And so we come back full circle on the Egyptian edition of the Arab Spring. When we got on board this merry-go-round in early 2011 to push our decades-long ally Hosni Mubarak under the bus, we demanded quick elections after a long period of emergency rule under military governance stretching back to Gamel Nasser. Thanks in part to the push for quick elections, we’re now back to a military-imposed government ruling under emergency decree:
Egypt’s interim president has declared a monthlong state of emergency to combat worsening violence after riot police moved to clear two sprawling encampments of supporters of ousted Islamist President Mohammed Morsi.
A statement by the office of President Adly Mansour said Wednesday that the state of emergency takes effect at 4 p.m. (1400 GMT, 10 a.m. EDT). It didn’t provide details but says Mansour also ordered the armed forces to support the police in their efforts to restore law and order and protect state facilities.
This makes it even more difficult for the US and its Western allies to spin the situation in Egypt, and shows just how little influence outsiders have in this situation. The US and Europe sent delegations nearly continuously since the non-coup coup earlier this summer attempting to get the Muslim Brotherhood and the military to negotiate a peaceful conclusion to the impasse, all while Mohamed Morsi’s supporters built encampments on the streets of Cairo for mostly peaceful protests. That situation could not last forever, though, and the military move has cost more than a hundred lives — so far.
The time limit on the state of emergency is rather quaint, under the circumstances. Egypt has been under “temporary” emergency law that allows the military to impose its will for most of the period between 1967 and 2011, mainly to suppress the Muslim Brotherhood and other organized political dissent. That is what created the 2011 situation where the Brotherhood was the only group organized well enough for elections at the time of Mubarak’s fall, and why calling for quick elections instead of a transition to allow other groups to organize was a bad call by the West. Don’t expect the state of emergency to end any time soon — or perhaps any time at all, barring another coup.
This will put even more pressure on Barack Obama to officially call the coup a coup and kill foreign aid to the military. Some in Congress have already agitated for that outcome, even though the US sent aid to the Egyptian military for decades under precisely the same circumstances. With Turkey calling for UN intervention and the likelihood of further deadly clashes in the foreseeable future, this state of emergency may end up being the last straw for the Obama administration — even though severing our contact with the Egyptian military will almost certainly do long-term damage to our goals in the region.
CNN provides more scenes from the crackdown:
Also, the death of at least one journalist on the ground in Egypt provides us another reminder of the danger in being a foreign correspondent in a war zone, which is what Cairo looks like at the moment:
Sky News cameraman Mick Deane has been shot and killed in Egypt this morning.
Mick, 61, had worked for Sky for 15 years, based in Washington and then Jerusalem.
The married father of two was part of our team covering the violence in Cairo. The rest of the team are unhurt.
The Head of Sky News John Ryley described Mick as the very best of cameramen, a brilliant journalist and an inspiring mentor to many at Sky.
“Mick Deane was a really lovely, lovely guy,” he said. “He was great fun to work with, he was an astonishingly good cameraman who took some brilliant pictures.
“But he also had a first class editorial brain. He had brilliant ideas.
“He was also good fun after the job was done. He was laid back, and I’m really going to miss him, like lots of people here.”
Say a prayer on behalf of Deane and his family and friends — and a prayer for the safety of those who remain on the ground to report what is happening in Egypt.
Update: This makes the situation even more complicated for the West:
— Breaking News (@BreakingNews) August 14, 2013
The White House just issued a statement “strongly opposing” the emergency decree. We’ll see if that has consequences for aid.