Egipto febrero 1, 2011Posted by Lodovico Settembrini in El Reino de este Mundo.
Nos hemos rendido ante la inevitable pereza veraniega.
Aunque ya estemos idos, todavía no hemos llegado – esta suerte de Purgatorio es insoportable -.
Les dejo la que creemos es la mejor crónica sobre Egipto, escrita un año antes de los sucesos de estos días, en el London Review of Books de mayo de 2010.
It’s still often said that ‘what happens in Egypt affects the entire Arab world,’ but nothing much has happened there in years. Egypt has fallen behind Saudi Arabia – not to mention non-Arab countries like Turkey and Iran – in regional leadership. Even tiny Qatar has a more independent foreign policy. Egypt is by far the largest Arab country, with 80 million inhabitants, yet it’s seen by most Arabs – and by the Egyptians themselves – as a client state of the United States and Israel, who depend on Mubarak to ensure regional ‘stability’ in the struggle with the ‘resistance front’ led by Iran.
Despite the promises of the regime – and contrary to the expectations of Egypt’s sponsors in the West – economic liberalisation hasn’t led to much in the way of political liberalisation: in 1992, the year it adopted an IMF stabilisation and structural adjustment package, Egypt began sending civilians to be tried at military tribunals. The Emergency Law, in force since Sadat’s assassination and recently renewed despite Mubarak’s promise to lift it, grants the government extraordinary powers to arrest its opponents without charge and to detain them indefinitely; there are an estimated 17,000 political prisoners, most of them Islamists.
The ideology of Mubarak’s National Democratic Party has undergone marked shifts in recent years, alternating between Milton Friedman and Muhammad, as the occasion demands. Arab unity, as the novelist Sonallah Ibrahim remarks, has been reduced to the ‘unity of foreign commodities consumed by everyone’.Foreign policy is a particularly anguished subject. While the peace with Israel reached in 1979 by Sadat may make Egypt a ‘moderate’ state in the eyes of Washington, it has left many Egyptians deeply embittered. Mubarak drew a lesson from Sadat’s fate: it was one thing to make a deal with Israel – quite another to make nice. He would honour the peace treaty, but he would not go to Tel Aviv, or engage in ostentatious displays of friendship that would offend Egyptian honour; and he would turn a blind eye to anti-Israel invective in the press, so that opponents of ‘normalisation’ with Tel Aviv could let off steam. By maintaining an appearance of froideur, Mubarak was able to repair relations with the Arab League and with the Arab states that had cut their ties with Egypt in 1979. Meanwhile, he has developed a partnership with Israel on trade and ‘security’ that is far more extensive than Sadat could have imagined. Their intelligence services work closely together, and Mubarak has supplied weapons and training to the Palestinian Authority in its war against Hamas. The government is also doing what it can to maintain the siege in Gaza, concerned that if it opens its border crossing, Israel might shut down all its crossing points and try to dump Gaza in Egypt’s lap, which would be particularly unwelcome given that the Hamas rulers in Gaza are allies both of Mubarak’s domestic opponents, the Muslim Brothers, and of his foreign adversaries, Iran and Hizbullah.
Mubarak was never close to the Brothers, but he has had to find a way to live with them, if only because they are too deeply embedded in society – and in the mosques, no-go zones for the state – to be eliminated. Their status is often described as ‘banned yet tolerated’: ‘banned’, because they would pose a serious threat to the regime if they were allowed to participate freely; ‘tolerated’, because they allow Mubarak to present himself as Egypt’s only defence against an Islamist takeover. Thus, under American pressure to open up Egypt’s political system, Mubarak permitted the Brothers to run in the 2005 legislative elections. To the horror of the liberal opposition, and of the Bush administration, they won 88 of the 160 seats they contested, a fifth of the seats in the lower house of parliament, making them the second most powerful party after Mubarak’s NDP. Since then, the US has all but dropped its pressure on Mubarak to democratise, and the Brothers have had their wings clipped.
Suleiman, the head of General Intelligence, is both a lieutenant general in the army and a member of Mubarak’s cabinet. He is the second most powerful man in Egypt, a key player in negotiations between Israel and Hamas and one of the most formidable spymasters in the Middle East.
His success in crushing the insurgency – and the dossier he compiled on Egyptian jihadists, many of whom joined Bin Laden after their defeat in Egypt – made him a valued partner for the CIA after 9/11.
He has spent most of his professional life in the West; he won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2005 for his work with the International Atomic Energy Agency (he donated the proceeds to orphanages in his hometown); and he crossed swords over the inspections in Iraq and Iran with the Bush administration, which tried to force him out of his job. All reasons to respect him. When he flew home from Vienna in February, at the end of his third term at the IAEA, he was greeted at the airport by a thousand supporters. He then met members of the opposition, from Kifaya to the Muslim Brothers, and gave a series of blistering interviews on the state of Egyptian political life. Sounding rather like Obama in 2008, he insisted that he was ‘not a saviour’, that ‘only with the help of the people could he try to change the authoritarian regime in power for the last 50 years’. It’s easy to understand why Egyptians are tempted to see him as a saviour: an outsider, untainted by compromise and unaffiliated with any of Egypt’s political parties, he is someone on whom extravagant hopes can be pinned. Apart from generalities – restoring the rule of law, ensuring social protection for the poor, providing humanitarian aid for Gaza – he has said little about what he would do as president. ‘He remains an unpolitician,’ as the reporter Issandr El Amrani put it.
Egypt, the second largest recipient of US aid after Israel, recently received $260 million in ‘supplementary security assistance’, as well as $50 million for border security, which probably means reinforcing the blockade of Gaza.
Less expensive at any rate than it would be in the event of an Islamist takeover that ‘would pose a far greater threat – in magnitude and degree – to US interests than the Iranian revolution’. This seems to be the Obama administration’s implicit wager, too. It’s bad news for ElBaradei and his supporters: bad news for all the Egyptians who fear that they will never know democracy because of the ‘American veto’.