Monday, July 01, 2013
Egypt Falls Apart
Huge protests against Mohamed Morsi and Muslim Brotherhood rule rocked Egypt today.
Massive crowds surged the streets of Cairo and cities around the country, and even marched on the presidential palace in an attempt to force out the Islamist president with some of the most gigantic protests Egypt has seen in 2 1/2 years of turmoil. The BBC actually estimated the crowds at something like 17 million, although a number of those could have been pro-Morsi supporters and the regime's rent-a-thugs.
The gangs have been armed by the regime ( just as in the days of Mubarak) and have killed and injured a number of protestors, while the protesters have responded with Molotov cocktails and their own weaponry, even launching an attack at the Muslim Brotherhood headquarters in Cairo and destroying it.
The anti-Morsi protests were organized by a movement known as Tamarod, or “rebellion” in Arabic.
What's going on can't simply be seen as 'liberal, pro-democracy protestors' versus Islamists.The Tamerod itself is a loose organization of various groups with one real shared point of agreement - having voted them in, they now have decided they want Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood out of power.
This could loosely be summarized for a number of these people as 'we found out you can't eat sharia'.
You see, it was one thing for the Ikhwan, the Brotherhood to be the romantic opposition to Mubarak, to claim they they could solve all of Egypt's problems by bringing Allah into the mix.It was quite another to actually have power, to be the government and to be faced with coming up with real solutions.
Broadly stated, Egypt's problems are threefold; not being able to feed it's 80 million plus people, the collapse of the economy and an almost complete breakdown of public order.
Inflation is rampant, especially on food staples and cooking fuel.Egypt, once the breadbasket of the ancient world in now a net food importer, with only 3-5 months of foreign exchange left to continue to do so, according to who's counting. And the Muslim Brotherhood has proven to be as crony friendly and corrupt as Mubarak was,if not more so.
The regime admits to 13.5% unemployment, but it's almost certainly far higher, particularly in those thirty and under. Which has led to another problem..skyrocketing crime.
In certain neighborhoods in Cairo and other cities,the police have pretty much abdicated authority to well organized criminal gangs, who engage in racketeering, trafficking, and prostitution with total impunity. In some neighborhoods, gangs are operating protection rackets,extorting 'insurance payments' from shopkeepers and business owners in exchange for protection from theft, break-ins and violence. According to one report, a number of them are using Pharaonic tombs that were unearthed in the middle of a densely populated neighborhood over a decade ago and neglected by Egypt’s Antiquities Ministry for a unique scam. Among the deteriorating ruins, the gangs are illegally constructing slum tenements and charging rent from tenants.
Arms trafficking is also a big, if illegal business. Aside from arms smuggled in from Libya and Sudan, there's a booming market in weapons looted during the revolution from police facilities, crude home made guns and knives and machetes. Egyptians with more money to spend are employing private forces of baltagiyya (thugs for hire) as their own private guards and security forces to guard their homes, businesses and persons.
Even many of the roads outside the cities are no longer safe, especially in Sinai and northern Egypt where gangs control whole sections of the highways. Aside from out right pillage, the well-armed gangs extort 'tolls' for safe passage from companies shipping goods by truck.
Egypt seems to be reverting to anarchy, making a mockery of President Obama and every asinine columnist and pundit who cheered on the Islamist Arab Spring.
The protests are growing in intensity and violence, and there's very little possibility of any agreement between the Islamist regime and the various parts of the Tamerod movement. Morsi is hated as much as Mubarak was, and the same sort of rhetoric and posters are being used to demonize him:
Yes, Morsi is now a Jew, the worst insult apparently that an Egyptian can utter. Lovely.
So, what now?
Three possibilities, really.
Morsi-appointed Egyptian army chief and defense minister General Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi surprised a great many people when he said flatly that the army would not intervene on the side of the regime but that they felt a duty to step in and take control if the country became ungovernable or if civil war was threatened.
Al-Sissi doubled down on those statements by essentially giving Morsi a 48-hour ultimatum, saying that he has until Wednesday evening to "meet the demands of the people" or it will step in to restore order. That statement was carried nationwide on radio and television,( much to the delight of the Tamerod), with the military calling it "a final chance to shoulder the burden of a historic moment in our country."
After a couple of years of the Muslim Brotherhood, Egyptians might just be ready for another Mubarak-style strongman.
Another possibility is outright civil war. I personally don't see this happening unless the Army decides to simply stand aside, simply because the Tamerod are so diverse and relatively disorganized except when it comes to destruction, assault and gang rape, which we'll discuss more presently.
For instance, one group of people who are tacitly participating in the Tamerod are Salafists from the hard line al-Nour Party, whom fault Morsi and the Brotherhood for not instituting enough sharia and governing according to Islam's diktats.They're extremely well organized, and in a country like Egypt where Islam frequently trumps everything, it's just possible they could garner enough support to govern as th enew, improved, hard core Islamists.
Those are really the only factions out there with any cohesiveness that the Tamerod might coalesce around...the Army, which most Egyptians approve of, or the hard line Salafis of the al-Nour Party.
As for Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood, unless the army is actively united in intervening, there's nothing to lose on their part from instigating a civil war. A third possibility is that the army splits, with part of it remaning loyal to Morsi and the Brotherhood...in which case, we have a real civil war.
Stay tuned, and pass the popcorn.