Convincing evidence suggests that Egypt’s President Mohammad Morsi was ousted from power in a military coup in part because the Egyptian army feared he was plotting to order them to invade Syria in support of the embattled death squad insurgency against the Assad government there.
The combination of Morsi’s aggressive designs against Syria, together with some trial balloons from presidential circles about a possible conflict with Ethiopia, plus the massive anti-Morsi demonstrations organized by the National Salvation Front and the Tamarod movement, convinced military leaders that the incompetent and erratic Morsi, who had destroyed his own popularity by selling out to the demands of the International Monetary Fund last November, represented an intolerable risk for Egypt.
According to the Washington Post, the dissatisfaction of the Egyptian military with Morsi “peaked in June, when Morsi stood by twice as officials around him called for Egyptian aggression against Ethiopia and Syria, threatening to suck Egypt into conflicts that it could ill afford, former military officials said.”
Morsi’s call for Holy War against Assad came just three days after US Secretary of State John Kerry, at a meeting of the Principals’ Committee of the US Government, tried to ram through an immediate bombing campaign against Damascus, but had to settle for the option of arming the Syrian terrorist opposition, leading many observers to conclude that the Egyptian president was acting as part of a US anti-Syrian strategy.
June 15: Morsi Breaks Diplomatic Relations with Damascus
The beginning of the end for Egypt’s first elected president came in mid-June, when he attended a militant Islamist conference “in support of the Syrian uprising” at a 20,000-seat indoor stadium in Cairo. As the packed hall chanted and applauded deliriously, Morsi announced: “We have decided to close down the Syrian Embassy in Cairo. The Egyptian envoy in Damascus will also be withdrawn. The people of Egypt and its army will not leave Syrians until their rights are granted and the new elected leadership is chosen.”
By thus breaking off diplomatic relations with another Arab state, Morsi was joining the dubious company of the NATO-backed puppet regimes in Libya and Tunisia, the only Arabs so far to have called home their envoys from Damascus. And for Cairo, such a move has far greater significance, given that Egypt and Syria were politically united between 1958 and 1961 in a single nation as the United Arab Republic, one of the fruits of President Nasser’s Pan-Arab Socialism.
Using the now familiar Moslem Brotherhood doubletalk, Morsi urged NATO to impose a no-fly zone over Syria – a measure which would entail a bombing campaign of many weeks, with inevitable heavy losses for the Syrian population. But Morsi them shifted his ground to condemn foreign interference in the Syrian conflict, declaiming that “Hezbollah must leave Syria; there is no place for Hezbollah in Syria.” Morsi was accompanied to the anti-Syria rally by his top political affairs and foreign policy advisers, one of them a leading Salafist.
In a crescendo of doubletalk, Morsi intoned: “The Egyptian people have stood by the Lebanese people and Hezbollah against the [Israeli] attack in 2006, and today we stand against Hezbollah for Syria.” According to the Jerusalem Post, he also asserted that Syria was the target of “a campaign of extermination and planned ethnic cleansing fed by regional and international states,” which the Israelis claimed was a veiled reference to Hezbollah and Iran.
Responding to the Cairo anti-Syrian rally, a Syrian government official told the news agency SANA that Morsi had joined the “conspiracy of incitement led by the United States and Israel against Syria by announcing the cutting of ties yesterday…. Syria is confident that this decision does not represent the will of the Egyptian people.” This official branded Morsi’s severing of diplomatic relations as “irresponsible… the Syrian Arab Republic condemns this irresponsible position.”
Sunni Extremists Declare Jihad against Syria, Morsi Silent
The Cairo crowd had been warmed up for Morsi by extremist Sunni preachers like Mohammed Hassan and Mohammed Abdel-Maqsoud (leader of the Islamic Legitimate Body of Rights and Reformation), who both ranted about the “necessity of declaring Jihad in Syria, in which Syrians and any capable Moslems shall take part.” There were also calls to Morsi to keep Shiites out of Egypt, on the basis that they are “unclean.” About 1% of Egypt’s population are Shiites, and about 10% are Coptic Christians.
According to the Irish Times, “at the June 15th rally, Sunni Muslim clerics used the word ‘infidels’ to denounce both the Shias fighting to protect Syrian president Bashar al-Assad and the non-Islamists that oppose Mr. Morsi at home. Mr. Morsi himself called for foreign intervention in Syria against Mr. Assad…”
On June 13, Morsi had attended a gathering of sectarians from across the Middle East labeling itself “The Position of the Nation’s Scholars on the Developments in Syria.” Here he had rubbed elbows with the fiery preacher Qaradawi, who regularly incites violence against Syria before an audience of some 60 million viewers worldwide on his program entitled “Shariah and Life,” broadcast on the Al Jazeera Arabic service from Qatar. One June 13 there was already much talk of jihad against Syria, which was obliquely endorsed by Morsi’s Presidential Coordinator for Foreign Affairs Khaled al-Qazzaz, who noted that the Egyptian government would not undertake any measures against Egyptian citizens who go to fight in Syria, since the right to travel is always open. It was practically a call for volunteers.
Egyptian Generals Warn Morsi: Army’s Task Is Defending Borders
Egyptian military leaders were deeply concerned about the inevitable radicalization of Islamist militants who might return from waging war against the Assad government in Syria. But they were most immediately alarmed by the idea that Morsi might try to deploy the considerable forces of the Egyptian army against Syria. They quickly distanced themselves from the reckless plan for aggression which the president had been toying with at the June 15 mass rally. As the Irish Timesreported, Morsi’s bellicose bluster lead to “a veiled rebuke from the army, which issued an apparently bland but sharp-edged statement the next day stressing that its only role was guarding Egypt’s borders.”
According to one anonymous military source reflecting the views of the Army staff quoted by the Irish Times, “the armed forces were very alarmed by the Syrian conferences at a time the state was going through a major political crisis.” Yasser El-Shimy, an analyst with the International Crisis Group, stressed that from the point of view of the Army, Morsi’s performance at the Syria rally had crossed “a national security red line” by prodding Egyptians to fight abroad, thus threatening to create a new generation of violent jihadists.
Morsi’s anti-Syrian turn was also a deeply unpopular among the top bureaucrats of the Egyptian government, many of whom had advised him not to go down this path, reported Al Ahram Online on June 16. According to this paper, some powerful bureaucrats saw the potential damage as “irreversible,” and viewed the breaking of diplomatic relations as “a decision made by the President against the advice of top bureaucratic aides….” This account also stressed that, by praising the mediation efforts of Saudi Arabia and Turkey, but by pointedly excluding Iran, Morsi was jettisoning the four power contact group he himself had proposed for a Syrian settlement at the nonaligned conference in Tehran last August. “This would simply mean that Egypt has decided that its relations with Tehran would have to be sacrificed in favor of winning the support of Washington, and maybe even Riyadh,” said one source quoted by Al Ahram.
Egypt’s Generals Fear “Devastating Sunni-Shiite War”
These developments were considered extremely ominous by top Egyptian civil servants. As Al Ahram wrote, “Egypt, according to concerned quarters in Egyptian bureaucracy, is now being driven to take part in a ‘devastating Sunni-Shiite war’ that could wreck the entire region. The concern is not just about Syria, but about the entire Arab Mashraq, including Lebanon and Iraq particularly. Al Ahram pointed to a possible additional venal motive for Morsi and his controllers in the Muslim Brotherhood: “Egypt has been trying to break the ice with Saudi Arabia for a few weeks now in the hope of soliciting desperately needed financial aid. Saudi Arabia has been adopting a strictly sectarian approach towards developments in Syria since the beginning of the uprising there, and all the more so since the entrance of Hezbollah into the war in Syria on the side of the Assad regime.”
In a country like present-day Egypt, a coup d’état should not be undertaken lightly. But one consideration which might justify such coup is the urgent need to prevent an erratic and incompetent ruler like Morsi from embroiling the country in a ruinous foreign war. To be able to respond to Morsi’s war talk in such a timely and decisive way, the Egyptian army must contain officers of exceptional intelligence and determination, gifted with that quality which Machiavelli called virtu and von Clausewitz called Entschloßenheit. (Since the firing of General Douglas MacArthur in 1951, this quality has been largely extinct from the US officer corps.) We may thus be justified in hoping that the great tradition of President Nasser is alive among Egyptian military and government leaders.
Leftists See Morsi as Cat’s Paw For US Against Syria
The leftist April 6 Movement (aka Democratic Front) suggested that Morsi was acting as a tool of the US campaign against Syria, saying in a statement that “The decision to open the doors of jihad is coming from Washington sponsored by … Salafist Sheikhs.” The anti-Morsi umbrella organization Tamarod added that “Morsi’s speech reveals that the Syria file has been handed over from Qatar to Saudi Arabia and Egypt and that Morsi is answering America’s instructions.”
The fateful rally attended by Morsi was backed by the Asala Party, a Salafist group, by a number of prominent Salafist preachers, by the Islamic Legitimate Body of Right and Reformation, and by the Guidance Bureau of the Muslim Brotherhood, meaning Morsi’s own controllers. Another sponsor was the Gama Islamiya movement.
As Morsi encountered more and more hostility from centrists and leftists, he attempted during the last phase to gain backing from Salafist and other doctrinaire and holier-than-thou forces to his right. This included the appointment of the “retired terrorist” al Khayat of Gama Islamiya as the governor of Luxor province, the site of the Valley of the Kings, the Temple of Karnak, and one of the greatest international tourist destinations. In 1997, a terrorist action had resulted in the deaths of almost seventy foreign tourists, who were killed deliberately as part of a campaign designed to discourage foreign infidels from coming into Egypt. Khayat was a member of the political arm of Gama Islamiya, and his appointment was hardly designed to encourage tourism.
Post-Qusayr Climate of Imperialist Desperation
Since the fall of the Syrian rebel stronghold of Qusayr on June 5, aggressive circles including Cameron and Hague of the British Tory regime, the Vichy socialists Hollande and Fabius, the Israelis, the US neocon faction, and Secretary Kerry have been pressing for immediate military action against Syria to save the international terrorist forces from as far away as Chechnya and Afghanistan who now face looming defeat. These efforts have included an attempted cold coup or palace coup by Kerry in the June 12 meeting of the White House Principals’ Committee, when his demand to start bombing Syria was blocked by a combination of military figures and Obama loyalists, including Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman General Martin Dempsey. For the aggressors, the essential problem is the refusal thus far by Obama to launch a large-scale bombing campaign with several hundred aircraft, followed in all likelihood of by an invasion requiring several armored and infantry divisions – resources which the United States simply cannot afford.
The aggressive forces have attempted to accuse the Syrian government of using chemical weapons. They have also supported the limited hangout around purported NSA leaker Edward Snowden, whose short-term effect has been to weaken Obama’s support from his own liberal base, as well as to undercut his ties to NATO Europe, making the White House more susceptible to Anglo-French pressure for war. Attempts have been made to goad Turkey into an attack on Syria, but the embattled Erdogan regime is now determined not to get out in front on this project.
With the failure of the anti-Syrian Egyptian gambit, London, Paris, Tel Aviv, the neocons, and Foggy Bottom must now be on the verge of total hysteria. These are the circumstances in which recourse to a new Gulf of Tonkin incident or a new false flag terror attack to be blamed on Syria, Hezbollah, and their allies becomes a clear and present danger.
Morsi Cronies Discuss Striking Ethiopia
Egyptian military is not anxious to undertake armed interventions abroad. One exception was Egypt’s participation in Operation Desert Shield and Operation Desert Storm. But since then, Egypt has declined US requests to send troops to fight in Afghanistan in 2001, and any Iraqi been 2003.
In the spring of this year, tensions rose between Egypt and Ethiopia when the government in Addis Ababa announced its intention to build a dam on the Blue Nile, prompting concerns by some in Egypt about future water supplies downstream. On June 2, with Morsi in attendance, Islamist politicians recklessly discussed how to sabotage the dam by funding Ethiopian rebel groups, followed by an attack by the Egyptian air force. Unknown to the participants, this incendiary discussion was broadcast on live television. Many were long to see that Morsi did not repudiate these proposals for naked aggression, but instead later commented that “all options are open.”