Monday,18 December, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1161, (22 - 28 August 2013)
Monday,18 December, 2017
Issue 1161, (22 - 28 August 2013)

Ahram Weekly

Egypt at war against terrorism

Egypt now needs support from the West, not isolation or biased censure, and still less clumsy interference, writes Mahmoud Karem

Al-Ahram Weekly

Placing aside all political opinions on the dispersal of the sit-ins in Nasr City’s Rabaa Al-Adaweya and Giza’s Nahda Square, Egypt is at war. This is the axiomatic fact that needs to be underscored. Astonishingly, this war fought by Egypt will pour benefits on the same countries criticising Egypt now. The foes in Egypt are the same as those in Afghanistan, with the same terrorist tactics well known to ISAF and NATO forces.

Terrorists have relocated into Egypt, as is evident from the photos we are seeing. At present the battle zone is not Sinai, but the streets of Cairo, the capital with more than 1,000 historical minarets, as well as other major cities. The target is the population that “needs to be punished for its 30 June anti-Morsi demonstrations”. Yes the sleeping cells, like those who conducted an act of infamy on 9/11 in the US, are now operational; they surfaced, the weapons stored are out and widely distributed in the streets, the tactics correspond to the nationality of the terrorist, so we are seeing a mosaic of Syrians, Afghan, Taliban, Yemeni, Sudanese, Pakistani terrorists, while black Al-Qaeda flags are hoisted over governmental buildings after they are torched. A demonstration crossing a high bridge in Cairo fired upon nearby apartments, while innocent inhabitants found bullets flying into their bedrooms.

The West that took Egypt to the Security Council must look at the other side of the story too. They must hear the cries of innocent civilians who are gunned down from roofs by foreign combatants — the same innocent civilians finding safe exits for protesters seeking haven in mosques. But what are high-calibre weapons doing in places of worship? Who are those snipers hiding in historical mosque minarets and firing from high places? Do we need this brinkmanship to start a necessary political reconciliation dialogue?

Many questions arise. How will all this affect the political scene after the dust settles? This is the major question that needs to be addressed by the emissaries and go-betweens. If reconciliation is to succeed then we must advise properly. One important piece of advice is the need to stop violence from all sides. Additionally, image and acceptability is crucial for the future of any political party in any given society. Hence the question: How will history remember the Muslim Brotherhood, even if history gives them that they have been unjustifiably imprisoned for long, and suffered illegal torture? I am afraid the people now will only remember the terrorising of civilians, failure in leading a nation after free and fair elections, and offering a paternalistic foundation for global and surrogate terrorists to relocate in Egypt with full amnesty. Egyptians will not forget the killings, disfigurement, defacing and mutilation of corpses of men in uniform while on duty by terrorists in the past several days.

If foreign envoys to Egypt speak of inclusion and reconciliation, two matters I endorse, I would still advise them to call for a paradigmatic revisiting and rehashing of the Brotherhood doctrine; to ask them to renounce violence, terrorism and all jihadist, Sayed Qutb doctrines. To change and mould their party platforms, by purifying them of old obsolete dogmas, as well as to advise them to search for acceptability in Egyptian and Arab societies. If public services and social welfare were a successful tool to gain popular support for the Muslim Brotherhood, the other hand should not be a persistent policy of conniving against or meddling with domestic policies of friendly Arab societies, or surreptitious underground secret activities. Until today, no one knows — nor has access to — the real database, membership information, and funding sources of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party. Ask any Gulf Cooperation Council nation and you will get a full recount on this point. There is no transparency when it comes to Muslim Brotherhood information. The young generation from the Muslim Brotherhood should make their association more “user friendly” and mould it to the realities of the new millennium. This is how political parties, political activists, and party leaders win the hearts and minds of voters, and ultimately win elections. This is how viable political party platforms perform to win.

Cairo in the past few weeks has graciously accepted and received foreign envoys, allowed them to meet a deposed president, and allowed others to conduct free meetings in search of a solution to the present impasse. Some disagree with this measure of “kindness” from the government. In my view, I think it was a calculated move in order to show Egypt’s willingness to solve this matter peacefully. The loss of lives in ending the sit-ins of Rabaa Al-Adawiya and Al-Nahda squares is highly regretted. The loss of one Egyptian life is too many and too precious.

Concomitantly, as we have been following the statements of foreign envoys, we asked ourselves why did their visit invoke this wide public anger? Several observations come to mind and should be considered by future envoys. First, no visitors, including from the US, were referring to Sinai. For one year the migration of terrorists increased, (recently the bodies of six Pakistanis and several from Yemen were delivered to their embassies in Cairo after being killed in military operations in Sinai), weapons smuggling quadrupled, and the attacks were more against Egyptians. The paternalistic protection of terrorists during the Morsi regime was crowned by direct orders from the presidency, especially to the army, not to interfere. This was evident when six soldiers were kidnapped and a presidential aide was negotiating their release. The aide was no security expert, but rather an Islamist with a jihadist background. The president at the time made a statement that he feared for the safety of the kidnapped and the kidnappers as well, which caused a plethora of criticism from all over the globe. When the resolve from leading nations was “no negotiations with terrorists,” here in Egypt the antithesis was the norm.

Second, attacks against Copts now in Minya and in other places following an Al-Qaeda dictum: “Death to the Jews and the Christians.” Minya and many other cities lost the lives of many Copts in the past few days as Coptic Christians were targeted simply on religious grounds. Again, no condemnation of this from all our friends in the West. Christian Copts, an integral part of this society, the other lung for a healthy breathing Egypt, are now hiding their crosses and bibles in public places, even in their attire and cars. Their churches are burnt, 28 so far, their shops and homes ransacked.

In conclusion, Egypt is and shall remain an indispensable asset for the West. It is our duty to continue to write and reason that Egypt is too valuable to loose, and that it is important to listen to what Egyptians really want. US/Egyptian strategic relations are the cornerstone of peace building and peace keeping in the Middle East. The US administration should not portray itself as siding with one party while turning its back on the majority of Egyptians. Egyptians still remember the historic speech by President Barack Obama at Cairo University. “Yes we can,” became a valued icon in Egypt. The crucial message we should be sending Egyptians now is one of support, not isolation or escalation. The political roadmap that was put forward by the new government after the second wave of the revolution on 30 June should be implemented to the letter and spirit. It is a good roadmap and has been defended well, even by Mohamed Al-Baradei who resigned recently. An integral part of that roadmap is a committee for national reconciliation, which is a natural place to settle all differences. This committee should be immediately supported and activated. Additionally, the redrafting of the constitution should be an inclusive process in order not to repeat previous mistakes of exclusion. The Committee of 50 should be balanced, representative, and should reflect wide national consensus.

Let Egyptians decide without any foreign interference. Help them get it right this time, away from insular authoritarian religious dogma. Let them build their nascent democracy to full fruition, and mould it to the democracy they dream of, to culture and nurture it, and make it a model for the entire region.

 

The writer is a seasoned diplomat.

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