Has a Military Coup Already Taken Place in Egypt?

An interpretation of the events in Egypt.

That’s the interpretation I’d put on this article at AlJazeera.net by Paul Amar, a professor of Global & International Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara. In the article he describes the various different “moving parts” in Egypt including bands of thugs paid by the government (baltagiya), the police (actually the Central Security Services, Amn al-Markazi), the military, the intelligence service, and the “Egyptian internationalists” like Muhammad ElBaradei.

Dr. Amar’s interpretation of the events of the last week or so is terse:

The nationalistic Armed Forces want to restore their honour and they are disgusted by police corruption and baltagiya brutality. And it seems that the military, now as “national capitalists”, have seen themselves as the blood rivals of the neoliberal “crony capitalists” associated with Hosni Mubarak’s son Gamal who have privatised anything they can get their hands on and sold the country’s assets off to China, the US, and Persian Gulf capital.

Thus we can see why in the first stage of this revolution, on Friday January 28, we saw a very quick “coup” of the military against the police and Central Security, and disappearance of Gamal Mubarak (the son) and of the detested Interior Minister, Habib el-Adly. However, the military is also split by some internal contradictions. Within the Armed Forces there are two elite sub-branches, the Presidential Guard and the Air Force. These remained closer to Mubarak while the broader military turned against him.

This explains why you can had the contradictory display of the General Chief of the Armed Forces, Muhammad Tantawi, wading in among the protesters to show support on January 30, while at the same time, the chief of the Air Force was named Mubarak’s new Prime Minister and sent planes to strafe the same protesters. This also explains why the Presidential Guard protected the Radio/Television Building and fought against protesters on January 28 rather than siding with them.

It also explains the rather sudden rise to prominence of Vice President Omar Soleiman, formerly the head of the Intelligence Services (al-mukhabarat), a branch of the military.

If this interpretation is correct, then we see four distinct factions involved in the events in Egypt: Mubarak and his crony capitalist followers, the military and national capitalists who seem to have the upper hand at this point, the Islamists, and the Egyptian people, many of them young and unemployed, who have taken to the streets looking for a better life and more freedom.

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Dave Schuler
About Dave Schuler
Over the years Dave Schuler has worked as a martial arts instructor, a handyman, a musician, a cook, and a translator. He's owned his own company for the last thirty years and has a post-graduate degree in his field. He comes from a family of politicians, teachers, and vaudeville entertainers. All-in-all a pretty good preparation for blogging. He has contributed to OTB since November 2006 but mostly writes at his own blog, The Glittering Eye, which he started in March 2004.


  1. tom p says:

    gonna get messy….

  2. ponce says:

    Nice to see the Egyptians have figured out “privatization” is just another word for theft.

    Too bad America hasn’t figured that out yet.

  3. Franklin says:

    What is national capitalism?

  4. EJ says:

    “Nice to see the Egyptians have figured out “privatization” is just another word for theft.”

    Handing out to priveledged special corporate or other interests is theft. Auctioning off tot he highest bidder and then creating competitive and open markets is not.

  5. Dave Schuler says:

    What is national capitalism?

    It appears to be distinctive to Dr. Amar. Based on usage I think he’s distinguishing between those Egyptians who favor more involvement in Egypt on the part of international corporations and those who don’t. Those who don’t are “national capitalists”, presumably as opposed to “international capitalists”.