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Revenge of the Sisi

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Deep State? Don’t give them too much credit; their danger is much simpler than that

Rasheed Hammouda

Rasheed Hammouda

Following developments in Egypt over the past couple weeks feels more like reading a dark farce than anything resembling a news report. The death-toll of the violent military crackdown on Pro-Morsi sit-ins has surpassed that of the 2011 demonstrations, making recent events the bloodiest Egypt has seen in recent history. The military continues to go to extreme lengths to squash the Muslim Brotherhood, and their leader, Mohammed Badie, has allegedly suffered a heart attack as a result of the “bad psychological state that he is going through.” The most improbable act of all is, of course, the ‘release’ of Mubarak.

It comes as no surprise to see a variety of deep-state conspiracy theories resurfacing. The most extreme of these theories allege that Mubarak himself had somehow been pulling the strings behind the government and military the whole time. Milder but equally ridiculous theories contend it was the ‘deep state’ of the Egyptian military plotting the whole time and orchestrating the downfall of the brotherhood from Day 1. I’m inclined to agree with others who contend that this is unfeasible, both politically and physically, and what is more likely is that Mubarak’s regime never fully left in the first place (this is a theory I touched on two weeks ago). As such, Mubarak’s pseudo-return should come as both troubling and welcome news.

Troubling first because, as mentioned above, it is revealing of how little political progress has been made. The danger here is in taking this disheartening realisation too hard. For starters, arguably the greatest achievements to-date of Egypt’s revolution has been with civil society. Civil action is more widespread and open than it has been in years. This doesn’t mean the political seen has caught up yet, far from it. But there’s no going back, Egypt has awakened, indicative in both the deposal of Morsi and the subsequent protests for his reinstatement.

Moreover, those who would despair that Mubarak’s release is characteristic of a sinister deep-state that remains unequivocally in control of the country are giving the regime too much credit. To paraphrase the philosopher Slavoj Zizek (himself referencing the Marx Brothers), “this man may look like a corrupt idiot and act like a corrupt idiot, but don’t let that deceive you—he is a corrupt idiot.” In Egypt’s case the situation is of course much more dangerous than that: it may look and act like reckless and corrupt military leadership, but don’t let that fool you—it really is reckless and corrupt military leadership. That is however, all it is, and this should not be mistaken for a ruse to obfuscate some shadowy, more calculated plans.

All the same, some continue to suspect more elaborate conspiracies complete with hushed conversations in wood-panelled rooms, Sisi quietly stroking a feline in the corner. Oh, and for good measure, elsewhere someone is on the phone to Israel about that Zionist/Brotherhood/US takeover. Theories purporting a deep state are as overblown as the counter theories claiming some sort of US led cabal conspiring against the people of Egypt.

Again, the real danger is that yes, the brutal military regime never left, but this is not a result of some larger conspiracy. Sisi is far from a mastermind. The man came up under a corrupt regime where violence was the lingua franca—the whole military leadership is filled with Sisi’s. By recognising violence and corruption for what it is, we can do away with the time waste of trying to decipher intentions and focus on what’s important: stopping the violence and corruption.

This is precisely why Mubarak’s transfer to house arrest should be welcome news. As I said above, his return to the public eye is a reminder of how little political progress has been made since his ouster, a lamentable fact at first glance, but not without its silver lining. The simple reason being: Mubarak is a troubling reminder of how much Egypt still has at stake. Perhaps we were all too hasty to start throwing around the labels of feloul, after all, the man has not fully passed to zemaan.

This reminder should be capitalised on though, not dreaded. If Mubarak’s comfortably smug face returning to the television after a week of horrendous violence wasn’t enough to remind Egypt how much is left to accomplish, I don’t know what is. Indeed, Mubarak’s state—or more precisely, the Sisi-style military complex, never quite left. All the same, this mentality should not be overstated in its intelligence. Most of their attempts at sophisticated media manipulation and other hallmarks of a deep-state often just end up infuriating foreign diplomats.

One thing is certain, the military is now trying to send a message to the youth revolutionaries: we can do to you what we are doing to the Brotherhood (odd timing considering their tenuous alliance). This is their biggest mistake. In trying to play the same intimidation card they have been playing for years the military has made a severe miscalculation. The youth, revolutionaries, Brotherhood, et al are far from the docile sheep they once were. While certain elements still lack the necessary leadership and organisation needed, they have found their voice all the same. Once these factions ignore the conspiracy theorists or those who would throw their hands up and lament the futility of fighting a “deep state,” working towards progress can begin anew.

About the author

Rasheed Hammouda

Rasheed Hammouda

Rasheed Hammouda is an Egyptian-American researcher based in London with a focus on MENA economics and contemporary philosophy

  • Raafat

    I could view from your nicely stipulated article a total ignorance to a full year of a badly managed country in the volume of Egypt. You have just taken into your consideration symptoms but didn’t dig to the root causes of what is going on from the MB. You need to have a better understanding to the situation with a better unbiased views please.

    • Taha Gailani

      I very much doubt that you have an understanding of the root causes of Morsi’s failure, simply because the causes are not what’s said on the Egyptian media nor any other media for that matter!

  • AzzaSedky

    Your ideas and notions are so far off; I believe you are definitely not in the picture. To even mention the hearsay that Mubarak or his regime will return exhibits your inability to fathom the situation. Mubarak is not a free man; he is under house arrest and at this point that house arrest is in an army hospital. A detainee in Egypt can’t remain in custody, having not been sentenced, for over two years. That’s the law. He may be sentenced after all. I’m not going to go into the several loopholes in your article. The above is one of many.

    See “What western media doesn’t get about Egypt” http://azzasedky.typepad.com/egypt/2013/08/the-tyee-what-western-media-doesnt-get-about-egypt.html

  • abdul .a. shaiky

    HI RAFAT, IF YOUR ELECTED PRESIDENT MORSI WAS NOT ON YOUR STANDARD,YOU SHOULD KICK HIM BY DEMOCRATICAL ELECTIONS. YOU SHOULD WAIT FOR RIGHT TIME. NOT DECTATORS.!!
    A secular King SISI is worest than King Farouq of Egypt AND sudan. One big Kingdom was destroyed by Egyptian Army and brought A symbolic one party secular democracy of Nasir. Who never won any battle against Israeal.
    Go and see the war of 1948 of ISRAEAL. Nasir was surrounded by Israeali army and 1967 he lost so badly that young boy who always liked his philosophy of democratic united Arab lost faith on him.(in Bahrain)
    Now you have a secular King SISI.!!
    WHAT AN EGYPTIAN DEMOCRACY.!!! SEE YOUR PAST HISTORY AFTER KING FAROUK.!!!!

  • Egylady93

    As a citizen I took to street to demand the step down of Mubarak and I was even more willing to step down Morsi for doing the worst action in history of Nations which is the splitting of the Egyptian people. Now they carry heavy weapons in streets; Now they attack and burn police stations and Egyptian army spots. Why do we have to tolerate with people raised Al Qaeda flag in Ramses square and Alexandria. The most obvious evidence that they carry weapons and can never be called “peaceful”, are the wounded recruits. If you say the authorities killed many in the dispersal of the sit-ins, I’ll reply back that away from any abuses of pro- Morsi against Rabaa residents, if they were peaceful and victims; then how a big number of security forces got killed and wounded. In addition to the hundreds of bullets stock in Rabaa and al Nahda sit ins. How can we tolerate with people threatened to bombing Egypt and declared direct relation to the terrorism in sinai. Well!!! never tell us we had other choices, observe that Rabaa residents had got fed up with those sit ins that targeted the cease of life in Cairo and some decided to clash directly pro Morsi protestors; only the (I believe) that Egyptian authorities had no other choices.

    • Taha Gailani

      Do you know that the American public is split into two groups too? Republicans and Democrats! What kind of accusation is this? Did CC unite the Egyptians? You have to realize that who divided the Egyptians is the media! Egyptians believe everything they see on TV! This is the problem! Your hatred to MB, Islamists and all anti-coup movements is based on lies spread out on your TV channels. Egypt has lost it’s greatest chance to transform into a real democracy!

      • Egylady93

        I don’t know how did you applied such a comparison with no common points? that is funny!!!! They are challenging politically not carrying weapons!! Then let me reply back to you that we don’t need media to inform us with anything because they commit crimes among civilians and not only with authorities. Do you deny the rise of Al Qaeda flag in Ramses square!!!!! Do you deny that terrorist with Al Qaeda flag fastened in his back and who threw children down from one of Alexandria’s buildings. How can you call those incidents lies!!! This against logic!!!! Today there was a trial of assassination to Minister of Interior by using high technology bomb,,, what do you call this…..peace? let me tell you your ready funny answer “It is the third party” to all the time make the public opinion to follow anonymous party. Do you deny that Muslim Brotherhood after the dispersal of their sit-ins have to be the only suspect and involved in Kerdassa policemen murdering and corpse mutilation. The current attack upon armed forces in Sinai. Today 6 of security forces in Arish got shot and 15 injured. What do you call this , “third party” ??? I call them terrorism. you say anti coup movements. I tell you that millions of Egyptians took to streets in 30 june and 26 july answering the call of General Al sisi,, peacefully chanting slogans and carrying Egypt’s flag. They never carried Al Qaeda flag, they never carried weapons, they never burned down churches and police station……etc you call such crimes “movements” you want legitimate CRIMES!! You tell me “you hate MB’s” why do I hate “MB’s” ,,,,,, ironically “Because they dismissed me from work” hhhhhhhhha!


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