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The Egyptian lobbies

Since the military ouster of Mohammed Morsi, different Egyptian groups have lobbied the international community more than ever since the revolution began in 2011. The diversity of the lobby is more than probably ever before – and the intensity of those efforts is perhaps unmatched as well. The irony is – none of those lobbying …

Dr. H.A. Hellyer
Dr. H.A. Hellyer

Since the military ouster of Mohammed Morsi, different Egyptian groups have lobbied the international community more than ever since the revolution began in 2011. The diversity of the lobby is more than probably ever before – and the intensity of those efforts is perhaps unmatched as well. The irony is – none of those lobbying efforts are having much success. Whether from those who support the Muslim Brotherhood and the pro-Morsi camp, or those that support the military backed interim government – the answer is the same. And it generally makes neither of those groups particularly happy – because Egypt is no longer the priority it once was.

There are three groups currently targeting the international community for advocacy purposes – mainly in Washington DC, but also in European capitals, particularly London. (This is not to say they are not finding voices in other capitals as well that are already friendly to their arguments.) The first are those that support the Muslim Brotherhood and their allies in the “Anti-Coup Alliance” – for whom Morsi has become a rallying figure, but is not quite the focus of their efforts. The reinstatement of Morsi is an unrealistic goal for much of that lobbying community – but applying pressure on the Egyptian government via international actors is what the lobby hopes to achieve. What that pressure in itself is meant to accomplish remains unclear – the demands as the Anti-Coup Alliance in Egypt present them are fanciful at best. Given public support for the military, it’s unlikely that Morsi will be put back in the presidency, the 2012 constitution be put back into force, and the 2012 parliament be reinstated. What is more, the centres of power within DC, London, and elsewhere are fully aware that such claims are far-fetched. In any case, the ideological bases of Islamist political forces pushing ahead in the Anti-Coup Alliance are hardly likely to find ideological bedfellows in London, Washington or Paris. That would be the case even if there was not a longstanding relationship between the different military establishments and Egypt’s, or without the fact that there is actually an insurgency by some pro-Morsi forces in the Sinai and elsewhere.

The second group are those pushing for the international community’s relationship with the Egyptian state – despite the suspension of the democratic experiment by the military, human rights violations, and state abuses of different kinds that have led to large scale loss of life – to continue as it has been, essentially, without a hiccup. They’re infuriated that the US administration reacted at all to the last five months, other than hearty applause – and interpreted the partial suspension of aid in October to be a punishment for Morsi’s ouster. Indeed, the assumption is that any lack of support for the interim government ought to be conceived as essentially an expression of support for the Muslim Brotherhood.

Then, there’s the final group – those that are essentially persona non grata as far as both of the main lobbying factions are concerned. They’re the “descendants” as it were of those who were pushing for reform under Mubarak, opposed SCAF and then Morsi, and are now deeply antipathetic to the military backed interim government. Generally, these account for human rights defenders and civil rights activists, along with some analysts and commentators. They’re not so much lobbying as they are informing – none of them push for a reinstatement of Morsi or his government, but they are all keen to highlight the flaws, missteps and abuses of the current political set-up. This is at a time when a number of human rights organisations have described the forced clearing of the pro-Morsi sit-ins in August as the largest example of state-led killing of civilians in Egypt’s modern history: see this latest release by a group of different organisations on that subject (http://www.hrw.org/news/2013/12/10/egypt-no-acknowledgment-or-justice-mass-protester-killings). This group can’t really be considered to be a lobby in the strictest sense – as it does not tend to promote a certain political group over another – but the irony is that many in the international community tend to wish that this group was a lobby. Or rather, that this group could present an alternative, politically speaking, in the form of a party.

The wishes of these groups notwithstanding, there is a cold and clear calculation presently at work – particularly in Washington, but it is shared elsewhere. Egypt is not, as it turns out, as important as it once was, in terms of the priority “to-do list”. This is for two reasons – the first is that there are a number of other priorities that are far more important and pressing, including Iran, Syria and Libya. If Egypt makes the top five in the priority list, it is, frankly speaking, quite lucky. The second reason ties into the first – many officials in the international community are somewhat stumped as to what they can plausibly do anyway. Taking DC as an example – the American administration has essentially come to the decision that Egypt is a country that cannot really be helped at the moment. The democratic experiment was under a great deal of stress under Morsi, and is currently under suspension. The best the US can do, from its perspective, is to encourage elections and so forth – but that was always going to be the case according to the road-map anyway. The suspension had little to do with the 3 July, and everything to do with the 14 August (Rabaa) – and it is very likely that once there are elections, that aid will quietly make a comeback anyway. It will be quiet partly out of embarrassment, as the administration won’t really be enthusiastic about the prospects of Egyptian democracy – but it will also be because there will be other things to focus on.

For all the lobbying efforts that are taking place, one thing seems to be ignored. Egypt just is not that important anymore for the international community – and certainly not in the cities where different Egyptian lobby groups are active. The reality is – the international community seems to be hoping and praying that Egyptians can just do a lot better than this government or the last. In the meantime, no-one is holding their breath – or shifting policy much one way or the other, lobby or no lobby.

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  • sam enslow

    I have always found it strange that Egyptians in positions of power believe the world is watching events in Egypt with baited breath. A press that is constantly “outraged” by any unfavorable accounts of events in Egypt and that is always proclaiming that “Egyptians do not care what other nations think” is full of articles on what other nations think. Egyptians seem to think by insulting every nation on Earth, especially, the US, they will make friends and influence people. Of course, Egyptians seem to believe the US reached its position in the world by being simple minded. Egyptians seem to project their weaknesses on others rather than studying the attitudes of the nations with which they deal. They seem to believe that the people of the US do not see the problems seen by the youth that first marched into Tahrir Square in 2011. They also see that Egyptians have taken few, if any steps, to correct those problems. The elite in Egypt still want to rule – not govern Egypt. The real social and economic problems are not to be addressed, “Now is not the time.” The ancient regimes never believe now is the time. “National Pride” is the excuse to sweep all problems under the rug. “The Egyptian Way” is the excuse for not changing anything. The real reason is that the governing elites have no desire to change anything. Why stop corruption when you benefit from corruption? Educate the people and they will want a living wage and to be treated like human beings. Have a free press, and the elites will be held to account for their actions and incompetence. When Egypt faces its problems, takes responsibility for them, and wants help in correcting those problems, it will find many countries willing to work with them. The key word is “work” followed by “with”. It will be a difficult job that will disturb MAAT. Once Egypt starts this process, its people will have a real pride, the pride of a people taking responsibility for their problems and doing the work necessary to correct them. Xenophobia will cause Egypt to sink – alone. Egypt has prospered when its outlook was international and cosmopolitan.

  • Jamela Radwan

    This “final group” you speak of, would this group include you Dr?
    How you can even suggest they are not “lobbying” is intellectually dishonest.
    Your news articles, your trips to Harvard, appearances on BBC, Al Jazeera etc.. are you not in fact lobbying to one degree or another? You are carrying a message, your message. A narrative framed to suit your stance.
    What your equation, and frankly most foreign journalist fail to acknowledge is this third rail you speak of is not quite as altruistic as you would like to present them to be. A great number of these activist gained fame during Jan. 25, and to be blunt they fell in love with being a “star” whether on Facebook, twitter or guest appearances on news shows. It became a lifestyle. For some it became a springboard into “journalism”. Keeping the protests alive, kept their fame alive. It kept them marketable. Human beings are if nothing else addicted to praise. Particularly from the Western media. These were people who spoke English, and that fact in itself gave them a leg up on attention. Unfortunately, Arabic is not widely spoken for example in the US, hence to play to that powerful audience an English speaking “activist” was a gold mine. Much like a child who wants attention, any attention will do, if you do not praise a child that child will act out, even negative attention is better than no attention.
    What alternatives do you suppose they could present? They have had three years to organize and present. They were unable to leave the “Square” and run an effective campaign to win the seats in parliament. This country is at critical mass. Sipping herbal tea, holding hands and chanting will not move it forward, will not bring stability, will not economically empower people. They are so far out of touch with the every day struggles of their fellow Egyptians I sometimes wonder if they are living in the same country. These “activists” you speak of simply do not have the skills needed to move beyond criticizing. Why is that? Because if the truth be told, it isn’t about what is best for Egypt, it is about what will keep them in the spotlight. Complaining, criticizing will do that. Heaven forbid they actually come up with a viable solution to move 80 million people forward. If they were able to present solutions there would have been no June 30 or July 3.
    Is it beyond the realm of possibilities that one of the main reasons Egypt is not a priority is because countries realize that criticizing and whining with no viable plan of action will do absolutely nothing to bring about change and democracy?

    If nothing else these activist are great lobbyist for charity…or are the human rights groups and activists funded via manna from
    heaven? What sells? What prompts people to dig into their wallets and give to charity? Injustice. There is no such thing as a free lunch. By presenting a very narrow, cherry picking narrative of Egypt they are in fact lobbying.
    It is quite easy to play the Monday morning quarterback, it is a whole different experience when you are out there on the field. We all want human rights, the most basic of human right is to earn a living with dignity, that isn’t going to happen with continually stoking the fires of discontent. This country must prioritize in order to move forward. Stability will bring economic empowerment, economic empowerment will bring democracy. None of that is going to happen over night. So much time has been wasted already. Criticizing, whining and complaining while offering no tangible solutions will kill this country.

    There is absolutely nothing noble, morally courageous or humanitarian in blocking 80 million soul’s ability to move forward so “activists” can remain stars.

    • Illuminati

      Hey, this might be handy to you:


      It defines lobbying since you seem to have gotten all wrong!

      ,The appearances you cite on Aljazeera or BBC appear to fall within the definition of analysis and freedom of expression. It is the job of any political scientist.

      You were also very subjective in questioning the motivations of human rights activists by making a claim they work for self interest and fame. It might have made more sense to verify their claims and respond to them. Do these violations pointed out by activists exist? If yes, then neither the activists motivation nor the fact that they are bi lingual matters. This can be discussed on a cup of tea after human rights violations cease to exist!!

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