Egyptian Commanding General Abd al-Fatah a-Sisi has announced that President Morsi and his government have forty-eight hours to find a solution to the political unrest after which the military will step in and impose a solution. This comes on top of the resignation of four of President Morsi’s Departmental Ministers, the Tourism, Parliamentary Affairs, Communications and Environmental, which would lead one to think that Morsi will be required to call new elections. Adding to the ministers fleeing a stricken presidency, Foreign Minister Mohamed Kamel Amr resigned late last evening Egyptian time. This was in response to demonstrations which featured over a million protesters turning out across the nation calling for new elections and only slightly less turning out to support the continued rule under President Morsi. The main headquarters of the Peace and Justice Party, the Muslim Brotherhood’s political arm which Morsi leads, was ransacked and stripped of its furnishings and other supplies including televisions, computers, furniture, body armor and anything else worth stealing before the building was firebombed destroying anything left inside. The Muslim Brotherhood personnel had been escorted from the building earlier in the day Monday.
In a separate incident it was reported that hundreds of Alexandria police officers publicly declared their support for the anti-government groups. Further reports informed of Egyptian tanks gathered in Sinai along the border with Gaza presumably in order to secure against any possibility for Hamas forces to enter Egypt with the intent of supporting the Muslim Brotherhood. It was likely feared that Hamas would serve in a similar role should violence break out as Hezballah is currently serving supporting President al-Assad in the Syrian Civil War. It appears the Egyptian military is taking every precaution in order to minimize having Egypt break down into violence and even a civil war similar as has happened in Syria which would have been predicated on Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood not rejecting their ultimatum. This will not be the case as the Muslim Brotherhood has rejected the military’s ultimatum.
The response from the Muslim Brotherhood came via the Al Jazeera network where Yasser Hamza, a member of the FJP’s legal committee, was quoted claiming, “Everyone rejects the statement of the armed forces. Solutions will be in the framework of the constitution. The age of military coups is over.” This is basically a declaration of intent to fight by and with any and all means possible by the Muslim Brotherhood aimed directly at the military. This reverses the whole state of affairs from immediately after the military issued their demands. Now the ball is back in the court of General al-Fatah a-Sisi’s court to take the next move. So, now all eyes and ears are tilted towards the military in anticipation for how they will react to this fusillade from the Muslim Brotherhood. If the military should back down it will allow the Muslim Brotherhood to take whatever measures they deem necessary to continue with President Morsi in office. Then the one action which might force a military intervention would be if the Muslim Brotherhood in the name of the governing powers decided to forcibly bring an end to the demonstrations. By taking such a move they will have proven that Morsi is not all that different than any other tyrannical leader making his government no better than the Mubarak government when they initially attempted to silence the demonstration against them. So, what does the future hold in Egypt that is the big question.
The most likely future no longer depends on what Morsi says or does, on what stance is taken by the Muslim Brotherhood, or even whether or not the military pushes back immediately by enforcing their forty-eight hour deadline; it depends entirely on the opposition demonstrators who are demanding Morsi step down and hold new elections. Should these people remain in the streets demanding new elections then there will be a confrontation between the Muslim Brotherhood and the demonstrators which inevitably leads to a confrontation between the Muslim Brotherhood and the military. We have been on the receiving end of endless propaganda advising us that the Muslim Brotherhood is, as Intelligence Chief James Clapper was quoted, “The term ‘Muslim Brotherhood’…is an umbrella term for a variety of movements, in the case of Egypt, a very heterogeneous group, largely secular, which has eschewed violence and has decried Al Qaeda as a perversion of Islam. They have pursued social ends, a betterment of the political order in Egypt, et cetera…..In other countries, there are also chapters or franchises of the Muslim Brotherhood, but there is no overarching agenda, particularly in pursuit of violence, at least internationally.” It looks like we are about to witness exactly how much the Muslim Brotherhood will have “eschewed violence” and “have pursued social ends, a betterment of the political order in Egypt” by their response to the demonstrators seeking to hold new elections. If James Clapper was correct we would see a referendum over whether or not new elections were something the majority desired, a sort of vote of confidence in Morsi by the people and if their vote indicated the need for new elections then the Muslim Brotherhood would put forth their candidate under their Freedom and Justice Party brand and hold new elections. Personally, I do not think Mr. Clapper’s view is going to hold up and we are much more likely to see that the Muslim Brotherhood is very willing to employ violence.
Egypt is very likely to go over the edge and may become a second Syria, something the world definitely could do without. We are going to witness the Muslim Brotherhood taking off the nice presentable suits and ties and returning to their more Hamas-like origins. One needs to remember that Hamas is simply the Muslim Brotherhood branch if the Palestinian neighborhood. Should the protesters continue their public outcry for new elections then we will see the unfortunate result which is inevitable when those who hold absolute power, or at least believe they hold absolute power, are confronted with a challenge of what they see as their right to rule unopposed. We saw it in a small scale in Egypt in the lead up to Mubarak stepping down, and again in Libya when Gadhafi refused to step down, and are still witnessing in Syria as the two sides completely and utterly destroy the nation over which they fight. Judging from their initial successes the anti-Morsi demonstrators are not going to back down mainly because they rightfully see their nation’s whole existence in the balance of whether or not they prevail. They have witness a year of devastating damage to the Egyptian economy, infrastructure, energy supplies, trade, tourism industry, monetary reserves, and the erosion of their freedoms. They watched the Muslim Brotherhood strong-arm a Sharia based Islamist Constitution and follow that up with a steady output of laws which aimed to erode personal freedoms and put all of Egypt under a Sharia observant system. There have been a series of what can only be described as pogroms against the Coptic Christians, the Shiite communities and anybody else who may have been suspected of opposing the continued rule by the Muslim Brotherhood. These oppressive attacks had actually been on the rise more so of late especially against Christians. With their liberties and freedoms being encroached by the Morsi government, the pro-democracy supporters in Egypt likely saw the one year anniversary of President Morsi’s time in office as an appropriate opportunity to voice their discontent. Now that discontent will be put to the test and their sole hope is for the military to enforce their timely ultimatum.
We will likely witness the response play out throughout the day, today. It is possible that violence may have broken out in earnest by the time this article gets posted and you have the opportunity to read it. We can all hope that any violence can be avoided and the people’s will is permitted to be voiced, but we also know that is probably just a dream. The Muslim Brotherhood possesses sufficient supporters within the military such that should the military attempt to impose their ultimatum there will be some units who will side with the Muslim Brotherhood against their fellow soldiers as in Egypt alliances of brothers in arms are not as strong as the ties to Islamic fellowships. One of the interesting developments to watch out for is on which side will the Salafists fall? While they are even more radical Islamists than the Muslim Brotherhood and thus one would be lead to think they would join with the Muslim Brotherhood, the reality is there is no love lost between these Islamist rivals. The Salafists would just as soon see Morsi toppled in the hopes that they would be able to take the lead over Egypt. Where the Salafists voted with the Muslim Brotherhood on the Constitution and the laws implementing Sharia, they have no loyalty beyond assisting the application of Islamist Sharia Law over Egypt. We might also look for any interference from Iran through the Shiite population though that is not a high probability as Egypt’s Sunni population has an overwhelming advantage in sheer numbers.
The report that hundreds of Alexandria police officers publicly declared their support for the anti-government groups will bear some watching as they would serve as the first line in defense of the protesters should Morsi order the demonstrators to be dispersed. This is even more true as it would be special units within the national police who would most likely be the first line units deployed in such an effort. We will eventually see units being deployed who are enforcers for the Muslim Brotherhood and have been enforcing the modesty laws and other decrees of Sharia which were only semi-officially implemented. Should the demonstrators be fully backed by the military, or at least the majority of the military who are more loyal to Egypt than the Muslim Brotherhood, then we may be facing a repeat of Syria styled civil war in Egypt. This would present a real problem for President Obama and friends who have invested so much in their backing and complete faith in the Muslim Brotherhood. President Obama wrongfully supported the candidacy of Morsi and was overly pleased at his being elected. Now President Obama will need to choose between his Egyptian savior Morsi and the pro-democracy demonstrators. As we recall President Obama initially tried to take both sides semi-backing Mubarak but soon deserted Mubarak completely demanding him to step down for the good of Egypt and the World. We will get to see if the same maturation process will take President Obama from the Morsi support system onto demanding Morsi step down and allow for new elections. No, President Obama will remain faithful to his good friend Morsi and especially to the Muslim Brotherhood. There is not likely to be any surprises from Washington until it becomes, if it ever should, obvious that Morsi will be dethroned. In the meantime we here will watch and provide whatever spiritual support we can to the protesters in the extremely slim chance that they can actually drag Egypt politically into the spirit of the Eighteenth Century or even better, the democracy wave of the Twentieth Century.
Beyond the Cusp