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Friday 16 August 2013

Egypt – Is Anyone In Charge?

As another day of protests in Egypt, following on Friday prayers, has resulted in many more deaths, the thought arises that the Interim Government may be nominally in power, but appears to be exercising very little in the way of control over the military. And that military does not appear to be exercising any effective command over its soldiers, other than to allow them to shoot civilians.
On Wednesday, protests mainly by supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood, and of ousted President Mohammed Morsi, were met with lethal force from Police and the Army, resulting in a death toll which was at first under-reported. It now seems that the number of fatalities was somewhere north of 650; there were literally hundreds of corpses at more than one mosque in Cairo.

Now, as the Friday protests continue, the reported death toll has already passed 50, and if Wednesday is anything to go by, may actually be well into three figures by now. Talk of the Policeusing live ammunition to defend public buildings” is worrying: there is only one reason for using live rounds, and that reason has nothing to do with defending buildings, however important.

We can only assume that there will be many more casualties as the evening wears on, and this begs one question: someone must be giving the Army, if not orders to shoot to kill, at least the impression that they are allowed to do so. So who is giving those orders? Does anyone believe that the country’s Interim Government is allowing its armed forces to kill literally hundreds of their fellow Egyptians?

From statements supposedly made by General Sisi, the conclusion has to be reached that the military has been given free rein and is carrying on as it wants, safe in the knowledge that, whatever weaponry the protesters can lay their hands on, it cannot match the lethality of that in the Army’s hands. The only politician to make a public gesture has been Mohamed El Baradei, who has very publicly resigned.

In the meantime, those complaining about the stance of the USA, and of Barack Obama personally, are equally off the mark. General Sisi has expressed his disdain, and even hostility, towards the Americans, which is a bit rich, considering how much aid they have given to Egypt in the recent past. In the immediate term, there appears to be very little influence that the USA can bring to bear.

Moreover, despite events unfolding on their doorstep, the Israelis will be wary of going anywhere near the ruckus. Nor will any of the EU member states. There will be much punditry over the weekend apportioning blame, but in Egypt we have a situation where nobody is sufficiently in charge to have the will, or the means, to stop the combination of anger and violence. There is no off switch available.

Would that there were. Let us hope that wiser counsel prevails, and soon.

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