The Modern Pharaohs II

The third episode of the BBC series “The Modern Pharaohs” continued after the assassination of Pres. Anwar Sadat of Egypt in 1981.  He was killed by an Islamic extremist for making peace with Israel and joining the American camp.  His deputy Hosni Mubarak took over as President. His first order of business was to revert to what his predecessor Pres. Nasser had done when he first seized power, namely suppress and destroy the Muslim Brotherhood (Ikhwan) and its offshoot the deadly Islamic Jihad (al Gama’a Ha’Islamiyah) that had been responsible for the assassination.

Given the economic plight of Egypt, Mubarak could not afford to give up his friendship with the US and the b$3 that Egypt received annually, at that time the same amount as Israel. While Mubarak reaffirmed his adherence to the Israel-Egypt peace treaty he was also trying to repair ties with other Arab countries.  Egypt is a large, complex country and the hinterland remained extremely conservatively religious, and there the Ikhwan retained great loyalty.  While Mubarak suppressed the Ikhwan and any real opposition, they remained a force to be reckoned with behind the scenes.  Also, the Islamic Jihad continued to carry out a campaign of terrorism against Egyptian officials, against the Coptic Christian minority, as well as against tourists.  In 1999, 62 tourists were massacred in Luxor, devastating the Egyptian tourist industry.

In exchange for the massive aid program there was continual pressure from US Administrations for Egypt to democratize and liberalize. In 2005 Mubarak began to do this. by allowed opposition parties, that were unofficially aligned with the Ikhwan, to participate in elections.  Gradually they gained power and prominence and this became a threat to his regime.  So in 2007, he banned parties based on religion, but then another party popped up in its place.  The Ikhwan was the jack in the box that he could not eliminate. And there were serious human rights excesses in Egypt carried out by the regime.

This all came to a head in 2011 when the so-called “Arab Spring” riots that started in Tunisia spread to Cairo.  Under pressure from the demonstrators in Tahrir Square, the Egyptian military intervened and took over the government and replaced Mubarak. Mubarak received no support from the Obama Administration.  In a  month a constitutional assembly was called and this led to the first free election in Egypt which the Ikhwan led by Mohammed Morsi won.  Mubarak and others were then arrested and put on trial for ordering the killing of 550 demonstrators. However, in 2012 Morsi attempted to institute his own control of the regime, and this led to renewed widespread demonstrations, which resulted in another military intervention to restore order.  This time the military led by Gen. Abdel Fattah al Sisi really cracked down on the Ikhwan, imprisoning its leaders, including Morsi, and killing many of them.

In 2014 a new constitution was introduced based on a referendum and a government was elected with al Sisi as the new civilian President of Egypt.  The US Obama Administration did not support the removal of the democratically elected Morsi Government, even though it was an Islamic one, and refused to support al Sisi.  In effect, Obama “lost” Egypt, much as before him Carter had “lost” Iran, by refusing to support a pro-American dictator.



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