General Abdel Fattah el-Sisi has said he will no longer “restrain” his forces from confronting “attackers who want to destroy Egypt”. He is acting with an iron fist because he knows the US military aid on which his army depend isn’t yet in danger despite the strong condemnation Obama expressed on the crackdowns and clashes with demonstrators that killed over 1,000 people last week. And that is because of the strategic relevance his army has for Israel’s security.
“Our self-restraint will not continue. We will not accept any more attacks. We will meet with full force,” el-Sisi warned. This said after the way the security forces confronted the protesters with live ammunition and the high death toll, only can mean more violence.
The EU announced it will review its relations with Egypt because of the violent way the new government is dealing with the situation. The US did not decide yet what to do except to cancel a joint military exercise, as president Obama announced several days ago. Now the US administration is thinking in cutting some economic assistance to the Egyptian government hurting civilian projects but leaving intact the big military aid on which the generals depend, the New York Times reports.
The military aid was key for the 1979 peace treaty between Egypt and Israel. It seems that Israel is lobbying to keep it in the new circumstances despite the US law prohibits such aids when a military coup takes place.
Under US law, most aid must stop to “any country whose duly elected head of government is deposed by military coup d’etat or decree” or toppled in “a coup d’etat or decree in which the military plays a decisive role”.
This is why the US administration never called what happened in Egypt a take over or a coup. Secretary of State John Kerry said it was a step by the military to “restore democracy” listening to the call of millions of citizens in demonstrations asking for the ousting of the elected president Mohamed Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood.
But since then the violence has escalated with more than 1,000 pro-Morsi demonstrators killed in clashes with the security forces, clashes between civilians, attacks against official buildings and christian churches, and other violent incidents. The situation is so chaotic that on Sunday there were reports of dozens of demonstrators killed in custody when they were trying to escape.
The violence also escalated in the Sinai peninsula where the Egyptian soldiers and police officers guard the border with Gaza and Israel. This morning at least 24 police officers died in an ambush near Rafah on the border with the Gaza Strip. The border was immediately closed.
General el-Sisi warning to use “full force” means the violence will continue until he controls the situation and what the EU thinks doesn’t count (which is not a surprise). The problem will be what will happen next if he finally controls the situation. Restore democracy or focus on keep security by force with another “temporary” authoritarian regime? And what if all goes out of control? Too many questions open in the middle of this chaos.