POLITICO: The Revolutionary Police State

(Originally published in Politico)

Time was, American presidents had Egyptian leaders at their beck and call. Hosni Mubarak was once obliged to get up at the crack of dawn for a photo op with President Bill Clinton, scheduled with U.S. prime-time TV in mind. But if there’s one thing the “Arab Spring”—if we can still use that term with a straight face—has proved, it’s that those days are gone. Ever since Feb. 2, 2011, when President Obama pulled the plug on Mubarak in a hasty speech calling on the longtime Egyptian strongman to leave “now,” the United States has gone from bankrolling a friendly dictator to bankrolling an unfriendly dictatorship—while fast estranging itself from all sides of the political spectrum. Continue reading POLITICO: The Revolutionary Police State

Egypt’s Revolution That Was

(This article was first published by the European Council on Foreign Relations)

The semantic battle over Egypt’s upheavals of the past three years have been as fierce as the conflict on the ground: was it a revolution or an uprising, was it “stolen” by the Islamists or did they claim their rightful place at its helm, was June 30/July 3 a revolution or a coup? This week’s referendum on the post-Islamist constitution is not only intended by the military regime to consecrate their removal of elected president Mohammed Morsi but bring to an end the entire period of uprising, to begin to draw a line under the revolution itself – a process that will be completed in stages via subsequent presidential and parliamentary elections. Three key institutions of the Mubarak era have reasserted themselves with a vengeance, the military, the security apparatus and the judiciary. Through forms of mass media manipulation born in the early Nasserist years of the military republic and perfected under Mubarak’s police state, the regime has been able to impose a sort of moratorium on revolutionary activity – demands for social, economic and political justice, often made via protests and strikes.   Continue reading Egypt’s Revolution That Was

A case for one state – by a two-stater

A recent conference on “Israel and the changing Middle East”, organised by the Anglo-Israel Association (with a few other sponsors) offered a fascinating insight into the concerns of Zionist Israelis and their views of the historical conflict with Arab Palestinians at this point – with Oslo’s clear failure to produce a resolution while settlement building in the West Bank and extensive incorporation of the territory into the fabric of Israeli politics and society continues apace, and Gaza remains under a state of manufactured separation from its Israeli-Palestinian environs. Continue reading A case for one state – by a two-stater

Ali Anouzla’s Saudi Article – The Last Straw?

This article appeared on Lakome.com on 12 September and there is some speculation in Morocco that it was the spark that led to the arrest of journalist and editor Ali Anouzla five days later. Accusing Saudi Arabia of being the central force ruining the “Arab awakening” that begin in Tunisia in 2010, it was an argument rarely stated in so forthright a manner in Arab media – a reflection of the power and manipulation of Saudi Arabia in Arab media and politics. Anouzla’s web newspaper project had been infuriating the Moroccan authorities for some time – not least for its strong coverage of King Mohammed’s pardon of a Spaniard convicted of paedophilia. Prosecutors say it was the posting of an al-Qa’ida video that explains the move against Anouzla now, but few are taking that seriously. He is being held in Morocco’s worst prison, Sale near Rabat, where suspected militants are held – one indication of the government’s determination to make Anouzla pay. Just in case the Saudi article disappears completely from the Lakome website, here is the Arabic below. Continue reading Ali Anouzla’s Saudi Article – The Last Straw?

‘Corrective Revolution’ Descends Into Bloodshed

Hundreds of thousands were out in Tahrir Square and hundreds of thousands more, perhaps millions, were in the streets by the presidential palace. State television played rousing patriotic music. Military aircraft hovered above, in protective fatherly fashion, as protesters playfully flickered their green lasers in the sky. Huge Egyptian flags were strung out over ecstatic protesters’ heads for maybe 20 metres or more. Hawkers displayed a range of trinkets and souvenirs bearing the soft-features of charismatic army leader and saviour of the republic Abdulfattah al-Sisi. Continue reading ‘Corrective Revolution’ Descends Into Bloodshed

Sisi – Too sexy for his military fatigues (Get that man a presidency)


A forewarning about the extent of Idolization of Field Marshal Abdulfattah al-Sisi came to me on Wednesday night, after the Egyptian defence minister and supreme commander of Egypt’s armed forces issued his call for mass protests to give the military a mandate to confront violence on the streets of Egypt. A friend messaged me: “I’m in love with Sisi. What a strong guy! Eh dah! Finally someone I respect.” Continue reading Sisi – Too sexy for his military fatigues (Get that man a presidency)

Egypt’s Military State – Democracy in Stages

In 1952 the Egyptian military decided they had had enough of the monarchy and they quickly concluded they had had enough of party politics too. Mohammed Naguib became first president in 1953 after the monarchy was formally abolished and a republic declared, and the next year he was deposed by Nasser over his desire for the military to return to the barracks and return the country to civilian rule. Continue reading Egypt’s Military State – Democracy in Stages

High Drama on the Nile – Military vs Brotherhood Brinkmanship

For all the (misplaced) talk of mass Islamist violence and civil war over the past three weeks, it is the military junta (or military-security complex, or ‘deep state’, or government, if you will) that will be tempted more and more to use the tried and tested street violence of the Mubarak era – thuggery – to break up Brotherhood protests. The longer the Muslim Brotherhood and its supporters camp out on the streets of the capital and elsewhere, the more the military may feel pressured to stop them. This is a game of nerves. Continue reading High Drama on the Nile – Military vs Brotherhood Brinkmanship

On Egypt, how wrong we were

I was just thinking of how unforeseen the twists and turns of events in Egypt have been in the past two years. Some pundits might have guessed at some things, but generally I think people didn’t see much of this coming. Such as:

– The military wouldn’t step in and remove Mursi via a coup because the Brotherhood had made a deal with the military that neutralized them as antagonistic force Continue reading On Egypt, how wrong we were

Street politics and manipulation in Egypt

Street politics is an inherently unstable and risky affair. Bypassing normal rules of political engagement, it can bring great dividends and or it can be an arena for sinister manipulation. Fortunately nothing has emerged from the ‘Arab Spring’ uprisings of 2011 to suggest there was any of the kind of foul play involved in the street protests of 1953 in Iran against elected prime minister Mohammad Mossadegh, now widely regarded as part of a CIA-orchestrated coup. Continue reading Street politics and manipulation in Egypt