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Defining moments: The significance of 30 June in and beyond Egypt

Ahmed Eleiba , Sunday 6 Jul 2014
30 june
File Photo released by the Egyptian army, opponents of Egypt's ousted President Mohamed Morsi demonstrate at Tahrir Square in Cairo, July 26, 2013 (Photo: AP)
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The ramifications of the 30 June Revolution and the events of 3 July transcend their local dimension in view of the enormous impact these developments had both regionally and internationally. Egypt’s success in applying the brakes to the Muslim Brotherhood’s self-empowerment project not only forestalled attempts to redraw its borders in Sinai in the north and the Halayeb triangle in the south, it put paid to a key instrument in a broader plan for redrawing the geographic and political maps of Libya, Iraq and Syria and the Gulf.

It is little wonder, therefore, that some people in the Arab world are celebrating the anniversary of 30 June and 3 July with even greater enthusiasm than the Egyptians themselves. Perhaps equally unsurprising is the disappointment one senses in various quarters of the West, most notably the US, a sentiment that is perhaps not untinged with a certain schadenfreude at the terrorism that has set its crosshairs, above all, on the presidential palace.

When one reads the list of the individuals who worked with Mohamed Morsi when he was in power, from the lowest to the highest echelons in the executive, one is struck by the fact that most of them had lived abroad for long periods of time. Some had been prohibited from entering Egypt due to national security concerns and others are dual nationals. Not a few had worked with foreign intelligence agencies. With their access to the Brotherhood’s vast underground network of connections throughout the Middle East, they were invaluable mines of information. In an interview with Al-Ahram Weekly conducted when the Muslim Brotherhood were still in power, a Brotherhood official revealed that in the course of a study he was preparing for the Brotherhood’s Guidance Bureau on the partition of Sudan he learned, from his sources in the Brotherhood network there, that then presidential advisor Essam Al-Haddad had worked for British intelligence behind the facade of an Islamic organisation. That piece of information made the Guidance Bureau even more determined to keep that document closely guarded.

In spite of the long history of close relations between the US and Egyptian military establishments, especially since the Camp David Accords in 1979, it appears that Washington had wanted to neutralise the Egyptian military establishment at the end of the Mubarak era so as to eliminate the army’s influence in the choice of his successor. “Although Mubarak did most of what the US asked him to do, there were certain requests he could not fulfil,” said the Director of the Centre for Military Studies, Alaa Ezzeddin to Al-Ahram Weekly. “The army would stress the need for him to refuse such requests, which included establishing a US military base at Ras Binas, for example.”

The military affairs expert pointed out that a main reason why Washington supported the Muslim Brotherhood was because they promised to be more flexible on such matters. The Brotherhood plans to redraw the regional map to conform to the project of their “global organisation” converged with the American project for “the beginning of the end of Sykes-Picot”. “Anyone who thinks that Washington has dropped the Muslim Brotherhood card from its regional calculations is fooling himself. It plans to keep this card to use in the future,” Ezzeddin said.

Another source of concern for the Egyptian military establishment was the Muslim Brotherhood regime’s attempt to reshape the Egyptian-Iranian relationship. Abdel-Khaleq Abdullah, advisor to the Gulf Centre in the UAE, told the Weekly: “In the single year of Muslim Brotherhood rule, Egypt had begun to withdraw from its pan-Arab affiliation. It was on the verge of losing the UAE and Saudi Arabia and it was gradually distancing itself from the Gulf as a whole. Fortunately, 30 June halted that horrible descent and restored Egypt to its traditional friends in the Gulf.”

Abdullah adds: “I believe that if the Brotherhood rule had lasted another year, disaster would have struck. Egypt would have become an enemy of Saudi Arabia and the UAE and on the side of the front hostile to the countries of the Gulf. The Muslim Brotherhood’s poor management of Egypt would have made this almost inevitable. By the grace of God, 30 June intervened to prevent that scenario.”

According to Abdullah, key Gulf countries had assured the Egyptian military establishment of their support for Egypt if the 30 June Revolution succeeded. They realised that this was crucial in order to put paid to designs, in which the Muslim Brotherhood featured prominently, to drag the region into ethnic and sectarian strife. With its considerable influence in the Gulf countries, the Brotherhood was already fuelling discontent against the governments there while Iran was working to aggravate the unrest by stirring up the Shia in Bahrain and Yemen.

The UAE expert maintains that Egypt should not feel that it has to play a regional role at this moment. “It has enough on its hands with the war against terrorism in Sinai and the need to protect Egyptian borders. We know that Egypt has endured more than its share of strains during the previous phase. So we should not be too demanding of it. It is sufficient that the military establishment has managed to lead Egypt back from the brink of the worst scenario and that it is now fighting terrorism. This more than anything affirms Egypt’s return to its Arabness and its regional role after that wave of ‘Brotherhoodisation.’”

Be that as it may, Egypt realises that work still needs to be done abroad to undermine the strategies and plots of the international Muslim Brotherhood and its allies. President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi’s recent visits to Algeria and Sudan delivered some important messages in this regard. Speaking to the Weekly from Khartoum, prominent Sudanese politician Al-Mahboub Abdel-Salam said: “What Al-Sisi did through his visit to Khartoum delivered an important strategic blow to the international Muslim Brotherhood. Political Islam is a vast network and the Muslim Brotherhood international has been presumably moving in all directions to surround Egypt and tamper inside it.”

The Syrian and Iraqi crises serve as potent examples of a fate that could have awaited Egypt in terms of security breakdown, ethnic and sectarian strife and national disintegration. “Without a doubt, the 30 June Revolution prevented Egypt from falling into the trap of a comprehensive scheme extending from its borders to the borders of the entire region,” said a former diplomat in Tehran.

“In spite of the ideological differences between the Muslim Brotherhood and Iran, there was a tactical agreement between them. The Brotherhood had burned their cards in the Gulf and the US was mired in the Afghani and Iraqi quagmires. The Muslim Brotherhood-Iranian bridge would be a lifesaver from that swamp and a big political investment for the US. The Brotherhood, for their part, succeeded in convincing Washington that they could act as the mediator with Tehran and even with Al-Qaeda in view of their connections with that organisation. Both the Brotherhood and Tehran were vying to strengthen their relationship with the US at the expense of the Gulf. In winning over Egypt at the time, Tehran felt that it had gained a huge advantage that it could also use against the Gulf countries.”

The diplomat added: “We tried time and time again to establish a climate for healthy relations with Iran, but Iran had always obstructed efforts to forge a relationship that would achieve the interests of both sides. Iran has regional projects that these are opposed to Egypt’s national security interests.” He stressed that an important dimension of Egyptian national security was security in the Gulf.

It was the Egyptian military establishment that threw a major spanner into the works of US-Brotherhood-Iranian designs for reshaping the Middle East, even given the horrors and the spectre of partition that is unfolding in Iraq today. Abdullah Al-Rifai, professor of media and communications at the Imam University in Riyadh, told the Weekly: “Saudi Arabia has an instinctive aversion to the armies and military coups in the history of the region. However, it supported the peoples revolution in Egypt which was backed by the army because it realised that revolution and that military establishment in Egypt would bring a halt to the schemes to partition the region.”

According to Al-Rafai, the so-called Arab Spring was set into motion by the US in 2003 in Iraq. The idea was to remove Egypt from regional equations, undermine the pan-Arab bond by introducing Iran, and remove Riyadh from its central position in the Islamic world. Iran and the Muslim Brotherhood lent themselves to the scheme as they felt it would also serve their own ambitions for regional influence and power. The US entered Iraq in 2003 from the Iranian side and today Mosul has fallen in accordance with Muslim Brotherhood plans. The only Sunni faction in the project is the Muslim Brotherhood, led by the Iraqi speaker of parliament Osama Al-Najifi and his brother, the governor of Mosul who withdrew, leaving that city to ISIS.

Nor should we forget that the vice president, Tareq Al-Hashemi, is a Muslim Brotherhood affiliate. It is no coincidence that the Muslim Brotherhood would agree with Iran and Washington to partition Iraq, in spite of their official statements.

Anyone who wants to know what Egypt’s fate would have been had Muslim Brotherhood rule continued only needs to take a look the disintegration of Iraq today and the price the Iraqi people are continuing to pay for the dismantlement of their national army following the fall of Saddam Hussein. Egypt, by contrast, is blessed with an army with a patriotic military creed that defeated the Muslim Brotherhood’s divisive ideology and safeguarded the unity of the nation

*This article was first published in Ahram Weekly

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