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Egypt: a state within a state

January 23, 2014 at 7:26 am

As the military swept back into the public spotlight to overthrow Morsi last Wednesday, I’m sure Hosni Mubarak was rubbing his hands together with glee. After all, he’d long been telling his country that the Islamists were trouble makers and deserved nothing more than to languish in a prison cell.

They may have sacrificed their former leader, but the remnants of the deep state – which Mubarak was president of for 30 years – are still everywhere. For years they have been propped up by the army and the judiciary, a fact illustrated neatly when the military appointed Adly Mansour as interim President.

Deputy head of the constitutional court since 1992, it was Mansour who was in charge of constitutional hearings that wiped out a law banning members of Mubarak’s regime from running in presidential elections. Suddenly, the once excluded Mubarak-era Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq was reinstated as an official candidate.

Then, the Cairo Criminal Court acquitted four police officers accused of killing protestors on “Friday of Anger” during the first revolution. Later, 24 regime loyalists were acquitted for charging protestors on horses and camels on the grounds that evidence against them was unreliable and weak.

To put it mildly, during his presidency the relationship between Morsi and the judiciary was hostile. Whilst Morsi proposed lowering the retirement age, which would have removed about 3,000 judges, they ruled that the parliament should be dissolved on the grounds that the election law was dubious.

And whilst Morsi insisted that the judiciary was full of Mubarak devotees appointed by the former President who were blocking his progress, the court accused him of trying to Brotherhoodise the judiciary and place them close to him, in the plum positions, to safeguard his own agenda. 

The more public arm of the deep state is the military. One of the largest armed forces in the world, certainly the biggest in Africa, they are in charge of a huge chunk of the Egyptian economy. They own their own extravagant clubs, hospitals, businesses and private jets and are responsible for keeping thousands of Egyptian’s employed.

Since the seventies the army have received funding from the US. Their $1.5 billion financial package secures US access to the Suez Canal, guarantees that the country will honour the Israel-Egypt peace treaty and encourages democracy in the country. 

There has been much debate over the past few days over whether the Obama administration will pull the plug on this funding in light of the military coup which ousted Morsi. It seems unlikely. Withdrawing the package has often been used as a threat, but not followed through on.

In 2012, scared of a hostile Islamist Morsi, Congress told Egypt that they would only get given their aid if the Israel pact was respected. When 43 foreign NGO employees were put on trial by the military in 2012, the US still happily transferred the money.

Earlier this week three rich, Western backed monarchies from the Gulf threw a combined $12 billion worth of funds into the mix, congratulating the new Egyptian government on their victory. It seems nothing is above regional interests.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.