Egypt’s Revolution Will See More Blood ’Ere Army, Islamists Part Ways
This article is from the archive of The New York Sun before the launch of its new website in 2022. The Sun has neither altered nor updated such articles but will seek to correct any errors, mis-categorizations or other problems introduced during transfer.
The revolution that overthrew Hosni Mubarak will mark its first anniversary Wednesday. The date may pass quietly or it may see another roar, but either way there is little doubt the iconic Tahrir Square revolution is entering a second phase. If anything Egyptians are learning that while the dictator is gone his regime endures.
Alaa Al-Aswani, the Egyptian novelist profiled in the January 16 issue of the New Yorker summed up the picture succinctly saying: ‘’We cannot create real change with the same old tools.’’
To be sure, a new parliament was freely elected yielding a 70% majority to Islamists and Jihadists, even as a military Junta continues to rule the country under the label of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, or SCAF. The army and the Islamists are moving toward a deal that may yield a dictatorship darker than Mubarak’s. Eventually such an alliance will implode.
In the past year, 300 Egyptians have been shot dead by army and police snipers. Another 20,000 have been seriously wounded, many, it turns out, deliberately blinded by army and police snipers equipped with BB guns with orders to shoot pellets used for bird hunting at the unarmed demonstrators’ eyes.
As Egypt expects its new parliament to avenge the victims, the Islamists are flirting with the perpetrators of the violence. Something is bound to break. Under the chairmanship of Egypt’s new strong man Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, the generals are demanding immunity from parliamentary scrutiny, retention of secret budgets, and the profits from their multiple industrial complexes, as well as a hand in writing a new constitution.
In return, they dangle at the new parliamentarians a green light to further ‘’Islamize’’ Egypt with Sharia laws and a mishmash of dress code, even as the country slides closer to bankruptcy. Such a pact will surely collapse over the one thing Islamists are clear on, namely abolishing the peace treaty signed with Israel in 1979.
Knowing fully it is in no shape to fight anyone, let alone Israel, the army opposes such a move. In addition to their accumulating failures at home the generals command a mockery. Egypt’s armed forces have proved incapable of guarding the Sinai Desert from infiltration by Hamas Palestinian terrorists in Gaza. Nor have they been able to prevent scores of tunnels dug into Israel or end a Bedouin insurrection that is fully underway all the way down to the Res Sea shores.
It is only a matter of when, not if, Islamists and army part ways. More important is when Egyptians part with both. Between now and then, unfortunately, much more blood must be spilled.
Appreciating the coming chaos, the shrewd Nobel Peace Prize laureate Mohammad Elbaradei, who had predicted the revolution a year ahead in 2010, announced that “in the absense of a genuine democratic system” he would not run in presidential elections in June. Mr. Elbaradei’s move is not as innocent as it appears. He can read what is coming.
Currency reserves have dropped to below $10 billion from $ 36 billion. Some 1,500 private sector factories have shut down for lack of business. The IMF is offering $ 3.2 billion, a new debt the military at first refused. Tourism, a vital pump of cash, is down to 15% of its level in 2010 as Islamists multiply statements about banning swimsuits, public entertainment, music, arts, and cinema. Reserves guarantee a wide range of subsidies, especially wheat for bread, a staple over which a revolt of the poor will be immediate.
In short, the country stares at an abyss and Mr. Elbaradei knows it .
Revolutions are not overnight affairs. It took six decades to rise up against a military regime that replaced the monarchy with three army officers in succession: Nasser, Sadat and Mubarak. Now Egypt is back with another inept general and Islamist Jihadists to boot with not a clue about governing.
As Mr. Al Aswani points out none of the old tools have changed. Not the bureaucracy, which reeks of corruption, nor the political class, which is devoid of any visions, nor the 1.2 million uniformed and secret police, which rival East Germany’s Stasi, which trained it back in the Nasser era.
Where does the US stand on these developments? American aid to Egypt includes a yearly stipend of $ 1.3 billion to the army. Another $ 300 million go to the Egyptian state. It is now clear much of this money is pocketed by army generals and corrupt senior politicians. Mr. Mubarak’s clique hoarded some $ 65 billion into private bank accounts. Yet America is reluctant to hint it might withhold the aid as a corrupt killing machine goes on.
Israelis used to say they loved Mr. Mubarak because it only took one phone call to settle matters. The Egyptians wanted the noise of many voices instead. Yet, right now, neither the Egyptians nor the Israelis nor the rest of the world can predict what comes next, except the abyss.