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An unstable future in Egypt


While politicians, pundits and others are freaking out about the growing violence in Iraq, there is another country that is facing troubles: Egypt. The newly elected President of Egypt and former Supreme military commander, Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi, said at his inauguration, according to the L.A. Times, that there needs to be “a more stable future…for this country,” with many Western governments, including the US, having ambassadors in attendance. The Egyptian dictatorship, continued by military men like al-Sisi, will ensure that the country stays ‘stable’ in order to protect those in the country’s elite, but protect the masses who continue to be repressed.

Recently, the repression within Egypt has been increasing more than ever before. As noted by Vice News, Al-Sisi declared that “anything below that is anything but freedom and instead is anarchy that appears well intentioned on the surface but is not in actual fact.” The people of Egypt have fought for three long years in a revolution to fight for a more just country, and they haven’t given up yet. Alaa Abdel-Fattah was sentenced to 15 years in prison, who Democracy Now! described as “one of the country’s most prominent pro-democracy activists” and was a leading figure in the Egyptian revolution starting in 2011. Al-Jazeera America wrote that this was arrest is “the latest blow to the liberal pro-democracy movement at a time of rapidly eroding freedoms” and that he was one of 24 people arrested “for similar charges.” The New York Times added that Fattah was one of three men arrested outside a court waiting for a trail “for violating the government’s ban on unsanctioned protests.” Already, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), Egyptian rights groups and others have condemned the arrest of Fattah. Due to numerous arrests, the mass surveillance which has been proposed by the Egyptian authorities, and other acts of repression, it is no surprise that The Japan Times and Eric Ruder have argued that al-Sisi is Egypt’s new pharaoh.

The US government directly supports al-Sisi. On June 6th, after the Egyptian elections, the US Press Secretary released a statement saying the US was looking forward to work with al-Sisi to “advance our strategic partnership and the many interests shared by the United States and Egypt,” that balloting in the election “proceeded in a calm and peaceful manner,” and repeated the US government support for ‘democracy.’ However, as Canadian journalist Jesse Rosenfeld noted, this election of “Sisi, who led last year’s July 3 coup” is more “about legitimizing authoritarianism than it is about establishing a democratic process.” Four days later, President Obama called al-Sisi to “congratulate him on his inauguration,” saying that he was committed to working with Egypt while making broad and undefined ‘support’ for aspirations of Egyptians. Both Obama and al-Sisi also affirmed “their commitment to the strategic partnership.” Two days later, U.S. officials met with a number of Egyptian officials “to discuss a number of shared African concerns” before the upcoming “US-Africa Summit”[1] and to “deliver a message that Washington closely follows what is happening in this country,” according to the World Bulletin.

Readers may wonder what US interests are in Egypt. According to a recent report from the Congressional Research Service, the US has provided “Egypt with $74.65 billion in bilateral foreign aid…including $1.3 billion a year in military aid from 1987 to the present” with the military aid financing “the procurement of weapons systems and services from U.S. defense contractors.” The US government has been desperate to continue this aid, that it was even willing to restore military aid to Egypt on October 2013, even if there wasn’t an elected government. With the continuation of such aid, the profits of war profiteers like Lockheed Martin, Boeing and others will continue to rise.

There is something more. There is a possibility of change economically with a deficit for the Egyptian government, negotiations for aid from the IMF and the supposedly “exceptional growth” of the Egyptian economy. To give some context, the US State Department’s most recent investment climate statement, written for US investors and U.S. firms, wrote about “obstacles to investment” and that prior to Egyptian revolution starting in 2011, “U.S. firms were active in a wide range of manufacturing industries, producing goods for the domestic and export markets.”As a result, the US would have an interest in an Egypt that is more open to investments and would allow U.S. firms more leeway.

In recent days, the US has been playing down these interests. The US State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki told the press yesterday that the US was “deeply troubled by the harsh prison sentence issued yesterday against 25 Egyptian activists for organizing an authorized protest.” Yet, these words, like those of other US officials who have said that the US government supports the “aspirations” of the Egyptian people is almost meaningless rhetoric. Such words does not challenge what Professor Sean F. McMahon called theruling financial oligarchy” since current US actions, including the continuation of military and economic aid, do not end but rather intensify the existing class war in Egypt. The US government aid to the brutal, murderous dictatorship in Egypt must stop. Otherwise, the US government will be an accessory in violence against harmless Egyptians in the name of profit and specific geopolitical interests.

Notes

[1] The White House describes this summit (fully called the US-Africa Leaders summit) as a way to “strengthen ties with one of the world’s most dynamic and fastest-growing regions” in Africa, and to “advance the Administration’s focus on trade and investment in Africa, and highlight America’s commitment to Africa’s security, its democratic development, and its people.” This statement translated means that this summit will be about how to push for further neoliberal policies in Africa.

Addendum:

Considering I wrote this over a month ago, there need to be some additions. First, Egypt was accepted back into the African Union, which tends to follow US interests, and Solomon Dereso wrote:

After almost a year of suspension, Egypt has been brought back into the fold of the African Union (AU)…Egypt was one of the countries under AU sanction which was not invited by the White House to take part in August’s US-Africa summit in Washington, DC…As the AU panel itself admitted, Sisi’s emergence as Egypt’s elected president, “who was the head of the army and minister of defence at the time of the unconstitutional change of government, poses a serious challenge to the AU”…On the positive side, the AU now has a fully equipped framework to deal with cases of unconstitutional changes of government backed by popular uprisings. But the year-long wrestling match between the AU and Egypt has left its scars on both fighters. Egypt is now among the list of countries that have suffered the AU’s sanctions – while the AU’s climb-down, despite its initial principled stand, has not left it unscathed.

Also in the last month, the moderate human rights organization, Human Rights Watch, said that a “draft law to regulate nongovernmental organizations would give the government and security agencies veto power over all activities of associations in Egypt,” would sound “the death knell for the independence these groups have fought to maintain.” Also, the mouthpiece of Wall Street, the Wall Street Journal said that Egypt is likely to have more private equity funds invest in the country: “Despite the sluggish numbers, the report’s authors argue that investment activity is on the rise again. Egypt, in particular, could lead the sector’s rebound as it continued to be one of the top attractive PE [private equity] destinations last year despite the political transition that took place there.”  Oh, another person was detained in the country, this time for creating an anti-police facebook page (wtf). Most important of all, the new Egyptian President, al Sissi, said that he wished the Al-Jazeera journalists were never put on trail, but he didn’t talk of releasing them from prison but rather said they should be deported!:

“The verdict issued against a number of journalists had very negative consequences; and we had nothing to do with it. I wished they were deported immediately after their arrest instead of being put on trial.”

Additionally,one of the country’s high courts lifted a ban on Mubarak’s party. There was another good article about how the ‘Western media’ is ignoring protesters still challenging the government:

During an interview about Egypt with a major Western media outlet three weeks ago, I mentioned the anti-coup protest movement in the country and its relevance as an oppositional force in Egypt’s post-coup political order. The Washington-based journalist who was interviewing me wondered about my assertion, telling me that, according to his knowledge, the protests were small, infrequent and insignificant…Western reportage has, at least on some issues, surrendered to the Egyptian military’s narrative…Contrary to Egyptian media reports, there were not 33 million Egyptians protesting against the Brotherhood last June 30. According to crowd-sizing experts, protest numbers were closer to one or two million people across Egypt…By using lethal force on unarmed protesters, on the one hand, and physically preventing access to large protest sites, on the other hand, the Egyptian police and military have successfully thwarted the kind of large protests that make for media spectacles…The government has also arrested more than 40,000 people, most for nonviolent political crimes. These measures have forced the protest movement to fragment into many smaller marches. On large protest days, dozens of marches are held across Egypt. But, because they are not centralized, and because each individual march is considerably smaller than a large demonstration at a major square, the protests may appear small, or – unless someone is watching Al-Jazeera Mubashir Misr (the only network to offer up any consistent coverage of anti-coup protests) – non-existent…The lack of coverage, though, also represents the failure of western media outlets to contextualize Egypt for news audiences.

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