July 21, 2013
The Military Coup in Egypt will embolden militancy
by BA Hamzah
There is now mounting evidence that the military coup in Egypt has the blessings of Washington, London, Paris, Tel Aviv, Riyadh, Qatar and Al Ain. Other outsiders could well be involved in the conspiracy to overthrow the first elected President of Egypt as well.
The United States law prevents it from giving aid to any country that stages a military coup de tat. Yet, when President Mohammed Morsi was ousted on 3 July 2013, the US refused to call the military intervention as coup. William Hague at London and Lady Ashton at Brussels bent backward to placate President Obama’s policy.
Both the UK and the European Union refused to sanction the Egyptian military coup leaders. On the contrary, against all conventions, they promptly recognised the military Government of General Fatah Al-Sissi. In other words, despite the coup de tat, business remains as usual. Such policy has lent credence to the conspiracy theory.
As a matter of policy, Washington, London and the EU, among others, in the past have always condemned coup takers, refused to grant recognition to the Governments they form and in most cases, have their assets frozen.
Washington irked many by rewarding the Egyptian military with 20 F 16 fighters and promised not to cut the US $1.5 billion annual aid once a “democratically elected government has taken office”. A large chunk of the aid would go to the military which, according to A Turkish source, controls forty percent of the Egyptian economy.
The military controls the economy; not the Muslim Brotherhood, which provides most of the welfare network system for the poor. By removing Morsi, the military would protect its economic interests.
Egypt is critical to US national security interests. The US now walks a tight rope in Egypt especially following a disastrous foreign policy in Iran, Libya, Yemen and Tunisia, to name some. Besides, US support for the Egyptian military is important for Israel. For this reason alone, the US has assiduously cultivated the military, which it considers the bastion of “democracy” in Egypt.
The military has accused Morsi of ineptness: poor governance, economic malaise, inflation, spiking crime rate, unemployment and a host of other social cultural issues. Expecting Morsi to resolve the problems he inherited from the military since 1952 in less than one year is unfair.
The funds from Saudi Arabia, Qatar, UAE and Turkey were never enough to go around especially when the economy almost collapsed. President Morsi could probably alleviate the credit crunch, had he taken US $4 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund. He, however, refused the loan because of a conditionality clause, which requires Egypt to remove subsidies affecting mainly the poor.
When President Sadat removed the bread subsidy in 1977, the people took to the street in protest. Four years later, Sadat was gunned down reportedly by those who opposed the Camp David Accords peace deals with Israel. Signed in Washington, the 1979 Egypt –Israel Peace Treaty provides for the complete withdrawal of Israeli troops from the Sinai desert Israel captured in the Six Day War in 1967. Under the Treaty Egypt also agreed to allow Israel ships through the Suez Canal.
Tel Aviv, London and Paris have always viewed the Suez Canal as their lifeline. In 1956, their troops seized the Suez Canal from Egypt. The loose talks that the Qataris wanted control of the Suez Canal in exchange for US $5 billion facility could have alarmed Tel Aviv and probably pressured the military to act.
Morsi’s Islamist credentials also worry the more secular military institution and Israel. In August 2013, Israel’s Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu rebuked Morsi for blatant violations of the 1979 Treaty obligations. He demanded that Morsi remove the tanks from Sinai.Morsi’s flirtations with Tehran must have upset Washington, Riyadh and Doha. The fragile power balance in the region and rising tension with Israel could have unnerved the military as well.
The last straw that broke the camel’s back came on 15 June 2013 when President Morsi attended a rally at Cairo organized by a group of Sunni religious leaders. According to one source, this meeting called for a holy war against Syria soon after President Assad defeated the militias, backed by Western Countries and some rich Sunni Arab States, at Al Quasyr a few days earlier.
The thought of fighting a war in Syria must have been the tipping point that led to the coup. An Egyptian military involvement in Syria would reverberate beyond the Middle East. With a Naval Facility at Tartus (since 1971), Russia is likely to get involved. Three other permanent members of the Security Council (US, UK and France) have already deployed proxies (mercenaries) on the ground. Only China stays out of the Syrian conflict.
Whatever phobia the military may have with Israel or Iran and the policies of the Muslim Brotherhood, Salafists and other anti-secular social movements, the coup remains reprehensible. The coup makes mockery of democracy and it emboldens militancy. Professional militaries do not dabble in politics.
Finally, the Egyptian military junta should not overplay the Israel card; it can backfire and play into the hands of the militantswho have made deeper inroads into the region.