Wednesday, August 14, 2013
Military crackdown: Egypt's Tiananmen Square
The Egyptian military's bloody assault on its own people marks a point of no return for the government
A GOOD EDITORIAL
Wednesday 14 August 2013
"Egypt's military-installed government crossed a Rubicon on Wednesday by
sending in the security forces to clear the camps of demonstrators
demanding the reinstatement of President Mohamed Morsi. Within hours, the contours of the landscape the country had entered became brutally clear: 235 confirmed deaths and the possibility of many more; running battles breaking out in cities around the country; a state of emergency; night-time curfews imposed on 10 provinces. The bloodshed caused by
interior ministry troops opening fire with shotguns, machine guns and rooftop snipers on largely peaceful sit-ins
took its first major political casualty on Wednesday evening. The leading liberal who had supported the military coup,
, resigned as acting vice-president. The streets around Rabaah al-Adawiya became Egypt's Tiananmen Square.
The Rubicon being crossed is clear: before Wednesday, there had been the possibility, however faint, that cooler counsel would prevail in the Egyptian military mind – that, with the
release of Muslim Brotherhood leaders
arrested on phoney charges, a way could be found to announce a national unity government pending fresh parliamentary and presidential elections. Formidable obstacles remained, not least the undoubted unpopularity of Mr Morsi's rule among a large section of the population and his non-negotiable demand to put the constitutional clock back to the eve of the coup that toppled him. The prospect of an early reconciliation between the two camps has now disappeared.
Spurred on by voices in the liberal and secular camp that the opportunity had finally arrived to deal the Muslim Brotherhood a mortal blow – the running banner on Egypt's private television coverage on the demonstrators was "War on Terrorists" –
General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi
, the defence minister and head of the army, took the opposite course. Rejecting any hope of reintegrating Islamists into the political process,
he has declared war on Egypt's largest political movement
The government vowed last night that there would be no cabinet resignations, but
with the departure of Mr ElBaradei, the
liberal fig leaf
has dropped off what has become
full military rule
. The day before these traumatic events,
19 of 25 provincial governors appointed were generals
(17 from the military, two from the police). The idea even then that the military would take orders from a transitional civilian government appointed by them was far-fetched.
Today, military rule has been revealed for what it is, and anyone thinking that it will be temporary or last for just one month has got to be supremely optimistic
. Calm and a national dialogue cannot be restored in that time. More likely are repression and further rounds of arrests – the Brotherhood leader
, whose 17-year-old daughter was killed in the storming of the camps, was one of those detained last night – that will in turn provoke fresh protest. The defiance of the Brotherhood, and especially of those leaders who have lost family members, will be redoubled. There were already revenge attacks on Christian churches in upper Egypt by militants whom the Brotherhood do not and can not control.
The reaction of the
international community failed lamentably
to match the significance of these events. John Kerry, the US secretary of state, called last night for all sides to take a step back. He stated his strong opposition to emergency law, and repeated that the only solution will be a political one. These are all rhetorical statements, unless and until the
US is prepared to cut its $1.3bn aid to Egypt's military
. The state department said Wednesday evening that this was still under review. Mr Kerry's assertion that the political route was still open last night appeared to belie the basic facts on the ground –
a military intent on crushing all expression of dissent, peaceful or not
. International inaction in circumstances of the growing military crackdown in Egypt
amounts to acquiescence
The bet the US is taking is that General Sisi will prevail.
That is looking like a risky one."
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