Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
February 05, 2011

The U.S.-Egyptian "Counter Opposition" Scheme

The Mubarak regime seems to be working with the U.S. administration towards a scheme which, while moving Mubarak aside, would keep the dictatorial system he implemented. More on that below.

In Tahrir square the night was calm and in the morning the crowd there was again growing. People are reinforcing the barricades they had build, expecting more tensions and attacks in the coming days.

Overnight a gas pipeline in north Sinai which delivers natural gas from Egypt to Israel was blown up. It is currently unknown who is responsible for this. There are several potential motives for such an act which do include a regime attempt to create more tensions and international pressure for a false compromise.

As the NYT sells this compromise:

[S]everal groups of prominent intellectuals and political analysts are pushing plans to endorse an initial transfer of power to Mr. Suleiman, who already appears to be governing in Mr. Mubarak’s place, they said.

“The reality on the ground is that the vice president is the one managing the situation and what we want to do is legalize it,” said Wahid Abdel Neguid, the deputy director of the Al Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies and one of the figures working on the plans.
The groups putting forward the proposal include Nabil Fahmy, former Egyptian ambassador to the United States; Naguib Sawiris, one of the most prominent businessmen in Egypt; Ahmed Kamal Aboul Magd, a lawyer and influential Islamic thinker; and Ahmed Zewail, a Nobel Prize-winning chemist.

There is no person of the real opposition included in that group. Issandr at The Arabist has put up an English copy of the groups demands. His source is the Carnegie Endowment:

In view of the high level of interest in the events in Egypt, the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace offers its readers this unofficial translation of the statements issued by the committee, which have not appeared in English so far. The Carnegie Endowment does not endorse the statements but believes they are of sufficient interest to be shared.

The last sentence is suspicious. From a Washington Post piece which expresses some U.S. administration support for this "wise men" solution:

Members of the group have demanded that Mubarak turn over his authority to Suleiman, who would use it to manage a transition to democracy while Mubarak remains as a figurehead president until new elections.

"It's basically a face-saving solution," said Amr Hamzawy, research director for the Carnegie Middle East Center and one of the participants. Suleiman and Shafiq have been receptive, he said, and there have been "encouraging signs" from Mubarak.

Carnegie "does not endorse" this "face-saving solution" but "was one of the participants"?

This stinks. Reading the Carnegie text commentator Tom at The Arabist remarks:

This is odd. First it calls for pretty much exactly what Suleiman has been calling for. Second, it uses a style and vocabulary that track what he said in a television interview, yesterday.
I wouldn't put it past the government to be trying to publish false "demands" that suit them perfectly well and then make a big act of "responding to the people's demands".

I think this is more likely along the same lines as the "counter-protesters" -- just another attempt on the part of the current power establishment to win the war through empty propaganda and their control of so many communications channels.

I agree with that analysis. Unfortunately it seems that the Egyptian regime has the support of the Obama administration for this scheme. The pro-democracy protesters at Tahrir are unlikely to fall for it.

Posted by b on February 5, 2011 at 9:02 UTC | Permalink


If is right the Obama administration is keeping the part of Egypt's elite alive who is on the out. They are destablizing the country in doing this, they do not seem to care. Which means they will have lost any influence after this is settled.
It is never the old guard who wins.

Posted by: somebody | Feb 5 2011 9:50 utc | 1

b, Unfortunately it seems that the Egyptian regime has the support of the Obama administration for this scheme. The pro-democracy protesters at Tahrir are unlikely to fall for it.

Yes, but it makes their task so much more difficult.

Posted by: Rick | Feb 5 2011 9:55 utc | 2

This seems a concentrated effort, BBC is parroting this line too. Their reporter says stupid things like "A few thousand demonstrators" are highly unlikely to bring down the government. He must be blind!

Posted by: hans | Feb 5 2011 10:48 utc | 3

Not sure which thread, yesterday's or today's, is best to post this:

The demands, which have been endorsed by the so-called "300" – the loose coalition of online activists who were behind last month's call for the "day of rage" on 25 January, the event that sparked the current uprising – are also more radical than those put forward earlier this week by a group of senior judges, diplomats and businessmen in the Egyptian daily newspaper Al Shorouk. The latter group's statement endorsed the idea of Suleiman as a transitional president, an outcome firmly rejected by the majority of those camped out in Tahrir.

Posted by: Rick Happ | Feb 5 2011 11:50 utc | 4

From Debka - please read with skepticism

Hamas blows up Egypt-Israel-Jordan gas pipeline. Supply cutoff indefinite

Egyptian gas supplies to Israeli were suspended indefinitely after the pipeline was blown up near the North Sinai town of El Arish early Saturday Feb. 5. debkafile reports the attack was conducted by a special Hamas team from Gaza in support of the Muslim Brotherhood's campaign against Mubarak. Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu conferred urgently with Infrastructure Minister Uzi Landau over the abrupt loss of 25 percent of Israel's gas needs and ordered security beefed up at all energy installations.

Posted by: Rick Happ | Feb 5 2011 12:08 utc | 5

Despite the skepticism warning, the entire debka article is interesting with details so I do encourage a quick read if one has time.

Posted by: Rick | Feb 5 2011 12:24 utc | 6

The problem with the Debka story is the blame on Hamas. I doubt if anyone really knows which group. But it's right that the cutoff will be indefinite. If repaired it can be cut again.

Posted by: alexno | Feb 5 2011 12:36 utc | 7

From Some Assembly Required:

Essay Contest

Explain the phrase: "US plan: Replace Mubarak with torture-linked 'CIA point man'". 1000 words or less, usual prizes.

Posted by: mistah charley, ph.d. | Feb 5 2011 14:06 utc | 8

0107 GMT: Fox News reports that an assassination attempt on newly-appointed Vice President Omar Suleiman left two people dead this week. Neither Fox nor anyone else has confirmed this story. When asked the question, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs had this to say:

"I'm not going to ... get into that question,"


Also, Muslim Brotherhood tells Iran’s Islamic Leader Khamenai this is "People's Revolution" not an "Islamic Revolution"

Posted by: Uncle $cam | Feb 5 2011 15:39 utc | 9

Munich conf host Wolfgang Ischinger says his false report on assassination attempt against Omar Suleiman based on "unsubstantiated source"

Posted by: Lex | Feb 5 2011 15:43 utc | 10

Also, let's not forget to consider our good friends at BP and their ties to Mubarak. They have a great deal invested in the Nile Delta Gas Field.

BP has made Egypt one of its top priorities after a major gas find in the Nile Delta last summer. It hopes to more than double its oil and gas production to over 320,000 barrels a day – almost a tenth of its global output.

Posted by: Morocco Bama | Feb 5 2011 15:48 utc | 11

Uncle $cam, if that report is true, this rebellion has no choice but to oust Suleiman and the top Army Brass, along with Mubarak. If they don't, the vengeance will be unbearably brutal. That cannot be stressed enough.

Posted by: Morocco Bama | Feb 5 2011 15:51 utc | 12

CNN is spreading same $#|+... the VP "meeting with the wise"
Headlines on front page right have a picture with youths in square like they are meeting with government officials, on the picture is this lead-in:

Opposition leaders met with Egypt's vice president today to discuss easing President Hosni Mubarak from power, the key demand of demonstrators.

Clicking on the picture links to full story.
Snip from full story:

Opposition leaders and intellectuals met with Egypt's vice president Saturday to discuss avenues for easing embattled President Hosni Mubarak from power, the number one demand of of tens of thousands of demonstrators.

Among the proposals under discussion is Article 139 of the constitution, which allows for the vice president to assume control if the president is no longer able.

At least one opposition group, the leftist Tagammu party, is asking the government to activate the article's powers so that Suleiman can take charge immediately and allow Mubarak to make a graceful exit.

A member of the self-declared Committee of the Wise, told CNN that Suleiman was willing to listen.

The group of independent elites -- intellectuals, artists, diplomats and businessmen -- wants to be at the table during crucial government transition talks.

They called on protests to continue at Tahrir Square every Tuesday and Friday until Mubarak "resigns and makes true the demands of the people."

Posted by: Rick | Feb 5 2011 16:01 utc | 13

Carnegie Endowment for International Peace - parent organization - headquarters in Washington DC

Carnegie Middle East Center - a branch, located in Beirut

The research director of the branch could well "participate in" something without having the authority to bring the full weight of the central organization behind it as a matter of policy

Let's be appropriately distrustful, but not overly so

It's conjugated:

I'm skeptical
You're suspicious
He/she/it is paranoid

Posted by: mistah charley, ph.d. | Feb 5 2011 16:04 utc | 14

mistah charley, ph.d. at @14

from USA today:

"... Update at 11:28 a.m. ET One member of a group of "wise men" who have met with Egypt's new vice president and prime minister says the officials do not support forcing President Hosni Mubarak from office, but "more likely" envision making Mubarak an honorary president. Under the arrangement, Mubarak would hand his presidential powers to Suleiman to reach political agreement with the opposition but would serve out his term until fall elections.

Amr Hamzawy, who is also with the Carnegie Middle East Center in Beirut, tells Al-Jazeera that his group of independent intellectuals, politicians, writers and diplomats met today with Suleiman and Ahmad Shafik. He says Mubarak has already given Suleiman "all needed presidential powers" to "manage a transition period."

Hamzawy says the "wise men" are not trying to negotiate a political settlement but are merely trying to work out a negotiating process by which the government and opposition leaders can find an agreement."


The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace (CEIP) is a private nonprofit organization founded in 1910. As Dr Inderjeet Parmar notes writing in 2000:

"The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace (CEIP) is one of the oldest foreign policy discussion and coordinating organizations in the United States. Formed in 1910, it has throughout its history been closely connected with the State Department, successive presidents, numerous private foreign affairs groups and the leaders of the main political parties. Although the Council on Foreign Relations is more generally acknowledged to have been at the heart of ‘the American [foreign policy] establishment’, Carnegie was also a highly significant organization in the critical period between 1939 and 1945.1 Indeed, it has enjoyed a thoroughly respectable status within the American élite for 90 years. Yet it remains an organization that has received little scholarly attention." (Parmar, 2000, p.35)

Amr Hamzawy, writing with regard to April 6, 2008 protests:

"... The current resurgence of protest activism constitutes the one promising development in Egyptian political life. But progress on the street needs to be complemented by real progress in the performance of organized opposition forces in the political process. Notwithstanding the fact that this progress is largely predicated on the regime's willingness to welcome the opposition's input, it is also dependent on the quality of the opposition. Only through active, disciplined, credible and committed participation in the political process can organized political forces in Egypt effectively advance the reform agenda and push for sensible and comprehensive policies that address the socioeconomic exigencies at hand."

Posted by: crone | Feb 6 2011 0:56 utc | 15

BBC: Egypt's most influential opposition group, the Muslim Brotherhood, says it will enter talks with officials on ending the country's political crisis.

Posted by: Rick | Feb 6 2011 1:26 utc | 16

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