By Mohammed Ayoob, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Mohammed Ayoob is University Distinguished Professor Emeritus of International Relations, Michigan State University, and Adjunct Scholar at the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding. He is author of the upcoming book ‘Will the Middle East Implode?' The views expressed are his own.
Wednesday’s massacre by the security forces in Cairo and elsewhere in Egypt has left hundreds dead and perhaps thousands more injured. The old order is lashing out with ferocity against those who dared challenge it. What is worse, a substantial segment of the Egyptian public – mesmerized by the rhetoric of the military brass and its civilian henchmen – consider this a “restoration of democracy” to use John Kerry’s Orwellian term to describe the July 3 military coup.
It is becoming increasingly clear that history is repeating itself as tragedy in Egypt, although with its own peculiar twist. This year reminds me of 1954, when Colonel Nasser, who had led the Egyptian military coup against the then corrupt monarchy in 1952 with the help of the Muslim Brotherhood, turned against his Islamist allies, banned the party, threw its leaders in jail and ultimately executed several of them. The Brotherhood, which had emerged into the open after years of clandestine activity against the monarchy, was forced underground once again.
By Khairi Abaza, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Khairi Abaza is a senior fellow at Foundation for Defense of Democracies. The views expressed are his own.
The overthrow of Mohamed Morsi last month left the United States with a dilemma – should it continue to offer aid to Egypt as normal, or should it cut off the about $1.2 billion a year that goes to the military in protest at what is widely seen outside Egypt as a coup?
Certainly, there are have been loud calls from many within the policy community to do the latter, most notably Senator John McCain (R-AZ), who reportedly said last month: “We have to suspend aid to Egyptian military because the military has overturned the vote of the people.”
McCain appears to have softened his position, suggesting instead last week that the U.S. should consider cutting off aid if “they go ahead and crack down in a violent way.” Regardless, the idea is clear: halting assistance would pressure the Egyptian military into handing control of the government back to a civilian administration as quickly as possible.
But such a policy would not be without consequences for the United States. After all, this episode has pushed Egypt to find new allies – and to diversify its sources of armaments and military training.
The reality is that the Egyptian military has not only been a source of stability for the United States in an otherwise turbulent Middle East, but it has also been a cash cow. Currently, the Egyptian military relies on U.S. military equipment, training and services. This reliance means that Egypt is essentially a client of the U.S. military complex, and aid money is in fact re-injected back into the U.S. economy. Cutting off these armaments and services means that these funds will be diverted to Russian, Chinese, or French coffers.
An end to the current relationship would also clearly mean less leverage for the United States, and the diversity that Egypt’s army is currently seeking would mean that no single country could have the type of leverage the United States has over Egypt. The country’s military would be even harder to influence, and given its current power over the country, this is clearly a dangerous prospect.
But an end to the current relationship would also have a direct and deleterious impact on American interests more broadly. An end to aid would threaten the durability of Egypt’s critical peace treaty with Israel, not to mention the current agreement that guarantees the safe and reliable passage of U.S. military ships and equipment through the Suez Canal.
An end to U.S. assistance would also throw into doubt Egypt’s dependability in times of crisis. The U.S. has engaged in countless military exercises with Egypt to prepare for multiple scenarios, and it would be a tremendous (and costly) shame if the U.S. walks away from such an investment.
And U.S. assistance to Egypt also serves as an important nonproliferation tool. It has enabled Washington to maintain a modicum of control over the arm race in the region, a point that is even more important as Iran continues a path that could ultimately see it acquire a nuclear weapon. Should Tehran cross this threshold, Egypt will almost certainly wish to go nuclear as well since it views Iran as a regional threat. With diminished leverage, the U.S. would be effectively powerless to prevent this “nuclear cascade.”
To be sure, the end of U.S. assistance would be inconvenient for Egypt. But it would not be fatal for its military or political system. The army’s commander, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, knows that Egypt would survive without it. That’s why he continues to highlight Egypt’s two centuries-old struggle for national sovereignty and free will – a theme that Egyptians appreciate.
Al-Sisi also knows that this would not be the first time Egypt has switched military alliances. After the 1952 military coup, President Gamal Abdel Nasser was a Western ally until the West refused to fund his High Dam project. He subsequently turned to Moscow for help and became a Soviet ally. Washington was not able to bring Egypt back into the Western fold until 1978, leaving a period during which Nasser’s populism was a source of instability for the region, underscored by the wars of 1956, 1967, 1973 and Egypt’s war of attrition with Israel.
The toppling of Morsi will remain a source of controversy for years to come. But whether it was a coup, a revolution, or a coup-volution matters little now. What is important is that the United States maintains its crucial relationship with Egypt to safeguard the safety and security of the Middle East for years to come. U.S. threats to cut aid only encourage Egypt’s military leaders to seek new allies – allies that will almost certainly prove to be American adversaries in the future. And quite likely not friends of Egyptian democracy, either.
By Sahar Aziz, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Sahar Aziz is an associate professor at Texas Wesleyan School of Law and a fellow at the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding. She is also a member of the Egyptian American Rule of Law Association. The views expressed are her own.
What started as a political battle for power between the Muslim Brotherhood and Egypt’s liberal parties has become an identity crisis for the country. For many Egyptians, particularly the intelligentsia, the current conflict represents a struggle for the soul of Egypt that goes far beyond the issue of electoral democracy. Will the nation remain secular in nature, or will it evolve into an Islamist state, even if governed by a democratically elected regime?
For the millions of Egyptians that swarmed into Tahrir Square on June 30, their point was not merely to show their displeasure with the Morsi regime’s abysmal performance and its adoption of Mubarak-style authoritarian tactics. Rather, it was a resounding rejection of what they perceived as a grave transformation in the identity of the state.
While Egyptians are approximately 90 percent Muslim and ten percent Coptic Christians, of whom a vast majority are devout, most are still content with the secular nature of their government. They take seriously the Islamic proverb that there is no compulsion in religion, and object to the coercive Saudi Arabian model. Thus, many Muslims and Copts alike have been alarmed by developments in recent months that they saw as altering Egypt’s very identity.
By Inesha Premaratne
Inesha Premaratne, an intern with the GPS show, speaks with Gregory Gause III, professor of political science at the University of Vermont and non-resident senior fellow at the Brookings Doha Center, about recent developments in Egypt.
What’s your take on what’s happening in Egypt right now?
Well, I’m pessimistic about what’s happening right now. It seems to me that you have a precedent of the military coming in and ousting an elected government. No matter how bad the government was, that’s a bad precedent for democracy. Secondly, if through this action what you get is a Muslim Brotherhood that is pressured by the state and is either not allowed or not willing to participate itself in the political process, you just can’t have an inclusive democracy.
So would you say that it would have been preferable for the Egyptians to wait for the elections rather than have the military stage a coup?
Yes, I would say that. They should have waited for the parliamentary elections; that would have been better for democracy. You’ll find many Egyptians that will say I’m an idiot, that I don’t understand that the Brotherhood was entrenching itself to such an extent that the elections would have been useless. But in my reading of the Egyptian situation I hadn’t seen the Brotherhood crossing that line yet where they were so monopolizing power, that the elections would have been a sham.
By Geneive Abdo, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Geneive Abdo is a fellow at the Stimson Center and a non-resident fellow at the Brookings Institution. She is the author of "The New Sectarianism: The Arab Uprisings and the Rebirth of Shi’a-Sunni Divide." The views expressed are her own.
In overthrowing Mohamed Morsy, Egypt’s military, the judiciary, and the secular-minded revolutionaries in central Cairo just extended the political life spans of Islamists across the Middle East.
The Muslim Brotherhood, once at the vanguard of worldwide Islamist political and social movements, failed miserably in their year in power. Most likely, President Morsy’s term in office would have met a natural death during the next presidential election.
Instead, the coup has placed the Brotherhood in the uncomfortable but longtime position it had been in for decades — as the victims of a repressive, dictatorial state.
The coup has also empowered other, more socially conservative Islamist groups, whether or not they might be aligned with the Brotherhood.
The Salafists, in particular, stand to gain from the growing intensity of the broad-based Islamist movement as their vast social networks inspire popular support, and some Salafists are able to take the high ground as the true leaders of the faithful. The Brotherhood, meanwhile, could find itself more reliant upon the Salafists — adherents to a strict interpretation of the Islamic texts — if it wants to win future elections.
By Jonathan Schanzer, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Jonathan Schanzer, a former terrorism finance analyst at the U.S. Department of the Treasury, is vice president for research at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. The views expressed are his own.
When Egypt’s army toppled the Muslim Brotherhood from power last week, it also delivered a punishing blow to Hamas in Gaza.
Fallen President Mohamed Morsy was one of the last remaining friends of Hamas after the group broke from the Iranian “Axis of Resistance” last year. Unable to stand by while the Iran-backed Syrian regime mowed down tens of thousands of fellow Muslims in Syria, Hamas left its Damascus headquarters. As punishment for this defection, Iran cut the purse strings.
Predictably, Hamas turned to Morsy’s Egypt, along with Qatar and Turkey, for patronage. This Muslim Brotherhood triumvirate, for the last year, provided financial assistance to the terrorist organization that conquered the Gaza Strip by force in 2007, while also working assiduously to bring it out of political isolation. These three countries represented a tripod upon which Hamas, a group that is heavily dependent upon foreign assistance to survive, was tenuously balanced.
By Fareed Zakaria
There is jubilation in many quarters of Egypt and beyond over the downfall of the Muslim Brotherhood. And it is true that President Mohamed Morsi's government was a disaster in many dimensions. The Brotherhood ruled in a manner that excluded large segments of the society, used and abused the law and overreached. Perhaps as important, it was utterly incompetent, steering Egypt's already dysfunctional economy into the gutter. It had become wildly unpopular, with millions who had supported it now actively opposed. The Brotherhood was almost certain to be roundly defeated in the upcoming parliamentary elections. Had it failed politically, electorally and democratically, that would have been a huge boost for the forces of liberalism and reform in the Arab world. It would have sent the signal that political Islam may be a heartwarming, romantic idea but is utterly unsuited to governing–that mullahs can preach, but they cannot manage an economy.
Instead, the great danger of what has happened in Egypt is that followers of the Muslim Brotherhood will once again become victims, gaining in stature as they are jailed, persecuted and excluded. And some of them will decide that democracy is a dead end.
By Islam Al Tayeb and Elly Jupp, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Islam Al Tayeb is a research analyst at the International Institute for Strategic Studies Middle East, and Elly Jupp is a research associate at IISS-Middle East. The views expressed are their own.
When people took to Egypt’s streets in 2011, they demanded not just freedom and social justice, but also bread. Indeed, frustration with high levels of poverty, unemployment and meager economic opportunities were a major trigger for the initial protests. A little more than a year into his presidency and it was clear Mohamed Morsy had done little to improve Egypt’s perilous economic situation. He has been duly swept from office, but whatever government comes next is left with the same challenge of balancing the competing demands of the Egyptian economy and the country’s people.
On one side, the Egyptian people are demanding that key commodities, principally fuel and food, continue to be subsidized. On the other, international financial institutions insist the subsidies should be cut. In the meantime, terms have still not been agreed for a desperately needed $4.8 billion IMF loan, with the International Monetary Fund insisting upon reductions in subsidies as part of an economic reform plan, even though Morsy’s government appears to have been correct in predicting that cutting them would prompt outrage among cash-strapped or unemployed Egyptians.
"Fareed Zakaria GPS," Sundays at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. ET on CNN
Fareed speaks with Richard Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations, and Wall Street Journal columnist Bret Stephens about Egypt’s future in this special web extra taped today.
Haass: So much of the conversation has understandably been about the military, and whether they are willing to be a midwife to democracy, or about the Muslim Brotherhood, and whether they are willing to forgo violence in the street and give traditional politics another chance.
But just as important is the opposition. The opposition over the years in Egypt has shown itself capable of doing two things. One is protesting – and we have seen that in spades the other day. And the other is boycotting. Often political opportunities would come along and they would say they want no part of it. Well now they have that rare second chance, or third chance. Are they going to show a willingness and ability to organize, to essentially enter the political sphere not as a rally, not as a protest, but as an organized political movement – maybe one or more parties – and contest for power, share power, govern. And I think that is as big a question as anything hanging over Egypt.
By Fareed Zakaria
The events in Egypt over the last week have been fascinating but also bewildering. Most of us don’t quite know what to make of them. Is what has happened a good thing or a bad thing? Let’s start with some basic facts.
The government that was deposed in Egypt was an elected government. Mohamed Morsy’s Freedom and Justice Party, won the presidential election, the parliamentary elections, and a referendum to approve a new Egyptian constitution. So there’s no getting around it – this was the party that represented the wishes of the Egyptian people as expressed through the ballot box.
On the other hand, the government ruled in an arbitrary and highhanded manner and in many, many cases, violated human rights and outlawed its political opponents. President Morsy announced that his decrees were above judicial scrutiny. He banned all members of the previous ruling party from participating in politics for life. He did little about attacks on Egyptian’s Christian minority. The Muslim Brotherhood, of which Morsy was a lifelong member, had promised not to seek the presidency or a parliamentary majority and it reneged on both pledges, creating this new Freedom and Justice Party as a façade.
On GPS today at 10 a.m. and repeated at 1 p.m. ET: A special live show on the unfolding developments in Egypt.
First, Fareed gives his take on the military’s decision to remove Mohamed Morsi from the presidency and what it means for the country moving forward. And he also looks back on one of his best known essays, The Rise of Illiberal Democracy, in Foreign Affairs.
Then, Fareed speaks with former U.S. National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski, Wall Street Journal columnist Bret Stephens and Council on Foreign Relations President Richard Haass.
By Christian Whiton, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Christian Whiton is the author of the forthcoming book, ‘Smart Power: Between Diplomacy and War.’ He was a State Department senior advisor from 2003-2009. The views expressed are his own.
That’s twice Washington was caught slack-jawed amid revolution in the world’s biggest Arab-majority state. But don’t blame the Obama administration exclusively for twice being on the losing side of events in Egypt. Reality in Egypt has also eluded Beltway Republican foreign policy mavens and America’s dysfunctional and distracted intelligence bureaucracies. That makes shaping events in Egypt nearly impossible.
The first shock for Washington came in January 2011, when hundreds of thousands of Egyptians demanding secular democracy filled town squares. According to Washington and its $80 billion-per-year intelligence bureaucracy, these people did not exist in the Middle East. The choice there was supposedly between corrupt strongmen like Egypt’s 30-year president Hosni Mubarak or repressive Islamists like those who run Iran and populate Muslim Brotherhood parties around the region.
Secular liberals were as rare as unicorns and supported by only a small number of Egypt’s urbanites – or so the story went. And yet there they were: mobs of young Egyptians not demanding Islamic law and clerical rule, but accountable government with democratic laws and institutions.