Monday, December 1, 2014

Of Arab Spring and Mubarakization

Reversing the Revolution: Mubarak's Court Case Vindicates the Saudi Strategy on Egypt

Former Egyptian army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi (R) meets with Al-Waleed bin Talal, businessman and member of the Saudi royal family. The Saudi royal family undoubtedly welcomed the decision to drop the charges against Hosni Mubarak as a vindication of their strategy to reverse the 2011 revolution in Egypt and restore authoritarian military rule over their most important Arab ally. The Saudis were horrified when Mubarak was toppled in 2011. The Egyptian dictator had been a consistent ally of the Kingdom for three decades even sending two divisions to defend it in 1990 when Iraq threatened to attack. Trying him for repressing demonstrations set an unwanted precedent for other Arab leaders.
The Kingdom supported the 2013 coup immediately, with the King publicly endorsing the putsch minutes after it took place. Riyadh has organized the Gulf states to bankroll the generals' regime since — at a cost of billions. Getting Mubarak out of prison has been a Saudi priority ever since the coup.
The coup reversed the momentum of the Arab Spring and extinguished the most important experiment in Arab democracy ever, two key Saudi goals. The defeat of the Muslim Brotherhood was another major objective for Riyadh. The Saudis believe the coup substantially reduced the danger of unrest inside the Kingdom by terminating a dangerous role model.
Of course the Saudis now own the burden of keeping the generals in office, an expensive proposition especially when oil prices are dropping. King Abdallah's son, National Guard commander Prince Mitab, told Asharq Al Awsat this week that the Kingdom will stand in solidarity with President Abdel Fattah Al Sisi and "legitimate institutions" in Egypt no matter the cost. Mitab, who has just returned to Riyadh from consultations in Washington which he suggested had been contentious, underscored the Kingdom's determination to preserve "regional security" and stability against the Brotherhood and other terrorists.

Bruce Riedel is senior fellow and director of the Brookings Intelligence Project, part of Brookings’ new Center for 21st Century Security and Intelligence. In addition, Riedel serves as a senior fellow in the Center for Middle East Policy. He retired in 2006, after 30 years of service, from the Central Intelligence Agency, including postings overseas. He was also a senior advisor on South Asia and the Middle East to the last four Presidents of the United States in the staff of the National Security Council at the White House. He was also deputy assistant secretary of defense for the Near East and South Asia at the Pentagon and a senior advisor at the North Atlantic Treaty Organization in Brussels.

Mubarak's Trial: Coda to a Revolution

Former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak waves after an Egyptian court dropped its case against him. On Saturday morning, a Cairo judge threw out, on procedural grounds, a set of charges against former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak stemming from the 2011 revolution — including charges that he was responsible for the deaths of Egyptian protestors shot by police during the January 25th uprising. For a complex set of reasons, Mubarak is likely to be released from prison soon despite having been convicted earlier on unrelated corruption charges.
For those confused by the seemingly endless raft of charges, dismissals, convictions, acquittals, and retrials that have largely kept former president Hosni Mubarak in prison since the 2011 revolution, I point you to a very useful FAQ from Hossam Baghat, formerly of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights and Mada Masr.
The judge's decision does not surprise Egypt's legal professionals, who have been aware for a long time of the weaknesses in how these charges were filed and the evidence provided to back them up. It also does not surprise cynics who see the "vindication" of Mubarak as a culmination of the counterrevolution that began over a year ago with the demonstrations against then-President Mohammed Morsi, the military takeover, and the election of just-retired General Abdelfattah al-Sisi as president. It's important to note that this legal outcome is not a vindication — Mubarak was not acquitted of the charges. For many observers, the trial outcome is symbolic of the broad trajectory of Egypt's post-revolutionary politics — wherein the January 25th revolution has moved from a noble popular uprising to a dark foreign conspiracy, pluralistic politics has moved from an expression of public will to a danger to social solidarity, and domestic repression has moved from a moral outrage to a moral good.
But perhaps more concretely, the trial's outcome is symbolic of a broken, enfeebled justice system where outcomes often seem arbitrary and where prosecutors and judges often seem to follow public sentiment — first heeding calls for blood by charging the former president on hastily constructed evidence, then dismissing the charges after three years of chaos made Mubarak's thirty years of dictatorship look rosy in retrospect. The biased workings of this system are also evident in the fact that this judge properly dismissed Mubarak's charges on technical grounds, whereas preposterously flimsy and/or irrelevant evidence and testimony were allowed to stand in the conviction of three journalists this year and the convictions of 43 NGO workers in 2013. In some ways, this broken system is just one small example of the broken Egyptian state that is the legacy of Mubarak's long rule. As one Egyptian tweeted today:
So today's news is a sad reminder for many Egyptians of what's become of their hopes for a post-Mubarak Egypt. But perhaps the most deeply affected are the families of the more than 800 Egyptians killed in the January 25th revolution. These young men and women are often referred to as martyrs to the calls for "bread, freedom and social justice" that drove the uprising against Mubarak. With today's decision, their families confront a future without the dream their loved ones died for, and also without justice for their deaths.

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