Beyond the Cusp

September 13, 2013

Gaza and Sinai Vexing Egyptian Military

Since the overthrow of Mubarak as the President of Egypt there have been increasing difficulties with extreme lawlessness in both the Sinai and the border with Gaza. When President Morsi, who had the backing of the Muslim Brotherhood, made up the government in Egypt these problems grew in scope and severity. Reports told of al-Qaeda camps being established leading to radicalization of the Bedouins who found the offers to assist the weapons smugglers paid far better than their previous occupation of herding. The Egyptian government under Morsi began to try and combat the growing menace in the Sinai and even found it necessary to try and restrict the flow of arms into Gaza to Hamas and other terrorist groups there. After an attack on the Rafah border crossings where a band of terrorists murdered fifteen Egyptian border agents in the process of stealing some armored vehicles with which to cross into and attack Israel the Egyptians ramped up their presence for the first time and have done so as deemed necessary since. Their assault into Israel was met and repelled destroying at least one of the stolen armored vehicles. With the military inserted government which replaced the Morsi government after the coup that shall not be named a coup took over they increased the efforts to reinstate the rule of law in the Sinai and concurrently restrict the smuggling tunnels through which arms and other goods enter Gaza and fund Hamas. Despite the risks which any governance of Egypt would face working with Israel, both the Morsi and the Military backed governments have consulted and kept all agreements with Israel though not actually warming to any great extent. One guess is that the Egyptian governments, no matter who it is aligned with, have more than enough problems that since keeping relations with Israel at least non-confrontational if not warm and mushy were an easy investment that paid dividends when they entered into operations in the Sinai.


It is interesting that the Egyptians have had almost the same threats, difficulties and challenges which have plagued the Israelis over the years and they seem to have a similar attitude towards how to address these problems. The Egyptian government escalated their response soon after the military took over governing Egypt. With Israeli understanding and blessings the Egyptians sent armor supported forces in numbers into the Sinai supported by helicopter gunships. These offensives have met with somewhat limited success as the terrorists and smugglers are extremely adept at melting into the natural environment. The most recent escalation was somewhat shocking when the Egyptians stationed a pair of heavy tanks at the Rafah crossing as a response to the recent bombings pulled off by terrorist factions within Gaza. This escalation is a whole new strategy as I do not remember the Israelis stationing tanks within the Philadelphia Corridor when they controlled the Gaza border with Egypt. The Egyptians recently widened the cleared area on the Gaza border which resulted in their demolishing some houses which were revealed to have been used as tunnel entrances. This is the same reaction for which the Israelis were pilloried in the international press and heralded as brutes taking horrific and unnecessary destructive measures against the poor and unfortunate Palestinian civilians. Somehow, the recent actions though identical except having been committed by the Egyptians have passed by silently without even a murmur from the world media or the various NGOs which cursed similar actions by the Israelis. I guess it matters whose troops are exercising precautions taking the needful steps in order to make the environment safer for their troops operating along that border.


It will be interesting to watch as the Egyptians continue to meet the ever escalating challenges in the Sinai and along the Gaza border, though finding reports on such can be a bit difficult. It is expected that the Egyptians will resort to similar methods, precautions, demolitions, walls, blockades, vibrations sensors for tunnel detection, and all of the other overt and imposing appearing necessities for which the world’s media, governments, spokespersons, NGOs and United Nations Agencies challenged the necessity for when implemented by the Israelis. It can be expected that whenever there are comments about the similarities between the Egyptian methods and activities with those of the Israelis will be to note how the Egyptians are using good judgment, incremental escalations and only doing those actions which proved absolutely needed and not going to irrational extremes as the Israelis had done. An objective and rational observer would assess the actions of the Egyptians, when compared to the historic methods used by the Israelis, and report that they matched very closely and that the major exceptions would be the Egyptians went further than the Israelis by giving no or less warnings before demolitions, used heavy armor such as tanks, and the violence level implemented generally by the Egyptians was heightened with less regard for those who posed any level of perceived threat. But don’t expect any real coverage of the Egyptian actions nor will there be any apologies coming to the Israelis over their being berated and demeaned for their actions in the past. Where the actions and means employed may be similar, the reactions from the world will be completely different. If pushed for a reason the world is reacting differently to the Egyptian use of force versus the Israeli use of force, the answer will likely be a shrug and their asking what you are talking about, the Israelis use of force was completely different and what the Egyptians are doing is perfectly understandable. Where the Israelis use of force was measured and performed under strict rules and limitations and the Egyptians are allowing a more liberal implementation of force to a lesser threshold of provocation and are placing fewer restrictions on their forces which will be understood with their loss of troops being higher than the Israelis had suffered. I do not really care how the world reacts and simply wish the Egyptians success and hope they are able to end the lawless culture in the Sinai and close the smuggling into and out of Gaza, especially Gaza as the revolving door which potentially could result from failure would pose a huge threat for Israel as well as Egypt.


Beyond the Cusp


February 5, 2013

The More Things Change the More They Remain the Same

Near the start of what was called the Arab Spring the people of Egypt witnessed the removal of their President and Evil Dictator Mubarak and awaited what were to be real free elections for a new President and for Egyptian Hope and Change. The election did not exactly prove to produce the liberating governance the Egyptians had so hoped for. The result in Egypt and throughout the countries which were initiating or striving to initiate change now faced what had been renamed the Arab Winter. The results did not quite measure up and fulfill the Hopes for Change that had driven the initial uprisings. Now Egypt is experiencing buyers’ remorse or is it reMorsi. They have come to the realization that the new boss is not all that different than the old boss; he simply has a slightly different dogma which results in the exact same practices. The protesters are still being shot and murdered. Those arrested still face torture and people still simply disappear. But the people of Egypt are going to find that their new oppressors are far more difficult to remove than was Mubarak as the new oppressions have the backing and support of Allah.

Having the professed support and direction of Allah and the religious class of Imams means you are facing forces who can define all who oppose them to be apostates.  Once any group has been labeled as apostates they become enemies of Allah. Once they become enemies of Allah they can also become the target of Jihad. Once you have become a target of Jihad you then can face a Fatwa used as a death sentence that frees the hands of the believers to bring you to justice, the justice of final judgment of the grave. This provides President Morsi with his backing of the Muslim Brotherhood legitimacy far greater and more dangerous than Mubarak could ever have claimed. Mubarak could only claim the legitimacy of the State, the same claim that could be made by the people who were calling for the overthrow of the tyrant Mubarak. Morsi can claim the legitimacy of Allah with the literal blessings of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Imams and thus has legitimacy beyond that the demonstrators can ever hope to claim. Morsi can claim that he is performing the will of Allah which makes any opposition to his will an act of blasphemy which can often result in death. This will make Morsi that much more difficult to replace, and even should such be accomplished, would the next leader chosen by either the Muslim Brotherhood or the Salafists be any improvement? Very likely they would be as bad if not worse.

The pro-democracy supporters, tempted to call them dreamers as they have little tangible power, might have had an opportunity to pull Morsi from taking power very early after he assumed the Presidency. That is no longer the case as Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood made some shrewd maneuvers rather quickly after assuming power. They revamped the top brass in the Egyptian Military retiring many of the Generals and other senior officers replacing them with members of the Muslim Brotherhood. They also promoted replacements who were also members of the Muslim Brotherhood who had managed to infiltrate the military while Mubarak was in power. Now Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood hold all the levers of power as they have replaced the necessary people in the state police and other enforcement arms of the government cementing their rule. Egypt will continue to appear to be a democratic country but in reality the winning candidates will be chosen by the Muslim Brotherhood. In many ways it is a real shame that the Egyptian people who were the original protesters were not the ones who had the organization and the funds to run and win the national elections they deserved after they had given the initial impetus for change. Now they have received change, received change but not hope.

The really sad part of the story of the Arab Spring turned Winter is that the current forces throughout the Middle East and the Arab and Muslim Worlds will lead every country which is able to forge change and will be more likely than not to end up going from their nationalist rule to theocratic Islamic rule. Even Turkey which had been organized by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk to be a guarded sectarian democracy where the military was charged by the Constitution of Turkey to enforce the country’s secular nature and to remove and call for new election should Islamists ever try to compromise the modern secular nature of the country. Unfortunately, the blindness and ignorance of the European Union and its individual nations along with the United States under President Bush with advice given by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice demanded the Turkish military stand down at the crucial point at which Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan crossed over the point of no return in his implementation of plans to alter Turkey from a secular state to one based on Sharia. The main reasons behind this reality is that the majority of the population of these countries were raised completely on Islam and either in isolation from the Western World or with an animosity for the Western World as they had a resentment of being colonized after the fall of the Ottoman Empire. Western influences have had an effect on the youth in many of these countries but there are also a significant sector among the youth who are strict Islamic adherents which serves as a further reason for the overwhelming influence and power held by the Muslim Brotherhood. If Western culture and secular science based civilization manages to survive for another century, then the Islamic world may experience a reformation which will allow for a separation between Mosque and Government. If such is not the case, I do not even pretend to be able to predict what would follow. My hope is that should Islam become the dominant force on Earth they would progress forward with a rebirth of the early writings from the Mecca Koran coming into prominence. That could allow for a pluralistic society with freedom if not quite complete equality for all peoples, even non-Muslims. The coming years are going to be a crucial period where much will be held in judgment and the progress of all mankind will be in the balance. The next century will either usher in an age of unlimited brightness and discoveries or darkness where war, pestilence, and hatreds rule the earth, the seas, the skies, and the hearts of mankind.

Beyond the Cusp

January 14, 2013

If at First You Don’t Convict, Try Try Again

Well, Egypt is opting for their first of what may become a series of do-overs as they prepare to hold a second trial for deposed President Hosni Mubarak. Not satisfied with the result of life in prison sentencing, the Court of Cassation, Egypt’s top appeals court, has accepted the State’s appeal for Mubarak as well as his two sons Alaa and Gamal, his former interior minister Habib al-Adly and top security chiefs on their numerous charges including responsibility for the deaths of protesters during the revolution that led to Mubarak stepping down from power. The new trials will have a high probability of attaining the desired result of executions of those responsible for years of oppression. If we study this presumptive oppression it will reveal everything one needs to know about the impetus driving these new trials.

When we take a sober and somber view of Egypt under President Morsi and the large influence of the Muslim Brotherhood against the Egypt under the long running Mubarak regime we find two diametrically opposed governments that share a remarkable but eerie sense of similarities. Under President Mubarak Egypt held the Muslim Brotherhood under limits bordering on repression while Coptic Christians were sheltered from directed hatreds and violence by the Muslim majority. Under President Mubarak Egypt had a sense of balance where every group knew they had a feeling of guaranteed minimum of rights and freedoms as long as they minded their politics and did not challenge the ruling elites. There was an excess by the ruling elites under Mubarak which was mostly financed by an officially accepted level of corruption. Perceptions of the new Egypt under President Morsi with a strong Muslim Brotherhood influence over the mechanisms of power are coming into focus despite their short time ruling the post-Mubarak Egypt.

The first and most obvious difference is the influence wielded by the Muslim Brotherhood and the precarious position those remaining Coptic Christians who have been unable or unwilling to leave to escape the new and dangerous position in which they find themselves. The Coptic Christians and the Muslim Brotherhood have changed positions in an uncomfortable manner where the Muslim Brotherhood has gone from facing repression to enforcing repressions while the Coptic have gone from protected minority to repressed and despised minority under an uncomfortable level of perfidious suspicions. Another difference is that under Mubarak the average Egyptian knew the rules and could live their lives under a relative comfort that they would be safe provided they stayed within the laws while the laws are under a slow but building transformation which will eventually end with the Sharia, or at least a Sunni interpretation of the sharia will come to be the law of the land and along with it the fear of falling within the crosshairs of any cleric who has a sufficient following. This will be particularly true for any non-Muslims, especially the Coptic minority.

The one improvement thus far has been a definitive drop in the amount of corruption. This perceptible drop may be due to the near collapse of the Egyptian economy which will become a severe problem if measures are not instituted to allow for a return to normal economic opportunities. One main sector of the Egyptian economy that has suffered from the turmoil and unrest resulting from the uprisings has been the tourist industry, a mainstay of the Egyptian economy and essential if Egypt is going to restore their economic engine. This retrial which will be perceived by many outside of Egypt as simply a viscous and vindictive witch hunt to satisfy a demand by the most hateful of the anti-Mubarak forces for their blood revenge. Where there is quite likely a kernel of validation of their desire for retribution but their desire to retry these officials from the Mubarak era rather than be satisfied with the life sentences most of them received have the aroma of a form of tribal vengeance. One must question if a retrial and the emotions it will bring back to the fore and the possible unrest with rekindled conflicts is worth the price that will be played by the currently so fragile Egyptian economy. It would appear logical that getting Egypt to move on rather than retrying the past and getting Egyptians back into a normal cycle of life, work, and moving forward with healing would be better than reopening recent wounds and cleansing them with salt, fire and executions simply to satisfy the revenge of those who were denied the power they now wield would be preferable. But that is my feelings from afar; perhaps those closer to the flames will take somewhat longer to cool from the recent fires of change.

Beyond the Cusp

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