Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Egypt: No Khomeini in Egypt

Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, Chairman of of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces of Egypt

By Baher Kamal*

Courtesy IDN-InDepth NewsAnalysis

CAIRO (IDN) - "Egypt will not be Gaza or Iran, nor will it be ruled by a Khomeini." This is what the Supreme Military Council (SMC) of Egyptian armed forces, which manages the fate of this country since the popular overthrow of Hosni Mubarak on February 11, has stated.

The SMC delivered this strong statement on February 5 to the new directors and chief editors of the state-run media, who have been appointed to replace the old loyalists of Mubarak regime, thanks to heavy public pressure.

Moreover, the SMC said that Egypt was set to be a democratic and modern state, capable of occupying its rightful place in the world, and "to face the truth with full democracy."

By way of a warning, the SMC expressed its hope that the Egyptian army "will not be obliged to go down into the streets once it has delivered the country's leadership (to civil authorities), a democratic state has been established, a new parliament has been elected, and a new president has also been elected."


The Egyptian military council's statement came after the widely circulated remarks of U.S. Secretary of State, Hilary Clinton, in the sense that Washington would not object to the Muslim Brothers assuming power in Egypt.

This new attitude of the White House, which was expressed again on the occasion of popular uprising in Syria, seems to respond to a new stream in the Barack Obama administration, which no longer excludes the possibility of a "deal" that would enable Muslim Brothers in Arab countries to share with the military the management of the next stage of change.


In late February, Clinton had already defined the U.S. conditions for the arrival of political parties to power in Egypt.

In fact, she told the Egyptian opposition online newspaper 'Masrawi' that any party that rejects violence and is committed to democracy and the rights of all Egyptians, should have the opportunity to compete for the votes of the Egyptians.

The U.S. secretary of state said so in response to a question about an eventual arrival of the Muslim Brothers to power.


Clinton seems to have received a clear endorsement, casual or calculated, from the Egyptian Muslim Brothers who, in an earlier statement, reaffirmed their determination not to run with a candidate of their own to for the presidential elections scheduled for next autumn.

The Muslim Brothers repeated that they had no plans to try to achieve the majority of seats in the parliamentary elections planned for this summer.

But this is not new. Back in mid February, the Muslim Brothers had already loudly and strongly heralded that they would not run for the presidential elections and would also not struggle to get a majority in parliament.


Their voice fell nevertheless on the U.S. Republican hawks' deaf ears. The chair of the influential House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee, Florida Republican Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, said on February 11, 2011 that the Muslim Brothers should be excluded from the process.

"We must … urge the unequivocal rejection of any involvement by the Muslim Brotherhood and other extremists who may seek to exploit and hijack these events to gain power, oppress the Egyptian people, and do great harm to Egypt's relationship with the United States, Israel, and other free nations," she said in a statement.

Similarly, in his weekly op-ed in the Washington Post (also on February 11), Charles Krauthammer, a neo-conservative hard-liner who coined the phrase "the Unipolar Moment" in celebration of Washington's global hegemony after the Soviet Union's collapse, warned that "Islamism" had taken the place of Communism in the "long twilight struggle" for freedom.

"Therefore, just as during the Cold War the United States helped keep European communist parties out of power (to see them ultimately wither away)," he wrote, "it will be U.S. policy to oppose the inclusion of totalitarian parties -- the Muslim Brotherhood or, for that matter, communists -- in any government, whether provisional or elected, in newly liberated Arab states."

European politicians and media echoed the neo-conservative, neo-liberal American warnings . . . once again.


Anyway, the Egyptian Muslim Brothers continue to proclaim their intention not to grab for power -- at least for now.

Their movement was rigidly prohibited and persecuted by the Mubarak regime, and its leaders repeatedly jailed. Nevertheless, they seem to have organised their rank and file better than all political forces in Egypt, except the national party of Mubarak, which has not yet been dissolved in spite of continued popular pressure.

Yet, the Muslim Brothers have actively participated in amending some articles of the Constitution, which were approved in a referendum on March 19. They were the sole political force to support it along with the party of Mubarak, and they are the ones that benefit most from such an outcome.

In fact, all other opposition forces in Egypt have rejected Constitutional reforms as incomplete and insufficient. While facilitating the formation of political parties, the Constitutional amendments leave almost all presidential powers untouched. Also the so-called 'Islamic law' or Sharia remains the basis of legislation.

Consequently, all opposition movements boycotted the referendum, in particular the Revolution Youth coalition which is still starring.

And so did the opposition movement led by Nobel laureate Mohamed El Baradei as well as Amre Moussa, Mubarak's former minister of foreign affairs, and until July 2011 the general secretary of the League of Arab States, who is a strong presidential candidate.

Still, the March referendum was approved overwhelmingly due mainly to the fact that Egyptians, not used to free vote, saw in this occasion their first chance to go to polls and vote in freedom.

This is how things stand in Egypt, at least for now.

*Baher Kamal, Spanish, Egyptian-born journalist and analyst specialises in the Middle East & North of Africa. This article was first published in his blog: Chronicles from Other Worlds.