Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Qatar offers Egypt $3bn in aid, amid concerns over sectarian violence, NGO crackdown
“Gas-rich Qatar threw Egypt another unconditional financial lifeline on Wednesday as the Arab world’s most populous nation struggles to secure an IMF loan to ease its deepening economic crisis,” Reuters reports: Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim al-Thani said that Qatar would provide an extra $3 bn on top of some $5 billion the Gulf state has already given Cairo, and would extend gas supplies to Egypt this summer as needed. He said that Qatar, the biggest financial backer of Egypt’s Islamist-led government, “did not ask for anything in return” for its aid.The new financial injection could buy Egypt time as it seeks to avert social unrest over fuel shortages and food price increases during a long, hot summer in the run-up to parliamentary elections expected in October.Qatar is one of the most active regional players in providing humanitarian assistance to win hearts and minds, says Stanford University’s Lina Khatib. But the little-state-that-could has also faced criticism for funding illiberal actors,[[[[ including ultraconservative Salafist militants, during the Arab uprisings, while suppressing fundamental freedoms at home]]]].
Egypt’s military participated in torture and killings of pro-democracy advocates,  according to a new report cited by Egypt Source. Nevertheless, the recent anti-Christian violence, which left six dead, has amplified calls for the military to reclaim power, notes a prominent analyst. Public support for a military takeover accelerated after December 5, when the Brotherhood used organized violence against protesters outside the presidential palace, with one poll suggesting that 82 percent of Egyptians want the military back in power, says [[[[[Eric Trager, an analyst with the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. ]]]]]]
“Yet despite this pro-military mood swing, the generals are staying away from direct political involvement for the time being,” he writes for the Atlantic’s Democracy Report:
Rather than ruling, the military is focusing squarely on managing its narrow, mostly economic interests [between 15 and 40 percent of Egypt's economy]. In some cases, it is even using its vast resources to boost its image while the Brotherhood’s falters. This will help the military justify its return to power if Egypt’s current political chaos threatens its assets….. And despite occasional military statements warning that its “patience” with the Brotherhood is wearing thin, a top military leader told me that the military isn’t eager to run the country.
Reports that the Muslim Brotherhood-backed Prime Minister Hesham Qandil is planning to amend the constitution have added to secular-liberal concerns.
“He’s preparing amendments to be submitted to the next parliament and that’s not illegal,” said constitutional expert Raafat Fouda, adding that Qandil is using the same people who drafted the constitution or people with similar ideologies. “He should have used those who opposed the constitution for amendments because if the people he chose knew better, they would have produced a better constitution from the first place.” Mohamed El Baradei, a leading opposition figure, has offered to negotiate a settlement to the political crisis with President Mohamed Morsi on three conditions: a “neutral and credible” cabinet, an independent prosecutor general and a panel to draft a new election law, the Project for Middle East Democracy reports. (ED NOTE:POMED=NED FRONT,BARADEI ALSO IS NED TIED)
Islamists have “hijacked” the revolution and Morsi’s policies lacked “rationalism”, Baradei said, adding that he feared a “collapse of the state.”The regime’s crackdown on NGOs and proposed restrictions on foreign funding are also promoting concern about the country’s authoritarian drift.
“But why are foreign funds so nefarious when received by NGOs yet apparently uncontroversial when received by others?” asks a leading human rights advocate:
The Egyptian military receives billions of dollars in aid from the United States; does that make it a subversive organization? The Egyptian government is desperately seeking foreign funds from the International Monetary Fund (IMF); is that an act of treason? Egyptian businesses are clamoring for foreign direct investment and the spending of foreign tourists; are these acts of disloyalty? Of course not, Human Rights Watch director Kenneth Roth writes for Foreign Policy:
So why is it any more wrongful for NGOs to solicit financial support from foreign friends? Bolstered by foreign funds, the army, the government, and the business community all seek to advance their political agendas; why should only NGOs be singled out for restriction? It leaves the impression that their real sin is not accepting foreign contributions but criticizing the government and ruling party.
The relative weakness of the democratic opposition one of the tragic surprises of the Arab revolts, Thomas Friedman writes in The New York Times, citing Marc Lynch, a Middle East expert at George Washington University:Many of the more secular, more pro-Western Egyptian political elites who could lead new center-left parties, he said, had been “co-opted by the old regime” for its own semiofficial parties and therefore “were widely discredited in the eyes of the public.” That left youngsters who had never organized a party, or a grab bag of expatriates, former regime officials, Nasserites and liberal Islamists, whose only shared idea was that the old regime must go.
Nevertheless, since taking power, “the Brotherhood has presided over economic failure and political collapse,” said Lynch.
“They have lost the center, they are feuding with the Salafists, and they are now down to their core 25 percent of support. There is no way they should win a fair election, which is why the opposition should be running in — not boycotting — the next parliamentary elections.” The old line that you have to wait on elections until a moderate civil society can be built is a proven failure. “You can’t teach someone to be a great basketball player by showing them videos,” he said. “They have to play — and the opposition will not become effective until they compete and lose and win again.”
With the secular liberals in disarray, the military’s shopping/community-center facility in Suez centered on the Badr Hypermarket suggests that it may be playing a longer game.
“In providing discounted goods to the broader population, the military is adopting an outreach model that the Muslim Brotherhood perfected long ago,” says Trager:
Well, I asked, had President Morsi, as Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces under the new constitution, signed off on the use of public funds for building this military-run shopping complex? “He should!” the colonel responded. “If you’re the president, and there’s something in the people’s interest, should you sign off on it? If he’s smart, he’ll agree. If he doesn’t sign, he’s not smart.” (Other officers told me, off-the-record, that Morsi had not been notified of the facility’s construction, and expressed their view that the military had no obligation to alert him of this fact.)
“No matter what the military’s intentions are, however, the Suez project is boosting its image just as the Brotherhood’s is plummeting, and it’s feeding hopes for a military coup,” he notes, even if the armed forces “won’t provide the path towards stability any more than the increasingly autocratic Muslim Brotherhood .”
The Project for Middle East Democracy is a grantee of the National Endowment for Democracy.

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