On the very day that Egypt’s Foreign Minister Nabil Fahmy is in Washington to meet with John Kerry, a court in Egypt, for the second time in just over a month, has sentenced hundreds citizens to death in proceedings that lasted only minutes. Proving the moral depravity of the Obama administration in its dealings with Egypt, the mass death sentence issued a month ago had no impact, as the administration announced only a few short weeks later that it was ending the slight delay that the US had imposed last October on delivery of ten Apache attack helicopters.
Last August, when Egypt’s military ousted the government of Mohamed Morsi, I noted how our government was too cowardly to use the approximately $1.5 billion in aid it gives Egypt annually for the full leverage it could achieve in attempting to force Egypt to cease the atrocities which at that time were mostly killings of civilians but have now moved on to a complete banning of the Muslim Brotherhood and outrageous levels of suppression of the press through arrests of journalists.
Here is the weak tea last October on the delay in military assistance (and note that the Post insists on including disruptions in aid that were applied during Morsi’s rule to inflate the numbers here):
U.S. officials on Wednesday sought to characterize the suspension of some forms of aid as temporary and said they aspire to maintain a robust military and diplomatic partnership with Egypt. Besides F-16 fighter jets, whose delivery was suspended in July, Washington will not be sending Apache helicopters, M1 tanks or Harpoon missiles under existing contracts, officials told reporters in a conference call. In addition, $260 million in cash payment promised to Egypt’s previous government will continue to be suspended. The money was to go for debt relief and general expenses, and been held up over the Morsi government’s failure to come to an agreement with the International Monetary Fund on economic reforms.
“This is not meant to be permanent,” one senior official said during the call, which was conducted on the condition of anonymity for unspecified reasons. “This is meant to be continuously reviewed.”
Considering that the first mass death sentence case verdict was rendered on March 24 and the announcement that shipment of the Apache helicopters would be resumed was announced April 22, it seems likely that the bit about continuously reviewing the disruption in shipment wasn’t aimed at looking for improved behavior on Egypt’s part. Instead, we are left to wonder whether the review was aimed at finding a time when the public’s attention is elsewhere (Russian sanctions!), so that resuming aid will generate little of the outrage it deserves.
Of course, resuming the aid required bending some rules: Continue reading
The New York Times headline for its story summarizing Barack Obama’s statement yesterday on the violence in Egypt parrots the administration’s hapless plea that Obama has few options in dealing with Egypt: “His Options Few, Obama Rebukes Egypt’s Leaders“. Obama’s grand statement delivered the stinging blow of canceling joint military exercises with the Egyptians. We also are reminded later in the article that the US has delayed delivery of four F-16 fighter jets without also being informed that this delay was announced prior to the massacre of Egyptian civilians.
In his statement, Obama never addressed the huge piece of leverage that the US does have in relation to Egypt. The roughly $1.5 billion in US aid that flows to Egypt each year is primarily for the military and supports about a third of the military’s budget. The article in the Times goes to great lengths to explain to us just why Obama can’t cut off this aid. We are told first that if we cut off aid, “Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates” will rush into the void to provide the missing funding And if that isn’t scary enough, we are told a couple of paragraphs later that cutting off the aid would open the door for Russia and China to step in.
With the death toll from the crackdown now above 600 and likely to go much higer, and with grisly videos surfacing of civilians being gunned down in cold blood by the military, we see a quote from the standard anonymous “senior official” who says “There’s a basic threshold where we can’t give a tacit endorsement to them.”
Just wow. The Egyptian military has staged a coup in which they have removed a democratically elected (although dysfunctional and failed) government and massacred over 600 of its citizens in cold blood. None of that rises to the level of the “threshold where we can’t give a tacit endorsement to them”? What on earth do they have to do to get the US to cut them off?
One answer to that question is in the next paragraph:
And it could destabilize the region, particularly the security of Israel, whose 1979 peace treaty with Egypt is predicated on the aid.
It would appear that Egypt can kill all of its own civilians it wants with the weapons and money we provide as long as they don’t also kill any Israelis.
But there is another insidious tie in the US aid to Egypt. US defense contractors are making tons of money off of it. From a Bloomberg piece describing US support of the Egyptian military two years ago at the beginning of the uprising against Mubarak: Continue reading
Obscured somewhat by the latest revelations and speculations on the US soldier who killed 16 Afghan civilians on Sunday, today’s New York Times carries an article on page A6 of the print edition informing us that the Obama administration is intending to re-start payment of military aid to Egypt:
The Obama administration plans to resume military aid to Egypt, American officials said on Thursday, signaling its willingness to remain deeply engaged with the generals now running the country despite concerns over abuses and a still-uncertain transition to democracy.
The Times explains that there is a pesky barrier in the way of re-starting military aid, as Congress has made military aid dependent on “protection of basic freedoms”. The generals running Egypt since Mubarak stepped down clearly fall short of that standard, but the Obama administration of late has shown that it has no reservations about flouting the law. In this case, they are relying on Hilary Clinton to “authorize” the latest law-breaking:
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton is expected to waive the requirement on national security grounds as soon as early next week, according to administration and Congressional officials. That would allow some, but not yet all of $1.3 billion in military aid this year to move forward, said the officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity so that they could discuss internal deliberations.
But why would the US do this? Clearly, Congress intended to put pressure on Egypt’s generals when it put into place the requirement that they would have to meet certain standards to continue receiving military aid. And, as the article points out, it likely was the threat of loss of funding that prompted the generals to release the US-based NGO representatives who were being held earlier this year.
We have to wait until the thirteenth paragraph of an article that is only eighteen paragraphs long to get to the real reason the Obama administration is using the waiver authority it forced into the law:
Within weeks Egypt risks missing payments on defense contracts, largely with American arms manufacturers, forcing Mrs. Clinton to decide the certification question now. “It’s coming up sooner than some people wanted,” one senior official said.
Heaven forbid we should interrupt the flow of cash to America’s poor, cash-starved arms manufacturers who have been so harmed by over ten years of endless war. Is preventing interruption of cash flow for US arms manufacturers the “national security” basis for Clinton waiving assurance of basic rights for the Egyptian people? This move tells us all we need to know about the priorities of the Obama administration.
Egypt’s Supreme Council of the Armed Forces raided 17 civil society and human rights groups yesterday, in some cases holding staffers at the NGO offices as the raid proceeded. The raid has the odd effect of pitting the Generals we’ve mentored and funded–to the tune of billions–against civil society experts we’ve also funded, through State Department funding streams.
The orchestrated move by Egypt’s generals, apparently keen to play up to anti-US and nationalist feelings in the country, will be seen as highly provocative in Washington, which underwrites military aid to Egypt to the sum of $1.3bn (£843m) annually.
“We are deeply concerned,” a State Department official told the Guardian.
And I suspect this won’t be the end of the demonizing of civil society NGOs. After all, these NGOs have been involved, for years, in training some of the activists who went on to lead the revolution. Even some of the activists (who may have been state operatives) have accused those with ties to these NGOs of “treason.” The State Department developed an explicit plan to foster reform in Egypt through these NGOs five years ago.
Technical support to legal political parties through IRI and NDI: Having assessed the elections, the institutes now recognize what the parties need. The NDP will likely not participate with other parties in the room, so it may be necessary to develop separate tracks in the program for the ruling party and the opposition. Even with the NDP on board, we can expect blowback by anti-reform elements. The institutes should keep their programs low-key and the USG apprised. Their programs should incorporate the full range of Egypt’s civil rights priorities, such as bringing more women and Christians into the political process. The 2007 Shura elections and the 2008 local council elections–and the development of the legislation promised to reform the later–will be the key medium-term tests. In addition to continued support for international implementers like NDI and IRI, we should also proceed with supporting additional engagement on Egypt by additional international NGOs such as Transparency International, Freedom House, and the American Bar Association.
So SCAF will presumably find plenty of “evidence” that the US supported democratic reform, in part, by supporting these organizations (though State has been pressuring the government directly as well, both under Mubarak and since).
And all that’s before you consider the past role that the International Republican Institute has had in regime change efforts like the attempted 2002 coup against Huge Chavez and the 2004 ouster of Jean-Betrand Aristide.
The point is not that our support of these NGOs is wrong (specific qualms about IRI and, to a lesser degree, Freedom House aside). Rather, it’s that the military leaders we’ve been sponsoring for years cannot distinguish between support for democratization and opposition to their rule. And that, in turn, can easily be spun as an opposition to Egyptian security, particularly given how much the US has turned Islamic terrorism into an all-powerful bogeyman.
It all seems so familiar, given our difficulty getting cooperation from our military surrogates in Pakistan.
Nevertheless, these very vivid examples of how paying to strengthen militarized authoritarians in “allied” countries can backfire didn’t stop us from finalizing a $30 billion deal with Saudi Arabia for F-15s yesterday, the same day of this SCAF raid.
You’ve probably already read this story detailing how Hosni Mubarak used his 18 day delay in resigning to rob the Egyptian people. While the whole thing is worth a read, I wanted to point out how a senior Western intelligence official makes a point of revealing that we’ve been aware of conversations among Mubarak’s thieving family members.
But a senior Western intelligence source claimed that Mubarak had begun moving his fortune in recent weeks.
“We’re aware of some urgent conversations within the Mubarak family about how to save these assets,” said the source, “And we think their financial advisers have moved some of the money around. If he had real money in Zurich, it may be gone by now.” [my emphasis]
The reference to “urgent conversations” seems to suggest they were actually listening in on them. (It also raises the question of why we didn’t try to stop Mubarak from stealing the money, but I think we know the answer to that question.)
That’s similar to the way another senior official–this one identified as American–brags to CNN about the satellites we’re using to collect intelligence in Egypt. (h/t Tim Shorrock)
As the Obama administration reacted, Washington was using a variety of intelligence assets to see what was happening in Cairo and other Egyptian cities, CNN has learned.
The U.S. military and intelligence community are using “national technical means” in the sky over Egypt to gather information about the demonstrations and the deployment of Egyptian security forces.
The phrase “national technical means” is used by the U.S. government to generally refer to the use of reconnaissance satellites to gather imagery or signals intelligence.
A senior U.S. official with direct knowledge of the operation confirmed the intelligence-gathering but declined to be identified because of the sensitive nature of the matter.
The official declined to say to what extent the Egyptian government is aware of the activity. The official would not say specifically which intelligence-gathering elements were being used but indicated that operations were being conducted in a manner that would not be visible to the Egyptian populace.
The official said the decision to use intelligence-gathering assets came in part after violence erupted in the early days of the Cairo demonstrations. [my emphasis]
Now, it should surprise no one to know that the US has been collecting signals intelligence from Egypt. We would be focusing on Egypt anyway because of our Israeli and counterterrorism interests. And SIGINT will undoubtedly be more important as our relationship with Omar Suleiman shifts along with his position in the government. But normally it’s considered polite not to admit to using SIGINT so blatantly.
What seems to be a key intent of these public admissions of our spying is to disclose to whom we were listening–Mubarak’s family (and presumably other top officials)–and why we shifted our normal focus away from counterterrorism targets–because of Egyptian security forces had used violence against protesters.
In other words, this seems to be a message to top officials in Egypt–both Mubarak and our partners in Egypt’s military–that we’ve shifted our gaze away from counterterrorism and onto the government itself.
I thought we weren’t supposed to tell the people we were eavesdropping on that we were doing so?
Hi there denizens of this strange blog. I am a spooky hacker (No como se Adrian Lamo) and have determined there is far too much negativity in the common daily activities here. I protest. Like an Egyptian. Time to accentuate the positive and eliminate the negative. So here is a little music with which to celebrate what can be accomplished by the youth of a country when they are engaged, mad as hell and not going to take it any more.
For years, we have been trying to figure out what it will take to wake up the American government, Congress, powers that be and get them to return to the ethos of what this country – the United States – is supposed to stand for and exemplify. Instead of watching Obamaco Organizing For America and Move On lamely and pathetically try to suck up and pray the youth will come out and vote for centrist, status quo, Bush-Lite bullshit in 2012, maybe we should be telling and encouraging the youth to figure out where the American version of Tahrir Square is and helping them get there. It is the least we can do. Seriously.
Our generation has borne the climate change deniers, Tea Party, evolution deniers, Andrew Breitbart and Fox News horse manure and propounded freaking Barak Obama as the hopey-changey salvation. In short, we are totally fucked. Turn the gig over to our kids and get out of the way. If Egypt has proven anything which can be taken home here, it is that we need to be talkin bout a new generation. We are done and have screwed the pooch big time; it is up to them, but we can help them and “prepare the battlefield”.
Okay. Here is the legal disclaimer. There is no way in hell I was going to post the fucking Bangles, even though I kind of like Walk Like An Egyptian. Not gonna do it. So, Live at Pompeii may not quite be Egyptian, but close enough for rock and roll. By the way, I think Suleiman is Pink.
Back in 2008, David Rose had a fairly explosive article on Condi Rice and Elliot Abrams’ incompetent meddling in Gaza, which he compared to Iran-Contra. Here’s how I summarized its revelations at the time:
The story explains how the Administration pushed an election for the Palestinians, not seeing what every sane observer saw–that Hamas would win. Immediately after the election, Condi started pressuring Mahmoud Abbas to dissolve Parliament. When he refused, the Administration started backing the Fatah strongman, Mohammad Dahlan, in hopes that he could strengthen Fatah and the Palestinian Authority’s security organizations–which had been devastated by Israel during the intifada–sufficiently to overcome Hamas. This set off a civil war between Fatah and Hamas. To end the bloodshed, Saudi’s King Abdullah brokered a national unity government, without warning the US he would do so. In response to Abdullah’s unity government plan, the State Department developed its own $1.27 billion plan, what Hamas considered “a blueprint for a U.S.-backed Fatah coup.” The US handed that plan to Abbas and had him adopt it as if it were his own. Hamas responded by taking over Gaza and capturing the Egyptian weapons intended to strengthen Fatah.
Central to the whole story is how the State Department could have been so stupid as not to see that Hamas would win a democratic election in Gaza in 2006.
Elections for the Palestinian parliament, known officially as the Legislative Council, were originally set for July 2005, but later postponed by Abbas until January 2006.Dahlan says he warned his friends in the Bush administration that Fatah still wasn’t ready for elections in January. Decades of self-preservationist rule by Arafat had turned the party into a symbol of corruption and inefficiency—a perception Hamas found it easy to exploit. Splits within Fatah weakened its position further: in many places, a single Hamas candidate ran against several from Fatah.
“Everyone was against the elections,” Dahlan says. Everyone except Bush. “Bush decided, ‘I need an election. I want elections in the Palestinian Authority.’ Everyone is following him in the American administration, and everyone is nagging Abbas, telling him, ‘The president wants elections.’ Fine. For what purpose?”
The elections went forward as scheduled. On January 25, Hamas won 56 percent of the seats in the Legislative Council.
Few inside the U.S. administration had predicted the result, and there was no contingency plan to deal with it. “I’ve asked why nobody saw it coming,” Condoleezza Rice told reporters. “I don’t know anyone who wasn’t caught off guard by Hamas’s strong showing.”
“Everyone blamed everyone else,” says an official with the Department of Defense. “We sat there in the Pentagon and said, ‘Who the fuck recommended this?’”
But a Wikileaks cable released by Aftenposten may explain why State was taken by surprised.
They may have thought the election itself wouldn’t happen.
On Saturday, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told attendees at a security conference that our torturer, Egyptian Vice President Omar Suleiman, should manage the transition to democracy in Egypt.
She backed off that stance yesterday.
On flight home from Germany, Secy of State Clinton says “we cannot and would not try to dictate any outcome” in Egypt.
Clinton says “I am no expert on the Egyptian constitution,” but if Mubarak resigns, presidential elections would have to be held in 60 days.
#SecClinton today: The transition to #democracy (in #Egypt and elsewhere) will only work if it is deliberate, inclusive and transparent.
Wisner is a lobbyist for Patton Boggs, representing the Government of Egypt.
PJ [Crowley] would have been better served to say somsething like, “having utterly failed in his mission for his country, Wisner has gone back to his day job pushing whatever policy his clients think, regardless of its benefit to America.”
Here’s Fisk’s explanation.
The US State Department and Mr Wisner himself have now both claimed that his remarks were made in a “personal capacity”. But there is nothing “personal” about Mr Wisner’s connections with the litigation firm Patton Boggs, which openly boasts that it advises “the Egyptian military, the Egyptian Economic Development Agency, and has handled arbitrations and litigation on the [Mubarak] government’s behalf in Europe and the US”. Oddly, not a single journalist raised this extraordinary connection with US government officials – nor the blatant conflict of interest it appears to represent.
Patton Boggs states that its attorneys “represent some of the leading Egyptian commercial families and their companies” and “have been involved in oil and gas and telecommunications infrastructure projects on their behalf”. One of its partners served as chairman of the US-Egyptian Chamber of Commerce promoting foreign investment in the Egyptian economy. The company has also managed contractor disputes in military-sales agreements arising under the US Foreign Military Sales Act. Washington gives around $1.3bn (£800m) a year to the Egyptian military.
The key to understanding Omar Suleiman’s statement claiming there is “consensus” in how to move forward in Egypt is to see how he redefines the crisis from being caused by legitimate grievances voiced by the “youth” involved in protests into a lack of security caused by the protests.
All participants of the dialogue arrived at a consensus to express their appreciation and respect for the 25 January movement and on the need to deal seriously, expeditiously and honestly with the current crisis that the nation is facing, the legitimate demands of the youth of 25 January and society’s political forces, with full consideration and a commitment to constitutional legitimacy in confronting the challenges and dangers faced by Egypt as result of this crisis, including: The lack of security for the populace; disturbances to daily life; the paralysis of by public services; the suspension of education at universities and schools; the logistical delays in the delivery of essential goods to the population; the damages to and losses of the Egyptian economy; the attempts at foreign intervention into purely Egyptian affairs and breaches of security by foreign elements working to undermine stability in implementation of their plots, while recognizing that the 25 January movement is a honorable and patriotic movement. [my emphasis]
This paragraph starts out by hailing the January 25 movement, but then says there is consensus that Egypt must both deal with the “legitimate” demands of the movement and “confront the challenges and dangers faced by Egypt as result of this crisis.” Fully half the paragraph lists the perceived threats to security “caused” by the uprising. Predictably, Suleiman doesn’t include police attacks on unarmed citizens among those threats to security.
In other words, Suleiman is saying, “The January 25 movement is honorable, but they have hurt the security of the nation, so the solution largely consists of responding to the threat to security they represent.”
This allows Suleiman to promise that no one will be persecuted for political activities–indeed, “prisoners of conscience” will be released.
2. The Government announces the establishment of a bureau to receive complaints regarding, and commits to immediately release, prisoners of conscience of all persuasions. The Government commits itself to not pursuing them or limiting their ability to engage in political activity.
Which would seem to be an attempt to convince protesters they won’t be prosecuted if they demobilize.
Except that Suleiman makes four different promises to investigate and prosecute those responsible for the alleged breakdown of national security (as defined by Suleiman, not by the protesters):
6. Pursuit of corruption, and an investigation into those behind the breakdown of security in line with the law
7. Restoring the security and stability of the nation, and tasking the police forces to resume their role in serving and protecting the people.
4. Supervisory and judiciary agencies will be tasked with continuing to pursue persons implicated in corruption, as well as pursuing and holding accountable persons responsible for the recent breakdown in security.
5. The state of emergency will be lifted based on the security situation and an end to the threats to the security of society
Along with an implicit promise to use the military to crack down on those who threaten national security.
In addition, all participants in the dialogue saluted the patriotic and loyal role played by our Armed Forces at this sensitive time, and affirmed their aspirations for a continuation of that role to restore of calm, security and stability, and to guarantee the implementation and of the consensus and understandings that result from the meetings of the national dialogue.
The key in all of this is bullet 5 quoted above: the “state of emergency” (and with it the emergency law that limits freedom of assembly and provides alternative legal processes) will only be lifted after “threats to the security of society” have ended. This is contrary to some of the reports that Suleiman had agreed to lift the emergency law that have come out of these meetings. Suleiman has described the protests as being part of the problem, and agreed to lift the emergency only after that problem has been investigated and held accountable. The one exception–his promise to liberalize the media–is limited by his depiction of foreign interference in Egyptian affairs, seeing to suggest foreign media will still be targeted.
In other words, having redefined the protests as the direct cause of the breakdown in security (even quoting Hosni Mubarak’s February 1 speech that did the same), Suleiman has all but promised to use the emergency law to prosecute those who caused that breakdown in security.
I guess that’s just about what we should expect from our torturer.
Update: Mohamed el Baradei has released a statement in response. He is not impressed.
Egyptian opposition figure Mohamed ElBaradei slammed fledgling negotiations on Egypt’s future on Sunday and said he was not invited to the talks.
The Nobel Peace laureate said weekend talks with Egyptian Vice President Omar Suleiman were managed by the same people who had ruled the country for 30 years and lack credibility. He said the negotiations were not a step toward the change protesters have demanded in 12 days of demonstrations calling for the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak.
“The process is opaque. Nobody knows who is talking to whom at this stage,” ElBaradei, the former head of the UN nuclear watchdog, said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
The US secretary of state Hillary Clinton today signalled how far the US has swung its support behind vice-president Omar Suleiman and the transition process he is leading in Egypt.
Clinton was speaking at a security conference in Munich today, where the watchword on Egypt was the need for orderly transition.
In her most striking remarks, the US secretary of state said: “There are forces at work in any society, particularly one that is facing these kind of challenges, that will try to derail or overtake the process to pursue their own agenda, which is why I think it’s important to follow the transition process announced by the Egyptian government, actually headed by vice-president Omar Suleiman.”
This, just hours after Obama reiterated that “it’s not up to us” to determine the future of Egypt.
See the FT for an even more detailed description of Hillary’s address.
Meanwhile, our government appears to be the only entity–aside from Fox News–pushing a totally unconfirmed report that Hillary’s choice to lead Egypt’s “democracy” survived an assassination attempt the other day.
I first learned about the rumor when David Corn reacted on Twitter to a Fox reporter asking about it.
Q: Do you know anything about assassination attempt on #Egypt VP? G: I’m not going to get into that question.//Huh?
I found Robert Gibbs’ response (at least as Corn captured it–the WH has not released a transcript) fascinating. You would think if Gibbs knew the allegation was false, he’d say so in no uncertain terms. If he didn’t know about it, he’d tell reporters he’d get back to them on it. But instead, “I’m not going to get into that question.”
Which is not dissimilar from the way Hillary used this alleged assassination attempt in Munich. In spite of the fact that only Fox has reported it in the US, the German diplomat who at one point seemed to confirm subsequently retracted it, and an Egyptian official has denied it, Hillary used the alleged assassination to support her case that stability is key in the transition to Egyptian “democracy.”
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said at the conference that the news of the assassination attempt reflects the challenges of restoring stability in Egypt.
While I haven’t found a direct transcription of this yet, it appears that, like Gibbs, Hillary acknowledged the existence of an “assassination plot” that only Fox seems to know exists, without directly confirming it, and then used it to emphasize how the danger of such things demonstrates the need for our torturer to oversee a stable transition in Egypt.
I’m having a bit of deja vu this morning. Last time I remember these kinds of linguistic tricks, Dick Cheney and George Bush were using them to convince us to forcibly impose democracy on Iraq in 2002-2003.