18 Jun 2012

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Egyptian Coup

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2012 Egyptian Elections  - 17 June 2012

Israel fears Iranian style Revolution in Egypt

"Egypt will not turn into another Iran"

Polls open for 50 million eligible voters in Egypt's first presidential elections. Egyptians talk to Ynet ahead of presidential vote, say peace treaty with Israel to be maintained regardless of winner

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Egyptian Ahmed Shafiq said Iran should stop sprading Shia Islam in Egypt.

Shafiq on Iran: Why can't we be friends?

13 June 2012: If elected, presidential candidate Ahmed Shafiq said he would not object to restoring relations with Iran. "If Iran doesn't seek to spread the Shia sect in Egypt, why shouldn't we be friends?," the former prime minister said in an interview with Saudi satellite channel Al-Arabiya Tuesday.

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Al-Azhar Urged to Recognize Shiism

In a letter to the Egypt’s parliament, Egyptian Shias have called for recognition of the Shia sect by Al-Azhar Islamic Center.

ABNA - 16 June 2012

In a letter to the Egypt’s parliament, Egyptian Shias have called for recognition of the Shia sect by Al-Azhar Islamic Center.

According to Al-Aalam website, Head of Imam Ali Human Rights Center in Egypt Baha’ Anwar said that about 3 million Shias in Egypt do not approve of the Constituent Assembly for drawing up a new constitution as they find none of their representatives in the assembly.

“Eminent Shia figures such as Ahmad Zowail, Faruq Al-Baz, Majdi Yaqub, Mohammad Al-Baradei and Hamdain Sabahi are missing in the list of assembly members,” he added.

He went on to say that the Egyptian Shias have sent two letters to the country’s parliament and military council calling for being incorporated in the Constituent Assembly.

“Joining the assembly, being allowed to launch religious centers and Al-Azhar’s recognition of Shiism as the official sect in the country are among the Shias’ requests.”

“They have also called for stopping injustice and oppression towards the Shias and banning religious or racial discrimination and unfair dismissals due to religious beliefs,” Anwar went on to say.

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President Ahmadinejad said: Unity between Iran, Egypt will put Zionists to flight

TEHRAN TIMES - 16 June 2012

 If Iran and Egypt side with each other, it will make “timid and cowardly” Zionists run away from the region, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has said.

Ahmadinejad made the remarks in a meeting on Saturday with a number of Egyptian families whose loved ones were martyred in the uprising against dictatorship in Egypt. Commenting on the troubles facing the region, he said that the problems have their root in the presence of the hegemonistic powers, including the Zionist regime. “Certain nations in the region have not experienced the taste of dignity ever since the Zionist regime emerged in the region,” Ahmadinejad said. “If the root of the Zionist regime, the United States and its allies dries up in the region, all regional problems will definitely go away.” He went on to say that regional countries will achieve independence and freedom if the root of the hegemonistic powers dries up and the regional governments promote unity.

Ahmadinejad also said the Islamic Republic of Iran is keen to help the Egyptian nation realize their wishes, adding Tehran would not hesitate to help economic development in Egypt. He added that Iran regards Egypt’s prosperity as its own and believes that the Egyptian nation has the same feelings about the Islamic Republic. 

The anti-Israeli feelings in are high in Egypt. The toppling of the Western-backed Hosni Mubarak regime in Egypt in 2011 came as an earthquake in Israel. Israelis feeling of insecurity was reinforced when protestors stormed the Israeli embassy in Cairo in September 2011.

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Egypt Court ruling throw Egypt into state of flux

Court ruling dissolved the Islamist-dominated parliament produced by what were widely seen as free and fair elections that took place between November and February.  

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Egyptian Junta Proclaims A Military Dictatorship

Johannes Stern

With the issuance of a constitutional decree Sunday night, the Egyptian Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) finalized the coup it staged last Thursday and proclaimed a military dictatorship.
Only two days before the run-off of the Egyptian presidential election, the US-backed junta had dissolved the Islamist-dominated parliament and the constitutent assembly, which had been tasked with the drafting of a new constitution. With the constitutional decree, an amendment to the military-authored constitutional declaration issued March 30, 2011, SCAF is asserting full control over political life in Egypt.

Article 56 of the decree hands over all budgetary and legislative powers to the junta until a new parliament is elected. Article 60 B allows the generals to decide the composition of the constituent assembly and control the drafting of a new constitution.

Article 53 further expands the economic and political influence of the military. It codifies that SCAF stands above the law and enshrines the military's control over any future government, including the president. It specifies that “the incumbent SCAF members are responsible for deciding on all issues related to the armed forces, including appointing its leaders and extending the terms in office of the aforesaid leaders. The current head of the SCAF is to act as commander-in-chief of the armed forces and minister of defense until a new constitution is drafted.”

Article 53/1 states that “the president can declare war only after the approval of SCAF.”
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Egypt's military grants itself sweeping powers

Egypt's ruling military has issued a declaration granting itself sweeping powers, as the country awaits results of presidential elections.

The document by the Supreme Council of Armed Forces (Scaf) says new general elections cannot be held until a permanent constitution is drawn up. It also gives the Scaf legislative control.

On 16 June, the Scaf took the highly controversial decision to dissolve parliament. According to the Constitutional Declaration, it has no power to issue such a ruling. The Muslim Brotherhood, which is the largest force in the legislative body, accused the military of wanting to monopolise power.
The Brotherhood has denounced the step as unlawful and a coup against democracy.

The Scaf issued its declaration late on Sunday 17 June 2012 - just hours after the polls closed.

The document effectively gives the Scaf control over the budget and who writes the permanent constitution following mass street protest that toppled Mr Mubarak, reports say. It also strips the president of any authority over the army.

However, prominent political leader Mohammed ElBaradei already described the document as a "grave setback for democracy and revolution".

The Brotherhood earlier urged Egyptians to protect their revolution after the Scaf declared the parliament null and void on Saturday.

Two days earlier, the Supreme Constitutional Court ruled that last year's legislative polls were unconstitutional because party members were allowed to contest seats in the lower house reserved for independents.

The decision was made by judges appointed under Mr Mubarak.

The dispute has laid bare the fears of some that the military council is trying to consolidate power and resist the democratic changes demanded during last year's demonstrations.

Soldiers have already been stationed around the parliament with orders not to let MPs enter.

But the latest announcements by the Scaf will have a crucial bearing on the outcome of this vote.

It has issued amendments to last year's Constitutional Declaration that will limit the powers of the next president and boost the role of the armed forces.

It will also have a strong influence over the writing of Egypt's new constitution.

Interim Constitutional Declaration:

Issued by ruling Supreme Council of Armed Forces (Scaf)
Amends Constitutional Declaration of March 2011
Grants Scaf powers to initiate legislation, control budget, appoint panel to draft new constitution
Postpones new parliamentary elections until new constitution is approved

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Mohamed El Baradei warns of 'New Emperor' in Egypt

El Baradei, the Nobel laureate and former head of the UN nuclear watchdog has warned that Egypt is suffering under worse conditions than the era of Hosni Mubarak and risks creating a "new emperor". He added that Ahmed Shafiq, a former Mubarak prime minister, as president of a 'new Egypt’ “is an oxymoron”, and the Muslim Brotherhood had “scared people right, left and centre with some of the extremist views put forward”.  El Baradei said,
"We are in a total mess, a confused process that – assuming good intentions – has led us nowhere except the place we were at 18 months ago, but under even more adverse conditions." He spoke after Egypt's constitutional court ruled that parliament be dissolved. “We are going to elect a president in the next couple of days without a constitution and without a parliament. He will be a new emperor.” He also criticised the young revolutionaries who forces Mubarak's ouster by not keeping up momentum and need to engage with whoever the new president is. "The mortal mistake was that from day one the youth never agreed on a unified demand and never agreed to delegate authority to a group of people to speak on their behalf."

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El Baradei says Egypt transition is stupid

Egypt is set to vote for a president amid uncertainty over both the constitution and the elected parliament.

Nobel peace laureate Mohamed ElBaradei, who was widely expected to stand in the Presidential election, told The World at One that the political situation in the country was "a total mess".

Whoever wins the vote will be "a president with imperial powers" he said, adding that the political process was "the stupidest transition in history".

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In May Shia Leader Had Blames SCAF for Foreigners' Meddling in Egypt

A prominent Shiite Egyptian leader took the country's ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) responsible for paving the ground for the foreign states' meddling in Egypt's internal affairs, specially the presidential election.

(Ahlul Bayt News Agency) - 23 May 2012

"The military men ruling Egypt have opened the way for foreign interference and activity of Egyptian extremists and therefore abundant crimes have been committed against the Egyptian nation by certain internal political groups," Ahmad Rassem al-Nafis said. 

He described the weakness shown by the SCAF in preventing the foreign meddling in Cairo's internal affairs, specially in the presidential election, as dangerous, and said it can have dire consequences for Egypt's post-revolution political process.

Nafis lamented that while a number of presidential candidates in Egypt own US and Qatari passports, the SCAF has prevented certain other candidates from running in the election for void excuses.

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Egypt's Military Stops Iran's Shia March.
Army Spreading Fear of the Crescent among Egyptians. 

Iran's dreams for influence stymied in Egypt

14 June 2012

Iran once saw the Arab Spring uprisings as a prime opportunity, hoping it would open the door for it to spread its influence in countries whose autocratic leaders long shunned Tehran's ruling clerics. But it is finding the new order no more welcoming. Egypt is a prime example.

Egypt has sporadically looked more friendly toward Iran since the ouster of Hosni Mubarak 16 months ago, and the rise of the Islamists here fueled the expectations of Tehran's clerical regime that it could make inroads.

Instead, it has been met with the deep mistrust felt by many in mainly Sunni Muslim Egypt toward non-Arab, Shiite-dominated Iran — as well as Cairo's reluctance to sacrifice good relations with Iran's rivals, the United States and the oil-rich Arab nations of the Gulf.

In a sign of the mistrust, Egyptian security and religious authorities have raised an alarm in recent weeks that Iran was trying to promote Shiism in the country.

That brought warnings from the Sunni Islamists that Iran had hoped would be friendly to their religious-based leadership.

"Iran must realize that if it wants good relations with an Egypt that will soon regain its strength, it must bear in mind that Egypt holds high the banner of the Sunni faith," said Mohammed el-Sagheer, a lawmaker from the hard-line Gamaa Islamiya.

"Spreading Shiism in Egypt is not an issue of sectarian conflict, it is a question of national security."

Iran has also invited families of nearly 900 protesters killed during last year's uprising to honor them in Tehran, but most relatives declined the offer, with only a group of 27 agreeing to make the trip. They flew to Iran last week.

In a wider context, the new order in the Arab world is not going Tehran's way and it could even erode its influence and leave it more isolated.

"Arab Spring revolts have been a disaster for Iran," said Michael W. Hanna, a Middle East expert from New York's Century Foundation. "It wants to ride those revolts as an extension of its own revolution back in 1979, but it is not happening."

Instead, Iran has been losing its allure as an alternative model to authoritarian Arab regimes that fell victim to popular uprisings like Mubarak's, Moammar Gadhafi's in Libya or Yemen's Ali Abdullah Saleh.

Ominously for Iran, it faces the possibility of the fall of its top Arab ally, the Syrian regime of President Bashar Assad, and its replacement by Sunni rule.

The Assad dynasty — which belongs to the Alawite sect, an offshoot of Shiism — has maintained close ties with Tehran for more than 30 years. But it is now struggling to contain an uprising dominated by Syria's Sunni majority.

The fall of Syrian President Bashar Assad, who succeeded his father in 2000, would almost certainly weaken Hezbollah, Tehran's chief ally in Lebanon and a sworn enemy of Israel.

Iran has already seen one friend distance itself over the Syria turmoil. The leadership of the Palestinian militant Hamas group left its Damascus headquarters and relocated to Qatar which, together with Saudi Arabia, is calling for the arming of Syrian rebels.

For the past decade, Saudi Arabia and Egypt have been the cornerstones of the anti-Iran faction in the Middle East, trying to roll back its rising fortunes, which peaked with the ascent to power by Iraq's Shiites in 2003 and Hezbollah's 2006 war against Israel, a fight that elevated the Shiite group and its leader, Hassan Nasrallah, to heroic status in the mostly Sunni Arab world.

Relations between Cairo and Tehran were tense throughout the 29-year rule of Mubarak, whose regime accused Iran of supporting homegrown militant Islamist groups and involvement in a 1995 assassination attempt against the ousted leader.

More recently, the two regional powerhouses quarreled publicly over Iran's alleged meddling in Iraq and over its support for Hezbollah and Hamas.

Moreover, Egypt traditionally sees itself as the guardian of Islam's dominant Sunni branch and as a protector of Arab culture against foreign influence, including that of Persian Iran.

Relations, however, appeared to be heading for a major breakthrough following Mubarak's ouster on Feb. 11, 2011, with Cairo approving an Iranian request for two naval ships to transit the Suez Canal on their way to Syria. The two vessels sailed through the canal in late February 2011, the first ones to do so since the Islamic Revolution.

In the following month, Egypt's then-Foreign Minister Nabil Elarabi declared Iran was no longer an "enemy state," a comment the Iranians seized on to express their wish to see closer relations with Egypt.

The signs of a rapprochement worried the United States and Saudi Arabia, allied nations whose largesse and goodwill have for decades been at the heart of Egypt's foreign policy goals.

Iranian public statements did not ease their concerns.

"A new Middle East is emerging based on Islam ... based on religious democracy," a hardline cleric, Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami, said last year during a Friday prayer sermon.

Many Iranian clerics and top officials described Arab Spring uprisings as an indication that "an Islamic Middle East is taking shape" and that Egypt's own revolt was a replay of Iran's 1979 Islamic revolution that toppled a pro-Western monarch and brought Islamists to power, much like what has happened in Egypt.

But even as Islamists like the Muslim Brotherhood and others have gained a stronger political role in Egypt with their domination of parliament, they have proven little more sympathetic to Iran. And Egypt's military rulers — all veterans of the Mubarak era and close friends of the U.S. military establishment — show little sign of changing their traditional wariness of Tehran.

Last month, Egyptian security forces raided the Cairo offices of Iran's Arabic-language state television channel, Al-Alam, seizing equipment and closing it down. Police said the station did not have a license. A Cairo-based Iranian diplomat was detained and expelled in May last year on suspicion that he tried to set up spy rings in Egypt and the Gulf countries.

That was followed by a flurry of media reports that Shiite places of worship known as Husseinyahs were springing up across the country.

The leader of Al-Azhar, the world's foremost seat of Sunni learning, responded sharply.

Grand Imam Sheik Ahmed al-Tayeb said that while Al-Azhar is not an enemy of any Muslim nation, "it declares its categorical and decisive rejection of all attempts to build places of worship that are not simply called mosques that will incite sectarianism."

Al-Tayeb summoned Iran's top diplomat in Cairo to complain about the Husseinyahs in an intensely publicized meeting. Photographs of a grim-faced al-Tayeb made front pages the next day along with reports that the diplomat gave him assurances that his country had nothing to do with the construction of the Husseinyahs.

Security officials said authorities were investigating a plan to spread "Iranian Shiism" by 350 Shiite activists who have been able to convert thousands of Sunnis to their faith. They said two Husseiniyahs were already operational, one in the Nile Delta town of Tanta and the other in the October 6 district west of Cairo.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.

The Sunni-Shiite divide explains in part Egypt's resistance. But there are key strategic issues as well.

With a struggling economy, Egypt is in dire need of financial help from Saudi Arabia and other Gulf Arab nations whose relations with Tehran are fraught with tensions over its disputed nuclear program, its perceived support for the majority Shiites in Sunni-ruled Bahrain and occupation of three Gulf islands claimed by the United Arab Emirates.

Egypt is also the recipient of some $1.5 billion in annual U.S. military and economic aid and is dependent on Washington's support to secure loans from the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.

Egypt and Iran "are competitors and rivals in the region," said Middle East expert Samer S. Shehata of Georgetown University. "The natural state of affairs is not for Iran and Egypt to be allies. Egypt's strategic interests are different from Iran's."

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Washington’s “democratic” hypocrisy: The cases of Egypt and Iran

By Bill Van Auken - 20 June 2012

The hypocrisy of US imperialism’s pretense of promoting democracy on the world arena is manifest in Washington’s markedly different reactions to the Iranian elections of 2009 and the recent military coup carried out in the midst of the elections in Egypt.

In response to Iran’s elections, almost precisely three years ago, the US government and the media mounted a ferocious propaganda campaign aimed at portraying the vote as fraudulent, with its results rigged to keep the incumbent president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, in power.

That there was not a shred of credible evidence to support charges of massive electoral fraud was never an issue for the US propaganda machine once it was set in motion. The claims by the defeated opposition candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi and the so-called Green Movement that supported him were merely repeated as fact.

Polls and ballot counts in the Iranian elections both showed Ahmadinejad winning over 60 percent of the vote, gaining his strongest support from among the working class and rural poor, who feared that living standards, already battered by high unemployment and punishing inflation, would only worsen under Mousavi, whose election promises centered on making major cuts to social spending.

The Obama administration and the major media openly supported the Green Movement demonstrations that followed the election. Drawn largely from better-off layers who hoped to benefit from a further turn toward free market policies and greater accommodation with Washington, and noteworthy for the lack of participation by the working class, these protests were portrayed as a freedom movement expressing the will of the Iranian people.

US government agencies provided covert support and funding for the demonstrations. As Secretary of State Hillary Clinton commented in an interview that followed them, “Behind the scenes, we were doing a lot … to empower the protesters.”

The aim three years ago was not to win democracy for the Iranian people, but rather to provoke and manipulate a political crisis in Iran with the aim of regime-change, i.e., bringing to power a government willing to make Iran a US client state and play a role similar to that played by the hated dictatorship of the Shah until his overthrow in 1979.

The pretense of impassioned concern for Iranian “democracy” in 2009 stands in stark contrast to the muted reaction to the unfolding of a coup by the Egyptian military in the midst of the presidential election completed on Sunday. The issue in Egypt is not merely allegations of vote fraud, but the consolidation of dictatorial power in the hands of the US-backed military junta, the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), to the extent that any president would be merely a powerless puppet of the Egyptian generals.

The actions of the generals render the results of the presidential election meaningless, while annulling the results of the earlier parliamentary elections. The parliament and the constituent assembly have been disbanded and their premises occupied by army troops.

In addition, the military has decreed its own power to arrest and repress civilians for any acts challenging the regime or threatening “order” and “property.” The target of these measures is clearly the Egyptian working class, whose mass strikes and demonstrations were the motor force of the Egyptian revolution that toppled the 30-year dictator Hosni Mubarak in February 2011.

The US reaction has come from the Pentagon and the State Department, with President Obama maintaining a discreet silence on the events in Egypt. The first public response from Washington came from Secretary of State Hillary Clinton following the disbanding of the Egyptian parliament and constituent assembly.

Carefully avoiding a condemnation of the military coup or demanding its reversal, Clinton told reporters, “There can be no going back on the democratic transition called for by the Egyptian people.”

What the events have exposed, however, is that the “democratic transition” was always a fraud, engineered by the military and its backers in Washington. It represented an extension of US policy in January and February of 2011, when Obama and Clinton first supported Mubarak against the masses in the streets and then—only when the dictator’s grip on power became untenable—sought to orchestrate a transfer of power to the regime’s chief of intelligence, Omar Suleiman. Behind the facade of elections, Washington’s aim has always been to maintain the power of the military high command, which is seen as the principal guarantor of the interests of US imperialism and both foreign and Egyptian capital.

“Now, ultimately, it is up to the Egyptian people to determine their own future and we expect this weekend’s presidential election will be held in an atmosphere that is conducive to it being peaceful, fair and free,” Clinton added.

Who did she think she was kidding? The actions of the SCAF junta guaranteed that the election was held at gunpoint, with masses of Egyptian workers and young people boycotting the polls and rejecting the choice between Mubarak’s former prime minister and a right-wing Islamist.

Clinton’s public remarks were followed by a private conversation Monday—the day after the Egyptian military consolidated its coup with a sweeping constitutional decree—between US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and SCAF’s chief, Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi. The Pentagon said Panetta phoned to “discuss current events in Egypt” and urged Tantawi to “move forward expeditiously with Egypt’s political transition, including conducting new legislative elections as soon as possible.” Both men “agreed on the importance of the US-Egyptian strategic relation,” the Pentagon said.

Such a conversation amounts to a US endorsement of the generals’ actions, while preserving a public pretense of support for “democracy.” Neither Panetta nor the State Department demanded that Tantawi and his fellow military thugs rescind the actions carried out over the past several days, or pull their troops out of the parliament and allow its elected members back in. Rather, they expressed the hope that the military could stage-manage a new and improved parliamentary election at its convenience.

The real attitude of the Obama administration was made clear last March, when Clinton restored $1.3 billion in annual aid to the Egyptian military, waiving congressional requirements tying the funding to progress in transferring power to a civilian government and upholding democratic rights. At the time, the Obama administration publicly cited the same “strategic relation” invoked by Panetta, while privately administration officials argued that US arms manufacturers couldn’t afford losing contracts tied to the aid.

Washington’s position was reiterated in a June 18 briefing by State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland. She answered queries as to whether the US was demanding that the junta rescind its dictatorial measures and whether US military aid was in question with the identical phrase: “We’re not going to get prescriptive here.” She concluded by expressing US hopes that that Egypt’s military dictators would prove “good stewards” of the “democratic transition.”

Taken together, the public responses from Washington point to direct US complicity in the Egyptian coup.
Perhaps the most glaring contrast between the reaction to the 2009 election in Iran and the coup in Egypt has been provided by the US “newspaper of record,” the New York Times, whose editorial policy faithfully reflects the policies and interests of US imperialism.

In 2009, the Times mounted a full-scale campaign of journalistic provocation in Iran, dispatching both its right-wing foreign columnist Roger Cohen and its executive editor Bill Keller to Tehran to churn out material that failed to maintain even a pretense of objectivity. Citing no evidence, the newspaper branded the election “bogus” and even a “coup d’├ętat” because the candidate favored by Washington failed to win.

In Egypt, the Times has used the word “coup” to describe the military’s consolidation of power only between quotation marks, attributed to Egyptian opposition figures, with the implicit suggestion that the term is an exaggeration.

In an editorial Tuesday, the Times cynically lamented the Egyptian events as having set “a terrible example” for the rest of the Arab world and chided the Obama administration for sending “the wrong message in March” with the unconditional restoration of the $1.3 billion in military aid. The newspaper went on to declare that the administration “should have delayed some of the aid” to pressure the generals, while stressing the importance of the Egyptian military to the security of Israel.

The kid gloves treatment for the coup by the US-backed military in Egypt, versus the hysterical denunciations of the election in Iran, is an accurate reflection of the hypocritical and self-serving character of Washington’s posture of defending democracy. Its attitude in both countries is determined not by democratic principles—which have been virtually banished from America’s own electoral process—but rather the drive to impose imperialist hegemony by whatever means are at hand.

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