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Kedar: Egypt’s Question of Sovereignty


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The Egyptian organizations that are under investigation, “The National Democratic Institute” and “The International Republican Institute”, are being investigated for the suspicion of the subversion of Mubarak’s regime that eventually led to his downfall. Many suspect that the whole matter of the investigations is actually a power struggle between the Supreme Military Council and the Muslim Brotherhood; a struggle in which the officers try to show the “Brothers” their strength by standing firm even against the great and powerful America, which supplies Egypt with the money and food that are so essential at this time.

The Egyptian decision to close down the organizations and to bring the volunteers to trial has created great tension in the relationship between Egypt and the United states. Washington (President Obama, the members of his staff, and members of Congress) is trying to pressure the Egyptian government to stop the process of bringing the 19 volunteers to trial, and to free them forthwith. Washington also threatens to stop its military and civilian support to Egypt, which could bring many Egyptians to a state of starvation.

The question is what causes the Egyptian government – the military, and the civilian which is an instrument of the military – to enter into a conflict such as this especially with the United States. There are several possible answers to this question, and the most important among them is the inability of the Egyptian regime to uncover the instigator of the revolution. The economy is collapsing, tourism has disappeared, poverty is increasing, unemployment is spreading, the treasury is empty, the military continues to rule with cruelty and rigidity, and without a shred of sensitivity, and there are still some Mubarak loyalists who remain in power. A situation like this creates a strong desire to find a scapegoat who can be blamed for the failure. Israel cannot be the scapegoat, because that would mean that a small and contemptible country like the “Zionist Entity” has succeeded to destroy the Egyptian revolution. Therefore, a big strong country that can be blamed for the failure of the revolution must be sought, and what country is bigger and more powerful than the United States?

We saw something similar in 1967 at the beginning of the Six Day War, when it became clear to Abd al-Naser, president of Egypt, and Hussein, King of Jordan that their Air Forces had been destroyed on the ground in an attack by the Israeli Air Force. They discussed by telephone the possibilities of accusing the United States of the bombing, knowing that if it was revealed that Israel had done this, a great humiliation would befall them; that so small a country (certainly according to Israel’s size before the Six Day War) succeeded within one short day to destroy their Air Forces on the ground. The discussion between Abd al-Naser and Husein was recorded by Israeli Intelligence and after the Arabic radio stations publicized that the Americans attacked the Arab Force bases, Israel broadcast the discussion by means of “the Voice of Israel in Arabic”. The broadcast of this deception caused the two rulers tremendous humiliation, since they had been caught “red-handed” as a pair of liars plotting their deception.

To the religious Egyptian Muslims, who are the great majority in Egypt, it’s easy to accuse the United States of plots against Egypt, because they have an underlying assumption that the United States hates Islam, and will do anything in its power to undermine the new majority of Islam in the Egyptian parliament, and to restore the Land of the Nile to those who are guided by secular and liberal principles. Organizations of civil society (NGOs) that spread ideas foreign to Islam like democracy and which are funded by the United States are the ideal scapegoat for the religious Egyptians who are frustrated by the failure of the revolution.

Beyond a search for whom to blame for the failure of the revolution, it might be that there is in Egypt and in the investigation of the Americans a bit of revenge because of  US support for Mubarak and his cruel regime for years. Even so, these things should be seen in context, as the Egyptian on the street sees that many state leaders don’t mind making serious accusations against the United States: This is what Chavez, the president of Venezuela does; this is what Mahmud Ahmadi-Najad, the president of Iran, does; and even the prime minister of Israel, who dares to build apartments in Jerusalem over the strong objections of the White House.

The fact that the Egyptian government, despite the difficult circumstance in which it finds itself, feels that it can now oppose the United States stems from the International weakness that the greatest super power in the world projects. Despite American hints of reduction in support to Egypt because of this matter, it appears that the Egyptian officers think that the United States will not dare to cut off foreign aid because it might cause an increase in the living expenses for millions of Egyptians who, without the American support, would starve to death. And whom would they accuse for this? Not the United States? And so – in their opinion, they can push their luck with the Americans because they believe that the Americans will not dare to stop the shipments of food to Egypt. (Gaza serves as an example too, that it is possible to shoot missiles at a country, and that country will continue to feed those who are shooting missiles at it.)

About the Author: Dr. Mordechai Kedar (Ph.D. Bar-Ilan U.) Served for 25 years in IDF Military Intelligence specializing in Arab political discourse, Arab mass media, Islamic groups and the Syrian domestic arena. A lecturer in Arabic at Bar-Ilan U., he is also an expert on Israeli Arabs.


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