Egypt

Egypt’s bloody crackdown: What does Obama do now?

Will Obama stand by Egypt's military?

Will Obama stand by Egypt’s military?

The Week

The president faces mounting pressure to hold Egypt’s military accountable as blood runs in Cairo’s streets

After a day’s worth of bloody violence, Egypt finds itself at a crossroads — as does the administration of President Barack Obama.

The White House on Wednesday condemned the Egyptian military’s brutal crackdown on Islamist protesters demanding the reinstatement of ousted president Mohamed Morsi. A spokesman for Obama also criticized the interim Egyptian government for declaring a state of emergency, which gave the army unchecked power to restore order, and said the U.S. would hold Egypt accountable for keeping its promise to restore democracy.

Obama, however, faces mounting pressure to do more. The latest violence, which pitted heavily armed soldiers against rock-throwing civilians, has killed more than 230 people. There have been renewed calls for the U.S. to cut off the $1.3 billion in annual aid it sends to Egypt’s military. And Turkey, a valuable NATO ally, went so far as to call for the United Nations and Arab League to intervene to stop the violence.

It doesn’t help the U.S. that Mohamed ElBaredei, the interim government’s vice president, resigned in protest today, withdrawing crucial liberal support and cementing the impression that the oppressive tactics of the Hosni Mubarak era have returned.

There are plenty of reasons to tread carefully in Egypt. Ending America’s military aid to Egypt could remove the only leverage Obama has to steer events in the country. “The country’s military would be even harder to influence, and given its current power over the country, this is clearly a dangerous prospect,” Khairi Abaza argued this week at CNN.

But an end to the current relationship would also have a direct and deleterious impact on American interests more broadly. An end to aid would threaten the durability of Egypt’s critical peace treaty with Israel, not to mention the current agreement that guarantees the safe and reliable passage of U.S. military ships and equipment through the Suez Canal. [CNN]

That has been the consensus realpolitik stance since Morsi was ousted. But the argument sways fewer and fewer people as horrifying images stream out of Cairo and the death toll rises.

Here’s Marc Lynch at Foreign Policy:

With blood in Egypt’s streets and a return to a state of emergency, it’s time for Washington to stop pretending. Its efforts to maintain its lines of communication with the Egyptian military, quietly mediate the crisis, and help lay the groundwork for some new, democratic political process have utterly failed… As long as Egypt remains on its current path, the Obama administration should suspend all aid, keep the embassy in Cairo closed, and refrain from treating the military regime as a legitimate government. [Foreign Policy]

As Andrew Sullivan puts it at The Dish, “There is no way the U.S. can aid a government that guns down its citizens in the streets.”

Furthermore, what is the U.S. really getting from all the aid it has provided? Here’s Amy Davidson at The New Yorker:

Every side blames the United States for something—talking to Morsi, abandoning Morsi, being too involved or abdicating. But the Egyptian military is the one most responsible for staging a battle on the streets of Cairo today. It is also the one funded, in part, by a billion dollars in American aid every year. Does that money get us a hearing? And does Obama even know what, specifically, he would ask for? [The New Yorker]

Indeed, threatening to withdraw the aid may be the last card Obama has to play, particularly when you consider that Egypt has been the recipient of billions of dollars in additional funding from Sunni autocracies — like Saudi Arabia and the UAE — that are more than glad to see the Muslim Brotherhood on its heels.

Here’s The Washington Post in an editorial:

If the United States wishes to have some chance to influence a country that has been its close ally for four decades it must immediately change its policy toward the armed forces. That means the complete suspension of all aid and cooperation, coupled with the message that relations will resume when — and if — the generals end their campaign of repression and take tangible steps to restore democracy. [The Washington Post]

Egypt Gaza Border Reopened Permanently

 

Undoubtedly, another effect of the Arab Spring

Huffington Post

Egypt lifted a four-year-old blockade on the Gaza Strip’s main link to the outside world Saturday, bringing relief to the crowded territory’s 1.5 million Palestinians but deepening a rift with Israel since the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak earlier this year.

The Egyptian move will allow thousands of Gazans to move freely in and out of the area – heightening Israeli fears that militants and weapons could easily reach its doorstep.

Israel and Egypt imposed the blockade after the Islamic militant Hamas seized control of Gaza in June 2007. The closure, which also included tight Israeli restrictions at its cargo crossings with Gaza and a naval blockade, was meant to weaken Hamas, but it also fueled an economic crisis in the densely populated territory.

Hundreds of Gazans gathered early Saturday as the first bus load of passengers crossed the border at 9 a.m. Two Egyptian officers stood guard next to a large Egyptian flag atop the border gate as the vehicle rumbled through.

Rami Arafat, 52, was among the earliest arrivals. He said he hoped to catch a flight out of Cairo on Sunday to Algeria for his daughter’s wedding.

“All we need is to travel like humans, be treated with dignity, and feel like any other citizens of the world who can travel in and out freely,” Arafat said. He said he believed the relaxing of travel restrictions “will guarantee more support from all Arabs and Palestinians for the new Egyptian regime.”

Continue reading here…

Lara Logan Suffered ‘Brutal’ Sexual Assault In Egypt

Huffington Post

CBS News says correspondent Lara Logan “suffered a brutal and sustained sexual assault” while covering the resignation of Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak.

The CBS statement:

On Friday February 11, the day Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak stepped down, CBS correspondent Lara Logan was covering the jubilation in Tahrir Square for a 60 MINUTES story when she and her team and their security were surrounded by a dangerous element amidst the celebration. It was a mob of more than 200 people whipped into frenzy.In the crush of the mob, she was separated from her crew. She was surrounded and suffered a brutal and sustained sexual assault and beating before being saved by a group of women and an estimated 20 Egyptian soldiers. She reconnected with the CBS team, returned to her hotel and returned to the United States on the first flight the next morning. She is currently in the hospital recovering.

There will be no further comment from CBS News and Correspondent Logan and her family respectfully request privacy at this time.

On Tuesday’s “CBS Evening News,” Katie Couric said that she was “pleased to report” that Logan is “recovering well in the hospital.”

Logan had previously been detained by Egyptian authorities while attempting to enter Cairo.

The Committee to Protect Journalists report on attacks on the press in Egypt in 2005 referenced female journalists facing sexual assault:

A report published in 2005 by the Egyptian Organization for Human Rights said that “journalists in Egypt suffer numerous forms of discrimination including unfairness in legislation, judicial prosecution of journalists for their writing and opinions, assault and death threats, and sexual assault of female journalists.”

 

The Five Ways President Obama Ushered In Egyptian Democracy

You won’t hear much praise for President Obama’s role during the Egyptian crisis in the media, but Liberal Oasis enumerates a few…

Liberal Oasis

President Barack does not deserve the primary credit for the Egyptian revolution, that goes to the Egyptian people. But President Obama made five critical strategic choices that maximized the possibility of success, which also show how dramatically his administration has changed American foreign policy.

1. No Support For Crackdown.

President Obama did not communicate to Mubarak that a brutal crackdown would be tolerated, such as when the first Bush administration told the Chinese government that how it handled the Tiananmen Square uprising was ultimately an “internal affair,” or when the second Bush administration defended Pakistan’s dictator as someone who “hasn’t crossed the line” after he declared emergency rule and jailed thousands of political opponents.

Mubarak clearly knew he did not have the same latitude to break the protests that past American-backed dictators possessed, and an overwhelming use of force was never tried.

2. Did Not Allow Uprising To Be Seen As Co-Opted By America.

Obama stuck to support of democracy and free assembly, without crudely picking sides in the confrontation. While the President took a lot of heat for not embracing the protests quickly enough or explicitly enough, his restraint ensured that the world accepted the protests as the authentic voice of the Egyptian people.

Muburak allies tried to paint the revolutionaries as under foreign influence. Obama did not give them enough to work with.

3. Did Not Presume America Has More Influence Than It Does Or Should.

The President never made the mistake of delivering ultimatums it could not enforce, which not only would have violated the principle of respecting the sovereignty of the Egyptian people, but also would have diminished American stature if those ultimatums were rebuffed.

4. Did Not Drop Any Bombs On Egypt.

Neoconservatives often argued that the best way to spark a democratic uprising in a country run by an authoritarian regime is to bomb that nation. I suppose they could claim that Iraq eventually got there, but only after hundreds of thousands dead, years of sectarian violence, then eventually rediscovering diplomacy (and talking to a broad range of people and parties).

The Egyptian way is shaping up to be far superior, as more Egyptians will be alive to enjoy their democracy.

5. Signaled America Would Engage All Opposition Parties.

This move was the President at his most politically courageous and most politically powerful.

While conservatives attacked Obama for not trying to disbar the Muslim Brotherhood from participating in any future government, the President repeatedly assured Egypt that America would engage with all parties.

In the President’s first statement on the protests, he said: “we are committed to working with the Egyptian government and the Egyptian people — all quarters — to achieve it.”

In his second statement, outlining principles for democratic transition, he said, “the process must include a broad spectrum of Egyptian voices and opposition parties.”

As I once wrote in my book, in the chapter explaining how we can promote “credible democracy”:

When America deals with another country, instead of only talking to the people in power or to a single opposition party, we should deal with groups representing all peoples and parties representing all ideologies in that country. That way it will be evident that America is not trying to dictate who is in power in other countries for its own ends, but that we are willing to work with whomever sovereign peoples choose to represent them, now or in the future.

Such an approach is ripe for cheap conservative attacks, because to apply it in the Muslim world means engaging with Islamic political parties with which we disagree on much. But engagement is far better than isolation, which gives terrorist organizations the opportunity to claim they offer the only path towards political relevance and empowerment.

As the President’s intelligence director said yesterday: “With respect to what’s going on in Egypt, I think this is truly a tectonic event. There [is] potentially a great opportunity here to come up with a counternarrative to Al Qaeda and its franchises and what it is espousing.”

The President’s team sees the rise of credible democracy in the world’s largest Arab nation as critical to extinguishing the threat of terrorism by radical Islamists, and properly prioritized that goal ahead succumbing to the myopia of pursuing narrow self-interests in the short-term. That is a major change in America foreign policy and a clear break from the previous President.

Obama has rejected the neoconservative foreign policy belief in imposing phony democracy at the point of the gun, and instead embraced the liberal foreign policy belief of promoting credible democracy through strategic diplomacy.

And the world is better off for it.

Post-Mubarak: How the U.S. Plans to Aid Democracy in Egypt

Note to George Bush, Dick Cheney, Paul Wolfowitz, et al, you don’t have to bomb a country (or two) to instill “Democracy” in the Middle East.  Real Democracy is a process implemented by the people of that region and governed by the people.

Time Magazine

Now that Hosni Mubarak is getting accustomed to life as an ex-dictator, Barack Obama and his foreign-policy aides have a new task. Washington has publicly called for an Egyptian transition to democracy, which Egypt has never known. To avoid a continuation of dictatorial rule under a new strongman — or a dangerous power vacuum as weaker players try to seize control — Egypt will need to see the lightning-fast development of long-suppressed political parties. So the U.S. is preparing a new package of assistance to Egyptian opposition groups, designed to help with constitutional reform, democratic development and election organizing, State Department officials tell TIME. The package is still being formulated, and the officials decline to say how much it would be worth or to which groups it would be directed.

White House officials declined to say whether any of the new money would be directed to the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt’s most prominent Islamist party.

The Obama Administration cut democracy-and-governance aid to Egyptian opposition groups in its first two years in office, from $45 million in George W. Bush’s last budget to $25 million for the 2010 and 2011 fiscal years. The Obama Administration also stopped providing aid to groups that had not registered with the Egyptian government, drawing criticism from human-rights organizations. The Administration has had conversations with Egyptian government officials, including the Egyptian envoy to the U.S., Ambassador Sameh Shoukry, about the provision of new aid, sources tell TIME.  Read more here…

 

The Power of the People!

It’s a done deal.  Mubarak has stepped down!  Like Chris Matthews just said on MSNBC: “A note to the Tea Party, these people did not need ‘1st amendment rights’ to topple this government.”

Soley on the power of the people, Egypt will now become a Democracy…

Huffington Post

Egypt’s vice president says Hosni Mubarak has resigned as president and handed control to the military.

Car horns were heard around Cairo in celebration after Vice President Omar Suleiman made the announcement on national TV on Friday.

“In these difficult circumstances that the country is passing through, President Hosni Mubarak has decided to leave the position of the presidency,” Suleiman said. He has commissioned the armed forces council to direct the issues of the state.”

MORE TO FOLLOW…

Military chiefs back Mubarak, Sept. elections

Washington Post

As huge crowds packed central Cairo Friday, calling anew for the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak, Egypt’s military chiefs pledged to back the authoritarian leader’s decision to remain in office.

The armed forces did not move against the demonstrators, however, and the statement from the supreme military council said it would guarantee “free and honest” elections and a lifting of Egypt’s 30-year-old state of emergency once calm returned to the streets.

In a statement read on state television, the council endorsed Mubarak’s move the night before to transfer most of his powers to his hand-picked vice president, Omar Suleiman. It also encouraged protesters to go home, citing the need to “return to normal life.”

Instead, waves of people continued to course into Tahrir Square, and anger and frustration mounted as word spread of the military’s stance.

“Mubarak must go! He is finished!” protesters shouted as a sea of people waved red-white-and-black Egyptian flags.

At a smaller demonstration at the presidential palace, in the affluent northern suburb of Heliopolis, Taha Nahas predicted that the military’s statement would backfire and that Egyptians who had seen the armed forces as an honest protector of their interests would change their minds.

More…

Mubarak Refuses To Step Down, Vows To Pass Powers To Egypt’s Vice President

I had an eerie feeling this would happen…

Huffington Post

 Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak refused to step down or leave the country and instead said he would hand his powers to his vice president Thursday, remaining president and ensuring regime control over the reform process. Stunned protesters in central Cairo who demand his ouster waved their shoes in contempt and shouted, “Leave, leave, leave.”

The rapidly moving events raised the question of whether a rift had opened between Mubarak and the military command. Hours earlier, a council of the military’s top generals announced it had stepped in to secure the country, and a senior commander announced to protesters in Tahrir Square that all their demands would soon be met, raising cries of victory that Mubarak was on his way out.

After Mubarak’s speech, protest organizers called for the army to take action to oust him, and they vowed increased protests on Friday. Several hundred thousand had packed into Tahrir Square, ecstatic with expectation that Mubarak would announce his resignation in his nighttime address. Instead, they watched in shocked silence as he spoke, slapping their foreheads in anger and disbelief. Some broke into tears.

Around a 1,000 marched on the state television headquarters several blocks away, guarded by the military with barbed wire and tanks. “They are the liars,” the crowd shouted, pointing at the building, chanting, “We won’t leave, they will leave.”   More…

Report: Mubarak to Step Down

SHARM EL SHEIKH/EGYPT, 18MAY08 - Muhammad Hosn...

Image via Wikipedia

The Daily Beast

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak will step down Thursday night, two sources tell NBC News, and his vice president, Omar Suleiman, will take his place. After over two weeks of protests, the army chief of staff waded into the crowd and told protesters, “All your demands will be met tonight.” Asked if this meant Mubarak would be stepping down, he said “It ends tonight.” Mubarak is expected to speak at some point Thursday night. CIA Director Leon Panetta told Congress there’s a “strong likelihood” Mubarak will step down this evening.

 
 
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Egyptian Revolution – “I Will Die Today!”

 Mario Piperni

“We will not be silenced, whether you’re a Christian, whether you’re a Muslim, whether you’re an atheist, you will demand your goddamn rights, and we will have our rights, one way or another! We will never be silenced!”

We live on a planet where almost 2 billion of its inhabitants live and die under the rule of dictators, a group of which there is no shortage.  Foreign Policy estimates there are at least 40 dictators in the world today.

…the cost of all that despotism has been stultifying. Millions of lives have been lost, economies have collapsed, and whole states have failed under brutal repression. And what has made it worse is that the world is in denial. The end of the Cold War was also supposed to be the “End of History” — when democracy swept the world and repression went the way of the dinosaurs. Instead, Freedom House reports that only 60 percent of the world’s countries are democratic — far more than the 28 percent in 1950, but still not much more than a majority. And many of those aren’t real democracies at all, ruled instead by despots in disguise while the world takes their freedom for granted. As for the rest, they’re just left to languish.

I’m one of those who has always taken his freedom for granted. I’ve never lived under an oppressive regime and I do not know what it feels like to march in protest to rid myself of a dictator who has ruthlessly suppressed my rights.

It is with that thought in mind that I watched the video below shot by a young Egyptian.  It’s gone viral but if you haven’t yet seen it, do so. 

You’ll find it difficult to not be moved by it.