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Designs of the deep state: Old regime back in Egypt, the third Arab liberation movement suffers a critical blow

Wednesday, 16 April 2014 - 6:00am IST | Place: Mumbai | Agency: dna

Three diplomats sat in the French consulate in Beirut in May 1916 and agreed on a secret plan to divide West Asia. They represented Britain, France and Imperial Russia. After the Bolshevik Revolution in October 1917, Russia withdrew. Britain and France stayed committed and soon after the end of the War, divided the countries among themselves under "Sykes-Picot Agreement". The Arabs, who had been promised freedom by the British, revolted and were eventually placated with the creation of the Emirate of Transjordan (now Kingdom of Jordan) and Kingdom of Iraq to be ruled by the sons of the leader of Arab Revolt, Sharif Hussein of Mecca.

A second attempt to throw away the Sykes-Picot yoke started shortly after World War II and countries like Syria, Iraq, Iran and Egypt witnessed coups and popular revolts. New dictatorships emerged while the old systems, essentially supported by foreign powers, remained intact. New elites, including a military ruling class, emerged while masses continued to lead a life of penury, bereft of civil and political rights.

The third movement to get rid of the Sykes-Picot regime started in Tunisia in December 2010 and soon spread to many corners of the Arab World. Its biggest success was in Egypt where the movement toppled the long-entrenched military rule of Hosni Mubarak. But the reins of power did not fall into the hands of the protesters or institutions as there were no institutions worth their name with the exception of the Supreme Council of Armed Forces (SCAF) which hastened to take over the State and effectively ruled from February 2011 to June 2012.

A new Parliament was elected in a free and fair election in January 2012 but in June, SCAF dismantled it on technical grounds using a court verdict which found flaws in the electoral law. On December 26, 2012, President Mohamed Morsi, a former university professor belonging to the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) signed a Constitution approved by 63.83 per cent of the voters in a free and fair referendum. But it still remained heavily in favour of the army, such as a military officer was to be the defence minister (Article 195) and the National Defence Council was to have a majority of military commanders (Article 197).

The fact is that President Morsi was not allowed to rule even for a single day. The "deep state" frustrated all his attempts to control the system.

The State and private media, including the mass-circulated government-owned newspapers and TV channels, started an unprecedented daily campaign to ridicule and abuse the President and his team. Rogue and liberal elements rushed to the streets in frequent protests. "Black Bloc," the secret militia kept by the interior ministry, started a reign of terror. The deep state with the help of the judges was moving fast to dismantle the Shura Council (upper house of Parliament) and the Constituent Committee drafting the Constitution. At the behest of the deep state, many "liberal" members of the Constituent Committee resigned, street protests began and even the Presidential palace was besieged.

When millions of supporters of the deposed President and opponents of a fresh bout of military regime started street protests , they were mercilessly crushed on August 14, 2013, with at least 638 persons dead. According to a conservative estimate, at least 3,000 protesters have been killed by the Egyptian army and police since President Morsi was toppled.The judiciary fully supported the police and army's bid to crush all protests. According to official figures, 16,000 MB leaders, workers and supporters are in jails, while an Egyptian human rights organisation has put the number of the arrestees at 22,000 which includes hundreds of women and minors and around 3,000 MB leaders and workers.

The army-appointed council of ministers banned MB within the country and declared it a "terrorist group", accusing it of all violent activities in the country. The Freedom and Justice Party, too, was banned, and the members' assets, including bank accounts, have been seized.

On March 25, a court in Minya startled the whole world by sentencing 528 persons to death for killing a police officer although the officer's widow has told media that the killers of her husband are freely roaming the town's streets. The whole court proceedings took some half an hour over two days. During the second session, the defendants and their lawyers were not allowed into the court-room!

Earlier, in February 2014, three Alexandria courts had sentenced a group of protesters to 945 years in jail and a fine of 0.5 million Egyptian pounds. On March 19, a Cairo court sentenced 26 persons accused in the so-called "Suez Cell" to death. They were accused of sabotaging the Suez Canal. More sentences against 682 MB members will be announced on April 28.

In a further escalation, the public prosecutor on March 26 ordered the trial of 919 supporters of President Morsi in Minya. They include the Leader (Murshid) of MB, Muhammad Badie who is accused of inciting people. Morsi himself is charged of treason and communication with "enemy" (Hamas)! The coup leader, who got himself elevated to "Field Marshal," has now announced his candidature for the presidential elections which will be held on May 26-27. His winning the elections is a forgone conclusion as no serious rival will be allowed to contest.Seemingly, the counter-revolution in Egypt is complete by now. The old regime is fully back in the saddle thanks to US, Israel and Gulf support. They were all, for different reasons, wary, lest a popular, honest and enlightened movement takes root in a key Arab country which was to have serious repercussions for the whole region. The road ahead for the field marshal is not paved with flowers. His ruthless tactics can hardly help his regime tide over a difficult economic situation — some US$ 17 billion Gulf aid cannot shore up a corrupt and kleptocratic system. It is still too early to write the epitaph of the January 25 Revolution. Sykes-Picot legacy is yet to be dismantled.

The writer, chief editor of The Milli Gazette, is a keen observer of the developments in West Asia since late 1960s

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