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February 03, 2011

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The obvious question that arises is: what, specifically, could the United States government do which would have the impact that you want?

I don't see where any group except the Egyptian military can put down the armed and organized thugs that the regime has deployed the last two days. And if the Army command has decided that they are satisfied, now that Mubarak's son is out of the succession, what action by the United States would convince them to step in?

I'm not saying that there aren't effective steps the US could take. I just don't see very clearly what they might be.

I was going to write wj's comment word for word, but since they've already done that...what wj just wrote.

@wj: The U.S. government has not made any serious threat to cut off the money. They must do so now, and credibly. Kerry following up Leahy's threat on aid would be a signal that our permanent govt is exerting real pressure on the Egyptians' permanent govt. (As his previous statement was a signal that the WH/State/DoD had already settled for the ridiculous "I won't run" line.)

wj: I would think our leverage w/the army is based on the roughly $1.5 billion in largely military aid that we provide on an annual basis.

The Egyptian army doesn't want that spigot to be cut off, or even tightened.

If $1.3 bil/year isn't enough to have an effect on the Egyptian army, then mass demos aren't either, yes? And I wouldn't expect either wj or Turb to dismiss demos on same grounds.

In view of most in Arab world, blood and suffering of those arrested and assaulted in last week is already on Obama's hands and that of his admin. (My view too, but this isn't about me.)

During call this a.m. to White House, learned that calls are taken by volunteers. Woman asked me if it was true that journalists have been arrested and attacked; I confirmed with some specifics and let her know there was an ABC page collecting the incidents.

Very different tone from the usual bored intern or junior staff in Congressional calls.

Most concrete sign to me that somebody's putting pressure on somebody:

Judicial sources on Thursday said Egypt’s attorney-general banned a former official of the ruling National Democratic Party (NDP) and three former ministers from travel in advance of referring them to investigation.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, the sources said that those banned from travel included former NDP Organization Secretary Ahmed Ezz, former Interior Minister Habib al-Adly, former Housing Minister Ahmed al-Maghraby and former Minister of Tourism Zuhair Garrana.

They said al-Adly and three other security leaders were put under house arrest in Six October City.

If it's true, that is. Accountability for the thuggery would be most welcome, but far more urgent is immediate release of human rights monitors, protest leaders, and journalists, and firm action and statements by army that peaceful protest tonight and tomorrow will be protected.

Sorry, immersed in events and didn't add context: for those not following the link, those are the powers who organized the thug attacks. (On Mubarak's behalf, though he's unlikely to be held accountable.)

Sounds to me as if someone in the U.S., or the Egyptian army or intel service, made a call to keep the Israeli govt in the loop, with the reality check that Mubarak is nearly done.

Israel’s Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu, the only man in the Israeli government authorized (by himself) to speak out about the current dramatic protests in Egypt, appeared to switch his position dramatically today.

His remarks appeared to be an effort at re-positioning, in anticipation of a coming change of leadership in Egypt, the first neighboring state to negotiate a peace treaty with Israel.

According to Israel’s YNet website, here, Netanyahu made his remarks “at a special Knesset hearing about ‘the failures of the Netanyahu government in political, economic, and social fields’ … called by 40 MKs [Members of Knesset] who signed a petition calling for the session”.

YNet reported that “Netanyahu told the Knesset plenum Wednesday that hopes for ‘the dawn of a new day’ are understandable. ‘Anyone who treasures man’s liberties draws inspiration from the calls and possibilities for democratic reform’, he said. ‘It is inevitable that an Egypt which adopts the 21st century, which adopts such reforms, is a source of great hope for the world, the region, and us’. Netanyahu, who has previously voiced concern that the uprising would take on the characteristics of the Islamic revolution in Iran, spoke in a more positive tone on Wednesday. ‘Democracy is dear to us, it is real, and it is obvious that a democratic Egypt will not endanger peace, just the opposite. If modern history teaches us anything it is that the stronger the democratic foundations, the stronger the foundations for peace’.”

Netanyahu did not omit an assurance — that sounded more like a heavy hint — that Israeli had put unspecified “security arrangements” in place: “A peace agreement does not guarantee the existence of peace, so in order to protect it and ourselves, in cases in which the agreement disappears or is violated due to a regime change on the other side, we protect it with security arrangements on the ground,” he said.

He gave no further details about these “security assurances” – and was apparently not even asked.

This threat should be of interest to Egyptians, but as Helena Cobban points out, there are a ton of ways for a new govt to be more helpful to Palestinians without violating the agreement (and the U.S. would never bless a transition govt that didn't pledge to honor the agreement).

In related news, Fatah and Hamas public non-support to Egyptian demos, and repression against Palestinian efforts at solidarity demos in WB and Gaza, may clear way for actual Palestinian leadership in future. Fatah/PA particularly, of course, after Palestinian Papers.

The question I have is, how sure are we that a majority of the country supports the call for Mubarak's immediate ouster, with attendant disorder, versus a September election followed by elections?

(I'm not saying I'm convinced that leaving it until September is a good idea, safe, or whatever.)

I think we frequently underestimate the degree of support that autocratic regimes have in the population. A lot of people will have been included in the spoils from the regime, and a lot of other people will have no faith that the next government will be any better, or actively fear majoritarian rule for real or imaginary reasons.

The suppression of news coverage and the arrival of large numbers of pro-regime but non-uniformed thugs on the ground sets the stage for a very unpleasant resolution to the protests in the square. That is what repressive regimes specialize in and again, I think we often underestimate the skills of these regimes to do bad things without creating a public record. That's how they've remained in power for 30 years. They're not bumbling idiots.

I'm sorry, I have been assuming that the US had long since (a week counts as "long since" in this context) told the Egyptian Army privately that their $1.3 billion a year was at risk if they sided against the protesters. If not, then absolutely that point should be made. I'm not sure that it would help to make it publicly -- who wants to be seen as having been bribed/pressured? But it should be made.

However, a couple of points:
First, how credible would such a threat be? I mean, assume that the army installs a new autocrat. Would we really refuse to deal with them? (Especially since Pakistan shows the down side of cutting off contacts with a military which effectively runs a major country.) More to the point, would anyone believe that we really would?

And then, once we play that card, if it doesn't work, is there anything further available that we could do (or credibly threaten to do)?

I'd love to see us support the protesters. I think it would be best not to act like we are running (or trying to run) the change. But back-channel support? Sure. The question is how? (And how would all of us here know if we were or were not?)

WJ: Perhaps raise tariffs on items like cotton.

But yeah, if they call our bluff, we don't have much left.

Also JD: I agree, but it sure seems like there's more widepsread support for the protesters here than, say, in Iran.

Good piece on military ties w/Egypt:

http://bit.ly/e4lsfo

Again, from your friendly neighborhood E-Mart, so the shortened link is safe to click on.

"Egyptians are on the cusp of changing the very premise of what is possible. That’s intoxicating".

The intoxication of the mass action has effected even Benjamin Orbach, Barack Obama, and Benjamin Netanyahu. Sweeping remarks from all of them.

But some morning-after, some of them will remember that Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood has declared jihad not only on Israel, but on the United States. I guess it must be "Moderate Jihad". For a while.

And the only organized alternative to the jihad of the MB is some new leader put forth by the Egyptian Army. Hopefully not in uniform.

I love intoxication as much as the rest of you, but I feel I'm duty-bound to be the designated driver, and point out that this whole transition is not likely to end well for the Egyptians, or for the rest of us.

But since there's little we outside of Egypt can do about it, we may as well enjoy the intoxication while it lasts.

"irst, how credible would such a threat be? I mean, assume that the army installs a new autocrat. Would we really refuse to deal with them? (Especially since Pakistan shows the down side of cutting off contacts with a military which effectively runs a major country.) More to the point, would anyone believe that we really would?"

This is odd to me. Is that what being an imperialist superpower means? We have no choice, but to give billions to any thug with a military or they might support terrorists?

Suggestions for action from Mona Eltawahy (who while in Tahrir Square today learned that her father was arrested at an office with other lawyers and human rights monitors):

What can intl comm do? 1.Cut aid to #Egypt military 2. Freeze #Mubarak family assets 3. Name/shame #US lobbyists 4 Mubarak

They are very reminiscent of the kinds of actions that people like me called for in response to the coup in Honduras in late June 2009. Then, the U.S. didn't act quickly enough or seriously enough. There were clear signs as early as two days on that the State Dept had to pretend that the June 28, 2009 coup wasn't really a _military_ coup, so no serious cutting of aid, and to let the November elections "solve" it. They signaled throughout that the military-business oligarchy could repress at will and stall for time, so they did. And the result has been a roll-back to 1982 conditions, with non-stop assassinations, kidnapings, torture, and assaults on demonstrators. Lovely.

I can get right to the naming and shaming Eltahawy calls for, not least because one of the major lobbyists for Mubarak was the same shop whoring for the Honduran coup regime: Chlopak Leonard Schechter.

Other players: Toby Moffett (who began as a Nader staffer; now that I'm getting old it's intriguing to see where people take their turns; Moffett's been all about the benjamins for at least the last 20 years), Tony Podesta (brother of John P. of CAP/CAF), and Bob Livingston. All scum.

More on the lobbyists here.

But some morning-after, some of them will remember that Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood has declared jihad not only on Israel, but on the United States.

Cite?

Yeah Fred, do you have a citation to that declaration of jihad against the US?

Thanks in advance.

Cutting off aid clearly not being threatened seriously with Adm. Mullen out saying "not now".

So we're hanging in with Suleiman. Gosh, I'm proud to be an American. (Cause at least I know I'm free.)

The question I have is, how sure are we that a majority of the country supports the call for Mubarak's immediate ouster, with attendant disorder, versus a September election followed by elections?

What incentive does Mubarak have to step down in September? I don't see why his word is credible.

This is odd to me. Is that what being an imperialist superpower means? We have no choice, but to give billions to any thug with a military or they might support terrorists?

The idea that a great power is often hostage to the actions of its client states is not new, but has been frequently observed over the past 100+ years.

I see any overt US interference, regardless of how benign, as posing a high risk of tainting the process, if process is the right word for what's going on there.

The question I have is, how sure are we that a majority of the country supports the call for Mubarak's immediate ouster, with attendant disorder, versus a September election followed by elections?

If free/open elections in 6 weeks or 3 months result from some kind of interim caretaker gov't, this point is mooted by the fact that a vote will have been taken and everyone's choice will have been registered.

Mubarak's continued presence, and particularly his presence administering an election, would taint any outcome. He needs to be gone and let there be a vote. Whether we like the result is beside the point.

I see any overt US interference, regardless of how benign, as posing a high risk of tainting the process, if process is the right word for what's going on there.

I don't disagree, but it's hard for the US to claim it is a neutral party given the enormous amounts of aid to Egypt over the past 30+ years - which has done so much to consolidate Mubarak's control.

Tricky is an understatement.

"The idea that a great power is often hostage to the actions of its client states is not new, but has been frequently observed over the past 100+ years."

I was being somewhat rhetorical. To be clearer, I don't think we have to be imperialists. If we give billions to a country and the government oppresses its people, we can stop. One can deal with oppressive regimes without supporting them as they commit human rights violations.

What we get from our relationship with Egypt is a continuation of the Camp David peace agreement. If that means the continued oppression of 80 million people with us linked to it, the cost is too high. Egypt can be deterred from attacking Israel in more direct ways (assuming that any government which comes into power is actually tempted to do so). And if they merely express disgust with Israel's treatment of the Palestinians, good. They'd be right to do so. The in-between case, where they don't go to war, but provide weapons to Hamas, is dicy, but still not a good enough reason for supporting a very unpopular regime.

I had this argument in a more extreme form with a friend several years ago. I told him about how Indonesia slaughtered the Timorese and how the US gave Indonesia weapons and support. His response (and he's a liberal) was to say "What would you do? If the US hadn't supplied the weapons, someone else would have."
I think this argument is a form of insanity. We don't have to be the world's policeman (which he also accused me of wanting), but that doesn't mean we have to actively support some of the criminals.

but that doesn't mean we have to actively support some of the criminals.

WE are the criminals.

"I love intoxication as much as the rest of you, but I feel I'm duty-bound to be the designated driver, and point out that this whole transition is not likely to end well for the Egyptians, or for the rest of us."

That's terrific. Who designated you, and could you show us the breathalyzer results, please?

Alternatively, it's possible to state your own opinion without asserting that your opinion is subjectively superior to that of others.

Begging the question is a fallacy, not an argument.

Simply making your argument, and supporting it with cites and links to facts, will be quite sufficient to convince most that your opinion is correct.

But you aren't actually the "driver" of this blog, and you've not been designated to be one. I really think some of us would have heard, otherwise.

Eric: your February 03, 2011 at 05:59 PM link goes to the National Journal, and a piece entitled Military Exercised by Yochi J. Dreazen.

Washington has spent decades building a close relationship with Egypt’s armed forces. Now we’ll see if that investment paid off.

When President Obama strode to a podium in the White House’s Grand Foyer to call for an end to Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak’s long reign, he showered praise on the Egyptian military for “allowing peaceful protests while protecting the Egyptian people.” He spoke approvingly of troops who embraced protesters in the streets of Cairo and of Egyptian tanks covered with political banners. “Going forward, I urge the military to continue its efforts to help ensure that this time of change is peaceful,” the president said.

It’s no surprise that Obama foresees a central role for Egypt’s armed forces. With protesters and Mubarak loyalists battling in Cairo’s streets, the military leadership faces growing pressure to intervene. Supporters of the besieged leader want troops to crack down on the opposition, a step that the military has so far refused to take. The protesters want the military to persuade Mubarak to cede power immediately. With the two sides locked in a standoff after several days of bloodshed, Egypt’s senior generals hold the fate of their country in their hands.

They will also furnish a referendum on the decades-long U.S. policy of providing generous support to the Egyptian military precisely so it would play a moderating role within the country and serve as an insurance policy for American interests there. The United States has sent tens of billions of dollars to Egypt over the past 30 years, and the Pentagon brings more than 500 Egyptian officers to the United States every year for training at military war colleges. The Obama administration is about to find out whether those investments have paid off.

“If you look at why the Egyptian military isn’t pulling Mubarak’s acorns out of the fire, there has to be some connection to the long-standing and very deep relationship between the U.S. military and the Egyptian one,” said retired Maj. Gen. Robert Scales, a former head of the Army War College. “That’s what’s responsible for the army’s reluctance to do the president’s dirty work, at least for the moment.”

Events on the ground are changing rapidly, and U.S. officials privately admit they’re not sure when—or if—the military will intervene. An Egyptian military spokesman initially said that the military would “not resort to the use of force” against the crowds in Cairo’s landmark Tahrir Square. The army largely stood aside on Wednesday as pro-government fighters attacked the crowds with machetes and clubs, prompting protesters to fight back with rocks and Molotov cocktails. On Thursday, troops began to physically separate the two sides and push the pro-Mubarak fighters out of the square, but military leaders showed no signs of preparing to take decisive action to resolve the crisis.

In back-channel conversations this week, senior U.S. officials have pressed Egyptian commanders to keep their troops from taking sides in the escalating showdown between Mubarak and the democratic uprising. Adm. Mike Mullen, the Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman, has spoken twice with his Egyptian counterpart, Lt. Gen. Sami Hafez Enan, largely to relay American gratitude for the Egyptian military’s conduct during what could turn out to be the initial stages of a prolonged crisis. “The chairman wanted to express his appreciation for the restraint and the professionalism that the Egyptians have been showing,” said Capt. John Kirby, Mullen’s spokesman. “They’ve been performing very well under extremely challenging conditions.”

The Pentagon has an unusually close relationship with the Egyptian military, a legacy of the 1979 Camp David peace accords between Egypt and Israel. The U.S. gives Egypt $1.3 billion annually in “foreign-military financing.” Cairo has used the money to purchase enormous amounts of American armaments. Egypt flies American-made F-16 fighter jets, C-130 cargo planes, and Black Hawk helicopters. Its army drives Humvees, and its navy operates Knox-class frigates and other U.S.-made ships.

The personal relationships between members of the two forces are just as significant. Egypt was once a client state of the Soviet Union, and Mubarak and a dwindling number of his senior generals studied in Russia. But the vast majority of Egyptian soldiers have come of age since Camp David, which means that they got their formative military education in the United States. That schooling has exposed generations of Egyptian officers to American beliefs in the importance of militaries that exist to serve their citizens, not to oppress them.

When Scales was head of the Army War College in the late 1990s, he worked with a succession of visiting Egyptian officers. They generally brought their wives and children with them, and many of the families developed lasting friendships with their American hosts. When they returned home, the Egyptians routinely stayed in contact with their American military counterparts by phone and e-mail, Scales said. “We have civil-military classes in their first three weeks of school where we teach them about the apolitical nature of the American military and the connection of the Army to the people,” he said. “It’s got to rub off on them.”

A new civilian government that wants to distance itself from Washington—or an Islamist one that wants to cut ties altogether—could strain the bond between the two militaries. But for the moment, the relationship remains strong. Lt. Col. Michael Lawhorn, a spokesman for U.S. Central Command, said that Egyptian and American officials were still planning this year’s Bright Star training exercise, which will involve about 8,000 American troops and at least that many of their Egyptian counterparts. Bright Star is scheduled for late September, just weeks after Egyptians are set to choose their country’s first post-Mubarak president. One of the leading contenders, Omar Suleiman, is a former general.

Copyright 2010 by National Journal Group Inc. Which is part of The Atlantic's media group.

Fred:

[...] But some morning-after, some of them will remember that Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood has declared jihad not only on Israel, but on the United States.
You may remember that, but it isn't true.

Try Muslim Brotherhood, and History of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt.

Alternatively, you can provide cites to where you get your notion that "that Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood has declared jihad not only on Israel, but on the United States" and we can discuss substance. Hssan al-Banna, for instance, or Qutbism.

But why don't you start with some cites to your own reading, first? I could bury you with thousands of mine, and that would be tiresome.

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