Egypt shuts down
Arabic media review

Egypt shuts down

Energy crisis drives taxi and bus operators to cease work; police officers' strike prompts debate about 'private security committees'

Egyptian motorists turn back with their vehicles after protesters closed the main street by the Nile river in downtown Cairo, Egypt, Sunday, March 10, 2013  (Photo credit: AP/Nasser Nasser).
Egyptian motorists turn back with their vehicles after protesters closed the main street by the Nile river in downtown Cairo, Egypt, Sunday, March 10, 2013 (Photo credit: AP/Nasser Nasser).

Egypt’s descent into anarchy due to its government’s inability to establish order and a continuing energy shortage lead all major Arab newspapers.

“Egyptian interior minister: Army cannot secure the country alone” reads the main headline of the Saudi-owned A-Sharq Al-Awsat, a paper known for its staunch hostility to the Muslim Brotherhood. In response to the violent protests against the Egyptian government that have taken place in cities along Suez Canal and north of Cairo, thousands of low-ranking police officers have gone on strike to express their disapproval of the Islamist politicization of the police force.

The result has been a complete breakdown in government control of major Egyptian population centers. Fearing a seizure of power by the Egyptian Armed Forces and fighting immense criticism for his handling of the police officers’ strike, Interior Minister Mohammed Ibrahim says “the army cannot secure the country alone.”

The London-based Al-Hayat reports that Ibrahim has expressed “willingness to resign on the spot if that will resolve the crisis.” However, he insists that all that must be done to restore order is to “keep rioters away from sensitive security areas and order will be restored within one month.”

In light of the security breakdown, the widespread vandalism of public property, and the thousands of people who have been wounded in the rioting, a group of Muslim Brotherhood legislators have proposed a law calling for the establishment of “popular security committees” by private Egyptian citizens to defend their neighborhoods and restore order, according to the London-based Al Quds Al-Arabi.

Justifying the creation of these “committees,” the legislators released a statement saying “the nation is exposed to vigorous attempts to abort the Egyptian revolution and sabotage Egypt from the inside.”

The National Salvation Front, the leading political opposition to the Muslim Brotherhood-led Egyptian government, categorically rejected the proposal, warning it would be the precursor to the forming of armed militias that would plunge the country into a real civil war.

However, Hassan Yassin, an adviser to Egypt’s attorney general, expressed support for the formation of security committees.

“It would give citizens the right to stop perpetrators of criminal offenses as long as they caught them in flagrant violation and handed them over to the nearest policeman,” he said.

Indeed, the situation for what remains of the police force is bleak as the country’s taxi and bus drivers went out on strike in protest of the major energy crisis, leaving roads throughout the country totally paralyzed.

A-Sharq Al-Awsat reports that after over two years of being forced to wait for hours each time to fill up their gasoline tanks, drivers are finally coming out en masse, blocking the streets of Cairo and other major cities with their vehicles and burning tires. Some streets in Cairo are experiencing traffic jams as much as three kilometers long. Drivers have also parked their cars on train tracks, preventing any commuters trains from entering or exiting Cairo.

Analysts blame the fuel shortage on the government’s inability to set aside funds for the purchase of energy. Government officials dispute this, saying the problem is the smuggling of fuel away from official channels and its sale on the black market.

Regardless of Egypt’s deterioration as a functioning nation state, the US government is still insistent on providing support to the administration of President Mohammed Morsi.

The Dubai-based media channel Al-Arabiya reports that the Obama administration is still supportive of Morsi’s intention to hold parliamentary elections in April and is entirely against any notion of the Egyptian military taking control of the country.

During US Secretary of State John Kerry’s meeting a week ago with Egyptian Defense Minister Field Marshal Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, he tried to receive guarantees that the Egyptian Armed Forces would not seize power in “an adventurous coup.” The Americans are insistent on Egypt proceeding with scheduled elections “to produce a new legitimacy in Egypt that is recognized by Washington and the world.”

This insistence has alienated liberal and conservative Egyptians alike who are united in their opposition to Morsi’s rule.

‘The Obama administration is still at a loss for a way to deal with the Muslim Brotherhood’

In an op-ed in A-Sharq Al-Awsat, former editor-in-chief Tareq Homayed writes that “the Obama administration is still at a loss for a way to deal with the Muslim Brotherhood. Egypt is threatened with bankruptcy as a result of the Muslim Brotherhood’s errors.”

“Obama supports the Muslim Brotherhood despite the wrath of liberals and conservatives, which shows that the position of the US President himself is contrary to American principles, nor is it in line with the political demands of a superpower.”

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