The Mirage of the Arab Spring

Ever since Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi issued a Nov. 22nd decree expanding his powers, Cairo has been in turmoil.  On Tuesday, Egyptian police battled 10,000 opposition protestors who had surrounded Mursi’s palace, forcing the president to flee.  There’s justice for you.

According to Reuters, the police used tear gas on the mob, who still managed to slip past them and come up to the palace walls and climb up the gates to deliver to Mursi a “last warning.”

What is at issue is the Egyptian constitution, due for a referendum vote on Dec. 15th.  These opposition groups, composed of liberals, Christians, and even the country’s newspapers, accuse Mursi of making a dictatorial power grab in order to push through a constitution drafted by an assembly made up of his supporters.

What Reuters isn’t saying, exactly, is that the Egyptian constitution is essentially Sharia law, made legal and binding, making Egypt not a democracy, but a theocracy.  The opposition says the draft constitution does not reflect the interests of Egypt’s liberals and other groups, an accusation dismissed by Islamists who insist it is a balanced document.  Sources claim that the opposition protestors don’t have the numbers to make their demands for a true democracy stick.

“Our marches are against tyranny and the void constitutional decree and we won’t retract our position until our demands are met,” said Hussein Abdel Ghany, a spokesman for an opposition coalition of liberal, leftist and other disparate factions.  The Egyptian Health Ministry reports that 18 people were injured in the clashes on Tuesday.

Reuters notes, “Despite the latest protests, there has been only a limited response to opposition calls for a mass campaign of civil disobedience in the Arab world’s most populous country and cultural hub, where many people yearn for a return to stability.”

The Islamists are confident that their time has come, after winning post-Mubarak elections and pushing the Egyptian military out of the political driving seat it held for decades.   They see nothing in their way to shape the future of Egypt, a longtime U.S. ally whose 1979 peace treaty with Israel is a cornerstone of Washington’s Middle East policy.

“The Muslim Brotherhood and its allies,” Reuters notes, “who staged a huge pro-Mursi rally in Cairo on Saturday, are confident enough members of the judiciary will be available to oversee the mid-December referendum, despite calls by some judges for a boycott.

“The crisis we have suffered for two weeks is on its way to an end, and very soon, God willing,” Saad al-Katatni, leader of the Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party, told Reuters in an interview on Tuesday.

Cairo stocks closed up 3.5 percent as investors felt encouraged by what they saw as the promise of a return to stability after the referendum in a country whose divisions have only widened since a mass uprising toppled Mubarak on February 11, 2011.

“Mohamed Radwan, at Pharos Securities brokerage, said the Supreme Judicial Council’s agreement to supervise the vote had generated confidence that it would go ahead ‘despite all the noise and demonstrations that might take place until then.’”

“Prime Minister Hisham Kandil, a technocrat with Islamist sympathies, said in an interview with CNN: “We certainly hope that things will quiet down after the referendum is completed.”

“He said the constitution was ‘in no way a perfect text’ that everyone had agreed to, but that a ‘majority consensus’ favored moving forward with the [upcoming] referendum.

“The Muslim Brotherhood, now tasting power via the ballot box for the first time in eight decades of struggle, wants to safeguard its gains and appears ready to override street protests by what it regards as an unrepresentative minority.

“It is also determined to prevent the courts, which have already dissolved the Islamist-led elected lower house of parliament, from further obstructing their blueprint for change.

“Despite charges that they are anti-Islamist and politically motivated, judges say they are following legal codes in their rulings. Experts say some political changes rushed through in the past two years have been on shaky legal ground.

“A Western diplomat said the Islamists were counting on a popular desire for restored normality and economic stability.

“’All the messages from the Muslim Brotherhood are that a vote for the constitution is one for stability and a vote against is one for uncertainty,’” he said, adding that the cost of the strategy was a breakdown in consensus politics.’”

Still, the rioting continues today, with stones and petrol bombs flying between opposition and supporting protestors.  Mursi raced back to the palace after a call from the Muslim Brotherhood.

Two Islamists suffered gunshot wounds to their legs; a leftist had his ear sliced of by an Islamist.

Egypt’s Vice President Mahmoud Mekky tried to calm the chaos by declaring that amendments to disputed articles in the constitution could be worked out with the opposition.  A written agreement could then be submitted to the next parliament, to be elected after the referendum on the Constitution.

Opposition members are demanding that the constitution be canceled and the referendum postponed.  They claim the Islamist-led assembly is ignoring their concerns.  Mursi insists his decree was necessary to prevent courts still full of justices appointed by Mubarak from derailing a constitution he considers vital for the country’s political transition.

Washington is concerned about rising Islamist power in Egypt, a staunch U.S. security partner under Mubarak, who preserved the U.S.-brokered peace treaty Cairo signed with Israel in 1979.

Outgoing Secretary of State Hilary Clinton called for a two-way dialogue between the factions.

Reuters notes, though, that “the ‘last warning’ may turn out to be one of the last gasps for a disparate opposition that has little chance of scuttling next week’s vote on the draft constitution.  State institutions, with the partial exception of the judiciary, have mostly fallen in behind Mursi. The army, the muscle behind all previous Egyptian presidents in the republic’s six-decade history, has gone back to barracks, having apparently lost its appetite to intervene in politics.”

The liberals, leftists, Christians, ex-Mubarak followers and others opposed to Mursi have yet to generate a mass movement or a grassroots political base to challenge the Brotherhood.  Investors have seized on hopes that Egypt’s turbulent transition, which has buffeted the economy for two years, may soon head for calmer waters, sending stocks 1.6 percent higher after a 3.5 percent rally on Tuesday.

This is what Obama’s foreign policy has wrought.  The “Arab Spring,” the seeming-yearning for democracy and the freedom democracy brings, is nothing but a mirage.  There will be no oasis for freedom in the desert of the Middle East.  As Egypt falls to the tyranny of Sharia law, so shall the other countries of the Middle East; those that haven’t already fallen, that is.

Christians will be forced to convert, flee, or face execution.  For political opponents, there are no options; they will be executed or sent into exile, if they’re lucky.  Israel will then be surrounded by something much worse than the corrupt, but malleable former tyrants who could at least be bought off from throttling Israel.   The Muslim Brotherhood leads a formidable majority of religious zealots eager for martyrdom.

The literal translation of Islam is “submit.”



Published in: on December 5, 2012 at 3:13 pm  Comments (3)  

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