Times, July 11, 2013)
And as the interim government struggles to unite a divided nation, the Muslim Brotherhood and Mr. Morsi’s supporters say the sudden turnaround proves that their opponents conspired to make Mr. Morsi fail. Not only did police officers seem to disappear, but the state agencies responsible for providing electricity and ensuring gas supplies failed so fundamentally that gas lines and rolling blackouts fed widespread anger and frustration.

“This was preparing for the coup,” said Naser el-Farash, who served as the spokesman for the Ministry of Supply and Internal Trade under Mr. Morsi. “Different circles in the state, from the storage facilities to the cars that transport petrol products to the gas stations, all participated in creating the crisis.”

Working behind the scenes, members of the old establishment, some of them close to Mr. Mubarak and the country’s top generals, also helped finance, advise and organize those determined to topple the Islamist leadership, including Naguib Sawiris, a billionaire and an outspoken foe of the Brotherhood; Tahani el-Gebali, a former judge on the Supreme Constitutional Court who is close to the ruling generals; and Shawki al-Sayed, a legal adviser to Ahmed Shafik, Mr. Mubarak’s last prime minister, who lost the presidential race to Mr. Morsi.

But it is the police returning to the streets that offers the most blatant sign that the institutions once loyal to Mr. Mubarak held back while Mr. Morsi was in power. Throughout his one-year tenure, Mr. Morsi struggled to appease the police, even alienating his own supporters rather than trying to overhaul the Interior Ministry. But as crime increased and traffic clogged roads — undermining not only the quality of life, but the economy — the police refused to deploy fully.


Ms. Gebali, the former judge, said in a telephone interview on Wednesday that she and other legal experts helped tamarrod create its strategy to appeal directly to the military to oust Mr. Morsi and pass the interim presidency to the chief of the constitutional court.
So Much For Mideast Democracy
(Eric Margolis, July 6, 2013)
The US provides Egypt’s military $1.5 billion annually, not counting tens of millions of “black” payments from CIA to leading generals, police chiefs, commentators and bureaucrats. Egypt’s military has been totally re-equipped with US F-16 fighter-bombers, M-1 heavy tanks, armored vehicles, radars, electronic systems, and artillery.

Washington has supplied Egypt with just enough arms to control its population and intimidate small neighbors, but not enough to wage war against Israel. Further, the Pentagon sharply limits Egypt supplies of munitions, missiles and vital spare parts. Many of Egypt’s generals have been trained in US military colleges, where they formed close links with US intelligence and the Pentagon. CIA, DIA, and NSA have large stations in Egypt that watch its military and population.

Under Mubarak, the US controlled Egypt’s military and key parts of its economy. When Morsi and the Brotherhood came to power, Washington backed off for a while but in recent months apparently decided to back the overthrow of Egypt’s first democratic government.

Juan Cole and Islamophobic Western claims about the Muslim Brotherhood

Recently Juan Cole presented a litany of reasons that the Muslim Brotherhood bears responsibility for the recent coup against Egypt's voters. As you might expect, ultimately his list reflects his view that he or people who agree with him, not Egypt's voters, should be in a position to decide any point of dispute regarding Egyptian government or policy. It's a typical American colonialist position, because Juan Cole is a typical American colonialist. Certainly not worse than anything anybody in the US State Department, the US Embassy in Cairo or the US military establishment tasked with Egypt would write. Just typical, and because it is typical it may be useful that Cole regularly puts his view in public.

So when I'm not too disgusted to go over and read it, or when someone I respect prompts me, I sometimes go over and read Cole's latest articles about the Middle East. Comments I leave generally do not pass his moderation filter and that's fine. I then just leave those comments here. This is a response to Egypt’s Transition Has Failed: New Age of Military Dictatorship in Wake of Massacre.

The Brotherhood cheated in the parliamentary elections, running candidates for seats set aside for independents.

The parliamentary elections were overseen by the military government, which decided which names were eligible to be put onto ballots. The Brothers were able to legally enter the election and Egyptians voted for them. It is a stretch to call that cheating.

Rabid anti-Democratic activists in the US might claim Barack Obama cheated by being on a ballot when he was really ineligible, but he was on the ballot based on rules he did not implement and voters fairly selected him over the opposition. That should end that story.

The Brothers won more support from Egypt's voters than the military expected or was comfortable with but that is not cheating. They also won more support than some Western commentators expected or were comfortable with. Again, not cheating.

He pushed through a Brotherhood constitution in December of 2012 in a referendum with about a 30% turnout in which it garnered only 63%– i.e. only a fifth of the country voted for it.

Just noting that 63% means nearly two out of three voters supported the constitution.

The judges went on strike rather than oversee balloting, so the referendum did not meet international standards.

The judges were open in their commitment to prevent civilian control of the military.

Also what are you claiming when you say international standards? If you have reason to believe the results were fraudulent and did not reflect the will of the voters on election day, then tell us what those reasons are, and what evidence supports such a view.

Morsi then invented a legislature for himself, declaring by fiat that the ceremonial upper house was the parliament. He appointed many of its members; only 7% were elected.

The rightfully elected legislature was voided by the court explicitly because the court disagreed with Egypt's voters about who should be in the position of power (see link above). Also the declaration that the upper house was the parliament was not by fiat, but part of the constitution ratified by nearly two thirds of Egypt's voters.

The Constitutional Assembly's alternative when it (not Morsi) decided to grant legislative authority to the upper house until the parliament was elected again was for Egypt to have no legislature at all.

In my view Morsi and the Brotherhood leadership bear a good deal of the blame for derailing the transition, since a democratic transition is a pact among various political forces, and he broke the pact. If Morsi was what democracy looked like, many Egyptians did not want it. Gallup polls trace this disillusionment.

Presidential approval decreasing during a term in office is far from grounds for a coup. Egypt's voters were asked directly not only about democracy, but about what constitution they wanted, they chose almost 2 to 1 to support what the Muslim Brothers presented.

If support for the Brothers had really waned, then secularists could have won the parliamentary elections scheduled for Spring 2013. Instead they announced they would boycott those elections and the court cancelled them at the same time secularists, military and court officials were planning a coup.

Gallup polls may be more trustworthy in the United States than in Egypt, despite their particularly poor recent performances in the US, but in no way can Gallup polls supersede Egyptian elections as indicators of the will of the Egyptian people. Boycotting and cancelling elections concedes that the anti-Muslim Brotherhood forces did not believe they had the support of the Egyptian people.

The ultimate reason for the Court and opposition's refusal to participate in the democratically scheduled election to restore a legitimate elected legislature was and is commonly well understood. "Whether or not the opposition boycotts, the Islamists probably would win a parliamentary majority."

What are see in Egypt is not two sides both failing a transition to democracy but rather the segments of Egypt's society closest to the West, closest to Western commentators and closest to the US establishment that for decades has been giving $1.5 billion openly to the Egyptian military and then secretly directing additional funds in bribes to Egyptian military and ruling personnel deciding, all along in coordination with US officials, that they do not approve of Egypt's voters' choices for the leadership of Egypt.

There has never been any indication that Morsi had any plans to avoid election when his constitutionally provided term was over, or that he would fail to step aside if he lost. One side in this dispute, the side that directly receives funds from the US government, has consistently taken tangible steps to evade the will of the people expressed by elections. Cole has consistently offered support for these tangible anti-democratic steps. The other side, the Muslim Brothers, has never acted to limit the sovereignty of Egypt's voters, but has been on the winning side of all six post-Mubarak elections: the immediate changes to the constitution, the lower house elections, the first and second rounds of the presidential election, the upper house election and the constitutional referendum.

Mohamed Morsi was (and actually is) the rightful elected President of Egypt with only the powers Egypt's voters granted him according to the Egyptian constitution. He has not acted any more dictatorially than Barack Obama in the United States and was always subject not only to reelection, but to recall and impeachment processes that would begin in the legislature, if Egypt's voters elected representatives who believed he should not serve his full term. Claims of authoritarianism or theocracy have always been unsupportable nonsense in the face of a clear opposing record. Cole describes the process of Egypt's voters deciding that the Muslim Brothers should be in power as a "slow motion coup" ultimately because he does not respect the right of Muslims to choose their own leaders and policies.