September 30, 2013


Remember Cairo? : While Washington focuses on Syria and Iran, Egypt looks headed for a dangerous and destabilizing insurgency. (SHADI HAMID, PETER MANDAVILLE | SEPTEMBER 30, 2013, Foreign Policy)

The Obama administration responded to the military crackdown, which resulted in more than 1,000 deaths, with the diplomatic equivalent of a few light raps on the knuckles of Egypt's generals. It canceled joint military exercises with Egypt and announced that the White House's national security staff would begin a comprehensive review of bilateral aid. Since late August, a recommendation to suspend the majority of U.S. military assistance to Cairo has been sitting with the president. Meanwhile, Egyptian security forces have re-escalated their campaign against the Muslim Brotherhood, raiding the movement's strongholds and arresting the few remaining senior Brotherhood figures not already in custody.

The Obama administration knows that things are not going well in Egypt. U.S. officials -- privately and rather halfheartedly -- tried to walk back Secretary of State John Kerry's bizarre claim that Egypt's military leaders were "restoring democracy" and have also delayed delivery of F-16 fighters to Egypt. [...]

The Obama administration appears to be hoping that the Egyptian military, despite its brutality -- or perhaps because of it -- will provide a modicum of stability. This risks repeating the same mistakes of the pre-Arab Spring era: While a sense of calm has returned to parts of Cairo, the specter of renewed violence still looms large. An insurgency is gathering pace in the Sinai Peninsula, with a sharp increase in attacks on security personnel after Morsy's ouster. Meanwhile, the state has lost control of some pro-Morsy strongholds, requiring the use of overwhelming force in the towns of Dalga and Kerdasa in an attempt to regain its authority.

These flare-ups may prove to be only an initial taste of what's to come. The Algerian civil war, which resulted in the deaths of tens of thousands, offers a cautionary note: The conflict spiraled into full-scale violence not right after the military's January 1992 coup, but at least seven months later.

To make matters worse, the new Egyptian government does not appear to aspire to a return to the stagnant ancien régime, but something worse and more dangerous. Unlike Hosni Mubarak's regime -- which tolerated a certain level of dissent in parliament and the media -- this new political order is aiming for a far more all-encompassing grip on power, where even the mildest criticisms of the Egyptian Army can lead one to be branded a traitor. The sort of repression we are seeing today -- including four mass killings over the summer, one of which was the worst massacre in modern Egyptian history -- will have lasting consequences for Egyptian society. As the New York Times reported recently, "Neighbors have turned against one another and families have been torn apart" by political divisions.

Posted by at September 30, 2013 6:57 PM

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