by Doctor Science
Mubarak is actually out. I'm watching Al-Jazeera's livestream. I'm putting this up to have something on the spot, I'll add stuff to it later.
Last week, Paul Amar (UC Santa Barbara) posted an exceedingly clear explanation of Egyptian military & police institutions. I'll summarize, but if you have any interest in what's going on in Egypt you should read the whole thing.
Major armed groups in Egypt include:
1. Police forces (al-shurta). They
are run by the Interior Ministry which was very close to Mubarak and the Presidency and had become politically co-dependent on him. But police stations gained relative autonomy during the past decades. In certain police stations this autonomy took the form of the adoption of a militant ideology or moral mission; or some Vice Police stations have taken up drug running; or some ran protection rackets that squeezed local small businesses.... Police grew to be quite self-interested and entrepreneurial on a station-by-station level.
2. Gangs or baltagiya.
These street organizations had asserted self-rule over Cairo's many informal settlements and slums. Foreigners and the Egyptian bourgeoisie assumed the baltagiya to be Islamists but they were mostly utterly unideological. In the early 1990s the Interior Ministry decided "if you can't beat them, hire them." So the Interior Ministry and the Central Security Services started outsourcing coercion to these baltagiya, paying them well and training them to use sexualized brutality (from groping to rape) in order to punish and deter female protesters and male detainees, alike. During this period the Interior Ministry also turned the State Security Investigations (SSI) (mabahith amn al-dawla) into a monstrous threat, detaining and torturing masses of domestic political dissidents.
3. Central Security Services (Amn al-Markazi), which are autonomous from the Interior Ministry.
These are the black uniformed, helmeted men that the media refer to as "the police." Central Security was supposed to act as the private army of Mubarak. These are not revolutionary guards or morality brigades like the basiji who repressed the Green Movement protesters in Iran. By contrast, the Amn al-Markazi are low paid and non-ideological. Moreover, at crucial times, these Central Security brigades have risen up en masse against Mubarak, himself, to demand better wages and working conditions. Perhaps if it weren't for the sinister assistance of the brutal baltagiya, they would not be a very intimidating force. The look of unenthusiastic resignation in the eyes of Amn al-Markazi soldiers as they were kissed and lovingly disarmed by protesters has become one of the most iconic images, so far, of this revolution.
4. The Armed Forces of the Arab Republic of Egypt
are quite unrelated to the Markazi or police and see themselves as a distinct kind of state altogether. ... Since 1977 [when the US brokered the Camp David Accords between Israel and Egypt], the military has not been allowed to fight anyone. Instead, the generals have been given huge aid payoffs by the US. They have been granted concessions to run shopping malls in Egypt, develop gated cities in the desert and beach resorts on the coasts....
These buy-offs have shaped them into an incredibly organized interest group of nationalist businessmen. They are attracted to foreign investment; but their loyalties are economically and symbolically embedded in national territory.
In recent years, the Egyptian military has felt collectively a growing sense of national duty, and has developed a sense of embittered shame for what it considers its "neutered masculinity:" its sense that it was not standing up for the nation's people. The nationalistic Armed Forces want to restore their honor and they are disgusted by police corruption and baltagiya brutality. And it seems that the military, now as "national capitalists, have seen themselves as the blood rivals of the neoliberal "crony capitalists" associated with Hosni Mubarak's son Gamal who have privatized anything they can get their hands on and sold the country's assets off to China, the US, and Persian Gulf capital.
However the military is also split by some internal contradictions. Within the Armed Forces there are two elite sub-branches, the Presidential Guard and the Air Force. These remained closer to Mubarak while the broader military turned against him. This explains why you can had the contradictory display of the General Chief of the Armed Forces, Muhammad Tantawi, wading in among the protesters to show support on 30 January, while at the same time the chief of the Air Force was named Mubarak's new Prime Minister and sent planes to strafe the same protesters. This also explains why the Presidential Guard protected the Radio/Television Building and fought against protesters on 28 January rather than siding with them.
5. Intelligence Services (al-mukhabarat). This is the organization the Vice President, Omar Soleiman, used to head.
This is also a branch of the military (and not of the police). Intelligence is in charge of externally oriented secret operations, detentions and interrogations (and, thus, torture and renditions of non-Egyptians). Although since Soleiman's mukhabarat did not detain and torture as many Egyptian dissidents in the domestic context, they are less hated than the mubahith.The takeaway for Americans (and other outsiders) is to keep in mind that the phrases "the police", "the military", and "State Security" each lump together groups with diverging or opposed interests. For instance, when Americans talk about how the US and Egyptian militaries have gotten to know each other over the past 30 years, do they mean the US military has many associates only in the Presidential Guard and the Air Force? Or are there also many connections with the more revolutionary "regular Army"?