Monday, June 18, 2012

Egypt's Military Moves To Block Impact of Islamist Elected President

Egyptians faced a choice between bad and worse when they had to choose from an Islamist aligned with the Muslim Brotherhood and the former foreign minister from Hosni Mubarak's old regime. Turnout was anything but strong, but the Islamist, Mohamed Morsi, won the election.

The military, however, has a different plan. They're now acting to minimize the impact of the election, and are once again acting in their own interests rather than allowing the popular will to decide.
In a two-hour news conference, members of the ruling military council made no reference to the election results that by early morning showed Mohamed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood had defeated Ahmed Shafik, a former Air Force general and Hosni Mubarak’s last prime minister, in the runoff to choose Egypt’s first democratically elected president. The ballots were counted in front of television cameras and party observers in polling places around the country to preclude fraud, and independent observers concluded that Mr. Morsi had won by a margin of about 4 percentage points, or about a million votes.

The election officials will not formally confirm the results until later in the week, however, and Ahmed Sarhan, a spokesman for Mr. Shafik, insisted on Monday that the general was the true winner and the Brotherhood had “terrorized” voters. He offered no evidence, and both the state-run and unofficial media reported that Mr. Morsi had a decisive lead in the vote count.

The ruling generals had stunned Egyptians on the eve of the vote by dissolving the Brotherhood-dominated parliament and claiming all legislative power for themselves in an apparent attempt to foreclose the possibility that Islamists control both the presidency and the legislature.

Though they acted under the veneer of a court ruling rushed out last week by a panel of Mubarak-appointed judges, their power grab erased their promise to turn over all power to elected civilians by the end of this month, and both liberals and Islamists denounced the move as a military coup. The court ruling dispirited Brotherhood supporters, energized Mr. Shafik’s backers, and led many Egyptians to expect that either the psychological effect of the takeover or more direct intervention would push Mr. Shafik to the presidency.

In the aftermath of Mr. Morsi’s victory — - considered an upset by many, despite the Brotherhood’s proven popularity and political clout — - the generals sought Monday to reassure the public that they had no intention to re-establish another military-backed autocracy, although they did not back away from their effective seizure of legislative power.

“Trust the armed forces,” two representatives of the military council, General Mandouh Shahin and General Mohamed el Assar, repeated many times over the course of the news conference. “We don’t want power,” both also said repeatedly, citing the presidential election as proof of their good intentions.

Despite their seizure of the parliament, they promised a grand celebration at the end of the month to mark their formal handover to the new president.

They insisted that the legislative authority they had claimed for themselves was “restricted.” Although they acknowledged that they would have a monopoly on all lawmaking powers and control of the national budget, they said that the new president — presumably Mr. Morsi — would retain a veto over any new laws. The president will also name the prime minister and other cabinet officials.

The generals insisted they regretted shutting down the elected parliament, which they described as one of their proudest achievements since they took power at the ouster of former President Hosni Mubarak. They were forced to close the legislature because of the court’s ruling, the generals said.
It's a situation that Egypt has seen before. It's how Gamel Nasser came to power and it's how power was retained under both Anwar Sadat and Hosni Mubarak.

Popular election of the government simply isn't tolerated. The military will allow a veneer of democratic institutions, put the ruling junta is seeing to it that power will remain in the hands of the military.

I can understand the apprehension of allowing the Muslim Brotherhood to hold power considering their interests in expanding Islamic law and revisiting social and political decisions ranging from the rights of women to the Egypt-Israel peace accords.

However, the military should be subordinate to the civilian control. As it stands, Egypt's military is acting just as any other junta would do. They're acting to preserve their own power and that actually increases the chances of another round of violence.

The military is doing itself and the Egyptian country a tremendous disservice, even as it acts to minimize the power of the Muslim Brotherhood. The actions to limit the Brotherhood's power will backfire and lend the group legitimacy it is undeserving. It would be far better to allow the group power in the interim, with civilian governmental institutions to protect the rights of all Egyptians than to try and block the group's impact.

At the same time, the military needs to do more to stabilize the security situation in Sinai, from which another deadly attack on Israel was launched. One Israeli Arab who was working on a security fence were killed and several others were injured. Israeli military forces then responded to the attack and engaged terrorists in a gunfight.
A force from Golani immediately arrived at the scene, a gun fight ensued and a bomb carried by one of the terrorists exploded. Two terrorists were killed in the gunfight and the IDF believed that a third terrorist was also involved in the clash, who they believed to be in Sinai.

Following the attack and fearing additional attacks, the IDF moved a number of Merkava tanks up to the border to help protect against additional infiltrations. The tanks were removed immediately after the IDF confirmed that all of the terrorists had been accounted for and none remained inside Israeli territory.

The decision to move the tanks up along the border was done in consideration of Israel’s peace treaty with Egypt which forbids the deployment of Israeli tanks in the area. IDF sources said that the deployment was done as the attack was still unfolding and that it was part of a defensive posture.
The deploymnet of tanks to the border is a technical violation of the Egypt-Israel peace treaty, which prohibits tanks in the border zone without consultation, and that was just as likely the goal of the terror attack as the deaths of as many Israelis as possible.

The disintegrating security situation in Sinai is yet another threat to Israel's security as much as it harms Egypt's economy by reducing the tourism dollars that flow to Egypt's coffers.

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