Monday, 15 July 2013

Egypt's Socialist Interim Leaders

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The new interim leaders of Egypt appointed by the military have followed the pattern of being secular, internationalist, and socialist-leaning. Most of the new leaders have ties with either the Mubarak dictatorship, newly-formed socialist parties, the United Nations, or some combination of the above.

Egypt suffered a military coup July 3, when Mohammad Morsi, the recently elected president, was deposed. The nation also suffered a subsequent crackdown on civil liberties. Morsi and an Islamist government took office after the 2011-12 elections for a new legislature and president. According to the Wall Street Journal, the military had been secretly meeting with the opposition to Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood for months, plotting the recent coup against the elected leaders. 

The coup leader was U.S.-trained General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. Al-Sisi is a former spy; he headed military intelligence for the Egyptian Army, which cooperates closely with the U.S. CIA. Indeed, the Egyptian intelligence is implicated in the torture of dissidents and terrorist suspects. But the Egyptian military nevertheless maintained regular communications with its U.S. military counterparts before and since the coup.

President Adly Mansour

Interim President Adly Mansour (shown, right) was appointed to the Egyptian Supreme Constitutional Court by the Mubarak government in 1992, and was one of the longest-serving justices on the court. Morsi appointed him chief justice, but Mansour is best known for being part of the court that tried to dissolve the elected legislature and cancel the new Egyptian constitution

In one sense, the military coup accomplished what Mansour's court never could. And Mansour's otherwise strict avoidance of politics — even in personal political conversations — made him the perfect choice for a military junta, which was looking for an apparently neutral “technocrat” as a face to run post-coup Egypt. CNN and other news outlets have dubbed him the “mystery man” because of his unknown political ideology. But Mansour's career as a judge was due to his sponsorship by the old Mubarak regime, and his political ideology can perhaps be surmised from his own appointments to the interim government. 

Prime Minister Hazem El-Beblawi

First among Mansour's appointments was Hazem El-Beblawi, who was selected to serve as interim prime minister. El-Beblawi has a U.S. connection, having taught at the University of Southern California in the late 1970s. He was a founding member of the Egyptian Social Democratic Party, which is a consultative member of the Socialist International. (Mubarak's National Democratic Party — which had been successor of the Nasser regime's Arab Socialist Union — was also a member of the Socialist International in good standing until the group expelled the organization in the wake of the 2011 Egyptian revolution.)

Interestingly, El-Beblawi was only the second choice for the position by Mansour, whose first choice was Ziad Bahaa El-Din, also a founding member of the Social Democratic Party. Bahaa was rejected by the Salafist Al Nour Party as too secular and too left-wing. Al Nour initially supported removal of the Muslim Brotherhood's Morsi, but has since come to oppose the military coup.

Beblawi has had a long history of serving both the Mubarak regime and the United Nations, and according to the BBC, “Mr Beblawi headed the Export Development Bank of Egypt from 1983 to 1995 and served as United Nations undersecretary-general between 1995 and 2000.”

Deputy President Mohamed El-Baradei

For deputy president (sometimes called vice president) Mansour chose Mohamed El-Baradei (shown, center), the former director general of the United Nations' International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) from 1997-2009, and winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 2005. El-Baradei has long been a favorite of U.S. foreign policy officials to lead Egypt, largely because of his secular and internationalist leanings.

El-Baradei fully embraces the Obama view that government should take care of all a person's needs: "If it were up to me, society would meet the basic needs of every human being — food, water, healthcare, and shelter — and every young person would receive a well-rounded education."

And if he ruled the world, El-Baradei would turn the United Nations into a world government and military superpower: 

My highest priority would be to transform the UN security council: to revamp the council’s modus operandi for responding to longstanding tensions, armed conflicts, and other threats; to ensure representative membership; and to re-examine selective veto power. A humanitarian force, chartered with the “responsibility to protect” against war crimes, crimes against humanity, and other conflicts in which innocent civilians are the primary victims, would stand ready to intervene, to prevent the kind of slaughter taking place in Libya and elsewhere. The International Court of Justice would be granted compulsory global jurisdiction.

The new secular and socialist leaders of Egypt are clearly closer to the political preferences of the Obama administration than Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood, and more inclined to do what the “international community” demands. The Jerusalem Post captured the double-minded message being sent by the United States and the West, which outwardly opposed the coup, but has done nothing to try to reverse it:

The overthrow of Morsi has presented a diplomatic challenge for the West, which had promoted democracy in Egypt but was never comfortable with the Muslim Brotherhood in power.

Washington, which had emphasized Morsi's legitimacy and discouraged demonstrations against him in the weeks before he was removed, has since avoided referring to his removal as a coup but called for his release and for an end to detentions. US law requires a halt to aid for countries after coups.

Despite the clearly-worded U.S. law that bans continued foreign aid to nations that have deposed an elected government in a military coup, U.S. foreign aid dollars continue to flow to the Egyptian government.

Photo of Mohamed ElBaradei and Adly Mansour: AP Images