By Philip Whitfield
CAIRO: Help me out here. Let’s read some news items together to prove I’m not completely mad. First a newsflash: Three PR gurus paid $4.3 million (plus expenses) to flack for SCAF in Washington DC dumped them after lawmakers harrumphed: Is there no shame in this town?
Update: Cairo says it did the dumping. Who’s pot calling who’s kettle black?
SCAF’s devil-may-care disregard for human rights is their undoing. No amount of pleading by a bevy of top brass hastily dispatched to the State Department and the Pentagon this week can save their skins. Or military aid.
It’s SCAF’s billion-dollar bungle. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton want braided Egyptian scalps on the wall of the trophy room at Camp David.
Back to the papers. Leading members of the Muslim Brotherhood and their political party the FJP are opening channels of communication with some of former president Hosni Mubarak’s cabinet ministers and the now defunct National Democratic Party to understand some files and to listen to those who ran the country (Al-Ahram).
According to independent sources, the paper says, talks have included delegating envoys to meet some of the former key ministers who have exited Egypt upon the end of the Mubarak regime and had never come back (sic).
Wasn’t that the point: To oust Mubarak and his corrupt gang from government — not hire them in to run it?
Alas, the storm is come again…Misery acquaints a man with strange bedfellows (The Tempest, Shakespeare).
It’s obvious to younger Brothers their elders are as happy as sandboys playing hide and seek with SCAF. Young men have been quitting in droves. Now it turns out the old hands want tips from the tyrants. How do you feel after all that Egypt has been put through to discover the new rulers are asking the old gang how to run the place?
They’re like the wussies who give Jack Daniels the heave-ho and take up with Aunt Nora — swapping booze for smack. Are we supposed to congratulate the Muslim Brotherhood on accepting duties of governing — coached by Mubarak’s hacks?
No wonder the Muslim Brotherhood was greeted with a loud raspberry when they turned up in Tahrir Square on Friday. For half an hour angry protesters doused their representatives with water, accusing them of selling their souls to SCAF.
Let’s turn to another page of the newspaper. Here’s an interesting piece: Parliament is now the legitimate authority says the Muslim Brotherhood’s Deputy Supreme Guide. According to him Tahrir Square is past its sell-by date. What Khairat El-Shater means is Tahrir Square is the nagging conscience that tugs at the Brothers’ sleeves as they edge towards the cookie jar.
Before showing the Al-Ahram reporter the door El-Shater said an FJP-led government would strive to maintain good relations with all countries. The Muslim Brotherhood’s buddies in SCAF have an odd way of going about it.
Look at this headline: US outrage as Egypt bars Americans from leaving. According to the report, the clean-cut chinos and blazer-clad 36-year-old every Mom and Pop would die to call Son is being held hostage in Cairo for doing a community service stint.
It happens this model citizen is the son of one of Obama’s closest cabinet honchos. He’s been heading up one of the NGOs that SCAF hates because it shines light on their evil doings. So when he tries to take a break out of Egypt, he’s grounded.
SCAF locked half a dozen foreigners down because America derailed the military’s gravy train. Since October the US has not sent a nickel of new money to Egypt.
Check out this headline in the New York Times: Obama warns military rulers of Egypt that US aid is at risk. Here’s the intro: For the first time in three decades American foreign assistance to Egypt is no longer a sure thing.
The Times reported Obama phoning Field Marshall Tantawi to make sure he understood all future aid hinges on satisfying Congress that Tantawi leads a genuine transition to democracy. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has made it abundantly clear she’s not signing off on anything until the soldier boy bullies who beat up Tahrir Girl are brought to book.
As Obama read Tantawi the Riot Act, Tantawi was reminded the US has stopped new money transfers. Some bibs and bobs from the 2010/2011 approvals run out in four weeks. General Dynamics will close out the $11 million order for Abrams tank upgrades and maintenance for desert warfare by December. The $44 million contract for 120 mm high explosive tracer cartridges for the M1A1 tanks goes ahead.
SCAF has to make payroll with what cash it has from now on.
Concern has been expressed about Egypt’s ‘drift towards Pakistanization’ in some Washington defense quarters. That’s code: Are we comfortable with 1,130 tanks under Muslim Brotherhood control? Can Hamas get their hands on any of this kit, such as 20 mm guns and sights, 0.50 caliber and 7.62 mm machine guns?
Egypt is gambling on the Democrats in an election year not upsetting the applecart in Sterling Heights, nicknamed Baghdad Village. It’s the Detroit suburb in Michigan where the M1 tank kits are assembled — one of the largest conglomerations of Arabs in America, more than 5,000 Iraqis.
Egypt’s response to the dressing down: Pull the son of Obama’s Secretary for Transportation out of the line as he was about to board a plane to Dubai, all for running an NGO assisting voter registration in Egypt and which they are adamant hasn’t given a dime to any Egyptian political party.
The Muslim Brotherhood’s shotgun wedding with SCAF is pregnant with irony.
SCAF is ham-fisted at PR. Flaunting their inexperience on the global stage SCAF gave short shrift to the International Monetary Fund when the IMF offered to tide them over with 3 billion dollars and change last year. SCAF indicated IMF loans came with strings attached.
Accountability? Transparency? Democratizing? Skilling young people? Sounds good to me.
Now raking the bottom of the barrel SCAF is groveling for the same 3 billion. The problem is would-be lenders have lost confidence in the borrowers. The IMF is headquartered within earshot of the White House.
Why would the IMF give Egypt a loan when there’s no plan to invest it in growth and pay it back? Wasn’t it a few weeks ago that Egypt called for their foreign debt to be written off?
Which planet is SCAF on?
If it’s the same as mine, beam me up, Scotty. It’s time to boldly go where no man has gone before, the aptly named starship Enterprise.
Philip Whitfield is a Cairo commentator.