What makes it too difficult to call a coup- a coup

13 August,2013
Jahid Razan

‘Arab uprising’ or ‘Arab awakening ‘whatever the term may be used to describe the political uprising of the Middle East and North Africa, it is indeed one of the most significant political events of the last few decades. Marginalized people of these regions who have long been suppressed by the dictatorial regimes have stood up with courage for dignity, social justice and freedom. The gradual fall of the tyrannical regimes of Ben Ali in Tunisia, Gaddafi in Libya, and Hosni Mubarak in Egypt has appeared as a beacon of hope to many for a new democratic Middle East while some others have been cautiously optimistic about the democratization process. The latest addition to this series of incidents is the military coup against the Egyptian first ever democratically elected President Mohamed Morsi. To the surprise of many, USA and its European allies have not termed it as a ‘military coup’! This has left the task to critically reexamine the whole process of uprising in the region right from the beginning in order to understand the western influences and involvements throughout the process in order to explain what makes it too difficult to call the ‘military coup’ in its actual name ! The movement for a democratic Egypt was planned long before of its actual demonstration in the streets in 2010. In fact it was planned three years earlier, in 2007. The agenda of a democratic Middle East is often attributed to Obama administration even though George W.Bush was the first to declare about a democratic reform in the region which he declared in 2003, as a justification of the Iraq war. On November 6, 2003 he declared his involvement in Middle East as something similar to Ronald Regan’s support for Eastern Europe’s democratic struggle of 1980s.

Pretext and incidents behind the scenario

In order to understand the dynamics of the process, it is imperative to acknowledge the protest against Slobodan Milosevic in the year 1998, led by a group named ‘Optor’ (Resistance) that could successfully overthrow the dictator two years later. Srdja Popovic was the architect of the movement who used text message, internet and social networks in order to mobilize the mass protest. Later in 2004, Popovic set up an organization called CANVAS in order to train people to specialize in nonviolent movements and strategy based on three principles of unity, planning and nonviolent discipline. In the subsequent years the center provided training for a group of young who eventually led the successful “Rose Revolution” in Georgia and the “Orange Revolution” in Ukraine. Afterwards, the young leaders of 37 countries of North Africa and Middle East received their training in Serbia. Mohammed Adel, one of the masterminds of the April 6 Youth Movement in Egypt, received his training for a week in Belgrade during the summer of 2009. The similar symbol “clenched fist’ against the regimes appeared in Tunisia, Morocco, Egypt, and Syria during the movement that was first seen in Serbia which is also a clear manifestation of influence of the Serbian movement and training that the bloggers and activist received.
Three American government financed NGO: the Albert Einstein Institute, Freedom House, and the International Republic Institute also trained a significant number of bloggers and activists. The bloggers were initially confused whether to accept US funding and training or not and the concern was expressed by Sami Ben Gharbia, a Netherlands based exiled Tunisian human rights campaigner, blogger, writer and freedom of expression advocate .The bloggers were skeptic about the exploitation of the movement and also they were hesitant whether they would be able to work independently after accepting such help. Sami Ben Gahrbia in his article also mentioned about the direct involvement of powerful American corporations. The reality is that, Google, Twitter and Yahoo were directly involved in the training and disseminating information to promote the pro-democracy activism. Google arranged a seminar called ‘Internet Liberty’ on September 20-22 of 2010 in Budapest where many European and American governments’ representatives were present. The bloggers network of the region of Middle East and North Africa was launched there. Wael Ghonim who was the Google’s marketing director of Middle East appeared as a hero for his contribution in the movement.

Role of Islamic parties

Muslim Brotherhood as a party was not among the first few actors to join the protest against Hosni Mubarak. So is the case with ‘The Ennahda Movement’ in Tunisia. Both of the parties were skeptic at the beginning and were trying to be sure about what was happening. They were cautiously determining their strategy based on the players involved in the game and most certainly doing a cost benefit analysis. However, the young generation of these parties was very curious and rightly realized the opportunity for a change and participated in the activism earlier than the rest. Later both the parties decided to join as a whole.

Selective democracy

But nothing comes for free and so is the western support for democracy! All these were not without the geopolitical and economic interest of USA and its European allies! It was understood when Google provided satellite codes for internet access for the Egyptian activists when the Husni Mobarak’s government tried to curtail the internet access. But Google refused to provide the same for the Syrian activists later on in order to comply with the US policy in Syria. Things became clearer when the protest of a 100 thousand out of 1.2 million people of Bahrain was brutally cracked down by the king Hammad Bin Issa al-Khalifa and US and its European allies remained indifferent to it portraying it as a religious conflict between two ethnic groups. Economic considerations, regional stability and access to oil resource got priority over the movement of democratic legitimacy of Bahrain.

Libya is yet another example where the economic and geostrategic considerations shaped the events considerably. Libya, a country with oil resources exported a 31 million euro worth crude oil and 80 percent of the total was shipped to EU. 10 percent of French import and 25 percent of Italian import was from Libya on the previous year. Ghaddifi regime’s National Oil Corporation controlled the bulk of oil production and had joint ventures with the foreign firms of France and Italy. Ghaddifi threatened them to move towards Chaina, India and Brasil which became a concern for them. Also Ghaddifi established his influence in the region through his economic ties with Ivory Coast, Chad, South Africa, Sudan, India, China and Venezuela. Hence, it became imperative to take the control of the region.
Tariq Ramadan is a Swiss academic and writer who is also a Professor of Contemporary Islamic Studies at Oxford University, has very objectively analyzed the series of incidents in his latest book “Islam and Arab Awakening”. His book provides a significant detailed analysis of the above mentioned facts.

A closer look into the latest Egyptian coup

Keeping all the above factors in mind if we now concentrate on the latest Egyptian case of overthrowing a democratic government, things would seem much more sensible. Even though Mohamed Morsi came through a democratic process, but the greatest strategic ally of US, the Egyptian army was never out of the control of the situation. It has been stated by the analysts that Egyptian military control from a 15 to 40 percent of the country’s economy. Khaled Fahmy, the head of history at the American University in Cairo, has termed it as a “grey economy” as they are not subject to any Parliamentary scrutiny; the Egyptian government auditing office has no control or knowledge of them. Egyptian army has a 50 years relationship with US administration and has been the second-largest recipient of U.S. military aid since 1981 to 2002. Since 2002, Israel and Egypt have remained among the top four annual recipients of U.S. military aid.

The New International Herald Tribune reveals that, General el-Sisi is well known to the Americans, as well as to the government of Israel. He and his office have continued to communicate and to coordinate with US even during the time when Mohamed Morsi was in the presidential palace. A conversation between President Morsi and General el-Sisi pointed out that the head of the country’s military had planned the overthrow and imprisonment of the president and justify the military coup “in the name of the people’s demand”! The article of International Herald Tribune, of July 5, also confirms that the decision to overthrow President Mohamed Morsi had been made well before June 30. Amnesty International has reported the indifferent attitude of the armed forces, which did not intercede in certain demonstrations even though they were close enough to be intervened, allowing the violence to spread out of control was clearly with an intent of destabilizing the government to legitimize the coup. To prove their legitimacy even further the expert army of the country magically solved the chronic blackouts, gasoline and natural gas shortages which appeared so critical to solve during the time of Mohamed Morsi.

Although Barack Obama has denied the association of US with the overthrowing of Mohamed Morsi, yet appraisal of dozens of US federal government documents shows that Washington has funded senior Egyptian opposition members who called for toppling of President Mohamed Morsi. Documents obtained by the exploratory reporting program at UC Berkeley show the US channeled funding through a State Department program named ‘democracy assistance’ initiative. The "Israeli" ambassador in Cairo has told a minister in the government of Egyptian military putsches that the "people of Israel" consider general Abdul-Fattah el-Sisi, who organized a military coup, as a "Jewish national hero". According to "Israel" radio, the ambassador rang the agriculture minister Ayman Abu-Hadid to congratulate him on his new post and said; el-Sisi is not a national hero for Egypt, but for all Jews in "Israel" and around the globe". Authority of Israel has already requested to USA not to stop the military aid of Egypt.

It is clear that the westerns are interested in a selective democracy which will serve their economic and geostrategic purpose, be it in Egypt or anywhere else! The western implicit support for Egyptian army is a support for an illegitimate status coup against a democratically elected government, a denial of rightful will of people for the economic and geostrategic interest. Calling it “a military coup” might be a deterrent to continue the military aid and keeping the regional interest intact. Whatever the way the western governments and media sugarcoat it, to all the peace loving people of the world it is nothing but a “military coup”.

Jahid Razan, Technical University of Eindhoven, Netherlands.

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