Egyptian People Power Versus the Oligarchy

By Michael Barker

The ongoing insurrection in Egypt is fantastic, but the barriers standing between the people and any substantive form of democracy are formidable and will need to be overcome in the near future. As one might expect there are plenty of ‘reformers’ waiting amongst the counter-revolutionaries to undermine any forthcoming revolution, ready and willing to proudly take on the mantle of power in the name of the democracy. Leading neoconservative ideologue, Paul Wolfowitz, suggests that Hossam Badrawi, the “recently appointed head of Egypt’s government party may be emerging as an interesting and reasonable transition figure.” Acknowledging that there are many such leaders who stand between the Egyptian people and a successful revolution, this article will focus on the elites in Badrawi’s higher circles in an attempt to draw attention to just a few of the many of the powerful groups and individuals ready and willing to smash/co-opt the peoples movement under the iron heel/velvet slipper of the Oligarchy.[1]

Until recently Hossam Badrawi served on the board of governors of Mubarak’s National Democratic Party (NDP), but with the en masse resignations of many of the members of the NDP’s top executive committee, Badrawi a founding member of Arab Parliamentarians Against Corruption, became their new Secretary General. To gain an idea of Badrawi’s reformist ambitions for Egypt one might turn to look at some of his colleagues at Egypt’s International Economic Forum, a group whose “ultimate objective” is “fully integrating the Egyptian economy into the world economy on favourable terms.”

Notable elites serving alongside Badrawi on Egypt’s International Economic Forum’s executive committee include Taher Helmy, who is the founder and chair of the Egyptian Center for Economic Studies, a think-tank has been supported for the past two decades by the imperialist National Endowment for Democracy. In fact, the International Economic Forum’s current chairman, M. Shafik Gabr, also serves as a board member of  Helmy’s think tank, and as a member of a World Economic Forum project called the Community of West and Islam Dialogue (C-100). Next up, the treasurer of Egypt’s International Economic Forum, Shahira Magdy Zeid, just so happens to be a board member of the Mubarak Women’s International Peace Movement — which is headed (of course) by the dictators wife, Suzanne. (Likewise, Taher Helmy is a board member of Mubarak’s ‘peace’ movement.)

Egypt’s International Economic Forum boasts of a small but impressive advisory board of just five individuals, the three most significant being: the former U.S. Ambassador to Egypt, Robert Pelletreau; World Economic Forum president, Klaus Schwab (a devotee of Orwellian politics who counts himself as a ‘peace’ advocate because of his service on the board of governors at the Shimon Peres Center for Peace); and Frank G. Wisner, Jr. , an important imperial power broker who after serving as U.S. Ambassador to Egypt (1986-91), went on to become the U.S. Ambassador to the Philippines, where he supervised the aftermath of their recent transition from U.S.-backed dictatorship to ‘democracy.’ That the Philippines’ immensely powerful people-powered movement  could be co-opted by the U.S. governments ‘democracy promotion’ apparatus provides a stark example of what the Oligarchy has in store for Egypt; that is, if they are not thwarted by what may turn out to be a truly revolutionary movement for change.[2]

Last but not least, especially considering their advisors’ special imperial pedigree, it makes sense to briefly examine some of the members of the Egypt’s International Economic Forum’s board of trustees. We might start here with the former information secretary of Mubarak’s National Democratic Party, Ali Eldin Helal (who resigned earlier this month). In addition to his central role in dispensing state propaganda, Eldin Helal was the first vice president of the Egyptian Organization for Human Rights (1985-7) — a group that received annual support from the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) between 1994 and 2005. Furthermore it is important to point out that at the same time as he worked for this human rights group he served on the council of the British-based International Institute for Strategic Studies (1983-92).[3]

Other trustees of Egypt’s International Economic Forum include Ahmed Ezz and Rachid Mohamed Rachid, who are both board members of a business orientated nonprofit called Future Generation Foundation that is headed by Mubarak’s son, Gamal; and Mona Makram-Ebeid, who is a founding member of the Egyptian Council for Foreign Affairs — an elite think tank that models itself on the imperial brains trust that is the Council on Foreign Relations.

Here it is interesting to point out that a particularly influential member of the Egyptian Council for Foreign Affairs is Naguib Sawiris, the eldest son of Orascom-empire patriarch, Onsi Sawiris. Naguib Sawiris presently serves on the international advisory committee to the New York Stock Exchange board of directors, and is a recent board member of the ‘democracy’ and ‘freedom’ nonprofit, Foundation for the Future. In fact, Sawiris was linked to this group in 2007, during the time at which the romantic partner of Paul Wolfowitz, Shaha Riza (a former NED-scholar herself) managed this highly profitable neoconservative enterprise (for a critique of this group, see “The Foundation for the Future: What FOIA Documents Reveal,” pdf).[4]

Finally, another significant member of the Egyptian Council for Foreign Affairs is Mamdouh Salim, who is a member of the Arab Organization for Human Rights (see later), and is the vice president of the Forum of Dialogue and Partnership for Development’s board of trustees. This latter group provides a connection to another important group that has received funding from the NED, the Ibn Khaldun Center for Development Studies; this is because Ayat M. Abul-Futtouh acted as the program manager for the Forum of Dialogue and Partnership for Development from 2001 until 2003, before she moved on to become the managing director of the Ibn Khaldun Center for Development Studies. Abul-Futtouh also happens to be a founder and a steering committee member of the Network for Democrats in the Arab World, and in 2006 she was invited to give a talk at Paul Wolfowitz’s current nominal home, the American Enterprise Institute; this talk was later published in 2008 the Institutes’s book Dissent and Reform in the Arab World: Empowering Democrats.

The current chairman of the Ibn Khaldun Center’s board of trustees is Nobel Peace Prize nominee and Arab Organization for Human Rights founder, Saad Eddin Ibrahim. Although widely celebrated as a leading Egyptian pro-democracy activist, Ibrahim maintains intimate connections to U.S. neoconservatives and a wide variety of ‘democracy promoting’ organizations connected to the work of the NED (for a critical examination of his background, see “The Violence of Nonviolence”). Recently Ibrahim even joined the advisory board of a neoconservative group called, whose web site says they are “dedicated to supporting human liberty by promoting the voices of online dissidents.” Founded in 2008 this project is headed by their cofounder, David Keyes, who previously served as coordinator for democracy programs under the right-wing Zionist Natan Sharansky while based at the Adelson Institute for Strategic Studies.

Retaining the theme on ‘democracy’ obsessed neoconservatives, it is significant that Sherif Mansour, the former program manager for the Ibn Khaldoun Center for Development Studies, is a current program officer for Middle East and North Africa at the neoconservative outfit, Freedom House. He is the coeditor with Maria Stephan of the book Civilian Resistance in the Middle East (Routledge, 2009).[5] Based at Freedom House, Mansour runs the New Generation program which advocates for political reform in Egypt and North Africa. Needless to say such ‘peace’ activists do not want the popular insurrection in Egypt to escalate to become a successful revolution that dismantles Egypt’s brutal state apparatus and creates a vibrant people-powered democracy. This helps explain why conservative commentators based in the United States are now asking: “Will Venezuela Be the Next Egypt?” The answer to that ridiculous question is a definitive no!

Michael Barker is an independent researcher who currently resides in the UK. His other articles can be accessed here.


[1] This is a reference to the Jack London’s 1907 book The Iron Heel. In a forthcoming article titled “The Velvet Slipper and the Military-Peace Nonprofit Complex,”I elaborate on what I refer to as the velvet slipper approach to manipulating social movements — an approach currently in vogue among leading neoconservatives.

[2] For further details, see Kim Scipes, KMU: Building Genuine Trade Unionism in the Philippines, 1980-1994 (New Day Publishers, 1996); and William I. Robinson, Promoting Polyarchy: Globalization, US Intervention, and Hegemony (Cambridge University Press, 1996), Chapter 3.

[3] Incidentally, elite ‘peace’-broker Peter Ackerman joined the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London as a visiting scholar, undertaking research which led him to co-authoring a book with Christopher Kruegler (the president of the controversial NED-funded Albert Einstein Institution) called Strategic Nonviolent Conflict: The Dynamics of People Power in the Twentieth Century (Praeger, 1994). Ackerman is a current board member of the Council on Foreign Relations, the founding chair and primary funder of the International Center on Nonviolent Conflict, and former chair of the neoconservative Freedom House.

[4] One might add that Naguib’s brother, Nassef Onsi Sawiris, is a board member of the cement behemoth, Lafarge, where he alongside numerous high-rolling members of the ruling class.

[5] It is noteworthy that Maria Stephan worked on this book while based at Peter Ackerman’s ‘democracy promoting’ International Center on Nonviolent Conflict. (See footnote #3)


3 thoughts on “Egyptian People Power Versus the Oligarchy”

  1. I recommend two recent books :

    America’s Nazi Secret by John Loftus

    A Mosque in Munich (…) by Ian Johnson

    Both authors have their own internet sites

    Lot of information about Frank Wisner Sr in the first one.

    In the second one, some information about Frank Wisner Sr ; mostly about the introduction of islamism in the Occident.

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