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» The Ornery American Forum » General Comments » Torturers, Jailers, Spies Lead Egypt’s ‘New’ Government

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Author Topic: Torturers, Jailers, Spies Lead Egypt’s ‘New’ Government
philnotfil
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Mubarak seems to be more than a little out of touch.

wired.com

quote:
Dissidents demanding the end of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak’s regime had better hope they don’t end up under arrest. The first members of Mubarak’s new cabinet — a face-lift so he can stay in power — are heavily involved in the apparatus of state repression, including a spymaster who worked with the U.S. to torture terrorist suspects.

New prime minister Ahmed Shafik is a long-time deputy of Mubarak with a reputation for toughness. (Title of a 2005 profile: “With an Iron Fist.”) The new interior minister was the top jailer. And the new vice president is the Middle East’s most powerful intelligence chief. That looks less like the kind of government demanded by the protesters and more like a government designed to crack down on them.

quote:
et’s start with the new internal-security chief, Gen. Mahmoud Wagdy, the former head of prisons. What happens in an Egyptian prison? The U.S. State Department’s annual human rights report explains: “[P]rison cells were overcrowded, with a lack of medical care, proper hygiene, food, clean water and proper ventilation. Tuberculosis was widespread; abuse was common, especially of juveniles in adult facilities; and guards brutalized prisoners.”
quote:
The most striking appointment is the new vice president: Omar Suleiman, Egypt’s top spy. Egypt’s intelligence services are considered the most robust in the Arab world — and a crucial asset to the west. When the Clinton and Bush administrations sought to hold terror suspects in foreign countries — where the United States could turn a blind eye to how they were treated — Egypt was the “obvious choice,” according to Jane Mayer’s 2008 book The Dark Side.

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JWatts
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Assuming that Mubarak is overthrown, will the Muslim Brotherhood obtain power? Or will it be some kind of coalition? Any thoughts on this?

[ February 01, 2011, 12:01 PM: Message edited by: JWatts ]

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LetterRip
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From what I can tell the 'Muslim Brotherhood' angle appears to be a boogeyman to try and entice western countries to interfere. I don't think they will be able to attain any power in the new organization.
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Viking_Longship
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I suspect Pat Buchanan is correct that it's going to be the military which takes over. The Military is unlikely to be eager to see Islamists take over considering to purges that took place in Iran under the Ayatollah.
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Mariner
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Calling the threat of the Muslim Brotherhood a "boogeyman" is a gross overstatement, LetterRip. While we have no idea how things will play out, the MB is just about the only organized opposition to Mubarak that exists. Let us assume the best case scenario, in which a purely transitory government is set up between now and September when free and fair elections take place. Who will have a head start in organizing and campaigning? Who will have a unified voice as opposed to a hazy, fragmented confusion? The MB, that's who.

Moderate groups are unlikely to coalesce into larger political parties immediately. Chances are, the MB will be the single largest party in the new election and will have a dominant say in organizing a new government, especially if the second largest party is Mubarek supporters.

And it's not like Egypt is free of the Islamist influences anyway. I've seen a few posters from these protests that are clearly anti-semitic and blaming the Jews for Mubarek, which is obviously not a healthy approach for an enlightened, moderate government. Violence against Coptic Christians do flare up every once in a while. And any attitudes towards Western ideals seem to be shaky at best. Some factoids that have been floating around the last couple days is the fact that Pew Research has Egyptians as both overwhelmingly in favor of freedom of religion and overwhelmingly in favor of the death penalty for those who convert away from Islam. Clearly there's some logic issues there.

Of course, there's reason to believe that things will be better. It seems to me that the largest difference between Egypt and Iran in 1979 is oil, or Egypt's lack thereof. It's a lot easier to control power in a land if you can control its wealth. Controlling oil is relatively easy. Controlling tourism and agriculture? Not so much.

I'm not an expert on Egypt by any means, but I am cautiously optimistic. However, it seems to me that there are far more examples of French and Russian revolutions, where one tyranny is replaced by a worse one, than there are of US revolutions.

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RickyB
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MB will almost certainly be part of any coalition that replaces the current regime, but it probably won't be at the helm, at least not to begin with.
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JWatts
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quote:
Originally posted by RickyB:
MB will almost certainly be part of any coalition that replaces the current regime, but it probably won't be at the helm, at least not to begin with.

OK, assuming this, who would the other major players be?
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RickyB
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There are two significant non-religious parties: al-Wafd ("The New Delegation") and al-Ghad ("Tomorrow"). The latter, founded by ex-members of the former, is headed by a man named Ayman Nour, who was jailed by the Mubarak regime for being a courageous opposition figure on trumped up charges of forging his party's registration documents or some such, then released on health reasons following international protest in 2009. He will feature in a new government if he is well enough, and if not him then his chief followers, as will members of al-Wafd. Nour received 12% of the votes for president in 2005, and we can assume this number was artificially low.

The MB is the largest political bloc outside Mubarak's National Democratic Party. There are also leftist parties with some following.

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RickyB
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Correction: Another source has Nour receiving about 7.5% in 2005. Doesn't mean much either way, since the regime manipulated the results all the time.
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RickyB
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Then again there's Muhammad al-Baredei, of IAEA fame, but he doesn't really have a political base. Just personal prestige.
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Funean
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It is my understanding that the MB in Egypt is the faction that renounced violence when the original MB split several decades ago. They are an integrated, legitimate part of civil society now. It is also the MB that has repeatedly, thoroughly denounced the Iranian model of regime change. Comparisons to radical Islamists and terrorists are probably not useful in understanding what role the MB will play, and what that will look like.

The most thoroughly secular institution in Egypt seems to be the military.

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philnotfil
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Today's Muslim Brotherhood is also the group that Mubarak keeps around to scare people with. If you get rid of me, they will control the government.
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RickyB
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Funean is correct. The people who killed Saadat, for instance, broke off from the Egyptian MB after the latter renounced violence in the 70's.

JWatts - yet another name you might hear coming up is Amr Moussa, former Egyptian Foreign Minister and current head of the Arab League. He's very popular personally, although of course tainted by association with the ruling party. He's rumored to be involved in the behind the scenes talks aimed at resolving the current mess.

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JWatts
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Thanks for the info RickyB.
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philnotfil
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An interesting piece on the Muslim Brotherhood.

nytimes.com

quote:
AS Egyptians clash over the future of their government, Americans and Europeans have repeatedly expressed fears of the Muslim Brotherhood. “You don’t just have a government and a movement for democracy,” Tony Blair, the former British prime minister, said of Egypt on Monday. “You also have others, notably the Muslim Brotherhood, who would take this in a different direction.”

The previous day, the House speaker, John Boehner, expressed hope that Hosni Mubarak would stay on as president of Egypt while instituting reforms to prevent the Muslim Brotherhood and other extremists from grabbing power.

But here’s the real deal, at least as many Egyptians see it. Ever since its founding in 1928 as a rival to Western-inspired nationalist movements that had failed to free Egypt from foreign powers, the Muslim Brotherhood has tried to revive Islamic power. Yet in 83 years it has botched every opportunity. In Egypt today, the Brotherhood counts perhaps some 100,000 adherents out of a population of over 80 million. And its failure to support the initial uprising in Cairo on Jan. 25 has made it marginal to the spirit of revolt now spreading through the Arab world.

This error was compounded when the Brotherhood threw in its lot with Mohamed ElBaradei, the former diplomat and Nobel Prize winner. A Brotherhood spokesman, Dr. Essam el-Erian, told Al Jazeera, “Political groups support ElBaradei to negotiate with the regime.” But when Mr. ElBaradei strode into Tahrir Square, many ignored him and few rallied to his side despite the enormous publicity he was receiving in the Western press. The Brotherhood realized that in addition to being late, it might be backing the wrong horse. On Tuesday, Dr. Erian told me, “It’s too early to even discuss whether ElBaradei should lead a transitional government or whether we will join him.” This kind of flip-flopping makes many Egyptians scoff.

quote:
Nonetheless, the Brotherhood did not arrive at this historical moment with the advantage of wide public favor. Such support as it does have among Egyptians — an often cited figure is 20 percent to 30 percent — is less a matter of true attachment than an accident of circumstance: the many decades of suppression of secular opposition groups that might have countered it. The British, King Farouk, Gamal Abdel Nasser and Anwar el-Sadat all faced the same problem that Hisham Kaseem, a newspaper editor and human rights activist, described playing out under Mr. Mubarak. “If people met in a cafe and talked about things the regime didn’t like, he would just shut down the cafe and arrest us,” Mr. Kaseem said. “But you can’t close mosques, so the Brotherhood survived.”

If Egyptians are given political breathing space, Mr. Kaseem told me, the Brotherhood’s importance will rapidly fade. “In this uprising the Brotherhood is almost invisible,” Mr. Kaseem said, “but not in America and Europe, which fear them as the bogeyman.”


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