How Morsy will gain total control over Egypt

An analysis of the Egyptian president's moves in creating an Islamic state.

Morsy swears in Minister (R370) (photo credit: REUTERS)
Morsy swears in Minister (R370)
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The sudden move of Egyptian President Mohammed Morsy to oust the senior leadership of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) came as a surprise to many analysts. The move was celebrated by Islamists because it advances their cause of making Egypt an Islamic state. Relief was also felt by many ordinary Egyptians who were growing increasingly frustrated by the ongoing power struggle between the Muslim Brotherhood and the military. The move even pleased certain liberals who harbor ill feelings of paranoia with regards to the military. Most liberals, however, felt that this move ended any hope of preventing Egypt from becoming an Islamic state since the military plays a role in protecting the country’s secularism.
This move can be analysed on several different levels.
The first level is timing: Why did Morsy choose to make this move so early on in his leadership? The answer is partly due to the fact that there was mounting anger against the Islamists. The rise in public discontent was partially due to the MB’s conniving attempts to change Egypt into an Islamic state like Iran, and partially due to their failure to show any evidence of economic progress since they came to power in the parliament. Another factor that aggravated the anger against Morsy is the feeling that he cares for Gaza more than he cares for Egypt. His decision to give electricity to Gaza while Egypt suffers from daily cuts, as well as facilitating the entry of Palestinians from Gaza into Egypt (also thought to be a factor in the recent killing of 16 Egyptian soldiers) only made things worse for Morsy. Several liberals were also angered by the Islamists attempts to suppress freedom of press.
Prior to his recent move, a plan by thousands of Egyptians to start an anti-Islamist revolution against the MB on Aug 24 was initiated using social media. The recent action to replace the leaders of the military with people who would have more loyalty to the current government allowed Morsy to abort the proposed revolution before it even started.
Additionally, the Supreme Constitutional Court would have likely delegitimized the current Islamist-dominated panel that is involved in creating a new constitution. If this had occurred, the military would have enforced the decision of the court and taken up the role of appointing a new panel to create the constitution. The new panel would have been a non-Islamist panel, once again putting an end to the MB’s aspirations of creating an Islamic constitution for Egypt. Morsy’s move against the military delivers the legislative power into his own hands, so that if the constitutional court delegitimizes the current panel in the near future, it will be Morsy, and not the Military, who will ultimately select members for the new panel.
Another factor that persuaded Morsy not to tarry in making his decision was in order to distract the public’s attention from the country’s increasing domestic challenges. When Morsy became president, he promised the people that within 100 days they would notice significant improvements in their lives. Despite the fact that his promise to make significant improvements in such a short timeframe was either very naïve or just plain propaganda, many took it seriously. Many Egyptians had actually taken to counting down the 100 days and even created what they called a “Morsy-meter” that measured the progress of the country within this period. Now people are concluding that since Morsy came to power, the conditions in the country are in decline. The soft coup against the military managed to steer the population away from closely observing the “Morsy 100 Program.”
The second level deals with how he actually managed to do implement such a change in leadership.
With the support and guidance of others in the MB leadership, Morsy used several tactical approaches that allowed him to make such a surprising move. These include:Gaining the support of the army’s younger generation, many of whom feel that the older generation of officers were not giving them the chance to advance the ranks. Morsy cleverly used this generational rift to pass his coup smoothly without much resistance from military personnel. In order to abate the younger men, he appointed some of them to top positions, giving them hope that they too can become leaders.
Second, only a few days before Morsy’s military move, he prepared the ground by appointing a new head of intelligence.
Third, Morsy threw religion into the mix by choosing to make his move during the last 10 days of Ramadan – a particularly auspicious time for Muslims. Muslims believe that the last 10 days of Ramadan was when Islam celebrated its first victory and also when the Quran was revealed to the prophet Mohamed. Many of Egypt’s faithful were therefore led to believe that the move by Morsy was a “holy” one blessed by Allah.
The Muslim Brotherhood’s control of the press, which occurred just prior to the removal of military leaders, played a hand in tempering any potential uproar. It is also worth noting that during Ramadan most of the political commentators are on vacation anyway, and most TV channels broadcast very little other than movies and religious programs.
Additionally, the effects of fasting everyday meant that a demonstration was much less likely.
Other than Allah’s blessing, Morsy also sought the support of players within the international arena. The visit of the Amir of Qatar to Egypt and his subsequent meeting with Morsy only 48 hours prior to the move, was seen as many as a blessing. The third level investigates the implications of such a move.
The ramifications will largely depend on the economic success of the MB in the next few months. If they succeed in putting an end to the economic problems of the country, the MB will be able to establish the first foundation of the Islamic Caliphate which will certainly antagonize US interests in the region. If they fail to solve at least some of the economic problems, it will likely be the biggest blow dealt to the phenomenon of political and radical Islam. The MB are likely to manifest “selective” pragmatism on issues that can  assist them in achieving their global goals, such as accepting “non-Islamic” loans from the World Bank and other international donors.
It is unlikely, However, that the MB will demonstrate any pragmatism on issues that are fundamental to their ideology, including their desire to suppress the freedom of Egyptian women and their strong pro-Hamas, anti-Israeli stance. On this last point, the US must be made aware that the aid it gives to a MB-controlled Egypt may be used to support terrorist organizations such as Hamas.
The writer is an Islamic thinker and reformer, and a one-time Islamic extremist from Egypt. He was a member of the terrorist organization JI with Dr. Ayman al-Zawahiri, who later became the second-in-command of al-Qaida. He is currently a senior fellow and chairman of the study of Islamic radicalism at the Potomac Institute for Policy Studies.