Thursday, December 06, 2012

Egypt: The Army Steps In To Quash Anti-Morsi Protests

What's left of Egypt's liberal democratic activists, secularists and Christians aren't going quietly.

They've staged massive protests over Islamist President Mohammed Morsi's assuming what amounts to dictatorial powers pretty much along the lines of his predecessor, Mubarak, with the exception that it's all now being done in the name of Allah.

Clashes between the demonstrators, pro-Muslim Brotherhood counter demonstrators rounded up by the regime and security forces have left seven people dead, and Morsi actually had to exit the presidential palace yesterday when a few demonstrators momentarily broke through the police line.

Female anti-Morsi demonstrators in particular have been deliberately targeted for sexual assault by what appeasr to be organized gangs.

The Army had stayed out of this entirely, preferring to retain their popular image as the Egyptian people's protectors..until today.

This morning, army tanks surrounded the presidential palace, blockades were set up and the protestors were instructed to leave Tahrir Square immediately. Most of them did just that.

The commander of the Republican Guard, the army unit that guards the palace said their intent was to separate the rival demonstrations and the ensuing violence, not to repress them.

"The armed forces, and at the forefront of them the Republican Guard, will not be used as a tool to oppress the demonstrators," General Mohamed Zaki told the state news agency, MENA.

Which is why they ordered Tahrir Square cleared, of course.

The Egyptian military gets $1.3 billion in direct U.S. aid. Those tanks you see above (and believe me, the demonstrators know it) are American.

A lot of that money doesn't go for outright military expenditures. It goes to help fund and maintain private businesses the Egyptian Army owns outright, many times with army recruits working in them at government expense for the price of their army pay rather than for what a private employer would have to pay in wages.

I'd say that a signal has been sent from the Obama White House, one way or the other.

Either Morsi has been told quietly that he needs to back off and the army instructed to end the violence, or more likely, he received a message from the White House backing him but advising he step a bit more lightly while he's consolidating power, and the army was privy to it.Especially since their higher command was recently purged of every member of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces and most of the other Mubarak holdovers and replaced by Islamist officers loyal to Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood.

The majority of Egyptians want Islamist, sharia based rule.That's what the election was all about. If it copmes to a showdown, Morsi and the Brotherhood will win. It remains to be seen how they finesse it to avoid making the Obama Administration move to cut their funding.

Given our president's liking for Islamists and the Muslim Brotherhood, that might not be all that difficult, at least for awhile.

We've seen this movie before, when President Eisenhower courted Egyptian strongman Gamal Abdul Nasser back in the 1950's. Ike eventually got wise, but a lot of taxpayer money was spent before that happened.

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