The Egyptian military, led by Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, routed the Muslim
Brotherhood, killing many of its members in a show of force – but the Brothers
have yet to alter their game plan because they see light at the end of the
tunnel. The light is in the form of international condemnation and pressure on
the military-backed government.
Many Western countries, including the US,
have condemned the crackdown on protesters and have, or are, contemplating cutting back aid and other forms of cooperation.
One of the
first responses came on Thursday when US president Barack Obama canceled an
upcoming joint military drill. Russia, trying to take advantage of faltering
US-Egypt relations, offered its own joint military drill. Russian President
Vladimir Putin called for an extraordinary session at the Kremlin to discuss the
situation in Egypt and announced that Russia will arrange for jointmilitary
exercises with the Egyptian army, according to a report in the Egyptian
Some analysts argue that the Western nations are acting
unwisely and letting emotions overcome their national interests, which lie with
the pro-Western military regime, not Islamic radicals seeking to slither their
way back into power.
While the military has an advantage in terms of
sheer firepower, the Brotherhood still have two important cards it can play: It
has many loyal supporters who can wreak havoc inside Egypt as well as in various
foreign states that it hopes can facilitate its reentry into the political life
of the country.
However, Sisi knew much of this beforehand and seeks to
take total control of the country and remove any threats to the regime’s hold on
power. The economy is in crisis and much of the population seeks an improvement
in their quality of life and an end to the turmoil.
Nathan Brown, an expert
on Arab politics and a professor of political science and international affairs
at George Washington University, and a nonresident senior associate at the
Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, told The Jerusalem Post that a
compromise had been possible until Wednesday’s crackdown.
“I just do not
see anybody as interested in a political settlement right now,” said Brown,
adding that the Brotherhood feels cheated and persecuted.
“The new regime
has come to view the Brotherhood as a security rather than a political challenge
and has given the security apparatus a green light to deal with the Brotherhood
as it sees fit,” he said.
Asked where he sees things going from here,
Brown responded that it is likely that strife continues, and that the formal
political process announced by the military-backed government “will likely
continue so that constitutional rule will be restored and elections
“But that process does not offer any realistic possibility over the
short term of healing Egypt’s political wounds or of subjecting the military and
security apparatus to any real oversight,” he added.
Mara Revkin, an
independent analyst who just returned from Cairo, and a former assistant
director of the Atlantic Council’s Middle East Center, told the Post that what
has been going on across Egypt over the past few days is an escalation in
violence, “verging on urban warfare.”
The window of opportunity for any
sort of dialogue between the military and supporters of ousted president Morsi
appears to have closed decisively with the resignation on Wednesday of vice
president Mohamed ElBaradei, who had been one of the few voices in the interim
government opposed to dispersing Islamist protesters by force, said
She went on to add that ElBaradei’s prediction that extremist
groups would benefit from the violence that has already materialized, which has
returned in force in the lawless Sinai, with reports indicating on Thursday that
gunmen killed seven Egyptian soldiers.
This in addition to numerous
attacks on churches and government buildings across Egypt.
“For the past
six weeks, the Muslim Brotherhood has been framing its conflict with the
military as an existential battle over the survival of political Islam and the
future of democratic institutions in Egypt," she said.
"The latest crackdown against its
supporters will only harden the determination of Islamists to resist the army
and stand their ground,” predicted Revkin.
She sees higher levels of
violence on the horizon, which “could very well see a return to the type of
low-level domestic insurgency that plagued Egypt in the 1990s, before Islamist
groups like al-Gamaa al-Islamiya decided to renounce violence in favor of
Islamists are feeling punished for their
decision to participate in the political process, as the military leadership
will not allow a democratic process that brings Islamists to power, she
Revkin sees a re-radicalization of “formerly militant Islamist groups that are now rethinking their decision to renounce violence,” and a rise in sectarian violence to levels analogous to those in Iraq.