'Intelligent discontent is the mainspring of civilization.' -- Eugene V. Debs

Friday, February 04, 2011

Egypt Erupts (Part 8) 

UPDATE 4 (2:25PM Pacific time): Issandr El-Amrani of The Arabist has posted a statement from a committee of pro-democracy activists willing to enter into a dialogue with the regime, and accept Suleiman as President until elections are held. He describes the signatories as all well-known, a mix of establishment government, business, academia and NGO people. The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace translated it into English and it has drawn the attention of the New York Times. A curious development in light of the reported efforts of the Obama administration to replace Mubarak with Suleiman. You can read the statement in its entirety at The Arabist, and compare it to what people involved in the youth movement told Jack Shenker of the Guardian earlier today, as described in Update 1. Unlike the signatories to this statement, they remain opposed to the presence of any high level Mubarak political figures in the transition.

UPDATE 3: According to As'ad Abukhalil, we shouldn't get too anxious about what is happening in Egypt:

Some people I know are expressing worries regarding the US and Israeli attempt to abort the Egyptian uprising. Don't worry. Even if they, temporarily, set up an extension regime, the political culture of Egypt has been altered. The ability of the regime to impose discipline, order, submission, has been undermined. If Egyptians now demonstrate in solidarity with the Palestinians now, for example, no security forces would prevent them from leaving the Al-Azhar or the Cairo University. It is a different country even if the head of the secret police, `Umar Sulayman (the candidate of reform and democracy according to Obama and Clinton), takes over in a transitional period.

As I observed yesterday, there is an air of farce associated with the efforts of the Obama administration as it tries to dictate the outcome without any concern for the Egyptian people themselves, especially when P. J. Crowley, Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden are on stage. But, while it may be a tragicomedy, that doesn't mean that we shouldn't remain vigilant.

The political culture of Egypt may have changed, but, as I have said, I am worried that, if necessary, the Obama administration will manipulate events to instigate the sort of endemic violence and social unrest associated with 1980s Lebanon, 1990s Peru and even 1990s Algeria in an effort to retain control. One need only look towards the east, at the willingness of the US to destabilize Pakistan, despite knowledge of the consequences, to perceive the peril. Abukhalil implies that the people of Egypt will successfully prevent it.

UPDATE 2 (11:20PM Pacific time): The US government is strangely silent today, perhaps an indication that the state sanctioned violence of Operation Ajax has failed. Unable to achieve its objectives through an orchestrated destabilization subcontracted through Mubarak and Suleiman, the Obama administration is now seeking to dictate the outcome through communications with the military:

The Obama administration today resisted calls to cut its massive military aid to Egypt and is instead working behind the scenes with the commanders of the country's armed forces on how to oust President Hosni Mubarak.

The White House sees the Egyptian military as the key to removing Mubarak, regarded as a necessary first step towards implementing substantive political and economic reforms. Cutting aid would risk alienating them.

The US defence secretary, Robert Gates, the chair of the joint chiefs of staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, and other senior Pentagon figures have been in regular contact with their Egyptian counterparts all week.

No doubt they have, and one of the most urgent topics of conversation has been the refusal of the troops in the street to discipline the movement so that that the populace will accept the members of the the junta as their new leaders.

UPDATE 1 (9:25PM Pacific time, revised 11:12AM Pacific time): Apparently, young people in Egypt have their own ideas about how to proceed and they aren't consistent with Obama administration's junta:

5.05pm: Jack Shenker has been speaking to people within the youth movement in Egypt, mainly based online, who have told him they have four very specific demands. They do not represent everyone but they do constitute an important part of the opposition:

• the removal of Hosni Mubarak and the whole apparatus of the Mubarak regime;

• a committee which will appoint a transitional government, the committee to be made up of 6 named senior judges, six representatives from their youth movement and two members of the military

• a council to draw up a new constitution, which would then be put to the people in a referendum

• elections at national and local level in accordance with the constitution.

Doesn't sound like they are very excited about the prospect of Omar Suleiman, does it? And, oh my, they want a new constitution, too. Sounds alarmingly like a similar demand in Honduras in 2009, which required a coup, supported by the US sotto vocce, to suppress. It is essential to recognize that, purrings about the importance of civil society notwithstanding, the US wants participation in the decisions related to the post-Mubarak social order to remain as narrow as possible, by invitation only.

INITIAL POST: Millions of people in the streets of Egypt today, and you can watch events live on Al Jazeera. There are also live blogs at Al Jazeera, the BBC and the Guardian. Just heard a reporter in Alexandria saying that some protesters are planning to shut down the train station. He also observes that there are large numbers of women participating in the protests, and that, despite recent violence directed against Copts there, Muslims and Christians are working to protect one another from the violence of the regime. He noted that there have been no acts of violence directed towards Christians since the protests began.

Afterward, there was a desultory interview with someone named Lady Ashton who purportedly speakes for the EU. More of the same orderly transition nonsense, more bland pronouncement that protest should be peaceful and an ongoing refusal to directly implicate Mubarak, Suleiman and other high level Egyptian officials in the violence. Like the US, the EU clearly hopes that Mubarak rides it out, or, alternatively, that the regime can be perpetuated without the Mubarak family.

Other good Internet sources are 3arabawy, The Arabist and the Egyptian Chronicles, as well as the We Are All Khalid Said Facebook page. As I noted yesterday in Update 2, Hossam el-Hamalawy's photographs of the protests at 3Arabawy are extraordinary. For commentary, there is, of course, As'ad Abukhalil at The Angry Arab News Service. If you know of other good sources, please post them in the comments.

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