James North writes
Since 2011, the United States has sent more than $6.4 billion in military aid to Egypt, while continuing to mute criticism of the dictatorship’s massive human rights violations. How much does Israel’s influence explain this inexcusable American policy?
Michael Oren, the former Israeli ambassador to Washington, provided key evidence in his memoir a year ago. He says openly he opposed the pro-democracy Tahrir Square uprising in January 2011, and he even admits he regularly telephoned then-President Hosni Mubarak’s envoy to the U.S., encouraging Egypt to resist the demonstrators. Such a stance seems odd coming from a nation that boasts that it is the only democracy in the Middle East, but Oren explained by quoting a senior Israeli approvingly:
“‘Why won’t Americans face the truth?’ one frustrated Israeli ex-general exclaimed to me. ‘To defend Western freedom, they must preserve Middle Eastern tyranny.’”
Israel does not have to worry about U.S. policy toward Egypt any longer. After General Abdel Fattah el-Sisi seized power in July 2013, American aid paused briefly, but was soon restored — even though a U.S. government watchdog earlier this year reported that the U.S. assistance was not properly vetted to make sure Egypt was not committing “a gross violation of human rights.”
The el-Sisi regime is not just mildly authoritarian. The Egyptian military massacred 1000 people right away, starting with members of the Muslim Brotherhood, but then expanded the crackdown to include the more secular and democratic forces that had first launched the Tahrir Square uprising. By some estimates, 40,000 people have been jailed, many of them held in secret prisons, where torture is common. Kangaroo courts have handed down hundreds of death sentences. Three Christian teenagers got 5 years in prison for producing a video, and “a Facebook user who photoshopped Mickey Mouse ears onto a picture of Sisi was convicted of ‘trying to overthrow the regime’ and sentenced to three years in prison.’”
U.S. law is supposed to prohibit aid to governments that seize power in coups, but as Rula Jebreal pointed out in The Nation, Secretary of State John Kerry and others have twisted the facts to whitewash the el-Sisi regime. Israel is certainly not the only reason the U.S. continues to help the Egyptian dictatorship; Washington is also surely motivated by the (misguided) belief that el-Sisi stands for stability in a volatile region.
But the Israel angle cannot be ignored. American policymakers certainly know that a democratic Egypt would be much less acquiescent to Israel, and much more likely to take action the next time the Israeli army and air force attack Gaza instead of standing idly by and watching another massacre. Betting on el-Sisi over the long- or even medium-term may be another American blunder. His regime looked popular at first, but the widening repression and the sputtering economy have hurt him.
Then, this April, he announced he was giving two Egyptian islands in the Red Sea to neighboring Saudi Arabia, angering nationalists who had supported him until then. As Sarah Yerkes at Brookings explained: “Making matters worse are reports that Egypt consulted with Israel and the United States prior to the transfer. . . The notion that [el-Sisi] would consult with Israel about something that he kept secret from his own people is the ultimate insult and betrayal to many Egyptians.”
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Daniel Raventós and Julie Wark report
On June 26, three days after a majority of English citizens (but not of Scotland and Northern Ireland) voted to leave the European Union, Spain’s general elections were held and the results were conscientiously pored over by the European Union. Yet few analysts had foreseen the influence Brexit was going to have. And, yes, results it certainly had.
Read on here (see CounterPunch Magazine vol. 23 no. 4, 2016)
The London Guardian opinion pages spin the story that after 22 years and 7 successes in popular elections in a rapidly growing and pluralist Turkey, it is Erdoğan who is perpetrating ‘a slow moving coup’, to use a glaring oxymoron. It is as if the brutal military coup of Friday night is the victim. The Blairite leaning newspaper’s reporters tell us that it is Erdoğan, who ‘unleashed a brutal purge… after heading off an attempted (presumably relatively benign) military coup’.
All this reminds us of Blair’s vehement support for the Egyptian coup, which still sees a president freely and fairly elected in 2012, kidnapped only months into his term, still languishing in jail on trumped up charges. Meanwhile, the Egyptian Junta, installed by the US on the world’s highest security decision-making body, the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), blocks condemnation of the Turkish coup attempt, citing that the coup was staged by Erdoğan.
The reported facts, as followed in detail in Middle East Eye, suggest an uncanny prescience of the coup amongst Arab Gulf counterrevolutionary forces and their Western allies, although it plainly took Turkish society and its government completely by surprise. The US government seems of late to have faced terrifying lexical challenges in defining military interventions in the political sphere. It called the coup an ‘insurrection’ just in case, and asked American citizens in Turkey to ‘stay indoors’.
Democracy hangs everywhere by a thin thread, and we don’t value or even recognise it where it does. Below an iconic moment in the failed coup with men in khaki holding their hands up in surrender – an image that will resonate throughout the Middle-east
Read the redacted 28 pages of the 9/11 report.
The information in the report centers on two men, Omar Bayouni and Osama Bassman. Bayouni was said to have provided “substantial assistance” to the hijackers in 2000, and had extensive contact with the Saudi government at the same time.
Bayouni was nominally an employee of Ercan, a subsidiary of a company with substantial ties to the Saudi Defense Ministry, and was in frequent contact with a Defense Ministry official responsible for air traffic control. Though he was only confirmed to have ever actually gone to Ercan one time, he received a $465 per month “allowance” from them, which was increased to $3,700 a month after he met with the hijackers.
In addition to the money he got from Ercan, Bayouni’s wife also received $1,200 a month from Princess Haifa Bint Sultan, the wife of the then Saudi Ambassador to the United States. The two kept receiving this money after Bayouni’s contact with the 9/11 hijackers right up until late July or early August of 2001, when they left the country.
Bassman, on the other hand, lived across the street from the hijackers, and says he was introduced to them by way of Bayouni. The CIA says they believe he got a fake passport from the Saudi government, and the FBI says he was a known support of al-Qaeda who spoke of bin Laden “like a god” as far back as 1992. He and his wife also received significant financial support from Princess Haifa, to the tune of $74,000 for “nursing services” that there is no evidence were ever provided.
The FBI also reported millions of dollars in wire transfers from Saudi Arabia, purportedly laundered through the Tamiyah Mosque in Culver City, delivered to al-Barakaat, a Somali company affiliated with Osama bin Laden. The FBI said they believed this was a way for the Saudi government to covertly and indirectly fund al-Qaeda.
The 28 pages also mention that several active-duty Saudi Naval officers had contact with the hijackers in the lead-up to 9/11. Interestingly, however, despite the high-profile “declassification” of this documents, essentially this entire section is redacted in the final release, meaning the details are still secret.
The French are engaged in a war in the Sahel which is stoking up terrorism rather than dealing with it, but – worse – they are terrorising their local Muslim population as Amnesty International has reported.