Monday, July 15, 2013

In Egypt: 'Deep State' and Opposition Joined Forces To Plot Coup

Meetings Between Generals and Opposition Leaders Show The Workings Of An Assortment Of Forces That Wield Tremendous Influence


The message: If the opposition could put enough protesters in the streets, the military would step in—and forcibly remove the president.
"It was a simple question the opposition put to the military," said Ahmed Samih, who is close to several opposition attendees. "Will you be with us again?" The military said it would. Others familiar with the meetings described them similarly.
By June 30, millions of Egyptians took to the streets, calling for Mr. Morsi to go. Three days later, the military unseated him.
Suggestions that Mr. Morsi's overthrow was planned in advance, as opposed to an emergency response, have implications for U.S. aid. "If there was evidence this…was blatantly premeditated, then it would put more pressure to cut off aid on the [Obama] administration, which is currently trying to avoid having to label this a coup d'état," said Josh Stacher, a Kent State University political science professor and Egypt expert.
The meetings between the generals and opposition leaders also show the workings of what is known in Egypt as the "deep state"—an assortment of long-standing political and bureaucratic forces that wield tremendous influence. A military spokesman, Col. Ahmed Ali, acknowledged that "there was a process of getting to know people that previously the military had little dealings with."
The secret meetings between the military and secular opposition parties were key to the political chess game leading to Mr. Morsi's departure. The meetings represented a strange-bedfellows rapprochement between two groups long at odds: Egypt's opposition, and the remnants of the Mubarak regime. Their enmity dates to the 30-year dictatorship of Mr. Mubarak, which used its security services to quash the opposition.
Today, in a reversal, the opposition and Mubarak-era forces are united. They view Mr. Morsi and his Islamist ideology as a threat.
The meeting of minds between Mubarak-era powers and the secular opposition has coincided with a resurgence of bare-knuckle political tactics resembling Mubarak-era violence. In the days before Mr. Morsi's ouster, for instance, a wave of violence against Muslim Brotherhood offices bore similarities to violence on behalf of the Mubarak regime during previous elections in the Mubarak era.
Within Egypt they are viewed by many who witnessed the violence as efforts by Mubarak-era power brokers to push Mr. Morsi out using methods that once sustained Mubarak.
With Mr. Morsi out, Mubarak-era figures and institutions are gaining influence. The military chose a Mubarak-era judge as interim president. Other Mubarak-era judges are set to head efforts to draft a new constitution.
Egypt's opposition and Mubarak-era officials began to mend ties in November. Opposition parties united under the banner of Mr. ElBaradei's National Salvation Front.
Mubarak-era loyalists had long distrusted Mr. ElBaradei. But after Mr. Morsi's declaration, the ice thawed. Some influential Mubarak-era figures joined Mr. ElBaradei, including Hany Sarie Eldin, the lawyer for imprisoned steel magnate and Mubarak regime heavyweight Ahmed Ezz.
Mr. Eldin's joining "sent a message to powerful businessmen who were skeptical about the revolution and ElBaradei that they could trust him," said Rabab al-Mahdi, a political-science professor at American University of Cairo who is close to NSF leaders.
The two sides needed each other. Opposition parties had popular credibility, unlike Mubarak-era officials. Mubarak figures brought deep pockets and influence over the powerful state bureaucracy.
Some of these figures "are the ones who continue the methods of the so-called deep state," said Ms. Mahdi. "They are the ones who know who are the election thugs, how to hire them," she said. They know "which public-sector managers have the biggest networks of employees."
As Mr. Morsi's ouster neared, there were increasing meetings between the military and opposition. They included Mr. ElBaradei, former presidential candidate and Arab League chief Mr. Moussa, and another presidential candidate, Hamdeen Sabahy, according to Ms. Mahdi and Mr. Samih, both close to top NSF members.
Some meetings took place at the Navy Officers' Club, where the generals said that if enough Egyptians joined public protests, the military would have little choice but to intervene, according to several activists close to Mr. ElBaradei and U.S. officials. "The military's answer was, if enough people come out into the streets, then it will be exactly like Mubarak," Mr. Samih said.
Since Mr. Mubarak's ouster, Egypt's activists have proved woeful at grass roots organizing outside cities. But in late April a previously little-known group, Tamarod, separately launched a petition against Mr. Morsi.
Tamarod's effort took off. Its founders claim they gathered 22 million signatures in less than eight weeks. The numbers are impossible to verify, but were widely reported as fact by state and private media, two hotbeds of anti-Muslim Brotherhood zeal.
In the town of Zagazig, former Mubarak party lawmaker Lotfy Shehata said he rallied support for Tamarod using the same political networks that got him elected under Mr. Mubarak.
As agitation against the Muslim Brotherhood grew, the Brotherhood formally asked the Minister of Interior for protection of their offices nationwide. Gen. Mohammed Ibrahim, Minister of Interior, publicly declined.
Gen. Ibrahim faced pressure from powerful figures in the former Mubarak camp. On June 24, Ahmed Shafiq—the last prime minister appointed by Mr. Mubarak and Mr. Morsi's closest rival for president—said in a television interview that he warned the general to not show support for the Brotherhood.
"I told him…the coming days will not be on your side if you do, and these days will be very soon," Mr. Shafiq said on TV. "They will see black days," he said, referring to the Brotherhood.
Days later, Mr. Shafiq's warning materialized. Armed young men began ransacking Muslim Brotherhood offices nationwide.
In Zagazig, an hour north of Cairo, armed men showed up outside a Muslim Brotherhood office the night of June 27, according to neighbors and residents of the building housing the office. As they approached, the electricity went out, according to eyewitnesses not affiliated with the Brotherhood. Gunshots rang out, these witnesses said. Seven Muslim Brotherhood defenders were shot, one fatally.
The province's deputy governor, a Muslim Brotherhood member appointed by Mr. Morsi, called the police chief and ordered him to intervene to prevent violence, according to local Brotherhood leader Yasser Hag. Mr. Hag said the police chief said he couldn't help, citing the need to protect 7,000 antigovernment protesters elsewhere.
The police declined to comment. In an interview, Mr. Shehata, the former Mubarak party lawmaker in the area, said police couldn't respond because they were stretched thin protecting protesters. He said the youths were random mobs and would be arrested if caught.
Another building resident, Mohammed Nasser Ammar, who said he opposes the Muslim Brotherhood, said that as the youths laid siege through the night, he and his neighbors phoned the police many times. "Each time they would say that they are coming, but then they don't show up," he said. Other residents gave similar accounts.
Nationwide that evening and in the next few days, dozens of Brotherhood offices were hit.
Mr. Ammar noted the similarities to Mubarak-era political tactics on behalf of then-ruling-party candidates. "The thugs that used to come out then, and the events happening during that time, was pretty much the same to this time," he said.

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