Struggle for Influence at the Nile

CAIRO/BERLIN | | aegypten

CAIRO/BERLIN (Own report) - Following the announcement of the Egyptian President, Hosni Mubarak's desistance and in light of escalation in fighting between his partisans and his opponents, Berlin has intensified its efforts to gain influence with Cairo's future power structures. For the time being, the military is still in control. A new government, that would stabilize this situation behind the leadership of a popular president, would be in line with German government aspirations. German cooperation with Egypt's forces of repression has stood the test. At the side of the USA, this cooperation has proven to be the most reliable means for maintaining western hegemony over the Middle East region's resources. Business representatives are warning that an overthrow could also lead to a loss of millions in revenue from Export and German factories in Egypt. If it should not prove possible to stabilize the power of the military, Berlin is considering developing a close cooperation with leading personalities in the opposition, believed to reasonably take German interests into consideration. Over the past few years, party foundations have been establishing contacts to this effect, particularly the Friedrich Naumann Foundation, closely affiliated with the German Foreign Minister's party.

The Military's Power

Following Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak's announcement that he would not seek re-election in the upcoming presidential elections in September, the German government has reinforced its efforts to gain influence in Cairo's incoming power structures. The Egyptian military still has control. The most important ministers are from the military. Omar Suleiman, who was named vice president a few days ago, has been the head of the secret services for nearly 20 years and is also considered the military's man. A constellation that could successfully leave Egyptian power with Suleiman and the military would be favorable to the western powers. This would permit the maintenance of the existing precarious Middle East tensions,[1] based on support for Israel by some of the Arab governments - including the Egyptian - and permitting western control over Arab resources. But this is no longer possible with Mubarak, but rather with a much more popular president. The candidates currently in consideration are former Foreign Minister Amr Musa as well as the ex-IAEO General Director, Mohammed el-Baradei. Musa is a member of the Mubarak establishment and is seen as reliable by the Western powers. El-Baradei became a Mubarak opponent a while ago and is now negotiating with the military. The opposition, of course, has to be integrated and pacified.

Partner in Repression

A solution that would leave the military in power in Cairo and also allow Germany, which maintains close contacts to the Egyptian repressive institutions, good possibilities for having a direct influence, has already been rejected by the demonstrators. Germany is more than just an important supplier to the Egyptian armed forces.[2] The German Bundeswehr also has a cooperation program with the Egyptian military. Most recently, in the fall of 2010, a delegation of Egyptian military personnel visited the German army's school for military police and staff officers.[3] Because of his role in Middle East secret service cooperation, Omar Suleiman is also well known in Berlin. The relations are also very good with the Egyptian police. The German Federal Office of Criminal Investigation (BKA) maintains one and the German Federal Police has two liaison officers stationed in Cairo. Bonn provided more than a million Euros of material support and training to the Egyptian police in the years from 1985 to 1995 alone. The Egyptian police, at the time, was already notorious for its use of torture.

Business Interests

Berlin has also recently come under pressure from the German industry to prevent a "government overthrow" in Egypt. Until very recently, sympathy for the North African democracy movement has been predominant in the news reporting in the German media, but business circles have now successfully placed critical evaluations. For example, since yesterday it is being reported that the revolts are impinging on German industry in various ways. On the one hand, production in Egypt in German factories, in which numerous enterprises, including the giants, Siemens, Daimler and BASF, have invested altogether more than half a billion Euros, has been halted. On the other hand, German exports to Egypt, which, last year, were valued at more than 2.66 billion Euros, are in jeopardy. The boulevard press now writes that, under conditions of continued upheaval at the Nile, the government-financed Hermes guarantees risk payment of commitments in the vicinity of 190 million Euros. That means the German taxpayers will have to pay the bill for the Egyptian democracy movement.[4]

FDP Network

In case the military cannot stabilize its control over the Egyptian situation, Berlin is maintaining contact with members of the opposition, also through German party affiliated foundations, such as the Friedrich Naumann Foundation (FDP). In Egypt, the Friedrich Naumann Foundation is not only supporting state organizations, for example the Egyptian Radio and Television Union (ERTU) and the National Youth Council (NYC), but also oppositional organizations like the Egyptian Organization for Human Rights (EOHR), founded in 1985 by Ayman Nour, the chairman of the oppositional el-Ghad Party. On Wednesday, the main Egyptian oppositional organizations met at the el-Ghad Party headquarters to discuss their strategy.[5] Nour's el-Ghad Party is one of the initiators of the Network of Arab Liberals (NAL), which was established in 2006 as a network of liberal parties in Arab speaking counties. NAL is the Friedrich Naumann Foundation's closest partner in those countries, considering itself somewhat an equivalent to the RELIAL Alliance of parties in Latin America, which has been accused of supporting subversive, secessionist forces in Latin America ( reported [6]).

France is Losing

Through these upheavals in North Africa and regardless of the possibilities of success that the Egyptian democracy movement could have, Berlin can already register victories in the internal European competition. Observers note that the EU Mediterranean Union[7] has possibly come to a permanent halt. Berlin has considered the EU's Mediterranean Union to be French President Nicolas Sarkozy's project. With this union, he had sought to create a counterweight to the EU's East European activities that are particularly advantageous to Germany. For the establishment of the Mediterranean Union, Sarkozy had primarily relied on the presidents of Egypt and Tunisia, who now are either finishing their careers or have fled the country. Last week, the General Secretary of the Mediterranean Union, seeing no perspective for the project, resigned from office. With this project's demise, Paris has suffered a new defeat vis à vis Berlin, which opens new horizons for latter - even in North Africa.

[1] see also A Balance of Weaknesses and A Balance of Weaknesses (II)
[2] see also Beneficiary of Repression
[3] Besuch aus Ägypten; 01.11.2010
[4] Steuerzahler haften für Ägypten-Exporte! 02.02.2011
[5] Egypt's Leaders "Disappointed" by Mubarak, Welcome Change; 01.02.2010
[6] see also Neoliberal Networking
[7] see also In the Shadows and Kein Gegenpol