Thursday, 15 August 2013

US-Egyptian relations on the rocks. El-Sisi wouldn’t accept Obama’s phone call
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report August 15, 2013, 3:03 PM (IDT)

Gen. El-Sisi and President Obama viewed on Egyptian street
Gen. El-Sisi and President Obama viewed on Egyptian street

When the clashes between Egyptian security forces and pro-Morsi protesters were at their peak in Cairo Wednesday, Aug. 14 – 525 dead and 3,700 wounded to date - President Barack Obama put in a call to Egypt’s strongman, Defense Minister Gen. Abdel-Fattah El-Sissi, DEBKAfile’s intelligence sources report.  The US president wanted to give the general a dressing-down much on the lines of the call he made to former president Hosni Mubarak in February 2011 at the high point of the Arab Spring Tahrir Sq demonstrations against his rule, namely:  Stop repressing the protesters and firing live ammunition. Step down!
 When Mubarak asked for a three or four days’ grace to break up the massed rally, Obama shot back that he has to quit NOW!
And indeed, on Feb. 11, the army announced the president’s resignation.
Realizing what was coming, Gen. El-Sissi decided not to accept President Obama’s call, our sources report. The Egyptian officials who received it informed the US president politely that the right person for him to address was Egypt’s interim president Adly Mansour and they would be glad to transfer the call to him. The White House callers declined.
This anecdote shows that the military strongman is not only determined to avoid the pitfalls which brought Mubarak down but is equally determined to keep the US administration from interfering in his plans for driving the Muslim Brotherhood out of Egyptian politics.
Diplomatic condemnation of those plans is building up inWestern capitals. Wednesday night, the Obama White House issued a statement strongly condemning “the use of violence against protesters in Egypt” and the state of emergency. Egyptian ambassadors in Paris, London and Berlin received denunciations and expressions of concern from their host governments, and Turkey demanded a UN Security Council emergency session on the situation in Egypt.
DEBKAfile’s sources report that harsh international condemnation of Gen. El-Sissi’s crackdown will do more harm than good. The backlash will come in three forms:
1. The Muslim Brotherhood will be encouraged to pursue increasingly extreme measures to fight the Egyptian army in the expectation of international applause.
2. The generals will be encouraged to escalate their steps for repressing the Brotherhood.
3. The Saudis and the Gulf Emirates will redouble their support for the Egyptian general and his campaign against the Brotherhood. This will widen the rift between those Arab rulers and the Obama administration.
Our intelligence sources also disclose that, while President Obama was trying to get through to Gen. El-Sissi, the general was on the phone with Prince Bandar, Director of Saudi Intelligence.
On July 31, Bandar arrived in Moscow and was immediately received by President Vladimir Putin for a conversation that lasted four hours. The Saudi prince next received an invitation to visit Washington at his earliest convenience and meet with President Obama.
Bandar has still not responded to that invitation.
Clearly, the US president’s problem with the Egyptian situation is a lot more complicated than pulling the army off the Muslim Brotherhood’s backs.  He needs to somehow snap the strategic alliance unfolding between Egypt and Saudi Arabia, and the rapport between the Egyptian general and the Saudi prince.

Egyptian army enters Cairo to enforce curfew under state of emergency. Death toll from clashes up to 343
DEBKAfile Special Report August 15, 2013, 10:33 AM (IDT)
Evacuated pro-Morsi protest site at Nahda Sq., Cairo
Evacuated pro-Morsi protest site at Nahda Sq., Cairo

Egyptian security forces dismantled the two fortified pro-Morsi camps in Cairo Wednesday, Aug. 14, in violent clashes with protesters. When they spread to other towns, the interim presidency imposed a month-long state of emergency across the country and ordered the armed forces to help the Interior Ministry enforce security. A night curfew went into effect in Cairo and 10 provinces, enforced by the 2nd and 9th army divisions which rolled into the capital.
Early Wednesday, large security forces including Interior Ministry commandoes, carried out their anticipated raids to disperse the inmates of two camps who, for five weeks, refused to disperse until Mohamed Morsi was reinstated as president. Using tear gas, tanks and armored bulldozers, the officers quickly cleared the small camp at Giza, then battled most of the day to break up the larger, heavily fortified site in Nasser City, where tens of thousands of protesters, including many women and children, were encamped.
Western TV footage highlighted the violence and inflated reports of live gunfire, reporting that security forces had opened fire on unarmed protesters from machine guns and rooftop snipers. Those reports stoked Muslim Brotherhood claims of a massacre. Protest spokesmen cited figures which fluctuated between 500 and 2,200 dead and 7,000-10,000 injured. Later, the Brotherhood figure dropped to 300 dead and hundreds injured.
The Egyptian health ministry reported that 343 people had been killed, including 2 security officers, and up to a thousand injured in the day’s clashes across the country.
DEBKAfile reports that Egyptian security force used live fire in two instances: When protesters started shooting police officers with weapons they had hidden in the camps, and against hard-core groups who withstood riot control measures, including huge amounts of tear gas.
Egyptian authorities reported 25 people died in disturbances which spread out of Cairo to Menia, Asyut, Alexandria, Ban Suef and other places. Muslim Brotherhood rioters attacked government and police buildings and, in Alexandria, damaged the famous library. They also torched five Coptic churces.
Sources in Cairo expect the military units which entered Cairo Wednesday night to follow the crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood with further measures. Two Brotherhood politicians were arrested in short order.
Shortly after the state of emergency was declared, the Egyptian high command appointed 19 generals as provisional governors, effectively placing 84 million Egyptians under military rule for the period of the emergency.
It is hard to estimate its duration after the month decreed elapses, because the violent struggle between the military under Defense Minister Gen. Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi and the Muslim Brotherhood is not expected to die down any time soon.
Gen. El-Sisi is following a phased plan he prepared in advance for eradicating the Brotherhood as a political force in the land. It entails outlawing the movement and announcing a date for the election of a new president, for which he will stand and which the Brothers will be barred from contesting.
The Brotherhood too has a plan for resisting the military in escalating stages culminating in the downfall of Gen. El-Sisi. To achieve this, the movement has started going underground and operating a web of allied terrorist networks.
The Obama administration’s capacity to influence the coming course of events is limited. The Egyptian defense minister refuses to heed US demands to restore the country to democratically-elected civilian rule at this time - certain that it would only take the country back to Muslim Brotherhood rule.
He is not worried by White House rebukes or US and European threats to cut off economic and military aid to Egypt, because he has Saudi Arabia and the Emirates behind him. According to DEBKAfile’s intelligence sources, they have pledged $40 billion dollars to bolster the military in power and make sure that the Muslim Brotherhood is finally purged.
Wednesday night, the United States “strongly condemned” the violence in Egypt in a statement issued by the White House secretary from  Martha’s Vineyard where President Barack Obama is on holiday. He accused “the new interim government of breaking its promise of a return to democratic civilian leadership and condemned the “return to a state-of-emergency law.”
All the same, said the White House spokesman, “talks are ongoing between Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Secretary of State John Kerry and their Egyptian counterparts.”
Bu beyond this, President Obama is evidently unwilling to go.
1. He is not about to directly challenge Gen. El-Sisi and the Egyptian army;
2. He will not pick a fight with Saudi Arabia and the Emirates as the military ruler’s backers;
3. He is not stepping in to save the Muslim Brotherhood from political extinction, although its loss would eliminate the key to the Middle East policy which he launched in 2009 and which presented the Brothers as a moderate movement and therefore America’s chosen senior ally in the Muslim world.