Massacre in Egypt: US-Backed Junta Kills Scores, Wounds Thousands of People
Deadly clashes have erupted across Egypt, as tens of thousands protested in dozens of marches supporting either deposed Islamist President Mohamed Mursi or the military junta that ousted him in a July 3 coup.
Security forces attacked pro-Mursi rallies early this morning, firing live ammunition, rubber bullets and tear gas. The move came after Interior Minister Mohamed Ibrahim—installed by the army—vowed that the coup regime would disperse the protests organized by Mursi’s Muslim Brotherhood (MB) “soon and in a legal manner.”
Al Jazeera reported today that 120 people had been killed and some 4,500 injured when the army attacked a round-the-clock pro-Mursi vigil at Cairo’s Rabaa al-Adawia Mosque. Seventeen were killed and over 500 wounded in clashes with police near the October 6 Bridge in Cairo’s Nasr City, the site of another of the largest ongoing pro-Mursi protests.
At least seven people were killed and 80 or more wounded when pro-army and pro-Mursi demonstrators clashed in Alexandria. MB officials claimed the security forces opened fire with birdshot on pro-Mursi demonstrators in Alexandria. Among the dead was a 14-year-old boy who was stabbed to death.
Egyptian health officials reported that most of the dead or wounded had suffered shots to the head or torso, suggesting that security forces attacking the protests are shooting to kill.
Hundreds of others were wounded in clashes in the port city of Damietta, the Shubra neighborhood of Cairo and other areas across Egypt.
There are widespread fears of an even bloodier crackdown to come, after the army issued the MB an ultimatum to join negotiations with the new military junta by today. On Thursday, July 3 coup leader General Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi told the MB that the next 48 hours were a “final chance” to “join the nation in preparation to launch the future.”
The army had also posted a statement on its Facebook page, threatening to fire on anyone it deemed violent. It said that it would not “turn its guns against the people, but it will turn them against black violence and terrorism which has no religion or nation.” Hundreds of protesters, mostly MB supporters, have been killed at demonstrations since the coup.
Tanks and armored personnel carriers ringed Cairo’s Tahrir Square Friday. Top police and security officials appeared on the square during the day, to chants of “The army, the police, and people are one hand.” At night, hundreds of thousands of people massed on Tahrir Square and surrounding streets, supporting Mursi’s overthrow.
There were large pro-Mursi rallies in the Sinai and in Matrouh. It appears that pro-Mursi rallies are still heavily outnumbered by anti-Mursi protests.
Tensions were further heightened by the announcement that the army was bringing charges against Mursi, whom the army has imprisoned in an undisclosed location since the July 3 coup. The charges stem from a prison escape by Mursi and other MB detainees during the 2011 uprising that toppled Hosni Mubarak. Mursi had said in a TV interview that “unknown men” freed him and other MB members from Wadi Natroun prison.
The Egyptian courts, a bastion of support for Mubarak, allege that Mursi conspired with the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas to attack Egyptian police stations and jails. This allegedly involved “setting fire to one prison and enabling inmates to flee, including himself, as well as premeditated killing of officers, soldiers, and prisoners.”
MB spokesman Gehad El-Haddad dismissed the charges, saying that with them the Mubarak regime was “signaling ‘we’re back in full force.’”
The increasingly pro-authoritarian tone of the anti-Mursi protests reflects the crisis of leadership in the working class, and the counterrevolutionary role of the bourgeois and middle-class forces that make up Egypt’s liberal and pseudo-left parties.
Terrified by the mass strikes and working-class mobilizations of the spring and after the June 30 appeal for protests, fearing a revolution against the entire political establishment, they shifted sharply to the right. Tamarod—a coalition involving liberal forces such as the National Salvation Front (NSF), the Free Egyptians party, and the April 6 Youth Movement, and supported by the pseudo-left Revolutionary Socialists (RS)—backed the military coup. This paved the way for the formation of a military junta to try to wind down mass opposition.
While the initial target of army repression is the MB, ultimately the army and its supporters will turn on opposition in the working class to their reactionary social agenda—which includes deep cuts in critical subsidies for food and energy, upon which Egyptian workers depend.
Tamarod and its allies hailed the army’s call for protests and have sought to shift the political atmosphere in Egypt as far to the right as possible. Tamarod and the NSF issued statements endorsing al-Sisi’s call for pro-army protests and giving the army its full backing in a “war on terrorism.”
The April 6 Youth Movement did not endorse the army’s call for protests, but signaled its support for military repression. It issued a statement saying that the armed forces “do not need popular delegation to perform its patriotic duties of preserving security and resisting violence.”
In a cynical maneuver, the pseudo-left Revolutionary Socialists (RS), which hailed the coup as a “second revolution,” declined to endorse the army protests. They wrote, “Whatever crimes the Brotherhood has committed against the people and against the Copts in defense of its power in the name of religion, we do not give army chief El-Sisi our authority. We will not go into the streets on Friday offering a blank check to commit massacres.”
This statement reflects the RS’ concerns that their support for the coup leaves them politically exposed, not their opposition to massacres by the military. (See also: Egypt’s Revolutionary Socialists seek to cover up support for military coup ) In fact, leading RS members openly said yesterday that they would support a military intervention.
On her Twitter feed, RS member Gigi Ibrahim, the partner of RS blogger Hossam el-Hamalawy, angrily demanded that the army intervene in the protests. “Five were killed in Alex[andria] and [neither] the army nor the police intervened, while the squares around Egypt are calling for Sisi’s mandate to end violence,” she wrote. “Why are the army and police that everyone is cheering now not stopping or intervening in the bloodshed?”
More fundamentally, the RS’ position reflects that organization’s long-standing alignment with US foreign policy. Like Washington, they are signaling their essential support for the coup, while trying to prevent the outbreak of too much bloodshed between the army and the MB. Such bloodshed would make it difficult for Washington to effect a reconciliation between the military and the MB and stabilize the Egyptian state, one of its key props in the Middle East.
Anonymous US diplomatic officials told Al Ahram, “the main US aim is for the Brotherhood to be reintegrated into the political life of Egypt and that there must be no persecution of the group.”
Yesterday, US Secretary of State John Kerry reportedly spoke at length with Egyptian Foreign Minister Nabil Fahmi, endorsing the coup. While stating that Washington wanted Egypt to resume a “democratic path,” Kerry assured Fahmi that any delay in US economic or military aid to the Egyptian regime due to the coup would be “temporary.”
The administration has made clear that it will not declare the military’s overthrow of Mursi a coup, which would require by law a cutoff of aid. And, while Washington has temporarily held up the shipment of four new F-16 fighter jets to Cairo, the Pentagon is going ahead as planned with joint exercises with the Egyptian military.
US Military Aid to Egypt
In 1986, Egypt’s Minister of Defense Field Marshall Abd al-Halim Abu Ghazala, complained that the 1.3 billion dollars of US military aid were no longer enough, and pledged to ask US officials for a raise of a several more hundred million dollars. Egypt had started to receive this annual amount of security aid seven years earlier, after signing the 1979 peace treaty with Israel, and Abu Ghazala explained that global prices of arms increased ever since.[i] In the 1980s, Abu Ghazala obtained F-16 fighter aircrafts that each cost about thirty-six million dollars.[ii] If he were still alive today, he would be shocked to learn that each one of the same aircraft now costs 125 million dollars.
Last week, a Washington Post article complained that Egypt’s generals have “ignored” Washington and its political advice for the past two years, and called this a “collapse of US prestige and influence in Cairo.” The article criticized the Obama administration for not using the “leverage” of US military aid by possibly suspending it. Yesterday, President Obama and the Pentagon responded to many such calls in Washington by delaying the shipment of F-16 fighter jets to Egypt. The bad news for US officials is that American military aid to Egypt, which remained unchanged at 1.3 billion dollars for the past thirty-four years, has lost most of its value.
Generally speaking, the Egyptian people know very little about US military equipment that the government procures, because such information is normally classified. But the Egyptian civilian masses are now very familiar with three fancy US-made defense products, which made frequent appearances in or near Tahrir Square over the last two and a half years. Many Egyptians have taken photographs next to (or atop) M1A1 tanks, or pointed their green laser rays at Apache helicopters roaming over large protests at night. Moreover, Cairo residents of all social classes often times hear the deafening sound of F-16 fighter jets flying low over residential areas, presumably to deter dissidents.
When the US military aid package began three decades ago, the prices of the above items were considerably cheaper in comparison to current prices. As explained below, US military aid lost significant value over the past three decades.
In 1979, US officials presented some good, and other absurd, reasons for launching the aid package to Egypt, under the umbrella of the Foreign Military Financing (FMF) program. The assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs indicated that the security program for Egypt would help it replace obsolete Soviet equipment and modernize the army, and, more importantly, enable President Anwar al-Sadat “to reduce the size of his forces.”[iii] In response to some officials’ concerns about the transfer of advanced jet technology to the Egyptians, the Department of Defense’s director of the security assistance agency asserted that this process would also allow the US army much needed access to Egyptian officers. “[S]uch sales and the related training, operations would give the U.S. greater access to Egyptian officers. The Egyptian government in the past had limited such contacts.”[iv] An intelligence review presented in Congress added that another reason for aid was to downsize the Egyptian army into two small divisions, each of a few thousand officers. These divisions would act as “striking forces” to serve specific security goals on behalf of the NATO—especially in the oil-producing Arabian Gulf. But there were concerns that this might turn the Egyptian army into mercenaries:
The crux of the Camp David treaty is the establishment of Egyptian and Israeli military power as regional “strike forces” to move into oil-producing regions it the behest of NATO. To achieve this, the two countries will be provided with massive arrays of and military-directed financial aid…The crucial factor in Egypt is to be the transformation of that country’s citizen- republican army into a truncated force of two “elite” divisions comprising 5,000 men each, to be used as “strike force” intervention units into the region. According to one top Zionist lobby source with extensive Pentagon connections, “Egypt does not need a big army, and there is no way anyway that the Egyptians can logistically run any big military operations. At this point, the only useful thing for us to think about is to create special divisions that can be used for roles in Africa and in the Arabian Gulf.[v]
Under Abu Ghazala in 1984, the Egyptian military budget was 1.8 billion dollars, in a total state budget of fifteen billion dollars. This meant that US aid amounted to more than seventy percent of the military’s budget, and about nine percent of the state budget.[vi] Under General Abd al-Fattah al-Sisi today, the military budget is about four billion dollars, with a total state budget of about ninety-five billion dollars. This means that US military aid has decreased to around thirty percent of the official military budget, and only 1.3 percent of the state budget.[vii] More importantly, the Egyptian military annually earns hundreds of millions of dollars from off budgetary revenue through its vast business empire in the civilian sector. For example, it is known that the military was recently able to afford lending the state as much as two billion dollars.
According to a US Government Accountability Office report, up until 2005 Egypt received 880 M1A1 tanks, thirty-six Apache helicopters, and 220 F-16 aircraft.[viii] The prices of these items have increased tremendously over the last thirty years.
Located in a populous neighborhood in the south of Cairo, Helwan, Military Factory-200 has been proudly coproducing M1A1 Abrams battle tanks in collaboration with the United States since its founding in the late 1980s. Working with General Dynamics Land Systems of Sterling Heights in Michigan as the main contractor, Egypt gets to assemble and manufacture parts of the M1A1 tank. The aid conditions require Egypt to hire US shipping companies to transfer the parts.[ix]
The price of M1A1 doubled over the past three decades. In the early years of its coproduction, the cost of an M1A1, including constructing the Helwan factory itself, was estimated at a maximum of six million dollars.[x] In 2011, the price almost doubled to 10.6 million dollars, minus the cost of the already built production infrastructure. As mentioned above, Egypt so far coproduced 880 tanks with the old changing price. It has requested 125 additional tanks at the new cost through General Dynamics of Michigan, and is due to receive them this year— unless the shipment gets suspended.
In the case of F-16 aircrafts, the price has skyrocketed. During the early phases of United States-Egyptian defense cooperation, the Egyptians had their heart set on the F-4E Phantom II jet, which had caused Egypt significant losses during the Attrition and 1973 wars. Thus, Egypt ordered thirty-five of the phantom jet, each at a cost of no more than seventeen million dollars.[xi] Just as Israel was already receiving the more advanced F-16 through its own US aid package, Egypt soon switched interest and placed an order of the same aircraft in 1980.
Egypt received the first shipment of F-16s in 1982 at an estimated unit cost of about twenty-five million dollars—or thirty-six million dollars if one includes the price of spare parts and the cost of training.[xii] A few weeks ago, Egypt started to receive a new shipment of twenty jets, at a significantly higher unit price of 125 million dollars, including associated weapons and spare parts.This shipment received congressional approval in 2009, and the Maryland-based Lockheed Martin Company is the main supplier.[xiii] This shipment would have joined the Egyptian Armed Forces’ large fleet of F-16 Fighting Falcons to make it reach 240 jets, but it was delayed yesterday for political considerations without specifying a date of delivery.
As for the Apache helicopter, its price increased almost seven-fold over the past twenty years. In 1995, Egypt started to buy Apache Helicopter-64 (AH-64) from Boeing. At the time, the price of an AH-64A was estimated at eleven million dollars. In 2000, Egypt upgraded its fleet of thirty-five Apaches from AH-64A to AH-64D at a unit price of 11.4 million dollars.[xiv]In 2009, the price of an AH-64D was sixty-eight million dollars.
Because the aid that Egyptian generals receive from the United States is no longer enough for diverse procurement, they now rely on their own off-budget revenue from their vast economic enterprises to buy arms from other suppliers in Europe and Asia. A recent congressional report claims that eighty percent of Egyptian procurement comes from the United States, which was probably correct three decades ago. The large revenue that the Egyptian army generates through its profitable civilian production and the secretive nature of its transactions suggests that this figure is less accurate today. For example, there is at least some discussion in Congress about the large Egyptian procurements from China and Russia. For example, a 2011 congressional report indicated, “Egypt purchased 800 million dollars in Chinese weapons since 2003 and 600 million dollars from Russia.”
The world today is much different than what it was thirty years ago when the United States kicked-off its annual aid package to Egypt. In the global context of the Cold War, the United States was a growing empire that eventually managed to defeat its nuclear enemy. Today, the United States, as many world historians would argue, is an empire in decline and suffering from a financial crisis and fierce competition with rapidly rising economies. Since the events of 30 June in Egypt, when the military helped oust President Mohamed Morsi, many voices in Washington debated cutting military aid in order to punish the Egyptian generals for undertaking a coup. The decline in the value of the US aid package to Egypt suggests that current controversy about how Washington can pressure Egypt’s generals into accepting US advice overestimates US leverage over the country’s military. The expectation that the generals will follow Washington’s lead can no longer be taken for granted.
Former Reagan Administration Commerce Department official and syndicated columnist Paul Craig Roberts has written a devastating article, published Thursday by OpEd News, warning that the United States, since the early Bush-Cheney Administration, has adopted a policy of nuclear first strike. Roberts began his warning by pointing out the recent Yale Law Review article by George Washington University professor Amatai Etzioni, warning that the AirSea Battle doctrine of the Obama Administration is based on plans to launch a preventive nuclear strike against China. Noting that the United States could not defeat China in a conventional war, he warned that the Administration has moved forward with a Bush policy of developing a survivable first strike, which was first spelled out in 2002 in the Nuclear Posture Review. Roberts cited two Air Force writers, Keir Lieber and Daryl Press, who wrote that the United States can now launch precision strikes to knock out both Russian and Chinese nuclear retaliatory forces and could, therefore, survive the U.S. launching of a preemptive or preventive thermonuclear first strike against either or both adversaries. “Because the American press is a corrupt US government propaganda ministry," Roberts wrote, “the American people have no idea that neo-conized Washington is planning nuclear war."
Lyndon LaRouche warned, on being informed of the Roberts article, that the world is facing precisely such a showdown between September and Christmas of this year, when the trans-Atlantic financial system is expected to blow apart, driving factions within the Anglo-Dutch empire to seriously contemplate just such a thermonuculear first strike. The target would not be China or Russia per se, but would aim instead at wiping out 80 percent of the human race worldwide.
“In a gesture to show national unity and solidarity, and which could lead to an even greater turnout [for the pro-government rallies on July 26], Egyptian Christians will be fasting today alongside their Muslim countrymen and for the first time in history, the Egyptian Coptic churches will ring their bells at sunset signaling breakfast time along with those of Al Maghreb Azan," reported journalist Wael Nawara in Al Monitor, July 26 (posted before the rallies got underway).
The Coptic Church’s ringing of the church bells, a gesture of solidarity with Muslims observing Ramadan, was prominently reported on TV and Internet video coverage throughout the world, showing Egyptian demonstrators moved to tears by the unprecedented collaboration at a time of great tension. Arab media reports also showed photos of Christian crosses alongside the Muslim crescents at the demonstrations supporting al-Sisi.
A long-time Egyptian friend of EIRNS emphasized how unprecedented and moving this religious collaboration is, but he also emphasized that unless there is improvement in the economic situation — guaranteeing jobs, food, bread, milk for the Egyptian children, and fuel — there will be a social explosion against whomever is in power. The source emphasized that this showdown will not be settled in one day, and despite the Army’s success on July 26 to prevent large-scaled Muslim Brotherhood terrorist actions, the continued stability is far from assured.
According to Egyptian contacts close to EIRNS, the response in Egypt has been overwhelming — over 10 million people — to Army chief Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s call for a mobilization of the people to support the ouster of Muslim Brotherhood President Mohammed Morsi. Al Sisi’s call for the demonstration was a risky move, reported Egyptian sources, but it was taken in response to hard intelligence that the Muslim Brotherhood was arming its members — up to 700,000 of them — as part of a 10-day offensive to begin on Friday and end today, on the 27th day of the Muslim Ramadan, which is the most holy day.
High-level Washington intelligence sources told EIRNS that they have confirmation of the Egyptian reports that the Morsi and Muslim Brotherhood forces were about to unleash a campaign of bombings, assassinations, and attacks on police stations and military barracks. In fact, the MB attacks already have begun in Sinai, which is very sparsely populated, and there have been casualties on both sides. But the violence that was to be set off in Cairo was averted by government action against what Gen. Al Sisi identified as “terrorists."
There is no question that the turnout of millions of demonstrators in support of Al Sisi is an extremely significant development that is a warning to the MB supporters that the population is not supporting them, Egyptian sources told EIR. Nonetheless, tens of thousands of supporters of ousted President Morsi also are in the streets to protest what they regard as a military coup. The Islamists have also maintained a sizeable vigil outside the Rabaa Al-Adawiya Mosque in Cairo’s populous Nasr City district for close to a month, to demand the former president’s reinstallation to power.
Prior to the Friday, July 26, demonstrations, the Egyptian army charged Morsi with specific crimes, including “conspiring" with the Palestinian organization Hamas and killing police and prison guards. This was done, reported Egyptian sources under increasing pressure from the United Nations (including Ban Ki Moon, personally) and from human rights groups to “charge Morsi with a crime or release him." Following the charges, an Egyptian court ordered Morsi to be held for 15 days while an investigation is conducted.
Reliable Egyptian sources told EIR that the situation of violence could go either way in the next 24 hours, especially if the military were to attempt to clear out the MB demonstrators who have been carrying out their vigil for the last month.
Although some clashes from Cairo, Alexandria, and the Nile Delta city of Gharbiya have been reported by Ahram Online’s website on July 26, AFP reported that the overwhelming number of marches were peaceful. A leader of Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood, Essam al-Erian, said in a statement that Islamists would respond to the detention of their leader with “peaceful marches". London-based rights group Amnesty international criticized Gen. Sisi’s call for rallies, in a statement on July 25.
According to Ahram Online’s reporter in the field, a number of high-ranking police officers have joined the pro-military protesters in Tahrir. The officers were welcomed with cheers and chants of “the army, the police, and the people are one hand." Protesters held posters of Army Chief and Defense Minister Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, and pictures showing the Islamic crescent and the Christian cross.
The Brotherhood has reacted angrily to Moris’s detention order, saying it smacked of tactics used by the regime of Hosni Mubarak, Egypt’s long-time strongman, toppled in a popular uprising in 2011.
|CAIRO – The United States urged Arab ally Egypt to pull “back from the brink" after security forces killed dozens of supporters of deposed Islamist President Mohamed Morsi and opened a dangerous new phase in the army’s confrontation with his Muslim Brotherhood.
Thousands of Brotherhood supporters were hunkered down in a vigil at a Cairo mosque on Sunday, vowing to stand their ground despite the imminent threat of a move to disperse them.
Saturday’s bloodshed, following huge rival rallies, plunged the Arab world’s most populous country deeper into turmoil following two turbulent years of transition to democracy with the fall of veteran autocrat Hosni Mubarak in 2011.
Egypt’s Health Ministry said 65 people had died. The Brotherhood said another 61 were on life support after what it described as a ferocious dawn assault by men in helmets and black police fatigues. The ambulance service put the death toll at 72.
Bodies wrapped in white sheets were laid on the floor of a Brotherhood morgue, their names scrawled on the shrouds.
Washington, treading a fine line with an important Middle East ally and recipient of over $1 billion in military aid, urged the Egyptian security forces to respect the right to peaceful protest.
US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel spoke by telephone with Egyptian army chief General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who led the July 3 military overthrow of Morsi and whose face has appeared on posters across the teeming capital, Cairo.
US Secretary of State John Kerry spoke to two senior members of Egypt’s army-installed interim cabinet, expressing his “deep concern."
“This is a pivotal moment for Egypt," he said in a statement. “The United States … calls on all of Egypt’s leaders across the political spectrum to act immediately to help their country take a step back from the brink."
Saturday’s violence, and the threat of more, has deepened alarm in the West over events in the country of 84 million people, a vital bridge between the Middle East and North Africa.
Over 200 people have died in violence since Sisi deposed Morsi on the back of huge popular protests against his rule, ending a one-year experiment in government by the Muslim Brotherhood after decades spent in the shadows under successive Egyptian strongmen.