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Is Egyptian President Sisi’s regime in danger?

By Yoni Ben Menachem
web posted September 30, 2019

Demonstrations in Egypt on September 20, 2019, should be a warning sign for President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi. The call to demonstrate came from wealthy Egyptian building contractor Mohamed Ali, in self-imposed exile in Spain, who accused the president, his wife, and senior officials in the Egyptian administration of corruption. In Egypt, many say that Ali is a simple contractor, but the power behind the incitement of the Egyptian public is the Muslim Brotherhood.

The Fake News Method

The Muslim Brotherhood partly succeeded in organizing street demonstrations against President Sisi’s regime through media channels in Qatar and Turkey. These have been drawn into assisting the Brotherhood because of their own hatred of Egypt’s leadership.

Fake News: A picture published in Albawaba of “Egyptian protesters shout slogans in a protest calling for the removal of President al-Sisi in Cairo’s downtown on September 20, 2019.?
Fake News: A picture published in Albawaba of “Egyptian protesters shout slogans in a protest
calling for the removal of President al-Sisi in Cairo’s downtown on September 20, 2019.”

Compare the picture above to the real pictures of Cairo’s Tahrir Square in 2011.

Tahrir protests

The TV channel Mekamleen, which is affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood and broadcasts from Turkey, tried to provoke the Egyptian street into demonstrating against the president, as did Al-Jazeera, which broadcasts from Doha, capital of Qatar.

The fact that the Egyptian public broke through the “fear barrier” and a six-year ban on demonstrations to protest in city squares is considered an achievement for the Brotherhood.

Egyptian newspaper AI-Youm al-Sabea, which is considered as the mouthpiece of the government, reported on September 21, 2019, that the Muslim Brotherhood acted fraudulently on social media to incite the public by posting videos of demonstrations in 2011.

A rumor also spread on Muslim Brotherhood social media sites that a young man was shot and killed by the Egyptian security forces in Alexandria. The claim was meant to incite the public to go out and demonstrate.

According to the report, the Muslim Brotherhood spent huge sums of money on teams to spread fake news on social media during the week leading up to the September demonstrations.

It is clear that there were demonstrations against President Sisi’s government in Cairo, Alexandria, and several outlying cities. However, these demonstrations were much smaller than indicated in the information posted by the Muslim Brotherhood, who claimed that they involved hundreds of thousands of people.

Who’s Leading the Demonstrators?

President Sisi should be most concerned by the fact that the Muslim Brotherhood has come back to life. It has succeeded in bringing demonstrators out to the city squares, particularly to Tahrir Square in Cairo, where the demonstrations that led to the fall of the regime of President Hosni Mubarak began.

What this means is that Egypt’s security apparatus failed to quash the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. They eliminated the senior and middle ranks of the movement. Many of its leaders were arrested and brought to justice, and some of them sentenced to death. Others fled to Qatar and Turkey, where they sought political asylum.

It is apparent that a new cadre of the Muslim Brotherhood is inciting the public against the regime in coordination with those of its leaders who are currently in Egyptian jails and Turkey and Qatar.

Sources in Egypt also claim that opponents of President Sisi within the army are also cooperating with calls to demonstrate.

The Qatari site Al-Khaleej on Line published a report on September 21, 2019, about a new group called “the Egyptian Officers’ Front.” This group is tied to Gen. Sami Anan, a former Egyptian chief of staff currently serving a 10-year prison sentence in Egypt. He was involved in attempts to push the masses to demonstrate in the streets to bring down the government of President Sisi.

This group opened a Facebook page on which it called for demonstrations against the Egyptian president. The group named Mahmoud Raafat, an associate of Gen. Sami Anan, as its spokesman.

Although the group claims to represent high-ranking senior officers in the Egyptian army, the Egyptian authorities reckon that the Muslim Brotherhood stands behind it.

Military Support for Sisi

President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi enjoys the support of the Egyptian army, which guarantees his continued rule over Egypt.

However, opposition sources in Egypt report that support for President Sisi among the regime’s security forces is eroding and the continuing arrest of demonstrators will only exacerbate the situation as the public loses confidence in the regime.

The economic situation under President Sisi is worsening. Egypt’s foreign debt has grown, and there is increasing corruption among the president and members of his regime.

The repression of political parties in Egypt has created a vacuum into which Egyptian contractor Mohamed Ali has entered. He has managed to incite the public against the regime, using his cellular phone and videos.

Human rights organizations around the world claim that the president’s iron-fisted policy has created a serious human rights crisis. Even President Trump referred to President Sisi at the G-7 Conference as “my favorite dictator.”

President Sisi has managed to create a positive relationship with Israel, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates, which has benefited the Egyptian economy. He also supports the Palestinian political figure Mohammed Dahlan, who today serves as an adviser to the ruler of Abu Dhabi.  Sisi sees him as the successor to PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas. Dahlan is considered to be the sworn enemy of the Muslim Brotherhood.

President Sisi’s position in the region is firm, but the latest development with the Muslim Brotherhood is worrisome. In spite of the relatively small turnout at the demonstrations, President Sisi should be wary of the flashing red lights. He should deal with this phenomenon soon before the demonstrations are expected to start again in central cities in Egypt and possibly pick up steam. ESR

Yoni Ben Menachem, a veteran Arab affairs and diplomatic commentator for Israel Radio and Television, is a senior Middle East analyst for the Jerusalem Center. He served as Director General and Chief Editor of the Israel Broadcasting Authority.

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