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Egypt's Political Map: Clearing the Fog

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6) The Deep State, the Security Apparatus, the Judiciary, and State Bureaucracy: The concept of the deep state surfaced shortly after the success of the revolution in toppling Mubarak and his senior hirelings. This deep state that developed over decades of dictatorship and military rule is entrenched and intersects with economic and political interests of many oligarchs and the corrupt political or business classes. It was an open secret that this deep state and its massive bureaucracy was mobilized for Shafiq during the presidential elections that he lost by a mere two percent. Even seven months after becoming president and assuming power, Morsi hardly controls the levers of power in the country. Although he was able to outmaneuver and force the retirement of the top military echelon, it is clear that he only has nominal control over the military, the security forces, or the state intelligence services. Unfortunately, most of the officers of these vital institutions are functionaries of the old regime even while claiming loyalty to the new president. The MB leadership bitterly complains that even two years after the revolution these institutions still retain large autonomy and are difficult for ordinary citizens or affiliated groups to join or penetrate. In many instances during the past two months when MB headquarters and buildings were torched or ransacked, the group's leaders protested that the security forces and the police stood by and did nothing to stop the carnage.

In every revolution or uprising against corrupt and dictatorial regimes people generally acknowledge the need to elect new political structures. But the judiciary is also not immune from decades of corruption and repression. In fact, a dictatorship could not have functioned effectively without the active participation or acquiescence of the judicial branch. Why would Egypt be the exception? Since the fall of Mubarak, Egypt's judiciary has demonstrated this dilemma. While in certain instances judges have shown courage and independence, in far too many instances some judges, especially within the SCC, have only shown bias in favor of the former regime and its supporters, or prejudice against the new regime. Within months of its election, the SCC dissolved the lower chamber of parliament and was about to dissolve the Constituent Constitutional Assembly and the upper house of parliament before Morsi issued his constitutional declaration and sidelined the SCC.

In short, part of the political problem in Egypt has been that many of the state institutions are full of former regime loyalists or anti-revolution proponents holding state power thus preventing or frustrating the implementation of the objectives of the revolution. Unlike Iran for example, the Egyptian revolution hardly purged any state officials and thus real change has become very difficult to achieve.

7) Regional and International Powers: Undoubtedly, the success of the Arab Spring meant the collapse of an old political order and the establishment of a new one. Once fully instituted, the new order promised freedom, equality, social justice, and the embrace of democratic principles. But the spread of such notions in the region would certainly threaten other established orders, particularly the wealthy Arab monarchies such as Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait and Bahrain. For over a year, Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Zayed of the UAE and Saudi intelligence chief Prince Bandar Bin Sultan have been busy undermining the Egyptian revolution. Reliable sources within the Egyptian government claim that Saudi and UAE money has been flooding the country and corrupting its political system.

Israel is also understandably very nervous about the change in the political order in Egypt and across the Arab world. After all, a former Israeli minister of defense described Mubarak as "Israel's strategic treasure." In turn, Israel has been pressuring the U.S. and Europe to keep political and economic pressure on the new rulers of Egypt. What Israeli leaders want in the near term is quiet on their borders and to focus on ending Iran's nuclear program while consolidating their control over the West Bank through vast settlement expansion. The U.S. on the other hand, has a more complex calculus that includes a secure and powerful Israel, regional stability, effective control and access to oil with reasonable prices, providing protection for its regional allies especially in the Gulf, and curtailing or containing regional powers such as Iran or jihadi groups such as al-Qaeda and its affiliates. The U.S. and its European allies continue to keep the pressure on Egypt until it agrees to assist the U.S. in achieving these strategic objectives.

Two-Year Anniversary: Celebrating or Mourning?

The clash between the Islamist and secular groups reached its peak when Morsi issued his constitutional declaration in late November. He stated that his intention was to protect the Constituent Assembly from being dissolved by the SCC and wanted to give it additional time to reach consensus. But the secular parties immediately seized on this injudicious act and began a public campaign to undermine his rule and the domination of the MB and their Islamist allies. For weeks they mobilized the streets and the media, first calling on Morsi to annul his decisions, then calling on him to cancel the constitutional referendum, and finally challenging the president's legitimacy and calling for early presidential elections. Upon each presidential call for a national dialogue, the secular opposition would raise its demands and harden its positions in order to justify boycotting the national dialogue and further weakening the president. Throughout this unsettling period, the NSF leaders consistently used hyperbolic language that charged Morsi with being a worse dictator in his six-month presidency than Mubarak was during his three decade rule. It is not too far fetched to conclude that the real objective of the secular elites is not the fulfillment of the objectives of the revolution as they claim but the downfall of Morsi and the end of the Brotherhood's political domination.

But these exaggerated claims against Morsi could easily be refuted through demonstration of two examples. First, when the lower house of parliament was dissolved, all legislative powers were held de facto by the president in addition to his executive powers. Although Morsi tried several times to give up such legislative powers, he was overturned by the courts as well as strongly opposed by his secular rivals. When he tried through his constitutional declaration to protect the upper house from being dissolved by the courts the opposition decried his action and labeled him a dictator. After the constitutional referendum passed with a two-thirds majority, thus handing down all legislative powers to the upper house until the next parliamentary elections, the opposition again objected citing the domination of the Islamists over the upper house. In short, if Morsi retains all legislative powers that he inherited from the military council he is labeled a dictator. And if he transfers these powers to either the lower or upper houses of parliament, which were elected in free and fair elections, he is still called a dictator by the opposition. Either way he could not win.

A second telling example concerns the fulfillment of one of the main demands of the revolution, namely, bringing to justice the perpetrators of the crimes against the martyrs of the revolution and returning the tens of billions stolen by officials and corrupt elements of the former regime. With the exception of Mubarak, the state prosecutor failed for over 20 months to convict a single official or return a single penny of the stolen money. As many judges insinuated, it was abundantly clear that much of the damning evidence had either been withheld by the prosecutors or concealed. So last November when Morsi forced the retirement of Mubarak's state prosecutor and appointed in his place an independent judge known for his honesty and integrity, not only did all the corrupt elements protest this move but the secular opposition also vehemently objected and demanded the return of the corrupt former prosecutor.

During this period NSF leaders committed grave mistakes that fundamentally put to question their patriotism, further underscoring their opportunistic behavior. In their dispute with Morsi and the MB, they called for the intervention of the military, invited foreign interference, especially from Western countries, and provided cover for the use of violence by sanctioning the violent behavior of some youth groups against the police as well as public and private property.

Such violent incidents condoned by the opposition took place on the second anniversary of the revolution on January 25 and the following two days. NSF leaders called for either the resignation or overthrow of Morsi in the same manner that Mubarak was overthrown. Although the government welcomed all peaceful demonstrations, the protests quickly turned violent as some demonstrators tried to storm the presidential palace and the Interior Ministry resulting in the death of several victims. By the following day, a court in Port Said convicted 21 individuals charged with murdering the 72 soccer fans a year earlier and sentenced them to death. Shortly after, protests erupted not only in Port Said but also in Suez and Ismailiya, the three cities along the Suez Canal. By January 27, 54 individuals lost their lives in the ensuing violence including some police officers, prompting Morsi to declare emergency laws and a curfew for 30 days in the three cities to restore calm and end the violence. The opposition promptly condemned his actions and called the residents of these cities to defy his curfew orders and continue the protests.

Meanwhile, Morsi called all the major parties and major leaders of the opposition including Elbaradei, Moussa, Sabahi, and Elbadawi, for a national dialogue in a meeting on January 28 but the secular opposition refused to meet and escalated the confrontation by demanding that he rescind his curfew orders, take full responsibility for the violence, suspend the constitution, disband the MB, and call for early presidential elections, practically, demanding his complete surrender. By the following day, all leaders of the major Islamist parties as well as liberal Ayman Nour met with Morsi for five hours resulting in the appointment of five committees to further resolve the major political and economic problems facing the country.

But one of the reasons NSF leaders have hardened their positions is foreign interference, especially by Saudi Arabia and UAE. The latter is hosting Gen. Shafiq and openly calls for the end of MB rule. According to one informed source in Saudi Arabia, Prince Bandar's plan is to topple Morsi through the spread of violence and chaos by the opposition. But if this scheme fails, his Plan B is to push for a tactical alliance between the NSF and the Salafist al-Noor Party, which receives much of its financial backing from clerics and private foundations in Saudi Arabia. Shortly after, the evidence was on display as the head of Noor Party met openly for several hours with the main leaders of the NSF, condemned Morsi's government, called for a national unity government, and hinted at a future alliance after the upcoming elections.

Meanwhile, the average Egyptian is disgusted and confused by the political theater created in the streets that basically created economic havoc in all segments including the breakdown in security, the collapse of infrastructure, the fall of the Egyptian pound, the rise of unemployment, and the decline in tourism. In addition, the timidity and weakness of Morsi's government as well as the MB's lackluster performance allowed such unscrupulous maneuvers by the opposition. The people complain that they gave their support in anticipation of the so-called "Renaissance Project' by the MB, which turned out to be mere rhetoric. Economic experts complain that the government's response to Egypt's endemic economic problems are no different from Mubarak's capitalist and market-oriented policies that ignore most social justice and economic structural issues. People also complain that the president has not been open with his people or transparent about the deep problems facing Egypt. If there is a foreign conspiracy facing the country, they ask, why hasn't the president exposed it? But informed individuals close to Morsi's advisors discreetly say that the president has been warned by Saudi Arabia and the UAE and threatened with the deportation of hundreds of thousands of Egyptian expatriates if he shows any hostility towards their host nations. On the other hand, Morsi is responding by slowly building closer relationships with Iran and Turkey in response to the hostile policies of the Gulf countries. While the CIA is giving tactical assistance to Bandar's plans in Egypt, U.S. policy has not been definitive in backing either side of the internal dispute but hedging its bets on both sides by keeping open the line of communication to both the government and the opposition.

The political class in Egypt is so polarized currently that it is difficult to see a light at the end of the tunnel. But the Egyptian people deserve to realize the fruits of their remarkable revolution. There must be a real national dialogue between all major parties regardless of ideology or political affiliation. The only conditions imposed should be: No to intervention by the military; No to the participation of the fulool; and No to foreign interference. Furthermore, the parliamentary elections must proceed on schedule this spring and all sides must pledge to respect its democratic outcome. The president must also be allowed to serve his full term, and the opposition must behave as a loyal opposition putting the national interests before party or personal interests. In return, the president must be seen as a symbol of national unity, and one who fulfills his promises. He must also speak openly and frankly with his people, explaining the obstacles facing the country.

In short, a magnanimous majority party and loyal opposition are essential requirements to restore the glory of the revolution, and the security, stability, democracy, and progress that all Egyptians aspired for when they rose up and cried in unison for a decent living, freedom, social justice, and human dignity.

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Esam Al-Amin is a regular contributor for a number of websites.
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