In my opinion, the most important causal factor that explains Egypt’s slide back to dictatorship under Sisi is that of the military. Ever since Morsi won the presidency, the military wanted to regain the power which they had found in the interim period between Mubarak and Morsi. While I feel that this was the most important causal factor for Egypt’s slide back into military dictatorship, I certainly do not think that it was the only one. As mentioned in both the Vice videos and Stacher’s chapter on Egypt, even during his short rule Morsi was dooming the economy (Vice 2013, Stacher 2017). In addition, both Vice and Stacher mention that Morsi was stoking sectarian tensions, trying to claim that certain Muslims were “real Muslims” and that others were not (Vice 2013, Stacher 2017). Yet another causal factor mentioned by both Vice and Stacher was the fear of many Egyptians that Morsi was trying to seize too much power, ordering the Muslim Brotherhood to crack down on protests and possibly trying to “Brotherize” Egypt (Vice 2013, Stacher 2017). However, I believe that the military’s desire to regain power is the most important causal factor of all. For example, although the military claimed to have gathered 22,000,000 signatures from citizens in favor of overthrowing Morsi, “these documents have never been seen or verified” (Stacher, 2017). It is absolutely true that many Egyptian citizens wanted the military to overthrow Morsi, but an act such as this could potentially be an example of the military hyperbolizing this sentiment in order to regain power. The Vice videos also explain that it is suspected that the military organized the anti-Morsi protest which led to his June 30th, 2012 overthrow, as it was armed and guarding the anti-Morsi crowd but not the pro-Morsi/ Muslim Brotherhood crowd (Vice, 2013).
To view my infographic, please click on the following PDF link (the website I used wouldn’t let me download my infographic without buying a membership, so I had to screen-shot it and convert it into PDF format): Mukhabarat
In creating this infographic, I learned much about Mukhabarat, and how it was used in Iraq under Saddam Hussein in order to safeguard his complete and total authoritarian control of the state. To be clear, many of the agencies of Mukhabarat still exist today, but al-Marashi’s article focuses specifically on Saddam’s rule (as it was written in 2002). Mukhabarat was Iraq’s security apparatus under Saddam, and it consisted of five main agencies: General Security, Military Intelligence, Special Security, Military Security, and General Intelligence. These separate yet overlapping agencies, as well as the Ba’ath party and select units of the military, all worked to ensure the safety of Saddam. In addition, they ensured that “every aspect of Iraqi life” was under Saddam’s complete control (al-Marashi, 2002). General Security monitored the Iraqi people day-to-day, making sure to keep everyone constantly under their watch (and in a very public way). Military Intelligence worked to gather information on the military and to ensure that the members of the military remained loyal to Saddam. Military Security also focused on the loyalty of the armed forces. Special Security suppressed all domestic opposition to the regime. Finally, General Intelligence infiltrated anti-regime organizations. One example of such an anti-regime organization is the Iraqi National Accord, based in Jordan (al-Marashi, 2002). Although these agencies had largely overlapping jurisdictions, they rarely shared information or worked together. This tactic promoted competition between the different agencies. It also prevented any one agency from gaining enough power to revolt against Saddam. Within each agency itself was an additional security unit which monitored the members of that agency to ensure their complete loyalty to the regime. All of this information was reported directly to the Presidential Palace, with no middle man in the agency passing it along. Collectively, these agencies collected and analyzed extensive data on countless “enemies of the state”, many of whom were Iraqi citizens (al-Marashi, 2002). All of these agencies, the Ba’ath party and the select units of the military worked to keep tabs on everyone (including themselves), to keep fear running rampant, and to keep Saddam completely safe and in absolute control of Iraq at all times.
Unfortunately, I most definitely think that this form of authoritarian control applies beyond Iraq. Syria is a prime example. In the 1950s, Syria had 5,000 non-military security forces, including a “National Gendarmérie of 2,800, a Desert Patrol of 400 and 1800 police” officers (Pike). Thus, this Mukhabarat style of authoritarianism is most certainly not confined to Iraq.
al-Mashari, Ibrahim. “Iraq’s Security and Intelligence Network; A Guide and Analysis.” Rubin Center, 1 Sept. 2002, www.rubincenter.org. http://www.rubincenter.org/2002/09/al-marashi-2002-09-01/.
Pike, John. “Intelligence.” Syria Intelligence and Security Agencies, http://www.globalsecurity.org/intell/world/syria/intro.htm.
In studying the effects of colonialism on the Middle East, I learned that part of the reason why many Middle Eastern countries are so impoverished today is due to the fact that their former colonizers (namely, Britain and France) did not prioritize their economic development at all (Yom, 2017). Instead, they were primarily concerned with the security of the Arab states. The Europeans needed to insure that the states would be reliable sources of profit for them to exploit, but they felt no responsibility to care for the people within. Over time, this resulted in an extremely wealthy and select elite class who owned almost all of the rural land in the region (Yom, 2017). The Europeans also made a habit of installing foreign or minority rulers in different Middle Eastern states, in order to “create regional dependencies” to justify their intervention (Ali, 2016). They altered local politics by favoring certain families, giving them recognition and boosting their power in the process (Yom, 2017). Amid this Western imperialism arose strong senses of nationalism in many people in the Middle East. Two specific types of nationalism during this time included qawmiyya (ethnic nationalism) and wataniya (territorial nationalism) (Ali, 2016). The threat of conquest by Western nations cause some Middle Eastern people to embrace more “radical elements of their national identities” (Ali, 2016). Britain and France were able to take power over the Middle East via the 1916 Sykes-Picot treaty, which was signed during World War I. The treaty (which also included the Russian Empire) split parts of the former Ottoman Empire among British and French control. The effects of the European colonization of the Middle East can still be seen today. One of the most notable effects is that of the very strong and very well-financed militaries of some Middle Eastern countries who otherwise do not have much infrastructure, health care, clean water, etc. As previously mentioned, the Western nations prioritized security in their Middle Eastern colonies. Once these colonies gained independence, their leaders were typically strongmen favored by their former colonizers. Due to their previous experience as colonized people, these men knew only how to build militaries and social control, and knew nothing about how to build a country’s infrastructure (Yom, 2017). An example of such a country today is Syria. Syria has been in a state of civil war since 2011. Since then, jihadists and “mainstream rebels” have taken much land from the government (“Syria War”, 2018). However, on May 21st, 2018, the Syrian army took full control of Damascus for the first time in six years. They have also cleared ISIS militants from the “Yarmouk Palestinian refugee camp and the al-Aswad district” (“Syria War, 2018). This shows that despite Syria’s desperate state of civil war, their military remains a strong force. This can be largely traced back to Syria’s time as a French colony.
All of my sources can be found in the “Works Cited” section of the infographic above. Additionally, I have included the link to and citation of the BBC news story which I reference below:
“Syria War: Army Takes Full Control of Damascus after Ousting IS.” BBC News, BBC, 21 May 2018, http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-44198304.
Hello! My name is Jacquelyn Hooper, and I am a Junior. I am majoring in Political Science and Spanish and minoring in Philosophy, and I am also pre-law. I don’t know much about the Middle East so far, other than the stories my mom and grandma have told me. My grandma is from Lebanon and is fully Lebanese, my mom is half Lebanese and I am 1/4 Lebanese. We sometimes get together with our relatives and have traditional meals, featuring dishes such as kibbeh, kafta, rice pilaf, tabbouleh, sfeeha, etc. I have also gone with my grandma to Arabic mass at Our Lady of Lebanon in the past. My goals for learning in this course over the next month include generally familiarizing myself with the cultures, religions, histories and politics of the various countries of the Middle East.