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Attacks & Other Violent Activity by Al-Qaida & Islamic State (Da’esh

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Foreign Funded Islamist Extremism in the UK

foreign-funded-islamist-extremism-final – the henry jackson society report, july 2017

Muslims in the Middle East

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Libya’s challenging transition from the revolution to the state

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Libya plunged recently into armed turmoil. The government and parliament are unable to control the militias, militants and armed tribesmen who helped topple Gaddafi but now defy state authority. Last month, Khalifa Belqasem Hafter launched Operation Karama, or Dignity, to stamp out Islamist militias destabilizing the nation. As the head of the so-called “National Army”, he vowed to drive out militias and extremist elements, especially in Benghazi and Derna in eastern Libya.

Hafter had lost confidence in the ability of Libya’s weak and divided government to keep a short leash on militant Islamists. He accused the weak central government in Tripoli of failing to tackle Islamist militants, such as the Ansar al-Sharia group. Based in Cyrenaica’s capital, Benghazi, Hafter began an offensive that has turned the city into a war zone and Libya into an anarchic state on the verge of full-blown civil war.

While initially considered nothing more than an idle threat, Hafter has since been leading a personal crusade of sorts in eastern Libya to root out what he considers extremist groups. The prevailing ideological camps in Libya are, not surprisingly split on the Hafter endeavor. Islamists slam Hafter’s coup attempt meant to disrupt the country’s fragile democratization. Nationalists applaud them as patriotic efforts to fight back against terrorist extremists who have preyed on the post-2011 anarchy. (more…)

Egypt at a crossroads – between denial and apathy

“The Egyptian uprising inspired a sense of liberation but not real freedom”
In her book On Revolution, Hannah Arendt makes the distinction between liberation and freedom. While liberation is merely the freedom from tyranny, freedom refers to participation in public affairs via unfettered speech, thought, association, and assembly. This implies a will and capacity amongst people to participate in public life and affect change. While liberation is an important component of the struggle for freedom, it does not comprise its full content.

By and large, Arab revolts have inspired a strong sense of liberation. Without the realization of true freedom though, counter-revolutionary forces may dominate the political landscape. To date, this has been the sad fate of the Egyptian uprising. It has inspired a sense of liberation but not real freedom. From the outset, a key challenge facing the revolutionaries and political class has been to work out their deep factionalism and establish a platform for inclusive politics. Unfortunately, political forces across the spectrum never attempted to understand the implications of political liberalism.

Perhaps the greatest failure in this regard was to view the military as a legitimate authority. The majority of protesters against Hosni Mubarak in January 2011 and Mohamed Morsi in June 2013 treated the military as a legitimate authority. Experiences all over the world show that relying on a military to lead a transition to democracy is risky, since militaries tend to have a political culture where concession is seen as weak and authoritarianism is praised. Only a government with democratic legitimacy can undertake the inevitably painful reforms that are necessary for a successful transition to democracy.

“Only an honorable confrontation of the truth will bring genuine improvement

There are Egyptians who even go so far as to believe that the radicalism of the revolutionary youth is to blame for the outbursts of violence, in spite of mounting evidence of serious human rights violations by the military.Yet, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi is commonly portrayed in Egyptian media as pragmatic and driven by what he sees as the national interest of Egypt. The army is regarded by the majority of Egyptians as the only reliable institution able to safeguard the national security of Egypt. el-Sisi found himself in a critical juncture in Egypt’s history, where he was obliged to side with the people to prevent an imminent civil war. It was a progression of events – there was a political crisis and millions went to the streets – in which the army felt it had no choice. Indeed, the army intervened on two occasions in modern history (the presidential ousters of 2011 and 2013) to bring the country through a divisive period and prevent a breakdown of the whole system.

Amid fears of a failed state and a fragmented society, many Egyptians are willing to tolerate transgressions, and even atrocities, by the military. In this type of environment, the revolutionary youth, who are liberal and left-leaning in a relatively conservative society, increasingly seem condemned to the fate of Sisyphus. Sisyphus is a Greek mythological figure who is compelled to roll a boulder up a hill, only to watch it roll back down over and over again. For Egyptian revolutionary youth, this process has already entailed much suffering, including death, injury, persecution, military trial, brutality — especially against females — and worst of all, character assassination.

Egyptian society is torn between pragmatic denial or apathy and only an honorable confrontation of the truth will bring genuine improvement. The military’s intervention in politics will not solve Egypt’s troubles. In fact, it might aggravate the socio-economic problems plaguing the country. Egypt remains burdened by years of mismanagement and ill-considered policies that have been destructive of the common good, promoted corruption, and enfeebled the state’s non-security functions. Egypt cannot have a stable democracy if it does not overcome this legacy. Mubarak has left Egypt with one of the most corrupted state structures in the world. There are doubts that el-Sisi’s widely expected presidency will make much progress on these fronts.

The international community has already begun scrutinizing the presidential elections to make sure that it meets international standards. The Egyptian government is attempting to satisfy the West’s expectations for its own long-term benefit by accepting international election observer missions. Because el-Sisi has the full support of both the state and private media, which has vocally supported his candidacy for months, along with the whole of the state apparatus behind him, many question whether election campaigning can ever be even-handed in this context.

Observers suggest that the pent-up anger among revolutionary youth is likely to explode again if Sisi and his future government fail to create jobs. Looking retrospectively over the last three years, Egypt has developed a reputation for turning on a sixpence. el-Sisi is now a total hero, but he could just as easily be tomorrow’s villain. Most probably, he is intimately aware of that.

Morsi’s speech unlikely to prevent violence and end of Islamist rule

Protester takes part anti-government demonstration June 26, 2013.

“If violence surpasses a certain level, the army might be forced to be more proactive than it wants”

Banner Icon Egyptian politics

President Morsi addressed the nation on Wednesday evening facing an invited crowd at Cairo stadium. Morsi’s tone shifted repeatedly during the tortuous almost 3-hour address. Although Morsi began with a conciliatory message, he later singled out political rivals, some of whom left the political scene long ago, for personal attacks and complained of unspecified “enemies of Egypt,” warning that they could destabilize the country.

Morsi launched into a defense of his record and a list of plans to improve on it. Once more, he apologized for the widespread mismanagement by his government and also the fuel shortages that have caused long lines at petrol stations and angered many Egyptians. He similarly acknowledged failings to sufficiently involve the nation’s youth.

Despite Morsi’s admission of errors and offers for reform, there was nevertheless an uncompromising denunciation of those he blamed for wanting to “turn the clock back” to before the 2011 revolution.  Morsi announced some decisions that no one took seriously, and he also avoided talking about the 30 June mass rallies to demand his ouster. Morsi reiterated the oft-repeated allegations that he and the Muslim Brotherhood are victims of a vicious media campaign to tarnish the image of the presidency and government and incite violence.

For many, Morsi once again confirmed that he is out of touch and not fit to rule. The speech was largely devoted to defaming a few marginal individuals in an attempt to reduce the protest movements against him as “an act of the remnants of the Mubarak regime to conspire against the revolution.” Some of the individuals he singled out have long been absent from the public.

Morsi’s speech was met with derision by Tahrir Square protesters outside the defense ministry, who voiced their contempt for his address and increased from some hundreds to many thousands by the speech’s end. Moreover, Morsi’s speech provoked angry protesters to go out to the streets and show their determination to topple the regime of the MB. Heavy clashes that left many wounded and dead between his supporters and opponents were reported in several cities throughout the country.

During the actual speech, there was at least one person killed and around 300 injured when his supporters clashed with protesters in front of provincial security headquarters in the northern city of Mansoura in the Nile Delta. There were also heavy clashes overnight in Alexandria. Opponents of Morsi and the MB are already sealing off Cairo’s Tahrir Square and other main squares in Egypt’s major cities to prevent counter-rallies by the president’s mostly-Islamist supporters, fuelling fears of potential violence.

Al-Watan newspaper reported on Tuesday that Defense Minister Abdel Fattah al-Sisi strongly opposes any decision by President Morsi to declare a state of emergency. There is much anxiety in the air, and Cairo is a city full of rumors. One of these rumors is that President Morsi will replace al-Sisi and the army leadership with more “Muslim Brothers-friendly generals”!

If this is true, then it could quickly end Morsi’s political survival, shortening it from weeks to days as millions prepare to rally to demand his removal this weekend. All sides insist that they do not want violence and that they will do their best to prevent it. However, there have already been scuffles and deaths during the last few days.

The Egyptian upper and middle class is very apprehensive about Islamist rule – a coalition of local human rights groups accused Morsi’s MB on Wednesday of crimes surpassing that of Mubarak’s regime and of setting up a “religious, totalitarian state.”

But many Egyptians are simply frustrated by decreasing living standards and fears of chaos. For ordinary Egyptians, the main concern today is economic hardship, especially since the unrest of the revolution scared off tourists, cutting a vital source of income. Power cuts and fuel shortages have been the talk of the country for weeks. In Cairo and other cities, long lines of vehicles have formed at fuel stations.

Among the criticisms of Morsi, a less than charismatic speaker who became the MB’s presidential candidate as a last-minute stand-in, is that he has turned to the support of harder-line Islamist groups, including former militants. Many also accuse him of never delivering on any of the promises to non-Islamists who supported him in the election. The lynching of five people from the Shi’ite Muslim minority on Sunday revived fears among minorities, including Egypt’s several million Christians, and was used by the opposition to portray Morsi as tolerant of an extremist fringe.

The heated political atmosphere and the prospect of widespread unrest prompted the US Embassy in Cairo and many other Western embassies to close to the public on Sunday, which is normally a work day in Egypt. People, mostly in Cairo, have begun stockpiling food in anticipation of street clashes between the two opposing political camps, with staples like canned goods, grains and frozen vegetables much sought after.

The Army’s signals are not understood by Morsi

There are reports that the army might be forced to enforce a solution in order to prevent the country from disintegrating, especially if the political impasse turns violent. The prospect of a political solution between the Islamists and their opponents looks very bleak. If violence surpasses a certain level, the army might be forced to be more proactive than it wants, mainly “to facilitate a transition of power to a technocratic caretaker government,” as The Guardian have quoted a senior military source today.

The MB and their Islamist allies are alarmed of the possibility of the army reverting back into the political scene on an official level. Islamists hardliners accuse State’s institutions, including courts, state media, police and civil service, of working to undermine Morsi, and, on several occasions, they have promised to fight if the army intervenes.

The army, which is held in high regard by many Egyptians, has warned it could step back in, a year after it handed power to the elected president. Defense Minister al-Sisi stated that the army “will not allow anyone to intimidate or terrorize the people.” He further added, “We would rather die than let that happen.” Similarly, Al-Sisi claimed that “the moral responsibility of the army towards the Egyptian people would compel it to intervene and prevent the country from descending into conflict, internal divisions and even the ultimate collapse of the state.”

On Wednesday the army tanks took up positions near a major highway running into Cairo. Egyptian armed forces have now deployed in Cairo and cities across the country in line with a security plan developed in anticipation of 30 June’s opposition protests.

The deployed army divisions will secure important institutions, including universities, power grids, Aswan’s High Dam and the Suez Canal. In the Egyptian Suez Canal city of Port Said, the army reinforced its presence on Wednesday. The army has been deployed to key locations in the port city since January. Armored vehicles toured the city’s streets on Wednesday afternoon before parking in front of the governorate headquarters. Residents cheered for the forces’ presence.

The military deployment is also aimed at protecting vital institutions, public facilities, foreign embassies and strategic points including entrances to governorates. The Army Spokesperson reported that “the army would also monitor criminal hotspots and suspected jihadi strongholds,” but that “no troops had been sent to the state-owned Maspero broadcasting house yet.” Just outside of Cairo, Media Production City, where many of the private broadcasting stations are located, has also been secured, with more forces expected to descend on other areas within the next few hours.

Pro-Morsi Islamists have condemned the opposition over the planned rallies, accusing them of waging war on Islam. Some radical preachers have even said that “those taking to the streets against the Islamist President should be killed!” The army has made clear that its statements about a possible intervention are, at least in part, responding to these threats.

Another worrying factor is that the loyalty of police and other internal security services to the Islamist government may be in question. There are reports that at least 7,000 high-ranking officers (some retired) will participate in the 30 June protests.

Growing risk of a backlash in Egypt

Protesters hold posters of Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi in Cairo's eastern Nasr City district on July 2, 2013

Banner Icon Egyptian politics The atmosphere across the most populous Arab country has become very intimidating, with a clear risk of violence between opposing forces, writes Hamdi Hassan from Cairo.

The powerful General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi issued a pressing ultimatum to President Morsi in a televised audio statement on Monday afternoon, calling on political forces to bridge Egypt’s growing divide and agree on an inclusive roadmap for the country’s future within 48 hours.

The swiftness of the army’s new statement suggests it was motivated by the stunning turnout of the millions of protesters on Monday and eruptions of violence that portend a possible spiral into chaos… I believe the preparations made by the military and police to secure the country gave the people a sense of security to go out and demonstrate in numbers that minimize the prospect of counterattacks by Islamists.

“If the demands of the people are not realized within the defined period, it will be incumbent upon (the armed forces)… to announce a road map for the future,” said al-Sisi. Thereafter, the military issued a second statement on its Facebook page denying it intended a coup. “The ideology and culture of the Egyptian armed forces does not allow for the policy of a military coup,” it said.

Yet, the army’s statement was widely understood as an alarm for the Brotherhood’s Guidance Bureau to respond to the demands of the people. If the MB’s bureau does not concede, it is understood that the army will create a roadmap binding on all parties.

The political opposition welcomed the army’s statement, viewing it as a sign that the army had sided with the people in demanding early presidential elections. “Any cabinet reshuffle, change of prosecutor-general, or any decision by President Morsi other than his resignation is unacceptable,” the National Salvation Front (NSF) claimed. The NSF refuted the possibility of the army’s return to domestic politics, saying it had learnt its lesson during Egypt’s post-revolution transitional phase.

There are unsettling prospects for many Egyptians who concerned with the army stepping into politics. I doubt that the army wishes to make any reentry into politics. The great majority of Egyptians believe that 17 months of interim rule by the army, fraught with economic and political crises, was more than enough for the army. Moreover, its statement reiterated its commitment to the nascent democracy.

Protesters erupted with joy after the army statement

A great sense of relief has spread over Egypt after the military’s statement. Hundreds of thousands of Egyptian protesters erupted with joy on Monday after the military said it would intervene if the people’s demands were not met in 48 hours. Tahrir Square’s celebrations were reminiscent of the night Mubarak was forced from office in 2011, as hundreds of thousands of people rejoiced at what they perceived as the end of the MB and Morsi’s rule.

The leadership of “Tamarod” (the “Rebel” campaign) said on Monday that they welcomed the army’s ultimatum and urged people to rally again until Morsi quits. In a televised press conference, they claimed “the statement of the Armed Forces has a single idea — supporting the will of the Egyptian people at this moment, which means early presidential elections.” They also reiterated their ultimatum that is provided on their website, giving Morsi “until 5:00pm on Tuesday, July 2 to leave power, allowing state institutions to prepare for early presidential elections.” Otherwise, “Tuesday, 5:00 pm will be the beginning of a complete civil disobedience campaign.”

One of the campaign’s leaders added, “Morsi is no longer a president, we call on the masses to take to the streets and besiege the two Presidential Palaces of Qubba and Ettihadiya in Heliopolis at 5pm Tuesday.” He further added that Tamarod will read a statement at the Presidential Palace at 7:30 pm Tuesday. “We have devised a scenario to run the country by handing power to the president of the Supreme Constitutional Court, National Security Council, as well as the formation of a technocratic government during the upcoming period,” he said.

Many of those who supported the army’s intervention hope that the army’s road map will be the same framework drawn up by Tamarod. That plan calls for Morsi to step down and for the head of the Supreme Constitutional Court to become interim president while a technocrat government is formed. An expert panel will write a new constitution to replace the one largely drafted by Islamists, and a new presidential election will be held in six months.

Morsi rejects the army’s statement

Morsi rejected the declaration, claiming that the army had not cleared it with him, and that it could cause confusion. The spokesman for the presidency also denounced any declaration that would “deepen division” and “threaten the social peace.” Morsi claims to be consulting “with all national forces to secure the path of democratic change and the protection of the popular will.” What is meant by “national forces” here is any one’s guess!

Morsi’s rejection of the army’s ultimatum has raised the stakes in Egypt’s political crisis, which has resulted so far in 16 deaths, including eight in clashes between supporters and opponents of Morsi outside of the MB’s headquarters in the Muqattam district of Cairo. Protesters also set fire to the MB’s headquarters before storming and ransacking it. Local television footage caught the burning and subsequent looting on camera, in addition to damaging evidence of an MB supply of weapons, helmets, flak jackets, and materials for Molotov cocktails and petrol.

US President Barack Obama said the US is committed to democracy in Egypt, not any particular leader, adding that the. $1.3 billion in annual US aid to Egypt was based on “democracy-based criteria.” Although Morsi was democratically elected, Obama said the government must respect its opposition and minority groups, and encouraged Morsi to take steps to show that he is responsive to concerns of demonstrators, while urging all sides to work towards a peaceful solution, Morsi and the MB have strived to give everyone the impression that the US always stood by them. Historically, however, American relationships with tyrannies and puppet regimes have come and gone quite quickly.

Fear of Islamist protester spreading violence

After the initial joy of massive rallies on Monday, the risk of a backlash has raised dramatically from Morsi’s Islamist backers, including his powerful MB, some of who once belonged to armed militias. They vowed to resist what they depicted as a threat of a coup against the “Islamist president” who was legitimately elected.

The newly-formed National Coalition for Legitimacy denounced the military’s statement, stressing its “rejection of any attempt to turn the army against (democratic) legitimacy.” Islamist marches numbering in the thousands began last night in a number of cities, mostly in Upper Egypt, igniting clashes in some places. An alliance of the MB and the hardliner Islamists of Al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya read a statement at a televised news conference calling on people to rally to prevent “any attempt to overturn” Morsi’s election.

Leading MB figure Mohammed el-Beltagi told a rally of thousands of Islamists outside a mosque in Nasr City, near the Ittihadiya presidential palace, “Any coup of any kind against legitimacy will only pass over our dead bodies.” Assigned with protecting the rally was a line of approximately 1,500 men with shields and helmets, who, with military precision, marched and sang, “Stomp our feet, raise a fire. Islam’s march is coming.” Rumors of incoming Islamist militias circulated all over Cairo last night. Heavy clashes took place last night in the canal city of Suez between the supporters of Morsi and his opponents. Nearly 1,500 Islamist militants marched in Suez, carrying sticks and rifles that fire birdshot, chanting for Morsi and damaging cars. The atmosphere has become very intimidating, with a clear risk of violence by these forces.

Several resignations from the government and more to come

In a sign of Morsi’s growing isolation, five cabinet ministers, including the Foreign Minister, have submitted their resignations since Sunday’s mass protests. In addition to the ministers submitting their resignations, eight parliamentarians have also requested to resign.

Egypt’s Interior Ministry has issued a statement declaring its “full support” for the Armed Forces’ Monday statement. The police forces also announced their full solidarity with the Armed Forces out of concern for national security and Egypt’s best interests at this critical juncture. It is also reported that the Interior Minister called al-Sisi and told him that he will only receive orders from him and not the President.

June 30 rebel campaign and the future of Islamists in Egypt

“The campaign led by a grassroots anti-Muslim Brotherhood petition drive has been endorsed by opposition parties and almost all non-Islamist groups in Egypt”

Banner Icon Egyptian politics

The Tamarrod (“Rebel”) movement, backed by mainstream and many other opposition groups to President Morsi, is planning to stage a sustained protest on June 30, calling for early presidential elections and the dismissal of Morsi. Leaders and supporters of Tamarrod argue that the main drive behind their demand resides in the failure of Morsi to act as a leader for all Egyptians and is “failing to implement policies to improve the life of ordinary people.” It is worth noting that the date of 30 June marks the end of Morsi’s first year as president. Unlike other uprisings elsewhere, Egyptian protestors from the outset on 25 January 2011 have always announced beforehand their marches and rallies, usually scheduled for dates with particular meaning.

The campaign led by a grassroots anti-Muslim Brotherhood petition drive has been endorsed by opposition parties and figures and almost all non-Islamist groups in Egypt. The campaign aims to collect 15 million citizens’ signatures in support of a ‘withdrawal of confidence’ in Morsi and demand early presidential elections. This target was set in an attempt to outnumber the 13+ million votes Morsi received in elections in 2012. According to unconfirmed reports the campaign is said to have already exceeded its original goal.

The “Rebel” Campaign

Tamarrod leadership, revolutionary youth organizations and opposition groups are planning massive peaceful rallies besieging the presidential palace and occupying all government and public offices in Cairo. The movement plans to extend to Egypt’s major cities and also to the countryside until Morsi gives in and resigns.

If these protests are successful in forcing early presidential elections, the Tamarrod campaign has proposed that the President of the Supreme Constitutional Court (SCC) should replace President Morsi. The SCC president “would take power as part of a government of technocrats and a national defense council with 65-percent military members.” This proposal is based on article 84 contained in Egypt´s 1971 constitution regulating the transfer of power from the President to Speaker of Parliament and to SCC’s President.

Since Tamarrod leadership dismisses the current constitution, claiming it is fully Islamist-sponsored, they call for a return to the 1971 Constitution without the amendments made during the rule of Sadat and Mubarak. Therefore, the leadership of the Campaign is planning to submit a full petition to the SCC before 30 June, formally calling for a withdrawal of confidence in Morsi.

Judging by media reports, as well as intensified campaigns and statements by a large number of opposition leaders, groups, unions and ordinary citizens, it is expected that millions of Egyptians will take to the streets nationwide to express anger and disappointment at Morsi and his Muslim Brothers. Watching a number of opposition rallies in smaller cities and villages outside Cairo confirms that the heated atmosphere in Cairo, Alexandria and cities across Egypt is shared elsewhere. Indeed, the build-up and mobilization is taking place all over the Nile Delta and cities of the Suez Canal Zone.

Interestingly, there is also a feeling that people do not care what will happen afterwards – who will rule and how after the possible ouster of the Muslim Brothers’ regime? The “rebellion” in the making seems more like someone who has been through a car accident: it’s all about survival!

The Army and the Police

As recently as June 16th the Egyptian Army has made it clear that it will not interfere in the internal affairs of other countries. Following Morsi’s support for a no-fly zone in Syria, the state news agency quoted a military source as saying “The Egyptian army is to protect Egypt and its national security only … The Egyptian army will not interfere in the internal affairs of other countries and will not be lured or used in any regional conflicts.”

Additionally, the Army notably cancelled the usual celebrations for the annual Air Defense Forces Day on 30 June. Some analysts see this as a way for the Army to avoid hosting Morsi on this particular day. One Cairo newspaper (Al Watan, 13 June) reported that the Army has declined to host Morsi in some of the military facilities during the protests, claiming that Morsi’s protection is the duty of the Republican Guards. The Interior minister revealed that protection of the presidential palace would remain the exclusive duty of the Republican Guards, according to a comprehensive Interior Ministry security plan drawn up as early as 2009. Meanwhile, the Commander of Republican Guards made clear that he will not use any force against protesters!

The Military Spokesman announced in a statement that the Army is on high alert for the 30 June rallies, and that the Army will only mobilize when it is necessary to protect the people and the State’s vital institutions. The Army is securing the roads in and out of the Sinai and Western and Southern borders in what is seen as an attempt to prevent Islamist and Jihadi militias from entering cities where the 30 June protests will take place. Al-Masry al-Youm newspaper reported (16 June) that Morsi and MB were warned by the Army from using violence against protesters.

The Interior Minister has pledged that police will not confront protesters during demonstrations on 30 June. He explained, “The Egyptian police’s sole role is to protect protesters, the state and security institutions.” He added that police forces would not secure any political party offices, including those of the ruling MB.

Egypt’s police force — notorious for its brutality in previous occasions — claim it has changed substantially since the revolt that toppled Mubarak in February 2011. According to the Chairman of the Police Union, thousands of police officers announced that they will participate in the June 30 demonstrations.

The Islamists Rallies

Morsi has lately made a number of public speeches that further angered his opponents. On 6 June he invited Islamists groups and other supporters for a public discussion on the Ethiopian planned “renaissance dam.” Among those in attendance were diehard Salafi Jihadi, of which 22 were sentenced to life for murder and subsequently pardoned by Morsi. In another well-televised rally, Morsi had cut relations with Syria, explaining that he cut diplomatic ties partly over the involvement of Hezbollah in support of Assad’s regime.

Allies of Morsi, mainly Jihadi Salafi, have vowed to hold counter rallies. They announced that they intend to use violence against those who threaten the “legitimacy of the Islamist President.” In light of their violent history, there is growing anxiety that protests could descend into bloody clashes. There are reports that the MB and their supporters will mobilize in the street between 21-27 June and to leave the streets before the planned rallies on 30 June. The leadership of the second largest Islamist Party, Al Nour, has declared its intention not to participate in any rally in the coming weeks.

Three Possible Scenarios

The current impasse may lead to one of the following main three scenarios:

1 – The largely peaceful rallies may force Morsi to resign (as was the case with Mubarak), with a political compromise that the MB maintain a role in formal political processes. After all, it is estimated that the MB have a political constituency of 25-30 percent.

2 – There may certainly be violent clashes from the outset, as some hardliner Jihadi have threatened. They might also play a role in quelling protestors. Once violence reaches a significant level, this would immediately lead to the intervention of the Army and a possibly tragic end to the reign of the MB.

3 – The protests will, after one or two days, weaken. The Egyptian people may be too tired and anxious for stability. The status quo would prevail and Morsi and MB would continue to hold power.

The facts on the ground and the heated debates across the country suggest that the first two scenarios are more likely than the third. However, when asked, many Egyptians are unfortunately anticipating more difficult times ahead in their complex quest for democratic transition.

Egypt’s Sisyphean quest for freedom, dignity and democracy

Image of Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi in an astronaut suit as part of an ongoing campaign for Morsi to win a trip to space in a competition sponsored by a deodorant manufacturer

 

“The MB is accused of attempting to reproduce the regime of Mubarak in a more crude and provincial fashion”

Banner Icon Egyptian politics With the regime failing to reach a political consensus with the opposition and deliver on their promises, the prospect for moving Egypt out of the impasse looks very bleak, writes Hamdi Hassan.

At the center of Egyptian life lies a severe sense of disillusionment. The pride of modern Egypt among its people has been far greater than the deed of its consecutive rulers. After the popular uprising, Egypt’s political landscape still allows for a single political force to monopolize political power and diminish all potential rivals. Massive protests, often resulting in violent clashes, continue to be seen almost on a daily basis.

Egypt will rapidly degenerate into a failed state if there are no serious attempt to deal with deep political polarization, fatal security breaches and the imminent economic collapse. Egypt, as Hazem Kandil puts it, “is trapped in a balance of weakness. None of the key actors have the power to consolidate a new regime or even to resurrect the old one.” Nevertheless, ordinary Egyptians continue to hope for political reform, freedom and social justice.

The Muslim Brotherhood and the opposition

When it comes to the first flank in the “balance of weakness,” there is a near consensus that President Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood (MB) are losing legitimacy by virtue of their inability to deliver on, for example reconciliation, economic reforms, meaningful democracy. While seeking a monopoly of power, the MB lacks the necessary expertise to rule a country as large as Egypt with so many problems.

This failing to rule and deliver has triggered something akin to a MB-phobia among many Egyptians. For many, Egypt seems less modern – certainly less liberal and less tolerant – than it used to be. In fact, Egypt is in limbo with forces pulling in both directions – government is neither secular enough for secularists nor Islamic enough for Islamists! Therefore, it is important to see the battle for modernity as taking place in part through the lens of religion in public affairs.

The political reform process should have begun with building inclusive political institutions. Inclusive institutions distribute political power in a pluralistic manner, helping to achieve sustained economic growth based on the rule of law in the long-term. However, with the MB in power, political pluralism is lacking in Egypt. The MB has failed to deliver on electoral promises, and to live up to their commitment to a truly participatory politics. Western governments are increasingly concerned that Egypt’s government will exhaust the country’s foreign reserves rather than adopt necessary painful austerity measures.

Moreover, it went into open-ended confrontation with the judiciary, pitting various institutions of the state against one another. The performance of Morsi is discrediting the MB’s Islamic project. The survival of this project is conditioned on a few key steps: a true process of revision and reform; a decision by the MB to act like they are part of the existing system rather than trying to overthrow it to bring in a new one; and to come to terms with the fact that democracy is not a one-off electoral process, but rather a complex, multi-layered mechanism. The Islamists have to step beyond preaching Sharia and offer solutions to serious problems. They need to realize that when in power they have to serve all citizens. The danger of an economic collapse is real, but it is not the only threat on the horizon.

The other flank in the balance is the opposition National Salvation Front (NSF), which has been facing increasing criticism over its responses to political developments, but its main challenge appears to run deeper. Indeed, the NSF is perceived as only being an anti-Islamist coalition that lacks a credible internal political structure. The NSF has no comprehensive proposal for dealing with Egypt’s tribulation; its stance has been by and large opportunistic. Neither has it developed strong organizational links with the labor movement. Instead, it remains heavily reliant on the support of urban-middle-upper classes. The NSF’s political platform reflects this as it barely contains any genuine social and economic elements.

Serious questions are asked about the ability of the NSF to establish solid foundations in Egypt’s political life. Given the economic difficulties and the senseless timing of MB austerity measures, the NSF is “investing” in the crisis of the economy and seems to be counting on the MB’s damaged reputation and sinking popularity, awaiting the long-anticipated explosion of the poor and degeneration into chaos. However, a political explosion of sorts is actually unlikely to lead to gains for the opposition, since it is most likely that it is the army that will be in charge. All players in the political game will be disadvantaged.

The military and the popular discontent with Islamists

The political forecast in Egypt looks bleak and the atmosphere is boiling. In pursuit of their “Islamist project,” observers believe that the MB is seriously underestimating the public anger and the force of street mobilization and they confuse it with the opposition failure to come forward with a political alternative to them. It was the street protests that compelled the Supreme Council for Armed Forces (SCAF) to go ahead with political reform and election. Two years on, the intensity of continued protests illuminates the depth of the political impasse in Egypt and reflects the socioeconomic injustices that have afflicted Egyptians for decades. Rage is simmering among a wide spectrum of the population in Egypt. Egyptians have grappled with decades of political tyranny and trauma through continued and resolved demonstrations to achieve political reform.

There are reasons to believe that these protests will only escalate, due to the stagnation of political reforms and lack of confidence in government. The MB government is perceived by many as being utterly incompetent and there are calls for the army to step in to save the country from breakdown. All over Egypt, people are urging Defense Minister El-Sessi to replace president Morsi due to his failure to rule effectively. Due to heavy criticism for its failures while leading the transitional period, the military seems to only care about its autonomy from the political system. Nevertheless, it will not be able to isolate itself entirely—something understood by a number of commanders. The army has clearly hinted that it needs undisputed popular legitimacy to step in as they did before. However, the fragile and unsustainable political, economic and social situation creates risks for the army’s intervention.

The implicit agreement that the army had with Egypt’s military rulers (Nasser, Sadat and Mubarak) is enshrined in the new constitution and this creates severe pressures on the MB, which will have a hard time to keep the military out of politics. The relationship between the MB and the army is complex. The MB correctly realizes the danger that the military’s interests and power represent. Nevertheless, their strategy to contain this threat remains contingent and short-sighted. The MB seems to confine the political struggle to one that is only with the military. Since the MB does not take the NSF as a credible opponent, they seem to forget that the military does not seek a leading role in politics.

The MB is looking fervently for a general within the military commanders who would help them work out their wishes to control the army, or at least to keep it outside the political game. They initially thought that El-Sessi would be their general, it turned out he put the interest of the army above anything else and he also reflects the military’s age-old suspicions of Islamists. The MB is very nervous of how the army would react in case of a wide popular protest or if Islamist militias commit serious acts of violence. On their meeting with Morsi on April 11, the generals made clear that they will never tolerate the existence of any militia and that they would eradicate Hamas and jihadi infiltrators into Sinai.

The flooding of Gaza’s tunnels by the military may have some bearing on this relationship and be taken as indicative of pressures being exerted on Hamas, and by implication the MB. It might also be a message to both the MB and Hamas. The military consider Hamas to be a serious threat to national security, which negatively affected its relationship with the MB. It seems that the army is securing the Sinai area from jihadi threat and also making sure to prevent Hamas fighters to join forces with MB in case of future army deployment to street.

Where is Egypt heading?

With Morsi and the MB failing to reach a political consensus with the opposition and deliver on their promises, the prospect for moving Egypt out of the impasse looks very bleak. The MB is accused of attempting to reproduce the regime of Mubarak in a more crude and provincial fashion. The MB might believe that the world community would tolerate and accept this proto-authoritarian modus operandi in the name of stability. However, the opposition, youth movements and the popular resistance to the MB’s Islamist project are intensifying with violence on the rise.

If the economic collapse triggers rioting and social violence by the poor, according to the constitution the army will fulfill its duty and deploy into the streets. As El-Sessi has hinted time and again, the army has vowed to side with the people and protect the integrity of the state. There are those within the army who believe that the MB and Morsi will not survive the political impasse and deepening economic crisis. Unless significant steps are taken by the ruling Islamists on reaching out to their opponents and to deliver in terms of the economy and security, Egypt is heading to a bleak future with the army stepping once more into the forefront of political life. By the same token, democratization processes will suffer a serious setback.

Egypt’s Sisyphean Quest for Freedom, Dignity and Democracy

primeiro post egito

Hamdi Hassan

Senior Political Advisor

West Asia and North Africa Programme (WANA),

International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (IDEA) 

2013-04-11

 

At the center of Egyptian life lies a severe sense of disillusionment. The pride of modern Egypt, for the majority of its people, has been far greater than its deed. Its dismal failures have been recognizable features: the poverty of the underclass and the monumental failure of the education system.[1] Even after one of history’s greatest popular uprisings, Egypt’s current political landscape allows for a single political force (the Islamists) to monopolize political power and diminish all potential rivals in civil society. The degradation of Egypt’s public institutions coupled with bitter political conflict make it hard to build a functioning democracy in two years. On November 22, 2012, president Morsi issued a contentious constitutional declaration granting him sweeping powers that deemed his decisions immune from judicial appeal. The declaration caused uproar among the majority of Egyptians and the judiciary. It spurred the anger of judges and prosecutors, who faced off with the executive branch for weeks. As part of this reaction, many judges decided to boycott overseeing the constitutional referendum, which was pushed through in the context of the declaration. 

In this declaration, president Morsi awarded himself questionable executive and legislative powers. While he annulled the declaration in December, the effects of the declaration are still legally valid (i.e. the sacking of the Mubarak-era prosecutor general and appointment of Talaat Abdallah). Many opposition groups are now demanding the dismissal of Abdallah on the ground that he was appointed by the president and not by the Supreme Judicial Council, as dictated by Egypt’s new constitution.[2] The Cairo Court of Cassation annulled, in a recent ruling, the presidential decree appointing Abdallah as Egypt’s prosecutor general. In a defiant move, president Morsi has stated clearly that he will not reconsider the decision to appoint Abdallah as prosecutor-general, despite the court verdict. The way president Morsi (and the Muslim Brothers) deal with the issue of the Prosecutor-General and other demands by the opposition has intensified the protest against their rule and strengthened the resolve of Egyptians to continue their struggle for a genuinely participatory democracy.

Massive protests, often combined with heavy and violent clashes continue to be seen almost on a daily basis all over Egypt – in Cairo, Port Said, Mansura, Mahalla, Alexandria, Ismailia and north of Cairo in cities in the Nile Delta. People in these cities have been collecting delegations of power (through the Notary and Documentation offices of the Ministry of Justice), declaring their wish that Defense Minister El-Sisi replace president Morsi due to his failure to effectively rule the country. There are also those who call for a care-taker presidential council to be appointed with the help of the army and for Morsi to leave power immediately. The political forecast in Egypt looks bleak and the atmosphere is boiling. But Egypt is “trapped in a balance of weakness. None of the key actors have the power to consolidate a new regime or even to resurrect the old one,”[3] as one analyst aptly puts it. In the shadow of the dismal failure of the Muslim Brothers-led government and the lack of a credible alternative from the opposition, it is the ordinary Egyptians who continue to lead the country toward political reform, freedom and social justice.

The Egyptian street as the enforcer

During the last few months, the attendees of demonstrations have been of a new type – they are not overwhelmingly youth, nor are they bearded Islamist men or only middle class Egyptians. They are very ordinary Egyptians, who are fiercely fighting the police and burning buildings. They are mostly not affiliated with any political group or religious organization. These people tend to be of a lower middle class and extremely disenfranchised. It is possible that many of them have never cared to vote. Their presence on the streets illuminates the depth of the political impasse in Egypt and, by the same token, shows how it is important to deal seriously with the socioeconomic injustices that many Egyptians have been suffering for decades. Poor education, unemployment and poverty have created a reservoir of resentment against Mubarak’s regime and now against the MB government. This rage is simmering not only among the youth who revolted against Mubarak (and now against the MB government), but also among these new comers to the world of protests in Egypt.

There are reasons to believe that these types of protest will only escalate, due to the stagnation of the political reform process and lack of confidence in basic government services, including those that strike at the heart of common Egyptian ideas about social justice. The Muslim Brothers’ government is perceived by these protesters as being utterly incompetent. Combined with fears about Islamist politics on the ground, all this has triggered something akin to a Muslim Brother-phobia among many Egyptians.

There is a near consensus in the country, including amongst some major Islamist groups that president Morsi is increasingly losing his legitimacy to rule by virtue of his inability to deliver and the extended opposition against him and his affiliated political group. The prominent Egyptian journalist Heikal asserted on television that Morsi is part of a project that is struggling to assert itself to no avail. According to Heilkal, while the Muslim Brotherhood seeks a complete monopoly of power, they lack the necessary expertise to rule a country as large as Egypt with its urgent need for political reform and pressing socio-economic problems.[4]

The fact that uprisings in Egypt and the Arab region began two years ago and still maintain the resolve to achieve political reform is remarkable. These street forces have had to grapple with centuries of political tyrannies and decades of trauma and turmoil. After all the revolts that have happened in the Arab region were not erupted in the spur of the moment, they succeeded to identify themselves with the dynamic of political reform and positive changes toward democratization in the region.[5] It seems that this dimension is not being taken seriously by the ruling Islamists in Egypt.

The ruling Muslim Brotherhood

Egyptian politics, dominated as it is by Islamists, is breeding a culture of mediocrity and entitlement that will ultimately undermine the prospect of meaningful political reform and democratic transition. The Muslim Brotherhood, who held a majority of seats in a parliament that was later dissolved, has been enjoying an unmasked presence in government and across the bureaucracy. Despite this, the Muslim Brotherhood has failed to deliver on promises made during electoral campaigns. It has also failed to live up to their commitment to a truly participatory political engagement with the liberal opposition — the row over the constitution serves as a key example. Moreover, it went into open-ended confrontation with the judiciary, pitting varied institutions of the state against themselves.

Eventually, the Muslim Brotherhood was left with no supporters outside the Islamist movement, including Salafists and associated political party groupings. According to sources from within the Muslim Brotherhood, debate within the group about the current mode of rule and future of the organization is expanding. According to some, this is in fact a more nagging problem than the recent fall-out between the Muslim Brotherhood and a sector of its Islamist allies — the Salafist El-Nour Party.

Perhaps an even larger problem is that the performance of the presidency is discrediting the entire project of political Islam. The survival of political Islam as we currently know it is conditioned on a few key steps: first, political Islam groups — especially the older and larger Muslim Brotherhood — will have to go through a process of revision and reform; then, these groups will have to decide to begin acting like they are part of the existing system rather than trying to overthrow the existing system to bring in a new one; last, the Islamists will have to come to terms with the fact that democracy is not a one-off electoral process, but rather a complex, multi-layered mechanism that will only keep them in power if they succeed in maintaining public support. Many consider that the Islamists continue to fail because they believe that they are almost infallibly right and when they make mistakes it’s due to some exogenous conspiracy.

The Islamists have to step beyond preaching about Sharia (Islamic law) and start offering serious solutions to serious problems that the average Egyptian is facing in their daily life. They also need to realize that when in power they have to cater to the pleasure of all citizens, including both moderate Muslims and non-Muslims. The US and other Western governments are increasingly concerned that Egypt’s government will exhaust the country’s foreign reserves rather than adopt the painful austerity measures necessary to win fresh funding from the International Monetary Fund (IMF). While the danger of an economic collapse is real, it is not the only threat on the horizon for which Western governments should have concern. Cairo is also on the verge of adopting laws that would cripple the country’s fragile new democratic order and drastically reduce the West’s ability to influence Egypt’s course.[6]

The political process should have begun with building inclusive political institutes, and inclusive economic institutes to follow. When inclusive political institutes are built on the distribution of political power in a pluralistic manner, this helps achieve sustained economic growth based on the rule of law in the long-term.[7] However, political pluralism is lacking in Egypt. The Muslim Brothers and many of their supporters, mostly Salafist Jihadi, vow to defend “God’s law” and accuse liberals and secular opponents of trying to subvert their election victories more than one year ago. Meanwhile, the opposition accuses president Morsi and the MB government of steamrolling anyone who disagrees with them and maneuvering to achieve unfair domination. More seriously, they accuse the government of weakening official security agencies and permitting the operation of vigilante groups.

At the center of this mess, there is one promising development: debating the relevance of Islam in public life. An unintended consequence of the Arab uprisings is that the scope and nature of Islam in public life is being publicly debated like never before in the history of the region. The anger and fierce opposition, by mostly youth in the region, have brought the issue to the forefront. Even though we are only at the threshold of this debate, it is important to note that Islam, and especially political Islam, has never before been questioned so intensively by local forces as it is now.

Since the inception of Islam, there has been a tension between liberal and conservative interpretations – both generally and on a variety of specific points. However, the more radical and extremist sides have tended to win the battle over both the public face of the religion and its internal discourse. For approximately the last 14 centuries, the radical (e.g. Salafist) discourse is what has been the traditional core of religion. When the Muslim Brothers and other political Islamic movements in the region seek to rule, they put their efforts on organizing political movements not on political or religious reforms.

There is a battle under way in Egypt and most of the Arab region on the nature and the role of religion in public life – a battle for modernity. In fact Egypt is a country in limbo with forces pulling in both directions, neither secular enough for the secularists nor Islamic enough for the Islamists. The underlying identity crisis is unresolved. For many Islamists, freedom means alcohol and promiscuity, and they have yet to comprehend the fact that being free is to simply be human! People in the region, therefore, came to realize that religion as presented by the majority of Islamists is simply incompatible with a democratic life that guarantees freedom, human dignity and women’s rights. It is no longer about the West trying to impose its own version of modernity and democracy. It is about Egypt deciding for itself and the nuances are complex.

For many people, Egypt seems less modern – certainly less liberal and less tolerant – than it used to be more than 40 years ago. The hijab – the Islamic headscarf – has become a potent symbol of the Islamic revival since the 1970s. Many young Egyptians from a middle class background wear the hijab. For them, despite all the confusion and uncertainty of modernity, Islam is still something secure and familiar. Yet, they do not necessarily identify with the bearded old Salafi Sheikhs or even the slightly moderate Sheikh of al-Azhar. They do not see them as credible and relevant figures of authority. Egypt is still searching for a modern identity that combines the people´s aspirations with their natural and unquestioned religious feelings and believes – one that is, for the moment, out of reach. These kinds of socio-political processes take a long time to settle.

The dilemma of the opposition

Egypt’s main non-Islamist umbrella coalition, the National Salvation Front (NSF), has been facing increasing criticism lately over its responses to political developments, but its main challenge appears to run deeper.[8] With parliamentary elections on the horizon, questions are being asked about the NSF’s ability to establish a solid foundation in Egypt’s political life.

Given the economic difficulties and the senseless timing of Muslim Brother’s austerity measures, the opposition is “investing” in the crisis of the economy. They count on the MB’s damaged reputation and sinking popularity and await the long-anticipated explosion of the poor. However, the opposition’s bet on securing direct political gains from the economic crisis stands on shaky grounds for many reasons. The opposition has not developed strong organizational links with the burgeoning independent labor movement. The NSF remains heavily reliant on the support of urban-middle and upper-middle classes. The Front’s political platform barely contains any genuine social and economic elements. For example, when it comes to the deteriorating economic situation, the NFS’s stance has been by and large opportunistic and myopic, with very few alternatives given to austerity measures.

Indeed, the NSF has been perceived as an anti-Islamist coalition that lacks any internal credible political structure, let alone a wide connection with the grass roots and the vast underclass in Egypt. Thusly viewed, the opposition has no comprehensive proposal for dealing with Egypt’s socioeconomic tribulation. With this in mind, a political explosion of sorts is unlikely to lead to political gains for the opposition, despite the fact that the Islamists are in a dire state of affairs. What is more likely is for the political situation to degenerate into chaos, with the poor simply taking matters into their own hands and staging sociopolitical violence. The situation would be something like that of January 1977 in Egypt or December 2001 in Argentina, even though the former was predominantly a middle-class uprising. The main difference is that such social rioting would take place against a weak and unconsolidated Islamist regime, an almost disintegrated police force and an army that lacks the stomach to directly intervene due to their unpleasant experience with politics after the toppling of Mubarak.

The Egyptian army

The MB correctly realizes the danger that the military’s interests and power represent. Nevertheless, their strategy to contain this threat remains contingent, short-sighted, and even damaging. The MB seems to confine the political struggle to one that is only with the military—ignoring the public at large and its various political forces. When president Morsi decided to call for parliamentary elections amidst mounting frustration over the ongoing turmoil, he did not meet with members of the opposition, nor did he listen to protesters in the street who demanded the dismissal of the dysfunctional government, reform of the ministry of interior, and more distribution of power. Rather, Morsi met behind closed doors with the defense minister, stressing for the third time in less than a week his trust and confidence in Al-Sisi and the Armed Forces. 

Success for the Brotherhood in the parliamentary elections is probably the only chance to restore some of Morsi’s power apropos the military. It is also true that the military’s role in securing the elections—given the inability of police forces—is essential to its success, even if nominal. The MB seems to forget that the military does not seek a leading role within the political system, for that the very presence of the Muslim Brotherhood at the top of the executive branch enabled the military to restore its power and reputation, repeating their longstanding strategy of ruling without actually being in power. After a year and half of being the center of criticism for its failures in handling the transitional period, the military seems to only care about its coherency and autonomy from the political system. Nevertheless, it will not be able to isolate itself entirely from the state—something reiterated by a number of Egypt’s military leaders, including Al-Sisi and his Chief of Staff, Sedki Sobhi. 

The army has hinted very clearly that they need near undisputed popular legitimacy to step in the same way that they did on January 28, 2011. However, the political, economic and social situation in the country is fragile and unsustainable, creating greater risks with intervention from the army’s perspective. Insecurity and instability has grown in Sinai since Mubarak was toppled in Egypt’s 2011 revolution. There are indications that the Army might be up to something and choose to go public with information about the activities Hamas and other Gaza-bound Jihadi groups in the border area with Gaza in order to send a message to the MB who also in their turn replay in the same manner.[9]

Moreover, the relationship between the MB and the army is a complex one, which complicates matters for the military. For example, the flooding of the Rafah tunnels between Gaza and Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula may have some bearing on this relationship.[10] The event might be taken as indicative of pressures being exerted; pitting the Army against the Brotherhood, using the latter’s relationship with Hamas in the case of the tunnels. Alternatively, might this be a message from the army to both MB and Hamas? Perhaps so, even though the Military’s spokesperson claimed that Egypt is fulfilling its commitments in accordance with the recent truce agreement signed between Hamas and Israel, including its pledge to halt arms smuggling through the Gaza tunnels. What is clear is that Egypt’s military and intelligence establishments consider Hamas to be a serious threat to national security and this has negatively affected the relationship with the governing MB.[11]

Where Egypt is heading: two immediate future scenarios

As I write now, the ruling Muslim Brothers are at odd with major political forces in the country, who accuse them of attempts to reproduce the regime of Mubarak in a more crude, even provincial fashion. Egypt’s political scene looks as dim as ever since the toppling of Mubarak. Going forward, there are two likely scenarios that will overcome the current political impasse.

The first scenario is one where the Muslim Brothers proceed to use their electoral mandate to control the state to establish some type of proto-authoritarian order in the name of social and political stability. The United States, other Western governments and the world community would tolerate and accept the modus operandi enforced by the Muslim Brothers in Egypt. While at least some meaningful democratic change is expected in response to the uprisings across the Arab region, a full transition to civil and democratic rule will take much longer than some may have initially anticipated due to the depth and variety of democratic gaps.

Political Islamists are commonly stigmatized as being anti-democratic, but international and local political pressures seems to be likely to prevent them from imposing radical anti-democratic programs. On the other hand, secularists and liberals, while commonly thought of as having a pro-democratic bent, are not necessarily democratic in all regards. Moreover, decades of autocratic and corrupt rule have left states with institutional, cultural and economic obstacles that stand in the way of democratic transition. There are indications on the ground that those opposition and youth movements will fiercely resist the MB and Islamists political dominance, rendering this scenario difficult to happen.

The second scenario is one where economic hardship and the imminent collapse of the economy triggers rioting and social violence led predominantly by the poor. Such a scenario is more likely to bring the army back to the street. The prospect of the Army stepping in is quite unclear at this point. There are those within the Military and GIS who believe that president Morsi will not survive the popular pressure, the political impasse, and, most of all, the deepening economic crisis. Some believe that the regime will not survive the summer. Therefore, it would be hasty for the Army to step in, unless the level of violence on the ground becomes unmanageable. However, the Army is expected to give its blessing and protection to any other regime that might arise to power after the eventual resignation/removal of president Morsi.

This scenario is the more likely one because there is near consensus on the ground about the inability of the MB-led government to rule and that they have become part of the problem, not the solution. Even the US administration, believed by MB’s opponents to be the main international backer of the MB’s rule, has serious doubts about their ability to lead the country out of political polarization and economic collapse.[12]  If the coming weeks involve worsening economic conditions and intensifying political polarization as is generally predicated, there will be escalating street protests. This might be the blow that seals the fate of the MB’s rule and, to a large extent, their larger role in the Egyptian revolution. Having said that, this scenario highlights the real danger of the armed forces stepping once more into the forefront of political life in Egypt, something that generally will likely put a halt to political reforms, civil rule and the process of democratization.


[1] The author would like to thank Ayman Ayoub, Zaid Al-Ali and Aneesa Walji for their valuable comments on this paper.

[2] According to the new Constitution, the president chooses the prosecutor general from three nominations presented to him by the Supreme Judicial Council (SJC). While article 173 in the new constitution does not mention that there will be three nominations specifically, it is the practice that there will be three nominations put forward by the SJC.

[3] See Hazem Kandil, “Deadlock in Cairo” in London Review of Books, Vol. 35 No. 6 · 21 March 2013.

[4] See the interviews with Mohamed Hassanein Heikal on the private Egyptian CBC TV, March 22, 2013.

[5] See H.A. Hellyer, The Arab Spring Ain’t Over. The Atlantic, April 2013.

[6] See the Washington Post Editorial on April 2, 2013.

[7] See Daron Acemoglu & James A. Robinson, Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity and Poverty. Profile Books, 2012.

[8] The NSF, which brings together liberals, leftists and even Nasserists, was established in the wake of the abrupt issuance of President Mohamed Morsi’s constitutional declaration on 22 November. These forces came together to resist what they viewed as a flagrant power grab.

[9] Abu Ela Madi, a former MB member and now the leader of the Islamists al-Wasat party (and former Muslim Brothers), said in a press conference yesterday that President Mohamed Morsi told him that Egypt’s General Intelligence Service (GIS) has a 300.000 strong army of criminals that are ready at its disposal at any time to spread anarchy! This is very significant, given that Madi lacks any official capacity to reveal such information.

[10] In August last year, gunmen suspected of being Islamist militants killed at least 16 Egyptian Army border guards in an assault on a police station at the border between Egypt and Israel. Hamas is encouraging mediation between the Supreme Guide of the Muslim Brothers, president Morsi and the Army. The army says that Hams has to hand all the perpetrators of the attack as a condition for talks and any prospect of reconciliation.

[11] Recent weeks have witnessed a campaign against Palestinian resistance faction Hamas in several Egyptian media outlets due to the alleged involvement of the group – which has governed the Gaza Strip since mid-2007 – in the attack that killed 16 Egyptian border guards last August in the Sinai Peninsula near the border with Israel. The findings of an investigation conducted by the army, in collaboration with police and Bedouin tribesmen, are expected in April. But already, leaks by anonymous security sources have suggested the involvement of Hamas elements, even some of the group’s leaders. See Ahram Online, April 2, 2013.