(FinalCall.com) – In a diplomatic move that displayed how fluid the developing situation in Egypt is, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State William Burns recently made the first senior level visit by a U.S. official since President Mohammed Morsi was overthrown by a widely disputed military coup.
Though Burns said he came with no “American solutions, nor did I come to lecture anyone,” he said. One wondered, well, why did he come?
With the U.S. honoring its annual $1.3 billion mainly in American made military hardware commitment to Egypt, it at least appears that U.S. corporate interests were satisfied. It also appears the U.S. is trying to play both ends against the middle. On the one hand you have President Obama calling for the release of the disposed Egyptian president and Burns sitting down for talks with army chief Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi, his appointed President Adly Mansuour and caretaker Prime Minister Hazem al-Beblawi.
Giving the above much thought, Obama’s verbal discomfort with Morsi’s confinement was likely more ploy than unease. He had to know if his request was honored it would galvanize Morsi’s supporters and give substance to the illegality of his overthrow and subsequent confinement.
Would a coup be grounds for disrupting the $1.5 billion in U.S. financial aid (America’s bargaining tool) to Egypt? Not likely, so perhaps Obama administration involvement is more like meddling than trying to produce good outcomes for the masses of Egyptians.
As if on cue Secretary of State John Kerry chimed in from Amman, giving a new twist to the U.S. non-position, claiming the need for time while the administration consults lawyers to get all the facts.
Then he pivoted and showed support for Morsi’s ouster, claiming the avoidance of a civil war “and enormous violence, and you now have a constitutional process proceeding forward very rapidly.”
And then there’s Burns waxing hypocritical uttering, “Only Egyptians can determine their future,” when for almost 30 years the U.S. publicly backed the autocratic regime of Hosni Mubarak.
There’s more. Sounding like Morsi, Burns offers support for “the adoption of reforms that can lead to an early ($4.5 billion) IMF agreement.” Notably missing in discussion of the bailout was fine print that included removal of subsidies on Egyptian goods, including gas, that sparked fear of massive fallout from the much subsidized Egyptian economy.
Tamarod, the movement that spearheaded the campaign against Morsi, according to Al Jazeera, outright rejected an invite to meet with Burns citing Washington’s “interference” in Egyptian affairs.
Islam Hammam, one of the group’s organizers, told AFP news service, “We rejected the invitation … because the United States did not stand with the Egyptian people from the beginning,”
The Muslim Brotherhood also criticized Burns’ visit. Spokesman Gehad El-Haddad, reported the Pan-African News Wire, said the U.S. had failed to “stand up for principles as they had done with ousted president Hosni Mubarak in 2011.”
El-Haddad tweeted the U.S. had sanctioned the “coup” against “Egypt’s first democratically elected president.” He also tweeted that the U.S. had given the “legitimacy” to the military coup by continuation of military aid.
Tarek Radwan, associate director for research at the Atlantic Council’s Rafik Hariri Center for Middle Eas0t based in Washington, D.C., said, “The military holds … the ultimate trump card, and they are the heaviest hitters in town.”
“Does that mean they want to be involved in the governing process? No,” he said. Sounds like the military doesn’t want to be king, they just want to be king makers.
After the overthrow of King Farouk, all Egypt’s heads of state with the exception of Morsi, who comes from the ranks of the Muslim Brotherhood, came from the military.
In Egypt all roads lead to the military. Or as Gilbert Achcar, professor at the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London called recent Egyptian politics, “a game of musical chairs.”
“This is … a repetition of … February 2011,” he told The Real News Network. “And in both cases what you have is actually a coup, a military coup, on the background of a huge mass movement mobilization, except … those who are in power are different, and the composition of the crowd, the mass mobilization is different.”
Born in Lebanon, Achcar described the 2011 and 2013 mass opposition crowds that rallied in Tahrir Square as “heterogeneous force forces,” he said, “of a very different nature coming together with the only point in common being their opposition to Mubarak at that time, you have the same now with the opposition to Morsi.”
In 1952, Egypt’s first coup ended the rule of King Farouk. Since then all this North African country’s presidents including, Muhammad Naguib, Gamal Abdel Nasser, Anwar Sadat and Hosni Mubarak have come out of the ranks of the army.
And after the signing of the Camp David Accords in 1978, USA Today reported, “the military rapidly expanded into private industry and cultivated economic interests. Today, the military continues to control a slice of the economy and owns factories and businesses that compete with the private sector.”
In addition to owning a significant slice of the Egyptian economy, the military appears to be in bed with Egyptian billionaire Naguib Sawiris.
A behind the scenes supporter of Mubarak, according to a recent New York Times, Sawiris “was an outspoken foe of the (Muslim) Brotherhood,” and was determined to “topple” Morsi.
During an interview with the Times, Sawiris said he had supported an upstart group called “tamarraod,” Arabic for “rebellion.” He said that led to a petition drive seeking Morsi’s ouster.
“Tamarrod did not even know it was me!” he revealed. “I am not ashamed of it.”
In addition Sawiris said he predicted Morsi’s overthrow “would bolster Egypt’s sputtering economy,” because he told the Times, it would bring in billions of dollars in aid from oil-rich Middle Eastern monarchies, “afraid that the Islamist movement might spread to their shores.”
Shortly after the coup, reported the Times, “a total of $12 billion had flowed in from Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait.”
But will periodic economic bailouts truly help, or are they just averting the inevitable? The Guardian reported that Egypt is “suffering its worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.”
“Since the fall of Hosni Mubarak in 2011, Egypt has experienced a drastic fall in both foreign investment and tourism revenues, followed by a 60% drop in foreign exchange reserves a 3% drop in growth, and a rapid devaluation of the Egyptian pound. All this has led to mushrooming food prices, ballooning unemployment and a shortage of fuel and cooking gas–causing Egypt’s worst crisis,” said Galal Amin, professor of economics at the American University in Cairo, in an interview with The Guardian.
And with daily battles breaking out between Morsi supporters, Islamists and those opposed to the military-approved rulers, Egypt has become a caldron ready to explode.
Possibly seeing the inevitable, the newly- installed government has repeatedly requested that the Muslim Brotherhood come on board. But with the massacre of over 50 supporters during prayers, 700 members arrested and many of their leaders’ bank accounts frozen, Muslim Brotherhood spokesman Ahmed Ali responded, “It is impossible to speak under the current circumstances … There is no way to have negotiations.”
Gen. Abdel-Fatah El-Sisi, the nation’s military leader, and the person responsible for disposing Morsi, just adopted the title first deputy of the interim prime minister.
In this game of musical chairs, Egyptians have awakened to America’s hypocrisy, let’s see how long before the masses realize their problem is also with the military.
Jehron Muhammad, who writes from Philadelphia, can be reached at [email protected]