people rant & rave about the toads, but sisi is almost as bad

Egypt stages referendum to institutionalize Gen Sisi’s dictatorship
Bill Van Auken, WSWS, Apr 19 2019

Egypt’s military-dominated dictatorship is rushing ahead with a referendum this weekend on constitutional amendments that would effectively make Gen Abd’el-Fattah al-Sisi dictator for life, while institutionalizing the bloody repression his regime has carried out against all forms of political opposition and particularly the Egyptian working class. The plan for the three-day referendum beginning Saturday was announced on Wednesday, just one day after the country’s parliament, stacked with Sisi supporters, approved the proposed amendments to the Egyptian constitution by an overwhelming margin of 554 to 22 with one abstention. The vote was staged as a patriotic event, with legislators waving small Egyptian flags and national hymns being played in the background. The referendum is being staged under conditions in which there has been no time for the Egyptian population to even consider the sweeping amendments to the constitution, which not only extend the presidential term to six years but also establish a transitional period allowing Sisi to override a two-term limit and run for a third term, remaining in office until at least 2030. They provide him with complete control over the judiciary, while expanding the already overwhelming role of the military in the country’s political affairs. One of the amendments states:

The military has the responsibility for safeguarding the Constitution and democracy, preserving the basic foundations of the State and its civil nature, the gains of the people and the rights and freedoms of individuals.

The constitutional reform institutionalizes the already widespread practice of trying civilians in military courts. Some 15,000 people including 150 children have faced such drumhead trials since the 2013 coup that overthrew Mohammed Morsi and brought Sisi to power, according to the estimates of human rights organizations. Sisi consolidated his rule with the massacre of over 1,000 people at Cairo’s Rabaa Square in 2013. Since then over 60,000 people have been thrown into the regime’s jails for political reasons, facing rampant torture. Since the beginning of 2019, the regime has executed 15 political prisoners, sentenced to death on the sole basis of confessions extracted under torture. In truly Orwellian style, the regime plastered the streets of Cairo with propaganda posters and hung giant banners in Tahrir Square calling for Egyptians to “do the right thing” and vote “yes” in a referendum whose contents had not even been made known. Amnesty International issued a statement denouncing the constitutional amendments as designed to “strengthen impunity for human rights violations by members of the security forces,” while HRW stated that they were written to “institutionalize authoritarianism.” Speaking at a press conference called by human rights groups in Paris, Amr Waked, one of Egypt’s best-known actors banned in his own country, He said:

These amendments would take us back to a dictatorship fit for the Middle Ages. Why are you giving the dictatorship legitimacy? Why are you selling arms to it? Have you turned into arms dealers? Those who are backing Sisi today will one day pay a price higher than their investments in keeping him in power.

Faschingstein stands first and foremost among those supporting the blood-stained dictatorship, with Congress approving the Trump administration’s request for $3bn in aid to the Sisi regime, with another $1.4b in the pipeline for 2020. Trump welcomed Sisi to the White House last week, praising him for doing “a fantastic job in a very difficult situation” and declaring “We agree on so many things!” No doubt one of them was support for draconian methods of repression against domestic opposition, with Trumpt clearly wishing he could use the same measures in Pindostan that Sisi does in Egypt. Earlier this year, facing rising social protest at home, Macron flew to Cairo to sign approximately 30 deals with the Sisi regime, with whom Paris has declared a “strategic partnership.” Germany has likewise established close ties with the Sisi regime, while Sisi hosted heads of state who flew in from across Europe to embrace him at a first-ever summit of the European Union and the League of Arab States held in Sharm el-Sheikh in February.

The support of Pindostan & its Euro vassals is not merely due to the mercenary considerations of the major arms corporations. They have embraced him precisely because of his leading role in suppressing the revolutionary movement of workers and young people that toppled Mubarak in 2011, which threatened to spread throughout the region and inspired millions across the globe. The Egyptian regime has blocked more than 34,000 websites in an attempt to shut down an internet opposition campaign being waged under the title Batel or “Void”, seeking to express rejection of the amendments and the government’s rigged referendum. Nearly 300,000 people have registered their support for the campaign, despite the government crackdown, which has disrupted a large number of websites belonging to businesses, religious organizations and others unconnected to the opposition effort. The referendum will have no more legitimacy than the two elections Sisi has staged for the presidency. He won the last one by 97% after disqualifying and locking up any credible opponents. Yet there is no-one in the West suggesting that his rule is “illegitimate.” In addition to violently suppressing the resistance of the Egyptian working class, Sisi plays an increasingly central role in counter-revolutionary conspiracies throughout the region. On Monday, he staged a meeting with Gen Khalifa Haftar, even as his “Libyan National Army” escalated its siege of Tripoli, in which over 200 have been killed and 600 wounded so far. Sisi issued a statement saying:

We salute Gen Haftar’s efforts to combat terrorism and extremist groups and militias in order to achieve security and stability.

According to news reports, he also offered Haftar sophisticated military equipment including night-vision goggles and anti-aircraft jamming devices, to aid in his attack on the Libyan capital. Meanwhile, high-level Egyptian delegations have gone to Khartoum to assist the Sudanese military in strangling the mass popular rebellion that has forced out the country’s ruler, Omar al-Bashir last Thursday. The millions of workers and young people who have been on the streets of Algeria since February, forcing the resignation of president Abdelaziz Bouteflika, are calling attention to the bloody Egyptian events as the Algerian army headed by Gen Ahmed Gaed Salah claims that it will oversee a transition and unleashes escalating repression against the protests. The approval of Sisi’s dictatorship by Wall Street and Western finance capital found expression Wednesday with Moody’s raising Egypt’s rating to B2 with a “stable” outlook, with assurances that “profitability will remain strong” in the subjugated country. Under conditions in which 40% of the population lives in desperate poverty, subsisting on less than $2 a day and with even these meager incomes being eroded by an inflation rate that has risen to 15%, such stability may soon prove short-lived, along with Sisi’s dreams of becoming president for life. The powerful movement of the working class in the textile mill towns of the Delta and in Egypt’s ports that brought down Mubarak will inevitably erupt once again.

Background:

With Egypt’s withdrawal, hopes for MESA are diminished but not dead
Joyce Karam, UAE National, Apr 15 2019

Even before Egypt’s withdrawal from the Middle East Strategic Alliance last week, the Trump administration was struggling to launch the bloc as disagreements over its goals, threats and structure marred consultations. Cairo told Faschingstein and other MESA participants of its decision to withdraw before a meeting of the group in Riyadh on Apr 7, Reuters reported. Two official sources from the proposed alliance confirmed to The National that Egypt had left the talks and was officially out. Pres Trump has been hoping to launch the security and economic alliance, informally called the Arab NATO, since mid-2017. It would include Pindostan, the Toads, the UAE, Bahrain, Oman, Kuwait, Qatar, Egypt and Jordan and would be focused on countering Iran, deepening defence relations, energy co-operation and dealing with other threats. The concept is not new. In 1953, Gen Eisenhower tried to build an Arab bloc to counter communism in the Middle East, and several Pindo Fuhrers have tried unsuccessfully since. The Trump administration now faces a major setback, given Cairo’s strategic and military significance, and may have to restructure the proposed alliance. A Pindo boxtop said:

Egypt plays a very important role in regional security and is a critical strategic partner for Pindostan. Pindostan & all of the MESA vassals want Egypt to be part of the alliance, which will have many benefits. We will continue over the coming months to solicit input from member countries and work together to shape the alliance. We will continue our engagement with the government of Egypt, and hope they will seize the opportunity to play a leadership role as the alliance is formed.

Cairo’s exit relates to larger concerns about the alliance and how its formation would evolve. Initially there were hopes for a grand vision that would state the alliance’s goals and mission, before going into details about its locations and tasks. Some of the partners felt that Faschingstein was putting the cart before the horse by discussing defence issues first. Yasmine Farouk of the Carnegie Endowment was not surprised by Egypt’s exit. Ms Farouk said:

Since the beginning, Mesa’s conception was incompatible with Egyptian policy. Egypt is systematically conservative when it comes to the deployment of its military in the region, is not part of the open confrontation with Iran and is sensitive to operating under foreign command and control. Egypt’s withdrawal is not necessarily a detriment to forming the alliance. It might ease an agreement between the administration and Gulf countries. The administration is more interested in a defence co-operation among Gulf countries than in a co-operation that involves Egypt anyway.

Other differences have constrained the alliance and forced Washington to delay the launch summit. Defining the threats is a major point of contention that is likely to continue after Egypt’s exit. Disagreements about how to view groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood, how to address Iran, collective defence and defence relations with Russia and China have not yet been resolved. But some see little to no room for MESA to emerge soon. Daniel Serwer of the Middle East Institute said:

It was dead even before Egypt’s exit, which put a last nail in the coffin. Congressional tension with the Toads over Yemen and the Khashoggi affair are also stumbling blocks. This is an attempt to keep MESA alive, but only as a zombie, the walking dead.

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