Horror in Egypt: A Bloody End to the Arab Spring
Policy + Politics

Horror in Egypt: A Bloody End to the Arab Spring


Cairo is in a state of emergency as Egypt turns into a war zone and spirals out of control.  Many fear that the horrific violence over the ousting of Islamist president, Mohamed Morsi, could spill into other vulnerable areas of the Middle East, including Libya. Egypt’s military leadership has taken over the country by appointing 19 generals as provincial governors throughout the country.

For many, this move is a replay of former president Hosni Mubarak’s authoritarian regime—not exactly the birth of a new democracy as was once celebrated.

Secretary of State John Kerry condemned the violence in Egypt Wednesday that left 235 members of the Muslim Brotherhood dead and injured thousands of others.

"Today's events are deplorable and they run counter to Egyptian aspirations for peace, inclusion and genuine democracy," Kerry said. "Egyptians inside and outside the government need to take a step back, they need to calm the situation and avoid further loss of life."

He said the United States was prepared to facilitate talks among the military, which is now firmly in control of the government, secularists and the Muslim Brotherhood. But according to Robert Springborg, a Egypt military expert and a professor of National Security Affairs School of International Graduate Studies in Monterey, no one at State is sure what is coming next, let alone how to propose a viable solution.

"I have no idea," Springborg said a Washington hotel room. "I spent much of the day at the State Department to see if anyone had a crystal ball, but all of the balls were broken."


Washington’s inability to impact events in Egypt has been evident for weeks, and Kerry refusal to blame the violence on the military was puzzling. President Obama and his administration have made little progress creating a platform for talks between the three sides. Republican Sens. John McCain’s (AZ) and Lindsey Graham’s (SC) attempt to persuade the military to release democratically elected President Mohamed Morsi was a failure: he remains in custody with no signs he will be released by the military.

The 19 security officials who have been appointed provincial governors by Gen. Abdul-Fattah el-Sisi, the man who has taken power in Egypt, is the same tactic used by Mubarak to keep his stranglehold on power. And Mohamed ElBaradei, the one Egyptian politician with deep ties to the West, quit when the military raided the protest encampments.


Now, the U.S. has little leverage to force peace. It could cut off the $1.5 billion in aid to Egypt, money that largely goes to the military But the United States has, so far, refused to call it a coup, which would trip the 1961 Foreign Assistance Act. That law says the U.S. must cut aid to any country “whose duly elected head of government is deposed by military coup or decree.”

“The Egyptian military comes here to get trained," said Tamir Sakkary, an Egyptian who is an adjunct professor of political science at American River College. "These weapons they’re using are often supplied by US weapons companies. Sisi himself came here, was trained here, he studied here. There is that pressure."


“The security forces are essentially Mubarak’s security forces. The police and the military apparatus are the same,” he added. “Those folks have an axe to grind against the Muslim Brotherhood.”

But even if the United States is able to open negotiations, Egypt’s democratic dream is dead. Two years following the advent of the Arab Spring, it’s now clear that hopes of democratic reform across the Middle East were misplaced. Countries like Libya and Tunisia remain unstable and could still fall into the hands of Islamists. Egypt is in danger of becoming a military dictatorship. Quite simply, the West got the Arab Spring wrong.

“The only hope is to bring in the secularists,” said Christian Whiton, a former State Department senior adviser under George W. Bush. “It’s completely unproven that by involving Islamists in democracy will turn an Islamist into a democrat.”