Your Ad Here

Top secret: Egypt: The January 25 Revolution and Implications for U.S. Foreign Policy part4/4

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Top secret: Egypt: The January 25 Revolution and Implications for U.S. Foreign Policy part4/4
Issues for Congress Presidential Succession: Who Will Follow Hosni Mubarak

The broad political discontent currently on display in nationwide protests has been fueled by longstanding concerns over presidential succession in general and more recent concerns that President Mubarak was enabling the election of his son Gamal in particular. Since power in the Egyptian political system is highly concentrated in the office of the president and his cabinet, the issue of who would succeed President Hosni Mubarak has long been critical not just for the Egyptian people, but for Egypt’s relations with the international community and especially with the United States. Since Mubarak has never personally endorsed a successor and, until January 2011, had kept the vice president’s office vacant, the issue of presidential succession has been opaque to Egyptians and foreign observers alike for a decade, perhaps deliberately so.

Nevertheless, Mubarak’s health problems in the spring of 2010 led many to speculate that a possible changing of the guard was imminent. While that did not materialize and his health has since improved, presidential elections set for September 2011 and the unrest in the wake of Tunisia’s popular revolution have thrust the issue back into the limelight.

For some U.S. policymakers, there is a desire to see an orderly, legal, and transparent transfer of power in which the incoming president maintains support for key U.S. goals: Egypt’s peace with Israel, U.S. access to the Suez Canal, and general bilateral military cooperation. Others see a possible transition as an opportunity to change the trajectory of Egyptian politics away from a military dictatorship/oligarchy and toward a genuine democracy even if it empowers nationalist forces or the Muslim Brotherhood. Many analysts long found the prospect for the emergence and autonomy of a freely elected government to be highly unlikely given the assumed coercive power of the Egyptian security services. Some observers now find themselves focused on the unexpected questions of whether or not a post-Mubarak elected government would pursue a confrontational foreign policy. Amid this uncertainty, many democracy advocates continue to encourage the United States vocally support a genuine free and fair presidential election in which all opposition groups are fairly represented.

And now how will be the Presidential of EFYPT

Omar Suleiman—Unless a new figure comes to light, analysts have speculated that the only other viable candidate for the presidency is Egyptian intelligence chief Omar Suleiman. However, at age 75, it is unlikely that Suleiman, should he become president, would rule for a long period of time. Furthermore, as head of Egypt’s General Intelligence Service (GIS), Suleiman would need to retire from military service since active-duty military officers are not allowed membership in political parties.23 In addition, if Suleiman desired party sponsorship, he would need to be a member of a party’s supreme council for at least one year before the election Suleiman is currently engaged in a number of sensitive diplomatic operations and is one of President Mubarak’s closest confidants, making his departure from military service unlikely

Ahmed Shafiq—69-year-old Ahmed Shafiq, the current Minister of Aviation and former Air Force Commander (1996-2002), is considered a long shot candidate. Observers are intrigued over the speculation surrounding his potential candidacy due to his background as a military officer who successfully transitioned to the private sector, a profile that epitomizes the modern Egyptian leader. Shafiq graduated from the Egyptian Air Academy in 1961 as a fighter pilot, and took part in both the 1967 Six Day War and the October 1973 war with Israel. Shafiq is largely credited with revitalizing Egypt Air and expanding Cairo international airport. He also served in the Air Force under Hosni Mubarak’s command and reportedly is close to the Mubarak family. According to one unnamed source, “Shafiq has a good reputation. He's tough, honest, and low-key…. His name is definitely out there.”

Field Marshal and Defense Minister Mohammed Hussein Tantawi—Though too old to be considered a long term replacement for President Mubarak, 75-year-old General Tantawi, a Mubarak loyalist, might be considered as a possible short-term presidential placeholder. Experts believe that Tantawi, one of the most powerful army officers, would be more likely to serve as one of the few behind-the-scenes regime decision-makers who guide Egypt through the transition from Mubarak to his successor. It is unclear whether or not Tantawi supports Gamal Mubarak or the idea of hereditary succession. Tantawi’s Chief of Staff, General Sami Annan, also is considered a key decision-maker in the Army and possible behind-the-scenes player in the event the military becomes involved in the succession issue. It is unclear what implications, if any, the army’s reported deployment to quell January 2011 protests will have on its potential role as an arbiter of future leadership questions

The Opposition

For many Egyptians, young or old, educated or uneducated, urban or rural, and secular or religious, there is widespread opposition to the concept of hereditary dictatorship.25 Until the protests of January 2011, there was little way of quantifying the depth of this opposition or assessing the willingness of activists to protest against it, should such a scenario come to pass.
Now, it is clear. Many Egyptians want President Mubarak to leave office and his son not to inherit power. Popular protests against Gamal Mubarak and a familial succession have transpired for nearly a decade, and opposition movements have been formed solely to thwart such a transition from occurring. To his opponents, Gamal Mubarak is the ultimate symbol of Egyptian corruption, corporate greed, and growing wealth imbalance between workers and private sector elites.

Until the protests of January 2011, many observers believed that the Egyptian opposition was fractured and feckless and easily manipulated by pro-government forces backed by the veil of physical force.26 As has been the case for many years, the Muslim Brotherhood, a political, religious, charitable, and educational group that has been banned as a political party since 1954, remains the only well-organized opposition movement in Egypt today. Other political parties (Wafd and Ayman Nour’s Al Ghad party—now banned), labor demonstrations, secular protest movements (Kefaya, April 6th), and spontaneous demonstrations organized through online social networks all exist in the sphere of opposition politics, but, until January 2011, no single issue or event was able to unite them against the primary institutions of Egyptian rule, President Mubarak, the NDP party, NDP-affiliated businessmen, and the security forces.

Key Groups/Figures

The January 25 Revolutionaries. Until Wael Ghonim was released from detention on February 8, most analysts knew little of the young Egyptian professionals who started the January 25 revolution. According to various news accounts, the protest leaders are mainly secular liberals with some Muslim Brotherhood members among them. According to one account in the New York Times, “they are the young professionals, mostly doctors and lawyers, who touched off and then guided the revolt shaking Egypt, members of the Facebook generation who have remained mostly faceless—very deliberately so, given the threat of arrest or abduction by the secret police.”

Dr. Mohamed ElBaradei and the National Association for Change (NAC). Dr. Mohamed ElBaradei is the former Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and 2005 Nobel Prize winner. ElBaradei has publicly expressed his intention to reform the political system, amend the constitution, and possibly run for president as an independent candidate.
President Mubarak has said that ElBaradei can run for president as an independent so long as he respects the constitution. Because independent presidential candidates must meet extremely rigid criteria in order to run, ElBaradei has called for free and fair elections that are monitored by both Egyptian judges and international monitors. He also has insisted that the constitution be amended in order to remove all “legal impediments that limit the majority of the people from becoming candidates.”

Since returning to Egypt in February 2010 after a 27-year absence, ElBaradei has formed a new broad political coalition called the National Association for Change. The NAC is not a political party. It has an active youth wing that encompasses some of the key leaders of the 2011 demonstrations. ElBaradei has allied his organization with the Muslim Brotherhood, though the latter rejected his call for a boycott of the 2010 parliamentary elections. In January 2011, ElBaradei called for a boycott of the 2011 presidential election, stating that “according to these rules, only five people—out of some 85 million Egyptians—can qualify to stand in elections…. It would be better if the president appointed his own successor…than to subject the Egyptian people to the “farce” of elections.”

The April 6 Youth Movement. In early April 2008, spontaneous demonstrations and rioting broke out in Mahalla al Kubra, as protestors responded angrily to the government’s heavy-handed attempts to deter activists from carrying out a nation-wide general strike called for Sunday, April 6. During the riot, protestors destroyed portraits of President Mubarak, two schools were burned, and 70 people were injured from tear gas and rubber bullets used by the police. One bystander, a 15-year-old, was shot while standing in the third-floor balcony of his apartment

Many Egyptian youth sympathized with the demonstrators, and activists formed a 100,000-person Facebook group to express solidarity with workers protesting. Ahmed Maher is a founding member and has been active in the January 25 revolution.

Ayman Nour. Ayman Nour (age 46), a former member of parliament and second-place finisher in Egypt’s first multi-candidate presidential election in 2005, had been serving a five-year sentence for forgery in a prison hospital until his sudden and unexpected release on health grounds in February 2009. Some Members of Congress and officials in the Bush Administration had regularly called for Nour’s release from prison. In June 2007, at the conference on Democracy and Security in Prague, Czechoslovakia, President Bush named Ayman Nour as one of several “dissidents who could not join us, because they are being unjustly imprisoned.” During his incarceration, Nour’s political party, Al Ghad, split in half, and the party headquarters burned to the ground after a violent confrontation there between rival wings of the party. Some experts caution that Nour’s popular support is fairly limited. In February 2010, Nour stated his intention to run for 2011 presidential elections.

The Egyptian Movement for Change—Kifaya (‘Enough’). In December 2004, a group of political activists, most of whom are secular in orientation and hail from Egyptian universities, formed the Egyptian Movement for Change, or what has been referred to in Arabic as Kifaya (enough), their primary slogan which refers to their opposition to a further term for President Mubarak. Since its formation, the movement has held a number of small demonstrations, and some of the group’s members have been detained. In May 2005, female Kifaya activists accused Egyptian police officers of sexually assaulting female protesters, which led to widespread condemnation of the government by both secular and Islamic opposition forces. Kifaya encompasses a mix of opposition groups. During the 2006 war in Lebanon, Kifaya activists reportedly circulated petitions to abrogate the 1979 Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty; a sign, perhaps, that the movement has lost focus and has reverted to supporting popular causes, such as support for the Palestinians, as a way to broaden its outreach and separate itself from U.S. calls for democracy in the Arab world. Kifaya was one of the first Egyptian opposition groups to use social media and has been active in the January 25 revolution

Legal Opposition Political Parties. A handful of legal opposition parties, which must be approved by the government, serve as the token, official opposition to the NDP. Most experts regard Egypt’s legal opposition parties as divided with limited popular support. Among them, the Wafd is the most significant and is one of Egypt’s oldest political parties. It was the driving force behind the Egyptian independence movement after World War I. The Wafd party dominated parliamentary elections during Egypt’s experiment with parliamentary democracy (1922-1952), though the Wafd gradually began to lose popularity to more radical organizations, such as the Muslim Brotherhood. Currently, the New Wafd is headed by Sayyid al Badawi, a 60-year-old businessman who owns Hayat satellite channel, Sigma Pharmaceuticals, and the independent daily newspaper Al Dostour.

Other Prominent Egyptian Leaders

Amr Moussa. Amr Moussa is the current Arab League Secretary General and former foreign minister under Mubrak. Reportedly, Mubarak removed him from the cabinet due to his popularity stemming from his criticism of Israel. In response to questions regarding his political future as a possible president, Moussa responded saying “of course, if the people ask me to. There has to be a national consensus until the date set for the elections….Why say no?”

The Muslim Brotherhood
The Muslim Brotherhood (MB) was founded in Egypt in 1928 to turn Egypt away from secularism and toward an Islamic government based on sharia (religious) law and Muslim principles. The MB operates as a religious charitable and educational institution, having been banned as a political party in 1954; however, many Brotherhood members run for parliament as independents. In the 2000 parliamentary elections, 17 independent candidates regarded as Brotherhood sympathizers were elected. In 2005, Brotherhood-affiliated candidates won 88 seats in parliament. In 2010, just one MB candidate was elected, and the group withdrew from elections after the first round of voting accusing the government of fraud. Over the years, the
Egyptian government has alternated between tolerating and suppressing the Muslim Brotherhood, sometimes arresting and jailing its members, and other times allowing them to operate almost without hindrance.

Many foreign observers agree that the organization renounced its former policy of using violence as a political tactic decades ago, and point out that the former Brotherhood members most committed to violence largely gravitated toward organizations formed the basis for Al Qaeda.
Nevertheless, many Egyptian officials continue to perceive the Brotherhood as a threat and are unwilling to legalize the movement. In the United States, the issue of whether or not to recognize the Muslim Brotherhood as a legitimate political actor continues to perplex policymakers, particularly given the complex scenarios posed by regional Islamist groups still devoted to militancy and terrorist tactics such as the Palestinian Hamas and Lebanon’s Hezbollah. On the one hand, there has been a general reluctance among U.S. decision-makers to push for Islamist inclusion in politics, out of concern that, once in power, groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood will pursue policies counter to U.S. interests in the region or will transform states into theocracies like Iran. On the other hand, some experts believe that if Islamists were brought into a functional democratic system, then they would temper their rhetoric in order to appeal to a wider audience.
According to current U.S. Ambassador to Egypt Margaret Scobey:
The Muslim Brothers is a banned group in Egypt, and there are no direct relations with them.
But we deal with political personalities through parliament. The day of President Obama’s address, invitations were issued to independent personalities who could be from the Muslim Brothers and were elected through Parliament and recognized. But there is no direct dialogue between us and them. The channels are open, and it is possible to contact official personalities through parliament

Prior to the protests of January 2011, most analysts had believed that, from an organizational standpoint, the Brotherhood was the only movement capable of mobilizing significant opposition to the government, though opinions vary on how much mass support the Brotherhood commands.
As is typical for Islamist groups across the region, the Muslim Brotherhood is strongest among the professional middle class, controlling many of the professional syndicates (associations), including those representing engineers, doctors, lawyers and academics.

For years critics have charged that the Muslim Brotherhood, like other Islamist groups, has been unable to articulate concrete policies and has relied too heavily on conveying its agenda through vague slogans, such as the party mantra of “Islam is the solution.” When the Brotherhood circulated a draft party platform in late 2007, it generated a great deal of attention and condemnation by its opponents. The draft, which was contested by a more moderate faction of the Brotherhood, called for the establishment of a board of religious scholars with whom the president and the legislature would have to consult before passing laws. According to one critic,

Reminiscent of Iran’s Guardian Council, this undemocratically selected body could have the power vested by the state to veto any and all legislation passed by the Egyptian parliament and approved by the president that is not compatible with Islamic sharia law.... The Muslim Brotherhood should have looked to Turkey as a model for how to integrate Islam into a secular system

The draft platform also states that neither women nor Christians may stand for president.

As part of their systematic coercion strategy, Egypt’s security forces continually arrest and imprison Brotherhood members to keep the group on the defensive. According to Egyptian law, citizens who have been incarcerated cannot stand for elected office, and authorities have used this provision to target some of the Brotherhood’s most promising young leaders, even those who may be more accommodating toward improving the group’s relations with the West. In June 2009, police arrested Dr. Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh, a member of the group’s elite Guidance
Bureau/Council and secretary-general of the Union of Arab Doctors, along with six other leaders on charges of belonging to an outlawed group, conspiring with international terrorist organizations such as Hezbollah, and money laundering. Prosecutors charge that MB leaders were responsible for forming terrorist cells inside Egypt and had funneled fighters and funds to Hamas in the Gaza Strip. Egyptian authorities have criticized the MB’s support for Hamas and Hezbollah in Lebanon and have accused the Brotherhood of disloyalty to the state and of having an international agenda. Arrests also have targeted a number of MB-owned businesses in order to financially squeeze the Brotherhood’s extensive charitable organizations.

The current Supreme Guide of the Muslim Brotherhood is 66-year-old Mohammed Badie.

The Role of the Military in Egyptian Society

Prior to the unrest of 2011, military officers had refrained from playing a direct role in the affairs of the civilian-run government. Now, the military has returned to the forefront, as it remains the preeminent institution in society, and has been called on by successive governments to maintain internal security and regime stability. The military also provides employment and social services for hundreds of thousands of young people in a country with annual double-digit unemployment rates. Military experts have often asserted that Egypt’s armed forces are bloated and maintain manpower at unnecessary levels for peacetime (approximately 310,000 conscripts and an additional 375,000 reservists), while others contend that the large size of the military is justified by the services it provides to soldiers and their families. Some experts estimate that the military trains 12% of young Egyptian males and that defense industries employ over 100,000 people.

The military has its own companies that produce consumer products, food (olive oil, milk, bread, and water), cement, vehicles (joint ventures with Jeep to produce Cherokees and Wranglers), pharmaceuticals, and manufactured goods. The military also sponsors sports organizations. The military also is a major holder of public land. The officer corps also benefit from higher salaries, better housing, and high-quality health care, which help ensure their loyalty to the government.

Some members of the opposition have criticized these special benefits and the military’s fiscal autonomy, asserting that there is little civilian control over the military’s budget. According to Janes, “Egypt's $4.56 billion defense budget in 2010 makes it the strongest among its immediate neighbors in Africa, but is substantially lower than the budgets of its two middle-eastern neighbors Israel and Saudi Arabia. Defense spending has been increasing steadily in recent years and is likely to maintain this progress as long as economic conditions allow.”

Promoting Democracy in Egypt:

Among the many reforms advocated by proponents of a more democratic Egypt, advocates would like to see:
(1) the Emergency Law30 abolished in line with Mubarak’s 2005 campaign promise;
(2) constitutional reforms enacted to ease barriers for independent and opposition candidates to run for office;
(3) judicial independence31 restored by eliminating the state-controlled Supreme
Judicial Council that appoints judges; (4) the Legislative branch strengthened; (5) restrictions on non-governmental organizations curtailed,32 and (5) presidential term limits adopted.

Under the 1971 constitution, authority is vested in an elected president who must stand for reelection every six years.33 The president appoints the cabinet, which generally drafts and submits legislation to the legislature: the People’s Assembly (lower house) and the Shura Council (upper house). The People’s Assembly debates legislation proposed by government ministries and calls for amendments to government-sponsored bills but rarely initiates its own bills. The Shura
Council has modest legislative powers and must ratify treaties and constitutional amendments.
Overall, analysts consider Egypt’s legislative branch to be weak; the ruling party constitutes an overwhelming majority. Based on low voter turnout in recent elections, there appears to be a clear lack of public confidence in the parliament.

U.S. attitudes toward Egypt’s political system range from passionate opposition to a perceived brutal regime to passive acceptance of a stable government that is largely supportive of U.S. foreign policy goals in the Middle East, specifically the pursuit of Arab-Israeli peace.
This lack of consensus hinders any uniform U.S. approach toward how to best promote democracy in Egypt.
To the extent that there is agreement among experts, most espouse the general principle that a politically and economically vibrant Egypt at peace with its neighbors and legitimate to its own people is not only good for most Egyptian citizens but for U.S. national interests. However, when it comes to formulating policy to enforce these principles, democracy advocates clash with “realists” over the degree of U.S. pressure to place on the Mubarak government, while Egypt itself resists U.S. attempts to influence its domestic politics, charging that U.S. interference empowers the Muslim Brotherhood.

Some experts believe that Egypt is already changing in profound ways due to the global spread of information technology, rising economic inequality, and demography, and that the United States needs to vocalize its support for reform regardless of its capacity to bring it about. According to Michele Dunne, senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, “I think that the United States should advocate democratization and greater respect for human rights for Egyptians. This does not mean that the U.S. can make these things happen in Egypt, but we should be clear that we are in favor and willing to use the influence we have to promote them.”


Post a Comment

  © Blogger template The Professional Template II by 2009

Back to TOP