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July 29, 2013

'Deep State' Feared, Welcomed in Split Egypt

by Elizabeth Arrott

As Egypt reels with deep and violent political divisions, big challenges are still ahead for a nation trying to live up to the promise of its 2011 revolution.

The divisions plaguing Egypt often are portrayed as a struggle between those for and against ousted President Mohamed Morsi. But for those on Mr. Morsi's side, there appears to be a far more sinister player on the scene - moving against whatever progress Egypt has seen since the 2011 uprising.

Mohamed Soudan, foreign secretary of the Muslim Brotherhood's political wing said, “As soon as the Revolution of 25th of January started, there is a conspiracy against this revolution. There is a deep state. There is corruption. There is counter-revolution started also.”

Soudan said this “deep state” aims to revive everything the protesters on Tahrir Square two years ago tried sweep away.

“Now the police state is coming back," he said. "The army state is coming back. The conspiracy of the former regime, Mubarak regime is coming back very, very strong. They try to get back this era of dictatorship.”

To him, the “Tamaroud” or Rebel campaign that nominally led a populist drive against Mr. Morsi was simply cover for the entrenched interests of the Egypt of former president Hosni Mubarak.

The deep state - a concept rooted in the old Ottoman Empire - pits conservatives against those who would bring change. Even some opposed to both the Mubarak and the Morsi governments see a deep state triumphant. But like political analyst and publisher Hisham Kassem, they put the blame on Mr. Morsi himself.

“He fell out with, basically, the judiciary, the media, the foreign office, the police force, the military, Al Azhar mosque and the church. And they resisted. You cannot subdue these pillars of the state, said Kassem.”

The Brotherhood says it tried to end Egypt's long-time dynamic pitting Islamists against their deep state opponents. But Soudan says entrenched interests worked furiously to turn ordinary Egyptians against them, with problems that largely disappeared when Armed Forces Chief Abdel Fattah el-Sissi came on the scene.

“They worked together to escalate the anger of the Egyptian people with the fabricated crises - lack of electricity, lack of water, lack of fuel, diesel and gasoline and then people feel anger," said Soudan. "And starting July 1st, all this fabricated crisis cut.  It looks like a magic stick in Sissi's arm.”

But such complaints elicit little sympathy from others, who argue a competent government should be up to such challenges. For analyst Kassem, the concept of a deep state and entrenched institutions in Egypt is not necessarily negative.

“In Qatar, the foreign ministry is Sheikh Hamad's airplane. Here is an institution with diplomats, seasoned diplomats with a heritage,” he said.

The downside was the repression, the heavy hand that the revolutionaries of 2011 wanted gone.

The killing of Morsi supporters Saturday in Cairo was a stark reminder to many that the darker aspects of the deep state are still strong.