Storm on the Nile
Obama is reluctant to move because Israel, its friends in Congress, and the Pentagon brass are squarely behind Egypt’s military regime
Egypt’s US-financed armed forces have gone to war against Egypt’s people. Arab spring has become Arab winter.
So far, army and security police have scored brilliant battlefield victories against unarmed men, women and children, killing and wounding thousands who were demanding a return to democratic government.
The latest Cairo protests by supporters of the elected Morsi government have been scattered by gunfire and huge armored bulldozers resembling the giant vehicles used by Israel to smash Palestinian barricades and protesters. All Egyptians opposing the Sisi dictatorship are now officially, “terrorists.”
Egypt’s generals and hard right Mubarakist supporters have ditched any pretense of civilian government and now rely on the bayonet and tank. The men with the guns make the rules.
This is the third fairly elected Arab government to be overthrown or besieged, like Gaza, by Western-backed military regimes. Unlike Algeria, where the first elected government was crushed, Egypt’s Islamists have no arms and are unlikely to be able to mount serious domestic resistance aside from some pinprick attacks in Upper Egypt and Sinai.
The bloody Mubarakist counter-revolution, financed by Saudi Arabia and some Gulf monarchies, has put the United States, Egypt’s patron, into a serious jam. Washington was forced to denounce the coup and ongoing state repression as “deplorable,” in the words of US State Secretary John Kerry.
However, weeks earlier the clearly confused Kerry had praised the coup that overthrew Egypt’s first democratically elected government as “restoring democracy.” He refused to brand the military putsch a coup, for that would have meant cutting off annual $1.3 billion in US payments to Egypt’s armed forces, a key US ally. President Obama has simply ducked the whole issue.
Since Washington preaches democracy, civilian rule, and human rights, it can’t be seen to be openly backing Egypt’s brutal military and security forces. So the Obama administration has been pussyfooting around events in Egypt, pleased to see Egypt’s generals in charge and the Islamists out of power, but unwilling to say so.
US Mideast policy is run from five different power centers: the White House, State Department, Pentagon, CIA and Congress. America’s powerful pro-Israel lobby gives Congress its marching orders over Egypt, controlling financial aid, food supplies and weapons deliveries. In effect, Israel is a sixth player in this game.
Now, the White House has made a significant demarche: after delaying delivery of a few F-16 fighters, it just cancelled the annual US-Egyptian Brightstar military exercise, an affirmation of the Pentagon’s domination of Egypt’s military. This is a blow to the Pentagon and a boost for Kerry’s State Dept.
Egypt’s 440,000-man armed forces is joined at the hip with the Pentagon which controls its arms, funding, training, high tech equipment, promotion lists, spare parts and munitions supply, the latter two always kept in short supply.
So Egypt’s generals will soon have to sheathe their swords, withdraw tanks, and fabricate a figurehead civilian government that at least looks somewhat real, instead of the army-installed cigar-store Indians now supposedly running the government.
This will mollify Washington. After all, the US happily backed and financed the brutal Mubarak military regimes for three decades, turning a blind eye to its torture, executions and massive human rights violations. Western media obediently lauded the Mubarak dictatorship as a pillar of Mideast stability (US code talk for status quo).
Expect a rapid return to Mubarakism once the bloodshed dies down, and likely his release from jail. The prisons will fill again, the torturers will work overtime and Egypt will return to full-blown military-police state led, most likely, by General al-Sisi, who looks every inch a modern dictator in his dark sunglasses and medals.
For once, leading Republican senator John McCain got it right: Washington should cut off all military aid to Egypt he urged, as US law mandates. America’s image in the entire Muslim world is at risk. Remember when President Obama called for full democracy across the Mideast?
But Obama is reluctant to move because Israel, its friends in Congress, and the Pentagon brass are squarely behind Egypt’s military regime, as they were behind Mubarak. Egypt, and its US guided armed force, are a pillar of the American Mideast Raj.
© 2013 Eric Margolis