Wednesday, October 26, 2011

How to make a false flag terrorist attack, in addition a sloppy one

It seems the low season ended in the Middle East. In the last two-three weeks several interesting news stormed the media: the report on the increased production of uranium enriched to 20% in Iran and the world's reaction to it, a very negative (and I believe very realistic) report of the Special Commissioner for Human Rights in Iran Ahmad Shaheed, and mainly the news about the alleged terrorist plot aiming to take the life of the Saudi Ambassador in Washington, Adel Al-Jubeir. Along with the deteriorating situation in Syria, I do not think the timing is pure coincidence. Here I would like to present some arguments and details about the entire case, which simply do not fit into the picture.
Even among Iranian experts discord reigns, some believe that Iran's role in the attack is due to a deep internal crisis, while others exclude it as a fake attack made up by Americans and Saudis in order to tighten the already tough sanctions, or to push the whole thing even further. The whole thing has been hastily brought to the Security Council, despite the large holes in the evidence (for example missing recordings of the dialogs and the like). According to witnesses in addition to the assassination a shipment of opium was planned, but the crucial evidence tapes have allegedly never been recorded.

The attack should have been be carried out by the Mexican drug cartel Zetas, and its aim was allegedly the killing of the Saudi Ambassador Al-Jubeir by a bomb in a busy restaurant in Washington, with subsequent bombings of the Embassies of Saudi Arabia and Israel. Mansour Arbabsiar advanced $ 100,000 to the Mexicans and after the attack they would get the rest, in total one and a half million dollars. The contact person of the Mexicans, however, turned out to be a DEA informant (US Drug Enforcement Administration).

Let's analyze now the details of this terrorist attack.

One of the main organizers of the attack should be Mansour Arbabsiar, 56, an Iranian-American national, a divorced used cars salesman, a known scatterbrain haunted by his unpaid bills. In the past he has been arrested a couple of times for traffic violations, but nothing serious. He was not a religious ideologue and not a terrorist genius like Imad Mugniyeh, rather a looser, an ideal victim, lured by the vision of money. Last year he spent in Iran, where he moved after his business failures. To his acquaintances he boasted that he was making good money there. He was arrested after he wanted to fly to Mexico to meet the person and arrange the details of the operation.

The other people associated with the attack should be Abdol Reza Shahlaee, Arbabsiar's cousin, Hamed Abdollah, Ghasem Soleymani and Ali Gholam Shakouri, who should be a member of the Quds Force, a specialized unit of the Revolutionary Guards for foreign operations. Terrorist attacks in which Quds Force played a role, took place mostly in the nearest countries, ie. Iraq, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, or less exposed locations. They were planned by the Quds Force and executed by non-Iranian, however Shiite allies, thus Iran got away with a clean face. The use of a Mexican drug gang for such a strategic operation, in addition on American soil seems unlikely in this perspective and does not fit into the scheme of their behavior. The Saudi Ambassador can be killed easier on other better places than Washington. In addition, such a specialized unit as the Quds force has certainly many skillful pro fessionals to use than a failed Texas merchant, which also quickly confesses, than denies everything. Iran, as usual, blamed this terrorist attack on the MEK opposition group and Khamenei added the usual phrase that in case of an inadequate action by the United States Iran would reply with a great force. Iran's internal politics is now busy with the upcoming elections. After the experience with the disobedience of Ahmadinejad, Khamenei stated that he could proceed with a change of political system from presidential (direct election of the President by the voters) to a parliamentary one. This step would weaken or eliminate the position of the President (basically one of the last elected representatives) and replaced it with a Prime Minister, replaceable anytime in case of disobedience. It is a kind of crisis, when Iran could maybe welcome a war, but the steps the government would take to provoke it would be quite different.

Having observed the behavior and rhetoric, Iran has no interest in carrying out open terrorist attacks, or to claim responsibility for them. Its whole foreign propaganda is based on the self-styled victim role, humiliated by sanctions and falsely accused. Even if incidents happened, Iranians did their best to make them happen on Iranian soil, waters or airspace so they could claim to be "attacked." Even if Iran wanted to start a war, it desperately needs the support of the citizens, and that could be never gained by a terroris attack. Even groups like Hezbollah, founded and supported financially by Iran, are proclaimed to be independent local resistance.

In the past, the Iranian government carried out attacks on their arch-enemies abroad, usually dissidents and leaders of opposition groups. I should mainly mention the "Mykonos case" that could serve as a model for similar actions. The attack happened on September 17, 1992 in Berlin's Mykonos restaurant and left four dead, Sadegh Sharafkandi, Fattah Abdoli, Homayoun Ardalan and their translator Nouri Dehkordi. To carry out the assassination, firearms with silencers were used, not a bomb. There were also other people in the rooms who were not targeted and survived the attack. Other attacks such as the assassination of former Prime Minister Shahpour Bakhtiar and his aide Abdul Rahman Boroumandi in Paris in 1991, Kazem Rajavi from the MEK, Prince Shahriar Shafiq (cousin of the late Shah) and many others. All were killed quietly by a firearm, or stabbed, and the murders were directly targeted at them without unnecessary loss of lives. Bomb as a weapon was used to murder Bijan Fazeli. It exploded in a Persian video store in London. However, a bomb attack in a public place with many casualties to remove one person is not typical for Iranians.

If really Iran was behind the the whole case, the next question is what could Iran achieve by killing the Ambassador. Al Jubeir was not a member of the royal family, nor had a direct influence on the policy of Saudi Arabia. If the government was not directly seeking confrontation or more sanctions, the strategic importance is minimal. An other possible explanation could be an individualistic action carried out by several people without the knowledge of the commanders of the Revolutionary Guards. The question is, what they wanted, or could achieve. It seems unlikely that individuals or a limited group could have a broader strategic plan. Perhaps the most likely possibility is that the whole fuss was just about drugs. It is widely known that the Revolutionary Guards are involved in the narcotics trade, so it could be a believable core of the case. To add a terrorist attack is not at all difficult. It need just a little imagination and for the warmongers it just came as a gift from the sky.

Those who could profit from this "attack" are the Saudis, Iran's traditional rivals in the region. They compete in local conflicts for the support of the leaders and people in mixed Sunni-Shiite areas (Iraq, Bahrain, Yemen, etc.), they compete in oil exports, and their relationship is complicated by the conciliatory attitude of KSA toward the U.S. and Israel. Saudis look with the highest suspicion at Iran's nuclear ambitions and have repeatedly called for the provision of nuclear weapons should Iran obtain them. Iran can credit some provocations and attempts to escalate the conflict by defiant and provocative rhetoric, missile tests and military exercises, arresting foreign nationals (especially Americans), and incidents between vessels in the Persian Gulf. Let's add reports of seized weapons shipments to Syria and militant organizations like Hezbollah, Hamas or Sadr's militia in Iraq and we have a thick bundle of arguments sufficient for a media soup for what is called a "pre-emptive strike". We will see whether the Americans and the Saudis will push through further sanctions despite the opposition of Russia and China. There are voices for sanctions against the Central Bank, through which cash flows into the country for oil payments. Military solutions are never a priori swept off the table, the question is just how many countries dare to engage in a war with such a hard nut to crack like Iran.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Winds of change from unexpected directions?

On Sunday, April 17, 2011 a seemingly not very important thing happened in Iran. The Minister of Intelligence, Heydar Moslehi resigned. The resignation has been received by President Ahmadinejad, or better to say, it was somehow compelled because Ahmadinejad disliked Moslehi. But the Supreme Leader Khamenei swept everything off the table.
In Iran, the Ministers are appointed and recalled by the President, but there is an unwritten law, under which the key (national, foreign, intelligence, etc.) ministries must be approved by Khamenei. Is this expression of "indipendent action" by Ahmadinejad just an other symptom of crushing the seemingly monolithic Iranian government?

To clarify, we should repeat a few key data on the distribution of power and slow changes that agitated the pieces on the Iranian chessboard. Previously, people abroad (including the media) often did not distinguish who is accountable for each step of the government. Ahmadinejad became a good target to attack and ridicule, and his statements during his first mandate mostly represented the conservative groups around Khamenei. Khamenei was still pulling the strings. It was apparent until the presidential election 2009, which swirled and divided the society and claimed dozens of victims in the post-election clashes. Despite the widespread belief that the elections were rigged, Khamenei confirmed Ahmadinejad in his second term. That was the move that Mahmoud probably needed to realize his plans: during the first four years he tried to surround himself by loyal allies, mostly various technocrats, some affiliated Revolutionary Guards or his own relatives. In his second term, he even managed to reduce the proportion of clerics in key positions to an unprecedentedly low number.

The first deeper and visible clash between Ahmadinejad and Khamenei was Ahmadinejad's choice of his most important collaborator, Esfandiar Rahim-Mashaei. In a short period (2009 July 17 to 24) he held the post of first Vice-President (there are 12 Vice Presidents in total), but was forced to resign on the order of Khamenei. Than he became Ahmadinejad's closest adviser and the two are also related: Mashaei's daughter is married to Ahmadinejad's son.

On one side Mashaei in his speeches occasionally pulls out a reminiscence of the glorious pre-Islamic history of the Persian Empire, which is a taboo among conservatives. For example, he lauded the positive message of the ancient Persian New Year holidays (Norooz) and occasionally hitting the nationalistic note, as if Islam did not exist. On other occasions, again he highlights the Iranian Shiite interpretation of Islam as the only correct and decisive for the entire Islamic world. Another time he said that Iranian nation is a friend of Israelis and Americans.

His comments and attitude immediately drew attacks from the conservative clerics Ahmad Jannati, Ahmad Khatami (not to confuse with the Reformist former President Mohammad Khatami or any of his brothers, the matching surnames are purely coincidental) and finally Mohammad Mesbah-Yazdi, between people kindly nicknamed "The Crocodile" (temsaah). They unleashed a smear campaign aginst Mashaei and called him a suspect element with unclear intentions, a foreign agent, a member of a banned religious groups, etc.

But something does not fit here. How can an outwardly faithful Muslim, a notorious critic of Israel and the United States and a Holocaust denier tollerate such statements and behavior from his most trusted advisor? When we look a little closer at Ahmadinejad's career, except a few white, or rather dark spots in his past, and several famous quotes ("We do not have homosexuals in Iran"), we can find quite a few interesting deviations from the typical thinking schemes of Islamic conservatives.

In 2006, shortly after his election, he tried to push through a bill to allow women spectators into the football stadiums and also said that Iran has many more important problems than how women dress. These efforts to push through some "innovations" were, of course, ruled out by conservative clergy, who adopted intentionally even a tougher course. These tough measures were sometimes misleadingly attributed to Ahmadinejad's administration. After his controversial re-election in 2009, he tried to nominate three women to ministerial positions in a country where a woman can not hold the post of judge, apparently because she "does not have enough intelligence". He obtained the approval for one of them, the Minister of Health, but women hold also other functions. But why would Ahmadinejad ever deviate from the main conservative mainstream? Why would he try to limit the influence of clerics in the Government? This is a very interesting question. It is possible that all his conservatism is just a pose, he needed to gain the favor and confirm his second mandate. Or perhaps he realized that the government of the clergy only hinders and restricts the development of the country? Or is it out of sheer pragmatism, perhaps because he felt the spirit of change that was slowly but surely creeping over the past thirty years in the minds of people and he only wants to use it to his advantage... That change is the loss of trust in the governance of the Jurist, the Faqih, the Islamic cleric and specialist in Islamic law. It is a phenomenon, which, in the case of Iranian spirit, can be, but not necessarily, connected to the loss of faith in God and Islam itself. Anyway the whole concept of collective, state-organized devoutness is now sounding empty to many people.

At the end, perhaps we will witness a violent power struggle between factions of further quarreling turbans and dark green uniforms. At the beginning the reformist wing split from the Government. They were tolerated, but did not achieve anything important, because they were not able to identify clear goals and their hands were kept tied by their declared loyalty to the idea of the Islamic Republic, as defined by Khomeini. They crossed the threshold of tolerance by protests after the presidential election. They were gradually attacked, discredited and their leaders Mousavi and Karroubi finally silenced in the darkness of house arrest.

Among those who came out victorious from the clashes, a very important group has been reinforced, the Revolutionary Guards. And they are far from being just a street gang of idealistic militants and revolutionaries, like the Basij. It is a highly organized and well armed component, which is in direct control of much of the state itself, including telecommunications, heavy industry and nuclear programme and it's actually a specific type of a capitalist giant corporation.

According to available data, the Guards are one of the largest companies after Iran's state oil company and the effort to include the Guards in the sanctions and to freeze their assets abroad is justified. Originally, the Revolutionary Guards were loyal to Khomeini, and by extension to Khamenei, but who can guarantee that in this powerful and armed organization we will not find purely pragmatic people, untouched by Islamic idealism, who will attempt to change the whole system, of course, in their favor, even by a violent coup, removing of clerical and theological elements and secularizing the whole machinery.

It must not necessarily be a secularization and democratization as the pro-democratically thinking people imagine. Those individuals are also presumably little interested in freedom and democracy, but I think that the removal of religious leaders may not be as difficult as it appears at first. Various religious authorities and pseudo-authorities are already trying hard to somehow highlight the importance and seriousness of Khamenei. The question is, how successfully. A few weeks ago a documentary film appeared that identifies Khamenei with the mythical figure of Seyed Khorasani, who has to prepare the path for the second coming of the hidden Imam Mehdi, the 12th Shiite Imam.

The film provoked considerable controversy among the clergy, a part of them declared it a heresy. Just for fun, some days after, Ayatollah Mohammad Saeed, the leader of Friday prayers in Qom (the holy city south of Tehran) said that Khamenei was a child prodigy, and after he was born he cried in Arabic, "Ya Ali" (invocation of Shiite leader Ali). Well, admit, can anyone with common sense take these people seriously and leave the management of such a country in their hands?

Now it will just depend on how many supporters has Ahmadinejad at all levels, whether they manage to defend him against Khamenei, or will he meet the same fate as the Reformists, who fell into disfavor and were silenced. Khamenei hastily dismissed any disputes and rifts in the Government. It is certain that among conservatives there are enough pragmatists, who will try to avoid the split and weakening of the Government, because over weak and lonely lions there is already a flock of vultures circling hungrily.

(First published 2011 April 27th)

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The Bitter End of a Dream

February 11th is the anniversary of the Iranian revolution. It also happens to be the date when the Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak resigned, just some weeks after his Tunisian counterpart Bin Ali. And he does not seem to be the last one, the observers are already feverishly arguing about who will be next. On Saturday, February 12th people were protested in Algeria, February 14th in Iran. People begun to move also in Yemen, Jordan, Lybia and other places all over the Middle East.

The events of recent weeks not only signed the end of a part of the dictatorships in the region, but also the end of a great, utopian dream: the dream of the Islamic Republic of Iran to export their revolution to the region.

The new Islamic government in Iran after the Revolution of 1979 took over the country in very good condition. The infrastructure and industry was already built and on high technological level and the conuntry was an important economic and military power. The continued inflow of petrodollars from the often artificially skyrocketing prices gave Iran a unique opportunity: despite the eight-year war with Iraq, the Iranian government has managed to build a network of "branches" in most Muslim countries in the region, such as Hezbollah in Lebanon, in Iraq, or SCIRI (Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq). The task of these organizations were ideological and armed attacks against U.S. and Western values and ideas such as secularism and, of course, against Israel. These organizations sought to discredit the country's rulers as incompetent puppets and servants of the West (which often may not be far from the truth), trying to offer people an alternative in the establishment of an Islamic government.

Iran with its aggressive rhetoric against the U.S. and Israel, trying to build nuclear capabilities and the constant boasting of "independent" technical progress, tried to attract the Muslim lands under its wing. It was not important, that apart from Lebanon and Iraq, these were mostly Sunni countries. The fight against the Great Satan and Israel should be enough to unite all Muslims against the common enemy. At the beginning they succeeded. Ahmadinejad was extremely popular in Muslim countries because of its confrontational rhetoric against the U.S. and Israel.

When the Tunisian president was toppled, and the Egyptians refused to build a pyramid to the last pharaoh - Mubarak, Khamenei and Ahmadinejad rushed to shout their thesis that these revolutions were inspired by the Iranian revolution of 1979, it was Tunisians and Egyptians fight for "freedom" against Western oppression.

But maybe they hardly believe themselves. Or they desperately want to believe.

During the most tumultuous days in Egypt, the major foreign news sites that mediated the news and footage of riots in Tunisia and Egypt were blocked or obstructed in Iran..

If the revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt are so much inspired by the 1979 "Islamic revolution" of Iran, why the regime is so afraid of showing them?

Already at first glance it is clear that the role of Islamists in these revolutions was rather marginal. They were popular uprisings. It is evident that they resemble the Iranian revolution in its early days, when against the Shah different factions fought side by side, workers, intellectuals, communists and Islamists, who eventually usurped the revolution for themselves.

Several days ago representatives of the "Green" reform movement, asked for permission to demonstrate on Monday 25th of Bahman (February 14th ) to express solidarity with the Tunisians and Egyptians. Of course, they never got an official permission. The call did not spread just via Facebook, people wrote on walls, buses and banknotes, which are a very popular way to spread information in Iran. They handed out leaflets and stickers and stuck posters on walls in all major cities.

The people found the courage to come out into the streets, and the demonstration was again severely suppressed.

The main thing is that Khamenei proclaimed "the right of Egyptians and Tunisians to freedom. "

Khamenei and the official propaganda say that the Middle Eastern and North African countries yearn for Islamist rule. People who overestimate the support for extremist movements in those countries are of the same opinion.

None of this happened so far. Even the Muslim Brotherhood itself rebuked his statement.

In the summer of 2009 all the Tunisians and Egyptians could see clearly what kind of "freedom" an Islamic regime can offer. It discredited itself without any need of help: shooting people on the streets, torturing and raping detainees. If we admit that Tunisians and Egyptians were inspired by Iran, it was rather the Green movement of 2009, rather than the Islamic of 1979. It remains to hope that people will not lose common sense to leave the control to the Islamists, and the current U.S. government will be sufficiently weak and confused to quickly installed their puppet out there, a new dictator of Mubarak's kind: "no matter what doing, important, that he is our friend. "

The time when Islamist factions could win by violence are apparently gone. In the last thirty years, even in the Middle East has changed a lot. Progress can not be stopped, we no longer live at the time of the pyramids, or in times of bloodthirsty invaders waving their swords around. Egyptians and Tunisians know that they need to maintain friendship with the world. To whom could they otherwise show their pyramids and beaches?

And what about Iran? Probably it will have to wake up to the cold reality. It seems that all that its work and investment in the export of Islamic revolution was quite... a waste of time.

Monday, February 14, 2011

The End of the Last Pharaoh. Why Mubarak Had to Leave.

It is Saturday early morning, 12th of February 2011 and I leave my home into the pale morning light. It is not freezing anymore, and the almost spring air is pleasantly whistling in my hair. I have an appointment with Mustafa. I'm late again, as always. He awaits me in front of one of the big shopping centers. He is a twenty seven years old handsome young man with intelligent eyes and a gentle, a bit shy smile.

We sit down in an empty cafe. All around us there are decorations in Egyptian style ... Maybe my friend feels less homesick here. Bands of hieroglyphs twist and whirl on the walls and from a corner a gilded statue of an ancient Egyptian deity with a jackal's head is observing us with its enigmatic glance.

We speak English because his English is thousand times better than my Arabic. He orders an espresso with milk and a Coke, I go for a caffè latte.

- Why do you want to make and interview with me?

- Just out of curiosity. I am interested to know your opinion. And I want to write something about Egypt as well. I love writing. Perhaps one day I can become a professional.

- That's interesting. I did not know that you write. My uncle was a famous writer. His name was Nejib Kilani. He spent 10 years in prison, he married a journalist who helped him a lot. When I was a child, he was my big model. I also wrote short stories, but it did not bring me too much money (he laughs). I still write, sometimes at work I just grab a piece of paper and scribble something ... so ask me what do you want to know?

- Are you happy about the last events in Egypt?

- Well ... on one side, I am pleased, on the other side I am not. Egypt will need some time before it becomes a better place to live. For example, the Sinai Peninsula is dangerous. Look how Egypt developed over the past hundred years: Egypt is a rich country, it has access to the Red and to the Mediterranean, it has museums, and it has a work force of 60 million young people between 18 and 40 years.

- So why people began to protest against Mubarak?

- He he was a dictator, he was selfish, he made many mistakes, he just cared about the people who have money. Ordinary people have a lot of problems, but he did not care. 40% of people are living below the poverty line but Mubarak has 70 billion dollars, tell me where did he get that money?

- So the people's discontent is caused by economic reasons? When did people start to protest? Was it maturing for several months, or was it completely spontaneous?

- Everythingl started on April 6 last year (2010) in Alexandria, where the police killed a young man named Khaled Saeid. Witnesses say it happened in a coffee shop. He was sitting there when the cops came in and wanted to see his documents or search his pockets, or something like that. They began to fight, more cops came and they beat him to death in front of the people. They broke the bones in his face. Moreover, in the hospital they did not want to state in the documents the real reason of his death, they wanted to write that he died of drug overdose, or a similar lie. Then Wael Ghonim appeared, the Google executive who lives in Dubai. It is very rich, but also a very clever man. He worked as a consultant for the Egyptian Ministry of Finance, he was just over twenty and was already a known expert. So, Wael started to write on Facebook and organize the angry people into groups. The decisions over what to do, were taken through voting. The proposal that received the most votes from people was implemented.

- That's really interesting! And what happened then?

- Two days after his return to Egypt, Wael was arrested and spent about 13 days in jail. They interrogated him to find out if he does not work for a foreign secret service, like Mossad, but they haven't found any proof.

- How did the events in Tunisia influencee the Egyptian rebellion? Did they help it?

- Very much, I think it gave at least 50% of the momentum. But Mubarak's system was much stronger than that of Tunisia, and Egypt is a much bigger country and strategically more important.

- How do Egyptians feel about the U.S. role in Egypt?

- The United States always supported Mubarak and Egypt has been traditionally their ally, and also Israel's. Former President Anwar as-Sadat signed a strategic peace treaty with Israel. But the Egyptians do not want the United States decide what will happen in the country.

- You mentioned Israel. What is the opinion of Egyptians about this country?

- You probably know that between Egypt and Israel there was a war. Almost in every family someone died in that war. We, young people, don't feel it that much, but our parents and grandparents, all lost someone or remember someone who died. Of course we are interested in the fate of the Palestinians, but the Egyptians do not want war with Israel. Nobody wants a war. We want economic growth and a better life. Many liked Mubarak since he managed to keep the peace, his foreign policy was good, he could communicate very well with everybody. He was actually a very clever man, he studied in the United States and Americans have predicted that one day he would become president of Egypt. People started to hate him just about a decade ago, when he began to sell off state companies to privates, for example the transport companies, bus and rail. The wages of the people who worked there did not rise, but the cost of travel increased by 150%. During these privatizations that took place during Mubarak's era various speculations happened. For example, let's say, the price of the railway company was 100 million, he sold it for 50 million and the new owner gave him a commission. Because of this corruption and mismanagement people started to hate Mubarak.

- How did the people react when Mubarak handed over the power to Omar Suleiman?

- People did not accept him, they forced him to resign and give the power to the army. Suleiman was a right hand of Mubarak, people knew that nothing would change.

- So, now the army is in power in the country? What is the relationship of the people and the army?

- People trust the army. It is made of ordinary people. With the army the people have a good the relationship, but not with the police. The police are corrupt. I'll tell you an example: you need a driving license. To get it, first of all you have to find out somehow to whom should you give money to deliver to the competent officer. It must someone whom the officer trusts, because you can not just come to the police officer and give him the money. When I was 24, I founded my own company. It was a car-rental company. I started from scratch. I knew some people who owned cars, but they did not use them. So I signed a contract with those people, I paid them a monthly commission and I rented the cars. Some took a car lease. I paid the monthly fees and since the commission for the lease was higher, the people also had some extra money. After the car was paid it remained to those people. My business began to grow. I started with two cars, in a year I've had ten and at the end thirteen. One day the police came and found some stupid reason to close my office. When it stayed closed after a month, I had to finish everything because all the money I gathered I had to give to the car owners. I could not cover it any longer.

- Oh, that´s a pity... It was a very interesting idea. So the cops came and forced you to close everything? Maybe they wanted a bribe .. or they were sent by someone who didn't like that your company grows .... That's sad.

- You see, for such things people decide to emigrate. I wanted to be successful, I started slowly, gradually and I worked hard. It wasn't possible. A few years ago in the Red Sea, a ship returning from Saudi Arabia sank (* he is talking about the disaster of As-Salam Boccaccio 98, which sank on 3rd of February, 2006). It was old, in poor condition, it did not meet safety regulations. Hundreds of people died. Normally, the owner should have been punished, but he is a very rich man, has many of hotels in Sharm el-Sheikh, he was close to the system. He was freed. All these things make the people angry.

- There were reports that in Egypt there were cases of robbery and looting, and some people who were caught were carrying police identification cards. It was an effort to discredit the protesters as a bunch of robbers and rapists, or something else?

- They did it to instil fear among the people, the government wanted people to worry for their families and possessions, and force them to return home to protect them. The government intentionally opened the prisons, where dangerous criminals were held, and gave them a free hand. In addition, the Interior Ministry gave the police two days of leave. They sent them home, including the traffic police.

- This is weird. And why? Did they want to cause chaos?

- Yes. The government wanted to force the people home from the streets. But normal people took over their role.

- Took over their role? Do you mind the role of the police? How did they do that?

- They organized themselves via the Internet, via Facebook. They assigned roles to various groups, they decided that let's say Ahmad and Muhammad will guard the bank, somebody else will direct the traffic, clean the streets, protect museums and monuments, and so on.

- This is amazing!

- People were united. The key was communication. The government understood it and for three days they cut the Internet. People began to organize over the phone. The government cut the phones. People had to hand over messages personally, but even that didn't stop them.

- It is clear! They couldn't do anything more to stop the people.

- People sticked together, all working for one common idea. There were many girls among the people, but no one tried to molest them. The people's thought was united, they all had a common goal.

- What do you think, which group could now win the elections? Whom people trust?

- Politics is like a cake, now every group wants to have the biggest piece. There are many groups that will now compete, but nobody knows who will win.

- What do you think of Mohammad El-Baradei?

- Many people say Baradei lived abroad, he doesn't know the country. But this sometimes can help. When you live in a country, although you may know it well, but there are always some things you cannot see. Only a person who lives abroad sees them. It's like when you wear the same shirt every day, you are comfortable with it, you know it, but you do not see how do you look from outside. Maybe his view from distance and his international prestige can bring something positive too.

- What about the Muslim Brotherhood? Does it have a strong support among the people?

- In my opinion people gave them bad names. They are normal people. However, people will not vote for them, or only to a very limited extent. In the first four days the Muslim groups did not even take part in protests, it wasn't them who began the demonstrations. It was mainly young people around 18, 20, 25 years, and many of them died. It was the new generation. Consider that now almost everyone has Internet at home, even in small villages. They can read about what life is like in the world, what are the laws in Germany, Sweden. Now people have information.

- What about the education in Egypt? Are the people generally literate?

- The generations of people from the sixties are all literate. Among the older there are people who didn't learn to read and write. The young generation born in the eighties is generally well educated. Around 50% of my classmates from high school went to university. I studied law, but I did not practice it. Anyway the quality of education is not very good. It is only theoretical, we lack practical experience, especially in technical fields. It's like when someone describes in detail how to use an iPhone: push this and then this... but you never held an iPhone in your own hands (he laughs).

- What do people really expect from the new government?

- Mainly economic growth. Egypt has a good climate for agriculture, growing vegetables, fruit. Egypt has monuments and museums. Egypt has the Suez Canal, only the daily earnings of shipping are calculated in gold bricks. During these seventeen days we lost 15 billion U.S. dollars from tourism. Egypt has also oil and gas. For example, there is an agreement between Egypt and Israel. Egypt supplies gas to Israel at a price 75% lower than its market price. That is why the Israelis did not want Mubarak to leave. Israelis are afraid, because they need peace, they are normal people like us, good and bad, like everywhere else. There are plenty of mixed marriages of our people with the Israelian people.

- Yes, Israelians supported him until the last minute.

- Mubarak kept very good relations with Israel, the Americans, he knew all former presidents, Clinton, Bush junior and senior. Mubarak also did not want to run away like the Tunisian President Bin Ali. He wanted to prepare, what to do after to leaves ... This uprising was a surprise for many people. Personally, I think it would be a pity if he leaves like this, damned and hated. People need strong personalities like him, but the control was taken from him because he went in the wrong direction. If Mubarak was completely wrong, he would not stay in power for 30 years. My father and my grandfather liked him. He built many things in Egypt, he was in the army, he fought.

- Which one of previous presidents is the most popular among the people? Anwar As-Sadat? Or Gamal Abd An-Nasser?

- Nasser. People liked him. He was an ordinary man, a soldier, but mostly they liked him, because he redistributed the wealth from the rich to the poor. For example, a man had one thousand plots of land and on every piece a person was working for him, just for a meal or a small reward. Nasser took the land from the rich man, left some ten plots for him, and he divided the fields among the people who worked on them. Imagine that you are working in this coffee shop and it is suddenly yours (he laughs). He began to build infrastructure, roads, electricity, industry. He also took the Suez Canal from the British. Only net income from the shipping charges gives to Egypt more than enough wealth. Egypt can become a rich and prosperous country. I hope that it becomes true. People are happy that they got rid of a dictator, but nobody knows what will happen. People only wanred Mubarak to leave, but they still don't have any plan for the future. They protested because of the financial hardship and unemployment, but maybe everything will become even harder.

Mustafa was smiling with his hardly perceivable smile as he was smoking his cigarette and drinking his coke. He looked calm, he didn't show any of the excited enthousiasm of the idealistic revolutionaries. But our conversation gave me a bit of optimism and belief in the power of people.