It’s hard to keep your sanity in Egypt with everything that is going on these days. As the Battle for Egypt’s rule and future drags on into its second year, it’s impossible not to feel exhausted, especially that the pace of events keeps getting faster and faster. The feeling that you are in a car that is driven by an inept driver who is too busy arguing with his “backseat driver” to notice that they are about to hit a dead-end is one shared by many. That’s why there is an eerie silence in Cairo and on the social networks these days; the people feel that there is a storm coming; a storm of many forces preparing for a final showdown. In the middle of all the battling Powers that be, two men stand firm in the eye of the storm, causing the state of flux that is taking shape: A Salafi disqualified presidential candidate called Hazem Salah Abu Ismael, and A young 25 year old Hero, called Sayed Moshagheb.
It’s hard not to disengage from reality when observing or experiencing the Egyptian revolution; through it we have lived all of our Hollywood cinematic fantasies. The story-arcs we have experienced so far in this theatrical saga include the following: inspirational peaceful revolution, Romantic comedies, Family drama, generational conflict, human rights struggles , Gang warfare , vigilante society, Courtroom drama, political thrillers, Media Thrillers, Freedom of Speech battles, Tales of Corruption & deceit, Zombie attacks (as far as the police’s point of view is concerned), Religious persecution, election sagas, and now we are entering the civil conflict & civil war section. All of this, in two years that also included a man who wrestled with a lion, 4 churches that were attacked / burned because a woman left her husband, and the brave tale of one man who, in retaliation for their killing of an Egyptian soldier on the border, climbed a 10 story building to capture an Israeli flag off of the embassy, a moment hailed by all as a great victory against the Zionist entity, to the point of giving him a hashtag, and an apartment for free as a reward to his great achievement. Yes, I forgot to mention that we also do absurd comedy.
There is, however, one man, who seems to be misplaced by the producers of our insane saga. A man, who truly belongs as a villain or a leader of a science fiction post-apocalyptic movie, and has the personal army of followers to prove it. A man whose first name literally translates to the following words: Firm, steadfast, resolute, tough and gritty.
A man called Hazem.
In the realm of the Salafis, things are not going well. They are currently at war, and are fighting for their lives on all fronts: The local Media, the international media, the police, the army, the revolutionaries, the NGO’s, the independents and the Felool – the whole world basically- seems to be against them. Sure, they have their own media and Sheikh’s, but they are nowhere near as effective as the impure whores of the secularist media. They could launch horrid attacks (using Quran, profanity, ridiculous hyperbole) on the channels and with all of their Sheikhs’, and then comes Bassem Youssef and destroys it all in less than an hour, without using a single profane word. Even the Mosques, their undisputed domain, their source of power, are being invaded by those secular demons when the Sheikh’s try to use the sermons for political guidance. To have Adballah Badr cornered in a mosque is one thing, but to have Al-Mahallawy, the great symbol, the man Sadat mentioned him as an enemy by name in the 70′s, cornered in HIS mosque as well? What is the world coming to?
What makes matters worse is the amount of internal divisions taking place on their side thanks to that half-assed islamist constitution that they have to sell, not thanks to the cursed Muslim Brotherhood. This constitutional draft is nowhere near the kind of constitution they envisioned, and many in their camps are becoming vocal about how this is not even close to being the Sharia constitution; not to mention the Jihady salafis, who didn’t only attack the constitution for that reason, but attacked the whole concept of elections & referendum as anti-islamic to begin with. On top of all of this, the Sharia constitution gets a 44% No vote in the first phase and ends up with a total No vote of 37%? No to Sharia is almost half and to win in three states, including the capital? With all of the tricks that the MB pulled to rig it? Nope, things are not good at all. The situation is terrible.
And then there are the antics of Sheikh Hazem…
Very few of the secularists saw Hazem Abu Ismael coming, and even fewer understood his real power and reach, but everybody in the Islamist camp did, and watched with increasing alarm as his followers grew all over the country and across all kinds of segments, but especially with the Youth.
It’s not hard to grasp if you consider the real appeal of his project for a broad number of followers, especially that no one else seems to have one: The Leftists don’t, the Liberals don’t, the Salafis have a very vague notion of one, and the MB have one that’s dying. What’s his political project? Well, Revolutionary rhetoric + Nasserite (we shall live with dignity and show the world) rhetoric + Islamist rhetoric. Think Islamist Gamal Abdel Nasser, and you are starting to get the picture. For young non-affiliated islamist- & revolutionary-minded youth, who else is there?
Between his reach amongst the population, the amount of AlQaida members that have joined his movement, and the murmurs about his dealings with the Syrian “revolutionaries” who pay him to send his members to fight with them, it’s safe to say that he is planning to be a force to be reckoned with. And no one, not a single soul amongst them, can rein him in. So, they must approve and support his actions, no matter how insane they seem. They can’t afford to have dissent showing amidst the ranks now, especially that so much of it exists thanks to that stupid MB constitution.
Ironically, his antics had one benefit, for now: They are distracting the media from the fact that the supreme majority of the salafis are boycotting this constitution, because it states that sovereignty is for the people, and not God, and for stating that all citizens are equal, which allows Christians to run for presidency. To do damage control, the good Sheikh Yasser Borhamy had to zigzag throughout all of the governorates- going at times to two governorates a day- to convince salafi voters that through specific words inserted in the draft that this constitution will implement Sharia.
It’s not really working.
Sure, the constitution will pass. The so-called Muslim Brotherhood will make sure of it. However, they will have to start challenging them on Sharia implementation the second this constitution is in effect, or they are doomed. After all, there is growing resentment amidst the salafi ranks at the MB for using them as their foot soldiers and attack dogs, and the legitimacy of the Sheikhs are being challenged for towing the line with those diet Islamists. There really is no alternative to clashing with them. No wonder AlArian is talking about arming the MB youth. He is terrified.
But one battle at a time. This is only the first step. And God is on their side.
A disturbing journalistic story that was being shared all over the social media rattled the nerves of revolutionary symbols. The Story listed in details the creation of a new islamist Ultras Group, called Ahrar, a joint venture between Ultras Zamalek, Hazemoon, and the most hated revolutionary at the moment, AbdelRahman Ezz. This group attacked the revolutionaries in the Itehadeya Clashes, with Ezz pointing out the revolutionary symbols so that Ahrar would target them. The freak-out was due to their feelings that they have lost the Zamalek Ultras as a revolutionary force with them, as if they were theirs to begin with.
Sensing the danger, the revolutionary symbols went to work immediately by tweeting and retweeting the news story, while expressing how freaked out they were about it. Some were so freaked out, they even posted it on facebook. Somehow, all of this energy didn’t manifest itself in them seeing the value of organizing themselves in any meaningful or useful way, or do any effort in that regards. God Knows that would make sense, so why do that?
Those revolutionary symbols were freaking out because deep down they realized how useless and irrelevant they have become. Because people have stopped listening to them, and will completely ignore them soon enough. Actually, more than anything, those revolutionary symbols were freaking out, because at this point, those symbols are now far more useful to the cause as martyrs than leaders.
Those same symbols always spoke about how people were getting sorted out between who is with or anti the revolution, and how this sorting is happening all the time, and other such poppycock. Those symbols suddenly realize that the sorting phase is now over, and that they are now entering new territory. The Elimination phase.
Sayed Moshagheb is a Hero. If you don’t know who he is, then you don’t know your Ultras.
Sayed is a Capo in Ultras Zamalek, and the most beloved and respected one at that. When the old Capos disappeared around 2009, during Zamalek’s darkest time, it was Sayed who held the group together. He dedicated his life to the group, went to all the Games, was in a new governorate almost every day to coordinate events, and even delayed his own marriage for almost two years for the sake of the group. He was all heart, purpose and dedication, and he shined when he would lead the tens of thousands of Zamalek Fans in chants during the games the same way he did when he lead his men through the battles of the January 25 revolution. He is their Hero.
He is also in his early twenties.
Sayed, like many youth, had Islamic leanings. So, like many Islamic-minded youth, he joined the Hazem Salah Abu Ismael movement “Hazemoon”, but wouldn’t let it affect his decisions: When the Mohamed Mahmoud clashes started, all the Sheikhs ordered the youth not to engage with the Police. Sayed publically ignored the order, told everyone that he is going to stand by his revolutionary brothers, and all the Zamalek Ultras followed him there. He didn’t leave Mohamed Mahmoud for the four days of clashes. He was there, always on the front line, always inspiring his men. He was so loved and respected, that when he joined Hazemoon for their sit-in in front of the Ministry of Defense, the Zamalek Ultras went and joined the battle despite not fully believing in it. To them it was enough that Sayed was there, and they wouldn’t leave him fight a battle alone; He wouldn’t do that to any of them. They are all Brothers, no matter what, and you are always there for your brother when he needs you.
This is why when Sayed joined Ahrar, an islamist youth Ultras movement started by Hazemoon, many of the Islamic-minded Ultras followed him as well. The group was made of revolutionary youth who was at all the battles, who simply wanted the revolution to win and for Sharia to be implemented. They were not controlled by any Sheikh or political group, and their actions were purely revolutionary driven. When they attacked the Judges for example, they did that because the Judges were corrupt remnants of the previous regime who wanted to stop the revolution. This was all fine and dandy, until Ahrar went and joined the side of the Muslim Brotherhood militias at the Itehadyea Clashes. Suddenly you had Ultras Zamalek members side by side with the MB, fighting against Ultras Zamalek members standing side by side with other revolutionaries, many of which were Ultras Ahly, their arch nemesis. The Revolutionaries were appalled that there were Ultras standing with the dictatorial MB against them, while Ahrar were appalled that their revolutionary brothers were joining forces with Felloll no matter what the cause. Each side saw the other side as traitors to the revolution.
There was a crack in their brotherhood. What was worse is that Sayed was rumored to be there, fighting on the Islamist side. No one could confirm it though, but the rumor was enough drive an unprecedented wedge within the group. Civil war loomed amidst the Ultras. All that was needed was a spark, and the spark would be a confirmation that Sayed was indeed there.
And then the news article on Ahrar came out, and it was so detailed, with names and locations, that it gave the Interior ministry enough info to go after Ahrar, albeit clandestinely. A secret campaign arrest was started, with Ahmed Arafa being the shiny example of it, but the target was Sayed. After all, not only is he in Ahrar and Hazemoon, but the ministry had an old vendetta against him for being the Ultras Capo that humiliated them time and time again. He was their top target, and they went after him, even storming his house and terrifying his family and baby girl.
But Sayed was not there. He was on the run. And the Police were after him. For all the Zamalek Ultras, this was enough reason to cast aside their differences and the divide for now. Their Brother, their leader, their Hero was in trouble.
And you are always there for your Brother when he needs you….
The civil war will have to wait, for now, until they all make sure that Sayed is fine.
Both sides are preparing for it though.
It won’t be long.
The Police General sat in his office inside the Ministry of Interior, reviewing today’s newspapers. Satisfied with the public outcry regarding the MB’s militias and the Hordes of Abu Ismael, he continued reading the field reports coming his way from his officers. They have been successfully towing the line between not antagonizing the new ruling party and the revolutionaries. Of all the parties in play, the only real winner has been the Ministry of Interior: Their profile is on the rise, especially with refusing to clash with Itehadya Protesters during their marshes, while having a stand-off with the Hazemoon people when they tried to attack the Dokki police station. Despite his wishes to the contrary, he knew they couldn’t arrest Abu Ismael, since the Presidential palace gave them strict orders not to touch him. Fine, will tow the line, but the orders do not include Hazemoon, and the Minister of Interior has used that distinction to wage a silent war against them.
The General couldn’t shake his distaste towards his new bosses, especially the so-called President, who used to be dragged from his house by officers much lower in rank than him back in the day. His officers shared this distaste, and even the most violent amongst them did not look forward to following Sharia orders from bearded men. Sure, they have no problems with torturing or raping or electrocuting people, but this cutting of hands and stoning to death business is just so…messy, if not backwards.
He knew that the powers behind Morsy were certain that the MOI was not in their pockets, or that the current Minister was not their man, and that both are playing for their sake and their sake only. He knew that they fear the MOI would join forces with the revolutionaries against them, and become their organized armed wing (despite how unlikely that is due to the ridiculously utopian nature of the revolutionaries), and that such an alliance would completely challenge their power. He knew that if the revolutionaries let bygones be bygones, they would do that in a heartbeat, and has been sending them signals to that regard for the past month, which didn’t escape his new bosses. He knew that the current Minister will be removed soon, to be replaced by a more MB loyal candidate to help them “cleanse” the MOI. He knew that all of this was coming, and he and his men are waiting for it, so that they can start wreaking Havoc all over the country against the MB and their allies. They couldn’t fight a revolution, but a war of attrition with Islamists? That’s something they know how to do quite well, and they would really like a repeat performance.
All in good time, he thought. All in good time.
Inside the real MB Headquarters, the Guidance Council member was not happy. Sure, the situation so far seems under control, and the plans to forge the elections have gone impeccably well, but the loss of support on the ground has been very worrying. What’s even more worrying is the refusal of the Cairo MB members to show up in support of the President at the Itehadeya clashes, turned off by the guidance council tactics and increasingly sectarian tone. They keep bussing more and more people in from the governorates, and relying more and more on the Salafis. The Cairo University Protests were 90% Salafis. Not good. Not good at all.
They had no choice though, he said to himself. They had to pass the constitution this way and right now, otherwise they might not be able to ever pass one, especially not in another 6 months. The Economy is not doing well, and their friends in Qatar and Turkey are not stepping up their financial support as they should. If they didn’t move fast, they risk losing the parliamentary elections completely, and they need to have those yesterday to fully control the country. Also, if anything happened to Morsy now, they have lost everything. They need a parliament head from the Brotherhood to ensure their stay in Power if Morsy’s health deteriorates further. If he dies now, the presidency moves to the head of the Supreme Court, and they would be out of the game. And if they are out now, they are out forever. That cannot be allowed to happen. They will fight that until the last Salafi.
He is not too worried about the Salafis; if they overstep their bounds, the MB will unleash the MOI on them, who would love to tear them apart. Not Abu Ismael though. His group has many ex-AlQaeda people, and if they go against him, AlQaida will declare them apostates, and start a war against them. It should be noted that too many Mujahdeen have entered the country those past two years. They were beneficial in making the MB look like moderates back then, but now they are becoming a threat. Thankfully, the US recognizes that they are the ones holding the Mujahedeen and Hamas back, and will continue to support them. And if you have the US on your side, you don’t need much else.
S/P Memo 56734
S/P currently has no new recommendations regarding the situation in Egypt. While President’s Morsy’s actions have been troubling, especially that they have been taken the day after Secretary Clinton’s visit, the political developments have not provided us with an alternative to the current regime. As called for by the Secretary, this memo examines: whether there is a course for action advances the transition to democracy in Egypt; whether the new developments would be benefitted by such course for action; and finally, the impact of such action on American interests in the country.
The US currently has three strategic interests in Egypt: 1) Maintaining Regional stability, 2) Maintaining the strategic partnership with the Egyptian Military, and 3) Ensuring the continued operation of the Suez Canal for the next Five years. Providing support for the liberal opposition in Egypt- if such support is even possible- would not guarantee the serving of those interests. The Opposition is still divided and fragmented, and there is no clear leader to negotiate with. The National Salvation Front has emerged as an attempt to provide a counterweight to the Brotherhood, but their alliance is fragile, their rhetoric isn’t unified and their performance sophomoric. There is genuine doubt in the alliance’s survival beyond the proposed constitutional referendum.
Even if the US chooses to support them regardless, the options are still very limited. Imposing conditionality on the aid would provide us with no positive outcome, for if they meet our bluff we would have to either cut the aid, which loses us leverage, or not cut the aid, which would allow them to ignore any such future pressure. Not to mention, given that the US government is tied with 5 year contracts with the defense contractors for Egypt’s military aid, cutting it would still require us to fulfill our monetary obligations to our contractors, while losing all strategic advantages from our relationship with Egypt.
It should be noted that at this juncture the situation in Egypt is low priority in the rapidly shifting geopolitical map of the middle-east, specifically in relations to the coming conflict with Iran. Egypt is and will remain solidly in the Sunni camp regardless of who is in power, so the focus should be on the grey countries, specifically Syria, Iraq and Bahrain. To focus on the political developments in Egypt is as inconsequential to our goals as focusing on the score of a soccer game when your real concern is maintaining ownership of the field. Hence, in light of the current state of affairs, it is recommended to stay the course until further developments arise.
About a week ago, there was a meeting between the Egyptian Minister of Defense and the Egyptian Naval command. Upon entering the meeting, the Naval Command chiefs wanted to discuss the recent political developments, especially Hazem Salah Abu Ismael. The Minister curtly cut the talk, informing them that the army should stay away from discussing politics. The Chiefs responded by stating that they were not there to discuss politics, but rather National Security. They expressed their astonishment at the Army not taking action against Hazemoon until now, given that they are breaking the law so blatantly and publically. They stated that had the army sent in two 777 platoons, they would have easily taken out the entire population of Hazemoon during their siege of the Media City. They informed the Minister of Defense that the lack of government response towards Hazemoon and their antics puts their own families and the families of those they command in danger, and that if any of them gets hurt or terrorized, they will not wait for permission to mobilize their troops and weapons against them, or any other similar group.
The Minister of Defense did not comment, but a storm was brewing inside his head. He knew that there are undercover MB officers in the army that command units and platoons, and that he doesn’t fully know who they are. The Army intervening in what’s going on in Egypt could risk splitting the military institution, a risk he was not prepared to take, hence his inaction. Now he has to contend with the possibility that the institution might split if he doesn’t do something as well, and the ineptitude of those in charge of the Presidency is pushing the country into the Precipice. He is doomed either way, and time was running out.
Tarek works for an NGO in Alexandria that provides charity and local developments to the poorest villages in the Governrates. About a month ago, a group of his colleagues, which were working on a different zone than his for the past 5 years, were approached by a group of Salafis. The Salafis informed them that they control this area now, and that if the NGO wanted to continue to work there, they would have to work through them or not at all. His Colleagues chose to ignore them, and a week later, while delivering the sustenance bags to the needy, were ambushed by the salafi group, got held up with swords, beaten and roughed up, and had all of their supplies stolen by them. True Story.
Tarek has similar problems in his zone, but with a unique twist: The Salafis informed him that if he doesn’t work with them and works with the MB, then all of their mosques will be closed to him and his group. In turn, the MB has informed him that if he works with the Salafis and not them, they will make his life hell through government intervention. Tarek, so far, has played them off each other, but their pressures on him are increasing by the day, and he has no idea what to do the day he is forced to choose.
The Phones have not stopped ringing at the Offices of the Central Bank of Egypt, with everyone from public and Private Banks calling to get confirmation on whether the Bank’s chairman, Farouk Al-Okda, has really resigned. The intensity of the phone calls reflected the panic that the financial community has been living in for the past few months. Al-Okda has been keeping the economy afloat for the past two years, at the cost of the rapidly depleting financial reserves. Before the revolution, the reserves were 36 $ Billion, now they are down to 15 $ Billion; 4 $ Billion of which are in Gold, 5 $ Billion are in various securities that if touched would signal the country’s bankruptcy, leaving only 6 $ Billion in actual financial liquidity. Taking into account the financial obligations of the government in terms of salaries, subsides and loan servicing, accompanied with the record low growth rate, the evaporation of FDI and the shortage in foreign currency replenishment due to the deterioration of the Tourism industry (having Islamist burn Churches & then electing Islamists to power does not bring in tourists), it is safe to say that Egypt is one foot in the economic grave.
Due to IMF pressures, the government has adopted really strong austerity measures in the shape of new tax laws and subsidy cutting, but froze it on the same day due to fears that it might cause people to vote against the constitution. The freezing of the laws made the IMF believe that the Egyptian government is not committed to the agreement, and is now moving into rejecting Egypt’s loan request. Without the loan, the government will not be able to cover the pensions, salaries or remaining subsidies, or cushion the inflation of the Egyptian pound. This brings us to the nightmare scenario of rising prices of goods, of which many will vanish from the supermarkets and sold in the black market, coupled with a drastic decline in value of the Egyptian pound, and the inability of the government to meet its financial obligations towards its employees and pensioners. A perfect economic storm.
Expected financial outcome will include any or all of the following events: the vanishing of the US dollar from Banks and exchange offices; Bank runs that will bankrupt public and private banks; Unprecedented losses in the stock exchange; Disappearance and/or increased pricing of basic consumer goods; Layoffs; Bankruptcies; Lack of liquidity in the Market for new or existing projects; Huge increase in Unemployment rates; A lower credit rating for the country that will further drive away serious investors; drastic increase in petty crime; Social Upheaval; Huge economic protests; and the ever so looming scenario of a hunger revolution. The Panic is justified.
No wonder the phones keep ringing.
The MB Constitution has passed, thanks to massive fraud and a deeply sectarian campaign on the hands of the MB controlled Government. The Yes votes are 64% , the No votes are 36% and the voter turnout was 32% of all eligible voters. Out of every 100 Egyptians, 20 have said yes, 12 have said no, and 68 didn’t even bother to go and vote.
Mohamed was one of those 68% that didn’t go vote. He is a government employee by day, and a Taxi driver by night, who spends every waking minute of his day trying to provide for his wife, 3 children and sick mother. Mohamed didn’t vote. Mohamed didn’t vote because he didn’t think it mattered, and that no matter what he chooses the outcome will be Yes anyway. Mohamed didn’t vote, because like all of his friends and neighbors, he has become disgusted with the tug of war between the secularists and the Islamists, and how all they care about is power, even if it means pulling the country into a civil war. Mohamed didn’t vote because he knows that neither side cares about him or his family, despite what they always say in their speeches, before and after the revolution. Mohamed didn’t vote because all the hope he had at the beginning of the revolution was gone, replaced with bitterness and anger, and he would rather spend the time scouring the streets of Cairo for a fare that might help him cover his ever increasing expenses. What good is a constitution to a bunch of hungry mouths anyway?
Mohamed hated the revolution. Mohamed hated that his neighborhood became infested with crime and thugs, and that the whole city soon followed. Mohamed hated the absence of the police unless they wanted a bribe, a practice that has increased after a revolution that claimed that it will stop it. Mohamed hated the state of Chaos the country has been in for the past two years, and the hours he wasted in traffic caused by marches and sit ins and clashes that don’t seem to ever stop. Mohamed hated that there are no tourists anymore, and that when he gets a foreign customer it’s usually a Syrian refugee who hassles him over the fare, unlike the days when the Americans and the Gulfie tourists used to populate the city and pay him generously for taking them around. Mohamed hated that they were gone, and has lost hope that they will ever come back.
Mohamed barely meets his expenses, and has no idea how he survived those past two years. Mohamed panicked when he heard that the prices of goods were going up, only to relax hours later when he was informed that the government cancelled the increase. Had those prices increased, Mohamed would be completely unable to feed his family, and what kind of a man would that make him?
Mohamed is scared, bitter, angry, hungry and tired. He knows one thing for certain: if things get any worse financially, he will lose it. He will take the gun he bought two years ago, and kill the Islamists, the secularists, and all of those people who have the luxury to fight over stupid shit on his and his family’s expense.
Mohamed will show them the exact amount of consideration and mercy they have showed him, which is none.
Mohamed will have his Justice, and he is not the only one.
Ah, love, let us be true
To one another! for the world, which seems
To lie before us like a land of dreams,
So various, so beautiful, so new,
Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light,
Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain;
And we are here as on a darkling plain
Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,
Where ignorant armies clash by night.