Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Is Egypt's Military Ready To Take Control Back From The Muslim Brotherhood?

A year ago, Dr. Jacques Neriah asked Are Egypt’s Islamists Headed for a Collision with the Military?

At the time, leading up to the presidential election, the apparent agreement between the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) led by Field Marshal Tantawi and the Muslim Brotherhood had already begun to unravel. It was becoming clear that it was the Islamists after all, and not Egypt's military, that was gaining power as the military began to lose favor.

We now see where that scenario led.

Egyptians protest
Protesters demonstrate against the arrest of Egyptian journalist
Yousef Shaaban on the steps of Cairo's journalist's syndicate. Credit: Al Jazeera

Yet today, Neriah analyzes how matters may have turned completely around, as he now poses the quesition
Is Egypt Heading toward a Military Regime?. Here is his summary of his article for The Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs:

  • After the jubilation that accompanied Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi's "victory" over the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) in August 2012, the Muslim Brotherhood and Morsi himself began signaling their intention to turn Egypt into an Islamic state, arousing the fears of liberals and religious minorities.

  • The opposition turned hostile to the regime and began castigating it, exploiting the newly acquired freedom of the press. Never in Egypt's modern history had the press enjoyed such liberties, and Morsi became the target of satire and mockery. In addition, a new activist group emerged calling itself the Black Bloc. Its members, who dress in black with black masks, have declared open war against the Brotherhood.

  • Today, Egypt is on the verge of chaos. Amid a sudden popular wave of affection and longing for the Mubarak days, there is renewed talk of the army retaking power. As Morsi's government fails to achieve true democracy, respect human rights, restore security, or improve economic welfare, an increasing number of people are calling on the army to return to the political scene as Morsi's only possible replacement. A recent poll found 82 percent supporting such a move.

  • The question that remains is to what extent Morsi will allow Egypt to drift into anarchy and chaos before he asks the army to take the reins. The Muslim Brotherhood waited almost eight decades to become the rulers of Egypt. Certainly they are in no hurry to give back what the 2011 revolution gave them almost on a silver platter.
The question remains as whether the current chaos in Egypt does in fact create an opening for the Egyptian army to re-enter the stage. Neriah writes that even with the current crisis, the situation is not so simple:
When in August 2012 President Morsi stripped his generals of their powers, what was surprising was the army’s lack of reaction. Given the army’s wish to maintain its control of Egypt, analysts had not thought Morsi would dare make such a move. Now, with the renewed talk of the army returning to rule, the surprise may be the army marching on Cairo and seizing power. How likely is such a scenario? The more the societal crisis intensifies and the greater the chaos, the greater its likelihood. As Morsi’s government fails to achieve true democracy, respect human rights, restore security, or improve economic welfare, an increasing number of people are calling on the army to return to the political scene as Morsi’s only possible replacement. A recent poll by the Ibn Khaldun Center for Development Studies found 82 percent of respondents supporting such a move.15

However, one must bear in mind that in the case of Mubarak’s crisis, the army did not initiate a takeover; it was Mubarak himself who asked the army to fill the vacuum. Moreover, diplomats and analysts suggest that the army, fearful of further damaging a reputation that suffered badly during the transition period when it was in charge, would only act if Egypt faced unrest on the scale of the revolt that toppled Mubarak.16

The question that remains is to what extent Morsi will allow Egypt to drift into anarchy and chaos before he asks the army to take the reins. The Muslim Brotherhood waited almost eight decades to become the rulers of Egypt. Certainly they are in no hurry to give back what the 2011 revolution gave them almost on a silver platter.
Read the whole thing.

The crisis in Egypt still does not draw the media attention that Syria does -- especially since unlike Syria, the chaos in Egypt does not invite external intervention. Nevertheless, the ramifications of the direction Egypt ultimately takes will have ramifications across the Middle East due to Egypt's continued influence in the region.

Col. (ret.) Dr. Jacques Neriah, a special analyst for the Middle East at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, was formerly Foreign Policy Advisor to Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Deputy Head for Assessment of Israeli Military Intelligence.


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