27.07.2013 Author: Viktor Titov

Egyptian Face-Off: Attempts to Avoid Civil War


Source: Flickr

It seems like the face off between the “Muslim Brotherhood” group and the secular opposition, backed up by the Egyptian army, has reached its boiling point. The Egyptian military forces have issued an ultimatum to “Muslim Brotherhood” on July 25, the supporters of which continue mass street protests after president Morsi’s toppling. The ultimatum demands to ceases all protests within 48 hours and join the process of political transformation. “You should change your strategy and cease all violence this friday”. – reads the statement issued by the high military high command.“The revolution that took place on July 30 was an expression of the people’s will, not a coup d’etat. Even though there were numerous attempts made by some to persuade the West in the opposite.” The army warned the people that once the deadline is through they will reside to “different means of fighting the instigators of mass protests. It remains unclear what these “different means” are, the implication is simple – there’s a possibility that the army can reside to violence.

All of these facts manifest only one thing – the military are unable to secure the power in the country on their own, providing Egypt with stability and order during the interim period they’ve declared. The Islamists turned out to be stronger and more numerous than the supporters of the liberal-secular norms of life. So one shouldn’t exclude the possibility that the military can resort to brute force and mass repressions. The first step – the countless detentions of the Muslim Brotherhood representatives are already taking place. But the problem is that the lower ranks of the Muslim Brotherhood organisation don’t obey any orders from their leaders anymore. They are possessed by the idea to go till the end in their strive to return Morsi to power once again. To achieve this they have all the necessary means, even if this leads the country to the civil war. They’ve haven’t crossed that line yet, but the country is paralyzed by the daily protests of the Islamists supporters. The economy is collapsing fast, there’s no good in the stores to be found and nobody’s in charge anymore. This cannot last for long, one step away from total anarchy and collapse. The Muslim Brotherhood is not going to cross that line that fast, instead they prefer to wait when the army yields, by returning the power to Morsi or by holding emergency elections which would end in favor for the Islamists.

And it seems the Egyptian generals won’t hold their ground for long. One thing is to arrest the former president and all his supporters, the other is to overcome the breakdown of the Egyptian society and readjust all the shperes of the day-to-day life. But at the same time they are scared of the future bloodshed that can outbreak any moment now. If they turn they turn their barrels against their own people – nobody’s is going to support them, the United States and European Union will be the first to turn back on them. This will place them in a total and complete political isolation and their days will be numbered. Today Egypt is a different country in comparison to the one it was during the Mubarak times. Egyptian society has undergone tremendous a change, they demand freedom and equality paying no heed to the guns. The army has brought it on itself but the awkward and ill-planned moves it took during those troubled times. There’s the only possible way out for them now – to launch the national reconciliation process, leaving the Egyptian political scene once and for all. But it seems it’s far too late now since the representatives of the secular society as well as the Islamists won’t go for it. The current state of affairs in Egypt reminds of a bombshell that can go off any second from now on. The mass riots are already under way, and if the army resides to violence things will go from bad to worse. In such a case the civil war in Egypt can last for months or even years.

There’s no reason for optimism in Egypt today. The Ramadan, a month of religious celebration during which the Muslim tend to avoid violence, is almost through. The only question is that who is going to pull the trigger first. If the generals do, civil war can become a common daily routine in Egypt, just like it is now in Syria. If the Islamists do than the military will have an excuse for their actions. For this reason the Muslim Brotherhood will reside to the tactics of prolonging mass protests in Egypt for as long as they can, which should paralyse Egypt completely. Than the power will fall in their hands like an overripe fruit does. As for the secular opposition, they fall short in numbers of supporters and in their determenation to resort to any measures, and they understand that. The representatives of the Muslim Brotherhood movement understand it better that anybody else for this reason they try to prevent themselves from violence. They have all the aces, since they have the international sympathies, the legitimacy, the people’s support. On top of all they didn’t carry out a coup d’etat like the military did.

In such a situation every foreign citizen, especially the Russian tourists that are particularly fond of Egypt should ask themselves are they going to risk their lives by visiting Egypt during these troubled times or not. Today there’s tens of thousands of Russian people set to take holidays in Egypt, if things do go from bad to worse, they would find themselves unable to leave Egypt within a couple of days. So everybody should decide for himself, is he going to take a risk or go to the vacations somewhere else?

Viktor Titov, Cand. Sc. (History), is a Middle East political analyst. Exclusively for New Eastern Outlook.