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Explaining Why The Journalists Were Put Down in Egypt

July 9, 2014

Did Secretary Kerry fail to use US capital with Egypt in trying to free the Al-Jazeera journalists? Or is there very little capital to spend?

Did Secretary Kerry fail to use US capital with Egypt in trying to free the Al-Jazeera journalists? Or, as Andrea Teti argues, was there no capital to spend?

I’ve been fielding a lot of questions about the sentences handed down the other day against the Al-Jazeera journalists.

Most people seem to think that the absurdity of the sentences is a travesty of justice, and that Egypt should be responding to international outrage.

Others think that the US is squandering its influence, that the fact that Kerry walked hopefully out of a meeting with al-Sisi only to have the sentences handed down the next day, shows that the US has failed to take advantage of its opportunities.

Now, I can just send people to read an essay by my friend Andrea Teti, director of the University of Aberdeen’s Centre for Global Security and Governance and senior fellow at the European Centre for International Affairs, whom I met in Oxford (UK) a couple years back.

Andrea points out

The regime wants it to be clear that it can imprison anyone, any time, no matter how absurd the charges, how surreal the evidence or how great a travesty of justice the trial. In fact, the absurdity of the evidence and the Kafkaesque legal process are not an aberration. On the contrary, the greater their absurdity, the more effectively the new regime makes its point: Cross us at your peril; there is nowhere to hide.

He also points out that the US doesn’t really have any capital to speak of with Egypt, because by causing such public tensions with Western governments

  1. Egypt is pleasing its Gulf sponsors — especially the Saudis–who want to see revolutionary ardor suppressed and want to put rival Qatar, which backed Morsi’s regime, in its place.
  2. Egypt is causing the US maximum embarrassment in order to get the US to set its red lines
  3. the regime is playing to the paranoid anti-Western nationalism the regime has been stoking at home
  4. the regime distracts public attention from the country’s deep structural problems–and its failure to even have a plan to deliver “bread, freedom and social justice.”

You can read Andrea Teti’s essay “Egypt’s Government by Baltaga” free on line courtesy of the Middle East Research and Information Project.

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