The Iraqization of Egypt: Two Large Bombs Rock Security Bldg in Mansoura, kill 14, wound 130

(By Juan Cole)

Two large explosions at the state security building in downtown Mansoura, Dahqaliya Province, killed at least 14 persons and wounded 130 on Monday, reducing some of the edifice to rubble and damaging its facade. The head of the directorate of security was among the wounded.

[Photos via]

Crowds immediately gathered to blame the Muslim Brotherhood and to demand that they be executed.
Crowds immediately gathered to blame the Muslim Brotherhood and to demand that they be executed.


State Security police have been involved in arresting and cracking down on thousands of members of the Muslim Brotherhood, whose leader, Muhammad Morsi, had been the elected president 2012-2013 before being overthrown by a combination popular movement and military coup on July 3, 2013. In the aftermath of Morsi’s detention, some 2000 other Brotherhood leaders have been arrested and held without charge, and hundreds have been killed in military actions aimed at clearing out sit-ins in Cairo and Giza. The military junta led by Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has branded the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organization, and seems determined to push the group to take up just that role.

Last week Morsi was charged with, among other things, giving state secrets to the Palestinian party-militia, Hamas and implicitly with aiding and abetting Muslim terrorists.

Muslim Brotherhood members have regularly protested against their marginalization and against the overthrow of Morsi this fall.

Large scale bombings like this have been unknown in Egypt since the 1990s, and Mansoura is likely only the beginning. Radicalized adherents of political Islam were likely behind it, with some of them perhaps being inside the state security police (the upstairs bomb looks like an inside job). By jailing thousands of Muslim Brothers and killing or wounding others with military assaults on demonstrations and sit-ins, and by branding the Brotherhood a terrorist organization, Gen. al-Sisi has pushed some Muslim activists to turn to bombings and violence. If you wish hard enough for terrorists, you get them.

The exclusionary tactics by the nationalist elite against followers of political Islam in Egypt resemble the exclusion by victorious Iraqi Shiites of Sunni Baathists from politics and society in Iraq in 2003. This vindictive policy of social and economic marginalization helped create a civil war that continues to bedevil that country, with some 5,000 killed in political violence this year.

Gen. al-Sisi should look to the Iraqi Shiite elite not as a model for how to marginalize religious Sunnis but as an object lesson in the polarization and radicalization that the exclusion of a large group of citizens from politics produces.

Egypt does not yet have a guerrilla insurgency in the Nile Valley (there is one in the rugged Sinai Peninsula). Once such an insurgency is launched, it typically lasts 15-20 years and is only defeated by force of arms 20% of the time. Egypt’s leaders should go out of their way to avoid provoking such an insurgency.

It is a bad sign that the spokesman for the military-appointed interim cabinet suggested that the Egyptian elite’s response to the bombing would be a formal legal categorization of the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organization (up until now it has mainly been a matter of name-calling.)

Interim appointed Prime Minister Hazem Biblawi declined to confirm what the spokesman said.

Egypt will vote on a new constitution, slightly more secular than that of 2012 when Morsi was president, in mid-January. It then hopes to go to presidential and parliamentary elections, which the Brotherhood has threatened to boycott. The Sunni Arab boycott of the 2005 Iraqi elections was one step that led to civil war.

Cairo, meet Baghdad. You don’t want its fate to be yours.


Related video:

AFP reports

18 Responses

  1. Should read: The Iraqization of Syria, Lebanon, Egypt

    These terror strikes are happening to all three countries by the same or like-minded forces.

    • “How can the Sisi government not see how its actions contribute to this downward spiral?”

      It isn’t just the Sisi government, it is the authoritarian attitude of so many people from earliest recorded history to the present who see violence against perceived enemies as the way to resolve problems.

      After World War II the United States was generally acclaimed as the world’s moral leader. Less than two decades later Martin Luther King, Jr. saw fit to call the US the greatest purveyor of violence. Since then many other nations have accepted this aggressive version of the US as their example to follow.

      How can the US government not see how its actions contribute to this downward spiral?

      • The connection between the Sisi government’s strategic short-sightedness is its handling of the Muslim Brotherhood, and American malignancy after World War Two, is not entirely obvious.

        Why the need to threadjack everything into these generic, ritualized denunciations of the United States? There is a big, complex, busy world out there; why the need to divert every discussion of events back to the United States?

        Ultimately, who you’re doing when you deflect like this is American-centric, and self-centered. This determination to bull over other topics, to treat them merely as a launching point for generic tirades against the United States, is a way of elevated the United States, and your critique of it, above what is happening in Egypt.

        • “The connection between the Sisi government’s strategic short-sightedness is its handling of the Muslim Brotherhood, and American malignancy after World War Two, is not entirely obvious.”

          My point was to note that the propensity for violence is part of the human condition. The US changed from a position of moral leadership to a major purveyor of violence. Other nations replicated this violence, not because of the US but because of their own propensity for violence. If the US had practiced what it preached when it helped write the UN charter, there might have been less, but other nations would still have been violence prone.

        • Attributing what goes in specific times and places to “the human condition” is a way of washing the politics and facts out of the narrative.

          And imposing a narrative about the United States in place of the politics of Egypt, likewise.

    • How can the US government not see? We should br pressing The Egyptian military toget outofgovernment. We should also be sanctioning and pressing the despoticgovernments in Saudi-Arabia, Bahrein, and the other Gulf states to democratize, and stop arming them. We should stop supporting despots for the sake of the big corporations that run our foreign policy. Other than that, we should stay out of the way. We have screwed up every middle east country and conflict we have interfered in.

      • “How can the US government not see?”

        The US government sees perfectly well and has concluded that the Egyptian government is something the US and Israel can live with.

        • Except that the United States is using its influence to push the Egyptian military regime to hold the elections it has promised, and allow itself to be voted out of power – just as it did the last time an Egyptian military government seized power, in the aftermath of Mubarak’s ouster.

      • The United States IS pressing the military regime to “get out of government.” The American position is that the military regime needs to follow through with the elections to install a democratic government – again, as they did the first time they took over, following their ouster of Mubarak.

        Pushing for democratic reform is always the right thing, but trying to draw an equivalency between Egypt and the Gulf monarchies you mention doesn’t really make sense. There is a democratic opposition and even government system in place in Egypt. The parties are organized, and they just had elections last year. Operationally, it’s just a matter of actually carrying out the functions of elections. In the Gulf monarchies, there really isn’t a democratic system waiting in the wings, available to take over. The pursuit of democracy there is at a much earlier position. Supporting democracy is two very different programs in those two situations.

        It’s funny – you start off saying that we should be “pressing the Gulf states to democratize,” and then insist that we should have a policy of “stay out of the way” in the Gulf states. So…which is it? Should we be pushing the Gulf monarchies to reform, or should be staying out of their business?

    • One primary reason why the Sisi government is incapable of seeing its own role in creating the downward spiral is because it is an example of an organized group that completely and totally believes in the concept of the ends justifying the means.

      The fascist clique (heavily based around the Defense and Interior Ministries) which uses Sisi as a new puppet is 100% convinced that it forms an aristocracy best fitted by nature to rule Egypt. In the mind of this oligarchy, its view of how Egypt should go is absolutely correct and anyone who disagrees is subhuman and unworthy of any rights. Thus, ANYTHING and everything appears justified to this government in executing and enforcing its will.

      The government firmly believes that totalitarianism is the way to go and that limitless force will inevitably destroy the opposition. Resultantly, they have no ability to see that their extreme violence is creating various reactions, many of which take the form of counter-violence.

      They believe that, by definition, no political rival can possibly have a legitimate point of view or grievance. Thus, they do not believe that state terrorism can or should create a downward spiral. The problem is that the ongoing destruction of the Egyptian economy and whatever freedom once existed is setting the stage for an impending massive crisis. Perhaps this will manifest on January 25, 2014. If not then, then the tidal wave will come later. It isn’t possible to keep racking up debt, impoverishing Egyptians, and rolling back the gains of 2011 so soon after the revolution without a major backlash eventually emerging.

  2. So, do sociologists and “political scientists” and historians who study the phenomena of repression and schism and anomic violence and identity-fueled and greed-enhanced idiocy have models that could give the rest of us some hope that there is an “arc of moderation and regularization” in places like Syria and Libya and Somalia and Ireland and Israel/Palestine (as with Hamas) and so on, letting us believe that our children might see a “lessening of conflict?” Or is the reality that the manifold drivers of the many types of violence are such a part of the nature of the beast, US, that is, that all we can expect is more of the same? Facilitated by all the sneaks and “special interests” that arm and equip and train and foster the horror?

    I see that Mikhail Kalashnikov has finally died, at age 94, though his “genius” and “inspiration” will plague the world for many generations… link to

  3. I really don’t agree with the Iraqi equivalence, when there’s such a strong sectarian undercurrent and differences in the systematic majority-minority democratic dynamics of exclusion in the new Iraq, being worse beforehand with a Sunni minority tyrant Saddam Hussein in the old Iraq (no where close to facing anything like the ‘seeing the world burn’ insanity in today’s Iraq from the Shiite population, despite the US instability and wreckage, as compared to the Sunni population), compared to outright in your face authoritarianism over religious fascists from the same sectarian tribe.

    If this were the case of simply marginalization then Canada would be as guilty as Iraq or Egypt, when they list Sunni Islamist extremism, particularly of the Wahhabi and Salafi kind, as its number one domestic and foreign terrorist threat. Wouldn’t the justification of this radicalization be applied to the monarchistic autocratic Saudi Wahhabi regime as well on their population?

    Or consider Pakistan, with a Sunni majority, whether under a military dictatorship or a democratic civilian setup (regardless of how corrupt or autocratic either can be) suffering from mostly Wahhabi/Salafi/Deoband/Ahl-e-hadith/Sunni extremist attacks and, admittedly, blowback, which they used and exploited for their interests (Afghanistan) or against their neighbours (India), but has affected the local non-Sunni (Ahmedi, Christians, Shias, etc) Pakistani minorities the most. And claiming the rise is simply due to US imperialism next door, and supposed Pak establishment betrayal, is a cop out, when such radical violence existed with multiple bombings in 2000 alone, and the previous decades.

    Consider the same intensity, if not greater, vindictive actions of minority or majority Sunni hegemonies against their non-Sunni counterparts, be it Arab and non-Arab. It will simply not gather the same violent destructive ideological responses as we see in Egypt or Iraq or Pakistan, etc.

    Even when the MB were showing their own fascist tendencies and marginalization of Egypt’s minorities, this wouldn’t be considered as a ‘normal’ reaction by the Copts, but yet we continue to make exceptions for the ideological radicalization and crisis among the Sunni populations.

  4. Imagine if “we” stood up for elections as the only way to remove Morsi from office? The Brotherhood would have been swept out of power, possibly to a liberalizing government. “We” would have cache with the people of Egypt and the Middle East as consistent democratizers, even if democracy equals Islam for a short period of time. Egypt could have been spared Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, and Syria’s fate; which is to be wrecked by foreign machinations.

    The problem with America? Our elites are idiots. Bad for America, bad for everyone.

    • I don’t mean this as a criticism, but to help:
      “cachet” is spelled with a “t” on the end.
      From context, I know you didn’t mean “cache.”

    • Since the Egyptian people very clearly did not agree with the notion of waiting for elections to sweep Morsi from power, it’s not entirely clear how America doing so would gain us cache with the Egypian public.

      I’m trying to imagine how this would work. The Egyptian people are in the streets in huge numbers demanding Morsi’s ouster. The Morsi government is getting more and more violent. At this point, the US somehow intervenes – rhetorically? with threats of aid cutoffs? – to insist that Morsi remains in power. This resistance to the Egypian popular will, in defense of growing tyrant, is supposed to 1) be a substantive exercise in the promotion of democracy and 2) advance our position among the Egyptian public?

  5. This conspiracy nut believes the discussion misses the mark if MOSSAD and the CIA are left out.

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