Last chance for Egypt

The country is at a perilous crossroad and the only solution is to unite the fractured opposition.

Egypt Revolution Part II Dec 2012 man with flag - 370 (photo credit: REUTERS)
Egypt Revolution Part II Dec 2012 man with flag - 370
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The future stability of Egypt hinges on the ability to deal with the problems most recently stemming from Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi’s self-declared control over all government branches. The resulting violent clashes between Islamists and secularists exacerbated tensions and disunity among the secular majority undermined the opposition. Due to all of this, a consensus on the proposed constitution remains unclear.
But an important issue not factored in and essential to the future of the country is the wholly separate power of the military. If the secularists and liberals hope to provide any sense of a serious opposition to the Islamists, they need to consider the necessity of joining with the military. The inability of the secularists and liberals to give any concession to the role of the military in the new Egypt has made the latter–which was pivotal in removing former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak in the January 25 Revolution—unwilling to strongly support them against the Islamists. None of these groups—the Islamists, the secularists, nor the military—is capable of controlling the country alone. Only a confederacy of at least two of the factions could effectively govern Egypt.
This became painfully obvious recently when the military refused to side with the anti-Morsi demonstrators—whose numbers incidentally, did not amount to too much more than the number of anti-Mubarak protesters. The secularists have failed to recognize that it was the military—not their presence in Tahrir Square—that ultimately removed Mubarak from power. If the recently united anti-Islamist groups refuse to give the military some privileges, the outcome for the whole country will be disastrous, falling into a destructive cascade that will end in the creation of a Sharia-ruled failed state.
And the obvious fraud of the recent referendum by the Muslim Brotherhood (MB)-led government has only added more salt to the wound. Following the refusal of most Egyptian judges to supervise the elections, the MB chose mainly Islamist judges (and many unauthorized people as well) to administer voting. But then the Islamists compounded this with an array of dirty tactics. Those who usually do the Fajr (dawn) prayer in the Mosque were the first to stand in queues in front of the election centers. After casting their votes, they then returned to stand in the same queues, slowing the election process and making it more painful for the secularists who generally vote later in the day. Because of the strict election time-line, these delay tactics resulted in the failure of many—if not most—anti-Islamists to cast their votes at several of the election centers. The Islamist judges who supervised the elections contributed to the mess by taking too much time to validate the voters. In many places–especially where most people are known to vote against the MB--voters stood in line for more than 7 hours without moving forward an inch.
United States support for the Morsi government–as evidenced by the recent presentation of fighter aircraft to the MB-ruled Egyptian Military, and based on the hope that the MB will respect the peace treaty with Israel—is shallow and short-sighted. Morsi’s real intentions regarding Israel were recently exposed in that showed him praying for the destruction of the State of Israel and the Jews. Additionally, the MB’s inability and unwillingness to encourage tourism due to their ideological beliefs will eventually cause the economic collapse of the country. Hunger revolts in the near future are not out of the question. Betting on the MB now is akin to betting on a faltering horse.
Furthermore, the very high and rising percentage of people opposing the MB will continue to undermine their ability to rule the country, especially if the majority turns to violence against the Islamists. The MB’s inability to rule the country was already apparent when they backtracked in their decision to close shops at 10 pm. The aim was to force people to go to sleep early so they could wake up for dawn prayer. Recommended by Hasan Al-Bana, the founder of the MB, it was seen as a preparatory step to an Islamic State and Caliphate but people simply ignored the move. Another likely division that is a possibility is within the army, or even a coup, to side with secularists against the Islamists when the situation in the country turns ugly.
When the Supreme Council of Armed Forces (SCAF) issued following the removal of Mubarak, a constitutional decision to criminalize discrimination based on religion, sex, or race. But in the new Morsi constitution—which was written by the so-called ‘civilians’—this rule was removed in order to allow the Islamists to practice their discriminatory Sharia agenda in the future.
The current situation in Egypt is a serious crisis. Left unchecked, it could easily push the country down the path of failed states controlled by Islamic Radicals.
There are only few things that could assist in preventing such a disastrous fate, which include:
1.      The international community must inform the Egyptian leadership that the acceptance of Morsi as president of Egypt was based on the approval of the Supreme Constitutional Court and as long as this court is unable to function normally, his recognition as president by the free world will be in jeopardy.
2.     Morsi needs to be informed that the fraudulent results of the referendum on the new constitution will not be accepted as the will of the Egyptian people unless the opposition leadership, Shafik Sabahi, Amr-Moussa and Abu El-foutoh, approve it. These men represented 75 percent of the combined votes in the first presidential race and oppose the current constitution.
3.     Human rights activists must take Morsi to the International Criminal Court to answer for his passive attitude toward—and possible collaboration in—the recent killings of peaceful demonstrators in front of his palace.
4.     Morsi must be warned that his tyrannical attitude will deprive Egypt of badly needed financial aid from the international community and the US. The MB’s fear of economic failure—which would likely end their dream of proving to the Muslim world that “Islam is the Solution”—might force them to accept concessions in order to avoid such a defeat of their ideology.
5.     Morsi’s largely secular opposition must realize that without giving some concessions to the military they will likely drive the country to become a theocratic stated ruled by Sharia and controlled by Islamic military power. The latter will be much worse than any secular military. Playing the game of politics correctly and giving some concessions to the military can save the country from a disastrous future.
6.     The US should welcome opening a dialogue with Morsi’s opposition. This can create pressure on Morsi and push him toward changing his tyrannical decisions, which brought nothing to the country but more instability. 
7.     International organizations such as the European Union should offer to supervise or monitor another referendum, untainted by fraud, on the new constitution.
These measures are vital to resuscitate the country and to prevent it from going down a very destructive path and would be useful in helping to settle this explosive situation.
The writer is an Islamic thinker and reformer, and one-time Islamic extremist from Egypt. He was a member of a terrorist Islamic organization JI with Dr. Ayman Al-Zawaherri, 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.