Thursday, July 04, 2013
The Coup In Egypt And Why It's Important
The military coup in Egypt is pretty much a done deal. Former president Morsi's in jail, along with the real people who were pulling the strings, the top figures from the Muslim Brotherhood including its chief Mohammed Badie and his deputy Khairat el-Shater.
I first saw this coming back in late June, and those of you who were awake and online at 3 AM Left Coast Time got the first reports of the army's move, thanks to a couple of my notorious Lil' Birdies.
So why is this important? To put that together, we have to get into the back story on what happened. Thanks to the Lil' Birdies, I have some new details on how the whole deal went down.
The Egyptian Army is not like the U.S. Army. Like China's PLA, it owns farms, companies and private businesses that are often staffed by conscripts.
A lot of the 'military aid' from us goes to the army directly to fund these enterprises.
Morsi had purged a number of the top generals of the Egyptian military and replaced them with men whop were either fellow Islamists or apolitical.. or so he thought. With the Muslim Brotherhood government receiving support and patronage from President Obama, Morsi figured he had the Army under his thumb.
One of his appointments, as defense minister and chief of the Army was General Abdel Fattah al-Sissi, a former junior member of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), the junta that ruled Egypt until the Brotherhood took over.
As Egypt's economy spiraled out of control, Morsi and his Brotherhood allies began leaning heavily on al-Sissi and the military to eliminate a number of their prerogatives and to transfer most of the military aid they receive back to the government, so the government could use it for their own purposes.
Morsi and the Brotherhood were fairly certain that they would be able to put the squeeze on al-Sissi with President Obama's help. They were wrong.
After his phone call with Morsi, President Obama tried exactly that, telling al-Sissi and the other generals that a military coup would have a loss of U.S. aid as a consequence. That had worked before for the president, when the SCAF tried to limit Morsi and the Brotherhood's power and President Obama intervened.
This time, Al-Sissi and the other generals decided to call Obama's bluff. They realized that giving in to Obama and Morsi would lead to them losing any vestige of independence and freedom they had, and since Morsi was already poised to take their aid money away they had nothing to lose anyway. In the end, al-Sissi and his fellow general's first loyalty was to Egypt and the army, not the Brotherhood.
Not only that, but not only had Morsi and the Brotherhood become deeply unpopular, so had President Obama. The Egyptian street was very much familiar with Obama's role in putting the Brotherhood in power and keeping them there.
Once the decision was made, the coup proceeded smoothly, without any hesitation from the army generals or the soldiers under their command.
So what does this mean? Why is it important?
Today's events amounted to a tremendous loss of prestige for the genocidal Muslim Brotherhood. It was one thing to be the romantic opposition, operate a few soup kitchens, schools and clinics and tell everyone that if only Mubarak was out and they were in power, they would bring true greatness and prosperity to Egypt by following Allah's divine sharia-licious path.
But when they finally got in power, things were different. They were almost as corrupt, far more dictatorial and brutal and far more incompetent than Mubarak ever was. They will not be trusted with power for years, if ever. And their loss extends to other countries aside from Egypt, like Jordan, Libya, the rest of the Maghreb and the Arabian Peninsula. Egypt was the Muslim Brotherhood's chance to show that their version of a Sunni Islamist state could work. They failed miserably, and not only did they lose Egypt but they did major damage to the Caliphate President Obama and his administration were trying so desperately to put together in the Arab World. People who were prepared to put the Islamists in power are now looking at what happened in Egypt are having second thoughts.
That is probably one of the most important effects of the coup - the damage it did to the Muslim Brotherhood and the nascent Caliphate that was forming.This is huge and cannot be underestimated.
As Dave Burge (IowaHawk) wittily tweeted, the only Muslim Brotherhood fans left are in Washington DC.
President Obama also suffered a tremendous loss of prestige. The Prevaricator-In-Chief is having his people work overtime to spin this and revise what happened here, saying he was, you know, always pimping for freedom and democracy in Egypt.
The people of Egypt know better. Obama was for the Muslim Brotherhood first, last and always.
It's an open question how much influence the U.S. has with the new junta.If President Obama offers them aid, they need it and will probably take it. But they're not going to forget how this president tried to muscle them into knuckling under to Morsi.
The junta could very well decide that they've had enough of Mr. Hopey-changey and decide to switch sponsors. The Russians are the most likely candidate. With Syria in turmoil, the Russians might well find another warm water strategic Mediterranean port useful. On the other hand, there are bad memories in Egypt from the last time it was a Russian client state.
Another source of non-US funding is apparently coming from the Saudis and GCE countries, whom want Egypt as an ally in the ongoing Sunni-Shi'ite war in the region. This support involves pledges so far, which the Arab countries are notorious for reneging on. But it could very well be that the generals set this up with the Saudis before making their move. The Brotherhood regime, after all, had been making some friendly noises towards Iran.
But if the Saudi money comes through, the junta may very well decide to go along with the U.S. for the present,especially if fresh financial aid is forthcoming. That's especially true of the army, whose gear is all American made and dependent on U.S. supplied spare parts.
In any event, Egypt's economy is in crisis mode, and the breakdown of simple law and order is something the country's new rulers are going to have to devote an awful lot of time and attention to if they're to succeed in governing.
While the Obama Administration has certainly suffered a major loss of influence and prestige, one winner here is Israel. Instead of a hostile, Hamas friendly regime in Cairo, they will now have a much more pragmatic and coldly neutral Egyptian government to deal with. While anti-semitism and Israel Derangement Syndrome is firmly engrained in Egypt, the new junta, to put it bluntly, needs stability and has other things to worry about. In addition, they will undoubtedly do a lot more than Morsi did to keep the Brotherhood regime in Gaza isolated, in their own self interest. Just as Mubarak and SCAF did before, they will crack down on the smuggling tunnels and keep the Egyptian border with Gaza shut. And due to Egypt's financial difficulties, the junta might even welcome some discreet trade with the 'Zionists'.
Egypt's chief tasks in the immediate future will be creating stability in the country and doing something about the execrable economic situation. The first is probably doable, since the military is widely respected.The second one is systemic and probably not doable in the short term. But if the Army can at least tread water or even improve things slightly economically, especially when it comes to food supplies, they should be able to hang on.
UPDATES: Since I wrote this, the following has already happened...The Saudis and the Emirates have already kicked in $8 billion in aid to bolster then new regime, Egypt has isolated Hamas and closed down the Rafah crossing from the Egyptian side to Gaza indefinitely, and most importantly - wait for it - the new Emir Of Qatar did a 180 degree turn from his father's policies and stripped the Muslim Brotherhood's spiritual leader Sheik Qaradawi of his citizenship, closing down all Brotherhood offices and expelling Qaradawi and Hamas leader Khalid Mesha'al from the country.
The Brotherhood has now been revealed as a weak horse, and we know what happens to weak horses in this part of the world. If they try and institute a civil war as it looks like they're starting to do, they'll be crushed.
This is absolutely huge, and very good news for the West, if not for an Islamist friendly President Obama and his cabal in Washington.