In Selected Opinion

By Dr. Ashraf Ramelah –

Egypt’s military has always sought political power. The military coup of 1952 was the cornerstone of a long line of military leaders. All subsequent coups took place by election, not by force. Along with each electoral process is manipulation and control behind the scenes bringing one military general to replace another as president. Every year the coups are celebrated throughout the country on annual dates. 

This year, the state failed to produce a January 25th commemoration to recognize the reversal of a 30-year military dictatorship in 2011 – the removal of the Mubarak regime. No press, no memorials, no tributes – the well-known popular movement was virtually expunged from the national calendar. The whole world was once fixated upon Egypt on this date in 2011. It was known outside the country as the Arab Spring. Inside the country, it was the start of an intriguing set of events leading up to another military dictatorship, which is still in motion today.

 The absence of this year’s celebration is unfortunate because looking back on history brings important, relevant issues to light often hidden during the heat of events. Was it intentionally overlooked to separate the current president from any connection to this political uprising that carried the populace dream of true representation for the people? Truths will be exposed upon reflection and review of the historic moment. Were Egyptians played and how were their dreams of freedom stolen?

 Now, as former General Al Sisi enters his second decade in the executive office, is he concerned that his own longevity lends the appearance of a tired dictator? Is he fearing the risk of a commemorative event that could shine more light onto his role as head of military intelligence in 2011?  

 Mubarak’s succession plan 

For Egyptians, the catalyst for the January 2011 protests was desperation over a weary, 30-year dictator. President Mubarak. an octogenarian, was being manipulated by his young wife to appoint their son as his successor. Rumors had been circulating for 10 years already, and the people opposed this. Furthermore, as Mubarak was part of the military lineage of the country’s leadership, handing off his position to his civilian son would amount to a civilian coup in the eyes of his military generals who secretly despised such a plan.

Mubarak seemed to forget that Sadat once had hopes to appoint a civilian vice-president but backed down for fear of arousing the ire of army high-ranking officials and instead, appointed him (Mubarak) as second-in-command (vice-president) keeping intact the military’s political and economic supremacy.

 The two faces of the United States 

This military-civilian undercurrent was in play as the people grew more and more disgusted with a stifling, backward administration that fomented strife daily between Muslims and Christians. To execute his plan, Mubarak informed the US administration of his idea and the credentials of his son hoping to gain support and traction once it was accepted by Washington.

Because Egypt’s military was financially and materially supported by the US military, Egypt’s generals would fall into line with Mubarak once he had received America’s blessing. Mubarak was bolstered by US officials and proceeded as planned and used the media at his disposal. Meanwhile, the Egyptian military in disagreement sought counsel as well with Washington receiving assurances from the US administration that guaranteed the US would back Egypt’s generals and not Mubarak’s plan. The Egyptian military then utilized the media to emphasize its position to remove Mubarak, insinuating that he would be replaced by a strong civilian candidate of the people’s choice. 

Strategic power of the military behind the scenes (the hidden hand)

Egypt’s military needed to find the right strategic plan to dissuade Mubarak away from his succession plan and, at the same time, appear to side with the people who wished to take the reins of power through real elections and representative government. The military’s first idea was to remove the authoritarian president by force. However, this option would have been considered a military coup in the eyes of Washington, its allies, and the Egyptian people, and so it was dismissed as unviable.

The second option was to covertly provoke and manage a massive popular revolt against Mubarak and have the people force him to step down. In this case, the military would back the people and facilitate Mubarak’s departure by overstepping its bounds and overtaking the role of the police. This is the operation that began on January 25th, 2011, and became overt at the subsequent protest of February 4th.

The military would then become high profile — impressing and endearing the populace –appearing to support the people’s decision and rights. This would carve the path for the military to replace the president through the election process where the people would vote in an even less competent figure. The ultimate result would be that Egyptians would in due time request change and a new election to vote in a better candidate. The military would then have its chance to put forward for consideration a general from their ranks in civilian clothes. 

The world would see the second plan unfold to coincide with the “Arab Spring” of other countries and bring to Egypt Hillary Clinton’s support of the Muslim Brotherhood.

The Egyptian theatre was viewed by the world as a genuine Arab uprising, and characterized as such along with the many Arab Spring revolts taking place during this time. In Egypt, a mysterious force organized, motivated and excited various popular movements and had the wherewithal to form the connective tissue necessary to be effective. One militant civilian movement took prominence forcing Mubarak’s exit in early February. A presidential candidate would eventually come from its ranks as the military scheme was fulfilled. 

This group was none other than the nefarious terror organization known as the Muslim Brotherhood (MB). The MB was also the only organized political party surviving the era to this point and was now backed by the “hidden hand” of the military, which staged it to entice Egyptian voters. Moreover, the MB choice would be most agreeable to President Obama who sympathized with its members. The MB’s weakness to maintain office would be its fanatical religious behavior and Saudi-fundamentalist mentality making it easy for the military with strong popular backing to dispose of it. 

At first, Mubarak’s reaction to the protesters was to promise reforms. This triggered the military to invade Cairo’s Tahrir Square on February 2 with Bedouin-driven camels brought in from Sinai and murderers released from prisons, endangering and angering protesters who sought reforms. After all, who had the power to orchestrate this? 

As a result, most Egyptians blamed Mubarak. They lost faith in him. The last remnant of loyalty was shredded, and the people demanded that he step down. What they did not realize was that the military was in full control of the streets, not Mubarak nor his police. 

This is what the world saw as the “Arab Spring,” but which had nothing to do with Tunisia or Libya or Arabs in particular. Egypt’s rebellion was unrelated to these world events because internally it was not ever about the people but about the military maintaining power. In fact, Egypt’s only common link with the Arab Spring was the Military Council’s MB choice finding favor with the American president, Obama, and getting his cooperation. 

A short-term Muslim Brotherhood presidency 

Shortly after, a presidential election would be held with the military’s promise of a civilian-only ballot. The MB became the military’s politically inexperienced party of choice to elevate. The MB would contribute an attractive civilian candidate (Mohammad Morsi) to be elected and eventually to be revealed as a fanatical and arrogant president causing the people shame and disgust as the military predicted.  

To aid this trajectory, the military and its media may have used at least one tactic that discredited President Morsi in the public eye and engendered fear of him in the populace. A presumed leak to the press from a cabinet meeting quoted Morsi’s proposal to bomb Ethiopia’s Al Nahada Dam and was seen as a declaration of war.

This terrifying message tarnished the president’s already disparaged image. Oddly however, both the Ethiopian government and the Ethiopian embassy in Cairo had no reaction to this threat – none whatsoever. Did the “hidden hand” guarantee Ethiopian authorities in advance of this fictional incident that nothing would come of it and advise them to ignore the dramatic headlines? 

Meanwhile, the military created a popular movement known as Tamarud to lead opposition and cause chaos in the streets allowing the military to intervene. The final act came as the military arrested President Morsi on behalf of the people and installed a military interim council once again to temporarily govern and set up a new election. 

General Al-Sisi made the arrest as part of his role on the military council. This General became the next in line to cast off his uniform for a civilian suit. Keeping his true colors, he made his way to the presidency as all his military predecessors had done despite his promise to the people that he would never run for president.  


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