Cracking Down on Business-As-Usual

This came recently out of left field, or specifically from the Czech on-line news agency Aktuálně.cz. It might foreshadow something big; or it could mean nothing.

“Egypt accuses Obama and European politicians of espionage. Investigation is said already to have begun.”

“Espionage”? How so? The piece continues:

. . . they are said to have commissioned agents to inform them on the political situation in Egypt ahead of the presidential election. The spies were supposedly to deliver information to secret services in Germany, USA [sic], Israel and Britain.

I can tell you already: these accusations are true! These “agents” have already been in place for a long time. For one thing, they can easily be found at any of the embassies of the countries named. Far from simply making available a local official country representative (“ambassador”) to call when needed, such diplomatic offices routinely see it as their additional mission to gather information about the host country for the benefit of their governments back home – and one would think that Egypt’s presidential election, due to be held on the 26th and 27th of this month, is naturally of prime interest.

Further, these embassy and consulates also inevitably work to further the operations of true spies – some of them operating under the cover of being diplomatic personnel at the embassy – as they go about trying to procure information of the type that the host government would really prefer not to have known. Often such activities are discovered by the hosting country and the operatives revealed – but that doesn’t mean that that country’s law enforcement authorities proceed to indict the leader of the country that sent them. Even between superpowers, even at the height of the Cold War, such agents (especially if they had diplomatic status) would simply be declared persona non grata and expelled; it was the native citizens providing the secret information who were put on trial.

This development comes at a particularly awkward time in Egyptian-American relations – that is, if the Obama administration will even deign to take notice of it. You can be sure they will try not to, as that administration is busy trying to revive massive US military aid to Egypt – seen by many as having more to do with back-door corporate welfare to US arms manufacturers – in the form of a $650 million attack helicopter sale. But Vermont Senator Patrick J. Leahy, head of the Senate committee on foreign aid, no less, has blocked that sale, citing the country’s “appalling abuse of the justice system” in the form of the recent sentencing to death of 900+ prisoners allegedly associated in some way with the Muslim Brotherhood.

You Blockheads!

Beyond that, though, in my view this news from Egypt reflects what – to coin a word – you could call that country’s evident “blockhead-ization.” Put simply, it is becoming a stupid, reactionary place, unfortunately even worse than what was overthrown when Mubarak was booted from power in February of 2011. This had already been evident for a while, for example in the prosecution of Western NGOs (including jailings of personnel) who were just there trying to help make Egypt a better place. Elections there – such as the recent constitutional referendum – are a sham; there is clearly an effort underway to build a cult of personality around Field Marshall al-Sisi ahead of his inevitable triumph (by hook or by crook) in the balloting later this month.

Meanwhile, that same Al-Sisi asserts that his election as president will mean no more Muslim Brotherhood in the country, as if he thinks he can wipe out a political and religious movement with such wide popular support – and with decades of experience in existing underground. As Senator Leahy noted in connection with the mass-produced death sentences, this is a “dictatorship run amok.”

And is it the ultimate result of Tahrir Square, after three years? That prospect must be profoundly disillusioning for those who still believe in human progress – or else there is much more of the Egyptian story to come.

(And then we read reports – via Prof. Juan Cole – that Egypt intends to invest $1 billion into solar energy . . . I know, I know! It would be tempting to claim that Egypt probably simply doesn’t have that $1 billion available, yet the article also mentions 750 MW of wind energy already under development there. Er . . . “you blockhead windbag,” anyone?)

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