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Obama's so-called national security team -- Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Director of Central Intelligence Leon Panetta

Obama caught flat-footed on Egyptian uprising

By —— Bio and Archives February 1, 2011

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Events occurring in Egypt appear to baffle U.S. politicians and policymakers including the current administration of President Barack Obama.

Obama’s so-called national security team—Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Director of Central Intelligence Leon Panetta, etc.—appear to have been caught flat-footed as a result of the apparent inadequate gathering and analysis of actionable intelligence regarding Egypt.

The Arab Republic of Egypt is as close to a republic as any Arab nation today. It’s legal system is based on Islamic and civil law (particularly Napoleonic codes). 

According to non-classified intelligence reports, despite a constitutional ban against religious-based parties and political activity, the technically illegal Muslim Brotherhood constitutes Egypt’s most potentially significant political opposition.

The now embattled President Mohamed Hosni Mubarak has alternated between tolerating limited political activity by the Brotherhood and blocking its influence. Meanwhile, civic society groups are sanctioned, but constrained in practical terms with only trade unions and professional associations affiliated with the government are officially sanctioned.

Tens of thousands of protesters began gathering earlier this week demanding the resignation of Egyptian President Mubarak. As the protest turned into rioting and destructive behavior, Egyptian police and security—Central Security Forces (CSF)— have all but abandoned the streets following the increasingly volatile and fluid situation. Thanks to what appears to be inadequate intelligence, U.S. leaders are viewed as being surprised as events unfold.


According to privately-owned intelligence firms the backbone of Egypt’s internal security apparatus is its security force, the CFS. The security force outnumbers Egypt’s military and one of the main differences between CFS and the army is the training to deal with riots and insurgencies. has reported that “the CSF have become severely demoralized after being overwhelmed by the protesters on January 28.

The local police and CSF are largely staying at home—having been encouraged to do so by outgoing Interior Minister Habib Ibrahim El Adly, who was forced to resign along with the rest of the Cabinet—and allowing the army to handle the situation.

A great deal of animosity exists between the Egyptian army and the CSF, which gets most of its recruits from Upper Egypt where poverty and illiteracy rates are high. A major source of army-police friction stems from the first CSF rebellion in 1986, when the CSF revolted over long working hours and mistreatment by state authorities, according to

The army had to intervene and crush the rebellion, creating a crisis in relations between the police and the military. The second CSF rebellion came in December 2008 during Israel’s Operation Cast Lead in Gaza, when many CSF recruits refused to patrol the Rafah Crossing between Sinai and Gaza and instead wanted to invade Gaza to defend the territory against the Israel Defense Forces.

“The events of Jan. 28 appear to have broken the will of the CSF and many within the National Guard, who were at the forefront of the crisis, leaving the General Directorate for State Security Investigations (notorious for its repressive interrogation techniques) as the only institution within the internal security apparatus left intact,” said a STRATFOR report.

Army personnel in tanks and armored personnel carriers are meanwhile patrolling the major areas where demonstrators are gathering, but their primary mission is to demonstrate the presence of state authority, not to protect the people.

The military may be well-positioned to impose order at the highest level of the regime and create the conditions for Mubarak resignation and departure, but given the hostilities that exist between the army and police and the glaring absence of police on the streets, the military faces an even greater challenge in trying to secure the entire country.

Jim Kouri -- Bio and Archives | Comments

Jim Kouri, CPP, is founder and CEO of Kouri Associates, a homeland security, public safety and political consulting firm. He’s formerly Fifth Vice-President, now a Board Member of the National Association of Chiefs of Police, an editor for, a columnist for, a contributor to KGAB radio news, and news director for

He’s former chief at a New York City housing project in Washington Heights nicknamed “Crack City” by reporters covering the drug war in the 1980s. In addition, he served as director of public safety at St. Peter’s University and director of security for several major organizations. He’s also served on the National Drug Task Force and trained police and security officers throughout the country.


Kouri appears regularly as on-air commentator for over 100 TV and radio news and talk shows including Fox News Channel, Oprah, McLaughlin Report, CNN Headline News, MTV, etc.

To subscribe to Kouri’s newsletter write to [email protected] and write “Subscription” on the subject line.


Older articles by Jim Kouri

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