Tag Archives: military

Interview with Sherifa Zuhur on Counterterrorism/COIN in Egypt and Beyond

5 Aug

I just was interviewed by journalist Yasser Khalil.  The interview will likely be available in Arabic and offered at Sahafy Online (https://sahafyonline.com)  for outlets interested in publishing it.   A little bit of this discussion is based on my current book draft on Egypt (there is a chapter on the Sinai campaign) .

Sherifa azZuhur Arabi

Center for Middle Eastern Studies, University of California, Berkeley

August 5, 2015

– What do you think about the Egypt’s strategy in fighting terrorism? Is it sufficient enough to end up the terrorism in the country?

 

Egypt is using a combination of counterterrorism (CT) and counterinsurgency (COIN) approaches.  It faces terrorism in the northern Sinai peninsula, but also in/near Suez and on Egypt’s mainland as well as acts of sabotage on electricity towers and assassinations of public figures such as the Chief Prosecutor, the late Hisham Barakat.    In the Sinai, Egypt’s military had to cease cooperating with the limitations prevailing under the Camp David Accords by which only civil police are to operate in zone C.  While these restrictions are lifted now, that insurgency has longstanding roots going back to 2003-2004.

 

Elsewhere the criminalization of terrorist groups and those engaging or calling for violence is an important aspect of the campaign.  So too, are efforts at antiterrorism (terrorism prevention) in which the roots of extremism are to be attacked by al-Azhar, and mainstream Muslim institutions, although there isn’t much agreement about the shape of such reforms.

 

Both CT and COIN rely on military eradication of terrorists which in turn relies on intelligence and police work.  In addition, both approaches also employ the ‘non-military’ tools of war; CT calls for developing antiterrorism programs and COIN requires bolstering of state power and appealing to local populations support the state’s objections.  These tools, or methods are informational, economic and political/diplomatic.

 

– Is this strategy different from the one USA uses?

These are two approaches, not one grand strategy and the US is currently, under Obama, downgrading CT and COIN efforts, but it has not successfully defined a strategy toward terrorism either in the wake of 9/11 nor today.

 

Egypt’s efforts reflect those of national militaries to contain terrorism in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq and elsewhere, but there are some differences, for example, the above-mentioned problem of an insurgency in a hinterland where the military were initially constrained.  Also,  the Sinai extremists used the fall of president Morsi, who they also considered an apostate (and they condemned the Muslim Brotherhood for participating in Egypt’s political system) as a rallying cause and the combination of their violence and that of other groups, some allied to them on the mainland somewhat magnifies the impact of attempted violence.  Egypt’s tourism sector has been hurt by this violence along with the perception of volatility in the post-revolutionary environment, although there has been some recovery of late.  Also the jihadist movements are international, the Wilayat Sinai breakaway from the Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis allied with the Islamic State (in Iraq and Syria, i.e. ISiS) because of the propaganda (or informational) value and it has links with groups in Libya — which are therefore another threat to Egypt. The presence of the MFO (Multinational Force of Observers) in the Sinai means that there could be a threat to that body.  The alienation of the bedouin in the Sinai from the central government is another special factor to consider; this is the result of land ownership policies as well as the counterterrorist response to violence in the Sinai from 2004 – 2011.

 

 

– Both countries couldn’t end up terrorism till now, in spite of the long war against it. Why?

 

Terrorism is not a phenomenon that will be soon ended, nor is it sui generis.  Egypt and the United States continue to face terrorism, so too, all humans are hurt by it since it was used by the Zealots and others in ancient history.  Terrorism is a tactic, and the perpetrators have political and religiopolitical aims.  They can be discouraged from using this tactic, by the use military force and repression, and simultaneous anti-terrorism or anti-insurgency programs and actions of the state.

 

The previous U.S. Department of Defense name for this – the Long War – is probably an accurate name.  Al-Qa’ida as well as the ISIS, ABM, Wilayat Sinai AQAP, AQIM, Shabab etc. have a long-term grand strategy. Nonetheless,  Egypt’s battle in the Sinai with such groups is winnable —  and it is not facing a popular insurgency in the mainland, as for example existed in Vietnam.

 

If the Egyptian government had fought as ruthlessly as possible, then it’s possible the conflict might be a shorter one, but as Pres. Sisi himself noted, the public concern for human rights limits the use of tactics which might eradicate such groups  And admittedly, the security forces have not undergone reforms in that regard, and they are facing an enemy using extremely brutal tactics towards them and civilians who are thought to be cooperating with the Egyptian military and police.

 

– There are violations for human rights in both countries’ experiences in this field, is it necessary to violate human rights while fighting terrorism? How we can avoid that if it’s possible?

 

Yes, there are violations of human rights by both militaries and also by police in the U.S.  – use of body cameras (introduced in San Francisco & to be used in Egypt), education, enforcement of proper standards in prisoner treatment are all requisites.   It’s up to the leadership to insist on such standards in all militaries and police forces.

 

Some believe that human rights are violated by the use of emergency laws and military courts.

 

**Under Presidents Mubarak and Sadat, the use of emergency laws tended to constrain the development of democracy, however, today, nearly all countries have crafted specific terrorism laws which tend to diverge from civil procedures.   In Egypt, a big debate still exists over the “protest law” which is intended to control spontaneous and potentially violent demonstrations.  I think it is entirely reasonable to oppose extrajudicial rendition, torture, and unjust procedures as we saw in Guantanamo and at Abu Ghraib, and also to support harsh legal consequences for acts of terrorism.  The Egyptian system of criminal law differs from that in the U.S., but as far as I can see both aim to deter as well as punish offenders.  The application of emergency law within the buffer area in the Sinai, which has, for example, utilized curfews certainly seemed to be a necessity in that campaign.

 

 

 

– What about the privacy issues? This war made the people’s privacy is nearly zero. Is that justified and acceptable in your opinion?   **I need more clarification of this question in order to answer it

 

 

– In 1970s to 1990s Egypt was using the security solutions in fighting terrorism, it could defeat some terrorists but not terrorism. Will Egypt need more 2 decades to reach the same result?

 

**There is no division between “security solutions” and other solutions – let us say, “development or aid solutions.”  One cannot develop an area like the Sinai or upper Egypt if armed terrorist groups operate freely, moving to assassinate local police or officials in their homes or their vehicles, importing weapons and obtaining cash from outside of Egypt.

 

As stated above, “security” has to be seen holistically – it also concerns preserving the safety and security of citizens and their government.   Terrorists attack civilians and symbols of the state to try to sway other citizens into treating them as a pseudo-state (thus, the very name, Islamic State).  The Egyptian government has much to overcome, but the employment of many Sinai residents in the new Suez Canal project is a boost to security, as is the awarding of reparations to those forced to leave Rafah during the buffer operation.  Security and trust must be constructed on all fronts at the same time – through forums or meetings with the public, assurance that economic needs will be met and controls over the known security gaps – for ex. the hundreds of tunnels into Gaza or the communications between Sinai and Libyan militants.

 

 

 

– The terrorism is getting more brutality if we compared between the old militants (such as Al-Qaeda) and the new ones such as ISIS. What is the reason in your opinion?

 

In my opinion, the al-Qa’ida mother-ship group (the original group) under bin Ladin and Zawahiri learned that the use of extremely brutal tactics and sectarian attacks caused the public to hate and fear it and thus damage the long-term aims of such groups.  Bin Ladin was said to oppose attacks on the Shi`a, either because of this counter-productive response or because his neosalafist mentors coming from the Muslim Brotherhood exiles in Saudi Arabia and those they impacted did so.  al-Zawahiri opposed the attacks on Shi`a in Iraq by al-Qa’ida affiliate groups as well.

 

The Islamic State and Nusra in Syria and Iraq used both carrot and stick approaches, but the media tends to cover their brutal actions and focus less on other factors such as family relationships, actions of revenge and propaganda (public executions).  Like the ABM or WS in the Sinai, they count on the insecurity of the local population and the fact that it is gauging the dangers of cooperating with the state versus themselves.

 

 

– How the security sciences and the applications of those sciences developed since 1990s (especially regarding the war on terrorism)?

 

We should speak of philosophy, theory and practical approaches rather than “sciences.”  The study of war and conflict tends to draw on those maxims or precepts which seem to apply over time.  However, the means of war and technology have altered the applicability of such concepts.

 

We now possess technologically superior gaming facilities, but the best tool remains the imagination and through red-teaming to consider the most likely set of threats or scenarios and second effects resulting from actions taken.

 

There are therefore, some new takes on terrorism which arise from older concepts, so for example, material concerning 4th generation warfare; or the Clausewitzian notion of center(s) of gravity which, in today’s terrorist environment are diffused.   The psychological aspects of terrorism have also been studied with the aim of constructing better antiterrorist responses, or to use specific language, preventing the “slippery slope” to violence.    We now must be concerned with so-called lone wolf or sleeper attacks and the coordination of many terrorist groups outside controllable channels.

 

The relationship between foreign policy goals and aims to control or eradicate terrorism is also being scrutinized by those who are interested in grand strategy.

 

 

– Some opinions say that the security solutions is not enough to end up the terrorism, there is a need for intellectuals to play a rule in fighting terrorist ideas, it’s also war of thoughts.. do you agree with that?

 

**Yes, I agree but there is no point in constructing or insisting on one form of propaganda simply to counter another.   The intellectual war on terrorism has also faltered because we cannot promote freedom – freedom of thought and civil responsibility by accepting a vision of an Islamic society which is not free, but which merely eschews (rejects) violence against the state.

 

For example, the large Salafiyya Jihad movement in the Sinai are not all involved in terrorism, but they promote a conservative social vision which is unfair to some members of society (for ex. women).  In the United States, many of our Muslim organizations which claim to oppose terrorism “from a Muslim perspective” have a similar vision and therefore do not represent a true reform of the type needed.

 

 

– If you are writing a “prescription” to the world leaders to cure the earth planet from terrorism (even, to some extent), what will you write in it?

 

**I would say that seeing terrorism as an illness for which there is a cure is a mistake.  Remember that terrorism is merely a tactic of war.

 

Understanding and vigorously countering the aims and claims of terrorists with regard to the use of jihad, takfir, wala wa-l-bara, and their overall conception of a world in which Muslims should battle all others is key.

 

Supporting intelligence to discover the sources of arms and funding is also key.

 

Building confidence in a world and local communities where equal opportunities exist is most certainly key to convincing local populations to accept the authority of their own governments.

 

And the use of force – what you called in this interview, the security solution – is also very much a key and is going to require regional cooperation, not only between Egypt and Saudi Arabia as in this summer’s Cairo Declarations, but beyond.  Many political circumstances have led to the growth and expansion of terrorist groups – in Syria, Libya, Yemen, Egypt, the GCC, Iraq, Jordan, Somalia, Afghanistan, Pakistan and beyond as well as their funders and supporters elsewhere.  De facto arrangements allowing them to remain in certain locations is no solution at all.

 

Terrorism and Counterterrorism in Egypt’s Sinai and beyond: July 1 – July 15, 2015

15 Jul

July 15 Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis and Egypt’s military issued conflicting statements on the attack on the Qattamiyya-Suez road http://www.madamasr.com/news/military-province-sinai-give-conflicting-accounts-qattamiya-suez-road-attack?utm_medium=twitter&utm_s

July 15 Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis, claimed Wednesday’s truck bomb attack on the (Qattamiyya-) Suez road in which a suicide bomber was killed. (in other reports, appears as a huge explosion) http://en.aswatmasriya.com/news/view.aspx?id=bdb631bb-566c-4ae3-bf62-4d8f1987c1f3

July 15 198 were referred to military judiciary for terrorist crimes http://en.aswatmasriya.com/news/view.aspx?id=259fc268-d86a-4923-988b-7c5df8db7e6b

July 15 The German embassy in Cairo closed after receiving threats of a car bomb http://www.egyptindependent.com//news/german-embassy-closed-over-car-bomb-threats
July 15 Quran reader, Mohammed Gebreel not allwd travel to #UK & banned from Quran reading after speaking out against #Egypt’s govt. (sources like Tariq Ramadan praise him) http://english.ahram.org.eg/News/135448.aspx

July 15 Rabaa al-Adawiyya Square will be renamed for Hisham Barakat, the assassinated prosecutor general http://en.aswatmasriya.com/news/view.aspx?id=678b2dbb-fb7a-47a9-a9c7-1c80d612fd95

July 15 A policeman was killed in an armed attack on a checkpoint in Remaya Square in Haram. 3 gunmen arrested (Youm 7) https://twitter.com/youm7/status/621317483828498432
July 15 #Sinai bedouin and the fight against #terrorists #Egypt http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/07/15/us-egypt-islam-sinai-specialreport-idUSKCN0PP0UD20150715

July 14 Twenty-five killed and 30 injured in a counterattack by Egypt’s army against a group that targeted a checkpoint in Shaykh Zuwayd https://twitter.com/Elassy25jan/status/621052250518089728

July 14 Curfew hours in northern Sinai will be shortened during the Eid al-Fitr http://english.ahram.org.eg/News/135408.aspx

July 14 State of #Sinai claimed the bombing of two #Egypt military vehicles, including one near Gora airport.

July 14 Egypt’s authorities have identified 3 persons as the bombers of the Italian consulate in Cairo – two from Beni Suef and one from Fayyoum http://www.newindianexpress.com/world/Egypt-Identifies-Three-Italian-Consulate-Bombers/2015/07/14/article2919669.ece

July 13 People stop a church service & demand the church’s demolition in Abu Kerkas in Minya http://en.sectarianattacks.com/attacks/289-extremists-stop-church-service-and-demand-church-demolition-in-minya

July 13 Two of the defendents in the Shura Council trial were given 3 year sentences. They had been charged in abstentia but turned themselves in. http://en.aswatmasriya.com/news/view.aspx?id=a5c686c8-7a18-482b-94a3-34d48db92c52
July 12 #Egypt bans 4×4 vehicles in #Sinai fighting zones. The bedouin often drive 4x4s & SUVs. http://english.ahram.org.eg/News/135217.aspx
July 11 Huge explosion outside Italy’s consulate in #Cairo kills at least one – with a charge of roughly 250 kg of TNT!
#Egypt http://www.nytimes.com/2015/07/12/world/middleeast/egypt-bombing-at-italian-consulate-in-cairo.html?_r=0

July 10 Army kills 2 suspected militants in Shaykh Zuwayd and destroyed an explosive warehouse http://en.aswatmasriya.com/news/view.aspx?id=9fd06b6c-b375-4d4c-aef0-2c06844259e0

July 9 21 police personnel injured in roadside bomb in Arish http://www.masrawy.com/News/News_Regions/details/2015/7/9/616194/%D8%A5%D8%B5%D8%A7%D8%A8%D8%A9-21-%D8%B4%D8%B1%D8%B7%D9%8A-%D8%A5%D8%AB%D8%B1-%D8%AA%D9%81%D8%AC%D9%8A%D8%B1-%D8%B9%D8%A8%D9%88%D8%A9-%D9%86%D8%A7%D8%B3%D9%81%D8%A9-%D9%81%D9%8A-%D9%85%D9%8A%D9%83%D8%B1%D9%88%D8%A8%D8%A7%D8%B5-%D8%A8%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%B9%D8%B1%D9%8A%D8%B4-?utm_source=Facebook&utm_medium=facebook_promoted&utm_campaign=areshs
July 8 Hamas’ military wing, Izz al-Din al-Qassam brigades are aiding ISIS (ABM) in the Sinai, while cracking down on ISIS in Gaza http://www.jpost.com/Middle-East/Analysis-Hamas-playing-double-game-with-ISIS-408428

July 8 Mortar round kills five Egyptians in Sinai and 4 injured http://ara.tv/cr3ef
http://en.aswatmasriya.com/news/view.aspx?id=1da8cd53-0cad-46ec-afc8-a40df1aea83d
July 7 Fourteen NGOS dissolved for #MuslimBrotherhood connections #Egypt #Ikhwan http://www.egyptindependent.com//news/14-ngos-dissolved-over-alleged-brotherhood-links

July 7 100 activists arrested for unauthorized protesting will be released on the Eid al-Adha. http://www.elwatannews.com/news/details/765364

July 7 Explosion near a court in #Beheira today and five injured. #Egypt http://english.ahram.org.eg/News/134735.aspx

July 6 241 militants in the Sinai killed over the last 5 days says Army spokesman http://en.aswatmasriya.com/news/view.aspx?id=b5beddf3-d233-4cc6-a25e-48ded1d1573a

July 5. New major tunnel found in Rafah and Egypt’s military kills some ABM militants inside https://twitter.com/su_za_naa/status/617683944151121920
July 5 Egypt’s military launches air strikes and has killed 63 militants this week http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/07/05/us-egypt-security-idUSKCN0PF0LS20150705
July 4 Three children and a woman are killed in military air strikes on terrorists in Shaykh Zuwayd http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2015/07/civilians-killed-egypt-sinai-battles-150704133045922.html

July 4 SkynewsArabia Breaking: says 2 civilians dead and one soldier injured in Sheikh Zoweid, Sinai, due to a bomb explosion
July 4 Egypts army just foiled new attempt to muggle 500klg shipment of explosives via one tunnel S. Rafah crossing point.
July 4 Bomb planted under Fayoum Investigation police chief has been defused |
July 3 #MB supporters block Sudan street in #Cairo, set tires on fire; security forces dispersed them… #Egypt Security forces dispersed 3 Muslim Brotherhood marches today http://en.aswatmasriya.com/news/view.aspx?id=95465130-c052-450e-b385-2085ce75300f

July 3 A somewhat exaggerated picture of protests in Matariyya in Cairo http://www.middleeasteye.net/in-depth/features/two-years-morsi-s-overthrow-protests-held-poor-cairo-neighbourhood-1167038832

July 3 A protester is killed in a march in Maadi https://twitter.com/adeleissa1/status/616991931743211520
July 3 35 militants killed in #ShaykhZuwayd and #Rafah yesterday. #Sinai #Egypt http://en.aswatmasriya.com/news/view.aspx?id=dbfbb4c3-15a8-4dcf-a3b1-f10c1097285e

July 2 People in #Minya accuse a #Copt of changing his home into a church. #Egypt #sectarianism http://www.elwatannews.com/news/details/762226
July 2 Ehab Sheeha, head of Asala Party, swears on TV that if Sisi is not killed, Egyptians will face dark upcoming days. (via @virtualactivism)

July 2 Police raided an apartment and killed 13 Muslim Brotherhood members. In response, Muslim Brotherhood called for an uprising. Also, 75 female students were suspended from al-Azhar on charges of violence & conspiring against the university – http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2015/07/egypt-brotherhood-urges-revolt-members-killed-150702042115515.html
http://www.usnews.com/news/world/articles/2015/07/01/the-latest-militant-attacks-in-egypts-sinai-kill-30-troops
July 2 Head of Cairo University shuts down the University’s small mosques (zawyas) to prevent the spreading of radical thought http://www.masrawy.com/News/News_Egypt/details/2015/7/2/612345/%D8%A5%D8%BA%D9%84%D8%A7%D9%82-%D8%B2%D9%88%D8%A7%D9%8A%D8%A7-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%B5%D9%84%D8%A7%D8%A9-%D8%A8%D9%83%D9%84%D9%8A%D8%A7%D8%AA-%D8%AC%D8%A7%D9%85%D8%B9%D8%A9-%D8%A7%D9%84%D9%82%D8%A7%D9%87%D8%B1%D8%A9-%D9%88%D9%85%D8%AF%D9%8A%D9%86%D8%A9-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%B7%D9%84%D8%A7%D8%A8-%D8%A8%D9%86%D8%A7%D8%A1-%D8%B9%D9%84%D9%89-%D9%81%D8%AA%D9%88%D9%89-?utm_source=dlvr.it&utm_medium=twitter

July 2 #Egypt|ian air strikes kill 23 militants in northern #Sinai http://tribune.com.pk/story/913612/egyptian-air-strikes-kill-23-militants-in-north-sinai-sources/

July 2 Longest battle fought by Egyptian military against terrorists in #ShaykhZuwayd http://english.ahram.org.eg/NewsContent/1/0/134324/Egypt/0/The-longest-battle-in-North-Sinai-Egypts-army-figh.aspx
July 1 #Egypt Army Statement: Egypt army killed at least 100 terrorists in N. #Sinai, destroyed 20 vehicles, and the army lost 17 soldiers; Egyptian army also deployed reinforcements in Rafah, closed all roads going out of the city & began the hunt for terrorists. http://en.aswatmasriya.com/news/view.aspx?id=3cb4fbf9-b68c-4b95-9d9c-3bad4254d3f8

July 1 During the day, militants surrounded the Shaykh Zuwayd police station – other reports claimed they held the town (that was inaccurate). http://www.dailynewsegypt.com/2015/07/01/update-we-are-under-siege-sheikh-zuweid-police-officer/
July 1 Sound bomb explodes in #Aswan, #Egypt none hurt http://www.elwatannews.com/news/details/762009

July 1 One of the multiple attacks in northern #Sinai involved a car bomb which killed 11 (in total 30+) http://news.sky.com/story/1511324/car-bomb-blast-kills-11-soldiers-in-egypt

July 1 (Numbers ranged from 30+ to 50 to 64) of Egypt’s soldiers killed in the Sinai and dozens injured in multiple attacks http://egyptianstreets.com/2015/07/01/30-soldiers-killed-in-egypts-north-sinai/
http://www.foxnews.com/world/2015/07/01/30-dead-after-islamic-militants-attack-egyptian-army-checkpoints/

The Egyptian Military’s Holdings – Speculations.

4 Apr

Giovanni Piazzeze quotes me in the article below in http://www.pagina99.it/ (I’ve given him 3 interviews, but this is the 1st article I’ve seen) — I am not surprised by Robert Springborg’s opinion.  (He is employed at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey whereas I am independent, meaning my opinion is not vetted by anyone in the military’s Public Affair’s office.  I do not know if the NPS’s PAO is as invasive as the one at the U.S. Army War College (where I was)  or if the command cares as much about what is written, I doubt it).  Just know that Springborg has signed a petition asking the US to interfere in Egypt against “the coup”  & wrote disparaging articles about both Sedki Sohbi and al-Sisi (the latter based on Andrew Bostom’s FOIA request to the Army War College to obtain al-Sisi’s paper (which I’ve had here all along, pretty funny how he tries to make him seem like an Islamist in his effort to help Islamists).

Arguments that Egyptian military is so wealthy that it enacted the revolution to protect its  own holdings – well that’s the kind of argument that Jadaliyya likes. But it just does not hold up to scrutiny.  As I tried to explain to Giovanni (not included below) much of the critique of military industries is based on a general laissez-faire liberal capitalist stance in which there should be no government-owned industries as they are inherently inefficient.   However, they provide employment to thousands in Egypt.

BOZZA PAGINA MILITARI 5200 BATTUTE
Nell’Egitto paralizzato dagli attentati terroristici e dal crollo dell’economia, concetti come stabilità politica e sicurezza economica sono divenuti i capisaldi di qualsiasi dibattito. Se la responsabilità della prima ricade sull’esercito e la polizia, la seconda, almeno in teoria, dovrebbe dipendere dai capitali degli azionisti e dal coinvolgimento d’imprenditori pubblici e privati. Tuttavia, in Egitto una fetta importante dell’economia nazionale è sotto il controllo dell’esercito, slegata da qualsiasi norma generalmente applicabile agli uomini d’affari presenti nel paese. Sin dal 1952 l’esercito ha avuto un ruolo determinante. Dapprima a livello politico, con esponenti delle forze armate inseriti nelle posizioni ministeriali più importanti. Successivamente a livello economico, quando la firma del trattato di pace con Israele nel 1979 non rendeva più necessario il mantenimento di un esercito numeroso. L’effetto potenzialmente destabilizzante generato dal trattato era di lasciare molti membri dell’esercito senza un’attività lavorativa.
Così Mubarak, succeduto a Sadat nel 1981, decise di creare l’Organizzazione Nazionale per i Prodotti di Servizio, il cui fine era quello di assorbire la massa di persone estromesse dalle forze armate attraverso la creazione di entità commerciali e manifatturiere. Insieme al Ministero per la Produzione Militare e all’Arab Organization for Industrialization (AOI), formano l’ossatura attorno a cui è stato costruito l’impero economico dei militari egiziani. Molte di queste attività sono esentate dal pagamento delle tasse, ricevono numerose agevolazioni fiscali e possono essere collocate praticamente ovunque, stando a una legge approvata nel 1991 secondo cui l’esercito può requisire per motivi di sicurezza nazionale le terre di cui ha bisogno. Non solo, dunque, le aziende che producono armi e mezzi militari, ma anche le fabbriche di beni di consumo quali acqua, pasta, olio, carne, elettrodomestici, automobili ed altro ancora. Nel corso degli anni l’esercito ha esteso i propri interessi anche nel ramo della sanità, del petrolio, del gas, del cemento e del turismo.
Esistono tuttavia delle incognite sul peso dei militari nell’economia egiziana, a partire dalla percentuale del Pil generato dalle loro aziende, su cui circolano cifre comprese tra il 5 e il 40%. Proprio pochi giorni fa, il Financial Times ha pubblicato un articolo in cui il generale Mohammed Amin, capo del dipartimento degli affari finanziari dell’esercito, riferiva che la quota del Pil in mano alle forze armate non raggiungesse neanche l’1% (1,75 miliardi di dollari). Graeme Bannerman, direttore del Middle East Institute, ritiene che “solo l’11% dell’economia sia nelle mani dell’esercito”. Anche Sherifa Zuhur, esperta di questioni mediorientali e che ha avuto tra i suoi allievi anche il generale Al-Sisi, è convinta che le cifre diffuse da molti media siano esagerate “Non mi sorprenderei se le cifre menzionate da Amin fossero un po’ più grandi, ma non di molto. Probabilmente la vera ricchezza dei militari egiziani risiede nel possesso della terra e nella partecipazione di ufficiali ed ex ufficiali nella gestione d’imprese commerciali. Un fatto, questo, riscontrabile anche negli Stati Uniti, ma con una differenza sostanziale. Negli Stati Uniti gli ufficiali in pensione vengono riassunti da compagnie private, mentre in Egitto vengono ricollocati all’interno di aziende di proprietà dell’esercito stesso”. Di parere diverso è invece Robert Springborg, che ha insegnato per anni alla Naval Postgraduate School di Monterey “Non esistono numeri ufficiali perché né il governo né i militari hanno mai reso pubblici questi dati. Ritengo, però, le cifre al ribasso sottostimino il ruolo dei militari nell’economia egiziana. Tutti sanno che l’esercito è responsabile per la maggior parte dei progetti infrastrutturali del paese, oltre ad avere un ruolo fondamentale nel settore degli idrocarburi, dei trasporti e dei consumi. I soli contratti edilizi fruttano centinaia di milioni di dollari”.
Al di là delle percentuali, variabili e poco indicative poiché non ufficiali, il problema risiede nella qualità, più che nella quantità, dell’economia dei militari. Già in passato, in un articolo pubblicato su Foreign Policy, Zeinab Abul Magd, docente presso l’Oberlin College, ha denunciato l’inefficienza e il clima di corruzione attorno alle forze armate. Opinione condivisa anche dallo stesso Springborg “La gestione delle attività economiche da parte dei militari è subordinata ai rapporti di potere che intercorrono tra i suoi membri. Per questo è un sistema intrinsecamente inefficiente e corrotto”.
Mercoledì sera il generale Al-Sisi ha ufficialmente dichiarato di essere pronto a candidarsi. Se, come ci si aspetta, sarà lui a vincere, dovrà affrontare una serie di problemi irrisolti. Dagli scioperi che hanno paralizzato il paese alla svalutazione della moneta e all’aumento dei prezzi (+69% dal 2010 per ciò che concerne bevande non alcoliche e cibo). Senza dimenticare la minaccia degli attentati terroristici e i rapporti con gli altri paesi, soprattutto con gli Stati Uniti. Cambiamenti che richiedono uno sforzo corale e che il prossimo presidente, a prescindere da chi sarà, non potrà raggiungere da solo.

Now Google translator is particularly bad with the double negatives but this will give you an idea:  


In Egypt paralyzed by the terrorist attacks and the collapse of the economy, concepts such as political stability and economic security have become the cornerstones of any debate. If the responsibility falls first on the army and the police , the second , at least in theory, should depend on the capital of the shareholders and the involvement of public and private employers . However , Egypt is an important part of the national economy under the control of the army, without ties to any rule generally applicable to businessmen in the country. Since 1952 the Army has played a crucial role . First, at the political level , with members of the armed forces included in the most important ministerial positions . Subsequently, at the economic level , when the signing of the peace treaty with Israel in 1979 did not make it no longer necessary to maintain a large army . The potentially destabilizing effect generated by the Treaty was to leave many members of the army without employment.
So Mubarak , who succeeded Sadat in 1981 , he decided to create the National Organization for the Products service , whose aim was to absorb the large numbers of people driven out by the armed forces through the creation of business entities and manufacturing . Together with the Ministry of Military Production and to the Arab Organization for Industrialization (AOI) , form the backbone around which was built the empire of the Egyptian military . Many of these activities are exempt from paying taxes , they receive numerous tax benefits and can be placed almost anywhere , according to a law passed in 1991 that the army can requisition for reasons of national security of the land it needs. Not only that, therefore , the companies that produce weapons and military means, but also factories for consumer goods such as water, pasta, olive oil , meat, household appliances, automobiles and more. Over the years, the army has also expanded its interests in the field of health care, oil, gas , cement and tourism.
However, there are uncertainties about the weight of the military in the Egyptian economy , from the percentage of GDP generated by their companies , over which numbers between 5 and 40 % . Just a few days ago , the Financial Times published an article in which General Mohammed Amin , head of the department of financial affairs of the army , reported that the share of GDP in the hands of the armed forces did not reach even 1% (1, 75 billion dollars). Graeme Bannerman , director of the Middle East Institute , believes that ” only 11 % of the economy is in the hands of the army .” Even Sherifa Zuhur , an expert on Middle East issues and that he had among his pupils also the General al- Sisi , is convinced that the figures published by many media are exaggerated “I would not be surprised if the figures mentioned by Amin were a bit ‘ bigger , but not by much. Probably the real wealth of the Egyptian military lies in the possession of the land and in the participation of officers and former officers in the management of commercial enterprises. A fact that is also reflected in the United States , but with one major difference . In the United States retired officers are summarized by private companies , while in Egypt are relocated within companies owned by the military itself. ” A different opinion is instead Robert Springborg , who has taught for years at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey “There are no official numbers because neither the government nor the military has never made ​​this information public . However, I believe the figures downward underestimate the military’s role in the Egyptian economy . Everyone knows that the army is responsible for most of the infrastructure projects in the country, as well as having a key role in the hydrocarbon sector , transport and consumption. The only construction contracts earn hundreds of millions of dollars. ”
Beyond the percentage variables and just as indicative unofficial , the problem lies in the quality , rather than quantity, the economy of the military. In the past , in an article published in Foreign Policy , Zeinab Abul Magd , a professor at Oberlin College, has denounced the inefficiency and corruption of the climate around the armed forces. Opinion is also shared by the same Springborg ” The management of economic activities by the military is subordinate to the power relations that exist among its members . For this is an inherently inefficient and corrupt . ”
Wednesday night the General Al- Sisi has officially declared to be ready to apply . If , as expected , he’ll win , will face a number of unresolved issues . By the strikes that paralyzed the country to currency depreciation and rising prices ( +69 % since 2010 as regards non-alcoholic beverages and food). Not to mention the threat of terrorist attacks and relations with other countries , particularly the United States. Changes that require a collective effort , and that the next president, regardless of who will not be able to reach alone.

From Russia and Egypt to Obama’s Vision (If one exists) By Sherifa Zuhur

17 Feb

 

1. Spent the day today responding to Prof. X – or rather biting my tongue.  Prof. X has  especially objected to a previous post I wrote at this blog about a former Fellow of the War College, Gen. al-Sisi and a post by an eyewitness to the so-called Nahda massacre (i.e. the ending of the Nahda demonstrations.)  I stand by what I wrote.  

The professor-student relationship is a very tenuous one.  We don’t shape anyone’s minds, we merely have an opportunity to offer certain thoughts on certain topics.  I’ve had many fabulous students who I admire greatly – including some journalists now working in Egypt, a WHO official, an environmental specialist, an expert at the United Nations, aides to politicians, and my military/governmental ‘students’ were in a special category as working professionals at the time of their studies.  

2. Here is some information from an interview today on the 2/2 Egyptian-Russian ‘deal’.

Q.  On the cooperation agreement between Egypt and Russia
SZ My understanding is that there may be a military cooperation agreement & that in turn could lead to an economic agreement – for now it is simply to be an intergovernmental commission on trade  and economic cooperation –
— but certainly it will be unlike that of the Nasserist era.   The agreement dates back to the Russian officials’ visit to Egypt in November 2013.  Had the U.S. not suspended military aid to Egypt, then Egypt might not have been as eager for this alternative source of aid, but anyway it is to be financed by Saudi Arabia and the U.A.E. as is not a ‘gift’ of aid as in the U.S. – Egyptian arrangment.
 
Q. Undoubtedly Putin is trying to increase his role in the area. He sells weapons to Syria (without mentioning other clients like Sudan or Algeria) and is going to have an important role even in Egypt. How U.S. perceives the Russian strategy in Middle East?
SZ  Generally, the U.S. sees Russia’s strategy in the Middle East as adversarial but multi-stranded.  For ex. the interest of Russian middlemen in oil futures is not necessarily synonymous with official policy – but in general we can speak of politics, arms, and markets.  The entire world has changed since the previous Arab Cold War in which the U.S.-Soviet enmity played out to some degree in a block of states allied with the U.S. who were opposed to others with more favorable relations with the USSR or Eastern bloc.
Q  According to some reports and analysis, Putin would have pledged $2 billions of military aid (Mig, anti-aircraft systems and anti-tank missiles among these). Firstly, may you tell me, specifically, which weapons Russia will sell to Egypt?
 SZ.  One cannot be specific  when the deal hasn’t yet been officially announced.   Yes, there were statements made by a Russian official (and published in al Akhbar which given its orientation,  may or may not be accurate.  These quoted Mikhail Zavaly (senior official with Russia’s arms export agency Rosoboronexport ) who said Russia was offering “modern helicopters, air defense equipment and the modernization of previously purchased military equipment,” Then Vedomosti printed that  negotiations were ongoing about the sale of MiG-29M/M2 fighter jets, low range air defense systems and Kornet anti-tank rockets.
– Are those new weapons well suited from a strategical point of view to fight the jihadist and terrorist security threat the Egyptian state is facing right now in Sinai and in mainland Egypt?
SZ No.  The fighter jets – known as Super Fulcrum are  supposed to be better suited for other types of attacks; the Syrian air force wanted to order them (the reports don’t give specifics) they have a longer range & can hit multiple targets.  One might expect Egypt to want Apache helicopters or drones which Israel is using in the Sinai.  Air-defense systems would be intended to protect Egypt against Israel most probably, and have no utility in the Sinai in the current situation.    Although it is true that the Israeli’s employ Iron Dome & that system has protected Eilat and other areas from rocket attacks.
 The campaign in the Sinai is a counterterrorist effort which differs from conventional warfare.
– How will Egypt finance such a purchase?
SZ Apparently Saudi Arabia and the UAE would pay Russia on behalf of Egypt.
Q – Sisi relies on Saudi’s and Gulf states’ financing. As you know, last July the Saudi prince Bandar had a meeting with Putin where he tried to convince the Russian leader to stop financing al-Assad in Syria (letting him understand his control on jihadist groups in Chechenia). How do you see the fact that it is now Saudi Arabia that is paying for the Russian weapons sold to Egypt? Especially with reference to the Syrian Great Game.
SZ I hope you do not print the various reports about what Prince Bandar is and isn’t doing – I don’t know that the above is accurate in the least.  Saudi Arabia’s official position on Syria is quite different; it wished to protect Syrian civilians and move towards a transitional government.
There is no “Syrian Great Game” – there is a genocide against the civilians of that country.  Saudi Arabia, which had allowed Syrian expatriates to organize charity and aid has been accused of doing much more of course, and now funds groups in the FSA and beyond.   Now, very sadly this conflict has continued instead of reaching a negotiated settlement by the world community.  Anyway,  we can speculate that Morsi might have involved Egypt militarily, but Egypt’s current government apparently has no intention of intervening in Syria.
–   Will the deal bring more costs for Egypt as it has to “adapt” once again to Russian weapons or given the nature of the Egyptian military industry – specialized in “linking or adapting” the two weapon systems Egypt will have economical advantages?
Egypt already has many outdated Russian tanks, submarines and systems, which were either updated, or replaced or remain obsolete.  It also has Western manufactured aircraft and naval systems.  There is no need to link the various types of weapons or military craft; they merely need to function.  There are no economic advantages to having outdated weaponry, nor to having materials exclusive to one national manufacturer – the issue here is really political – it is advantageous to have more than one source of weapons available to Egypt.
-And who does really benefit from this deal? Is it something that mostly benefits the military-industrial complex?  It will undoubtedly benefit Russia’s military-industrial manufacturers, just as the U.S. deal over many years benefitted the U.S. manufacturers.
– Do you think that Obama has, somehow, progressively lost interest in the area (or part of that area) because of other priorities? If that’s the case, what are those other priorities?
Obama, rather strangely, announced at the very beginning of his first term that he would be disengaging from the Middle East and communicated to DoD (Dept of Defense)  that the focus would shift to Asia.  This message might have been lost as he also simultaneously said he would “engage’ diplomatically with the region in a new manner – to contrast with Pres. Bush.  No-one knew what that meant, exactly.  He has supported covert warfare in Yemen, Somalia, and elswhere in Africa, and in Pakistan – but withdrew from Iraq and plans to withdraw this year from Afghanistan.  This diminished funding for engagement in the Middle East, even though the Arab spring brought about much unanticipated activity and new threats, including in Iraq – now destablized to the point that its government had to request external assistance in current campaigns there to resecure areas threatened once again by jihadist insurgents.
In Egypt, Obama’s administration, and the State Dept. as well as certain U.S. senators/congresspersons have angered and alienated Egyptians since 30th of June by insisting on restoration of the “rights” of the Muslim Brotherhood.  Now, Kerry, as Sec. of State has been rather more diplomatic about this, but is outshouted by U.S. media and DC-centered think tanks continuing a very sharp attack on the Mansour-Beblawi government and Egypt’s sovereign rights to determine its own policy vis-a-vis any given political group.  The Egyptian view is that matters are gradually stabilizing since there is a new, much-improved Constitution, and presidential and parliamentary elections will follow.  Obama’s views on Egypt are somewhat of a mystery, one hopes it is not true that the U.S. had planned for moderate Islamists to dominate the region from Tunisia to Egypt to Yemen to (if Assad were overthrown) to Syria. Apparently his administration regards the rapprochement with Iran as a great feather in its cap, although Iran retains centrifuges and an ability to produce nuclear materials and has thoroughly and poisonously aided Syria’s Assad.   It does not seem likely that events in the Middle East will quiet down so some similarly dramatic effort could be made in Asia, but maybe that is the president’s intended foreign policy goal before his term ends.
The following was published a few days ago in al-Ahram http://english.ahram.org.eg/NewsContent/1/64/94399/Egypt/Politics-/Strong-EgyptRussia-relations-can-be-spurred-by-cul.aspx