Sunday, August 18, 2013

Egypt: disaster not averted

I have been on Twitter quite a bit the last few days. Trying to keep calm and reading this report from the IGC. Some extracts:
Mohamed Selim el-Awa, an Islamist with good ties to the army and who competed in the 2012 presidential elections, has suggested that both the 2012 constitution and Morsi briefly be reinstated; the latter would then resign in favour of a consensual prime minister. Presidential and parliamentary elections would soon follow. (fn69 See Al-Masry Al-Youm, 27 July 2013. Hisham Qandil, who served as prime minister under Morsi, launched his own initiative, suggesting that a referendum be conducted on the post-3 July arrangements while maintaining the 2012 constitutional framework. See www.youtube.com/watch?v=-yd1MC0gjkc. The Muslim Brothers, insisting on Morsi’s legitimacy as president, reportedly have turned down several invitations for dialogue by the defence ministry and interim president. ICG interview, member of Mansour’s national reconciliation team, Cairo, 16 July 2013. Some members have floated the idea that Morsi could be reinstated and then resign in a dignified manner – though even then it is unclear what would follow. According to the 2012 constitution, upon whose authority the Brothers still insist, the head of the Shura Council (a Brotherhood member) would assume the presidency. A number of initiatives launched by non-partisan Islamist-leaning figures,including [..] Hisham Qandil and former presidential candidate Mohamed Selim el-Awwa, suggested Morsi could transfer his authorities to a “consensus prime minister”, while presidential elections would be held within 90 days; the constitution would be reinstated until consensually amended. ICG interview, EU official, July 2013. See also www.youtube.com/watch?v=BZ2Wf7vmCE0.) [Both videos in Arabic] ... though this proposal meets some of the Brotherhood’s requirements, it almost certainly is unacceptable to the military at this stage. [my emphasis]
(fn16) Hisham Qandil later claimed that Morsi was “open” to the idea of early presidential elections, but only after parliamentary elections had been conducted, in order not to create a constitutional or institutional vacuum.
As I said in my previous post. MB sources have indicated that they were willing to compromise. According to Cairo crackdown follows failed negotiation, the MB has hinted in interviews that it would accept Morsi's ousting if the 2012 constitution were restored. "Maybe he's back for one minute. And we have some sort of agreement that he's back and the first decision is to resign. Fine," Amr Darrag, a senior Brotherhood official, said in an interview last month.
(Incidentally, it's well worth reading that earlier interview: "We've been telling people that we don't have control, and people didn't believe us. We've always been accused of the ikhwanization of the state, controlling the bones and joints and everything, spreading our people everywhere [..]  We acknowledged that it isn't good to clear everything at once, because this could mean the failure of the state, so we took a more gradual approach, but we were not in control at all. The president had maybe 25 percent control, but not more than that, and the control he had related to his power of legitimacy, rather than physical power. [..] This coup succeeded because we did not really have that much control.")
 A Brotherhood member and ex-Morsi adviser said, “we theoretically could agree on dropping the demand that Morsi complete his term, but without the constitution, what guarantees will we have to practise politics and operate normally without crackdowns and repression?” (fn35 ICG interview, Muslim Brotherhood member and former presidential aide, Cairo, 21 July 2013. Reinstatement of the constitution would mean making the head of the Shura Council, a Muslim Brother, interim president. Such suggestions bring shrugs from the other side: “It is inconceivable
that the army would agree to handing power to [Shura Council President] Ahmad Fahmy. What do you think he will do, even if he is there for a second? His first executive order would be to fire Sisi and other generals who helped oust Morsi. The army will never allow such a scenario to materialise”. ICG interview, member of the interim president’s national reconciliation team and former adviser to Morsi who resigned, Cairo, 16 July 2013.
Going back to before 3 July:
(fn7) The NSF declined repeated invitations for dialogue over the constitutional declaration, constitutional amendments and other issues, insisting that Morsi meet their preconditions first, including firing the government and the prosecutor general. The NSF justified its boycott by claiming Morsi intended to use the dialogue as a photo-op to boost his flailing presidency. ICG interview, founding member of the Egypt Freedom Party, Cairo, 22 July 2013. An aide to the former president’s team said that NSF leaders used to ignore phone calls from the presidency requesting their attendance at dialogue sessions. Morsi had made clear he would not offer compromises without first engaging in a dialogue. ICG interview, aide to Morsi’s adviser for political affairs, Cairo, 18 April 2013.
On what I find rather mystifying, that policy on Syria played an important role in al-Sisi's decision: 
(fn12) An important event purportedly involved the change of policy toward Syria Morsi announced on 18 June, arguably to rally wider Islamist support; in that speech, pronounced in the presence of former Islamist militants and prominent Salafi leaders and preachers, he said Cairo was cutting diplomatic relations with Damascus and appeared to endorse calls for jihad against the Syrian regime. A retired general said, “this guy [Morsi] lost his mind. He thinks he can break our ties with and declare jihad against Syria, threaten Ethiopia with war and surround himself with militants who have kidnapped and killed our soldiers in Sinai. This is Egypt. We cannot be ruled by ignorant amateurs”. ICG interview, Cairo, 1 July 2013.
(fn15)  An opposition member [said]: “Morsi really thought he could cut off ties with Syria without consulting leaders of the armed forces. He was delusional”. ICG interview, Cairo, 17 July 2013.

on 23 June, the defence minister, Lieutenant-General Abdul Fattah al-Sisi, had urged all political forces to resolve their differences prior to the day of demonstrations; when that failed to yield results, and in the wake of the massive protests, the SCAF gave the presidency 48 hours to meet the “people’s demands” (read: accept early presidential elections), or it would impose its own “roadmap”, [Al-Arabiya, 1 July 2013] thus, closely mirroring Tamarrod’s demands.

The combination of a public outpouring of discontent and reassuring army signals helped convince the overwhelming majority of protesters – some of whom initially wanted Morsi to call for early presidential elections; others who wanted him to resign; and still others who advocated a collegial presidency linking Morsi to other political leaders – to endorse a military solution.

(fn49) An NSF member described how senior anti-Brotherhood figures walked away on the eve of 30 June when he reminded them of the need to integrate Islamists in post-Morsi arrangements. “They see this (military-supported popular protests) as the moment in which all Islamists have been defeated and should be cast aside”. ICG interview, Cairo, 7 July 2013.
As Jim Muir reported for the BBC, both sides revile the US, so EU mediation stood a better chance.
The U.S. faces greater limitations, being vilified by both sides, each suspecting Washington of doing the other’s bidding. (fn70 Tamarrod issued a statement on the eve of 5 July anti-Morsi protests accusing the U.S. of “aiding the Brothers, and encouraging them to attack the people and the armed forces”. Akhbar al-Youm, 5 July 2013. General Sisi also blasted the U.S., claiming it had abandoned Egyptians and mistreated the
nation’s “patriotic military” by suspending the delivery of fighter jets. The Washington Post, 3 August 2013. On the other hand, Essam el-Erian, vice president of the FJP, suggested that Washington had supported the “failing military coup” and went so far as to urge the U.S. embassy staff to leave the country. Al-Masry Al-Youm, 21 July 2013.)  As a result, Brussels, via Ashton’s visits to Cairo, has assumed an unusually active role ...
Various names mooted as PM: Ziad Bahaa Eddin was, I think, mentioned by RFI. end
(fn23) Biblawi reportedly was Mansour’s third choice; his name emerged during consultations between the army, protest movement, NSF and Al-Nour. The Salafi party is said to have vetoed both Destour party leader Mohamed ElBaradei and Ziad Bahaa Eddin, a senior Social Democratic Party member and veteran economic technocrat, on grounds that they were overly hostile to the Islamists.
...

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