Can You Pass The Egypt Quiz?

egypt protest

When widespread demonstrations forced Egypt’s long-time dictator, Hosni Mubarak, to resign as president in February 2011, it appeared as if this important Arab state was destined for dramatic, positive change. However, in less than twenty-nine months, Egypt’s military ended the country’s democratic experiment and reinstated an even more repressive dictatorship.

How differently might Egypt’s revolution have evolved had the United States been more consistently supportive and Saudi Arabia (together with the United Arab Emirates) less aggressively subversive? The Egypt Quiz is intended to help answer this complex question by focusing on questions such as the following:

  • Did the senior members of President Obama’s National Security Council support the Egyptian Revolution?
  • Did the US ambassador warn President Morsi’s advisers that the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi was lobbying for a military coup?
  • Did Secretary of State John Kerry privately denounce the Muslim Brotherhood and publicly hail the billions in US aid to the Egyptian military?
  • Why wouldn’t President Obama call President Morsi’s removal from power by the military a “coup”?


1. True or False: The senior members of President Obama’s National Security Council supported the Egyptian Revolution.

-False. “Virtually every senior figure on Obama’s National Security Council wanted to stand by [Egyptian President] Mubarak: Secretary of State Clinton, Vice President Biden, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, National Security Adviser Tom Donilon, and others. They invoked the Iranian Revolution of 1979. They worried about other autocratic Arab allies across the region, like the hereditary monarchs of Jordan, Morocco, and the Persian Gulf. What if citizens marched on those royal palaces, too?”

In contrast, Obama “‘knew that the old order was rotten and the status quo was unsustainable… Obama thought this was an opportunity…He wanted the future of Egypt to be the people [who were demonstrating in Tahrir Square in early 2011]—not Mubarak.’” (David D. Kirkpatrick, Into The Hands Of The Soldiers: Freedom And Chaos In Egypt And The Middle East, Viking: 2018, 35. Hereinafter, “Kirkpatrick 2018.”)

2. Who ruled after Mubarak’s removal from power in February 2011?

-“Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, the seventy-five-year-old defense minister and highest ranking military officer, declared himself interim head of state, ruling on behalf of the roughly two dozen generals of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces [SCAF]. The [SCAF] postured as the guardian of the revolution and promised to move quickly toward elections that would replace Tantawi with a civilian government. They put Mubarak under house arrest…”

“A council of generals had taken power from a president. One might call that a coup. But Arabs everywhere saw a revolution in Egypt. Protests erupted in Libya, Yemen, Bahrain, Syria, Baghdad, Jordan, Sudan, Morocco, the Palestinian territories, and beyond.” (Kirkpatrick 2018, 53, 56)

3. True or False: The Obama administration was supportive of the generals who took charge after Mubarak’s resignation.

-True. “The White House and State Department now gushed with enthusiasm for the Egyptian revolution. The United States announced that it was shifting $65 million in economic aid into direct grants to promote democracy.”

“But at the same time, the administration was more quietly embracing the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces as the best guarantee that the ‘revolution’ would not go against American interests.”

“The Pentagon and National Security Council brought top Egyptian generals and intelligence chiefs to Washington, or sent senior officials to meet with them in Cairo. And the Pentagon made no secret of its backing for the military chief of staff, General Sami Anan, as Egypt’s next ruler.” (Kirkpatrick 2018, 60)

4. True or False: Saudi Arabia’s leaders supported the Egyptian Revolution.

-False. “The UAE [United Arab Emirates] and Saudi Arabia had fiercely opposed both the Arab Spring uprisings and the Muslim Brotherhood. The [Brotherhood] movement had adherents in both countries, and its idea that Islam could require elections was a unique threat to the Persian Gulf monarchies.”

“The Saudis, hoping to stave off the Brotherhood…, injected billions of dollars of social welfare spending to placate its citizens following Mubarak’s ouster, as well as generously funding both Egypt’s military and the non-violent Salafis against anything Brotherhood.” (Kirkpatrick 2018, 207-8) (Mohamed Fahmy with Carol Shaben, The Marriott Cell: An Epic Journey from Cairo’s Scorpion Prison to Freedom, Random House: 2016, 111. Hereinafter, “Fahmy 2016.”)

-After the July 3, 2013 military coup that removed the democratically elected President Morsi, “Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Kuwait immediately gave Egypt a total of $12 billion—three times as much as [a] proposed IMF loan and eight times the annual American aid….In fact, Saudi Arabia and the Persian Gulf monarchs gave the post-Morsi government more than $2 billion a month for more than two years.” (Kirkpatrick 2018, 252)

5. True or False: Iran’s leaders supported the Egyptian Revolution.

-True. In contrast to Saudi Arabia and the UAE, Iran welcomed the Arab Spring. “Iran’s partially authoritarian, partially democratic government and its quite real parliamentary and presidential elections [pose an ideological threat to] Arab autocrats who reject genuine parliaments or presidential elections, and who stand for kings-for-life.” In fact, Iran, “by dint of its genuine parliamentary and presidential elections and partially free press, [is] more ‘progressive and modern’ [than] the Saudi or UAE or Bahraini state”.

6. True or False: Israel supported the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces after the 2011 revolution.

-True. “[Israel] saw only danger if the generals yielded more power, convinced that the alternative to military rule in [Egypt] would be far worse.” (Since their 1979 peace treaty, Israel and Egypt were no longer hostile. “Their generals got along fine…”) (Kirkpatrick 2018, 63)

-After the military overthrew President Morsi in 2013, General Sisi knew Israel was using its strong connections to lobby hard for Washington to support the coup. “[In fact, while] Senator Rand Paul…introduced a bill to end Egypt’s military aid because of the coup[, AIPAC] wrote to every senator arguing that any cuts ‘could increase instability in Egypt and undermine important US interests and negatively impact our Israeli ally.’ The Senate voted 86-13 to protect aid.” (Kirkpatrick 2018, 265-6)

7. What percentage of the seats did Muslim Brotherhood candidates win in the November 2011 parliamentary elections?

-In Egypt’s first free national election, “the Muslim Brotherhood was the undisputed winner. Its candidates captured nearly half the [seats in Parliament].” As a result of winning 25 percent of the vote, the Salafi parties “were second only to the Muslim Brothers in political clout.” “The liberals, leftists, social democrats, the Tahrir Square activists, and ruling-party incumbents each took a small share of the remaining quarter; they had all washed out at the polls.” (Kirkpatrick 2018, 103, 111)

-“A huge number of Egyptians trusted that the Muslim Brotherhood was, at a minimum, competent and moral. Its members were religious, and the organization had been providing health care, education, and religious instruction since 1928. It was a record no other group in Egypt could match.”

The Muslim Brothers were doctors, lawyers, engineers, small business owners, executives of multinationals. “They were professionals who preached and ministered to peasants. The Salafis were the peasants. [Village Salafis looked] up resentfully at the Cairo elites—including, implicitly, the Brothers.” (This resembles the resentment of evangelical Christians towards urbanites in the US.) (Thanassis Cambanis, Once Upon A Revolution: An Egyptian Story, Simon & Schuster: 2015, 99. Hereinafter, “Cambanis 2015.”) (Kirkpatrick 2018, 109)

-The elected Brotherhood Parliament was largely powerless. “[W]ithout a new constitution or a new president, the generals made the rules.” (Kirkpatrick 2018, 119)

-“By the end of 2011, one group seemed poised to inherit the mantle of democracy across the Arab world: the Islamists….In October, the main Tunisian Islamist group, Ennahda, won 41 percent of the vote, enough to form a government. A month later, Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood and its allies won…more than 70 percent of the new Parliament. Morocco’s Islamists won landmark victories in the same month.” (Robert F. Worth, A Rage For Order: The Middle East in Turmoil, from Tahrir Square to ISIS, Farrar, Straus and Giroux: 2016, 127.)

8. True or False: In 2011, then commander of Central Command General James Mattis understood the essential differences between the Muslim Brotherhood and Al Qaeda.

-False. “[I]n 2011, some in the Pentagon and the Obama White House still viewed the Muslim Brotherhood as a close cousin to Al Qaeda.” According to General Mattis there was no essential differences between the “three rival strains of political Islam” — the Muslim Brothers, Al Qaeda, and Iran’s Shiite theocracy – despite “intelligence reports delineating the deep differences and even animosities among [them].”

“[Mattis] saw the fight against political Islam—in all its forms—as the central dynamic of the Middle East, and plenty of others agreed with him in Washington, including at the Pentagon, in the White House, and in Congress….John Kerry, then chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and future secretary of state, was an inveterate foe of the Brotherhood.” (Kirkpatrick 2018, 115-6)

9. True or False: From the mid-1960s to 2011, there is no evidence that the leadership of the Muslim Brothers plotted violence in Egypt.

-True. “[From the mid-1960s] to 2011, historians have found no evidence that the leadership of the Muslim Brothers…plotted violence in Egypt. Instead, those inclined toward militant jihad, like [Al Qaeda leader] Ayman al-Zawahiri, left the Brothers in frustration. The Bitter Harvest was the title of his book-length jeremiad against the nonviolence of the movement.” (In addition, “Al Qaeda and the Islamic State never tired of excoriating the Brotherhood for the naïvete of its faith in elections.”) (Kirkpatrick 2018, 125, 210)

10. True or False: Egypt’s Supreme Constitutional Court nullified the parliament just before the June 2012 presidential runoff election.

-True. The Supreme Constitutional Court, which was anti-Islamist and pro-military, “announced…it was nullifying Egypt’s first freely elected legislature….[Soon after,] the generals seized for themselves almost all the authority that had been expected to go to whomever was [soon to be] elected president.”

“It was in every sense of the term a judicial coup…If [Ahmed] Shafik won, the deep state would have an ally in [the presidential] palace, and the SCAF now had insurance in case its preferred choice didn’t make it. A victorious [Mohamed] Morsi[, the Muslim Brotherhood candidate,] would come to an office with castrated powers.” (Kirkpatrick 2018, 146-7) (Cambanis 2015, 187)

11. True or False: The 2012 presidential election was fair.

-True. “Voting in the presidential election began on May 23, 2012.” The two top candidates of the May round competed in a runoff election on June 16/17. The ballots from the runoff “were counted in public inside the same polling place as soon as the voting ended: 52 percent for Morsi and 48 percent for Shafik. The difference was more than eight hundred thousand votes scattered across Egypt. It was impossible to fake.” (Kirkpatrick 2018, 137, 147)

12. Who selected General Abdel Fattah el-Sisi as defense minister?

-On August 12, 2012, President Morsi swore in the new defense minister, Sisi, replacing Tantawi. (Sisi had gained the trust of Morsi by warning him of an assassination attempt.) On the same day, a Morsi spokesman stated that “the generals were relinquishing control of legislative authority and giving it to Morsi.” (Kirkpatrick 2018, 160-1)

13. True or False: In Morsi’s first five months as president he used his legal power to promote an Islamist agenda.

-False. “[M]orsi issued only one law in his first five months as president: he barred the pretrial detention of journalists for crimes related to their work.” (“Anyone could tell that there was no censorship under Morsi. Criticism of the president saturated the newsstands and the airwaves.”)

“Although the military council under Defense Minister Sisi allowed Morsi to run the government and issue new laws, [Morsi] did little to change Egypt….He appointed Muslim Brothers to less than a third of his Cabinet (eleven positions out of thirty-five). He kept Mubarak-era veterans in charge of the big portfolios—defense, interior, foreign affairs, and finance….[H]e named Muslim Brothers as governors of only a minority of the provinces (ten out of twenty-seven). Former generals took most of the other seventeen, just like under Mubarak….He named a prime minister from outside the Muslim Brotherhood as well as a woman and a Christian as deputies….The most notable feature of his presidency may have been his determination to ingratiate himself with the military and the police.” (Kirkpatrick 2018, 172-3)

-“In practice…Morsi was more liberal than many Brotherhood leaders, possibly more liberal than most Egyptians.” He was known to support women travelling abroad alone—“a step too permissive for most Egyptians, no matter how secular.” (Kirkpatrick 2018, 155)

14. True or False: A member of the US National Security Council hailed President Morsi as indispensable in helping resolve the 2012 Israel-Gaza conflict.

-True. By November 19, 2012, “Israel and Hamas had been at war for five days. Hamas rockets had killed three Israelis. Israeli air strikes had killed 150 Palestinians and devastated the cities of Gaza. Israel was calling up tens of thousands of reserve troops for a possible ground assault.”

“Since the US designated Hamas a terrorist group, the only way that Washington could negotiate with it was through [other parties].…[As] Hamas was the Palestinian offshoot of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood[,] Morsi himself was wired to Hamas.”

In a call with Obama concerning the 2012 Gaza conflict, Morsi showed that he “understood the Israeli perspective. He wanted only to end the fighting.” According to top Obama officials, Morsi was very effective in helping get a cease-fire by November 21. In fact, “Steven Simon of the National Security Council [said that] ‘He [Morsi] was indispensable.’” Secretary of State Clinton “thanked Morsi ‘for assuming leadership that has long made this country a cornerstone of regional stability and peace.’” (Kirkpatrick 2018, 173, 174-5)

-“Involvement in politics…had a moderating impact on Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood.” Morsi’s decisions to respect the 1979 Israel-Egypt peace treaty and broker the 2012 ceasefire “demonstrated his resolve to uphold Egypt’s role as a force for regional stability, which implied refusing to allow his ideology to drive him toward a radical foreign policy.”

15. True or False: On November 22, 2012, President Morsi decreed that his decisions were beyond judicial review until the ratification of a new constitution.

-True. “On November 22, basking in the glow of tacit approval from an American government that suddenly realized how much it needed him, Morsi went further than anyone imagined he would. He issued a decree that…concentrated all the nation’s power in his hands. It took away the judiciary’s power to dissolve the Constituent Assembly… Morsi had assumed legislative power already, and now he took the authority of the judiciary as well. This was more formal power than any of Egypt’s dictators had ever held.”

Morsi’s decree was motivated by reports his team had received on November 22 “that the Supreme Constitutional Court was poised within days to dissolve the committee drafting a new constitution.” The courts had clearly been pro-SCAF in their rulings since the revolution. (Cambanis 2015, 210) (Kirkpatrick 2018, 178)

-“The fallout [from Morsi’s extreme decree] was immediate. Everyone except the Muslim Brotherhood and its Salafi allies viewed Morsi’s new powers as a coup against the state.”

The following day, November 23, “the cities of Egypt exploded [in protests]….By late afternoon, vandals had either attacked or burned down Muslim Brotherhood offices in towns all over Egypt…”

“The official state media encouraged the protests against the president….On the front page of Al Ahram, a…political analyst urged readers, ‘Take to the streets and die, because Egypt is lost…’”

“Morsi backpedaled furiously. He visited a council of judges to work out a compromise….He limited the range of decisions that he said could not be overturned by the courts….His time above the courts would be short…Then the court postponed indefinitely its ruling that might have struck down the constitutional committee. Morsi promptly rescinded the part of his decree about judicial review. His time as ‘Pharaoh’ lasted less than a month.” (Cambanis 2015, 210) (Kirkpatrick 2018, 179, 180)

-Morsi’s November 22 “decree conjured up a new alliance against him. An assortment of Mubarak-era politicians and businessmen gathered behind [liberal icon] Mohamed ElBaradei…Joined by one or two political newcomers, they demanded that Morsi cancel plans for a referendum on December 15 [2012] to approve the draft constitution…And they organized demonstrations twice a week in Tahrir Square and outside the [presidential] palace.”

“The new alliance behind ElBaradei—calling itself the National Salvation Front—knew Morsi was unprotected”, as the police were not acting to protect him or the Brothers.

“On December 5, [the National Salvation Front] called for another…march on the [presidential] palace, and Morsi’s team turned in desperation back to the Muslim Brothers. Brotherhood media outlets rallied Islamists everywhere to defend the palace….Hard-line Salafis called it a holy war [to protect Morsi]….[H]undreds of young Islamists” responded and chased “away the few dozen demonstrators” who had been protesting at the palace. Fighting, involving knives and bullets, between Islamists and their opponents ensued. “The security forces were neither defending the palace nor dispersing the Islamists: they only added to the mayhem.”

“The next morning, Islamists turned nearly 130 captives over to the district prosecutor, who…immediately released them. Hundreds had been injured in the fighting. At least eleven people died[;] almost all of the dead were Islamists…” For the Egyptian public, the night of chaotic fighting was traumatic as it was untypical and “felt like Syria, Libya, or Iraq, some failed state—not Egypt.”

While ElBaradei publicly claimed that Morsi was not open to any dialogue, Morsi “made many invitations to negotiations and dialogue. The opposition always declined them.” (Kirkpatrick 2018, 184, 187-191)

16. True or False: The December 15, 2012 referendum, held to approve the draft constitution, passed easily.

-True. Two-thirds of voters supported the draft constitution; it was “less authoritarian and more liberal than the Mubarak-era constitution.” (Cambanis 2015, 212-3) (Kirkpatrick 2018, 180)

17. True or False: In March 2013, the US ambassador to Egypt warned President Morsi’s advisers that the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi was lobbying for a military coup.

-True. “[Ambassador Anne] Patterson warned two of Morsi’s foreign policy advisers that [Crown Prince] Mohammed bin Zayed of the Emirates…was spearheading a campaign to lobby for a military takeover to remove Morsi.” (Kirkpatrick 2018, 208-9)

-“The continual conversations between Egyptian and American military officers…were fast becoming mutual ‘bitch sessions’ about the Morsi government… General Mattis of Central Command…had flown to Cairo in February [2013] to meet with Sisi and underscore Washington’s commitment to the Egyptian military alliance.” (Kirkpatrick 2018, 209)

18. True or False: A few months before the Egyptian military’s overthrow of President Morsi, Secretary of State John Kerry called the nearly $80 billion in US aid to the Egyptian military over the previous decades “the best investment America has made for years in that region.”

-True. In March 2013, after a meeting with Sisi, where the general had said “‘I will not let my country go down the drain,’” Secretary of State Kerry knew then that “‘Morsi was cooked’”. According to Sisi, Kerry in their meeting said that “‘The time is up’” for Morsi.

“When Kerry returned to Washington, he testified on Capital Hill [in April 2013] and his prognosis was grim. Morsi was leaning away from ‘inclusion’…[He also] called the nearly $80 billion in US aid to the Egyptian military over the previous decades ‘the best investment America has made for years in that region.’” (It’s worth noting that in May 2013 “Kerry asked…Qatari diplomats to persuade Morsi to yield power without the disruption of a forced ouster.”) (Kirkpatrick 2018, 212-3, 225)

19. True or False: In April 2013, US Ambassador Patterson warned the White House that a military coup against Morsi was highly likely.

-True. After meeting with General Sisi in April 2013, Ambassador “Patterson warned the White House in explicit terms” that “a coup was a high likelihood within a few months.” And, she added, “Any military intervention…could only be brutal.” (Kirkpatrick 2018, 214)

-Muslim Brotherhood party leaders negotiated “plans for new parliamentary elections” with ElBaradei in February 2013. “But by April, ElBaradei and the [National Salvation] Front had committed to boycotting the elections.…And for some reason ElBaradei’s worries about Western objections to a military takeover also seemed to go away in April…” (Kirkpatrick 2018, 215)

20. True or False: The Egyptian movement, Tamarrod, founded in April 2013 to force President Morsi to call early presidential elections, had clear links to General Sisi.

-True. “American diplomats with access to intelligence reports later…confirmed…that the United Arab Emirates had provided millions of dollars through the Egyptian Defense Ministry [to Tamarrod].” It’s now clear that Sisi was the force behind Tamarrod. (Kirkpatrick 2018, 218)

-“Law and order were slipping away fast, and the blame couldn’t all be laid at Morsi’s doorstep. Most of the government bureaucracy was in outright revolt against the president. The judiciary was doing everything it could to thwart the Brotherhood’s agenda. Police were actively fomenting chaos. Officers joined a mob attacking Christians [and] stood by as vigilantes sacked the Muslim Brotherhood’s new headquarters…Public transportation shut down over diesel shortages that had no obvious explanation.” (Cambanis 2015, 219-220)

-Capitalizing on the deteriorating economic, security, and political environment—yet seeming to appear out of nowhere at the end of April 2013—“three  twentysomething…unaccomplished” freelance journalists informed the National Salvation Front “that they intended to collect fifteen million signatures demanding that Morsi step aside on…June 30. ‘Tamarrod’—Rebellion—the three [journalists] called themselves.”

“Anti-Islamist political parties printed petition forms and put their offices to work collecting signatures…The news media and opposition parties rallied around the young men before they produced a single signature.” Top professionals offered their services to Tamarrod.

“[P]iles of cash turned up around Tamarrod headquarters…” General Sisi’s office clearly had links to Tamarrod, based on “a leaked recording of a telephone call sometime [in] spring [2013]…”

“[G]enerals from the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces [contacted] members of ElBaradei’s National Salvation Front [to tell them the] army would ‘protect’ their demonstrations to demand Morsi’s resignation.” (Kirkpatrick 2018, 216-8, 223)

21. True or False: According to an authoritative poll, in spring 2013 the Muslim Brotherhood enjoyed 63 percent approval.

-True. “The most authoritative poll that spring, from the Pew Research Center, had put Morsi’s approval rating at 53 percent and the Brotherhood’s at 63 percent. A strong majority of Egyptians favored democracy over stability.” (Kirkpatrick 2018, 222)

22. True or False: President Morsi believed General Sisi still supported him as late as June 30, 2013, three days before the military coup.

-True. On June 26, 2013, four days before the planned anti-Muslim Brotherhood demonstration, Morsi announced “several concessions that Sisi had recommended. Among other things, [he] would bring more political opponents into the Cabinet and create a new panel to propose constitutional amendments.”

Nevertheless, “On the night of June 29, American intelligence reports showed Egyptian army troops moving to positions surrounding the [presidential] palace, the state media building, and other strategic locations around the capital. At least some of the National Security Council believed that night that a coup was in motion….But no one in the Pentagon, the State Department, or the White House told Sisi to stop moving. No one told Morsi that Sisi had turned against him, or that a coup had begun.”

On the morning of June 30, “hundreds of thousands swarmed through the streets of the capital. At least hundreds of thousands more came out in cities across the country. It had taken courage to march against Mubarak in 2011. But now the army, police, most television stations, many big employers, movie stars, and the most visible liberals and leftists were all urging Egyptians to join in the protests.” Unlike the 2011 uprising, “there were no bullets, tear gas, or water cannons. Instead, military choppers…dropp[ed] tiny Egyptian flags to the protestors.”

While thousands of Brotherhood members held a counterdemonstration near the presidential palace, their headquarters was attacked with gas bombs, rocks, and bullets, and the police just looked on.

“Everyone around Morsi believed Washington could control the generals…” Remarkably, even by the morning of June 30, Morsi still believed Sisi was on his side. However, once the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, later that day, publicly gave the Morsi government 48 hours to meet the “‘demands of the people’” or it would “‘enforce’” its own road map for a transition to democracy, Morsi realized a coup was in process. (Kirkpatrick 2018, 228, 230-3, 236-7) (Fahmy 2016, 112)

23. True or False: The liberal icon Mohamed ElBaradei supported the July 3, 2013 military coup.

-True. On July 3, 2013, Sisi “appeared on television…with an all-star cast seated behind him: Mohamed ElBaradei, the Coptic pope, the grand imam of Al Azhar, and a Salafi party leader.…A column of tanks and armored personnel carriers churned through the streets. They had encircled both the presidential palace and the guard complex as well.”

ElBaradei argued that “Morsi’s removal would ‘restart’ a transition to democracy…This time he was sure the generals would respect the rule of law and yield to elected civilians.” (Ironically, in late 2013, ElBaradei fled Egypt to avoid arrest for tepidly criticizing the military dictatorship.)

The military and police were quick and brutal to put down any anti-coup protests throughout the country. “The National Salvation Front—so critical of police abuse under Morsi—defended…killings” by the police that occurred after the coup.

If Morsi was a failure, Egypt and the wider Middle East should have had the opportunity to witness an Islamist government losing in a fair election and still remaining to play a political role. Instead, the world saw a violent coup remove an elected president. (Kirkpatrick 2018, 240, 253-4, 257) (Cambanis 2015, 236)

-By the date of the coup, many liberal Egyptians believed that the Muslim Brotherhood wanted an Islamic caliphate—that the Brotherhood would return Egypt to the Dark Ages. They feared the emergence of Morsi supporters committing gross violence to defend Islam. However, years after the coup, many such liberals came to recognize that they had been swept up in the organized, anti-Islamist mania of the time. (Kirkpatrick 2018, 256-7)

24. Why wouldn’t President Obama call President Morsi’s July 3, 2013 removal from power by the military a “coup”?

-At a National Security Council meeting on July 4, Obama maintained that “we cannot call Morsi’s ouster a coup d’état…Everyone else had come prepared to argue over the application of the ‘coup law’: the statute that required cutting off aid to any military that toppled an elected government.”

The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Martin Dempsey, asked, “Wouldn’t the White House risk its credibility if it did not call the coup what it was?…But others wanted to back Morsi’s ouster.”

“[Secretary of State] Kerry argued in the July 4 meeting…that Morsi’s removal was not, in fact, a coup. Sisi was bowing to the public will and acting to save Egypt.” Kerry added that the generals established a schedule for elections; and if we called it a coup and walked away, we’d lose influence over Sisi, with Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Israel rushing to replace us. “[Secretary of Defense] Hagel, the intelligence directors, and ultimately Dempsey all sided with Kerry…”

“Obama did not fight [Kerry and Hagel]. He decided not to disclose any decision. The administration made no determination about whether what had happened on July 3 in Cairo was or was not a military coup, thus sidestepping the coup law.” (Kirkpatrick 2018, 241-4)

25. True or False: According to Human Rights Watch, the assault by Egyptian security forces on Muslim Brotherhood demonstrators at Rabaa Square on August 14, 2013 was an “indiscriminate and deliberate use of lethal force [that] resulted in one of the world’s largest killings of demonstrators in a single day in recent history”.

-True. “Rabaa [Square in Cairo] was the place to find all the Brotherhood leaders not yet in jail; it was the only place they were safe from arrest.”

On August 14, 2013, “the police and army closed in…on Rabaa Square….The death toll was staggering and indiscriminate: children, teenage boys and girls, and the elderly fell alongside the adult men trying to protect the sit-in with their futile wooden clubs. The military had shown before that it knew how to clear a protest without killing; this time it put the police in the forefront and pursued tactics that maximized the death toll. It wanted more than to merely end the Rabaa sit-in, the final vestige of the Brotherhood’s electoral success; it wanted vengeance and to break the Brotherhood.”

“The interim prime minister later said that ‘close to a thousand’ civilians had died that day at Rabaa. A yearlong study by Human Rights Watch released in 2014 determined that the deaths almost certainly exceeded that number…‘The indiscriminate and deliberate use of lethal force resulted in one of the world’s largest killings of demonstrators in a single day in recent history,’ the study concluded. Rabaa surpassed the Tiananmen Square massacre in China in 1989 and the Andijan massacre in Uzbekistan in 2005.” (Kirkpatrick 2018, 247, 276) (Cambanis 2015, 234-5)

-Although the Egyptian “security forces had already carried out two mass shootings in July [2013], killing dozens at a time[,] Obama, the Pentagon, and others in the White House were somehow surprised” by the brutality of the August 14 Rabaa massacre. Obama was furious.

“But again Kerry, Hagel, and the Pentagon argued that punishing the Egyptian military would diminish American influence.” Nevertheless, reflecting a split in the Administration, in October 2013 “the White House suspended the $1.3 billion in annual military aid to Egypt, ‘pending credible progress toward an inclusive, democratically elected civilian government through free and fair elections.’” (Kirkpatrick 2018, 279, 280)

26. True or False: In just his first year in control, Sisi killed and arrested more people than Mubarak did in nearly three decades.

-True. (Cambanis 2015, 255)

-“Dissent was silenced at a dizzying speed, crossing boundaries that had been respected even by Mubarak, the SCAF, and Morsi….Opposing government policies was a crime.” How would the West have responded if such illiberalism had occurred during Morsi’s presidency? (Cambanis 2015, 241) (Kirkpatrick 2018, 324)

-The Muslim Brotherhood was declared a terrorist organization on December 25, 2013. Prominent liberals were threatened, jailed, or forced into exile. “The left-leaning April Youth Movement was [also] declared a terrorist organization and membership became a crime.”

“[S]ome 20 percent of Egyptians at least somewhat identify with the Muslim Brotherhood (just as about 20 percent of Americans say they are evangelical Christians). To attempt to ban the [Brotherhood] as mere terrorists is a monstrous proceeding, and will inevitably produce the very terrorism it says it is trying to prevent.” (Fahmy 2016, 246) (Kirkpatrick 2018, 323)

-As of March 2017, “Sisi’s crackdown on the opposition far exceeds the darkest period of repression during the Mubarak era. Human rights groups claim that as many as 60,000 political prisoners now languish in Egypt’s jails. (At the end of Mubarak’s rule, the figure was between 5,000 and 10,000.)”

“The Egyptians are repeating the same terrible mistake the Americans made in Iraq, bundling young men into the prison systems with veteran extremists who know exactly what recruitment chords to strike to achieve radicalization of as many Muslims as possible.” (Many inmates hate not only Egyptian officials but the US, as well.) (The New York Times Magazine, 19 March 2017, 49) (Fahmy 2016, 171)

27. True or False: From 2015 to 2017, Israel carried out more than a hundred air strikes inside Egypt.

-True. “[B]y April 2017, Egypt had lost more than 3,000 soldiers and police fighting [jihadists].” “American diplomats griped to one another about how little fighting power that $1.3 billion a year in military aid had bought. Even after four years, the Egyptian army could not defeat the rabble of militants in the Sinai.”

“The continued failure of the Egyptian army to secure the [Sinai] peninsula was [also] getting dangerous” for Israel. So beginning in 2015, the Israeli air force, with Sisi’s blessing, began “air strikes against suspected militants inside Egypt…[B]y the end of 2017, Israel had carried out far more than a hundred secret strikes inside Egypt: a covert air war.” (Kirkpatrick 2018, 287, 290-1)

-“[Israel and Egypt’s] collaboration in the North Sinai is the most dramatic evidence yet of a quiet reconfiguration of the politics of the region. Shared enemies like ISIS, Iran and political Islam have quietly brought the leaders of several Arab states into growing alignment with Israel…” (The New York Times, 4 Feb. 2018, 1)

28. True or False: As Egypt failed to make progress toward a democratically elected civilian government, Obama didn’t restore aid to the country.

-False. Aid was restored to Egypt in March 2015. Due to the Rabaa massacre aid had been suspended in October 2013, “pending credible progress toward an inclusive, democratically elected civilian government through free and fair elections.”

“Obama was persuaded [by his National Security Council] that continued pressure would gain nothing, and…restor[ed] aid.”

For public consumption, Obama justified the restoration of aid by citing the need to combat Islamic State militants. Nevertheless, by the start of 2017, “The number of Egyptians killed each year from bombings or shootings by Islamist militants had escalated sharply under Sisi—whether compared with Morsi’s sole year in office or with Mubarak’s last years.” (Kirkpatrick 2018, 280, 322, 331-2)

29. True or False: While many Arabs and Westerners cited the mayhem that broke out across Syria, Iraq, Libya, and Yemen to justify Sisi’s July 2013 coup, the Arab Spring’s hope soured only after Sisi took power.

-True. “Egypt was the pivot. Until the coup of July 3, 2013, journalists, scholars, and diplomats all talked without apology about an Arab Spring, a democratic opening. Tunisia’s Islamist party had won parliamentary elections, then formed the region’s first Islamist-liberal coalition government. The Syrian uprising was still more or less centered on democracy—not revenge or theocracy. Only a small faction of the rebels had pledged allegiance to Al Qaeda… Libya had held credible parliamentary elections and chosen a liberal prime minister. The State Department held up Yemen as a model transition to democracy.” (Kirkpatrick 2018, 285)

-“A renegade Libyan general, Khalifa Hifter, took his cue from Sisi. He announced in early 2014 that the imaginary Libyan Supreme Council of the Armed Forces would dissolve its Parliament, arrest its Islamists, and eradicate their movement. Hifter repeated parts of Sisi’s coup speech almost verbatim, like his promise of a transitional road map.”

“[Libya’s] prime minister laughed it off. At his base near Benghazi, though, Hifter received weapons and other support from the UAE and Egypt in violation of a United Nations embargo…Soon armed groups for and against Hifter were bullying the Parliament. The political process broke down. Libya burst into a civil war…”

“[B]y the summer of 2015, [ISIS] had capitalized on the chaos of the Libyan civil war to seize control of a hundred miles of its Mediterranean coastline around the city of Sirte.”

By 2016, as violence and chaos spread across much of the Middle East and North Africa, “It was easy to forget that the revolts of 2011 had created a real opening, that for a time Egypt’s generals had feared public disapproval, or that Tunisia had completed a peaceful rotation of power.” (Kirkpatrick 2018, 285-6, 332-3)

-“[A]fter the [August 2013] Rabaa massacre, Al Qaeda’s Iraqi arm could declare that ‘two idols have fallen: democracy and the Muslim Brotherhood…’ The choice now was clear: ‘ammunition boxes over ballot boxes.’”

“The leaders of Al Qaeda had worried in 2011 that movements for democracy were upstaging their jihad…But the jihadists came roaring back after the turn again to authoritarianism. America was pulled back into war in Iraq…Refugees from Arab conflicts flooded westward and triggered a nationalist backlash. It was scarcely an exaggeration to say that the tumult across the Arab world had helped to elect Trump as president and to scare Britain out of the European Union.” (Kirkpatrick 2018, 285, 333)

-Sisi’s brutality toward the Muslim Brotherhood will lead “some Brotherhood members and sympathizers becoming disillusioned with democracy and joining the ISG [an ISIS affiliated group]; it was after the 1950s and 1960s crackdown on the [Muslim Brotherhood] by the Nasser regime that the formation of more militant groups such as gama’a Islamiyya and Egyptian Islamic Jihad was witnessed. Already this can be observed with the formation of the militant Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis. Initially formed to target Israel, the group has subsequently declared allegiance to the ISG and turned its weapons inward.”

“Noteworthy in this regard is the trial of around two hundred of its alleged members…In responses filed by Egyptian intelligence officials, all the defendants are alleged to have resorted to militancy only after Morsi’s overthrow, alluding to the impact that the securitization of politics is having on the country and pointing to its future trajectory.”

-After the July 2013 coup, the military became even more prevalent in the economy. Corruption, always extensive in Egypt, became even worse — and now “there was no independent prosecutor, Parliament, or Egyptian press to investigate.”

In 2017 the mass of poor Egyptians were not doing well. “[F]ood prices were rising at a rate of more than 30 percent a year. Wages were stagnant. Unemployment was soaring.”

Nevertheless, “The institutions of the Egyptian deep state [were] sturdy….The same functionaries who had [been working] under Mubarak [worked under] Morsi, and they were still in place under Sisi.” (Kirkpatrick 2018, 299, 303-5)

Jeffrey Rudolph, a college professor, was the Quebec representative of the East Timor Alert Network and presented a paper on its behalf at the United Nations. He was awarded the prestigious Cheryl Rosa Teresa Doran Prize upon graduation from McGill University’s faculty of law; has worked at one of the world’s largest public accounting firms; and, has taught at McGill University. He has prepared widely-distributed quizzes on Israel-Palestine, Iran, Hamas, Terrorism, Saudi Arabia, US Inequality, the US Christian Right, Hezbollah, the Israeli Ultra-Orthodox, Qatar, China, and Egypt. These quizzes are available at,

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