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Archive for February, 2011

Egypt – the Soft Coup d’État

Posted by politicalmonkey2010 on February 28, 2011

I am still some what surprised that relatively few people  seem to be calling the outcome of the Egyptian  revolution what it was and is –  a Coup d’État.  This was not about Mubarak stepping down, about Mubarak giving the power to the military, it was a Coup d’État, he was stripped of power.  Not that I have been through many Coup d’États, but if one defines it as:  a sudden overthrow of a government by the military in order to replace a part or all of the previous government, this is what happened.

From the beginning the headlines screamed “Mubarak Steps Down” – this was not a voluntary event by any stretch of the imagination.  The subtle and not so subtle signs were there.

Let me stress that this is purely my speculation, nobody will ever really know what happened for a very long time, as the story continues to unfold more and more pieces of the puzzle are added.  From my perspective and timeline, the following events were significant.

  • When the army rolled into the streets on Jan. 28, and did not stop the protests, the parlor games began in Egypt.  What would the military do?  Everybody knew the fate of this country was in the hands of the military.
  • The next clue that somebody else was in calling the shots came when Mubarak appointed a Vice President on Jan. 29.   For over 30 years Mubarak has never had a V.P. – and since he was at one time the V.P. of Egypt he knows how one moves to the office of President.  Even the choice of VP was not not in Mubarak’s hand.  As Wikileaks reported in a cable dated 2007-04-04, Gamal Mubarak, the son of Egypt’s last Pharaoh viewed  the Minister of Defense Mohamed Hussein Tantawi and EGIS head Omar Suleiman as a threat to his presidential ambitions.  The cable went on to say that Gamal and his clique were angling to get rid of these two men with a cabinet shuffle.  Israel was very comfortable according to another Wikileak’s cable with Suleiman, he was viewed as a known contact.  Other cables leaks indicated that Mubarak had been promising Suleiman for at least 6 years he would be VP. The video below shows Mubarak swearing in VP Suleiman, look at the body language, this was not a happy event.

Immediately after appointing a VP, Suleiman became the spokesperson, news videos showed him addressing the cabinet.  Mubarak was taken out of the picture.  The hope was that appointing a VP, promising not to run for President, sacking the current cabinet and promising constitutional change would be enough to satisfy the protesters.  It was not.

  • The ante was upped significantly when prisoner’s were released throughout the country, and the police had literally disappeared off the streets on Jan. 29.  It is widely believed that this very scenario, the police disappearing, criminals on the streets was planned well in advance, perhaps taken directly from the  Saddam Hussein playbook.    Some say it was the plan that when Gamal took over the “throne” if people protested they would unleash the chaos, terrify people into submission and acceptance, Gamal would then restore order and be  hailed a hero.  The Interior Minister Habib Adly, who is currently under arrest was believed to be the puppet master behind the events.  As wild and outlandish as this may sound to sane an reasonable people, sane and reasonable people have never been consumed with the seduction of power and greed.   Did it make any sense at all when Saddam Hussein lit the oil fields  on fire when he left Kuwait?  This was a regime, a dynasty in its death throes, and nothing was going to be sacred.  Not the country, and not the people.
  • Jan. 30 – helicopters and F16s fly over Tahrir Square.  This was one of the most bizarre events, I remember thinking to myself, he is going to demolish the square and all of those people.

Some of the Arabic papers have in recent days suggested that in fact, it was Mubarak, at Gamal’s  insistence by passed the chain of command, and as Commander in Chief ordered, the tanks on the ground to open fire, and the Air Force to begin assessing the crowd for either using helicopters with machine guns mounted, or literally dropping a bomb on Tahrir Square.  It was Tiananmen Square Egyptian Style.  Robert Fisk, who is a reporter who has covered the middle east for many years,  and has received more British and International Journalism awards than any other foreign correspondent was on the ground reported:

“…But the critical moment came on the evening of 30 January when, it is now clear, Mubarak ordered the Egyptian Third Army to crush the demonstrators in Tahrir Square with their tanks after flying F-16 fighter bombers at low level over the protesters.

Many of the senior tank commanders could be seen tearing off their headsets – over which they had received the fatal orders – to use their mobile phones. They were, it now transpires, calling their own military families for advice. Fathers who had spent their lives serving the Egyptian army told their sons to disobey, that they must never kill their own people.” (Source)

That was the tipping point.  The military was not falling in line, most if not all were in agreement that they would not open fire on their fellow citizens.

  • Feb 2, violent clashes with “Pro Government” protesters broke out.  It was evident to all that these protesters were paid by the National Democratic Party, the ruling party in Egypt.  Some were government employees who were given a choice to either protest or not be paid.  Some were given an incentive, go and protest and we will give you an additional month’s salary.   Some were paid thugs, some were secret police in plain clothes, foreigners were targeted, journalist were targeted.  For the record, never have I felt threatened in Egypt at any time of day or night.   This was not the Egypt I knew for one very simple reason, these were not true Egyptians, these were paid thugs.  During the crisis my neighbors, my business contacts – each and every one of them checked on me continually in person.  Perhaps I am just the village idiot, but to be quite honest I felt safe.
  • A stronger sign that the coup was in place was on Feb. 10 – the Supreme Military Council met without Mubarak present, this was the second time they had met and Mubarak was not present.
  • Finally on Thursday evening General Hassan al-Rawani told the massive crowds  that “everything you want will be realised – all your demands will be met”, the people cried back: “The army and the people stand together – the army and the people are united. The army and the people belong to one hand.”

Everybody, from the Generals to the White House and everybody in between believed Mubarak was going to step down.  He didn’t, what happened?

Rumors were ripe in the Arabic newspapers, while we may never truly know what happened during those final days, there is one fairly safe assumption, Mubarak and his family had ever intention of riding this out.  It was not until Feb. 5, that Mubarak’s son, Gamal resigned from the National Democratic Party.  Keep in mind with the way the constitution was written, there literally was nobody else who would qualify to run for President.  The heir apparent had absolutely no interest in appeasing the protesters, this in  his mind was his rightful throne, and  he was not going to give it up easily.  It was widely assumed that Gamal would be the next President.  I remember sitting with a group of Egyptians watching the news – footage from Alexandria was being shown, posters saying “Yes to Gamal”.   One of the men in the group who was rather ambivalent about the protests leaned forward to look closer at the TV, you could literally see his face change.  He got up, and announced that he was going to go to Tahrir Square and join the protesters.

Reports began to surface that the military had prepared a speech for Mubarak to give, a way for him to exit with some dignity.  Gamal had rewritten the speech several times, and of course no where in the speech that was delivered were the words I am stepping down.  Many newspapers in the region have speculated about the final hours – Gamal and his brother Alaa fought over what was happening.  Alaa blamed Gamal for his father’s predicament, citing his greed for power.   According to palace insiders they almost came to blows.   Not that Alaa was innocent, but it must be said he never sought the power of the office of President.   Material greed was Alaa’s achille’s heel.   Virtually every large business franchise in Egypt he had a percentage in..by hook or by crook, as did all the family.  A famous story is often told in Egypt about the man who had the Peugeot dealership, Wagih Abaza was forced to take Alaa in as a partner.  He called Mubarak the day after Alaa came on board, saying he was trying to ruin everything, he didn’t understand business.  Mubarak shrugged it away and suggested that the man treat him as a son.  The next day he dropped dead.

It was a very polite Coup d’État, it was designed to try to give Mubarak a dignified exit, which Mubarak and his sons managed to ruin for themselves. Instead what was given was a refusal to step down.  I was so busy with the translation it wasn’t until much later we I re-watched it, that the poor editing job was evident, and the body language reflected a man at odds with himself.  The video below is in Arabic, there are plenty out there with translations, but sometimes it is insightful just to listen to the cadence of the voice, the body language, the editing..


It became immediately evident that he was no going any where, and as the crowd erupted and the anger grew, many started to march toward one of the Presidential palaces.  It was Thursday night,  many reported General Tantawi came out of the Presidential Palace and started passing out candy to the crowd.  A strange event to be sure, but let’s be honest, it was par for the course, nothing was predictable.  Speculation is that after the airing of Mubarak’s speech, where he did not step down, the military told him it was over.

Finally, in the video below, VP Suleiman, gives what can only be described as the briefest of speeches, to announce that Mubarak has stepped down and given control of the country to the Military Supreme Council.  Believe it or not that is not what caught the eyes of the Egyptians.  Who was the man standing behind Suleiman?  His eyes constantly moving…Egyptians with their delightful sense of humor were having a field day.  Finally, the mystery was revealed via Facebook.    “The guy behind Omar Suleiman” was none other than Egyptian army Lieutenant Colonel Hussein Sharif, commander of Group 64 of Egyptian Special Forces.  Lieutenant Colonel Sharif’s son identified his father on his Facebook page, and called on people to apologize for their remarks.  Which they did, many Facebook users expressed their regret for ridiculing the army officer, and paid their respects to him, writing “this man is an honorable army officer and deserves all the respect” and “”we respect all the armed forces for protecting the revolution and protecting the homeland” with a more lighthearted poster wrote “he [Lieutenant Colonel Hussein Sharif] is the greatest, and I wish I was the guy standing behind Omar Suleiman!”

Maybe nobody wants to call it what it was… a Coup d’État.  That conjures up all kinds of negative images..military juntas, martial law.  Egypt’s last Pharaoh, last Dynasty did not step down, but was quietly, politely taken down ultimately by the military, they tried to give one of their own an honorable exit and let the speech read that Mubarak had stepped down.   The problem with trying to give somebody honor  when they have lost the ability to act with honor is becoming more and more evident with each passing day, with each additional investigation.  Much like buying a house and deciding to paint it, when you start to do the prep work and scrape away the paint on the surface, you find out underneath all that paint is nothing but pure rot.  It was a soft a Coup d’État, I do not believe that the military has any intention of staying in “power”, I think at this point their intentions are honorable, and they have done exactly what they have said they would do to date.


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Iranian Warships Pass Thru Suez Canal – Israel Angered

Posted by politicalmonkey2010 on February 22, 2011

This will be a relatively short posting.  Iranian warships have passed through the Suez Canal, and Israel is angry.  And?  While Israel is concerned about the  new Egyptian government honoring its peace treaty with Israel it evidently doesn’t extend that same concern to honoring any other international treaties?  The bottom line is: Under international treaty, it may be used “in time of war as in time of peace, by every vessel of commerce or of war, without distinction of flag.  Period. End of Story. Deal with it.



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Why Suspending the Egyptian Constitution and Dissolving Parliament Are Good Things

Posted by politicalmonkey2010 on February 15, 2011

Tareq al Bishry

Contrary to what the right wing may be chattering about, suspending the Egyptian constitution and dissolving parliament are very good things.

The way the Constitution is written, it is very carefully crafted to ensure that in reality in a Presidential election, the only person running, able to run was either Mubarak or his heir apparent Gamal.  If there is one thing Mubarak did and did well, was crush any opposition parties, Muslim or not.    If you were not part of the National Democratic Party (NPD) you were not part of the political process.    In a recent statement the Military Supreme Council made  decisions aimed to safeguard the transparency of presidential and parliamentary elections that should be held within the next six months.  An The eight-member committee held its first meeting on Tuesday to discuss possible ways of amending six articles of the national charter.  The fact that this panel is headed by Judge Tarek al-Beshry, a moderate Islamist writer, seems to be grist for the right wing food mill.  Let’s be very clear, 90% of the Egyptians are Muslims, it is a part of their life, just like the vast majority of Americans are Christians.  The fear card that is being played is a non-starter.

The panel  is expected to draft the constitutional amendments by 25 February, paving the way for more democratic reforms long demanded by the opposition.  The current Egyptian constitution was written during Anwar Sadat’s presidency, and has been amended three times since then–in 1980, in 2005 and in 2007. This constitution served to consolidate power in the hands of the presidency at the expense of all other branches of government.  The panel is in place to  consider the abolition of Article 179, along with amending articles 88, 77, 76, 189, 93, and all other relevant articles which may need to be removed to ensure the transparency of the electoral process.

Article 77 of the Constitution does not set a limit for presidency periods, hence Mubarak  managed 30 years..

Article 88 oversight over the elections

Article 93 meanwhile grants parliament sole authority for determining the legitimacy of MPs’ memberships.

Article 189 gives the president and the People’s Assembly an exclusive right to amend the constitution.

Article 179 on counter-terrorism restricts people’s freedoms and rights.

It is a good start.  There is much work to still be done, but given the rapid chain of events, it is remarkable that the process is going forward.

Dissolving Parliament

Given that the last parliamentary elections and blatant electoral fraud, it really is the only solution.  Another caveat with dissolving parliament is – it strips the members of the automatic immunity they received from any criminal investigations and prosecutions.  Yes, you read that right.  If you were a member of parliament, you could not be prosecuted for a crime.  We have already seen bank accounts and assets of some members and ministers frozen at home and abroad.  While there will be many interesting stories to watch unfold…I would keep an eye out for Ahmed Ezz, the steel tycoon who  had a virtual monopoly on steel in Egypt.   Former interior minister Habib al-Adli, information minister Anas el-Fekky and tourism minister Zaher Garana have been forbidden to leave the country…the list goes on, it is extensive.

I have a feeling that when the fat cats start to fall, they are not going to go down alone, and will take everybody down with them, including the Gamal and Alaa Mubarak.  Swiss authorities have already taken steps to freeze accounts and potential accounts of the Mubarak family.   The Egyptian government has asked the United States to freeze the financial assets of some officials from that country, while details are murky on exactly whose assets are being frozen, there is a pattern developing here…..

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Reflections on the Egyptian Revolution – The Military and Hero Status

Posted by politicalmonkey2010 on February 14, 2011

Egyptian man embraces the militaryI remember when I first saw the military entering into the streets of Cairo, I had foreboding feeling deep in the pit of my stomach.  The rumble of the tanks on the road made me fear the worst.  Certainly a sign of a regime in its final death throes,  a desperation move.  The fighter jets making my windows shake,  flying over  Tahrir Square so low the crowd could see the pilot.  Military helicopters circling the protesters in the Square.  The police had virtually disappeared, what was to come?  Was he going to unleash the military on the people and violently squash the voice of the people?  Yet, while the tanks were rolling into the city, the crowd was electrified shouting “the people and the army are one.”  I admit at the time I had my doubts.  The talk on the streets from the beginning said the fate of the country will be in the hands of the military, that seemed to be a foregone conclusion.

I was trying to get my head around what I was witnessing, some where in my life conditioning military tanks and protesters made for a violent outcome, not a love-fest.  As I engaged in conversations with friends and neighbors trying desperately to understand WHY they were finding comfort in seeing the military on the streets they gave me quite an education.  It is one thing to read history,  I knew the history of Egypt on an intellectual level,  but to talk to people who had actually lived through it, their experiences, the raw emotion puts it completely different slant on it.  Egyptians are by nature passionate people, the love for their country runs deep, to the core of their being.  As an older neighbor told me his views on modern Egyptian history, and his eyes well with tears as he recounted it, I began to understand.   He had lived through  he 1952 Revolution, where the British occupation and King Farouk were ousted in a coup d’état.   The 1967 War was viewed as a “humiliating” event for Egypt.  Nasser the President at the time, offered his resignation, saying he had failed the people.  The people took to the streets and demanded he stay.  During the years that followed the people supported the build up of the military, and the military restored Egypt’s sense of pride and dignity when in 1973  Sinai was liberated.  The people supported the military in failure and in now in victory, that bond is viewed as unbreakable. The overwhelming sense of  the military is from and of the people is firmly embedded in psyche of the Egyptian people.

The military has played a significant role in the history of modern Egypt:   all of Egypt’s modern day leaders have come up through the ranks of the military. Virtually every family in Egypt has a son serving in the military from one to three years depending on education and skill level, not to mention those who choose the military as a career. Everybody I spoke to had absolutely no doubt that the military would not turn on the people of Egypt.  I still had my doubts, and watched suspiciously as they took up positions.

I was on edge as I watched the military NOT moving in on the protesters.  I watched more tanks roll in, more troops trucks being deployed through out the city.  When they rolled into my neighborhood I could not shake the uneasy feeling that came over me.  I happened to be downstairs bringing my neighborhood watch team tea and cookies when a young army Captain came into the neighborhood.  He was smiling, his hand extended, the neighborhood erupted in cheers of welcome and praise.   He was greeted like a son,  he spent a few minutes, thanked the neighborhood watch for doing such a good job and offered some instructions.  When he left you could feel the bond, the trust.  A completely different atmosphere than the police received  from the citizens.  That is when it  hit me, the military is literally the only credible, trust worthy institution in the country.  The chants of the crowd began to make sense, and I noticed there was also an almost intuitive line that the crowd would not cross with the military.  While some  protesters near the end marched to one of the Presidential Palaces, they did not stay, it was almost as if they knew how far they could push as well.  Mubarak was still in theory the Commander in Chief and those soldiers around his palace were hand picked.

I stared in awe at people sleeping under the enormous tanks in Tahrir Square to prevent them from moving…surreal was the word that kept going through my mind.  I watched in amazement as people wrote messages on the tanks – No to Mubarak, No to Sulieman,  Down with Mubarak…

As the analysis continued on cable networks, some saying the military was divided, the old guard was not ready for change, and the up and coming young officers supported  the change, it made it increasingly difficult for me to determine who the military was going to support.  Ultimately it came down to a moral decision, this “revolution” was not a foreign country invading, it was the Egyptian people speaking.  The military was placed in some what of an awkward position, the Commander in Chief had a glorious military record, a hero as a matter of fact, and they wanted him to have a dignified exit.  Actually I believe the vast majority of the Egyptian people also wanted this, but that was not to be.  I remember when a highly placed General went into the crowd and told the people “Inshallah, you will have everything you asked”, this was before Mubarak’s last speech.  I truly believe that a deal had been brokered to give Mubarak a way out, and at the last minute the man who once said “I have a PHD in being obstinate” changed the speech.  Everybody was caught off guard, from the US to the Egyptian people and the military.  The military risked its credibility with the people when that General went into the protesters, not to mention what ever action occurred behind the scenes with various governments.

About 4 a.m. Friday morning I received along with the rest of the nation a message from the Military, informing us of an important announcement soon to come.  As Friday dawned, and the streets were so angry at a defiant Mubarak, memorial services were scheduled after Friday prayers, and a call had went out for more protesters to join.  Coptic Christians made sure that the world knew this was not an Islamic movement, they showed their support and offered Mass in the Square.  Two different religions, speaking with one very clear voice, we are Egyptian.  Make no mistake, the military is made up of both Christians and Muslims, but first and foremost, they are Egyptian.

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When it was announced that the Mubarak had resigned and the military was in charge, there was literally a collective sigh of relief, and at the same time a deafening cheer rocked the country.  The military is a safe institution for Egyptians, they are respected, and to date they have done exactly what they said they would do.  While to the Western mind the military conjures up all kinds of fears, I can assure you this is not the case in Egypt.  The military members are the sons of Egypt.

In a series of statements below the Supreme Council of the Armed forces in short, has suspended the constitution, which given the way it was written there was no ability to have free and fair elections, so it was absolutely useless in going forward.  It has reaffirmed all of the international treaties, which should put Israel at ease, it has called for people to go back to work – this is critical that this country resume business.  Throughout the process they have continually reaffirmed a transition to democracy, free and fair elections.  There is no “democracy in a box”, we as Americans forget that when our country started we were not in agreement, a constitution had to be hammered out.   The chatter I hear about there is no constitution, nothing has changed it is unfounded.  Things are not nice and tidy in a revolution, but unlike Iraq and Afghanistan, this is change is coming from within, give Egypt a chance and you will be amazed at what she can do.


The 6th Communiqué of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces ( Feb 14,2011)


In light of the current conditions in the country, and the Armed Forces responsibility for the protection of the people who have demanded their legitimate rights, and now that, with God’s help, conditions are now appropriate to facilitate the democratic process through the issuing of a constitutional proclamation that will guarantee constitutional and legislative amendments that will realize the legitimate demands of the people for a true democratic environment. Nonetheless, it has been noticed that in certain sectors of the state demonstrations have been organized even though normality has been restored, and under conditions where it is expected that all groups and sectors of society would work together to support this positive progress and the efforts of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces to realized the ambitions and aspirations of the people. Honorable Egyptians regard these demonstrations taking place at a critical moment as leading to negative consequences, including:First: Harming national security by disturbing all the institutions and the agencies of the state. 

Second: Negatively impacting the ability to supply the public with necessary goods.

Third: Disturbing and disrupting production and operations in the state.

Fourth: Delaying the public’s day-to-day life.

Fifth: Negatively impacting the national economy.

Sixth: Creating an atmosphere that gives the opportunity to irresponsible persons to commit illegitimate acts, a situation that requires that all citizens to work together to stabilize the country and prevent further impacts on the national economy and its development.

The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces with a view to achieving the security and stability of the nation and the people, and to guarantee the restoration of operations in all institutions of the state, calls on citizens and professional and labor unions to fulfill their respective duties, while recognizing the difficulties which they have long faced. We hope that everyone will work to create the necessary conditions to deal with this critical phase until authority is transferred to a legitimate and popularly elected civilian authority that will be responsible for democratic and developmental progress.

God is the source of success and support.

The 5th Communiqué of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (on Saturday, Feb 13/2011)

(still looking for a good translation)

The Supreme Council of Armed Forces announced on Sunday the suspension of constitution and the dissolution of the People’s Assembly and Shura Council.

In a communiqué number five broadcast live on state television, the council decided to form a committee to draft a new constitution for the country.

It said it would run the affairs of the country on a temporary basis for six months or until the end of parliamentary and presidential elections, promising a referendum on political reforms.

The communiqué said the military would form a panel to rewrite the constitution, which effectively locked down power for the National Democratic Party (NDP), and submit it to a referendum.

The statement also confirmed that the chairman of the supreme military council, Minister of Defence and Military Production Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, is now the de facto head of state and represents Egypt on the international stage.

According to the statement, the Supreme Council for Armed Forces promised to abide by all regional and international treaties Egypt had signed.

The 4th Communiqué of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (on Saturday, Feb 12/2011)

In the name of God the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful,

The fourth statement of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces,

In light of the conditions that exist in the country, and the difficult times that have placed Egypt at a juncture that demands of us all to defend the stability of the nation, and the achievements of the people; And due to the fact that the current phase requires a reordering of the priorities of the state with the objective of meeting the legitimate demands of the people, and of delivering the nation from the current situation; And as the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces is aware that the rule of law is not only necessary for the freedom of the individual, but rather it is the only legitimate basis for authority; And with determination, clarity, and faith in all our national, regional and international responsibilities, and with recognition of God’s rights and in the name of God, and with His support, the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces announces the following:

First: The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces is committed to all matters included in its previous statements.

Second: The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces is confident in the ability of Egypt’s people and institutions to get through this critical situation, and to that end, all agencies of the state, and the private sector must play their noble and patriotic role to drive the economy forward, and the people must fulfill their responsibility towards that goal.

Third: The current government, and governors shall continue as a caretaker administration until a new government is formed.

Fourth: The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces aspires to guaranteeing a peaceful transition of authority within a free and democratic system that allows for the assumption of authority by a civilian and elected authority to govern the country and the build of a democratic and free state.

Fifth: The Arab Republic of Egypt is committed to all regional and international obligations and treaties.

Sixth: The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces calls on the great people to cooperate with their siblings and children in the civilian police forces, for affection and cooperation must exist between everyone, and it calls on the civilian police forces must be committed to their slogan “the police serve the people”.

God is the source of success.


The 3rd Communiqué of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (on Friday, Feb 11/’11 – about 10pm Cairo time)

At this historical juncture in the history of Egypt , and in light of the decision by President Mohamed Hosni Mubarak to relinquish the office of the presidency of the Republic and the tasking of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces with the administration of the affairs of the nation , and with awareness of the seriousness of the demands of our great people everywhere for fundamental change , the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces is examining this matter, asking the aid of God Almighty, to fulfill the aspirations of our great people. The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces will issue further statements that will announce forthcoming steps, measures and arrangements, and it affirms at the same time that it is not a replacement for the legitimacy that is acceptable to the people.

The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces extends its highest salutations and appreciation to President Mohamed Hosni Mubarak for his services over the course of his career in war and peace, and for the patriotic decision he took in choosing the supreme interests of the nation. In this respect, the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces extends its highest salutations and admiration to the souls of the martyrs who sacrificed their lives for the freedom and security of their country, and to every one of our great people. May God grant us success.

May God’s Peace, mercy and blessing be upon you.

The 2nd Communiqué of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (on Thursday, Feb 11/’11 – about 4pm)

Due to the consecutive developments in current incidents and which define the destiny of the country, and in context of continuous follow up for internal and external incidents, and the decision to delegate responsibilities to the vice president of the country, and in belief in our national responsibility to preserve the stability and safety of the nation.

The Supreme Council of the Egyptian Armed Forces decided to secure the implementation of the following procedures:

First: End the state of emergency as soon as the current circumstances are over.

Decide on the appeals against elections and consequent measures.

Conduct needed legislative amendments and conduct free and fair presidential elections in light of the approved constitutional amendments.

Second: The Armed forces are committed to sponsor the legitimate demands of the people and achieving them by following on the implementation of these procedures in the defined time frames with all accuracy and seriousness and until the peaceful transfer of authority is completed towards a free democratic community that the people aspire to.

Third: The Armed Forces emphasize on no security pursuit of the honest people who refused the corruption and demanded reforms, and warns against touching the security and safety of the nation and the people. And emphasizes the need for regular work in state facilities and regaining of life to normal to preserve the interests and possessions of our great people.

God protect the nation and the people.

The 1st Communiqué of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces(On Thursday, Feb 10/’11 – about 5pm)

Statement of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces
Based on the responsibility of the Armed Forces, and its commitment to protect the people, and to oversee their interests and security, and with a view to the safety of the nation and the citizenry, and of the achievements and properties of the great people of Egypt, and in affirmation and support for the legitimate demands of the people, the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces convened Thursday, 10 February 2011, to consider developments to date, and decided to remain in continuous session to consider what procedures and measures that may be taken to protect the nation, and the achievements and aspirations of the great people of Egypt.

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Reflections on the Egyptian Revolution – The Power of the Media

Posted by politicalmonkey2010 on February 13, 2011

If the pen is mightier than the sword, then a picture and live footage is mightier than a nuclear bomb.  It is one thing to read an article in a newspaper or magazine about an uprising, about people being shot in the street, it is a completely different thing to see it.  In some cases see it live, raw and unedited.  Without a doubt the media coverage of Egypt’s revolution was a major factor.  In all reality it may have very well prevented more bloodshed and more deaths.  I wonder if they had actually managed to get rid of the journalist,  what degree of violence would have ensued?  They were acutely aware that the world was watching.  Perhaps in a rare moment of lucidity the regime, Mubarak in particular realized his legacy was being written, and would not risk another Tiananmen Square moment aired lived to the world.   The regime acknowledged the power of the press  in several ways, first by shutting down the internet and cell phone, then  calling for people to turn off  satellite news, and finally targeting journalist, roughing them up, arresting them.  The power of media, including social media is a threat to any regime who stifles freedom of expression.

Al Jazeera became a household name across the world with their non stop coverage and live internet streaming in English.  Their offices were looted and ransacked, journalist arrested.  There is a history between Al Jazeera and the regime that is not particularly flattering, these two entities have long been battling each other.  Their journalistic credentials have been pulled on numerous occasions.  The US  government has a history of tension with Al Jazeera.   Many Americans got their first exposure to the network after the September 11, 2001, attacks, when it broadcast a taped message from Osama bin Laden, its logo emblazoned in the corner of the screen. The former secretary of defense, Donald Rumsfeld, once accused it of spreading ”vicious, inaccurate and inexcusable” reports about US actions in Iraq.  Al-Jazeera accused the US of intentionally firing missiles at its offices in Kabul, Afghanistan, in 2001 and in Baghdad in 2003.  I remember watching Al Jazeera in Arabic during the Hezbollah crisis in Lebanon – at the time I thought these people are like the National Enquirer but on TV.  They would make announcements like 10,000 rockets have been fired into Israel – giving the impression that it had just occurred, when the reality was that over a period of 30 days 10,00o rockets had been fired.  It was spin, it was sensationalism. (Reminds me of a certain right wing group of people in the US..but I digress.)  The bottom line is Al Jazeera has an audience of about 60 million people in the middle east.  The Obama administration realizes this and Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, Secretary of State  Clinton and Adm. Michael G. Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, all have appeared on the network’s Arabic and English channels in the last year. Tony Berman, Al Jazeera’s chief strategic advisor for the Americas, said that multiple meetings with U.S. officials have smoothed the relationship. Clinton had a frank, one-hour discussion with Al Jazeera’s top executives during a visit to Qatar a year ago that seemed to clear the air.  “The cold war that existed between the Bush administration and Al Jazeera has totally ended,” Berman said. “Now it’s a professional relationship between an aggressive government and an aggressive news organization.”

As I flipped like a wild woman between Al Jazeera, CNN, BBC, Al Arabia, and state run TV, and internet streaming news, including Fox… I would have to say that CNN and BBC did an outstanding job on their coverage.

What  struck me on CNN –  is the difference between CNN International and CNN USA.  Several times during the past 18 days CNN USA jointly covered the events at times with CNN International it was painfully evident that CNN’s USA staff just did not have an intimate understanding of the geopolitics, or an understanding of the local population.  I did in fact, tune in Fox online, and promptly turned it off when it became clear that they could not find Egypt on a map, and the main talking point was an Islamic uprising.  Fox coverage was an epic fail in journalism.

There are some journalist that really deserve recognition:

CNN’s Ben Wedeman.  Wedeman has lived in Cairo for over 15 years, he is fluent in Arabic, he understands the geopolitics of the middle east and obviously has an intimate understanding of Egypt, it is after all his home.  His commentaries were insightful and accurate.  Hala Gorani, another outstanding journalist for CNN is also fluent in Arabic, and hosts a show called I-Desk, a look at the international news.  Arwa Damon, another journalist who was able to get out into the crowds, talk directly to the people, without using an interpreter, making that personal connection.  Being fluent in the language and culture is vital.  Nic Robertson in Alexandria did an outstanding job.  Anderson Cooper certainly got a taste of the regime’s influence.  BBC  international correspondent Lyse Doucet, again another journalist who understands the culture and the geopolitics  of the region.  She is an award winning journalist for a reason.  The entire CNN and BBC team defined solid journalism and commitment to truth.

State TV – at times I would tune into state tv for more of its comic relief value.  Literally outside their window were crowds of protesters chanting “Mubarak must go!” and they were talking about Nile Cruises, Valley of the Kings or the Great Pyramids of Giza.  When the “news” came on it was absolutely surreal, mind boggling, the distortion, the out right lies.  I was absolutely fascinated, mesmerized and had to applaud what I could only think of in terms of theater, because there was absolutely no connection to reality.

But this is par for the course with state media.  The last time Mubarak was in the US, they took it upon themselves to alter reality with the following “adjustments” … here is the picture that appeared in the newspapers and on state TV, where Mr. Mubarak “leads” the group of international heads of state.

Here’s the reality:

When confronted with the evidence, the state offered a simple explanation, that really we were just illustrating that President Mubarak is a respected and revered leader…uh, huh.

Finally, with great relief Shahira Amin, a long time journalist with Nile TV offered her resignation.  She said she was on her way into work, and heard the chanting of the crowds and knew she could not continue to ignore facts.  She offered her resignation and joined the ranks of the protesters.  You can follow her on facebook at http://www.facebook.com/people/Shahira-Amin/520551813

In what I can only term the ultimate in irony, on Thursday when the world was anticipating Mubarak to step down, the Minister of Information, kept issuing the statement that Mubarak is not stepping down.  This was an institution that had absolutely no credibility, and the one time they were right, being truthful,  nobody paid any attention.

On Friday, just hours before Mubarak resigned, thousands chanted in front of the heavily guarded state TV building, preventing employees from entering. “The liars are here, where is Al-Jazeera?” some chanted, showing their preference for the satellite TV channel.  On Thursday reporters and editors at Al-Ahram demanded that the editor-in-chief be fired over the negative coverage of the protests. They demanded the newspaper run a front-page apology for what Hanan Haggag, a senior editor, called the “very unethical coverage.”  On Saturday, after Mubarak’s resignation, state TV issued a statement carried by Egypt’s Middle East News Agency, “congratulating the Egyptian people for their pure great revolution, lead by the best of the Egyptian youth.”  “Egyptian TV will be honest in carrying its message,” the statement said. “Egyptian TV is owned by the people of Egypt and will be in their service.”

Finally, you cannot deny the impact of social media on this Revolution.  Launched on Facebook, Tweeted across the world has forever changed the face of Egypt.  Even with turning off the access to the internet, it was too late.  The morning after the internet and cell phones were shut down I was having a cup of coffee on my balcony wondering what the day would bring when I heard  yelling “Ya Ahmed, yella! (Ahmed, let’s go).  I looked down and saw two young men wrapped in Egyptian flags calling to my neighbor, ready to go down to Tahrir Square.  My eyes welled with tears, and  I prayed,  I  prayed for the safety of my neighbor, his friends, and for the Egyptians that took to the streets in pursuit of liberty.

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WOW!! Egypt

Posted by politicalmonkey2010 on February 11, 2011

So much to say, but for now…my love, heart and support to the people of Egypt.  I witnessed today an ancient civilization taking it’s first breaths of liberty in 30 years…and I heard them yell Freedom!

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Egypt’s Tahrir Square – Love Finds a Way

Posted by politicalmonkey2010 on February 7, 2011

This brought a tear to a munky’s eye…in the midst of chaos and uncertainty one couple make the commitment.

Dr. Ahmad Zaafan, a pharmacologist, and Oula Abdul Hamid were married Sunday in the square where they have been camping out since Jan. 28, Gulf News.com reported.

“I am worried because my parents could not come to attend the party, but happy that all Egyptians and Arabs have witnessed my marriage and we both received blessings and congratulations from all over the world,” Zaafan told the Web site.

Hamid said she could not have chosen a better venue for the wedding ceremony.

“I am very happy about the idea of tying the wedding knot in this holy square, which is witnessing the rebirth of our nation,” she said.

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Egypt: The Impact on the Micro Level or What a Difference a Day Makes

Posted by politicalmonkey2010 on February 7, 2011

The stats started pouring in with regards to the amount of money that is being lost in Egypt during these protests.  Oil started creeping up..stock markets rattled, Nile River boat cruise ships are standing idle, the pyramids are empty, banks closed for a week, the Egyptian stock market still closed.  It is easy to track the financial impact of registered businesses, it is much more difficult to track the alternate side of the Egyptian job market which is huge.  But let me take to the micro level.

The vast majority of people live hand to mouth on a daily basis.  So one day without work is a significant event.  I spend quite a bit of time at the pyramids, I have a client in the area, he has a jewelry shop.  His youngest employee is a little boy named Mohamed, he is 12 years old.  His job is to get tea and refreshments  for visitors, run errands, and  sweep up the shop.  Mohamed is paid about $2.50 a day, plus any tips he gets from tourists.    The first time I met him, I chewed the owner of the shop, saying this child should be in school.  Then he told me Mohamed’s story.  Mohamed’s father died two years ago.  He and his other brother are the sole income for his family of five.  Mohamed goes to public school a few hours a day, of course those schools are closed now…and so is the jewelry shop.  There are no tourists, so they have decided to close for a week.  That means half the income to Mohamed’s family is now gone.

In the past few years the area around the pyramids has been fenced in with a huge chain link fence, but on the other side of the fence, you will find small children hawking their wares.  Postcards, little charms, papyrus..and in English they will ask you, where are you from?  What’s your name?  They will tell you the price of their wares “it’s only 10 Egyptian pounds”.  They have no income now, and these kids share something with Mohamed, the family depends on their income.   In that bizarre show of camels and horses charging into Tahrir square, these are the people at the pyramids who rent camels and horses.  No tourists mean no income.

If you take a Nile Cruise to Luxor when you hit the port of Esna, the boat stops to go through a loch, and much to the delight and surprise of the passengers the boat is surrounded by small rowboats with vendors hawking their wares.  With expert aim, they are throwing up blankets, scarves, and a variety of other textile items to the passengers on the deck and haggling over the price.  Merchandise and money are flying back and forth, for the record I have never seen any of them hit the water.  There are no cruises going on now.

So while we digest the huge dollar amounts being lost officially, let us not forget the cost to those who are all too often forgotten, the poor.

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Out of the Mouth of Babes….

Posted by politicalmonkey2010 on February 6, 2011

This Video went Viral in Saudi…

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The Unowned Cake and the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt

Posted by politicalmonkey2010 on February 6, 2011

Whose cake is it anyway?

The world is glued to Egypt and the outcome with good cause.  The fall out effect of this is certainly rocking the middle east and the world, a new paradigm is in motion, and it cannot be stopped.  There are a million reasons why this happened, and there will be plenty of time to analyze those reasons, but I want to address the fear card of the Muslim Brotherhood, the fears around it, and what the average every day Egyptian thinks.

The Muslim Brotherhood has been around since 1928.  Like all groups it has evolved.  They are not a recognized political party in Egypt.  The Brotherhood has renounced violence.  There are plenty of sites, including their own for you to do research on..but I want to focus on the views of the average Egyptians that I know.

Popular statistics say 30% of the people support the Brotherhood, in my demographic breakdown of adult Muslims I personally know range from ages 18 and  up, included are illiterate to highly educated people.   I know of  NOT one who supports the Brotherhood.  I know some  very devout Muslims.  One in particular is so conservative, when he shakes my hand he pulls his shirt sleeve all the way down to cover his hand, so our skin never touches.  This is simply out of respect, nothing more, nothing less.  Having said all of that, let me try to put things in perspective.

There were a variety of miscalculations on the part of the government starting  from under estimated the anger of the people.  Was this Mubarak’s fault?  Or was he so heavily insulted that he was truly unaware?  I don’t have that answer.  Shutting off the internet and cell phones.  I recall a young man in my neighborhood who said he was not going to participate in the demonstrations until his cell phone and internet connection went dead.  That enraged him.  I think it enraged alot of people and added fuel to the fire.  The anger toward the police which has been building for decades.  Much like a dog who is kicked and beaten daily, sometimes that dog gets tired of being kicked and bites back, the people bit back.  The list goes on…

This revolution, uprising, revolt – what ever term you want to call it was started by the youth of the country, just as most revolutions are, and they did a damn fine job.  Their voices were heard,  their cause was and is legitimate.  The demands are being met, compromise has been made, the government obviously has a a credibility issue, but let’s capsulize what has happened:

  1. Mubarak appointed a Vice President, something he had never done in 30 years was a significant event.
  2. The old cabinet being sacked.
  3. Members of the old cabinet being investigated, accounts frozen, travel restricted – significant.
  4. Opening of dialogue between opposition leaders and government.
  5. Mubarak’s speech, which arguably was delivered about 4 days too late, did in fact have an impact.  Here was their President of 30 years, a proud man, humbled and doing something nobody ever thought they would see – he said he would not stand for election again.
  6. Gamal Mubarak resigning from the NDP – this would have been better had it happened earlier.
  7. Omar Sulieman addressing the nation, answering questions of the press.  I don’t recall that type of press conference in Egypt.

Given the above mentioned events, I think the average Egyptian, the silent majority as they have been called, those not down in Tahrir Square, but those watching from their home were satisfied.  Gas was poured on the quieting fire with the thugs in the street, the violence of the Pro Gov’t protesters (who let’s be honest nobody is quite sure who or where they came from  and that will be an interesting story to watch that develop.)

As I said before this was the youth that started this protest – the Muslim Brotherhood was no where to be seen.  A friend of mine said…this is the unowned cake – this revolution, there is no one clear leader, and now everybody wants to claim it as their own.  Only once the momentum took hold did the Brotherhood bother to show up.  The average Egyptian has absolutely no use for the Brotherhood, they view them as a pariah, opportunists.  They are the ones that are not willing to meet with Omar Sulieman, they are towing the hard line.  Latest  news indicates they may in fact be willing to talk..a fluid situation to be sure.

If you look at the crowds today in Tahrir, they are not the same faces they were in the beginning, it is an older crowd, there are more banners that are showing up saying “Islam is the way.”  Yes, a Muslim would agree that Islam is the way, just as a Christian would agree that Christianity is the way, and a Jew would say Judaism is the way.    The average Muslim Egyptian I know will say …yes Islam is the way, but not the way the Brotherhood applies Islam.  It should not be imposed on people,  Islam was never intended to be forced on anybody.  They believe that this movement is starting to be hijacked by people who had no “skin in the game” to begin with, as one Egyptian told me the rats are starting to come from the holes, seeing an opportunity.  While the Egyptian streets are ripe with rumors, there does seem to be a consensus that  the people in the square are being used by the Brotherhood.   El Baradei has chosen to align himself with the Brotherhood, I think he just shot himself in the foot politically with the people.  To begin with  he is viewed as an outsider – he has lived outside of Egypt for too many years…and his chosen alignment further alienates main stream Egyptians.

If free and fair elections were held today in Egypt, the Brotherhood would in fact take some votes, but certainly not the majority.  If given the chance to run for parliamentary seats they would in fact take some – just like in the US, we have right wing nut jobs and left wing nut jobs, Egypt would have the Brotherhood.  They are in fact part of the population, but NOT the  majority of the population.  In a true democracy, all voices are represented, whether you agree with them or not.  The fear card of the Muslim Brotherhood is being played by those who have the most to lose or gain.  Politics are indeed strange bedfellows.

Egypt must create her own brand of democracy, it is not Iran, it is not Iraq.  This democracy is being born from the children of Egypt.  Those children are from all walks of life and faith.  In every society there are undesirable elements.  I have great faith in the Egyptian people, they have watched Iran and Iraq, they do not want to follow them.  The cost of this revolution economically and socially has been great, blood and lives have been lost.  The price has been dear.

Egypt will be back, it will be back stronger and more vibrant.

By the way…if I were a betting Munky, I’d put my money on Amr Moussa if he runs..

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