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Egypt on the brink

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This post is part of Marc H. Ellis’s “Exile and the Prophetic” feature for Mondoweiss. To read the entire series visit the archive page.

We’re still waiting for the other talk-about-talking John Kerry shoe to drop.  Why the other shoe hasn’t dropped remains a mystery.  Perhaps it’s because both sides know the talks wouldn’t go anywhere.  Why make the investment if the only payback is more gridlock unless gridlock is in your self-interest. 

Mystery solved.  Israeli and the Palestinian leaders are huddled behind closed doors trying to figure out if gridlock serves them well. 

While we’ve been waiting for the Washington talks to be decided upon, Egypt is devolving.  Simply put, Egypt is on the brink.

CNN, the Egyptian Independent, and the New York Times report that Egypt’s military is calling on a mass mobilization for Friday to express the people’s support for the military and against those – former President Morsi’s supporters – who are “destabilizing” the country.  Actually, the terms are way stronger than that.  The accusation coming from the highest levels of the military is that those who oppose their road map are guilty of treason.  The opposition wants Egypt to go down.

The progressive alliance that helped bring Morsi down, Tamarod, is backing the military’s request in equally strong, I would say, incendiary language. According to CNN, Tamarod released the following statement supporting the military’s call:  “We call on all the Egyptian people to gather in all the squares next Friday to call for the trial of Mohamed Morsy, support the Egyptian armed forces in the coming war against terrorism and cleansing the land of Egypt. The army and the people will fight terrorism.”

When a group that helped elect a President is protesting his ouster by a military coup, then continues to protest martial law, one can be in disagreement. To use the label terrorism, to call for the cleansing of the land and in the context of a military call for mass mobilization of the people is beyond the pale. Where do the military and Tamarod think their road map is leading?

Meanwhile America continues to send mixed messages – at least in public.  The New York Times reports that the promised delivery of F-16 fighter jets has been delayed, though government officials make it clear that 1.5 billion dollars in aid to Egypt isn’t in jeopardy.  As a White House official put it:  “We’ve been very clear with the military:  we understand this is a difficult situation but we want to get things back on track.  Trying to break the neck of the Brotherhood is not going to be good for Egypt or for the region.”

Back on track?  Which track?  It depends what side you’re on.  America wants to be known as neutral but funding the military is the challenge not the F-16’s.

Is Egypt like Israel/Palestine, where America’s “honest broker” status is transparently one-sided?

Once again, Egypt’s on the brink.  Cleansing the land can’t be the way forward.

Marc H. Ellis
About Marc H. Ellis

Marc H. Ellis is Professor of History and Jewish Studies and Director of the Center for the Study of the Global Prophetic. His latest book is Finding Our Voice: Embodying the Prophetic and Other Misadventures.

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3 Responses

  1. piotr
    July 25, 2013, 12:41 pm

    I would argue that in the case of Egypt, American policy is not that one-sided or stupid. There are no perfect options there: “helping a political option that would lead to a popular, stable and pro-American government”.

    The best to hope for is that opposing political forces in Egypt would compete democratically, with elections and free press, and the major players on each side would have some understanding with USA (I am projecting Obama here rather then my own views). Thus a gentle push to have quite free elections (marred by capricious disqualification of candidates, hence “quite”) and getting some understanding with Morsi.

    I have some comparison because I watch the politics of Poland, where there are two basic parts of the political spectrum, and with some simplification part A views part B as total morons and part B views part A as scoundrels and traitors, while the main parties are suitably pro-American (even so, I was surprised with the rise of anti-Americanism, like calling FM “an American errand boy”). That said, the things never went out of hand.

    Back to options in Egypt. It is hard to see that Obama had a hand in overturning Morsi, although it is easy to see that Gulf countries did. The winners have an option to pursue some compromise with the Brotherhood, in a way that would be credible enough that Brotherhood would look bad if the compromise was rejected, or “go full Pinochet”, putting thousands in detention, closing all media supporting Brotherhood and so on. I am guessing that Obama would lean for the first option, and the military prefers Pinochet, and right now the things are in between.

  2. Justpassingby
    July 25, 2013, 1:14 pm

    I appreciate your comments on Egypt Ellis.

    It seems many fail to understand whats going on, for one that US does indeed support the military regime.

  3. American
    July 25, 2013, 4:01 pm

    At risk of offending whoever again….it was obvious , to me anyway, by the way this went down that it was a military ‘arranged’ revolt…iow, a coup, with the fig leaf of a popular revolt.
    I do think Saudi and the Gulf states had more to do with then the US.
    Whatever it is, it isn’t a democratic movement…it’s a get the MB movement. and bring back the old status quo.

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