Book Reviews | Gordon Campbell | News Flashes | Scoop Features | Scoop Video | Strange & Bizarre | Search

 


Gordon Campbell on Mubarak’s divide and rule tactics

Gordon Campbell on Mubarak’s divide and rule tactics, and David Farrar


Egypt hieroglyph
twitter
Click for big version

If regime change does eventually occur in Egypt, a truly representative government in Cairo would be less pro-American, and less likely to collude with Israel’s plans for the region. To take the most obvious example, a truly democratic Egypt would be highly unlikely to share the Mubarak regime’s willingness to collude with Israel in orchestrating the fate of the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza.

Turkey is already the regional role model* in this respect. As Turkey has become more democratic, it has become less servile to Western interests, less willing to co-operate with the Israelis in policies that subjugate the Palestinians, and more willing to engage independently with the region’s other emerging power, Iran.

When cornered, the Mubarak regime has reverted to type. It has (a) employed divide and rule tactics against its opponents and (b) tried to impose any reforms from the top downwards, onto the masses. Mubarak’s divide and rule process has included depicting himself as the only alternative to chaos. To that end, as even the conservative security website Stratfor has reported, much of the looting of middle class and wealthy neighbourhoods has been carried out by plainclothes police, in order to terrorise residents as to what the alternative to Mubarak may bring in its wake. It’s the usual dichotomy. Stratfor puts it this way:

Security forces in plainclothes are engaged in destroying public property in order to give the impression that many protesters represent a public menace. The Muslim Brotherhood is meanwhile forming people’s committees to protect public property and also to coordinate demonstrators’ activities, including supplying them with food, beverages and first aid.

Obviously, the Muslim Brotherhood is not the only opposition that Hosni Mubarak faces in his battle for survival. Currently, the ranks of the demonstrators include Coptic Christians, secular Egyptians of every class and income level, educated middle and upper middle class Muslims, and non-ideological youth as well. If Mubarak is to survive, he has to somehow pit those elements against each other.and crush them later, one by one. US scholar Juan Cole describes the Mubarak tactics of divide and rule in these terms:

By suggesting that the Muslim Brotherhood is taking advantage of the protests to conduct a campaign of sabotage behind the scenes, with the goal of establishing a theocratic dictatorship, Mubarak hopes to terrify the other groups into breaking with the Muslim fundamentalists. Since middle class movements such as Kefaya (Enough!) are small and not very well organized, Mubarak may believe that he can easily later crush them if he can detach them from the more formidable Brotherhood.

So far, the role being played by the Obama administration seems to have been crucial in pulling the purse strings on the Egyptian military – and reminding the generals what they will lose if they order their troops to fire upon the crowds in Tahrir Square with US-supplied arms and ammunition.

At this point, Mubarak will still be hoping to impose his own men – such as vice president Omar Suleiman – on the reform process, and thus dictate the eventual outcome once the massive crowds and Western media attention, have receded somewhat. Mubarak will take solace from the fact that the final outcome in Tunisia – where all this started – is still up in the air.

Suleiman is unlikely to be acceptable to the demonstrators merely by virtue of him being Mubarak’s choice. Things have gone too far now for Mubarak to pick and choose how much democracy he will allow. The fact that Suleiman managed the rendition process in Egypt and oversaw the brutal interrogation of terrorism suspects should also disqualify him from acceptance by the international community.

Besides Mubarak, the big loser in the past month has been Israel. First the sham nature of the ‘peace process’ was exposed in the extensive Palestine Papers documents, that revealed in depressing detail the collusion between Israel and the Fatah leadership in the selling out of Palestinian interests. (The reputation of Fatah’s chief negotiator Saeb Erakat will never recover from this very public humiliation.) Israel now seems about to lose its equally compliant friend in Cairo – and will force it to re-engage with Syria, the prickly regional player that it had effectively been able to ignore, ever since Israel signed a peace deal with Anwar Sadat (Mubarak’s predecessor) back in 1979.

The effects from the events in Tunisia and Egypt are rippling through the region, from Yemen to Syria. In a pre-emptive move, King Abdullah II of Jordan yesterday sacked his entire government, and installed a new Prime Minister with a reputation of being free from corruption.

As Syria expert Joshua Landis has indicated, even tyrants face the same basic problem in the Middle East as democrats – that of feeding their restive and growing populations:

The economic situation for the bottom 50% of most Middle Easterners is going to get worse in the future due to rising commodity prices, inflation, and scarce resources. To stay in power, governments presiding over a large percentage of poor will have to become more repressive or find a way to increase economic growth.

If, as expected, Mubarak announces he will not stand in September’s elections, this will certainly buy his regime time to orchestrate the outcome, and divide his opponents. In this process, the end game has not yet even begun.

* Hat-tip to Joshua Landis for this comparison.

***

David Farrar’s Art Hang-up

I don’t read Kiwiblog, so it has taken a day or so for friends to refer me to the latest reason for not doing so.

According to David Farrar, my criticism of Arts Minister Chris Finlayson for not defending the persecuted Iranian film director Jafar Panahi is somehow akin to defending Roman Polanski.

Huh? Roman Polanski admitted to drugging and sodomising a 13 year old girl. Jafar Panahi has been sent to jail for six years and forbidden to make movies for 20 years for merely planning to make a film about the stolen 2009 Iranian elections. How does Farrar think these things are remotely comparable? And how can he liken my defence of Panahi to the defence (by others) of Polanski – especially when I attacked Polanski’s apologists on Scoop less than a fortnight ago.

I know, I know…it’s a wind-up, and my real sin was to criticise Chris Finlayson. To Farrar, I’m some kind of arch Wellington cultural elitist for thinking that Finlayson should defend Panahi. Well, let me spell this out… Chris Finlayson is the Minister of the Arts. He gets paid a lot of money to promote and defend the arts. Panahi is an artist, internationally acclaimed as such. That’s why I thought Finlayson might rise to his defence, given that the French Minister of the Arts has already done so in forthright terms.

Yet to Farrar, it is somehow cultural elitism for me to argue that Finlayson should defend an artist of Panahi’s stature. Spare me. I see it as part of the job we pay Chris Finlayson so handsomely to do. Being Arts Minister is not all wine and cheese and hanging out with Sir Peter Jackson. That’s the real cultural elitism.

Lying just beneath Farrar’s comments is the usual New Zealand cultural cringe about ‘artists’ – as if the whole notion is somehow poncey or pretentious. For the record, I don’t downplay the fate of journalists and bloggers in Iran – some of whom have paid with their lives for covering the same election demonstrations that Panahi was planning to address in the film that landed him in jail.

The difference is, I don’t expect the Minister of Arts to defend bloggers and journalists, though that would be welcome. I do expect him to defend artists. That’s why Finlayson’s failure to denounce Panahi’s treatment seems inexplicably timid, and shameful.

********

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
Top Scoops Headlines

 

Open Source, Open Society: More Than Just Transparency

Bill Bennett: “Share and share alike” is the message parents drum into children. But once they grow up and move out into the wider world, the shutters start to come down. We’re trained to be closed. Dave Lane, president of the New Zealand Open Source Society, says that explains the discomfort people find when they first encounter the open world. More>>

ALSO:

Werewolf: Journalism, History And Forgetting

Compare that [the saturation coverage of WWI] not just with the thinly reported anniversaries last year of key battles in the New Zealand Wars, but with the coverage of the very consequential present-day efforts to remedy the damage those wars wrought, and the picture is pretty dismal. More>>

ALSO:

Werewolf: Climate Of Fear

New Zealand, promoting itself as an efficient producer, has been operating as a factory farm for overseas markets with increasing intensity ever since the introduction of refrigerated shipping in 1882. The costs to native forests and to bio-diversity have been outlandish. The discussion of impacts has been minimal... More>>

ALSO:

Greek Riddles: Gordon Campbell On The Recent Smackdown Over Greece

There had been a fortnight of fevered buildup. Yet here we are in the aftermath of the February 28 showdown between the new Syriza government in Greece and the European Union “troika” and… no-one seems entirely sure what happened. Did the asteroid miss Earth? More>>

ALSO:

Keith Rankin: Contribution Through Innovation

The economic contribution of businesses and people is often quite unrelated to their taxable incomes. EHome, as a relatively new company, may have never earned any taxable income. Its successors almost certainly will earn income and pay tax. Yet it was eHome itself who made the biggest contribution by starting the venture in the first place. More>>

ALSO:

A Public Conversation: Reinventing News As A Public Right

Alastair Thompson: Oh how the mighty have fallen. Once journalism was possibly a noble profession, though that is certainly now, to quote our Prime Minister, a 'contestable' notion. It certainly seemed at least a little noble when I joined the ranks of reporters in 1989 . But ... More>>

ALSO:

Get More From Scoop

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Top Scoops
Search Scoop  
 
 
Powered by Vodafone
NZ independent news