For the last five years, the history of Egypt, like that of many other Arab states, has been a succession of conspiracies, violence, announcements and denials. Everything that international public opinion has believed at one moment or another has been called into question by new elements.
An extremely conservative society managed by the military, Egypt has suffered a period of upheaval over the last five years, and is still not yet completely healed. We can approach these events from three different directions, although none of them is entirely satisfying –
For the Western governments and their Press, any military régime is bad by definition, and so what we witnessed in Egypt was seen as a struggle between the partisans of the régime and the democrats. The problems with this interpretation are as follows – on the one hand, the Egyptian military is republican, and, on the other, it enjoys far greater public support than the democrats.
For the defenders of the Law, Mohamed Morsi was proclaimed the legally elected President by 17% of the electorate. However, his legitimacy should have been questioned when 33 million Egyptians called for his destitution. It also transpired, with supporting evidence, that the Electoral Commission had not respected the citizens’ vote in 2012. This being the case, it is impossible to qualify his removal as a «coup d’etat».
For the Egyptians themselves, these events are the extension of the struggle between nationalists and islamists. The Muslim Brotherhood, which had attempted on several occasions to grab power, after the assassinations of the Prime Ministers in 1945 and 1948, and that of the President in 1981, finally managed to do so with the help of the United States and fraudulent elections. However, today, the champion of the nationalists is selling the country to the Saudis.
The resignation of Hosni Moubarak (11th February 2011)
In 2011, popular demonstrations were organised by Washington, which had already deployed a cohort of NGO’s implicated in the «colour revolutions» and coordinated by Gene Sharp’s team . This was the beginning of the «Arab Spring». The White House sent to Cairo a CIA heavyweight (incidentally Nicolas Sarkozy’s father-in-law ), ambassador Frank Wisner. After having pretended to support Hosni Moubarak, he advised him to resign. Conscious of his incapacity to re-establish order, Moubarak abandoned the idea of passing on the reins of power to his youngest son Gamal, and left his function to the profit of his vice-president. That was the «Lotus Revolution». The country then sank into disorder. First of all, the representatives of the NGO’s were arrested for having financed the «régime change» for the sum of 48 million dollars. They were then freed with a group of people who had taken refuge in the United States embassy, and discreetly exfiltrated by a special CIA plane .
Washington supported the Muslim Brotherhood candidate, Mohamed Morsi. During his electoral campaign, Youssef al-Qaradâwî, the Brotherhood’s preacher and «spiritual advisor» to the Qatari TV channel Al-Jazeera, came to explain on Tahir Square that it was no longer urgent to fight for the recognition of the rights of the Palestinian people, but to scour society of homosexuals.
At the end of the polls, where participation was no more than 35%, and in which he was supported by only 17% of the electorate, Morsi was declared the elected winner. However, in a letter which would later be made public, the President of the Electoral Commission wrote that he had not based his decision on the results of the polls, but had particularly wanted to avoid announcing the victory of General Ahmed Shafiq – who had been for a short period Hosni Moubarak’s Prime Minister – since such an announcement might be perceived by the Muslim Brotherhood as a signal for the start of civil war . The United States, who had manipulated the whole operation, congratulated the double national Egypt/US Morsi for his «democratic election» – a deceitful description which was immediately adopted by all the other states. Overseas, there was praise for the «normalisation» of Egypt, which had finally managed to obtain its first civil government after having been ruled by the military for 5,000 years.
The Presidency of Mohamed Morsi (30th June 2012 – 3rd July 2013)
Once in power, Mohammed Morsi installed a falsely religious dictatorship. He infiltrated the administration with members of the Brotherhood and rehabilitated those who had been convicted of terrorism. He received and publicly congratulated the assassins of ex-President Anouar el-Sadat, and nominated the man responsible for the Luxor massacre as governor of that district . He persecuted the democrats who had demonstrated against certain aspects of Hosni Moubarak’s politics (but not for his resignation). He supported a vast campaign of pogroms by the Muslim Brotherhood against Christians, and covered their exactions – lynching, the plunder and destruction of archbishoprics, the burning of churches. Simultaneously, he privatised the major businesses and announced the possible sale of the Suez Canal to Qatar, which was then sponsoring the Brotherhood.
On at least four occasions, from his Presidential palace, he telephoned Ayman al-Zawahiri, who was one of the assassins of Anouar el-Sadat before becoming the world leader of Al-Qaïda . .
During this period, a group of jihadists, Ansar Bait al-Maqdis, was organising itself in the Sinaï. Without any intervention by the Egyptian army, these islamists multiplied their attacks against the gas pipeline linking Egypt to Israël and Jordan.
President Morsi sent an official delegation to meet the Caliph of Daesh, Abou Bakr al-Baghdadi, a member of the Muslim Brotherhood like himself. But the two parties were unable to come to terms, since each leader demanded the allegiance of the other.
Finally, President Morsi ordered the army to prepare to attack the Syrian Arab Republic in order to help the Syrian members of the Muslim Brotherhood. That proved to be one decision too many.
The Egyptian army, which had fused with the Syrian army from 1958 to 1961, considered that the order to attack Syria undermined Gamal Abdel Nasser’s dream of Arab unity. It therefore turned to the civil society.
The Egyptian society is known for its docility in the face of power and its sudden massive outbursts. It did not react to the first decisions of President Morsi, nor even to the murder of Christians, but then suddenly rose en masse. A vast coalition, uniting all of the political formations from left and right, including the Salafists, rose up against the Brotherhood.
In response to the call of the army, this coalition organised the greatest demonstration in History to appeal to the military to overthrow the dictator Mohamed Morsi and force the Brotherhood to leave. For five days, «overflowing like the Nile», 33 million Egyptians voted with their feet against the Brotherhood.
Waiting prudently so that the United States would be unable to save their protégé, the loyalist army marched against Morsi (an ex-collaborator of the Pentagon who still enjoys access to US military secrets) as soon as the offices emptied for the long weekend of the US national holiday. The Muslim Brotherhood attempted to hold on to power, and violently opposed the army. For a month, the streets of Cairo were the theatre of terrible confrontations. A provisional government was set up, elections were planned, while the Western powers, Qatar and Turkey, according to the logic of the alleged «democratic election» of Morsi, denounced a «military coup d’état ». Finally, General Abdel Fattah al-Sissi, who led the operation for the restoration of the institutions, was elected with 96% of the votes, while al-Jazeera called for his assassination.
For 5 days, 33 million Egyptians demonstrated to ask the army to overthrow President Mohamed Morsi.
The restoration of the institutions by Abdel Fatah al-Sissi
Marshal Abdel Fatah al-Sissi was the Director of Military Intelligence under President Moubarak, then Minister for Defence under President Morsi.
At first, he restored order and social peace. He freed political prisoners. He apologised to the Christians for the persecutions that they had suffered, and ordered the re-construction of chuches which had been burned.
He gave Saudi Arabia documents which proved that Mohamed Morsi had been preparing a coup d’état in Riyadh in order to place the Muslim Brotherhood in power. The kingdom reacted by forbidding the Brotherhood on their land and also by covering Egypt with gifts. In this way, Abdel Fatah al-Sissi had found a sponsor to feed his people despite a ruined economy.
In order to satisfy the Saudis, Marshal al-Sissi sent his army to participate in the war in Yemen. At first, the Egyptian contingent served above all to control the coast-lines, but Egyptian public opinion quickly learned that the command of the operation had been sub-contracted by Riyadh to the Israëli army. Discreetly, the Egyptian soldiers withdrew without the news ever being officially announced.
Simultaneously, in the Sinaï, Ansar Bait al-Maqdis ceased its attacks on Israëli interests and turned its weapons against the Egyptian state. It made contact with Daesh in Syria and recognised its authority. Thus it created the province of Sinaï (Wilayat Sayna) within the Caliphate.
During this time, with the help of China, President al-Sissi ordered the extension doubling the capacity of the Suez Canal, although it has not been completely exploited. The aim was to prepare Egypt for the development of the new Silk Road and the transit of the gigantic Chinese production to Europe.
Then came a dramatic turn of events – in the summer of 2015, the Italian company ENI declared that it had discovered huge oil deposits at Zohr, in Egyptian territorial waters, which could allow Cairo to exploit the equivalent of 5.5 billion barrels of oil.
But things turned ugly.
The Muslim Brotherthood, relying on the support of Daesh in the Sinaï, assassinated several senior civil servants and magistrates. The army allowed itself to be drawn into a spiral of violence, while President al-Sissi seized the opportunity to order the arrest of both nationalists and democrats. Progressively, confusion took over – the government defended the national interest, but persecuted the civil leaders who were supporting its initial objective.
At this point, Mohamed Hassanein Heikal, ex-spokesman for Nasser and an icon for the nationalists, publicly declared that the moment had come for President al-Sissi to –
publicly denounce the «butchery» still on-going in Yemen ;
go to Damascus to offer his support to President Bachar el-Assad against the Muslim Brotherhood ;
and to seek rapprochement with Iran in order to guarantee the stability of the region.
Three pieces of advice which presume distancing Egypt from Saudi Arabia.
At 87 years old, Heikal died suddenly without Marshal al-Sissi having answered him.
The islands of Tiran and Sanafir
On the 11th April 2016, king Salmane of Saudi Arabia was on a visit to Cairo, when he announced investments in Egypt to the tune of a colossal 25 billion dollars. To everyone’s surprise, the President announced that by way of thanks, he had offered the king the islands of Tiran and Sanafir, in the context of an agreement concerning the delimitation of maritime frontiers.
These two islands, which guard the entrance to the Red Sea, had once been the source of dispute between Egypt and Saudi Arabia. They were occupied by Israël during the Six-Day War. Since it had no desire to participate in the conflict, Saudi Arabia renounced its claim and handed the islands to Egypt rather than being obliged to defend them. Later, with the peace agreements between Israël and Egypt at Camp David, Tel-Aviv and Cairo internationalised the exit of the Red Sea, and Tsahal finally evacuated Tiran and Sanafir.
The two îslands should be integrated into a vast project for the construction of a bridge linking Saudi Arabia to Egypt over the Gulf of Aqaba.
For the Egyptians, Tiran and Sanafir constitute territory which had been recognised as theirs by the Convention of London in 1840, and which they had regained, after many vicissitudes, because of Riyadh’s cowardice during the war against Israël. It is therefore inconceivable to «offer» them to the Saudis, even for several billion dollars.
For the last week, there have been a series of demonstrations demanding a referendum on this assignment of land. They are above all a platform for the nationalists, who are wondering who President al-Sissi really is.