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‘Bloodbath that is not a bloodbath': Why Egypt is doomed

Pepe Escobar is the roving correspondent for Asia Times/Hong Kong, an analyst for RT and TomDispatch, and a frequent contributor to websites and radio shows ranging from the US to East Asia.

Published time: August 15, 2013 10:14
Egyptians mourn over bodies wrapped in shrouds at a mosque in Cairo on August 15, 2013 (AFP Photo / Mahmoud Khaled)

Egypt's ‘bloodbath that is not a bloodbath’ has shown that the forces of hardcore suppression and corruption reign supreme, while foreign interests - the House of Saud, Israel and the Pentagon - support the military's merciless strategy.

Stop. Look at the photos. Linger on dozens of bodies lined up in a makeshift morgue. How can the appalling bloodbath in Egypt be justified? Take your pick. Either it’s Egypt’s remix of Tiananmen Square, or it’s the bloodbath that is not a bloodbath, conducted by the leaders of the coup that is not a coup, with the aim of fighting “terror”.  

It certainly was not a crowd clearing operation – as in the New York Police Department ‘clearing’ Occupy Wall Street. As a Sky journalist tweeted, it was more like “a major military assault largely on unarmed civilians”, using everything from bulldozers to tear gas to snipers.

Thus the scores indiscriminately killed – with crossfire estimates ranging from the low hundreds (the “interim government”) to at least 4,500 (the Muslim Brotherhood), including at least four journalists and the 17-year-old Asmaa, daughter of top Muslim Brotherhood politician Mohamed El Beltagy.   

El Beltagy, before being arrested, said, crucially, “If you do not take to the streets, he [as in General Abdul-Fattah al-Sisi, the leader of the coup that is not a coup who appointed the interim government] will make the country like Syria.” 

Wrong. Sisi is not Bashar al-Assad. Don’t expect passionate Western calls for “targeted strikes” or a no-fly zone over Egypt. He may be a military dictator killing his own people. But he’s one of “our” bastards.

What we say goes

Let’s look at the reactions. The lethargic poodles of the European Union called for “restraint” and described it all as “extremely worrying.” A White House statement said the interim government should “respect human rights” – which can be arguably interpreted as the Manning/Snowden/droning of Pakistan and Yemen school of human rights.   

That pathetic excuse for a diplomat, NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, at least was blunt: “Egypt is an important partner for NATO through the Mediterranean Dialogue.” Translation: the only thing we really care about is that those Arabs do as we say.

A man grieves as he looks at one of many bodies laid out in a make shift morgue after Egyptian security forces stormed two huge protest camps at the Rabaa al-Adawiya and Al-Nahda squares where supporters of ousted president Mohamed Morsi were camped, in Cairo, on August 14, 2013 (AFP Photo / Mosaab El-Shamy)

Stripped of all rhetoric – indignant or otherwise – the key point is that Washington won’t cut its $1.3 billion annual aid to Sisi’s army no matter what. Wily Sisi has declared a “war on terror”. The Pentagon is behind it. And the Obama administration is tagging along – reluctantly or not.

Now let’s see who’s in revolt. Predictably, Qatar condemned it; after all Qatar was bankrolling the Morsi presidency. The Islamic Action Front, the political wing of the Muslim Brotherhood in Jordan, encouraged Egyptians to keep protesting to “thwart the conspiracy” by the former regime – as in Mubarakists without Mubarak.

Turkey – which also supports the Muslim Brotherhood - urged the UN Security Council and the Arab League to act quickly to stop a “massacre”; as if the UN and the Saudi-controlled Arab League would interrupt their three-hour-long expense account lunches to do anything.

Iran – correctly - warned of the risk of civil war. That does not mean that Tehran is blindly supporting the Muslim Brotherhood – especially after Morsi had incited Egyptians to join a jihad against Assad in Syria. What Tehran has noted is that the civil war is already on.

Let’s aim for the kill

“Byzantine” does not even begin to explain the blame game. The bloodbath that is not a bloodbath happened as the Sisi-appointed “government” had promised it would engage in a military-supported “transition” that would be politically all-inclusive.

Yet, fed up with six weeks of protests denouncing the “coup that is not a coup,” the interim government changed the narrative and decided to take no prisoners.

According to the best informed Egyptian media analyses, Deputy Prime Minister Ziad Baha Eldin and Vice President for foreign affairs Mohamed ElBaradei wanted to go soft against the protesters, while  Interior Minister Gen. Mohammad Ibrahim Mustafa and the Defense Minister - Sisi himself - wanted to go medieval.  

The first step was to pre-emptively blame the Muslim Brotherhood for the bloodshed – just as the Muslim Brotherhood blamed Jemaah Islamiyah for deploying Kalashnikovs and burning churches and police stations. 

An Egyptian woman mourns over the body of her daughter wrapped in shrouds at a mosque in Cairo on August 15, 2013 (AFP Photo / Khaled Desouki)

A key reason to launch the “bloodbath that is not a bloodbath” this Wednesday was an attempt by the Muslim Brotherhood to march on the perennially dreaded Interior Ministry. Hardcore Ibrahim Mustafa would have none of it. 

Sisi’s minions appointed 25 provincial governors, of which 19 are generals, in perfect timing to “reward” the top military echelon and thus solidify the Egyptian “deep state”, or actually police state. And to crown the “bloodbath that is not a bloodbath,” Sisi’s minions declared martial law for a month. Under these circumstances, the resignation of Western darling ElBaradei won’t make Sisi lose any sleep.

The original spirit of Tahrir Square is now dead and buried , as a Yemeni miraculously not targeted by Obama’s drones, Nobel Peace Prize winner Tawakkul Karman, pointed out.

The key question is who profits from a hyper-polarized Egypt, with a civil war pitting the well-organized, fundamentalist Muslim Brotherhood against the military-controlled “deep state”.

Both options are equally repulsive (not to mention incompetent). Yet the local winners are easily identifiable: the counter-revolution, as in the fulool – diehard Mubarakists – a bunch of corrupt oligarchs, and most of all the deep state itself.

Hardcore repression rules. Corruption rules. And foreign domination rules (as in Saudi Arabia, who’s now paying most of the bills, alongside the UAE).

Internationally, the big winners are Saudi Arabia (displacing Qatar), Israel (because the Egyptian army is even more docile than the Brotherhood), and – who else – the Pentagon, the Egyptian army’s pimp. Nowhere in the Milky Way this House of Saud/Israel/Pentagon axis can be spun as “good for the Egyptian people”.  

Sheikh Al-Torture is our man

A quick recap is in order. In 2011, the Obama administration never said, “Mubarak must go” until the last minute. Hilary Clinton wanted a “transition” led by CIA asset and spy chief Omar Suleiman – widely known in Tahrir Square as “Sheikh al-Torture”.

Reporters run for cover during clashes between Muslim Brotherhood supporters of Egypt's ousted president Mohamed Morsi, and police in Cairo on August 14, 2013 (AFP Photo / Mosaab El-Shamy)

Then a Washington inside joke was that the Obama administration had gleefully become a Muslim Brotherhood cheerleader (allied with Qatar). Now, like a yo-yo, the Obama administration is weighing on how to spin the new narrative - the ‘loyal’ Egyptian army courageously wiping out the “terrorist” Muslim Brotherhood to “protect the revolution.”

There was never any revolution to begin with; the head of the snake (Mubarak) was gone, but the snake remained alive and kicking. Now it’s met the new snake, same as the old snake. Additionally, it’s so easy to sell to the uninformed galleries the Muslim Brotherhood = al-Qaeda equation.

Pentagon supremo Chuck Hagel was glued on the phone with Sisi as the July 3 “coup that is not a coup” was taking place. Pentagon spin would want us to believe that Sisi promised Hagel he would be on top of things in a heartbeat. Virtually 100% of the Beltway agreed. Thus the official Washington spin of “coup that is not a coup.” Tim Kaine from Virginia, at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, even extolled those model democracies, the UAE and Jordan, in their enthusiasm for the “coup that is not a coup.” 

It’s essential to outline the five countries that have explicitly endorsed the “coup that is not a coup.” Four of them are GCC petro-monarchies (members of the Gulf Cooperation Council, also known as Gulf Counter-Revolution Club); Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Kuwait and Bahrain. And the fifth is that little monarchy, Jordan, the GCC wants to annex to the Gulf.

Even more pathetic than Egypt’s so-called liberals, some leftists, some Nasserists and assorted progressives defending Sisi’s bloodlust has been the volte-face of Mahmoud Badr, the founder of Tamarrod – the movement that spearheaded the massive demonstrations that led to Morsi’s ouster. In 2012, he blasted Saudi Arabia. After the coup, he prostrated himself in their honor. At least he knows who’s paying the bills.  

And then there’s Ahmed al-Tayyeb, the Grand Imam of al-Azhar, the Vatican of Sunni Islam. He said, “Al-Azhar…did not know about the methods used for the dispersal of the protests except through media channels.” Nonsense; he has repeatedly praised Sisi.

Egyptian Muslim brotherhood supporters of Egypt's ousted president Mohamed Morsi evacuate a wounded man during clashes with riot police at Cairo's Mustafa Mahmoud Square after security forces dispersed supporters Morsi on August 14, 2013 (AFP Photo / Str)

Feel free to adore my eyelashes

There’s no other way of saying it; from Washington’s point of view, Arabs can kill each other to Kingdom Come, be it Sunnis against Shiites, jihadis against secularists, peasants against urbanites, and Egyptians against Egyptians. The only thing that matters is the Camp David agreements; and nobody is allowed to antagonize Israel.

So it’s fitting that Sisi’s minions in boots asked Israel to keep their drones near the border, as they need to pursue their “war on terror” in the Sinai. For all practical purposes, Israel runs the Sinai.

But then there’s the cancellation of a delivery of F-16s to Sisi’s army. In real life, every US weapons sale across the Middle East has to be “cleared” with Israel. So a case can be made that Israel – for the moment - is not exactly sure what Sisi is really up to.

It’s quite instructive to read what Sisi thinks of “democracy” – as demonstrated when he was at the US War College. He’s essentially an Islamist – but most of all he craves power. And the MB is standing in his way. So they have to be disposed of.  

Sisi’s “war on terror” is arguably a roaring success as a PR stunt to legitimize his run for a popular mandate. He’s trying to pose as the new Nasser. He’s Sisi the Savior, surrounded by a bunch of Sisi groupies. A columnist wrote in Al-Masry Al-Youm that Sisi doesn't even need to issue an order; it’s enough to “just flutter his eyelashes”. The Sisi-for-president campaign is already on. 

Anyone familiar with US-propped 1970s tin-pot Latin American dictators is able to spot one. This is no Savior. This is no more than an Al-Sisi-nator – the vainglorious tin-pot ruler of what my colleague Spengler bluntly defined as a banana republic without the bananas.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.