Egypt Coup : Engineered by military and supported by elite and West

The purpose of this post is to have a record for posterity as everything will be lost in the narrative and media barrage.

First things first. Was the removal of Morsi in Egypt was a coup or not. Well, if you go by the definitions collected, it definitely was a coup

Yes, That’s a Coup in Egypt

  • A coup d’état is defined as a forceful seizure of executive authority and office by a dissident/opposition faction within the country’s ruling or political elites that results in a substantial change in the executive leadership and the policies of the prior regime (although not necessarily in the nature of regime authority or mode of governance).
  • [Coups d’etat are defined as] overt attempts by the military or other elites within the state apparatus to unseat the sitting head of state using unconstitutional means…there is no minimal death threshold for defining a coup. A coup attempt is defined as successful if the coup perpetrators seize and hold power for at least seven days.
  • The distinguishing characteristics of the coup coup d’état as a political technique are that: (a) it is the effort by a political coalition illegally to replace the existing governmental leaders by violence or the threat of violence; (b) the violence employed is usually small; (c) the number of people involved is small; (d) the participants already possess institutional bases of power within the political system.

You might wonder why this argument over whether its a coup or not goes on in media. Part of the reason is that Egypt gets aid to the tune of $1.5 Billion every year from US and if it is a coup against a democratically elected government, then that aid due to the laws prevailing in US will get suspended which neither the Egyptian Army nor US wants. On a different level, calling it a “revolution” and not a “coup” makes it palatable to its supporters.

Much of Rendon’s work is confidential—he enjoys a level of beyond–Top Secret clearance that even high-level intelligence analysts sometimes fail to get. His role in George W. Bush–era pro-U.S. propaganda in Iraq is unclear: While some sources claim he was a central figure in the effort, Rendon denies any involvement. But his dream is quite clear: “Rendon wants to see a world where television “can drive the policy process,” where border patrols [are] replaced by beaming patrols,” and where “you can win without fighting.”

Given all that, I was a bit surprised when the first weapon he referred me to was a very quotidian one: a thesaurus. The key to changing public opinion, Rendon said, is finding different ways to say the same thing. He described a matrix, with extreme language or opinion on one side and mild opinion on the other. By using sentiment analysis to figure out how people in a country felt about an event—say, a new arms deal with the United States—and identify the right synonyms to move them toward approval, you could “gradually nudge a debate.” “It’s a lot easier to be close to what reality is” and push it in the right direction, he said, than to make up a new reality entirely.”

Excerpted from Eli Parser, “Filter Bubble”

So if one sells the narrative that its continuation of revolution, one changes reality. No where this thesaurus is more prominent than the comments made by US. From NYT

America finds itself in a tight spot. After the coup, President Obama expressed “deep concern,” steering clear of any explicit condemnation. More troubling, he called for the restoration of “a” — not “the” — democratically elected government, an important distinction that won’t be lost on the Brotherhood.

Seeing that their narrative that this is not a coup is not getting traction, pro-coup Egyptians have resorted to calling it “soft coup” or “people-power-backed military coup” as if it is something unique or happened with Egyptian for first time in history.

Egypt’s misguided coup

Egyptians may claim there was something unique about the people-power-backed military coup that unfolded Wednesday in Cairo. But the world has witnessed many such putsches in the past half-century. From Buenos Aires to Bangkok, crowds have begged generals to oust democratically elected governments and cheered when they responded. Without exception, the results have been dismal: violence, if not civil wars; massive human rights violations; decades-long political conflicts.

Oh, and by the way, those removed from power sooner or later have returned.

The Islamic character of Egypt’s ousted government should not obscure the way the country resembles Argentina, Venezuela, Turkey, Thailand and other developing nations in which free elections after decades of autocracy have brought a new elite to power. The new rulers typically represent previously disenfranchised poor and rural populations, who often don’t share the cultural values of the capital’s middle and upper classes.

Once in office, new governments made up almost entirely of novice officials frequently overreach. They battle with the old establishment in the bureaucracy, judiciary and media. They write new constitutions in an attempt to lock in their electoral advantage. They tread on civil liberties. And, more often than not, they badly mismanage the economy by adopting populist measures that cater to their political bases.
Cairo’s secular middle class consequently had far less cause to take to the streets last weekend than did the pot-bangers in Allende’s Chile, the general strikers of Caracas or the yellow shirts of Bangkok. They can, however, expect much the same results — which will be anything but the liberal democracy they say they support.

Applauders of military coups have in common two illusions: that the generals share their agenda and that their hated opponents, despite their electoral victories, can be politically nullified. Invariably, neither turns out to be true. Armed forces aren’t good at convening roundtables or implementing liberal platforms; they are good at using force. Even if they don’t torture and kill, they sweep up nonviolent political leaders, shut down media they regard as troublesome and try to impose political rules protecting their own political and economic interests.
… the ultimate losers in this week’s coup will be those who cheered it on.

And here is another perspective from Authors of Why Nations Fail:

The Egyptian Paradox: Saving Democracy and Setting It Back

The first freely elected government of a country, where a large fraction of society is disenfranchised, disempowered and made to feel like second-class citizens, is ousted, in the name of saving democracy, by a military coup supported by former elites and “liberals”.

And the outcome? Three more military coups and more than 50 years later, a deep chasm in society that is still preventing the emergence of truly inclusive politics.

No, we are not talking about the future of Egypt (not directly in any case).

This is just a description of what happened in Turkey in 1960

…what Egypt needed was those ascended to power for the first time to peacefully lose an election — not because the other side cannot tolerate the very thought of those that have so far viewed as second-class sitting in the presidential palace but because they just messed up and weren’t governing well. Because they just lost the support of the ordinary people and had to leave the way they came, through the polls.

Just like in Turkey, Egypt needed assurances to both sides that inclusive politics in which every segment of society, regardless of creed, religion, gender and social status, can share power.

Instead, we have in our hands a military coup that confirms the worst fears of a very large fraction of the population — that the so-called liberal elites and the military that have ruled the country for so long will do anything not to share power with them (never mind that Mubarak and his cronies, together with the military, had also effectively sidelined the young and the liberals who have now turned into allies of the soldiers).

How will this segment of society ever trust democratic politics? How can we expect them not to work to undermine their opponents completely the moment they wrestle power nationally or locally? How can we now hope to end the Egyptian iron law of oligarchy?

As the authors have hinted above, Shadi Hamid also points to the fact that this will have a negative consequence for a large segment of society that decided to become part of mainstream and but the elites and military didn’t like it. And the consequences will be dangerous

Demoting Democracy in Egypt

The Brotherhood’s fall will have profound implications for the future of political Islam, reverberating across the region in potentially dangerous ways. One of the most important political developments of recent years was the decision of Islamist parties to make peace with democracy and commit to playing by the rules of the political game. Leaders counseled patience to their followers. Their time would come, they were told.

Now supporters of the Brotherhood will ask, with good reason, whether democracy still has anything to offer them. Mr. Morsi’s removal will breathe new life into the ideological claims of radicals. Al Qaeda and its followers have long argued that change can’t come through the democracy of “unbelievers”; violence is the only path. As the Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahri once said, “What is truly regrettable is the rallying of thousands of duped Muslim youth in voter queues before ballot boxes instead of lining them up to fight in the cause of Allah.”

The events of this week could have similarly profound implications. In the hours after Mr. Morsi’s ouster, the new military leadership suspended the Constitution, shut down at least three Islamist television stations, and, more ominously, issued arrest warrants for at least 300 Brotherhood members. Prominent liberal voices are calling for “dissolving” the Brotherhood and holding what would amount to dubious show trials.

Then the narrative that the locals sell you that MB was hand-in-hand with US and Anne Patterson was against Morsi’s removal is pure hogwash and part of propaganda. This from NYTimes

Morsi Spurned Deals, Seeing Military as Tamed

As President Mohamed Morsi huddled in his guard’s quarters during his last hours as Egypt’s first elected leader, he received a call from an Arab foreign minister with a final offer to end a standoff with the country’s top generals, senior advisers with the president said.

The foreign minister said he was acting as an emissary of Washington, the advisers said, and he asked if Mr. Morsi would accept the appointment of a new prime minister and cabinet, one that would take over all legislative powers and replace his chosen provincial governors.

The aides said they already knew what Mr. Morsi’s answer would be. He had responded to a similar proposal by pointing at his neck. “This before that,” he had told his aides, repeating a vow to die before accepting what he considered a de facto coup and thus a crippling blow to Egyptian democracy.

His top foreign policy adviser, Essam el-Haddad, then left the room to call the United States ambassador, Anne W. Patterson, to say that Mr. Morsi refused. When he returned, he said he had spoken to Susan E. Rice, the national security adviser, and that the military takeover was about to begin, senior aides said.

“Mother just told us that we will stop playing in one hour,” an aide texted an associate, playing on a sarcastic Egyptian expression for the country’s Western patron, “Mother America.”

From Reuters:

What is clear is that despite Patterson’s public statements underlining Mursi’s democratic legitimacy – which drew sharp criticism in Egyptian media – there was no red light from Washington against military takeover.

It is not as if ouster was a surprise. In his own words, Mr. ElBaradei said that they were in touch with western powers before engaging the coup.

Prominent Egyptian Liberal Says He Sought West’s Support for Uprising

Mohamed ElBaradei, the Nobel Prize-winning diplomat and Egypt’s most prominent liberal, said Thursday that he had worked hard to convince Western powers of what he called the necessity of forcibly ousting President Mohamed Morsi, contending that Mr. Morsi had bungled the country’s transition to an inclusive democracy.

What Morsi failed to realize or appreciate that he doesn’t control the military head on in your first year. Whereas Erdogan was successful in taming  military in Turkey but one has to remember that it was his third time, he is widely popular and most importantly he has distributed fruits of economic development widely thus strengthening his support base.

Cover Page of July 2012 Time Magazine

Mursi’s downfall

But relations between Mursi and his new generals deteriorated within months of his inauguration. Even Mursi’s apparent success in brokering a ceasefire between Israel and the Hamas Islamist movement that runs the Gaza Strip irked the military.

“Mursi’s intervention in the Gaza war made Egypt guarantee that Hamas would not carry out attacks on Israel. Which threatens Egyptian national security, because what if Hamas did? It could prompt Israel to retaliate against us,” the security source said.

Mursi also talked loosely about possible Egyptian participation in a jihad (holy war) to overthrow Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad, and raised the prospect of military action over a Nile River dam in Ethiopia. As a result, distrust of him grew in Egypt’s high command, which saw him as recklessly risking their involvement in conflicts without properly consulting and respecting the generals.

“It reached a point where we began to be worried about putting important national security reports in front of someone we perceived as a threat to national security,” the security source said.

The generals became equally alarmed about political and sectarian polarization in Egypt, against a backdrop of a sharply worsening economy. They had secured their own position in an Islamist-tinged constitution rammed through by Mursi’s allies last December, ensuring they would remain a state within a state, with limited parliamentary scrutiny of their economic privileges, armaments contracts and control of the vital Suez Canal. But they were increasingly concerned by what they saw as a risk of civil war.

By the time Mursi took office, Egypt’s economy, which had boomed for the rich with scant improvement for the poor in the late Mubarak years, was already in deep trouble. The military council which ruled in the 16-month transition from Mubarak’s overthrow to Mursi’s inauguration had failed to carry out long-overdue reforms of food and fuel subsidies or to negotiate a loan deal with the International Monetary Fund for fear of sparking unrest. Tourism and investment had dried up because of political instability.

Mursi’s bumbling, do-little administration only made things worse. While the Muslim Brotherhood remained the most powerful political force and ran a social welfare network that provided services to the poor and needy, millions of Egyptians felt no one was representing their interests.

What is clear is that military has been the real rulers of Egypt.

Egypt’s Cunning General: How the Military Plans to Keep Power

Egyptian President Morsi has been toppled, and a judge will be the country’s new interim leader. But in reality, he’s just a puppet. Behind the scenes, General Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi and his military apparatus will continue to call the shots.

Since it took power in a coup in 1952, the military has remained the most important political player in Egypt. Neither Mubarak’s fall in 2011, nor the short rule by Morsi, a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, have changed this. El-Sissi demonstrated just how powerful the influence of the military’s generals is on Wednesday night, when, after giving Morsi 48 hours to leave office, he summarily informed the president that he was no longer the leader of the country. No matter that Morsi was the country’s first democratically elected head of state.

This time the head of the military has been trying from the outset to stay in the background. The events of Wednesday night are clearly a coup — the army has deposed a democratically elected president and suspended the constitution. Yet Sissi acted as if the generals had been compelled by the Egyptian people to intervene.

Indeed, many Egyptians have welcomed the coup. The military envisions a power-sharing setup where civilians will hold primary authority. That way, they will be the ones to draw the ire of the population as they slave away to solve the country’s disastrous economic situation and mend deep political divisions.

Behind the scenes, Sissi and his colleagues set the tone, especially in two areas: Security policy is traditionally their domain, but the government should also keep clear of the generals’ monetary privileges. The army is one of the most important economic power brokers in Egypt.

It remains to be seen whether this power-sharing structure will actually work. This is exactly what the military already tried in vain with the Muslim Brotherhood. But Morsi was rebellious. He began to interfere in security policy and didn’t take the sharp warnings of the generals seriously. From their perspective, things will work out better this time under the duo of military chief and top judiciary.

Below is a small write up on the military’s historic relationship with Egypt’s civil society, patriotism,self-interest, victory and defeat. In this way, it is not much different than Pakistan Army

The Egyptian Military’s Huge Historical Role

Army’s fall from grace

“The Egyptian army’s history is very much defined in relation to the Arab-Israeli conflict,” says Nezar Al-Sayyad, the chair of UC-Berkeley’s Center for Middle Eastern Studies.

The defeat undermined Egyptian monarch King Farouk, whom the Egyptian military blamed for what it considered a fiasco, and in 1952 a group of military officers led by Gamal Abdel Nasser staged a coup. The Egyptian Revolution of 1952, as it came to be known, established the modern Egyptian republic.

Under the charismatic and popular Nasser, the Egyptian Army sought to rebuild itself into a competent fighting force. It didn’t go well.

After a costly expeditionary campaign supporting Arab republican forces in Yemen’s civil war, Nasser led a second Arab coalition against Israel during the Six Day War of 1967. His forces suffered a spectacular defeat, losing the the entire Sinai peninsula—which Egypt had controlled—to Israeli forces.

The loss shredded the Egyptian army’s credibility. The military “not only withdrew [from Sinai], but in fact it lost its equipment and many soldiers came back running,” says Al-Sayyed. “The military became the butt of jokes within the Egyptian public.”

Army’s Redemption

In October 1973, Sadat led the third Arab coalition against Israel in the hopes of regaining the Sinai.

Although the war ended after three weeks with Israel in the advantage, the Egyptian Army enjoyed significant successes during its opening days, and Egypt later regained the Sinai peninsula as a result of the 1978 Camp David Accords.

The win destroyed the myth of Israeli invincibility and restored the reputation of the Egyptian army as a fighting force and defender of the nation’s interests.

Army discovers Capitalism

After Mubarak, a former general, took power following Sadat’s assassination in 1981, the military, backed by American aid, modernized and expanded its force. And when Mubarak launched economic liberalization in the 1990s, the military discovered something even better than American largesse: capitalism.

“The military became an economic company, if you will,” says Al-Sayyed. “It became an enterprise.”

Equipped with valuable and vast real estate and a conscript, low-paid workforce, the military began to insinuate itself into civil society through business, its holdings ranging from bread factories to chemical plants to hotels.

The armed forces’ public-private enterprises may account for up to 15 to 20 percent of GDP, according to Al-Sayyed, and the military took very good care of its officers with the wealth it accrued. As the military’s economic tentacles spread throughout society, its civil clout expanded, too.

What Way Forward?

During the massive protests that led to Mubarak’s ouster, the military—after a period of initial silence—publicly stated that its duty was above all to the people of Egypt, and soon wrested control from the 80-year-old autocrat.

During the period of military rule that followed, however, public opinion turned against the interim military government due to the widespread belief that it was dithering in relinquishing power.

The military seemed to recognize the fickle nature of voters in the drafting of Egypt’s 2012 constitution, ensuring that its privileges and powers were cemented in the new document.

Now, after unseating the unpopular Morsi, the military has public opinion back in its court.

“The majority of Egyptian people today see the army as a patriotic institution that can be trusted to act in the interests of the nation,” says Beinin. “The army has this reputation despite the fact that it has actually on many occasions, and especially in the recent years, acted to secure its own particular institutional interests and not acted for the interests of the nation.”

This tweet by Muslim Brotherhood spokesman makes it clear that how much of coup was engineered

But if you don’t want to buy what MB spokesman says, here it is coming from a journalist

The circus continues

Mohamed ElBaradei to be named Egypt’s interim PM: sources

Mansour held talks on Saturday with the army chief and political leaders, including ElBaradei, on how to pull the country out of crisis as the death toll from Islamist protests over the army’s overthrow of Mursi rose to at least 35.

Mansour later summoned ElBaradei back to the presidential palace, the state news agency reported, without giving more details.

The prime minister will be sworn in at 8 p.m. (2:00 p.m. EDT), state newspaper Al-Ahram reported, not naming who will be sworn in.

ElBaradei who is currently feeling no shame in accepting PM post in Egypt, had this to say in 2012

Mohamed ElBaradei quits Egyptian presidential race

“My conscience does not permit me to run for the presidency or any other official position unless it is within a democratic framework,”

But then this happens

Egypt PM dispute stalls government, Islamists call more protests

ElBaradei’s nomination had been confirmed by several sources and state media on Saturday, but just before midnight a presidential spokesman told reporters that the prime minister had not in fact been chosen.

The abrupt U-turn came amid opposition to the appointment by the Nour Party, Egypt’s second Islamist force after Mursi’s Muslim Brotherhood movement, highlighting the challenge the military faces in finding consensus among liberals and conservatives on who should run the country.

This made me tweet this

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