Dubai police have stepped up accusations against the Muslim Brotherhood of plotting to topple Gulf monarchies, saying a group of UAE activists arrested for threatening state security was linked to the organisation, a report said Friday.
As I noted earlier today after the announcement was made, the new Egyptian Prime Minister-designate, Hisham Qandil, is something of an unknown quantity; Water and Irrigation Minister in the Sharaf and Ganzuri governments and a governnent technocrat up until then, he’s not the superstar symbolic uniter some hoped for; rather, most people had never heard of him. Opinions are divided; many see his youth as a positive factor after years of elderly technocrats in the job; but a faceless technocrat? And some say he’s an Islamist, though not a member of an organized party; President Morsi may have kept his word not to appoint a Muslim Brother to the Prime Ministry, but did he appoint a fellow traveler?
Since many of those expressing an opinion know little about the man (and I know less), it may take some time to judge the choice, It was not, however, a dramatic stroke that unites the country in a difficult time. The headline at Egypt Independent’s live blog, “Hesham Qandil Who?,” seems best to capture the mood.
And note this, in Ahram Online’s report:
On 15 July Kandil travelled with President Morsi to the African Union summit in Ethiopia. The trip sought to rekindle Cairo’s relationship with its African neighbours after years of neglect under former president Hosni Mubarak.
Improving Egypt’s relationship with the Nile Basin countries is one of President Morsi’s priorities, according to his presidential programme.
Egypt’s relations with the other Nile Basin countries is certainly an issue, but did Morsi’s traveling to Ethiopia with him win him the Prime Ministry?
Morsi became President 25 days ago, talking about what a US politician would call an intention to “hit the ground running.” It took nearly a month to choose a Prime Minister, and the primary response so far has been, “Who?” Perhaps he has not yet gotten his sea legs or, more likely, he finds himself caught between the generals of SCAF and the Guidance Council of he Muslim Brotherhood (his “resignation” from the Brotherhood on ascending to the Presidency is not, so far as I know, taken seriously by anyone at all).
The new Prime Minister of Egypt has a Ph.D. in irrigation and sewage. That may be a good thing; irrigation is vital if rather low-profile, and the PM is traditionally a fairly faceless technocrat. Usually not quite so faceless no one has heard of him, though. He was a member of the outgoing interim Cabinet as Irrigation and Water Resources Minister, and before that a bureaucrat in the Water Ministry.
The appointment of Hisham Qandil after a wait of nearly a month comes as something of an anticlimax, however: the delay had led to reports, which may be true, that SCAF and/or the Muslim Brotherhood leadership had vetoed certain candidates with a national or international profile.
He’s the youngest Prime Minister in Egyptian history, they say, and is said to have never belonged to any political party, but is rumored to be close to the Muslim Brotherhood. Note that he has a beard, but not a heavy one, The MB says he’s not a member.
His CV, in Arabic, is here. He’s US educated (North Carolina and Utah).
Right now that’s about all most Egyptians know. Few of them apparently ever heard of him either. More comment later perhaps.
Some book keeping for new readers.
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Those who like reading history and want a background on Egypt might enjoy these books of mine:
Napoleon’s Egypt: Invading the Middle East. This is written for a general audience and you will have some deja vu as you read about the Cairo revolt of October, 1798.
Engaging the Muslim World, revised Paperback October, 2010– has a chapter on the Muslim Brotherhood and the radical Muslim movements in Egypt as well as chapters on countries likely to be affected by the Egypt events such as Saudi Arabia.
For those who like pretty serious academic history, my Colonialism and Revolution in the Middle East: Social and Cultural Origins of Egypt’s Urabi Revolution may be rewarding.
For more general reading on the modern Middle East, there are suggestions on the top left of this page.
A couple of addenda to my earlier comments on the 60th anniversary of Egypt’s 1952:
Ahram Online has a lengthy excerpt from the memoir of the last surviving Free Officer, Khaled Mohieddin. (Though the caption on their photo of the Free Officers actually identifies his recently deceased cousin, Zakaria Mohieddin.) On his and Nasser’s secret dealing with the Muslim Brotherhood:
I continued to read the books brought to me by Usman Fawzi and I constantly demanded that there be a clear programme for the Brotherhood, defining its national objectives and its position and demands of the various social categories. In my arguments, I began to lean to the left and I became the odd man out in a group supposedly affiliated to the Muslim Brotherhood.
In a final effort, Hasan El-Banna sought to link us with the Brotherhood via a strong bond. He decided that Nasser and I should join the Brotherhood’s Secret Division. Perhaps it was because we were the most active and effective in our group and, consequently, winning us over completely would mean ultimately winning over the whole group.
Or perhaps it was because we talked much about the nation and nationalism and therefore he believed that by having us join the Secret Division, which was concerned with weaponry and armed action, he would be satisfying our patriotic enthusiasm and ensuring closer ties with the Brotherhood.
Anyway, we were contacted by Salah Khalifa, who took the two of us to a house in Darb Al-Ahmar toward Sayyida Zaynab. There we met Abd El-Rahman El-Sanadi, head of the Brotherhood’s Secret Division at the time.
We were taken into a totally darkened room where we heard a voice (I think it was that of Saleh Ashmawi) and, placing our hands on the Quran and a gun and repeating after the voice, we took an oath of obedience and total allegiance, for better or worse, to the Grandmaster, swearing by the Book of God and the Sunna (traditions) of the Prophet. Although these rites were meant to stir the emotions, they had very little impact on Nasser and myself.
In any case, we began to work in the Secret Division and we were taken for training at a place near Helwan. Since we were officers, it was only natural that we were more knowledgeable about weapons than our training instructors. Nasser was not too happy with the situation and we felt alienated from the Brotherhood.
Also, Al-Ahram’s front page the next day; “The Army Carries Out a Peaceful Military Movement”:
|Nasser, Naguib and Salah Salem|
Anwar Sadat went to the movies, not knowing that his co-conspirators had moved up the schedule, and almost missed the revolution. But once he caught up, as the senior Signals Corps officer among the plotters, he read communique number one:
To the People of Egypt:
Egypt has passed through a critical period in her recent history characterized by bribery, mischief, and the absence of governmental stability. All of these were factors that had a large influence on the army. Those who accepted bribes and were thus influenced caused our defeat in the Palestine War. As for the period following the war, the mischief-making elements have been assisting one another, and traitors have been commanding the army. They appointed a commander who is either ignorant or corrupt. Egypt has reached the point, therefore, of having no army to defend it. Accordingly, we have undertaken to clean ourselves up and have appointed to command us men from within the army whom we trust in their ability, their character, and their patriotism. It is certain that all Egypt will meet this news with enthusiasm and will welcome it.
For 59 years, anyone speaking of “the Egyptian Revolution” meant the coup of July 23, 1952. It was the thawra, though there were always a few who said that it was merely a coup (inqilab). If the events of January 25-February 11, 2011 had not occurred, today’s 60th anniversary of 1952 would no doubt be a huge celebration. But another, more popular revolution has occurred. (Whether it has been reversed or cancelled out by SCAF and the Muslim Brotherhood is, of course, a subject for debate.)
This is the fourth July 23 since I started this blog and the second since the fall of Husni Mubarak, but because it is the 60th anniversary it has itself become something of a political football.
This year, the Ahmad Maher Faction of the 6 April Youth Movement (whatever you think of the current bunch of revolutionaries, though know how to name their factions like real revolutionaries) has called on Egyptians to boycott celebrating July 23. This has already provoked counterstrikes from supporters of the 1952 revolution: SCAF on its Facebook page called such comments “delusional,” defended the military’s role in 1952 and today, and and “asserted the 1952 revolution wasn’t only for Egypt but for the whole African, Arab and Asian world.” Meanwhile, a group of “Nasserists” in Qena governorate also defended 1952 and “asserted that military rule didn’t begin with Gamal Abdel Nasser but had always been a feature of Egyptian political life since the time of Ramses II.”
Ramses II? But then, remember: the two pillars of Pharaoh’s power were his Army and the high priesthood. Is that so different from SCAF and the Muslim Brotherhood? Well, yes, probably.
But no one can argue that the 1952 revolution has had a major impact across the Arab world, though that was not evident immediately. When the Free Officers first took over they forced the King to abdicate but didn’t even proclaim a republic until the following year, so that infant King Ahmad Fuad II, though in exile with his father, was nominally reigning through a regency council. The coup was not the first military coup in the modern Arab world (Bakr Sidqi in Iraq and Husni Zaim in Syria had gotten there previously), and at first it named a civilian Prime Minister. It as later, after Nasser supplanted Naguib and began social and economic reforms and nationalizations, that it began to look a bit more like a revolution. Nasser had enormous flaws, but no other Arab leader has enjoyed the prestige he did across the rest of the Arab world. We’ve talked a lot about Nasser and Naguib in this blog, and I refer you to the archives rather than repeat myself.
For two generations July 23 has been Egypt’s national day.Already January 25 is a contender for the title. Like so much else in this turbulent era, it will take some time for this generation of revolutionaries (Islamist as well as secular) to come to terms with that earlier “revolution” six decades ago today.
Two videos (both in Arabic), one with clips of the first revolutionary era, and the second Muhammad Naguib’s own initial broadcast:
“…“Syria has become a convenient battlefield for everyone, a place to divide the Arab world, said Farid Khazan, a Lebanese lawmaker and a professor of political science at American University of Beirut. “You won’t be able to reshape that country without messing up the entire region.”Tensions between Sunnis and Shiites in Syria have already destabilized communities in northern Lebanon and Iraq, according to U.S. and Mideast strategists. In Jordan, officials fear that the rise of fundamentalist Sunni groups in Syria, particularly the Muslim Brotherhood, could threaten King Abdullah’s monarchy……
The conflict has huge ramifications for neighboring countries. As violence rises, Syrians are fleeing in ever-larger numbers. Tens of thousands of Syrians have fled to Lebanon since Thursday, while thousands more are pouring into Iraq by land and by air, and Jordan says that more than 100,000 Syrians are now within its borders.
Lebanon has already had several sectarian clashes between supporters and opponents of Syria’s regime. Lebanon also is a stage for regional rivalries to play out between Saudi Arabia and Iran, which back feuding Lebanese political factions.
“I don’t think Lebanon has ever been through a situation this sensitive and complicated as right now. The divisions are very deep,” a senior Hezbollah official said. …”
“… That president, former Brotherhood member Mohammed Morsi, did not attend the rites for Suleiman, whose agents once arrested Morsi for his work on behalf of the Brotherhood.But Morsi’s office was represented by its top administrative official, the grand chamberlain, and several senior military figures attended, including Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, the head of the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, and Lt. Gen. Sami Anan, the chief of staff of the Egyptian Armed Forces…”
Today’s death of ‘Omar Suleiman, the Egyptian intelligence chief and, briefly., Vice President, has created something of a protocol quandary. He was, after all, Vice President of the country, in fact the only Vice President it has had since Husni Mubarak ascended to the Presidency. He also heald the rank of Major General in the Armed Forces, so he is of course being accorded a military funeral (tomorrow) and, unsurprisingly, Field Marshal Tantawi will attend.
But what about President Morsi? ‘Omar Suleiman’s record as an intelligence chief is mostly sealed, but of one thing he never made any secret: he was the inveterate foe of the Muslim Brotherhood, jailing them at home and working against their ally Hamas abroad. Will the Muslim Brothjerhood President attend the funeral of the man known for jailing Brotherhood members. (Morsi himself has spent short prisons in jail, though not the years of many of his colleagues.)
Early indications are, no: someone from the Presidential office will represent Morsi at the funeral. This could change, but it is the sort of awkward problem likely to crop up during Egypt’s transition. When Mubarak dies, the fact that he was convicted of a crime and imprisoned might mean a low-key funeral. But Suleiman is an ex-Vice President, with no convictions, though there was speculation he might have left Egypt to live in the Gulfs when he left the country after Morsi’s election.
And of course the conspiracy theorists are out in force, as is to be expected for a man with a spooky background like Suleiman’s. Either the US did him in (after all, this week’s conspiracy, as Hillary Clinton learned, is that the US is promoting the Muslim Brotherhood), or he actually died in the bombing in Damascus!