Egypt: Regime’s slow crumble continues; MB leaders spell out their position

The demonstrations and anti-government protests continued and multiplied throughout many parts of Egypt today. No sign the opposition is backing down. Indeed, it is settling in for the long haul, and reports from around the country indicate that in several places the regime may be starting a slow crumble.
On January 27, I blogged that the decision the Muslim Brotherhood announced that day, that they would formally be joining the protest announced for January 28, “could very well mean the end of the Mubarak regime.”
It hasn’t happened yet, as we know. But the MB did bring to the protest movement a degree of discipline, organization, and nationwide reach that it had not had until that point.
As of today, I believe the two main scenarios are (1) a slower or faster victory for the pro-democracy movement, as the bastions of the old regime continue their present crumbling; or (2) a counter-stroke by the regime and its allies inside and outside the country that would most likely be very brutal and would leave Egypt in a mess for a very long time to come.
I’ve been trying to keep up with the actions and pronouncements of the MB. I just read this short account on the MB’s English website of the press conference they held earlier today.
They were positioning themselves as cautious (but generally negative) regarding the discussion with VP Suleiman that they– along with most of the other opposition groups– entered into last Sunday:

    During the conference the MB reiterated that they are not seeking power nor do they have any intentions of fielding any of the group’s members for presidency.
    According to the group the preliminary dialogue with the newly appointed Vice President Omar Suleiman was nothing more than the testing of waters in an attempt to see the regime’s real intentions for reform and constitutional amendments which would guarantee freedom and democracy for the people of Egypt.
    The MB asserts that the group’s major concern is the wellbeing of all Egyptians regardless of religion, political trend and sect. It relayed its disappointment of the talks stressing that the regime sidelined the key demands in order for peaceful transition; that being the immediate stepping down of Mubarak…

Their English website is not great. The Arabic one is much better. I wish I had time to translate more, for example, from this article that key MB intellectual Esam al-Erian (who was arrested on Jan.29 and released a few days later) published on it today. It is a succinct, eloquent, and straightforward presentation of their position.
He wrote:

    The Brotherhood has announced that they will not put forward a candidate for the next presidency and that they will be looking at the programs of the candidates to find the best among them. They will put forward candidates for parliament, on the basis of a desire to participate, not to gain a majority, and they will ally themselves with all the nationalist forces in order to bring about true stability built on a foundation of freedom, justice, human dignity, and social justice.

During the article, Erian repeats a number of times that the Brotherhood– despite withstanding terrible oppression at the hands of the regime, including the detention of more than 30,000 of their members during the Mubarak years– has remained committed to nonviolence and to seeking change through peaceful, constitution, and parliamentary channels.
He writes,

    If America is to restore its credibility in Egypt and the Arab world, it must respect the right of the Arab peoples to choose their rulers on the basis of democracy, and it should not rely on the power of the rulers to repress the peoples.
    If it wanted to guard its interests, particularly its strategic interests, then it must respond to the desire of the people to build a democratic order marked by transparency and accountability…
    America will lose its allies among the Arab rulers one after the other if it doesn’t change its policy and reconsider all its strategic alliances in the region. The wave of democratic change has arrived in the Arab region and the power of the winds of change and the people is endless. The false American attempts to do nation-building in Afghanistan and to build a democratic system in Iraq both failed. But the Egyptians have proved that they are able– without any help from America– to build a better future. And if God wills it they will build a truly democratic system in Egypt that will shine its light on the region.
    America is the richest and most powerful state on earth, and for long decades it has claimed to be the leader of the free world and has raised great slogans [on this matter.] So how should it act if it were to honor the right of the peoples to self-determination and to choose their own leaders, and the fundamentals of democracy; and if it were to preserve world peace and international cooperation in the fields of economy, information, and technology, so that it could become an example to humanity that would earn the friendship of the whole world…

Today’s Muslim Brotherhood is thus far from being the “scary, fundamentalist menace” that so many people in the U.S. fearfully portray it as being. I read Dr. Erian as calling us Americans back to our better selves and our better values.
The Obama administration has huge sway over the Egyptian military, which it has funded, trained, and supplied for 30 years now. Our government therefore bears considerable responsibility for the gross rights violations that the military in addition to the police, have been continuing to commit even this week… Even after Obama “asked them politely to stop doing it.”
Asking politely is not nearly enough. All aid to Egypt’s military and “security” bodies should be cut off until they puts in place clear and clearly enforced orders that their units will not engage in, and will not connive in, any actions that violate the rights of civilians.
The role of Egypt’s military is to be the shield of the people’s rights, not their violator. And its role as the people’s shield should not be subordinated to the agendas of any other nation. That has tragically been the case for far too long now. Let Egypt’s citizens work peaceably together to design the ground-rules of their own democracy. Why would anybody think they are “not yet” capable of doing that?

4 thoughts on “Egypt: Regime’s slow crumble continues; MB leaders spell out their position”

  1. I believe that the security establishment will be steadfast in trying to expunge the ghosts of Vietnam and Iran.
    In Vietnam it was public opinion that forced the end to the nonsense. One of the purposes of Iraq and Afghanistan wars is to prove that public opinion no longer matters. (Some things are just too important to be settled democratically.)
    In Iran and Nicaragua, a US ally got overthrown by a popular revolution, something that was thought unthinkable at the time. Now it’s unthinkable again. So Egypt will be the test case to prove that a major US ally can no longer be dislodged through a revolt of its own people. This is reminiscent of the Soviets, who thought the communism could not be reversed, and Afghanistan was to prove the point.

  2. In a country like Egypt where Islamism is vibrant and where large portion of population are underdeveloped, a hasty rush towards democracy would definetly ensue a descent into populism of an islamic sort. In Iraq, the Pro-Iran elemnts brought by the US invasion has transformed Iraq from a secular socilaist country with remarkable achievments in health care, education and industrial development into a chaeotic populsit irnaian style shiite democracy that has plunged the country centuries back.

  3. Observer it verges upon the obscene for you to blame Iranian influences for reducing the Iraqi state to rubble. The present dystopia there is entirely the work of the United States and “the coalition.”
    “The Obama administration has huge sway over the Egyptian military, which it has funded, trained, and supplied for 30 years now. Our government therefore bears considerable responsibility for the gross rights violations that the military in addition to the police, have been continuing to commit even this week… Even after Obama “asked them politely to stop doing it.”
    Helena: this point cannot be made too clearly. The Egyptian army leadership is on the US payroll. If Obama and Gates tell them to stop they will stop.
    This needs to be understood, mostly, in the US which is possibly the last place on earth where the myth of US good intentions and decency in foreign policy survives.
    The American people need to understand that their country in Egypt is working intensely to preserve a regime, largely founded by the US, based upon violence, contempt for the law, torture, secret policing, the theft of public resources and the suppression of freedom of speech, thought and deed. A state which is essentially fascistic.
    It should not be difficult to infer, from this, the fate that the American ruling class has in mind for its own population. It is a matter of self preservation for decent Americans to stand by the people of Egypyt. They will decide how they will be governed and who by.

  4. The facts belie Observer’s point that underdeveloped countries cannot rush into democracy. Spain was desperately poor at the end of Franco’s brutal tenure, yet they became democratic immediately after Franco left. Portugal the same after Salazar.
    Observer’s point parrots the position taken by Likud, AIPAC, and most neocons, who fear democracy in the Middle East. They launched a virulent campaign against Turkey’s referendum putting civilians in control of the government. And now the same thing is happening in Egypt.
    Israel falsely claims to be the only democracy in the ME, something they guard jealously. Giving voice to people’s aspirations for justice threats Israel. As we have seen in the US, the lobby tries to stifle criticism of Israel. In the ME, the suppression is accomplished via democracy hating regimes.

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