Egyptian army begins crackdown in Cairo

posted at 10:55 am on February 7, 2011 by Ed Morrissey

The biggest decision in Egypt has always belonged to the army — not Hosni Mubarak, Mohammed ElBaradei, or the Muslim Brotherhood.  The protests would only continue unimpeded as long as the army allowed them to do so.  McClatchy reports that the army has apparently decided that enough is enough:

The Egyptian military has rounded up scores of human rights activists, protest organizers and journalists in recent days without formal charges, according to watchdog groups and accounts by the detainees. While most arrests have been brief — lasting fewer than 24 hours — experts say they’re a sign that the regime’s notorious tradition of extrajudicial detentions is continuing even as Mubarak appears to be on his way out of power.

Arbitrary arrests by police forces are among Egyptians’ bitterest and longest running complaints against their government, which gives security services sweeping powers under a state of emergency that’s been in place almost nonstop since 1967.

The perpetrators of the latest arrests, however, are Egyptian army soldiers, deployed on the streets for the first time in more than two decades after the police all but disappeared following clashes with protesters on Jan. 25. The man most likely to lead the transition to a post-Mubarak era, Vice President Omar Suleiman, is Mubarak’s longtime intelligence chief.

“If the military is going to continue to arrest activists and arrest journalists, that does point to a pattern of a crackdown,” said Heba Morayef, Middle East researcher for Human Rights Watch. “It’s a worrying sign of things to come … because the military is going to play a big role going forward.”

And they want everyone to know it, too.  At the beginning of the protests, the army shielded demonstrators from the police, who are in Mubarak’s pocket.  Now they’re outdoing the police in rounding up dissidents.  That does not bode well for any short-term transition of power.

However, it’s not exactly good news for Mubarak, either.  By usurping the role of Mubarak’s police, the army is more or less imposing martial law.  That may work to Mubarak’s benefit at the moment, as it will secure his place at the top while everything else gets sorted.  It may also leave Mubarak a figurehead to a military junta — and just as in Iran, getting rescued by the military from a popular uprising means that the military gets to play a much larger role in governance.

In the long run, military control might be good news, although perhaps not with the start of rounding up dissidents.  If the highly-respected military replaces Mubarak, they can dictate (pun intended) a slower-paced transition to civilian governance, hopefully allowing for political parties to organize to oppose the Muslim Brotherhood and marginalize the Islamists from the start.  It could also just stagnate into a military dictatorship, or another Mubarak with a different name.  Among a series of bad choices, well, this is certainly … one of them.


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You can’t have a country at a standstill (if it really is) and have the resulting food shortages.

Blake on February 7, 2011 at 10:58 AM

Question:

How does one know that in the past the army and the police dept didn’t cooperate? that the army, especially the intelligence service portion, knew exactly who was getting arrested? That they worked it maybe so that the army figured out who needed arresting but they stayed in the shadows and let the police do the dirty work? Good cop, bad cop.

journeyintothewhirlwind on February 7, 2011 at 11:01 AM

A father of a friend is a Christian missionary in Alexandria. In his area, there is little violence, and the assertions that Christians and Muslims are working together to protect people/property are apparently true. Apparently “1000′s” of prisoners have been released and may be acting as the goon squads against these demonstrators who are calling for Mubarak’s ouster. The info is pretty reliable from a guy who has lived (and plans on dying) in Egypt for >10 yrs. FWIW

ted c on February 7, 2011 at 11:03 AM

I heard earlier today that some protestors are complaining that they don’t know if Obama supports them or Mubarak.

“Present”

BobMbx on February 7, 2011 at 11:05 AM

The sheep have two choices, the shepherd or the wolves.

Limerick on February 7, 2011 at 11:07 AM

I heard earlier today that some protestors are complaining that they don’t know if Obama supports them or Mubarak.

“Present”

BobMbx on February 7, 2011 at 11:05 AM

he’s not there to take a position, he’s just to be there…in the mushy middle where its ‘ok’ to be a convictionless and spineless wimp.

ted c on February 7, 2011 at 11:07 AM

Frankly, from a U.S. and Israeli perspective, the more the military is involved, even if it mirrors to a tee what Mubarak has al ready put in place, the more I hear sweet music ringing in my ears. We need to limit the power of any regime that would be more hostile to our Israeli brothers and our own interests (i.e. the MB, or anything that resembles an ElBaradei supported government). The military could enact such limitations.

Indy82 on February 7, 2011 at 11:08 AM

Ruh roh.

rbj on February 7, 2011 at 11:08 AM

Would be funny if Mubarak “won” and now BO has played his cards – showed his true colors.

He has betrayed our ally.

stenwin77 on February 7, 2011 at 11:10 AM

In the long run, military control might be good news, although perhaps not with the start of rounding up dissidents.

There was a claim posted that the uprising stemmed from tension between the old, socialist military leaders and the new, capitalist technocrats. If true, the army looks to have won that competition.
That’s probably not a good thing for Egypt’s economy.

Count to 10 on February 7, 2011 at 11:12 AM

If we had any grown-ups in the State Department, maybe they should be taking this opportunity to reach-out to and build up secular opposition to the MB

Iblis on February 7, 2011 at 11:12 AM

The army pretty much has to act before conditions get so bad that nobody can control it without massive bloodshed. We should stay on the sidelines and hope for the best. The army seems to be the only institution with the clout to forge a more peaceful transition, whether it is toward democracy or military dictatorship. An Islamist takeover would most likely be a threat to us and our interests, but we have to get out of the nation building business. Trade where possible but quit propping up non-democratic states.

cartooner on February 7, 2011 at 11:12 AM

Apparently “1000′s” of prisoners have been released and may be acting as the goon squads against these demonstrators who are calling for Mubarak’s ouster. The info is pretty reliable from a guy who has lived (and plans on dying) in Egypt for >10 yrs. FWIW

ted c on February 7, 2011 at 11:03 AM

The story I read is that the protesters broke the prisoners out after raiding police stations for weapons.

Count to 10 on February 7, 2011 at 11:14 AM

I heard earlier today that some protestors are complaining that they don’t know if Obama supports them or Mubarak.

“Present”

BobMbx on February 7, 2011 at 11:05 AM

And to think I thought he handled the protests in Iran poorly.

Yakko77 on February 7, 2011 at 11:14 AM

everyone knows how loyal I am to Hillary. well here comes the dealbreaker. Obama is clearly open to Muslim Brotherhood having a full voice in the govt, per his invitation to his big Cairo speech we knew this, but now they are on record.

Hillary needs to resign IMO if Obummer is pushing Mubarak out and pushing the ME into crisis mode to allow MuslimBrotherhood an opening to take power.

Obama is not about free expression if he were he wouldve supported the Green Student Mvmnt in Iran.

Hillary has IMO been the one person looking out for Isrsel and now she is so marginalized by Obummers polivy choices she cannot help them.

Perhaps it would help them more to just let Kerry the buffoon take State.

God Bless Israel and help the people of Egypt so they do not fall under the sway of a movement that seems to persecute its own people

ginaswo on February 7, 2011 at 11:15 AM

I came in on the end of an interview of Michael Rubin on Bill Bennett’s show this morning. I wish I could have heard the whole thing, he was talking about W pushing democracy in his second inaugural speech and that Mubarak didn’t like it.

Cindy Munford on February 7, 2011 at 11:17 AM

PS Politico ran a story about a week ago about how ‘close’ Hillary and Mubarak are and how she was a key voice with Mubarak.

I am SURE Hillary knows that Mubarak must stay thru the transition to avoid Muslim Brotherhood taking over, look at El Baradei this morning saying the peace deal Israel has is with Mubarak and not Egypt.

But again, if she can not effectively help put the brakes on Obummer she should step down.

Jeebus Kerry as SOS, Obummer and then Hagel as SecDef? and I thought yrs 1-2 were bad…

ginaswo on February 7, 2011 at 11:18 AM

Maybe the army has spotted the obvious … transform to what?

Something American voters might want to look into in 2012.

tarpon on February 7, 2011 at 11:20 AM

The story I read is that the protesters broke the prisoners out after raiding police stations for weapons.

Count to 10 on February 7, 2011 at 11:14 AM

the story I heard was that mubarak et al released them as a “ok, you want anarchy, here you go…” and then you started seeing increases in violence in what were previously pretty civil? protests.

ted c on February 7, 2011 at 11:25 AM

The idea that we are going to see a culture with 1,500 years of Moh indoctrination suddenly embrace townhall meetings, city councils, and parlimentary give-n-take is beyond fantasy. This will take baby steps not running a marathon straight out of the birth canal.

Limerick on February 7, 2011 at 11:27 AM

The Egyptian military has rounded up scores of human rights activists, protest organizers and journalists in recent days

Doesn’t that suggest that the military had it’s own lists of people to keep an eye on? That they knew exactly who they needed to arrest?

journeyintothewhirlwind on February 7, 2011 at 11:28 AM

Could beome a form of Ataturk’s Turkey. That wasn’t all bad, till Erdogan got elected. Got to keep the officer ranks cleansed of fundies, though.

a capella on February 7, 2011 at 11:31 AM

2002, Senator Obama on “allies in the Middle East“.

You want a fight, President Bush? Let’s fight to make sure our so-called allies in the Middle East, the Saudis and the Egyptians, stop oppressing their own people, and suppressing dissent, and tolerating corruption and inequality, and mismanaging their economies so that their youth grow up without education, without prospects, without hope, the ready recruits of terrorist cells.

If I were a Saudi royal, I’d be paying close attention.

BobMbx on February 7, 2011 at 11:33 AM

In that article written by the Egyptian on “American Thinker”, the writer said that the Army AND Mubarak are one and the same.

Maybe if the American Press and others would actually print the TRUTH, this situation (alarming and all) would be easier to follow and understand.

If you think I’m gonna believe Andrea Mitchell and Anderson Cooper (getting dope-slapped all over the place in his Mum’s Gloria Vanderbelt jeans), it ain’t gonna happen!

Gob on February 7, 2011 at 11:36 AM

Count to 10 on February 7, 2011 at 11:12 AM

And there’s the easiest spy network- former E Army folks who RUN the economy, the construction businesses etc. They are tapped into the community/country and for the pleasure of staying in business they tell current army intelligence who to keep an eye on.

journeyintothewhirlwind on February 7, 2011 at 11:40 AM

In a fluid situation in a culture (civil, historical and political) such as Egypt, what would a better choice have been? Remember the two key words: fluid and culture.
I don’t have an answer. But considering that the banks were re-opening, that Tahrir square was emptying and it appeared that the students were going back to school, perhaps waiting another few days would have been the better choice.
Hopefully this move by the army isn’t putting a match to spilled gasoline.

Amendment X on February 7, 2011 at 11:43 AM

The first mistake here is to assume, in knee-jerk fashion, that the Egyptian Army is arresting “scores of human rights activists, protest organizers and journalists” and not rioters and others fomenting violence.

Everyone from the Traitor-in-Chief to Fox News and other “pundits” has made the assumption, without access to any facts, that Mubarak’s opponents are Good while his supporters are Bad.

From what little we can honestly deduce from the “news” coming out of Egypt, it’s a bit early to be forming an opinion about who is right or wrong.

Osama Obama and his regime have made their choice, signing on with the forces of destruction (the Muslim Brotherhood) in the name of a “democracy” that most Egyptians probably don’t understand and, at least as we understand democracy, don’t want.

MrScribbler on February 7, 2011 at 11:45 AM

Just because you get rid of one dictator doesn’t mean you don’t want another. European history is a history of different groups fighting to install different Kings.

mankai on February 7, 2011 at 11:51 AM

I would guess the military is protecting the transition talks/new cabinet.

It wouldn’t be like a military takeover. The talks are ongoing, but some are saying that they don’t agree with letting “name the group” speak for them.

AnninCA on February 7, 2011 at 11:56 AM

Since the detainments were for a relatively short time, possibly “the military” (under whose control?) is trying to determine the players.

Absolutely no one knows who there is to bargain with. Other than the MB, there seems to be little leadership. Which in the Tea Party here seemed a good thing and proof of grass roots.

Finding someone who can speak for the actual “Arab Street” would be a first step in giving the “Arab Street” a voice. They protestors don’t seem able to find a voice that isn’t limited to a camping trip with signs, in the public square.

If people were disappearing for days or weeks or months or years… like happens in a real dictatorship I would be more worried.

This seems more like info gathering to me. Maybe for a crack down later, or maybe for something better later.

I’m naively still hoping for a type of freedom to emerge. As if that were possible in an Islamic country.

petunia on February 7, 2011 at 12:23 PM

I heard earlier today that some protestors are complaining that they don’t know if Obama supports them or Mubarak.

“Present”

BobMbx on February 7, 2011 at 11:05 AM

he’s not there to take a position, he’s just to be there…in the mushy middle where its ‘ok’ to be a convictionless and spineless wimp.

ted c on February 7, 2011 at 11:07 AM

No he only wants to get elected again here. Only goal. Although losing Egypt would make his second term hell. I doubt anyone at the Whitehouse has thought that far.

petunia on February 7, 2011 at 12:28 PM

petunia on February 7, 2011 at 12:23 PM

Petunia, you make a lot of great points in your posts so it’s always disappointing that you have a “naive” desire for “freedom” in Egypt.

It’s as if you are following the story as attentively as you can, but then you erase the Islamic history of the ME because Western Democracy shades your view.

Gob on February 7, 2011 at 12:28 PM

It’s probably the best of a myriad of bad choices, there being no good ones. A role for the Muslim Brotherhood is absolutely unacceptable; I’d rather see a military junta ruling Egypt.

Bear in mind, as Jeanne Kirkpatrick long ago said, it is possible to peaceably transition from an authoritarian regime, even a relatively brutal one, to a democracy. Chile, Taiwan, Korea, and Greece are among the many examples. A Brotherhood-dominated government, on the other hand, would make eventual peaceable political evolution very unlikely.

irishspy on February 7, 2011 at 12:30 PM

irishspy on February 7, 2011 at 12:30 PM

Irish, I just have to point out all those countries you pointed out are not Islamic based. Point well made thou’.

Gob on February 7, 2011 at 12:33 PM

I don’t trust this one bit. How do we know it’s scores? Are they really human rights activists?

I mean, seriously…all last week the Army was identified as the most respected and loved institution (primarily due to its objectivity and hands-off attitude), but NOW they’re rounding up the peaceful demonstrators as if they were the SS or the Chinese in Tienamen Square?

I call BS.

BTW, weren’t these ‘peaceful’ protesters the same ones who want Islamic law in their ‘democracy’?

Miss_Anthrope on February 7, 2011 at 12:36 PM

This may clear up any misunderstandings regarding ElBaradei
http://www.theblaze.com/stories/elbaradei-israel-has-peace-agreement-with-mubarak-not-egypt/

a capella on February 7, 2011 at 12:37 PM

irishspy on February 7, 2011 at 12:30 PM

Irish, I just have to point out all those countries you pointed out are not Islamic based. Point well made thou’.

Gob on February 7, 2011 at 12:33 PM

Yep. Moh left no room in his society for individual ‘free will’. You conform, or die.

Limerick on February 7, 2011 at 12:39 PM

BobMbx on February 7, 2011 at 11:33 AM
What I am opposed to is the cynical attempt by Richard Perle and Paul Wolfowitz my administration, along with the Pelosi/Reid congress and other armchair, weekend warriors in this administration to shove their own ideological agendas down our throats, irrespective of the costs in lives lost and in hardships borne.

Great link quoting 0bumble, Bob! FIFY

FlatlanderByTheLake on February 7, 2011 at 1:28 PM

The Egyptian military has rounded up scores of human rights activists, protest organizers and journalists in recent days
Doesn’t that suggest that the military had it’s own lists of people to keep an eye on? That they knew exactly who they needed to arrest?

journeyintothewhirlwind on February 7, 2011 at 11:28 AM

I agree. The Egyptian army probably had a keen sense of who the agitators are. Also, too many of these “human rights activists” are Lefties with sympathies toward the Islamists, especially the MB.

onlineanalyst on February 7, 2011 at 1:37 PM

If there was an assassination attempt on Suleiman last week, he won’t let that pass by. These are times when you can get rid of your enemies. The army has really always been in control behind the scenes. They will step it up for awhile, regain control of the populace and those behind the uprisings. Don’t think that they want the MB in charge.

Kissmygrits on February 7, 2011 at 2:10 PM

Hey, AnninCA … will you answer a question for me?

OhioCoastie on February 7, 2011 at 5:26 PM