Egypt’s Des­tiny at the Cross­roads

Western coun­tries have re­peat­edly called for Morsi’s re­in­state­ment. The US has lost stand­ing and be­come un­pop­u­lar with all sides. There is noth­ing that In­dia can say or do which will have the slight­est im­pact on how de­vel­op­ments evolve.

SP's LandForces - - FRONT PAGE - Ran­jit Gupta

Western coun­tries have re­peat­edly called for Morsi’s re­in­state­ment. The US has lost stand­ing and be­come un­pop­u­lar with all sides.

Saudi Ara­bia, the UAE and Kuwait are ab­so­lutely de­lighted at the over­throw of the hated Mus­lim Brother­hood

CATCH­ING THE VIRUS FROM Tu­nisia, hun­dreds of thou­sands of peo­ple spon­ta­neously spilled onto the streets of Cairo on Jan­uary 25, 2011, de­mand­ing the over­throw of Muham­mad Hosni Mubarak’s 30-yearold au­to­cratic dic­ta­tor­ship. The Mus­lim Brother­hood op­por­tunis­ti­cally climbed onto the band­wagon 10 days later but some­what ten­ta­tively. The Army could have cho­sen mass mur­der but opted to re­move Mubarak from of­fice on Fe­bru­ary 11, 2011. In­stead of quickly mov­ing to­wards a civil­ian dis­pen­sa­tion, the Army started rul­ing di­rectly through the Supreme Coun­cil of the Armed Forces (SCAF). Peo­ple were back in Tahrir Square demon­strat­ing against them—the peo­ple had not got rid of Mubarak to be ruled by the Army. The Army was forced to or­gan­ise elec­tions.

De­spite the Brother­hood’s un­par­al­leled abil­ity to mo­bilise its sup­port­ers and de­lib­er­ately soft pedal­ing its as­sertive Is­lamic per­sona be­fore and dur­ing the elec­tion cam­paign, in the first round of the pres­i­den­tial elec­tions the voter turnout was a low 46 per cent of which Mo­hamed Morsi se­cured only 24.78 per cent, with Brother­hood votes fall­ing from six out of ten in the par­lia­men­tary elec­tions to four in ten now. Later only 32.9 per cent of the elec­torate voted in the ref­er­en­dum ap­prov­ing the new Con­sti­tu­tion the Is­lamists had drafted se­cur­ing an un­der­whelm­ing 63.8 per cent. Th­ese per­cent­ages were a clear in­di­ca­tor of the pop­u­lar mood and sug­gested cau­tion and in­tro­spec­tion rather than celebration.

Eighty-five-year-old and per­se­cuted most of its life, the Brother­hood found it­self cat­a­pulted as a ruler, dra­mat­i­cally break­ing away from its tra­di­tional role of ag­i­ta­tor, as­sas­sin, in­sur­gent and op­po­nent. The Brother­hood failed to cap­i­talise on this his­toric op­por­tu­nity by push­ing its Is­lamist agenda for which peo­ple had al­most ex­plic­itly de­nied a man­date. Morsi’s whim­si­cal, in­creas­ingly au­to­cratic and in­ept rule ig­nor­ing a steeply de­clin­ing econ­omy, re­sulted in crowds sig­nif­i­cantly larger than when anti-Mubarak protests took place, de­mand­ing his ouster.

All this clearly in­di­cates that de­spite 91 per cent of Egypt’s pop­u­la­tion be­ing Mus­lim, peo­ple do not want an Is­lamic state but good gov­er­nance. Peo­ple had not got rid of Mubarak and later the SCAF to live un­der an Is­lamist dic­ta­tor­ship. They want true democ­racy. Raw ‘peo­ple power’ had won thrice against heavy odds, ex­hibit­ing that the coun­try’s po­lit­i­cal land­scape has changed dra­mat­i­cally, per­haps ir­re­vo­ca­bly.

As­sem­bling im­pres­sive sup­port from civil and po­lit­i­cal so­ci­ety across the spec­trum, Army Chief Gen­eral Ab­del Fat­tah el-Sisi an­nounced the re­moval of the Morsi Gov­ern­ment on July 3 and a roadmap for tran­si­tion to an elected gov­ern­ment within the next nine months. A re­vised con­sti­tu­tion is be­ing drafted. The Army is clearly call­ing the shots. Large posters show­ing Sisi with Nasser are ubiq­ui­tous all over Cairo. There is grow­ing sus­pi­cion that the Army in­tends to wield power for the longer term, but un­like dur­ing the SCAF in­ter­lude, this time from be­hind a civil­ian fa­cade. My hunch is that peo­ple are un­likely to al­low any long-term Army rule.

Fol­low­ing Morsi’s ouster, protests by thou­sands of Brother­hood sup­port­ers for al­most eight weeks elicited a bru­tal crack­down by the Army and re­tal­i­a­tion by the pro­tes­tors re­sult­ing in over 1,000 deaths. The de­ten­tion of its top lead­er­ship, ini­ti­a­tion of cases against them which could re­sult in harsh pun­ish­ment in­clud­ing death penal­ties, con­tin­u­ing ar­rests of its mem­bers and sup­port­ers, con­fis­ca­tion of their as­sets, clos­ing their TV sta­tions, have been deeply po­lar­is­ing de­ci­sions. The Brother­hood should call off fur­ther protests in its own in­ter­est and Egypt’s in­ter­ests as well and join in the na­tional di­a­logue process.

The tran­si­tional ad­min­is­tra­tion has an­nounced its in­ten­tion to revoke the Brother­hood’s reg­is­tra­tion as a non-gov­ern­men­tal or­gan­i­sa­tion. This is a par­tic­u­larly ret­ro­grade step. Even though the Mus­lim Brother­hood be­haved ir­re­spon­si­bly while in power, its in­volve­ment in the coun­try’s po­lit­i­cal land­scape pro­vided le­git­i­macy to the democ­racy move­ment; send­ing it un­der­ground would lead to dan­ger­ous rad­i­cal­i­sa­tion of huge num­bers of peo­ple. Po­lit­i­cal Is­lam can­not be put back into the bot­tle.

All this has led to a global fo­cus on the stand-off be­tween the Army and the Mus­lim Brother­hood. The fact is that both th­ese en­ti­ties have been play­ing a cyn­i­cal tac­ti­cal game to gain up­per hand, us­ing, but then sidelin­ing, the ex­tremely sig­nif­i­cant third player— the com­mon peo­ple. Egypt is now wit­ness­ing a no holds barred con­test be­tween Mus­lims and Is­lamists be­ing played out in pub­lic— un­prece­dented for a Mus­lim coun­try. The Army should not be the ar­biter. Given Egypt’s in­flu­ence and stand­ing, the out­come holds pro­found im­pli­ca­tions for the Arab world.

Given the deep­en­ing di­vides, the un­cer­tainty of the Army’s in­ten­tions and of re­ac­tions of the masses, and con­tin­u­ing in­sta­bil­ity, is likely to be the norm in the fore­see­able fu­ture. Given th­ese com­plex­i­ties, for Egypt’s sake, the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity needs to sup­port what­ever stand the peo­ple take.

In­ter­na­tional Im­pli­ca­tions

Egypt is too big and strong for for­eign coun­tries to get in­tru­sively in­volved as they had done in Libya and Syria.

Saudi Ara­bia, the UAE and Kuwait are ab­so­lutely de­lighted at the over­throw of the hated Mus­lim Brother­hood. They have promised $4 bil­lion each as aid. The Saudi For­eign Min­is­ter has pub­licly pledged to fill the gap should Western coun­tries sus­pend or can­cel their eco­nomic and mil­i­tary aid. Egypt has threat­ened that should this hap­pen, it would turn to Rus­sia.

Other coun­tries pleased with the out­come are Bahrain, Iraq, Is­rael, Jor­dan, Rus­sia and Syria—oth­er­wise en­e­mies on the same side! Can it get more com­pli­cated? Sisi sent As­sad, who has been the ma­jor gainer, a re­turn gift by ex­pelling the Syr­ian Na­tional Al­liance from Cairo.

Tur­key and Tu­nisia have been strongly crit­i­cal. Iran has been equiv­o­cal. Ha­mas, Qatar and Tur­key are the big­gest losers. Cairo’s Al-Jazeera bureau has been closed.

Western coun­tries have re­peat­edly called for Morsi’s re­in­state­ment but have lit­tle lever­age to make that hap­pen. The US has lost stand­ing and be­come un­pop­u­lar with all sides. There is noth­ing that In­dia can say or do which will have the slight­est im­pact on how de­vel­op­ments evolve. Mak­ing any sub­stan­tive state­ment tak­ing sides would be coun­ter­pro­duc­tive. Like the great Third World be­he­moth, China, the In­dian Min­istry of Ex­ter­nal Af­fairs has made a ju­di­ciously an­o­dyne state­ment call­ing for all par­ties to ex­er­cise re­straint.

PHO­TO­GRAPH: Wikipedia

An Egyp­tian pro­tester dur­ing the 2011 Egyp­tian rev­o­lu­tion hold­ing

the Egyp­tian flag

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