NIGHTWATCH: Egypt Unraveled

08 Wild Cards
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Egypt: Mursi's speech. President Mursi delivered a televised speech late on 2 July in which he said he will complete his four year term of office. He mentioned the word democracy 20 times and legitimacy 57 times in the 37 paragraphs of the 40-minute speech

In the first 7 paragraphs Mursi reviewed the events that led to his election, stressing the word democracy.

In paragraph 8 he introduced the theme that democracy and the constitution approved last December are the bases of his legitimacy.

In 9 to 16 he accused Mubarak supporters of wanting to reverse the revolution; warned the youth to not be deceived and stressed that he was elected in free elections and his burdens are heavy.

In paragraph 17 he urged all Egyptians to avoid harming the Egyptian Army.

In 18 he stated that there is no alternative to legitimacy. He welcomed dialogue with peaceful opposition members who respect legitimacy but said he must act against those who threatened violence.

The most important paragraphs,18-22, have received no coverage in mainstream press. In these Mursi admitted that he had been informed by a mediator about an initiative to change the government, with the full knowledge of the Prime Minister and the Armed Forces command a few days ago. Paragraph 21 stipulates that this initiative involved holding new elections in six months, forming a national coalition, formation of a national reconciliation committee, development of a media code of conduct.

In paragraph 22 and 23 he said,

“When this initiative was presented to me by some parties on the arena (sic), I agreed on it and said let us proceed with it. This took place in the presence of the prime minister and the minister of defense, the commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces. We said that everyone should work on it so that most of those in the arena, including opponents and supporters, agree on it. These demands were there in the arena to guarantee the march within the framework of the current legal and constitutional legitimacy.”

“The reactions that I have received through various channels, including through the government, some parties which presented the initiative, and the Armed Forces which seek to bring these ones together, showed that the people do not agree on this; the opponents do not agree.”

In paragraph 26 he said three times that he rejected words that violate legitimacy, referring to the ultimatum.

In paragraph 28 he said, “If the price of preserving the legitimacy is my blood, then I am ready to pay that willingly for the sake of this homeland and its stability, to please nobody but God, may He be exalted.”

The remaining paragraphs are various pleadings and exhortations, statements of respect for the opposition and prayers.

Comment: Mursi's speech rejected the Army's ultimatum, but was not defiant in a belligerent manner, as some press treatments imply. It was pedantic. It also contradicted a statement the government made yesterday that it was not informed about the Army's ultimatum. Mursi's speech indicates he approved it or something like it quite recently.

The middle paragraphs in which Mursi explains the Army-backed initiative and admits he agreed to it suggest he double-crossed the Prime Minister and the Army. In paragraph 19 he laid out what looks very much like the “road map” that the Army mentioned in its ultimatum and details of which were leaked prior to Mursi's speech

In paragraph 19, Mursi deliberately obfuscated the timing when he was approached. He also appears to have left important details out of his description of the initiative. Apparently the initiative was intended to avert the very demonstrations and political tension that major Egyptian cities are now experiencing. His statement about elections in paragraph 21 implies that he was supposed to step down before 30 June or was to announce some kind of power delegation.

Based on Mursi's admission in paragraph 22 that he agreed with the initiative and directly authorized the Prime Minister and the Minister of Defense to proceed with it, they did, but Mursi decided to renege.

In paragraph 23 he explained that he was told that the people did not agree to the initiative. That is his defense for not announcing the initiative.

Events during the day. The Cairo bourse rose almost 5% buoyed by the Army ultimatum.

For the third consecutive day, anti-Mursi protesters remained in Tahrir Square in central Cairo. They also staged sit-ins outside the main presidential palace and a secondary presidential palace in Cairo. During working hours, demonstrations were modest. In the evening they again surged into the millions according to local reports. Seventeen people were killed and 200 injured in a clash between pro-Mursi supporters and “the military” near Cairo University, according to tweets and al Arabiya. Images on the Web showed no soldiers involved.

Two more cabinet ministers resigned bringing to six, the number of ministers who have left the government since Sunday. They include Foreign Minister, Mohamed Kamel Amr. The cabinet spokesman also resigned, as did Mursi's top military adviser, former Chief of Staff General Sami Enan.

The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces late on Tuesday made clear that it would stick to an ultimatum it gave to Mursi on Monday. The deadline is Wednesday evening at 1700 Cairo time (11:00 EDT)

The Muslim Brotherhood attempted to organize and equip its supports with clubs and cudgels, but in several towns, only a handful of supporters mustered.

The Army road map. Unidentified military sources leaked a few details of the road map. It appears to be the initiative to which Mursi referred. The Army would suspend the constitution; dissolve the rump parliament and install an interim presidential council, composed mainly of civilians from political groups and experienced technocrats. They would run the country until an amended constitution was drafted within months.

Within six months new presidential elections would be held. Parliamentary elections would be delayed until strict conditions for selecting candidates were in force.

Talks. Unidentified military sources said the armed forces planned to open talks with the opposition National Salvation Front, which is the opposition's umbrella organization, and other political, religious and youth organizations after the deadline.

The liberal opposition coalition has ruled out even starting negotiations with Mursi, saying they are simply waiting for the expiration of the deadline. After that, former UN nuclear agency chief Mohamed ElBaradei, would deal directly with the military as the representative of the Rebel movement and affiliated protest groups.

During this Watch, single source news outlets claim variously that Mursi has asked for several hours in which to consider resignation; that he will announce a cabinet shuffle; that the government will announce steps to end the crisis including holding new presidential elections. None of these reports has been corroborated at this time.

Special comment: The action of the Army is the best indicator that a revolution – a fundamental change of the political system – has not occurred and is not occurring now. The political changes under Mursi have been superficial and impermanent. Mursi apparently thought he had installed a loyal cohort of military leaders, but he misjudged.

The Army is basking in the role of champion of the people, but that is somewhat contrived. The Army is acting as parens patriae to conserve Egypt as it prefers it. Nothing in the Army's public action is as clear and clean as it seems because the Minister of Defense has had multiple meetings with Mursi during the past three days, including today. There are no outward signs of rancor or bitterness and Mursi did not denounce the Army leadership in his speech.

Thus, the Army's action is probably best understood as protecting Army interests which were threatened by the Brotherhood's political emergence which it helped suppress for 30 years or more; by the ineptitude of Mursi and his administration which destroyed the tourism industry, failed to alleviate shortages, failed to improve employment and ran the economy into the ground; and by foreign policy initiatives that included statements that Egypt no longer considered the US an ally.

The Army will not be the government, but will be the power behind a new government, assuming the road map is followed.

US backlash danger. During the day, President Mursi cited the US President as backing him, based on a phone conversation between the two Presidents. This has not received much press play yet. A few quick reaction interviews indicated that most demonstrators considered the US irrelevant to the anti-Mursi movement.

As yet no press sources have suggested the US military connection with the Egyptian Army is a factor in the uprising.

Somewhat more worrisome is an undercurrent of hostility directed at the US ambassador for what some anti-government protestors describe as visible meddling. They cite among other events, her meeting with the Coptic Christian Pope to urge Christians to not oppose Mursi in the 30 June demonstrations.

Iranian reaction: Iran on Tuesday called on the Egyptian military to support national reconciliation and respect the ‘vote of the people' after it warned it was ready to intervene in Egypt's political crisis. ‘Mohamed Mursi is the incumbent president based on the people's vote,' Iranian deputy foreign minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian told the official IRNA news agency.”

On the other hand, Saudi Arabia appears to favor the demonstrators and the Army, based on the tone of news reporting in Al Arabiya.

Outlook: Neither side has made concessions. Confrontations and clashes will continue. The Army appears committed to arranging Mursi's resignation, possibly under a plan he once approved. The tolling of the Army's ultimatum is the condition for the next phase of tension, political action and demonstrations which are becoming more confrontational.

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