Two Scenarios for the People and the Army in Egypt: Interview with Mohammed Ezzeldin

Mohammed Ezzeldin: We have two main scenarios now regarding the relation between the people and the army.  We have the Tunisian scenario.  There’s a division in the ruling elites, there is division in the regime, so the army will be neutral: the tanks and soldiers and officers in the streets, they are just maintaining the security of the people, they are securing the people from any brutality practiced by the police.  This is the first scenario, the Tunisian scenario.  The second scenario, which happened in Iran in [1978-]1979: when the Shah started to give orders to the army to involve themselves, to suppress demonstration against the Shah, and asked them to shoot the demonstrators, they did so.  But after a while there was a huge division and severe division inside the army.  And this moment, actually, it’s a turning point in any dictatorship when the army supporting the dictator or supporting the one ruling party suffers from a division.  We don’t know, we don’t have clear information about what’s going on in Egypt, how the events in coming days are going to unfold.  The chief of staff of the Egyptian army was here on a visit to the United States just one day before the demonstrations broke out.  And it seems, for many commentators and many people who analyze the situation, that there’s a sort of behind-the-scene negotiations between the Pentagon and the Egyptian army or the Egyptian ministry of defense.  One of the newspapers yesterday just published a piece of news about this, about these bilateral talks, because these people are very crucial and very cautious about what’s going to happen, because many people in Egypt, or the majority of the Egyptian people, understand that the army, having millions of dollars every year as an aid –.

Paul Jay: Yeah, we think it’s $1.3 billion of American aid, although do we know if that’s all goes to the military?  Or does some of that go to the police?

Mohammed Ezzeldin: Most of them go to the military, I guess.  But, you know, the budget of the military and the budget of the police are not discussed, and they are not publicly published or even discussed in the Parliament.  So I don’t have clear information about it.  But what I’m sure about: that these bilateral talks actually are going to ensure one thing that the United States and the Pentagon and the White House, of course, are interested in, which is the security of Israel.  The indecisive situations and positions taken by Hillary Clinton and President Obama in the last two days actually shows one thing, one clear thing, to be frank: that the United States is not interested in any democracy or grassroots democracy or program of democracy in Egypt.  Their main concern is the security of Israel — and other things, but this is their main concern, okay?

Paul Jay: The Egyptian army, given that it gets $1.3 billion a year — that’s a lot of money and it buys you a lot of generals — the Pentagon must have a lot of influence inside the Egyptian army.

Mohammed Ezzeldin: I don’t know, but maybe.  We can expect a lot of things.  But what actually was clear today from Mubarak’s speech: he’s completely consolidated and supported by the army.

Paul Jay: He didn’t look like someone afraid that he might have to get on a plane.

Mohammed Ezzeldin: Yeah, he was completely confident and completely unaffected and disconnected from reality.  What happened actually made many people feel in the streets that the army . . . might play a role in suppressing Egypt’s road to democratization.

Paul Jay: And if they do that, it’s hard to believe they would do that without some kind of green light from the Pentagon here in Washington.

Mohammed Ezzeldin: I guess so.  I believe so.

Mohammed Ezzeldin, a graduate of Cairo University (B.A. in political science), is studying for his master’s degree in history at Georgetown University.  This video was released by The Real News on 29 January 2011.  The text above is an edited partial transcript of the interview.

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