Monday, February 7, 2011

Gilbert Achcar on Egyptian Military interviewed by Farooq Sulehria

FS: Do you mean that the Egyptian army is backing Mubarak?

GA: Egypt – even more than comparable countries such as Pakistan or Turkey – is in essence a military dictatorship with a civilian façade that is itself stuffed with men originating in the military. The problem is that most of the Egyptian opposition, starting with the Muslim Brotherhood, have been sowing illusions about the army and its purported “neutrality,” if not “benevolence.”

They have been depicting the army as an honest broker, while the truth is that the army as an institution is not “neutral” at all. If it has not been used yet to repress the movement, it is only because Mubarak and the general staff did not see it appropriate to resort to such a move, probably because they fear that the soldiers would be reluctant to carry out a repression.

That is why the regime resorted instead to orchestrating counter-demonstrations and attacks by thugs on the protest movement. The regime tried to set up a semblance of civil strife, showing Egypt as torn apart between two camps, thus creating a justification for the army's intervention as the “arbiter” of the situation.

If the regime managed to mobilize a significant counter-movement and provoke clashes on a larger scale, the army could step in, saying: “Game over, everybody must go home now,” while promising that the pledges made by Mubarak would be implemented. Like many observers, I feared these last two days that this stratagem might succeed in weakening the protest movement, but the huge mobilization of today's “day of departure” is reassuring. The army will need to make further and more significant concessions to the popular uprising.

Gilbert Achcar, who grew up in Lebanon, is professor of development studies and international relations at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), London, and author most recently of The Arabs and the Holocaust: the Arab-Israeli War of Narratives, Metropolitan Books, New York, 2010.

For the full interview called Wither Egypt

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