Adonis Diaries

Posts Tagged ‘Suez Canal

Part 2. Mehemet Ali (1770-1849): The last modern Pharaoh?

Mehemet Ali (Turkish pronunciation) or Mohammad Ali was born around 1770 in the poor port town of Kavala in Macedonia. Macedonia was called Roumelia by the Ottoman Empire, and Kavala faced the close-by island of Thasos.  Mehemet Ali’s father married Zeinab, a daughter of Hussein agha, and he had the job of securing the district routes, in addition of trading in tobacco.

At the age of 19, Mehemet Ali married Amina Hanem, the widowed daughter of the governor of Kavala. His first son Ibrahim was born in the nearby village of Drama, where the family fled from the cholera infesting the small port.  Amina was the favorite wife of Mehemet Ali, although he had 30 kids from his harem.  Only 10 lived to adulthood, 7 boys and 3 girls.

The second son of Mehemet Ali, the most beloved Toussoun, also died at 23 of age after an all-night of pleasure and bingeing… Toussoun had led an army in 1811 into the Arabic peninsula and defeated the extremist religious Wahhabi uprising and entered Mecca. The elder son Ibrahim would resume the war and the conquest and in 1818 eradicate Deryeh, the main city of the Wahhabi who received arms and  finances from England.

Mehemet Ali was totally illiterate till the age of 45, and spoke only Turkish, although he learned to understand local Arabic. Most of his children received the best education of the time and spoke several languages such as Farisi and Greek.

In 1800, Mehemet Ali reluctantly had to join the 300-contingent of Macedonians dispatched to support the British in the attempt of dislodging the remnant of 20,000 French soldiers in Egypt, lead by General Menou. Within less than a year, the French soldiers were evacuated from Egypt and Mehemet Ali advancing twice in military ranks.

The Ottoman Empire and the Mamluke in Egypt wanted to revert to the previous state of affairs, and Mehemet Ali played both powers, one against the other for four years, until he was appointed governor of Cairo in June 1805.

For another 5 years, Mehemet Ali relentlessly confronted the internal forces resisting his supreme rule and even managed to defeat another smaller British expeditionary force. In March 1811, Mehemet Ali massacred over 250 high-ranking Mamelukes in his palace.  The Mamelukes had to flee to Sudan.

When Mehemet Ali’s son Ismail led the troops to conquer Sudan in 1820, the Mamelukes had to retreat even further to actual Darfur.  Ismail was burned alive in his tent in 1822 in Chendy (Sudan) after angering a local tribe.

Mehemet Ali became the sole ruler or Vice-King of Egypt, Sudan, and current Saudi Arabia and Yemen:  He behaved as the biggest capitalist of his time since all the lands were His, and he bought all the agricultural products and resold them at monopolistic prices to the people and at premium prices to England, France, and Turkey…

Mehemet Ali transformed Egypt from scratch:  He created a modern army, a modern navy, public schools, public hospitals, hundred of miles of irrigation canals…most of them using forced labor by the hundred of thousands of Egyptian peasants.

Ibrahim started the Syrian campaign in 1831 and defeated the Ottoman armies in several battles. He could have entered the Capital Istanbul, but Mehemet Ali refused that Ibrahim army move forward.  Consequently, Ibrahim became the governor of Syria (from the southern Anatolia plateau to Gaza) and was a born administrator and Syria experienced its most prosperous period.

In 1839, Ibrahim defeated again the Ottoman army in the battle of Nezib, which lasted only two hours, and Istanbul was again ripe to fall, but for the western European coalition and Russia to refuse Ibrahim his military victory.  Ibrahim could annihilate the small British contingent that landed in Beirut in 1839, but it was a political decision to withdraw to Egypt and to relinquish Syria to the Ottoman Empire in Nov. 1840.

In 1841, Sultan Abdel Hamid II signed the “firman” extending the hereditary right of Mehemet Ali in Egypt.  Mehemet Ali refused the French investment to open the Suez Canal and also refused British investment for a railroad linking Alexandria with the Red Sea: Mehemet Ali foresaw the consequences of these foreign investment in Egypt and said: “Once the Suez canal is opened to navigation then the British will take it and Egypt will become under British mandated power…”

Mehmet Ali managed the British all the time because he knew that only the most powerful maritime Empire of the period could impose its conditions.  For example, it was the Egyptian wheat and cereal sale to England (1810-13) that maintained the British troops in Spain.

Ibrahim died one year before his father in Nov. 1848.  The eldest male in the family.  Abbas I (son of Toussoun) became Vice-King and ruined all the achievement of Mehemet Ali and Ibrahim within a few years of his reign.

The Suez Canal will be opened by the French in the 1860’s and a railroad will crisscross the country

A decade later, the British government purchased the Egyptian share in the Canal.  In Aug. 1882, a British contingent occupied Suez Canal and the last soldier left in June 1956 after Eisenhower ordered the retreat of the British and French troops.

In 1885, the British occupied Sudan and left in 1956.

Note: A review of the French book “The last Pharaoh” by Gilbert Sinoue

The more stubborn is the despised Mubarak the more determined the Egyptians are into organizing a democratic shadow government.  Pretty soon, it is the revolutionary committees that will be running the country, the Suez Canal, the ports and airports, the ministry of interior, the social affairs, the hospital and education facilities and institutions…

The longer the US and the EU delay the departure of Mubarak for an extensive leave of absence, the more certain that the old guards in this dictatorship regime will be discredited worldwide and all their atrocities, crimes against humanity, and highway robberies exposed.

Lawyers, judges, journalists, professors, engineering organizations have fired their impotent appointed chairmen and joined the demonstrators in every city in Egypt.

If anyone still is apprehensive that the Egyptians are going home and let their prison guards keep their standing power then he may rest assured that the first whiffs of freedom have gathered wind and a strong storm is gathering strength at its epicenter at Tahrir Square. Friday is the D-Day for landing at the Presidential Palace and storming public TV building and news ministry.

The army delay for any decisive action against the revolution means that the army of the people, soldiers having relatives among the million of demonstrators, is also discussing their real job that was denied them for 30 years:  Defending the territory and dignity of the Egyptian people.   The soldiers of the army of the people might decide to be represented in the government:  They are poor, under trained, hungry, lacking opportunities for advances and re-education…

The army of the people has been kept as backup forces to quelling military coups, but why should he mistreat his hungry and sick brothers and sisters who descended peacefully in order to be fed properly, find a job, get treated from his curable diseases, have opportunities for a better living conditions? The army of the people is waiting for the Standing President to vacate before fully supporting the  revolt and claiming their rights in the coming democracy.

About 2 million Egyptians have attempted suicide in their life and suffering from acute depression.  45% of the Egyptians are surviving on one dollar a day while the Mubarak family has accumulated $70 billion trading financial transactions at the expense of the daily bread of the 85 million Egyptians.  90% of Egyptians under 30 of age are jobless and Egypt is a young population.

Egypt has lost its position in the Arab and African World simply to satisfying Israel and US exigencies of a “peace treaty” that was used to trample the dignity and development of the Egyptians.

This funny people, still able to laugh, invent crazy jokes, and have good time under sniper bullets and hooligans attacks have erected tents and made Tahrir Square (Liberation) home:  Beds, movable kitchens, transportable bakeries and stands are thrown around catering for the masses of the millions.  Women are leading the organization of the Tahrir Square Home and the Egyptians are there until the last figure of the old guard is investigated and prosecuted.

The longer this revolt the better; protracted and determined revolts evolve into reality shadow government and “what democratic system” we want is fine-tuned.  And “what kinds of reforms we want” is clarified before equitable and fair election laws are voted on that would generate a fair representation of the need of the people.

I wrote in a previous article that “Israel has no longer any strategic allies in the region, not even minor allies:  The people in the region guarantee that no State regime in the region will dare schmooze and negotiate with any Israeli leader who refuses a Palestinian State, support the resumption of building in occupied land, and is not serious of transferring the Jews of colonies in occupied land back to Israel. Not a single State around Israel is scared of Israel’s military retaliation of any kind: the people have risen from the ashes of humiliation and imposed foreign policies.

The regime of Shah of Iran has long vanished since 1979, Turkey has been alienated and Israel still refuses to apologize for the crime against the peace boat incident, Mubarak of Egypt is down.  Tunisia of Ben Ali is down; the people in Jordan are putting the squeeze on the Hashemite monarch; the people in Lebanon have fired ex-PM Saad Hariri; the Palestinian Authority is discredited with the latest WikiLeaks and Hamas of Gaza and the West Bank are is on the ascendance.”

Fact is, Israel shares two common denominators with Lebanon and the Palestinian people.

First, Lebanon political system comprehends that to sustain security and stability it must support a stable Syria and satisfy its strategic policies in Lebanon.  The same mentality coincides in the relationship between Israel and Egypt:  Israel considered in the last 30 years that its stability is strategically linked to a stable and secure Egypt.  There is a single fundamental difference:  While the Lebanese share strategic, social, trades, historic, and geopolitical features with the Syrians, what the Israelis share with the Egyptians?  A “peace treaty” signed by Egyptian dictators?

Second, Israel and the Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza are totally dependent on the European States economic and financial support; not just for long-term development but actually for daily survival. Period!

Thus, Israel believed that it could flaunt the US policies for a Palestinian State as long as Egypt is stable and secure; Egypt closing its borders with Gaza; Egypt harassing Hamas for various reasons; Egypt supporting and planning Israel preemptive wars against Hezbollah and Hamas in Gaza…

Israel should no longer expect free oil and gas from Egypt.  What is this deal signed in 2005 for Israel to getting Egyptian gas paying just one dollar when the market price is $85 per million unit of gas?  No more free phosphate from Jordan.  No more free water from Lebanon and Syria.  No more lands by force or negotiations. No more moving nuclear submarines through the Suez Canal…

The policies of the US for establishing the so-called Greater Middle East is down the drain:  the US invasion of Iraq has been routed; the US troops in Afghanistan are readying to retreat from a war that cannot be won; the credibility in the sanity of the US Administration’s policies in the Middle East region has disintegrated; the faulty programs of the International Monetary Funds have not been revised for transparency and discussion with the concerned parties that led to the latest upheaval in Tunisia, Egypt, and Yemen.

Israel has to come down its high horses:  Israel is a tiny and artificial State, barely surviving on the economic and financial support of the European Union and the USA; Israel depends on subsidized goods and preferential status for open market in the European markets.

Israel is no longer in a position to play coy and humiliate the US and everybody else during the negotiation of a Palestinian State, not even Saeb Erakat, one of lame and cowardly Palestinian negotiators.  The crude statement of Tzipi Livni  (Israel ex-foreign affairs minister) “To create your Palestinian State, you have got to agree with Israel in advance on everything.  Your only choice is to relinquish any choices in the future.  Those are the founding bases for negotiation” is one of Israeli posturing relegated to history bins.

The Palestinian State in formation, already recognized by Russia, most of Latin American States, and Cyprus, refuses to be totally dependent on Israel economy, finance, and military support.  The Palestinian State in the West Bank and Gaza will demand total withdrawal of Israeli troops to the 1967 border; it demands the dismantling of all the Jewish colonies in occupied land; it refuses swapping small portions of lands to legitimizing forced settlement; it wants borders with Jordan and Egypt, it wants and an international airport and a maritime port and full autonomy.  A new election for the Palestinian people is necessary before the resumption of any “peace talk” with the extremist Israeli government and all the major Palestinian factions, including Hamas, will be represented in the negotiation team.

This masquerade of offering free parcels of land to Israel, a parcel from here and a parcel from there and pretty soon there is no land to giving away, is no longer accepted.  The quarters of Har Homa, Gilo, the Armenian quarters, Ariel, and Maaleh Adumin belong to East Jerusalem, the Capital of the Palestinian State.

Israel has a new window of opportunity to live in peace . Israel shred to pieces the Oslo agreement of 1993 and is refusing to return occupied lands in Syria, Lebanon and Palestine.  This makeshift democratic mask, hiding blatant apartheid policies, can no longer be sustained by the Western States with the frequent public Israeli policies reinforcing the apartheid and racist activities.

Israel has to fulfill two requirements for short-term peace and security.  First, Israel has to return all conquered lands in Syria, Lebanon, and Palestine. Second, it has to facilitate the establishment of an independent Palestinian State, the sooner the better.  Israel has to desist demanding unfeasible conditions such as Syria disengaging from Iran or pressuring Hezbollah to disarm.

The long-term strategic policy to living in peace and be accepted in the region is for Israel to start demonstrating that it has the interests of all the people in the region as her own for survival and human development:  What rational State refuses to comprehend this basic requirement?

Down with the Wall of Shame separating people along the dividing line.  Time for Israel to deal with the UN Charters for human rights, prisoners rights, legal prosecution processes, crimes against humanity, sex market, slave market, drugs market, arms market.

If you analyse the causes of wars since the 17th centuries you will discover the modern definition of war.  War is the unethical, immoral, but legal mechanism to rounding up the surplus turbulent and employed lower middle class citizens and suspending paying off interest on sovereign debts to “enemy” creditors, due to political and economic internal crisis.”

The expedient short-term political decision of aggressing other nations is reasoned to getting two birds in one shot.  First, The vast pool of unemployed lower middle class citizens, constituting 60% of the population, are sent abroad and thus, relieving the internal political pressures for any change in the political and economic structure; hopefully, many will die and reduce or eliminate the danger of political upheaval.  Second, the enemy is targeted to be one of the major creditors, invariably judged to be weaker militarily, so that the government will default on the contracted sovereign debt, not only on the interest portion, but on the principal as well.

What are the consequences?  On the short-term, we may consider two cases.

First case, the enemy creditor turned out not to be that weak militarily and the war lasted longer than expected (as is inevitably the case).  Thus, a treaty is signed after the cease-fire, and the creditor becomes a mandatory power controlling the economy; which means the creditor gets the right of cutting out its share first of any income before the government obtains its share.  In general, the creditor obtains the monopoly of the main exporting product  such any raw material, cotton, rubber, oil… The creditor might demand war reparation as well, if he judges that the political system of the enemy is strong enough to withstand political backlash.  In fact, all defeated governments have in mind projects and plans to preempting the high probability that the returning defeated army might revolt and demand political changes.

Second case, the enemy creditor lose the war, but since he is considered a developed “modern” nation, by the standards of the period, the victor will end up just defaulting on the sovereign debt.  Both nations are back borrowing like crazy in order to maintaining the political status-quo.  Now the creditors to the two warring nations are powerful nations and eventually will impose their control in the medium-term.  The two nations have been superseded in economic power. Historical examples are recorded of the fates of Venise, Genoa, and Holland.

The consequences of the third case are on relatively the longer-term. The enemy creditor is weak militarily and also considered among the developing countries.  The victor colonize the enemy creditor in order to generating quickly raw materials and opening another market for its products. The victor finds out that he needs to borrow money in order to build infrastructures in the colonized country for producing and transporting the raw materials.  Slavery turns out counterproductive:  First, there is resistance to foreign armies and colons; and second, harsh measures decimate the population and slow down production and market population; and third, the powerful creditors put pressures to having a share in the production.  In the long-term, the powerful creditors supplant the victor as the colonial power.

There are many examples to back up these real scenarios.  The US was the major creditor to colonial Spain and ended up taking hold of Cuba and the Philippines.  England was the main creditor to monarchic Egypt and got hold of the Suez Canal from the French who made it possible.  England allowed France to colonize Algeria hoping that France would be able to repaying its sovereign debts.  France withdrew from South Vietnam and left it to the US because it could no longer sustain a losing national resistance battle:  That was a mean French decision since the US will be broke after ten years of fighting the Viet Cong: Nixon had no choice in 1968 but to leave the dollar uncovered by gold, thus, forcing the US to back up its useless paper money through military threats that is going till now.  Unfortunately, China and Japan are no weak enemy creditors to chastise them at every political and economic crisis.

By 1914, Germany was the first industrial nation in Europe, the most powerful militarily, and the most populous after Russia (65 million).   Germany was the prime creditors of Russia, France, and even England.  All European nations adopted isolationist policies in trades, meaning setting high tariffs for imported goods in order to protect internal productions.  Germany needed the Congo (a Belgium colony) to export its surplus of goods and citizens, other wise, imminent political problems might be generated by joblessness and inflation if no resolution of its surpluses in goods and men were found.  France and England refused Germany any relief valves and were uncomfortable with being debtors to Germany.  The WWI could have been avoided if borders were opened for free exchange of goods among the European States.  The US was also very worried that opening the borders in Europe would certainly permit Germany to becoming the next superpower.  The war generated 18 million of casualty, and over 20 million during the flu epidemic, and set the stage for WWII.

The most current case is the Iraqi’s preemptive war that lasted already 9 years. In 2002, the US was broke, as usual, but also witnessing high unemployment rate.  Afghanistan was supposed to be the enemy. Wrong.  Iraq was targeted because of its rich oil production: “democracy stupid”.  A quick razzias was planned but turned out sour and deadly.  Not only oil production in Iraq slowed down drastically, but the US had to borrow over one trillion dollars to “prosecute” the war.  All the allies withdrew and China replaced the US in the vast African market under the helpless watch and tacit agreement of the US administration. To make things worst, sovereign debt of the US increased exponentially, as well as unemployment rate.  Back to the devilish cycle with a harsher financial crash.

Imaginary Certitudes (May 6, 2009)



The US republican notion of capitalism is plainly discredited; communism was discredited since 1989; the doctrine of the Christian religion was discredited since the French Revolution in 1787 and a century before that but religion cannot be eradicated from the spirit of the masses.  The power of religion is that you don’t need to apply or fear to be ex-communicated whether you are a believer or not or whether your opinions are not compatible with the predominant ideology.  Religion exercises its legitimacy once it combines the doctrines of “communism” for equal opportunities and the aspiration for independence against a usurper.  That is what extremist Islam has managed to package its ideology; an ideology targeting the poor and disinherited who were deprived of dignity and were humiliated by the western powers.

Let me resume my previous article on “Misleading Legitimacies“.  Gamal Abdel Nasser of Egypt managed to capture legitimacy in the emotions and spirit of the Arab populations as the leader of the Arab World by politically defeating the joint military attack by Britain, France, and Israel in 1956 to recapture the Suez Canal.  The Arab populations were satisfied that their crushed dignity for over 5 centuries was re-emerging among the nations (the western nations).  Even the crushing military defeat by tiny Zionist Israel in 1967 maintained Gamal Abdel Nasser as the legitimate leader and most of the Arab State leaders converged to him to resolving their conflicts with their neighbors or within their State.

After the death of Gamal Abdel Nasser (The Raiyess) in 1970 the goal of Arab leaders was to re-capture Arab legitimacy.  The successor of the (Raiyess) in Egypt was Sadate who needed to rely on the legitimacy of the “Moslem Brotherhood” to strengthen his power and thus proclaimed to be “The First of the Believers (among Moslems)”.  All the Arab leaders realized that legitimacy reside in convincing victories against common enemies to the “Arabs”, or mainly any western nation and Israel the closest geographically.  The initial victory in 1973 on the Sinai front against Israel was cancelled out by bedding with the USA and “My Dear Friend Henry (Kissinger)” Sadate was hated by most Arabs and no one shed a tear when he was assassinated.

Dictator Saddam Hussein enjoyed potentials in literate population, large army, and natural resources; he jumped at the occasion when the USA encouraged him to invade Iran of Khomeini.  This time, the enemy was the Persians who had re-captured lands that the Arab and Ottoman Empires had secured centuries ago and called “Arabstan” or Khuzestan. After 8 years of mutual slaughtering in the battle field Saddam Hussein reverted to its neighboring “Arab” State of Kuwait and was vanquished by the USA, the arch enemy of the Arabs.  Saddam lost his legitimacy. 

Saudi Arabia’s successive monarchs endeavored to gain legitimacy in the Arab World through building thousands of mosques, appointing clerics who favored the Wahhabit sect, and lavishing petro-dollars for settling conflicts among the Arab States.  Saudi Arabia has been working for the long term by proselytizing their conservative extremist Wahhabit sect among the Sunni Moslems and gaining legitimacy by proclaiming that they are the “Servitors or Guardians of the Holy Kaaba and Medina (al Haramine)”


The progress in Europe was established indirectly by a centralized Papal spiritual authority.   Ironically, this spiritual centralization was acquired when the pagan Roman Emperor Constantine supposedly converted to Christianity.  Christianity could have evolved without any serious centralization if it was not ordered by the Roman ideological system of centralized power.  Hundreds of Christian sects existed in Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Egypt, Greece, and throughout the Roman Empire before the year 325; they were persecuted as “heretics” after the conclave of Nicee in 325.  Papal Rome hindered progress and change vigorously for long period but once society expressed its willingness for change then it followed suit and even staunchly maintained the changes and supported them against any refracting bishop or religious Christian sects.  Centralized Papal Rome was a counterbalance to the tyranny of temporary authorities who had to compromise and rectify policies that challenged the dignity and well being of the poor citizens.  

Islam had no such centralized spiritual authority; it viewed with suspicion any kinds of religious centralization; it didn’t appreciate mediators between the believer and his God.  Thus, the political sultans and sovereigns dominated the religious spiritual power; in most instances the monarch grabbed the legitimacy of caliph. Thus, the counterbalance to tyranny lacked in the Moslem world and any recognized cleric, ordered by a sultan, could proclaim a “fatwa” or an injunction for the people to obey as a religious obligation.  You could have several “fatwas” concurrently injuncting opposing orders.

The problem in Islam is not in the source or the Koran but the free interpretations of any monarch or leader at any period.  There are no stable and steady spiritual legitimacy in any interpretations that can be changed or neglected at other periods.


The author Amine Maaluf recounts this story” A Moslem woman applies in Amsterdam (The Netherlands) for a private club that would allow Moslem women to meet and maybe share common hot baths with sauna and Jacuzzi (hammam). A week later the municipality rejected the application on ground that the local Moslem cleric (Imam) had an objection to the club” If the woman was European would the municipality ask the opinion of a Christian cleric? It would certainly not. 

What this story proves is that, under the good intentions of respecting ethnic minorities, the European are exercising covert apartheid; they are sending the message that minority rights are not covered by the UN declarations which are supposed to be valid for all human kinds.  The human rights approved by all States within the UN convention are applicable to all regardless of color, religion, sex, or origin.  What is fundamentally needed is that all States feel that the United Nation is a credible institution that is not dominated by veto power super nations and that it has effective executive power to enforce its human rights proclamations to all world citizens and political concepts.




June 2023

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