Analysis: For the Egyptian army, there’s no turning back

The army knows that it must crack down hard on the Muslim Brotherhood in order to install a government more in line with its interests and those of the opposition protesters.

July 8, 2013 01:07
3 minute read.
Army soldiers stand guard near supporters (not pictured) of overthrown President Mohamed Morsi.

Egyptian army stands guard near Morsi supporters370. (photo credit: REUTERS)


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The Egyptian army cannot turn back now; it will probably continue full speed ahead and not allow the Muslim Brotherhood to eke its way back into power or get into a position where it could win elections again.

The army has been effectively – and brutally – dealing with the Islamists for years, and if anyone knows how to suppress them, it is the army and the country’s intelligence service.

The army knows that it must crack down hard on the organization in order to install a government more in line with its interests and those of the opposition protesters, while at the same time quelling any protests and violence from former president Mohamed Morsi’s supporters.

Thus, it is expected that we will see a continuation of arrests, the shutting down of Islamist media, and trials of members of the former regime. After all, this is the accepted and required behavior for leaders in the Arab world – to take total control and eliminate any hint of opposition – a winner-takes-all mentality, the survival of the fittest.

What do Muammar Gaddafi, Bashar Assad, Hafez Assad, Yasser Arafat, King Abdullah II of Jordan, King Hussein, Saddam Hussein, and other leaders of Arab states have in common? What did these leaders have to do in order to survive in this dangerous neighborhood?

David Pryce-Jones, the author of The Closed Circle, published for the first time in 1989, wrote: “Time after time, another bout of intra-Arab fighting produces a flurry of further metaphors about socialism and revolution, which fade out as yet another absolute ruler takes power exactly as his predecessor had done.”

Pryce-Jones goes on to state that the situation in the region is difficult for a Westerner to understand since he must “make the imaginative leap of abandoning his universe and his institutions, and so enter the Arab collectivity of tribe and kin and religious affiliation.”

In an article in Asharq al-Awsat at the end of 2011, after the inception of the “Arab Spring” and the toppling of former president Hosni Mubarak, Mamoun Fandy wrote, “The important point in all of this, despite my enthusiasm for change in post-revolutionary Egypt and my presence at the heart of it, is my theory that the ‘Arab Spring’ will not represent a break from tyranny, but rather it will be an extension of it with different characteristics.

“What is the future of the ‘Arab spring?’ This is a question that preoccupies the outside world. Will the ‘Spring’ lead to a new breakthrough, or simply a reproduction of the old status quo? This is the question.”

A scenario in which the Egyptian military today will be able to step outside of what Pryce-Jones calls “the closed circle” and incorporate the Muslim Brotherhood into the new regime seems unlikely, unless violence or outside pressure forces its hand.

This is especially true, coming after all of the strong rhetoric from Islamists that they will continue fighting for Morsi, who they see as the legitimately elected president.

Prof. Yoram Meital, chairman of the Chaim Herzog Center for Middle East Studies and Diplomacy at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, told The Jerusalem Post the army is being careful and moving in a very limited manner because of the volatile situation. If the situation was not how it is, the army would have cracked down much more severely on the Islamists.

The army is arresting Islamists and their leaders, sending a message that it will not tolerate any incitement against the army, said Meital. Yet it does not want to move too quickly and strongly and raise the concern of other sectors in Egypt and the international community, which are already criticizing the coup, he added.

Asked if he really believes that the army will hold elections this year, Meital responded that the army committed itself to the Egyptian people that there would be elections sometime this year. However, he said, there is intense debate about the timing of the elections.

“Most influential voices are saying that they should learn from the previous experience of Mubarak,” when the army pushed for having elections too quickly. This time there is talk of first moving to stabilize the economy and then agreeing on a constitution. Only then, would elections be held.

“When [Gen. Abdel Fattah al-]Sisi ordered the toppling of Morsi who won in free elections, he made a statement, which set a precedent,” stated Meital. This means that even if the Brotherhood would succeed again in winning elections, “they would have to take into account that if they would try to Islamize the state again, they could easily find themselves in a similar situation as under Morsi.”

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