North Africa, West Asia

This week's window on the Middle East - December 18, 2013

Arab Awakening's columnists offer their weekly perspective on what is happening on the ground in the Middle East. Leading the week: Water, water, everywhere.

Arab Awakening
18 December 2013
  • Water, water, everywhere
  • It's raining, it's pouring and a book review
  • Tunisia: security sector reform
  • Morsi as symbol
  • Morsi is not a symbol
  • General El Sisi and the red sword
  • Water, water, everywhere

    By Nikita Malik

    The scarcity of water resources and the relative power of countries that share them has long been a hotly contested topic. In a paper published in 2008, Mark Zeitoun and Naho Mirumachi argue that these ‘transboundary water interactions’ are inherently political processes, determined by broader political conflicts. Nowhere are these processes and conflicts more visible than the Dead Sea to Red Sea project, signed off by Palestine, Israel, and Jordan earlier this week. Whether this cooperative agreement sustains or transforms the conflict it is intended to resolve is a matter not only of opinion, but also, time.

    Yaakov Garb, an Israeli environmental and social studies expert at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, stated to the New York Times that he suspects the project is “wrapped up in ‘Saving the Dead Sea’ clothing” in order to attract international financing. Others argue that Red-to-Dead is more concerned with providing freshwater to a desperate region, and less to do with reversing receding water levels in the Dead Sea. It is this demand for fresh water that has caused evaporation of the Jordan River and the Dead Sea in the first place: waters that flow into the Jordan River and the Sea of Galilee are diverted for consumption. This has caused the amount of water that flows freely to Jordan to decrease over time: A 2011 report by the Indian-based think tank Strategic Foresight Group (SFG) states that even as consumption levels increase rapidly, the annual discharge of Jordan River decreased to 200 cubic metres in 2011, compared to 1,300 cubic metres in 1960. Conversely, the aggressive adoption of desalination plants, coupled with profitable waste-water reuse policies, has meant that per capita usage of fresh water has steadily declined in Israel: approximately 80% of all waste water is recycled in the nation, more than double the rate of any other country in the world.

    It is natural that a cumulative decrease in water resources, an absence of water management, and a growing population that creates higher water demand, has culminated in a tense political environment in Jordan as I have argued elsewhere. As part of the project, approximately 100 million cubic metres of water will be desalinated in Jordan: the majority of water for drinking and irrigation will be directed to Israel’s Arava desert, but, as part of the cooperation, Israel will provide desperately needed water to Jordan’s Northern front. 

    A water shortage for Jordanians could fuel growing instability for the Hashemite regime. Citizens without a fundamental human right are likely to express their dissent, voicing protest both on, and off, the streets. The focus for the Hashemite Kingdom remains two-fold: guaranteeing the fulfilment of domestic water needs to improve food security in the nation, and contributing to political stability through equitable sharing of water resources within the wider region. 

    Despite current challenges, better water management holds possibilities for improved cooperation and trust-building in the future. Potential benefits are clear; indeed, overall welfare of the three participating states is vitally linked by dependence on this shared resource. Today, Israelis consume a daily average of 350 litres of water per capita, while Jordanians consume roughly 60 litres, and Palestinians, only about 30 litres. In the future, it is hoped that countries along the Jordan River establish a daily per-capita water usage of under 200 litres.

    Current negotiations over water management rely on provisional figures from the Oslo Accords of the early 1990s, even though studies show that water resources have depleted by 7% since that time. In the past, the lack of confidence between Israelis and Palestinians has been a crucial impediment to improving water resource management between the three nations. It is clear that a paradigm shift is needed to change how these partners view the politics at the crux of their water agreements. Perhaps, the Red-to-Dead deal will provide it.

    It's raining, it's pouring and a book review

    By Efraim Perlmutter

    I ended my last contribution to this forum with "Let us all pray for rainy weather in the Negev this winter." Someone seems to have a direct line to the deity as immediately thereafter we were blessed with abundant rain in the Negev and across the rest of the country as well as major parts of the Middle East. The rain gauge in my garden registered more than 100 millimeters while some places not far away registered more than twice that amount. To give you an idea of what that means, the average annual rainfall in our village is 170 millimeters and we haven't achieved even that for the past few years. Just about all of our fields are irrigated and we have a yearly water allocation of about 2,000,000 cubic meters. We were looking at the prospect of running over the limit of our allocation in December, the last month of the year. However in this last rainfall approximately 300,000 cubic meters of rain water fell from the heavens to irrigate our fields. This means that we will end the year with a surplus rather than a deficit in our water accounts.

    Because of the inclement weather, classes in some schools were cancelled, including the Bedouin school where I teach. My wife and I drove around our area to see the overflowing wadis (valleys). Our excursion was cut short because some of the highways were flooded out and closed.

    Efraim Perlmutter. All rights reserved.

    However, I managed to get a few photos of rapidly flowing water in what looks like respectable rivers now but in the summer months will revert to their natural state as dry riverbeds.

    Efraim Perlmutter. All rights reserved.

    Having a long weekend and not being able to work on the farm because of the rain, I had a chance to read a book that, in my opinion, can change one's views about how the political world works. The book is "The Dictators Handbook: Why Bad Behavior Is Almost Always Good Politics" by Bruce Bueno De Mesquita and Alastair Smith. In the interest of total disclosure I should report that Bruce and his wife Arlene were our best friends in graduate school. He went on to a very successful career in academia while my wife and I devoted ourselves to growing tomatoes in the Negev. We kept a tenuous connection over the years and recently took advantage of a short trip back to the States to visit with Bruce and Arlene in New York. He gave me a copy of his latest book and I had the chance to read it on my rain-enforced vacation weekend.

    The central thesis of the book is that the main goal of political leaders is to remain in office and that they act accordingly. The thesis is used to analyze the behavior of numerous political actors ranging from the city manager and city council of Bell California and the miscreant behavior of the Board of Directors of the Enron Corporation to Sergeant Doe, of Liberia and the Green Bay Packers; with other numerous examples drawn from contemporary events as well as ancient, modern and biblical history along the way.

    I was particularly impressed and depressed by chapter seven, the analysis of the impact of foreign aid. A couple of decades ago a young Dutch fellow, named Bert, worked as a volunteer in our village. He went on to work in an institution for mentally disabled children in Be'er Sheva. Bert decided to see Africa and took a year off to travel down that continent from Egypt to Cape Town, South Africa. He passed through our village on his way back to Holland and I asked him what he had concluded from his travels. His response was that all foreign aid should be stopped because it was not being used to help the populace but rather to enrich the corrupt leaderships. "The Dictator's Handbook" takes this observation one step further and argues that foreign aid has been used mainly to keep the corrupt dictators in power. Considering the gazillions of funds that have come from the USA, France, Great Britain, Russia, China and elsewhere that have been used to oppress numerous populations, I must conclude that foreign aid has been, in the main, a crime against humanity.

    Though a thoroughly depressing work, "The Dictator's Handbook" does make a positive point that is appropriate for a forum named "openDemocracy". It is that while not perfect, democratic systems of government, run by leaderships whose main goal is to stay in power, do, in fact, act in ways that increase the available wealth and spread it around to wider portions of the population while authoritarian regimes do just the opposite. This is the case no matter what the self-proclaimed ideologies of either type of regime happen to be. This may be self-evident to some but I fear that it is not apparent to many.

    Appropriately, on the morning that the rain stopped and the sun came out, I read a news report about an agreement signed by Israel, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority cooperating on a water producing and sharing project. (For commentary see this piece.) 

    Back in the 1950's President Eisenhower sent a water expert to the Middle East to develop a water sharing plan between Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and Israel. There was no Palestinian Authority then as the West Bank was occupied by Jordan. The plan was created to benefit the populations of each state but it was rejected by the Arab States who would do nothing for their own people if it also benefited Israel. As it happened, both Jordan and Israel carried out their parts of the plan independently while Syria took action to disrupt both of their neighbors' water supply. A lot of blood and water has flown under the bridge since then and perhaps the political leadership of Jordan and the Palestinian Authority see their staying in power as being tied to the increased welfare of their people. This would be considered a positive development by the authors of "The Dictator's Handbook". The current authoritarian Syrian regime is acting pretty much as expected. 

    On second thought rather than praying for more rain in the Negev, let's all pray for me winning the national lottery. Of course it might help if I bought a ticket.

    Tunisia: security sector reform

    By Robert Joyce

    In October, photos surfaced of the savagely beaten body of 32 year old Tunisian man Walid Denguir. Police reportedly arrested Denguir in the Bab Fellah neighborhood of Tunis. Around an hour after his arrest, Denguir’s mother was called on by the police and told her son was dead. Pictures taken after autopsy show Denguir’s skull had caved in and a prominent human rights lawyer said that his injuries resemble the “roasted chicken” position, said to be common to the Ben Ali era, where the victim is hung by four limbs on a pole and beaten with sticks.

    Three days after Denguir’s death, the Ministry of Interior remarkably released a statement blaming his death on “excessive violence” while in custody. The officials quickly got back to the normal routine, though, and removed the press release. An investigation is said to be under way from both within the ministry and the external court. Since then, despite continued reporting and civil society pressure no updates have been released. In a show of stunning nerve, the security forces union blamed Denguir’s death on the consumption of cannabis. Local media has run the same cause of death, attributing this to a phantom autopsy report. 

    The Denguir case serves as a particularly brutal example of the larger issues of police arrest practices. A Human Rights Watch report released earlier this month exposed the flaws in existing laws that have yet to be improved since the revolution. Police in Tunisia can hold arrested suspects for six days without pressing charges or processing them in the prison system. During this time as HRW writes, “detainees are particularly vulnerable to mistreatment by law enforcement agents because they have no access to a lawyer or to family visits.” 

    Forty of seventy detainees interviewed by HRW reported abuse ranging from rape threats to baton beatings during arrest and interrogation. Anecdotally, in Tunis, I pass two police stations on my way to work everyday and see cops rough up people they are apparently arresting. In broad daylight or in the middle of the street police openly rough up anyone they suspect of committing a crime or just insulting them.

    Two days after Denguir’s death, a distant relative appeared at the police station in which he was first reported to be killed. Shirtless, screaming and waving a knife he hurled insults at the police and accused them of murder. About twenty cops in all eventually attacked him, repeatedly using a taser even when he was restrained. Worse, when his family arrived at the station, they beat them up and insulted them. One officer chased a woman after she had left the station, kicking and punching her. On a regular basis, groups of people attack this police station, throwing bottles and rocks.

    Attacking the police is dangerous and certainly not a solution. Security unions in Tunisia have made the reasonable argument that they’ve been unfairly held responsible for the abuses of the former regime, when commanders and politicians are more culpable. Tunisia faces real threats from militants allegedly associated with Ansar al-Sharia and al-Qaeda. In addition to two high profile political assassinations in the past year, a number of soldiers, national guardsmen and police officers have been killed. Tunisia needs a professional security force, but until citizens can depend on the law to bring some justice against police abuses, hate and mistrust of the police will continue.  

    Tunisia’s Ministry of Interior needs to do better than internal inquiries that lack transparency and lead nowhere. The torture commission law, passed by the NCA in October, will bring more sunlight to detention facilities, opening them up to regular unannounced inspection by human rights experts. The Ministry of Justice, while not without its own structural problems, ought to make every effort to show citizens that their investigative judges take police violence seriously. Tunisians deserve a police force they can trust, rather than fear. 

    Morsi as symbol

    By Islam Abdel-Rahman

    Since the bloody coup that ousted the first democratically elected president in Egypt, Dr. Mohammed Morsi last July, a growing movement against the coup has evolved and progressed, challenging the military authority over the country. 

    This Anti-Coup movement began by demanding the re-instatement of the 2012 constitution and restoration of the Shurah council, the upper house of the parliament, alongside the restoration of Morsi’s presidency. The Rabaa sign (referring to the sit-in where thousands of Anti-Coup movement protesters were killed by security forces last August) has meanwhile become a sign and slogan for that movement, and it remains a movement that contains many who not so long ago were against many of his policies. Why did they make this political choice under the worst of circumstances?

    Morsi was the first civilian who was elected president of Egypt. While this may sound ordinary in many countries, it has a deep significance in Egypt. For decades, Egypt was ruled by military officers and for centuries it was ruled by monarchs. This was the first time, thanks to the January 25th Revolution, where the Egyptians managed to elect their own ruler among others who competed in an open contest, something Egypt has never witnessed before. Morsi became a symbol for the power of people to choose who rules them.

    These were fair elections with just a slight margin over the ‘deep state’ candidate, who also belonged to a military institution. This was the fifth electoral contest in a row (two constitutional referendums, two parliamentary elections and a presidential one), and this one occurred in an open political environment dominated by civilian powers with different outlooks and attitudes. This major gain from the revolution opened up the prospects of a viable political life before all Egyptians, who before then were represented solely by the president’s party and a cartoonish opposition.

    After the coup, all these fair elections, not only the presidential one but also all the previous political outcomes, were cancelled out and thrown in the bin. Despite a road map that entails new elections under military rule alongside the restoration of Mubarak’s Police State and his politicised judiciary, Morsi’s return soon became the symbol of the civilian politics that led to his election and flourished throughout his sole year of governance.

    In Egypt, traditionally, not only is the president’s position occupied by an army officer but all the influential positions have been dominated by army personnel. Many positions for governor, city mayor, or manager of state-owned firms were occupied by former army officers so that it has become widely thought that army officers only retire to prepare themselves to hold a position somewhere in the governmental body running Egypt.

    Although Egyptian politics were run mainly by the National Democratic Party of Mubarak, the real powers in the land were the military, who have the decisive say on who will sit on the throne of Egypt. Although this equation was disrupted by the revolution, the military did not give up and tried to regain its privileges. This was very clear in the support that the military candidate in the presidential race, General Ahmed Shafiq, enjoyed. However, Morsi’s electoral victory returned their efforts to square one, and for the first time the commander-in-chief of the army became a civilian.

    Despite this, although the constitution voted on in 2012 maintained an autonomous position for the army, the army was deeply alarmed at the prospect of losing such tremendous privileges as they had enjoyed in the recent past. In a leaked record from General Sisi, he mentioned that no president whatever his background may be (Islamists, liberal, leftist), would understand the position and importance of the army in Egypt. This is why the Anti-Coup movement supporters insisted on the return of president Morsi. They know that this would be a profound symbol of defeat confronting an institution that has run the country for decades, with iron and lately with blood.

    Some will disagree with the policies or decisions adopted by Morsi; however, there were two moments in particular when he was clearly seen as a symbol for the revolution against its opponents.

    The first was in the second round of the presidential race when he stood against the candidate of the military institution supported by remnants of the old regime. The second moment took place in this current crisis, when he refused to bow to military coercion and instead reiterated his claim to being the legitimate president of Egypt within the terms of Egypt’s  constitution.

    To this day, the Anti-Coup movement does not recognise what happened in Egypt in July as only a military coup, but as full blown counter-revolution. They emphasise that all the practices and pillars of Mubarak’s regime have been restored at the expense of every gain achieved by the revolution. Setting aside any debate ( and there are many) about how effective the president was in his single turbulent year in office, Morsi is regarded by many as a symbol for the January Revolution against those who used tanks to enforce the will of the counter-revolutionary forces in Egypt. 

    For the reasons mentioned above, Morsi’s symbolism has gone beyond personal or political loyalty to a broader meaning for a country that refuses to relinquish the gains it seized in its revolution three years ago.

    Morsi is not a symbol

    By Maged Mandour

    Islam Abdel-Rahman, in a recent article on openDemocracy, argued that President Morsi’s appeal has transected his core constituency, and that he has become a unifying figure for the anti-coup movement. He also argues that the coup is a counter revolutionary event, which returned the military to the Egyptian political scene “after the revolution”, and implicitly of course President Morsi could have removed the military from power. The tone of the article also implies that during presidential elections, Morsi represented revolutionary forces in opposition to the candidate of the “deep state”, and that his success was equivalent to a revolutionary victory. The views expressed in this article are not simply a distortion of the past and present, but also an exercise in selective memory “par excellence”, which suggests that Brotherhood supporters are still not ready to take the necessary steps to redeem that organisation; the first of which should be an honest acknowledgment of its failures and shortcomings, transcending propaganda and political pragmatism.

    In order to gain a deeper understanding of the role of the Brotherhood in post-Mubarak Egypt, one needs to understand the role of the Brotherhood under Mubarak and Sadat. The Brotherhood as a mass, conservative, backward looking movement, with a backbone in the rural bourgeoisie, has historically acted as a bulwark against more progressive, national forces. The Brotherhood has maintained this role since its inception in Ismailia in 1928, until the ouster of Morsi by the Egyptian military. One only needs to remember the role of the Brotherhood in supporting the King against the representative of the Egyptian El-Wafd Party’s nationalist movement in pre-1952 Egypt. Add to this, their support of Sadat against the leftist and Nasserist forces of the 1970s and their attempts to defame the January uprising of 1977 by labelling it as a communist conspiracy. Finally comes their support for the Supreme Council of Armed Forces (SCAF) during the first transitional period; crowding out popular protest against the military by holding counter rallies and providing political cover to the numerous massacres conducted by the military through their control of the people’s assembly.

    In short, based on their history one can convincingly argue that they themselves are an anti-revolutionary, conservative, status quo force that has always worked within the confines of political systems. One only needs to remember the famous interview given by Morsi during the final years of the Mubarak regime, when he publicly stated that there was electoral coordination between the Brotherhood and the National Democratic Party (NDP), and that the Brotherhood had cleared some “areas” for certain members of the NDP, since they considered them to be “national symbols”.

    This is not to argue that the Brotherhood was not subjected to bouts of state repression; the clearest example was the fraudulent parliamentary elections in 2010. However, this repression was based on the needs of the regime, and was used to discipline the Brotherhood when needed. The Brotherhood had a symbiotic relationship with the military-dominated regime, whereby it acted as its arm in civil society, allowing the state to withdraw and retrench after the volcano of 1967, as I have argued elsewhere.

    This context is necessary for the rebuttal of some points raised by Abdel-Rahman in his article. The article gives the impression that by the time the presidential elections were under way the military was all but sidelined from the Egyptian political scene and that the main powers were “civilian”; insinuating that Morsi’s electoral victory was a death blow to the military. Paradoxically, he also states that Morsi only just beat the “deep state” candidate, which also implies that the “deep state” was still an active participant in Egyptian political life. This view is a simple and superficial view to say the least. It ignores the wider societal context in which these elections took place. Namely, it ignores the failure of revolutionary forces to change existing societal power relations within the Egyptian polity, especially in the realm of political economy and civil society.

    In the realm of political economy, the military’s economic empire remained un-assailed, even the most radical revolutionaries failing to create the necessary awareness of this empire and its impact on Egyptian societal development, thus failing to threaten or dismantle it. In the realm of civil society, the power base of the Brotherhood, the revolutionary forces failed to create revolutionary consciousness as a necessary first step for commencing a direct assault on the state and the political system. This failure can be partially attributed to the anti-revolutionary role of the Brotherhood, as they sided with the military against progressive forces, ensuring that the ideological base of the regime remained intact. In short, when presidential elections took place, the military remained the dominant force in the country, which would automatically limit the power of a new president, whoever he might be.

    Abdel-Rahman, also repeats a false assumption common among members of the Brotherhood, confusing elections with democracy. Abdel-Rahman gives the impression that Morsi’s electoral victory was a victory for democracy, ignoring the fact that elections are only one prerequisite for democracy. Elections, even if they are free, do not necessarily guarantee a democratic state. Democracy involves the elimination of independent power centres that are outside the control of the state, which was not the case, as argued above, and the existence of truly democratic institutions and legal framework, including but not limited to a constitution, which was not ready at the time. Once again the argument that the Egyptian revolution created a real opening in the Egyptian political system remains suspect. The prerequisites of a democratic election did not exist.

    To drive the point home, one needs to look at Morsi`s policies during his year in office. The main issue was that the Brotherhood behaved eerily similarly to the NDP in terms of economic policies, for example. The Brotherhood seemed to press forward with neoliberal practices that were adopted by the NDP. The clearest example was the Brotherhood`s attempts to obtain  a loan from the IMF. The Brotherhood also attempted to replicate the repressive tactics of the NDP and it failed to do so, not due to lack of will, rather due to lack of cooperation from security institutions. Finally, and most importantly, the Brotherhood’s rushed constitution that preserved the status of the military as an independent power centre clearly showed whose side they were on. The Brotherhood remained true to its history while in power; they remained an anti-revolutionary force attempting to reach an accord with the military as they slowly attempted to  consolidate their power base within the state apparatus.

    In short, the notion that Morsi and the Brotherhood were part, let alone symbols, of the revolutionary movement is a blatant attempt to rewrite history and ignore their own history and the choices they made. Conversely, one could make quite a case for believing that the Brotherhood and Morsi were part of the counter-revolution that started once Mubarak stepped down on 11 February 2011.

    As for the claim that after the coup, Morsi`s appeal transcended his core base of Muslim Brotherhood supporters - this is dubious at best. The popularity of the military remains solid for the time being, although it might start to disintegrate as repression increases. Other political forces, opposed to the military, have gone to considerable lengths to distance themselves from the Brotherhood. The Brotherhood failed to garner the support of the urban middle classes, concentrated in Cairo, which severely hindered its ability to effectively oppose the military. It relied historically on numerical superiority in the peripheries, ignoring the centre, a strategy that has proved to be a fatal error. Some might even argue, that the split between the Al-Nour Salafist party, who are now attempting to crowd out the Brotherhood, and the MB has further weakened the Islamist movement and the ability of the Brotherhood to appeal to wider Islamist audiences. Morsi was and is a leader within the confines of the Brotherhood, but he has no wider appeal. The Brotherhood’s failure has severely damaged the revolution and consolidated the position of the military. Morsi is not Mandela and the MB is not the ANC.       

    General El Sisi and the red sword

    By Amr Osman

    In a recently released sound clip of an interview with General Abdel Fattah El Sisi, Egypt’s Minister of Defense and current de facto leader, the interviewer (the Editor-in-Chief of al-Masry al-Youm Egyptian newspaper, Yasir Rizk) asks the General if he had ever dreamt of leading the Egyptian army, to which El Sisi replies by asking, “The leadership of the Egyptian army, or something bigger than that?” The General then begins to talk about part of what he describes as “a long history of dreams” that he always believed in, but, for reasons that he does not disclose, has stopped talking about since 2006.

    Among the important dreams that he mentions in this context is one with the late President Anwar El Sadat of Egypt (1970-1981). According to El Sisi, Sadat told him that he knew that he [Sadat] would be Egypt’s president, to which El Sisi replied by saying that he, too, knew that he would be Egypt’s president. In another dream, the General was told that he “would be granted something that nobody had been granted before [him]”. In perhaps a related dream, the General is wearing an “Omega watch with a huge green star on it”. When asked why he had that watch that nobody else had, he said: “This watch is mine. It’s Omega and I am Abdel Fattah [his first name].” “I have linked Omega with ‘internationality’ with Abdel Fattah,” he explains.

    A megalomaniac mentality that glorifies political power and material wealth is evident in these dreams, which also demonstrate that the General has had an old ambition and a real desire to “sit on Egypt’s throne,” in Rizk’s words. Arguably, the only viable way for him to do this after the January 2010 revolution was to use the army itself to create a cult of personality around himself. That he has done by exploiting public anger against the Muslim Brotherhood (but we may wonder now what role he may have played in creating and fomenting that anger) to topple President Mohamed Morsi (who had appointed him as Minister of Defense) in a military coup on 3 July, 2013. This was followed immediately by an incredible campaign of scandalous sycophancy that has reached the nadir of an Egyptian journalist offering herself and other Egyptian women as “slave girls” to please the new leader.     

    But perhaps the most revealing of the General’s dreams is the one in which, according to himself, he once saw himself carrying a “red sword with ‘There is no God but Allah’” inscribed on it. The significance of this dream is evident. The sword is a tool for killing, and the red color on it indicates that it has already been used for this purpose. What is crucial here, however, is that the sword has the well-known Islamic testimony to God’s oneness on it. In other words, the sword was used in the name of God to kill his opponents. It is a holy war, then, where murder, including mass murder, is not only justifiable, but even meritorious as sanctioned by none other than God Himself.

    It is this same mentality that searches for justification for mass murder that led General El Sisi, a couple of weeks after the coup, to call on Egyptians to give him a “mandate” to deal with “potential violence and terrorism” so that he can use it to kill thousands of his people in the name of the rest of the people, which he has in fact been doing since his coup. Nor is it surprising that Egypt’s former Mufti, Sheikh Ali Gomaa, following in his footsteps was able to openly call on the Egyptian army and police to target the hearts of the “filthy” Egyptians who rejected the military coup. Unsurprisingly, Gomaa said this to an audience that included General El Sisi himself.  

    Obviously, General El Sisi sincerely believes that he is engaging in a holy war, either in the name of God or the name of the Egyptian “people”, which now does not include the Muslim Brotherhood or any person who rejects the coup.

    At the moment, a significant segment of Egyptian society is the target of this holy war which does not only include the Muslim Brotherhood, but also anyone who opposes his coup and road map (many Egyptian activists – who are not related to the Brotherhood – have been recently detained, and remain in detention, for considering El Sisi's tactics a restoration of the Mubarak regime).

    Two more observations can be made. The first is General El Sisi’s unrelenting willingness to use lethal force to suppress his opponents. His decision to disperse the sit-ins in Cairo mid-August while knowing that thousands could be killed (which did actually happen) is the best demonstration of this. Listening to any of the sound clips that were released in the past few weeks of the same interview (the parts that were released were obviously meant to be confidential), it is also difficult not to be struck by the incredible banality of the way the General thinks and expresses himself.

    The kind of mentality that dominates El Sisi’s regime – which dominated the regimes of Saddam Hussein, Colonel Gaddafi, and the Assads in Syria, to name a few Arab dictators – can only survive by creating enemies. When internal enemies are done with, external enemies are created, and El Sisi will summon up and deal with that enemy in the same way he now deals with his internal enemies. 

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