The real story behind the military coup in Cairo led by General al-Sissi is much more complex than the western media is reporting. Far from a spontaneous uprising by Egyptians, – aka “a people’s revolution” – what really happened was a putsch orchestrated by Egypt’s “deep government” and outside powers – the latest phase of the counter-revolution against the so-called Arab Spring.
A year ago, Egyptians elected Mohammed Morsi president in their first fair democratic election. Morsi came from the ranks of the Muslim Brotherhood, an eight-decade old conservative movement of professionals dedicated to bringing Islamic principals of public welfare, politics, education, justice, piety and fighting corruption.
But the deck was stacked against Morsi and the Brotherhood from day one. The brutal US-backed Mubarak had fallen, but the organs of his 30-year dictatorship, Egypt’s pampered 440,000-man military, judiciary, academia, media, police, intelligence services and bureaucrats, remained in place. Even Morsi’s presidential guard remained under control of the Mubarak forces.
The dictatorship’s old guard – better known as the “deep government” – sought to thwart every move of the Brotherhood. In fact, the stolid, plodding Morsi only became president after more capable colleagues were vetoed by the hard-line Mubarakist courts.
Morsi should have purged the “deep government,” notably the police, secret police, judges, and media who were sabotaging the democratic government. But Morsi was too soft, and the entrenched powers arrayed against him too strong. He never managed to grasp the levers of state. Ironically, after all the media hysteria in North America over the alleged dangers of the Muslim Brotherhood, it turned out to be a dud.
The Brotherhood stumbled from one crisis to the next asEgypt’s economy, already in terrible shape before the 2011 revolution, sank like a rock. Tourism, that provided 17% of national income, evaporated. Unemployment soared over 13%, and over 50% among angry urban young. We have recently seen this same phenomena in Turkey, Tunisia, Algeria, Pakistan, and Western Europe. Severe shortages of fuel and electricity sparked outrage.
Egypt’s curse is that it cannot feed its surging population of over 90 million. So Cairo imports huge quantities of wheat and subsidizes retail prices for bread. The US sustained the Sadat and Mubarak regimes with boatloads of wheat discounted 50%. This vital aid tapered off when Morsi took power. Food prices in Egypt rose 10%.
Equally important, ever since Anwar Sadat invited in the US to rearm his outdated military, Egypt’s armed forces have become joined at the hip with the Pentagon. Just as Turkey’s 500,000-man armed forces were, until eleven years ago, and Pakistan’s so remain today.
Armies of many Muslim states are designed to control their populations, not defeat foreign enemies. The only Arab military force in recent memory to beat an invader has been the guerilla forces of Lebanon’s Hezbollah.
The US provides Egypt’s military $1.5 billion annually, not counting tens of millions of “black” payments from CIA to leading generals, police chiefs, commentators and bureaucrats.Egypt’s military has been totally re-equipped with US F-16 fighter-bombers, M-1 heavy tanks, armored vehicles, radars, electronic systems, and artillery.
Washington has supplied Egypt with just enough arms to control its population and intimidate small neighbors, but not enough to wage war against Israel. Further, the Pentagon sharply limits Egypt supplies of munitions, missiles and vital spare parts. Many of Egypt’s generals have been trained in US military colleges, where they formed close links with US intelligence and the Pentagon. CIA, DIA, and NSA have large stations in Egypt that watch its military and population.
Under Mubarak, the US controlled Egypt’s military and key parts of its economy. When Morsi and the Brotherhood came to power, Washington backed off for a while but in recent months apparently decided to back the overthrow of Egypt’s first democratic government.
This fact became perfectly clear when the White House refused to call the military coup in Cairo a coup. Had it done so, US law would have mandated the cutoff of US aid to Egypt.US politicians and media, with shameless hypocrisy, are hailing the overthrow of Morsi as a democratic achievement. In North America, anything labeled “Muslim” has become ipso facto menacing.
The counter-revolution of Egypt’s “deep government” was financed and aided by the US and Saudi Arabia, cheered on by Israel, the UAE, Britain and France. Tiny Qatar, that backed Morsi with $8 billion, lost its influence in Cairo. The Saudis will now call many shots in Egypt.
In recent weeks, mass street demonstrations in major Egyptian cities against Morsi were organized by the police, secret police and the Mubarakist structure. Fears of the Brotherhood were whipped up among Egypt’s nervous Coptic Christians, 10% of the population, who form much of the urban elite.
Then there were tens of thousands of unemployed, highly volatile young street people, as we recently saw in Istanbul, ready to explode at any excuse. Large numbers of Egyptians were fed up with stumbles of Morsi’s government – even some of his former Salafist allies. – and the threat of economic collapse. Liberals, Nasserites, Marxists joined them.
There may be some armed resistance against the coup, but it will likely be crushed by Egypt’s military and attack-dog security forces. Senior Brotherhood officials are already being arrested, and pro-Brotherhood media gagged, while Washington turns a blind eye.
As of now, the threat of a real civil war such as Algeria suffered in the 1990’s after a US and French-backed military coup seems unlikely, but not impossible. Meanwhile, the military has installed a puppet president for the time being. The old US “asset” Mohammed el-Baradei may take over as civilian frontman for the generals, who prefer civilian sock puppets get blamed for Egypt’s economic and social crises.
So much for democracy in the Mideast. The overthrow of a moderate Islamist government will send a message to the Muslim world that compromise with the Western powers is impossible and only violent resistance can shake the status quo.
Eric Margolis [send him mail] is the author of War at the Top of the World and the new book, American Raj: Liberation or Domination?: Resolving the Conflict Between the West and the Muslim World. See his website.