Little Egypt

Little Egypt

by digby

Since I am not an expert on Egypt and have no special knowledge to impart beyond "look at that" I'm not blogging much on the topic other than to share links and pictures if I think they're worth sharing.

This blog, called The Arabist, was passed on to me by email and I think it's worth reading. He said something that struck me as an interesting insight:

Something very fishy is taking place — the Egyptian people are being manipulated and terrified by the withdrawal of the police yesterday, reports (some of them perhaps untrue) of widespread looting, and yesterday's (during the day) relatively low military presence in the city. I can only speak about central Cairo, I suspect the situation is much worse in the Suez Canal cities, Alexandria and the Delta, and perhaps most of all the Sinai. I spoke to my former bawaab (doorman) who is near Aswan, where is he the police is still out and there is no military, although the local NDP office was ransacked and set on fire. So the situation is different from place to place, and there is very little national-level visibility.

There is a discourse of army vs. police that is emerging. I don't fully buy it — the police was pulled out to create this situation of chaos, and it's very probable that agent provocateurs are operating among the looters, although of course there is also real criminal gangs and neighborhoods toughs operating too.

That reflect quite a few comments I heard on various new broadcasts last night --- the fear of chaos. We have had some experience with that here, during Katrina. It tends to favor the authoritarian impulse --- which is why authoritarians use it.

Another blogger in Egypt, Jonathan Wright, posts this:

On the face of it, President Mubarak's decision to appoint intelligence chief Omar Suleiman as vice president and Ahmed Shafik as prime minister is hard to understand, and the analyses I have heard and seen haven't been very profound or convincing. Perhaps that's because outsiders assume that Mubarak's purpose was to placate the uprising in some way, so they have jumped to the conclusion that the appointment of Suleiman was a superficially 'honourable' way to abandon any plan to have his unpopular son Gamal succeed him. Others see it as part of a plan to arrange a safe exit for himself at some future date, under some highly speculative deal with the army which has saved him.

Others, including many of the protesters, suspect that Suleiman has the approval of the U.S. government, but reactions from the United States don't corroborate that theory in any way. Certainly that theory was widespread in Tahrir Square this morning and this has given Egypt's relationship with Washington more prominence in the uprising than at any time in the last five days, when the foreign dimension was largely absent. Protesters this morning called Suleiman a U.S. agent and banners recalled his collaboration with Israel and the United States in imposing the blockade of Gaza, which most Egyptians see as criminal.

That's not good. But it is understandable. If you haven't read Jane Meyer's New Yorker piece about Suleiman, read it:

One of the “new” names being mentioned as a possible alternative to President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt, Omar Suleiman, is actually not so new to anyone who has followed the American policy of renditions for terror suspects. After dissolving his cabinet yesterday, Mubarak appointed Suleiman vice-president, and according to many commentators he is poised to be a potential successor, and an alternative to Mubarak’s son and intended heir until now, Gamal Mubarak. Suleiman is a well-known quantity in Washington. Suave, sophisticated, and fluent in English, he has served for years as the main conduit between the United States and Mubarak. While he has a reputation for loyalty and effectiveness, he also carries some controversial baggage from the standpoint of those looking for a clean slate on human rights. As I described in my book “The Dark Side,” since 1993 Suleiman has headed the feared Egyptian general intelligence service. In that capacity, he was the C.I.A.’s point man in Egypt for renditions—the covert program in which the C.I.A. snatched terror suspects from around the world and returned them to Egypt and elsewhere for interrogation, often under brutal circumstances.

Read the whole thing. It's not pretty.

Unsurprisingly, John Negroponte on CNN a couple of minutes ago didn't seem to concerned about Suleiman taking over. Money quote: "the street is not democracy, let's not forget that."