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US stand on Egypt smacks of hypocrisy



On Egypt, the United States is caught between the devil and deep sea. It has trimmed its largesse and put on hold deliveries of tanks, fighter aircrafts, helicopters and missiles as well as $260 million in cash to show the world how perturbed it is over the continued trampling of democracy by General Abdel Fattah Al Sisi. Yet, it has refused to call the manner in which the army in Egypt usurped power in a coup, condemn the continuing crimes of the Egyptian generals and men in uniform and cut off all aid because Egypt continues to remain a strategic ally. Therefore, Washington's bounty for the criminals of democracy continues to flow in the pretext of helping Egypt's counter terrorism activities, counter-proliferation programmes and to ensure security in Sinai Peninsula.

The US stand on Egypt, therefore, smacks of hypocrisy and the aid cuts are, as democracy advocate Hisham Kassem says, 'more symbolic than substantive'. Far from trying to restore democracy, condemn the army coup and working to stop murder of Muslim Brotherhood supporters Washington has allowed the Egyptian army, serpent in epaulettes, to get away with its crimes. Succinct is the comparison made by Feisal G. Mohamed, a professor at the University of Illinois. Egypt, he says, has come to look more and more like England between the death of Oliver Cromwell in 1658 and the restoration of Charles II in 1660. In a tumultuous twenty months, England saw six changes in government, most of them initiated by short-sighted army officers.

In the midst of the chaos, one of parliament's former generals, George Monck, marched his army from Scotland to London with the promise of bringing stability to the Commonwealth. Ultimately he used his position of military strength to force parliament to readmit its royalist members, setting in motion England's return to monarchy after eleven years of experimentation in republicanism.

General Al Sisi looks very much like an Egyptian George Monck, using a position of military strength to promise stability to a populace weary of tumultuous political transition. If anything his connections to the pre-revolutionary regime are tighter than Monck's were, the military having been for the past half century a pipeline to Egypt's Presidential Palace.
Continued instability will favour a return to power of the ancient regime, and the further political marginalisation of the secular left. And Al Sisi and the army will push that agenda.

Whatever Feisal predicted way back in August and soon after the coup in which General Sisi and his army usurped power has come true. Egypt has become a wildly unpredictable place. The military, in its effort to break the influence of Muslim Brotherhood, has banned the party once again.

Having dismantled the Brotherhood's political machinery to their satisfaction, a presidential election will be called with the military strongly backing one of their own.  They have tried since the ouster of Mubarak to install Omar Suleiman as the president. In the last presidential elections, they gave very strong support to have another member of the old guard, Ahmed Shafik. Next time around, they may push for Shafik again, or, perhaps, urge Al Sisi to put on civilian clothing and stand for election. Many segments of the public seem to be showering him with adulation, so that if Al Sisi ran for president today he just might win.

A small and apparently innocuous sentence spilled the beans. A news item, Hagel Contacts Egyptian General Now In Charge, in military.com on July 3, 2013 exposed what the United States has been trying to obfuscate so zealously. The news said, US Defence Secretary Hagel and US Chief of Staff General Dempsey were walking a fine line in their contacts with the Egyptian military, expressing concern while attempting to avoid the impression that the US was manipulating events behind the scenes.

All of a sudden the miasma cleared. We now know why the Egyptian army murdered nearly two thousand Muslim Brotherhood supporters, maimed over two thousand more, unseated an elected president and brought back the rule of the guns suspending Egypt's national constitution.

It was, by no means, an effort to restore liberalism, uphold democracy, give the rein of uprising that overthrew Hosni Mubarak back to the secularists and middle class Egyptians and salvage a movement from hijackers. The coup was staged and a thousand Egyptians were murdered in a calculated and well-planned move chalked out with utter cynicism miles away in Washington.

Prevailing silence in Egypt is deafeningly raucous; the lull is intimidating. A fire is raging unnoticed at the backyards threatening to turn into a towering inferno which will eventually burn Egypt down.

Muslim Brotherhood may have decided, at least for now, to remain non-violent and carry on with its movement in protest against the army unseating an elected president. But there are fathers, brothers, friends and sisters whose sons, daughters, brothers, sisters and friends have been murdered by the army in unprovoked violent crackdown.

They all have been bereaved and they are angry as well. Most of them are more than willing to avenge the murders and are ready to defy their party's decision. Their options of turning to violence and lure to pick up guns are rising.

Far from stabilising the country General Sisi has condemned Egypt to greater chaos which he soon would be found grievously wanting in containing. He may kill a few thousands more and the ban on Muslim Brotherhood notwithstanding Egyptians' protests against the coup will continue and grow.

And they must because the General Sisi's crimes cannot be allowed to go unopposed and uncontested. The feet that have trampled the green shoots of democracy must be chopped off.  

The author is the Opinion Editor of Times of Oman.


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