The rising disorder in Egypt under the provisional military government is causing growing consternation in the White House National Security Council in Washington.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s sources in Washington complain that first, the US had to adjust to transitional military rulers who in the second half of April, announced that all they wanted was to ride out the next six months and then quit politics, hand over to whoever won the elections in six months time and return to their command posts. (See DEBKA-Net-Weekly 491 of April 29)
Now, US intelligence reports that, even in the months remaining, the Supreme Military Council is unwilling to make a modicum of effort to ensure orderly transition to elected government. Politics, like Egyptian streets, has become an arena for free-for-alls. Any political, security and criminal element with the means and the numbers would be able to make a grab for power at any time. The generals just stand by and watch. Events have veered out of control to the extent that the Obama administration has no idea which force will be on top in the months ahead and with whom it will have to deal.
The situation is described as "frightening" in some intelligence quarters. Washington is advised to steel itself for an anti-American coup in Cairo. This would be disastrous for President Barack Obama, who threw all his prestige behind Hosni Mubarak's removal from the presidency and Egypt's transition to democracy.
The generals don't lift a finger as order breaks down in Cairo
In the speech he delivered Thursday, May 19, Obama held up the revolutions in Egypt and Tunisia as one of America's proudest successes in the process of transforming the Middle East.
In referring to Libya, he said time was against Muammar Qaddafi but regime change could not be imposed by force – meaning that all NATO's efforts to remove him had failed.
And in Syria, even after the Obama administration finally clamped down sanctions on Syrian President Bashar Assad and six of his top regime officials for shooting protesters, brutal government repression continues unabated.
All this raises hard questions about the practicalities of Barack Obama's Middle East vision
While in his speech, he stressed the importance of protecting Christian Copts' freedom of worship in Egypt, DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s military and intelligence sources reported that the Egyptian army did not intervene to stop the violent clashes between Muslims and Copts on May 7 in Cairo's poor Imbaba neighborhood, one of the most densely populated sections of the capital. Twelve people were killed and more than 180 injured as
Egyptian officers and soldiers present at the scene stood aside and left it to Muslim Brotherhood ringleaders to decide when to stop the disturbances. Only when they received an order from Brotherhood headquarters, did they step in to control the violence.
Muslim Brotherhood ignores the military rulers, rules the street
The same course of events followed a week later when Nakba Day demonstrations in Cairo and Sinai left 350 Egyptians injured in May 15. The Egyptian military rulers issued a statement prohibiting the movement of pro-Palestinian demonstrators from Cairo and other major Egyptian cities to Sinai and the Egypt-Gaza border. Boosted military strength was said to have blocked their passage across and under the Suez Canal.
But Western intelligence agents investigating the truth of this claim discovered that 5,000 protesters had been allowed to pass through the army checkpoints and reach El Arish in Sinai, on the instructions of the Muslim Brotherhood.
Rather than admitting to defying the Supreme Military Council, the Brotherhood shifted the focus of its pro-Palestinian solidarity rallies from Sinai to the Israeli embassy in Cairo.
So on Monday, May 16 at 02:00 a.m., after hours of rioting and flying Molotov cocktails, several hundred demonstrators, unimpeded by the soldiers on the spot, burst into the embassy building and were heading for the elevators to reach the offices when – just as in the case of the anti-Copt violence – they were suddenly ordered by their masters to withdraw and evacuate the building.
The only shots the soldiers fired were in self-defense.