but they overplayed their hand at a crucial moment - updated

Interesting photo. 
Caption reads: "Women have been at the heart of organising protests in Tahrir Square [Getty]" 
What model camera and cell phone?

UPDATE: Guess who has a big interest in the tourism sector, which is being harmed by the ongoing disruption? The military. Great find by McJ.

The Egyptian military is one of the most interesting and misunderstood economic actors in the country. The military’s economic interests are split in interesting ways. Since the military has been prevented by the Camp David treaty from making war, it has instead used its sovereignty over huge swathes of desert and coastal property to develop shopping malls, gated cities and beach resorts - catering to rich and modest Egyptians, local and international consumers and tourists. Their position vis-a-vis the uprising is thus complicated.
They hated the rapacious capitalists around Gamal Mubarak, who sold off national lands, assets and resources to US and European corporations. But the military also wants tourists, shoppers and investors to consume in their multi-billion dollar resorts and venues. The military identifies very strongly with representing and protecting "the people" - but also wants the people to go home and stop scaring away tourists. The military will continue to mobilise this in-between position in interesting ways in the coming years.  
Who would be getting that tourism money, which is drying up due to the protests? Presumably the military brass. They must want these protests to end... but do they? Maybe this is a win win? Or is it a lose lose?

The article also notes that Suleiman reportedly did not provision the military with bullets on February 4th, the day of the worst police brutality, because he feared the military would side with the protesters and overthrow him. ! Not such a tough guy after all then hmm?

Suleiman’s General Intelligence Services are nominally part of the military - but are institutionally quite separate. Intelligence is dependent on foreign patrons, primarily Israel and the US, and are looked on skeptically by Egyptians. But the Air Force and Army are quite grounded in the economic and social interests of national territory. The army’s role in countering Suleiman’s lust for repression was crucial to saving the momentum of this uprising.
On February 4, the day of the most terrifying police/thug brutality in Tahrir Square, many commentators noted that the military were trying to stop the thug attacks but were not being very forceful or aggressive. Was this a sign that the military really wanted the protesters to be crushed? Since then, we have learned that the military in the square were not provisioned with bullets. The military were trying as best they could to battle the police/thugs - but Suleiman had taken away their bullets for fear the military would side with the protesters and use the ammunition to overthrow him.
Very, very interesting article. More to read here.


The first point in a list of things to do in Egypt:

1. Don’t fight ghosts: The army is not about to seize political power, nor is there a threat of military rule. I understand the concern, but do not sympathize with the phobia. We should stop letting the ghosts of our past interfere with how we conceive of our present, and determine our future. Popular revolutions, I have written more than once over the past couple of weeks, do not result in military rule, coup d’états and counter-revolutions do. So let’s by all means not waste precious energy on fighting windmills. It’s civil, not military government that lies ahead; the point is to ensure that it will be one that is situated within a fully democratic political system.

Well, we are not so sure about that being a phobia, although we very much like the list.

@llo' Expat Egypt provides the following information:

The Egyptian military is one of the largest military powers on the African continent, and the second strongest in the Middle East after Israel. The Egyptian Armed forces have also had more battle-field experience than most armies in the region, with a combined troop strength of around 450,000 active personnel. The Egyptian military has recently undergone massive military modernization mostly in their Air Force. Egypt is currently the only Arab and African country with a Spy satellite, EgyptSat 1.
The Egyptian government recently requested a batch of advanced F-15 fighters from the United States equipped with "smart" bombs to expand its Air Defense capability. Israel is trying to block the sale of the F-15 fighters because of concern that this would completely close the gap between the Egyptian and Israeli Air Forces. According to the Israeli chair of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, Yuval Steinitz, the Egyptian Air Force has roughly the same number of modern warplanes as the Israeli Air Force and far more Western tanks, artillery, anti-aircraft batteries and warships than the IDF.
Egypt continues to contribute regularly to United Nations peacekeeping missions, most recently in East Timor, Sierra Leone, and Liberia. Conscription is compulsory for Egyptian men of 18 years of age who are not the only male child. Full-time students may defer their service until the age of 28. The length of the service depends on the level and kind of education achieved by the conscript and needs of the army at the time of conscription.

Military branches :
Army, Navy, Air Force, Air Defense Command
Military manpower - military age and obligation :
18 years of age for conscript military service; 3-year service obligation (2001)
Military manpower - availability :
males age 18-49: 18,347,560 (2005 est.)
Military manpower - fit for military service :
males age 18-49: 15,540,234 (2005 est.)
Military manpower - reaching military age annually :
males: 802,920 (2005 est.)
Military expenditures - dollar figure :
$2.44 billion (2003)
Military expenditures - percent of GDP :
3.4% (2004)
That is not a volunteer military like we have in the US. People don't self-select, as they do in the US, where active military is less than 1% of the population. Presumably, being a "military family" is not quite the special status as it is in the US. Presumably people in Egypt don't go around solemnly thanking each other for their service.

It is our impression that Egyptian society is much less socially warped than US society. If anything, the Egyptian military as an institution may be more susceptible to division than the Egyptian people, depending on what sorts of orders come down from above.

Right now security is the top priority, according to Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq.

Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq said restoring security so that normal life can be resumed is the government’s main priority. “The most important thing is security, securing daily life and providing citizens with their main requirements,” Shafiq told state TV late on Saturday. “Government and citizens must work as one during the upcoming phase.” Minister of Defense Mohamed Hussein Tantawi discussed with Interior Minister Mahmoud Wagdi the return of police to the streets as soon as possible.

People from the tourism industry have been hard hit. They want things to go back to normal, as CNN explains, showing us a DIVISION among the people (video at link):


The revolution in Egypt may have been good for democracy, but for the country's tourism industry, it was a huge blow, according to one tour operator. The violent images of men on horseback storming Cairo's Tahrir Square armed with whips - among the most emblematic scenes from the 18-day revolt - not only galvanized the anti-government movement, leading to former president Hosni Mubarak's ouster after 18 days of protests, but also scared away visitors who normally tour the Great Pyramids on horses and camels, tourist industry worker Ayman al Myonir said.

Now these people have to feed their large stables of horses and camels and they have no money coming in. So some Egyptians are ANGRY about their disrupted livelihoods. They want the protesters to go home.

But some of the protesters don't want to go home until they have more guarantees. Thousands have vowed to stay until their demands are met. Click here to watch a very interesting video (1 minute) of the army trying to move the protesters out of the square, losing their cool, and then standing around confused about what to do. 

Egypt's army is attempting to clear protesters from Cairo's Tahrir Square - the focal point of the uprising that led to President Hosni Mubarak's departure. Soldiers moved into the square in an attempt to squeeze the demonstrators out. But the BBC's Jon Leyne in Cairo says that the protesters responded with the arrival of reinforcements, leaving the army unsure of what to do.

Rough transcript:

"A fascinating and quickly developing situation here. Earlier in the day the army sent its soldiers here ... and some used minimum force. Clearly their intention was to reduce or even clear the protesters out completely from the square. They were being quite polite... helping protesters take away tents, and they turned up the sound system...and the protesters were slowly streaming away. But they overplayed their hand at a crucial moment (see video at around :30 when some guy in fatigues goes berserk) and the protesters have responded with reinforcements who rushed into the square, and now there are several thousand here. The police, the army, are very confused. They don't seem to know what to do, they don't seem to have clear orders. The soldiers are just standing around having their photos taken with members of the public. So it's not really an angry confrontation yet, but there are speeches being made again from the stage... and the protesters have demonstrated that they're not going away."

Hmm, that was certainly REGRETTABLE that the army officer flipped out like that. Now everyone has dug their heels in further and presumably things will NOT get back to normal.

Note the uniforms. The pecking order seems to be:

Many fascinating photos. There is a LOT of emotion going on.

"An Egyptian protester, center right, argues with a police officer in Tahrir Square in downtown Cairo, Egypt, Sunday, Feb. 13, 2011." AP Photo Emilio Morenatti


McJ said...

I found this interesting bit of information on Al Jazeera's live blog of the protest that I hadn't caught while covering this.
"On February 4, the day of the most terrifying police/thug brutality in Tahrir Square, many commentators noted that the military were trying to stop the thug attacks but were not being very forceful or aggressive. Was this a sign that the military really wanted the protesters to be crushed? Since then, we have learned that the military in the square were not provisioned with bullets. The military were trying as best they could to battle the police/thugs - but Suleiman had taken away their bullets for fear the military would side with the protesters and use the ammunition to overthrow him.

And here is the BBC quoting the UN Deputy Secretary "...this is really two armies. It's a younger army of people who were out there trying to guard the square and who let kids and families climb all over the tanks and clearly felt a generational empathy. But it's an army also of elderly generals, who've been some of the most conservative backers of President Mubarak for the last 30 years, and so I think you're going to see a fissure within the army if the generals try to hold out for stability over democracy."
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/9395518.stm BBC

And in a bizarre side note the Egyptian police today have been marching and protesting. These police, I take it, are the "beat cops" and presumably not the ones that took part in attacking the protesters (at least that is what I gleaned from the AJ report). They are saying that did not abandon their posts (I'm sure if they were saying they were ordered to go home?) and shouting slogans like 'the people and police together'. They are also demanding better pay and working conditions as they say the pay is very low and the hours are long as opposed to the 'elite' members of the force that are able to live a very privileged life on their salaries and perks.

So, lots of divisions playing out here which from what I see break down into the elite ruling class and their security apparatus (which would include the Interior Ministry, members of the military and members of the civilian police force) vs everyone else.

It will be very interesting to watch which way the military will lean having a foot and an interest in both camps. The Egyptian military is also hugely invested both professionally and personally in the Egyptian economy.

A. Peasant said...

mmhmm, excellent McJ.

in these pics, if you click through, there are others showing the police officers with the crowd and the chant of (paraphrase) "the people and the police are one hand".

also just about everyone looks utterly exhausted.

McJ said...

"also just about everyone looks utterly exhausted"

As one reporter put it they are all suffering from a "revolution hangover".

Hei Hu Quan said...

McJ's reply stated, "the military in the square were not provisioned with bullets. The military were trying as best they could to battle the police/thugs - but Suleiman had taken away their bullets for fear the military would side with the protesters and use the ammunition to overthrow him."

This is very interesting evidence, as it points to a couple of possibilities to consider:

1) The police were behind the prisoner release and thug attacks, and the military were not armed because that operation was in place. After all the military know exactly where their weapons are stored and if they truly wanted to secure ammunition and use it to overthrow Mubarak/Suleiman, they could have at any time.

2) If the military are truly behind the people and support the revolutionary movement, they will not telegraph this and admit to it at all. That is a calculated tactical strategy. The key to what is what is what, and where this is all going is to surveil Israel's reactions for they have the most subversion invested in Egypt and the entire region. Their intelligence apparatus is working overtime to either manage their Egyptian penetrations and infiltrations, or suss out the weaknesses for exploitation in a burgeoning organic, genuine structure.

Great work everyone on staying on top of the ever-morphing information and the top shelf analysis.

A. Peasant said...

excellent comment HHQ. and sure enough, to your point about israel's reactions, is that they have been so uncharacteristically tight lipped.

Anonymous said...

To your second point HHQ, I think the concern was that the junior officers and enlisted men, if armed with ammunition, would have intervened much more effectively on behalf of the people, stymied the terror unleashed by senior police and set in train a potential mutiny later. At the very least it would have put the generals in an embarrassing (to them) position.

Anonymous said...

This is a pretty extensive breakdown.


A13 said...

The "interesting" photo with the caption that reads:

"Women have been at the heart of organising protests in Tahrir Square [Getty]"

well, that sure is no woman to me.
"dude looks like a lady"...not.

Putting a pink shawl over your head does not automatically qualify you for a woman.

One of the legit protestors?? Don't think so.

A. Peasant said...

A13, i like the way your eyeballs work!

A13 said...

According to Honk Bonk Man,

The Natioal Endowment for Democracy have been busy little beavers:
And the Women and Youth programs seem especially "fruitfull"



Anonymous said...

Hey sister - good to see that you are still fighting the good fight over here. I added a blog list to my blog, and I'm going to add your blog to it right now. alternative media is our only hope. I'm going to read some of your recent posts too - I have been more or less ignoring the whole "Egypt thing" and i need to catch my brain up on current events.

A. Peasant said...

oh good luck with catching up! i will add you to the blogroll.

Anonymous said...

A REGRETTABLE turn of events... ;-)
He had much money left to spend!

Mubarak in life/death state in Germany hospital

Anonymous said...

Merkel will be sure to finish him, don't want too many Hosni interviews.

A13 said...

Hi A.P
I've just found this story so i'll put it in here, it could be relevant too..

Ex-Israeli Official:
Mideast Dominoes Point to War

Friday, 11 Feb 2011 06:56 PM
By David A. Patten

George Birnbaum, an international political consultant who once served as chief of staff to former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, is warning that a domino-style collapse of moderate Arab regimes could lead Israel to war.

Birnbaum, an expert in global politics, cited Friday’s collapse of Hosni Mubarak in Egypt and the growing turmoil in nearby Jordan as ominous signs for Israel.

Israel’s neighbor on the other side of the West Bank is ruled by King Abdullah II, a constitutional monarch who is Hashemite, a minority. Abdullah reigns over a population that is 70 percent Palestinian.

“He had to relieve his government a few weeks ago,” Birnbaum told host Stuart Varney of Fox News on Friday. “If that country goes, and in Bahrain and other countries, suddenly you’re going to find Israel in a similar position it was in 1948, where it’ll be isolated, surrounded by Islamic countries looking to see its destruction -- with the one exception that Israel has the ability to defend itself this time.

“But that creates another problem,” he added, “which is a regional if not greater war that the world will have to face.”

Birnbaum said Israel could be “in great danger.”

© Newsmax. All rights reserved.

Israel again...pimping for war like the absolute creatures they are....
They WANT to be isolated so they can play victim, then LASH out (with the help of their FRIENDS of course)

Thanks A13

A. Peasant said...

"Israel again...pimping for war like the absolute creatures they are....
They WANT to be isolated so they can play victim, then LASH out (with the help of their FRIENDS of course)"

that is exactly correct A13.

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