Egypt’s unfolding Mubarakist coup

Egypt's military - back in governemt

By Paul Roberts

Since abducting former President Mohamed Morsi and suspending the constitution on July 3rd, Egypt’s generals have re-established their political rule.

General Abdul Fatah al-Sisi, the commander of the armed forces has ‘appointed’ an entire government including a President, Vice President, Prime Minister and Foreign Minister. On July 16th the newly imposed President Adli al-Mansour ‘swore in’ a cabinet. To make matters entirely clear as to who controls this government General al-Sisi ensured that he was central to the cabinet, so he was also ‘sworn in’ as First Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister.

Most of the appointed ministers are long established pro-Western figures loyal to the former Mubarak dictatorship’s rule. There is not a single minister representing either of the main Islamist groups (Muslim Brotherhood and Nour) that won five straight elections after February 2011 (two parliamentary elections, a presidential vote and two constitutional referendums).

Mubarakism has been restored with a partial civilian façade.

This became immediately clear at the level of foreign policy. The coup government rapidly re-applied the US framework for Egypt’s foreign policy. The day of the coup, Egyptian military bulldozers began to demolish the tunnels between Egypt and Gaza – the besieged Strip’s lifeline since 2006 and closed the Rafah crossing.

In a sign of Israel’s approval of the orientation of the new government it has authorised a sharp increase in Egyptian army presence in the Sinai to oppose Islamic militants that have grown more active in the area since the overthrow of Morsi.

Relations with Turkey are already deteriorating and the rapprochement with Iran will be ended. Control of the all-important Suez Canal is firmly back in the grip of a US puppet.

The attitude of the right-wing Gulf regimes was clarified within days.

Immediately following the imprisonment of Morsi, the US’s main Gulf allies (Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the UAE) pledged $12 billion assistance to the new regime – aid they had withheld from the Muslim Brotherhood government to deliberately exacerbate the country’s economic crisis and create conditions favourable to launching a coup.

This new aid will postpone for several months Egypt’s economy hitting a crisis. This also means it will not be necessary for Egypt to urgently reach an agreement with the IMF for the long promised loan of $4.8bn. The IMF had insisted that this was contingent upon swinging cuts in food and fuel subsidies and major tax hikes – which Morsi resisted due to the immense popular anger this is likely to provoke. The military hopes it now has sufficient time to stage its rigged elections and install the government of its choice, before it has to turn to the IMF and accept its demands for sharp austerity measures.

The imperialist states de-facto recognised the new regime’s legitimacy immediately.

Their triumphalism at Morsi’s overthrow has been accompanied by the sheer hypocrisy of pretending his ousting is not a military coup.

The US administration, which helped orchestrate the coup, has maintained daily contact with the generals both before and after the coup, while at no point describing the army’s actions as a coup. Washington’s silence on this point is telling, as under US law it would have to withhold its annual $1.3bn aid to the Egyptian army if it were guilty of a coup.

Not content with silence on the actions of the military, others representing key sections of US capital have gone further.

The voice of US finance capital, the Wall Street Journal, ran an editorial the day after the coup arguing that a dictatorship in the mould Chile’s Augusto Pinochet would be the ‘luckiest’ outcome for the people of Egypt! The WSJ says Pinochet took ‘power amid chaos but hired free-market reformers and midwifed a transition to democracy’, conveniently failing to mention the 40,000 held in the National Stadium, the death squads, torture and disappearances following his bloody coup in 1973.

Various US lackeys, including Tony Blair and the Saudi dictatorship, enthusiastically welcomed the generals’ return to government.

When the military overthrows an elected government – it is a coup

This is all rank hypocrisy, as despite the ducking and weaving of the imperialists and their lackeys, the military’s violent seizure of the Egyptian government is by definition a coup d’état.

Across vast sections of the world it has been recognised as such.

The Africa Union immediately suspended Egypt from participation in AU activities.

In Venezuela, President Nicolas Maduro said that the generals’ coup was prepared by a destabilisation campaign that bore all the hallmarks of the techniques of the CIA and had restored Egypt as a US client regime once again.

How the coup d’état was organised

Following the Morsi’s ousting some of the secrecy necessary for the coup’s preparations has been abandoned with key protagonists setting out how it was planned.

Details that have come out include that after Morsi’s June 2012 election victory many state institutions set about a campaign to sabotage his government. In many government departments the bureaucracy would not cooperate with the President. The judges also opposed and blocked his most important decisions.

To encourage increasing discontent at a deteriorating economic and social situation, the police removed themselves from tackling crime on the streets, while artificial shortages were created in fuel and food. These measures were of course immediately reversed after the coup, so queues for fuel have gone and the police are back.

The pro-coup political alliance

In parallel, imperialism and Egypt’s military built up an anti-Morsi mass movement committed to his overthrow. Its platform was to oppose any negotiations or compromise with the elected President and refuse to participate itself in elections (as it could not democratically win); implicitly it was movement whose programme was to replace Morsi by a coup.

Understanding the unpopularity of the Army and Mubarak-era officials they constructed a set of alliances with more popular political forces so that a section of the masses could be mobilised. On the basis of opposition to Morsi or support for secularism they united with pro-Western liberals and with some confused Arab nationalist and left forces. Some of these latter currents did not grasp that the most powerful political forces leading the opposition movement were directly tied to imperialism and its Mubarakist agents. Others grasped this relation of forces but supported a Mubarakist defeat of the Muslim Brotherhood (MB).

The final component bought into the pro-coup alliances was the pro-Saudi Islamists (Nour Party), whose hostility to Morsi’s rapprochement with Iran became their pretext for joining this opposition.

It should be noted that there has also been an anti-coup opposition movement. Political forces associated with Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh, who came out of the Muslim Brotherhood and took fourth place in last year’s first round of Egypt’s presidential election, opposed the pro-coup opposition and warned against joining the military’s alliance. Instead they called for all opposition forces to respect Egypt’s democracy, negotiate over differences with the Presidency and stand in the elections.

The army’s coordination with comprador capitalists and imperialism

The coup campaign was significantly financed by Egypt’s most powerful capitalists. Naguib Sawiris, a billionaire whose family controls the Orascom (construction, telecoms, media) corporate empire, one of Egypt’s largest private sector employers, funded the opposition ‘Tamarrod’ movement that led the petition drive calling for Morsi’s ousting. At the time it was necessary to conceal who was funding the campaign, but following the coup’s success Sawiris wants recognition of his role, so the truth is coming out.

As the Wall Street Journal indicated Egypt’s generals coordinated with the state institutions sabotaging Morsi’s government and met frequently (secretly) with leaders of the anti-Morsi protest movement. As an opposition source explained, the Mubarakists were ‘the ones who know who are the election thugs [and] how to hire them’.

The political parties central to the opposition campaign were hugely funded by the US as Al Jazeera has reported. US agencies also funded groups that carried out violent attacks on MB protestors. One police leader they funded was on record as telling his supporters to ‘incapacitate them [Morsi’s supporters] by smashing their knee bones first’ and instructed them to ‘make a road bump with a broken palm tree to stop the buses [carrying Morsi supporters] from going into Cairo and drench the road around it with gas and diesel. When the bus slows down, set it on fire….’

Of course, the US continued to fund the Army through out this period, to the tune of $1.3 billion over the past year, while ensuring the IMF gave no aid as part of the orchestrated economic chaos.

In sum, the US cut off any financial aid to Morsi’s government, whilst simultaneously funding the Army and pro-coup movement.

The new pro-democracy movement

Since July 3rd there have been huge protests across the country against the overthrow of the elected government.

The generals are determined to crush the resistance of the Muslim Brotherhood and also repress any movement defending the post February 2011 democratic gains.

The crackdown is intense, scores of unarmed MB protestors have already been shot dead. According to the MB, more than 100 were killed and 1,000 injured by live ammunition at just one Cairo protest on Monday July 8th. Others have been killed since.

Morsi himself has been imprisoned at an unspecified location and the generals say a host of charges are pending, including that of being a spy and of escaping from a Mubarak prison in the 2011 uprising!

Thousands more MB members have been detained, including many of its leaders, whose assets have been frozen. Media outlets linked to the MB or its allies have all been closed down. TV stations and newspapers that oppose the coup are not permitted to operate.

Despite this repression the movement continues to mobilise, with huge protests on Friday 12th and Tuesday 16th.

The rhetoric of imperialism and its new puppet government is that they are seeking reconciliation and intend to be ‘inclusive’. It is evident the new regime will only accommodate with an MB that accedes to the Army’s overturn of democracy – which it is refusing to do. The MB has not capitulated to the demands of the Army and is organising resistance to the coup.

It remains to be seen whether the army can ‘stabilise’ the post-coup situation in Egypt and impose a long-term Mubarakist type solution. The need for international solidarity with the struggle to restore Egypt’s democracy will remain a priority.