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'Egypt's Old Regime Still in Power'

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TEHRAN, April 9 (ICANA) – In Egypt, the old regime is still in power through the military junta, so it's not a revolution, political analyst Said Zulficar says.
Saturday, April 09, 2011 9:52:05 PM
'Egypt's Old Regime Still in Power'

He made remarks in an interview with Press TV.
Following is the transcript of the interview:

Q:Thank you for talking to Press TV. Regarding the events that are happening in your country today, would you say that the military council is really refraining from giving power to a civilian government? Is that the case?

Zulficar: Well of course this is the case. They have been in power now for over the past two months. They have only given concessions when there is popular pressure. And they give it drop by drop.

There has never been any open-minded decision on their part to allow a civilian government to take over. And, although there is a civilian government, the real power behind the throne is the military council.

Now, we must not forget that this military council (individuals) are all hand-picked generals who have been chosen and cleared both by President Mubarak in the past years, and they are also picked by the Americans, by the CIA. I'm sure that there is some form of nebulous collusion between these three parties to remain in power as long as possible and to have some sort of subservient civilian administration.

The popular pressure today is trying to undo this holy alliance.

Q: Why would it seem to many analysts that although the Egyptian army is a very well-respected organization in that country, it wants to jeopardize and taint its overall image by not giving in to the demand of the nation who wanted, from the very beginning, a civilian government and not a military one?

Zulficar: Let's not forget that this military council has been delegated power by President Mubarak and they did not carry out a popular revolution on the people's side. They were more or less appointed by Mubarak as he left power to go live in Sharm el-Shiekh. They were hand-picked.

So the job is to try to modify, moderate the popular surge. They're trying to save the goods. They are a representative of the old regime, the old power structure.

The president of the military council has been Mubarak's minister of defense for the past 21 years, General Tantawi. The other generals are all hand-picked. The younger officers have links with the popular movements, but the older officers, who are all highly privileged, have been, more or less, running the country together with Mubarak for the past 30 years, so they're not likely to give in easily.

It has to be constant popular pressure that will force them to make concessions.

Q: You're saying that the role has been one of mediation in trying to calm the situation, but the reality on the ground with Egypt's ruling military is that it is threatening immediate prosecution before a military tribunal for anyone seen participating in a planned protest. That is actually happening in Cairo today.

Zulficar: I think they are very worried that many of the younger officers, who have strong links and relationships with the people, will be participating in this demonstration.

Many of the younger officers have said that they would take off their uniforms today and join the popular protests. Now, we don't know if this will happen because they will be in civilian clothes. But they have threatened for the past three or four days that they would join the Youth Movement.

Q: Does that speak of a chasm in the military?

Zulficar: If the insurrection, the popular revolt was more or less peaceful in the month of February, when they were just about to be overthrown by Mubarak's party, it's because the younger officers who had received orders to shoot the demonstrators refused to do so. This was when the top brass decided that President Mubarak was a liability. He's given them orders to shoot. The younger officers and troops refused. This is why they have to start giving in, but they are giving in little by little.

Q: In regards to the other issue, of course, the Supreme Council is being accused of leading a counter revolution, and this is not what any Egyptian wants to see as the role of their military council. What would you say?

Zulficar: Well, we have no proof that they are doing so, but the facts on the ground do show that they are reluctant to put in any serious reforms that would displace them from the power that they have.

So, I doubt that, for the time being, there's any real collusion between them, and the former party of the National Democratic Party -- which was Mubarak's party. And, they've just arrested one of the leaders last night. But this is to placate today's movement. That's General [Zakariya] Azmi, who was Mubarak's chief of staff, he was finally arrested yesterday. He was one of the principal culprits in the whole crackdown on the people's movement at the beginning of the revolt. But they only arrested him, I suspect, in order to placate today's movement.

So, there is a form of underground collusion between them and Mubarak's old party chiefs. But, little by little, as they see that the whole population is more or less united to get rid of this gang, they will have to give in. But it's going to be a long struggle.

Q: From the reports that were getting in from Cairo, at least during the past couple of weeks that the Friday protests were going on, our hearing was that they were mostly peaceful. Why is it that the government and the military rulers want to come down hard on something that is going on peacefully?

Zulficar: Well, I don't think they will come down hard because they have seen that the vast majority of the population is on the side of the Youth Movement. I don't think that they will dare to do so in so far as the younger officers and the troops, who are all doing national service -- these are young kids between 18, 19-year-old boys who are doing their military service for 3 years -- they will not fire onto the population. So, I'm pretty sure that there will not be any violence.

Q: So, it should mean something to the military rulers, this large number of people out there on the streets, what does it exactly mean to them? Does that mean that they have to expedite the situation towards a civilian council or not?

Zulficar: They will do it with great reluctance and only if they are forced to. They do not want to give power to the civilians.

For the time being, they are all talking about having elections in September, but in these elections the opposition party is, not in the least bit, prepared or has sufficient ground-work done to present themselves in September elections, so there will be like a foregone conclusion.

The only people who are really organized are the former National Democratic Party, Mubarak's party, who has about 2 million members throughout the country -- these are mostly civil servants, not ideologically involved -- they would have every interest in getting a majority in parliament; and, of course, the Muslim Brotherhood which is also organized but has said that they would only dispute about one-third of the seats. So they would not want the majority at this stage.

But what we are all afraid of is that the other opposition party, and especially the Youth Movement, who has been slowly marginalized by the military, would not be in a position to present a candidate or have a strong program that would be acceptable to the population. Let's not forget that 50% of the population is illiterate and do not understand what is happening -- the people in the countryside, the poor areas, they are quite outside it. They have not been involved so much in this popular movement.

Q: You've said that one reason behind the government's lack of interest in transferring the power to a civilian government was perhaps an issue of finding some sort of a subservient government that, on the surface, may seem to people civilian and, at the same time, subservient to military rulers. Do you have a candidate, a person, or a group in mind that the military council is working on?

Zulficar: We do not yet, but we suspect it would be Amr Moussa, the former Minister of Foreign Affairs and the present Secretary General of the Arab League. We suppose that he is, for the time being, the preferred candidate for the presidency.

But he is also a man who has made his whole career in the regime. Although, he did separate himself somewhat in the past five years when he left the Foreign Ministry to become Secretary General of the Arab League, he seems to be the person that they identify as a possible president. And, I suspect that the Americans have also given the green light for Amr Moussa's candidacy.

Q: Would you say that he would be a good candidate to head a subservient government, Amr Moussa?

Zulficar: Well, certainly for the military he would be. I don't think that for the country we would want a subservient government. We want a civilian government that takes in hand the country's problems.

Now, the military are more concerned about their state within a state in preserving widespread privileges. The top brass of the army have tremendous privileges in this country and they don't want to lose it.

And, I'm sure that the United States administration and, behind the scenes, the Israelis as well, have a very serious interest in maintaining these people in power. They identify from the Mubarak regime and have obviously been cleared with the American administration and with the Israelis.

Q: Now that you mentioned former President Hosni Mubarak I'm going to ask you, first, where is he? And, do you think he is being covered by some party, group, or, perhaps, the military itself, in Egypt? What would you say?

Zulficar: Well, he is in Sharm al-Shiekh, in the Sinai. It's an artificial city which has been built on the seashore resort not far from the Israeli frontier. It's in southern Sinai.

That's where he is, he has a lavish villa there. And the Republican guards are still trying to keep people out trying to penetrate. He's well-defended. Let's not forget that the head of the military council is a personal friend of his. This is General Tantawi.

So, he is being protected and I doubt very much, although this is one of the demands of the Youth Movement, is that he should be tried. I doubt very much that he will be tried, that he will face a tribunal.

His health is not good. He's 83, and they will probably just allow him to remain there. I don't think he will be bothered, personally.

Q: I'm sure you know this better than I, but it's interesting that you made that comment...we're getting reports that Ibrahim Suleiman, the former Housing Minister, he's been placed under house arrest. Another report of Hamdi Rasekh, a businessman who is one of Mubarak's brother-in-laws, he has also been issued for an arrest warrant. Not to mention Jamal Mubarak who has been invited to the justice ministry for a questioning session on Sunday.

What makes you think that Mubarak himself will not be called to a trial, at least, in the near future?

Zulficar: Well, this is just a hunch. I don't think that the president of the military council, or all those who are appointed by him and owe their entire career to this man, will at this stage bite the hand that fed them.

Let's not forget the judges who will be questioning Mubarak are all judges who have been appointed from the Mubarak regime. Even though they may be honest, independent, they are people who have survived throughout this regime and profited from it.

Everyone talks about revolution, but it's not a revolution. The old regime is, more or less, still in power through the top brass of the military. They are trying to have cosmetic changes which are being imposed on them by the popular movements, by the persistence of these huge rallies in Tahrir Square which really frightens them because they thought people would get tired, but they found out that people are not getting tired. They are getting tired of having the same old faces still in power.

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