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Is Egypt's True Enemy Paranoia?

Posted: 08/23/2013 5:24 pm

During the short-lived rule of ousted Egyptian president Mohammed Morsi, the Muslim Brotherhood complained bitterly about the "deep state" (the bureaucracy, military, security services) while liberal-secularists accused the Brotherhood of consolidating power throughout Egypt in order to push through its conservative social policies. In rebutting these claims, each side accused the other of sheer paranoia.

And now, the impending decision on former dictator Hosni Mubarak's release from prison will only give further political ammunition to the polarizing narrative in Egypt -- and ultimately tip the balance in favour of one of these opposing arguments.

For almost a year, liberal-secularists had spoken out against what they saw as the "Brotherhoodization" of Egypt, with the Morsi government and its Muslim Brotherhood supporters exerting greater control over Egyptian state institutions. They pointed to the removal of General Mohamed Tantawi and the appointment of General Abdel Fattah el-Sissi as head of the armed forces; the rushed constitutional process; the appointment of Islamist state governors; and the sacking of the Cairo opera house's director. Most importantly, liberal-secularists have complained against Brotherhood attacks on the judiciary, which started with the overthrow of the prosecutor-general and lowering the retirement age of judges in order to remove old members of the bench. These decisions have been noted as evidence that the Brotherhood wanted to forever change Egypt into a "Brotherhood dominion."

Meanwhile, the Morsi government and its Brotherhood backers claimed they were forced to fast-track the constitution last December and were unable to implement reforms and policies because of the "deep state" -- where powerful Mubarak-era cronies continued to dominate key Egyptian institutions. Throughout Mr. Morsi's time in office, his supporters claimed that at every turn, the isolated President was unable to change the country because of fervent resistance from the judiciary, bureaucracy and liberal media. After taking office, they realized that the civilian government was a mere fig leaf for democracy; the real power-brokers were Mubarak-era business elites, the military, security and intelligence forces.

Proponents of the "deep state" claimed that Mr. Mubarak's financial cronies withheld domestic investment and co-ordinated their capital exodus to raise the carrying costs of Egyptian bonds. And that private newspapers and television stations spread (mis)information about the Morsi government.

Bureaucrats allowed the interruption of electricity and fuel supplies to create artificial shortages and line queues throughout the country. On rumours of energy shortages in liberal Egyptian media, fuel prices further skyrocketed causing panic buying and hoarding. The Morsi government, as a precondition to an International Monetary Fund loan, had tried to implement a smart-card system to better target subsidized fuel for the country's poor. Fearing the government could track fuel supplies, corrupt petroleum ministry officials with ties to Mubarak-era cronies refused to implement it.

By the time Mr. Morsi had taken power, security and intelligence forces let law and order lapse, allowing for rival soccer fans to fight each other off the field and religious violence against Coptic Christians to go uninvestigated. Traffic police disappeared from Cairo streets, and notorious thugs called beltagaya were sent out by illusive forces to cause mayhem and incite further hatred toward the Brotherhood. Adding insult to injury, when demonstrations against Mr. Morsi began on June 30, Egyptian police stood by and watched the ransacking of the Muslim Brotherhood's headquarters in Cairo.

The day after Mr. Morsi was removed from power, Egypt's fuel shortages were no more, its electricity supply went uninterrupted and traffic police suddenly went back to work.

So who wins the debate in Egypt's exchange of accusations between the "deep state" and "Brotherhoodization"?

The majority of Egyptians who supported the popular coup believe the "Brotherhoodization" needed to be countered with a new revolution. Well, the release of Mr. Mubarak, the deposed dictator imprisoned since the Jan. 25, 2011, revolution, would be a clear vindication of the existence of the "deep state." To the Brotherhood -- as Joseph Heller, author of Catch-22 poignantly once said -- "Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they aren't after you."

This article first appeared in The Globe and Mail.

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  • Egyptian army soldiers take their positions on top and next to their armored vehicles while guarding an entrance to Tahrir square, in Cairo, Egypt, Friday, Aug. 16, 2013. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)

  • Egyptian government employees clean up outside the Rabaah al-Adawiya mosque, in the center of the largest protest camp of supporters of ousted President Mohammed Morsi, that was cleared by security forces, in the district of Nasr City, Cairo, Egypt, Friday, Aug. 16, 2013. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)

  • Egyptian army soldiers take their positions on top and next to their armored vehicles while guarding an entrance to Tahrir square, in Cairo, Egypt, Friday, Aug. 16, 2013. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)

  • Supporters of ousted Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi, one holding a newspaper with images from Wednesday's crackdown, march towards downtown Cairo from the Mohandeseen district of Cairo, Egypt, Friday, Aug, 16, 2013. (AP Photo/Thomas Hartwell)

  • An Egyptian man collects and removes items from what is left of burned cars outside the Rabaah al-Adawiya mosque, in the center of the largest protest camp that was cleared by security forces, in the district of Nasr City, Cairo, Egypt, Friday, Aug. 16, 2013. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)

  • Egyptians collect and remove items from what is left of damaged tents outside the Rabaah al-Adawiya mosque, where supporters of Egypt's ousted President Mohammed Morsi had a protest camp in Nasr City, Cairo, Egypt, Friday, Aug. 16, 2013. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)

  • A trampled poster of Egypt's ousted President Mohammed Morsi is seen on the ground outside the Rabaah al-Adawiya mosque, where supporters of Morsi had a protest camp in Nasr City, Cairo, Egypt, Friday, Aug. 16, 2013. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)

  • Supporters of ousted Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi cross the Nile as they march towards downtown Cairo from the Mohandeseen neighborhood of Cairo, Egypt, Friday, Aug. 16, 2013. (AP Photo/Thomas Hartwell)

  • Egyptian Army soldiers take their positions on top of their armored vehicles while guarding an entrance to Tahrir Square, in Cairo, Egypt, Friday, Aug. 16, 2013. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)

  • An Egyptian collects items from what is left of damaged tents outside the Rabaah al-Adawiya mosque, where supporters of Egypt's ousted President Mohammed Morsi had a protest camp in Nasr City, Cairo, Egypt, Friday, Aug. 16, 2013. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)

  • Abandoned shoes and a tea glass, belonging to supporters of ousted Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi, remain on a wall outside the Rabaah al-Adawiya mosque, in the center of the largest protest camp of supporters of ousted President Mohammed Morsi, that was cleared by security forces, in the district of Nasr City, Cairo, Egypt, Friday, Aug. 16, 2013. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)

  • Egyptian army soldiers take positions on top of their armored vehicles while guarding a street that leads to Rabaah al-Adawiya mosque, at the site of the largest protest camp of supporters of ousted President Mohammed Morsi, that was cleared by security forces, in the district of Nasr City, Cairo, Egypt, Friday, Aug. 16, 2013. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)

  • Egyptian Army soldiers stand guard outside the Rabaah al-Adawiya mosque, in the center of the largest protest camp of supporters of ousted President Mohammed Morsi, that was cleared by security forces, in the district of Nasr City, Cairo, Egypt, Friday, Aug. 16, 2013. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)

  • Egyptian government employees clean up outside the Rabaah al-Adawiya mosque, at the site of the largest protest camp of supporters of ousted President Mohammed Morsi, that was cleared by security forces, in the district of Nasr City, Cairo, Egypt, Friday, Aug. 16, 2013. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)

  • Supporters of Egypt's ousted President Mohammed Morsi carry coffins, covered with national flags, of their colleagues who were killed during Wednesday' clashes in Amr Ibn Al-As mosque before a funeral prayers in Cairo, Egypt, Friday, Aug. 16, 2013. (AP Photo/Amr Nabil)

  • An Egyptian Army soldier takes his position on top of an armored vehicle while guarding an entrance to Tahrir Square, in Cairo, Egypt, Friday, Aug. 16, 2013. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)

  • An Egyptian walks in front of an army armored vehicle that guards an entrance of Tahrir Square, in Cairo, Egypt, Friday, Aug. 16, 2013. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)

  • An Egyptian man walks through debris from what is left of burned vehicles outside the Rabaah al-Adawiya mosque, where supporters of Egypt's ousted President Mohammed Morsi had a protest camp, that was cleared by security forces, in the district of Nasr City, Cairo, Egypt, Friday, Aug. 16, 2013. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)

  • Supporters of ousted Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi, one holding a picture of Morsi, march towards downtown Cairo from the Mohandeseen neighborhood of Cairo, Egypt, Friday, Aug. 16, 2013. (AP Photo/Thomas Hartwell)

  • A poster left by supporters of ousted Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi remains outside Rabaah al-Adawiya mosque, in the center of the largest protest camp of Morsi supporters that was cleared by security forces, in the district of Nasr City, Cairo, Egypt, Friday, Aug. 16, 2013. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)

  • Egyptian government employees clean up outside the Rabaah al-Adawiya mosque in the center of the largest protest camp of supporters of ousted President Mohammed Morsi, that was cleared by security forces, in the Nasr City district of Cairo, Egypt, Friday, Aug. 16, 2013. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)

  • Egyptian government employees clean up as members of the Egyptians Army patrol among the smoldering remains of the largest protest camp of supporters of ousted President Mohammed Morsi, that was cleared by security forces, in the district of Nasr City, Cairo, Egypt, Friday, Aug. 16, 2013. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)

  • Egyptian army soldiers take their positions on top and next to their armored vehicles while guarding an entrance to Tahrir square, in Cairo, Egypt, Friday, Aug. 16, 2013. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)

  • Supporters of ousted Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi, cross the Nile as they march towards downtown Cairo from the Mohandeseen neighborhood of Cairo, Egypt, Friday, Aug. 16, 2013. (AP Photo/Thomas Hartwell)

  • Egyptian Army soldiers stand guard outside the Rabaah al-Adawiya mosque, background, in the center of the largest protest camp of supporters of ousted President Mohammed Morsi, that was cleared by security forces, in the district of Nasr City, Cairo, Egypt, Friday, Aug. 16, 2013. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)

  • A supporter of ousted Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi holding an ordinance, march towards downtown Cairo from the Mohandeseen district of Cairo, Egypt, Friday, Aug, 16, 2013. (AP Photo/Thomas Hartwell)

  • Supporters of ousted Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi march towards downtown Cairo from the Mohandeseen neighborhood of Cairo, Egypt, Friday, Aug, 16, 2013. (AP Photo/Thomas Hartwell)

  • Supporters of ousted Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi, one holding a picture of Morsi, cross the Nile as they march towards downtown Cairo from the Mohandeseen neighborhood of Cairo, Egypt, Friday, Aug. 16, 2013. (AP Photo/Thomas Hartwell)

  • Egyptian Army soldiers stand guard outside the Rabaah al-Adawiya mosque, in the center of the largest protest camp of supporters of ousted President Mohammed Morsi, that was cleared by security forces, in the district of Nasr City, Cairo, Egypt, Friday, Aug. 16, 2013. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)

  • Supporters of Egypt's ousted President Mohammed Morsi surround a coffin, covered with national flags, of their colleague who was killed during Wednesday' clashes in Amr Ibn Al-As mosque before a funeral prayers in Cairo, Egypt, Friday, Aug. 16, 2013. (AP Photo/Amr Nabil)

  • Supporters of Egypt's ousted President Mohammed Morsi throw stones at a gasoline station that belongs to the Egyptian Army service project, in Cairo, Egypt, Friday, Aug. 16, 2013. (AP Photo/Amr Nabil)

  • Supporters of ousted Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi run from Egyptian security forces firing towards them during clashes in Cairo's Nasr City district, Egypt, Wednesday, Aug. 14, 2013. (AP Photo/Manu Brabo)

  • Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood supporters run from police in a street leading to Rabaa al-Adawiya protest camp in Cairo on August 14, 2013.

  • Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood supporters run from police in a street leading to Rabaa al-Adawiya protest camp in Cairo on August 14, 2013.

  • Egyptian riot police are seen in a street leading to a camp of supporters of Egypt's ousted president in Cairo's Rabaa al-Adawiya as they try to disperse them on August 14, 2013.

  • Supporters of Egypt's ousted president Mohamed Morsi and members of the Muslim Brotherhood run from tear gas smoke shot by police to disperse a pro-Morsi camp, on August 14, 2013 in Cairo.

  • Supporters of Egypt's ousted president Mohamed Morsi and members of the Muslim Brotherhood run from tear gas smoke shot by police to disperse a pro-Morsi camp, on August 14, 2013 in Cairo.

  • Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood supporters run from tear gas fired by Egyptian police as they try to disperse supporters of Egypt's ousted president Mohamed Morsi in a street leading to the Rabaa al-Adawiya protest camp in Cairo on August 14, 2013.

  • Egyptians help a woman suffering from tear gas exposure after canisters were fired by Egyptian police as they try to disperse a pro-Morsi camp in a street leading to Rabaa al-Adawiya in Cairo on August 14, 2013.

  • A supporter of ousted Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi reacts during clashes with Egyptian security forces in Rabaah Al-Adawiya in Cairo's Nasr City district, Egypt, Wednesday, Aug. 14, 2013. (AP Photo/Manu Brabo)

  • An Egyptian security force checks his weapon as they clear a sit-in camp set up by supporters of ousted Islamist President Mohammed Morsi near Cairo University in Cairo's Giza district, Egypt, Wednesday, Aug. 14, 2013. (AP Photo/Hussein Tallal)

  • Egyptian security forces takes a break as they clear a sit-in camp set up by supporters of ousted Islamist President Mohammed Morsi near Cairo University in Cairo's Giza district, Egypt, Wednesday, Aug. 14, 2013. (AP Photo/Hussein Tallal)

  • Supporters of ousted Islamist President Mohammed Morsi walk through their sit-in camp as Egyptian security forces clear the sit-in camp set up near Cairo University in Cairo's Giza district, Egypt, Wednesday, Aug. 14, 2013. (AP Photo/Hussein Tallal)

  • Supporters of ousted Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi take cover from Egyptian security forces fire during clashes in Rabaah Al-Adawiya in Cairo's Nasr City district, Egypt, Wednesday, Aug. 14, 2013. (AP Photo/Manu Brabo)

  • Egyptian security forces detain supporters of ousted Islamist President Mohammed Morsi as they clear a sit-in camp set up near Cairo University in Cairo's Giza district, Egypt, Wednesday, Aug. 14, 2013. (AP Photo/Hussein Tallal)

  • Supporters of ousted Islamist President Mohammed Morsi come out of their makeshift hut at their sit-in camp as Egyptian security forces clear the camp set up near Cairo University in Cairo's Giza district, Egypt, Wednesday, Aug. 14, 2013. (AP Photo/Hussein Tallal)

  • A supporter of ousted Islamist President Mohammed Morsi runs to avoid smoke and tear gas as Egyptian security forces clear a sit-in camp set up near Cairo University in Cairo's Giza district, Egypt, Wednesday, Aug. 14, 2013. (AP Photo/Hussein Tallal)

  • A man tends a supporter of ousted Islamist President Mohammed Morsi as Egyptian security forces clear a sit-in camp set up near Cairo University in Cairo's Giza district, Egypt, Wednesday, Aug. 14, 2013. (AP Photo/Hussein Tallal)

  • Egyptian security forces and a man carry a man as security forces clear a sit-in camp set up by supporters of ousted Islamist President Mohammed Morsi near Cairo University in Cairo's Giza district, Egypt, Wednesday, Aug. 14, 2013. (AP Photo/Hussein Tallal)

  • An Egyptian security force escorts a supporter of ousted Islamist President Mohammed Morsi as security forces clear a sit-in camp set up near Cairo University in Cairo's Giza district, Egypt, Wednesday, Aug. 14, 2013. (AP Photo/Hussein Tallal)

  • A supporter of ousted Islamist President Mohammed Morsi raises his arm as Egyptian security forces detain him at a sit-in camp set up near Cairo University in Cairo's Giza district, Egypt, Wednesday, Aug. 14, 2013. (AP Photo/Hussein Tallal)

 

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