None of the experts are sticking out their necks to predict how Egypt will wake up on July 1, the day after Egypt’s third revolution in three years is formally kicked off. The opposition is committed to stage a major uprising June 30 against the rule of the Muslim Brotherhood and Mohamed Morsi’s year-old presidency in Cairo. But how this country of 90 million will look and who will be in power after it is over is terra incognita.
All that can be said for sure is that violent convulsions and disruptions lie ahead of a country and governing system that never had a chance to recover from the 2011 Tahrir Square revolution which ousted President Hosni Mubarak. Now, his successor is on notice to quit.
Some facts and figures may offer some clues to where Egypt is heading:
1. Calling their movement “Tamarod” (Rebel), opposition forces representing Egyptians “who refuse Muslim Brotherhood rule” launched the “30 June Front” as a coordinating body for organizing the protests starting Sunday and presenting political demands, along with a roadmap for a transitional period after Morsi’s departure. The organizers say they will bring millions or even tens of millions of protesters out to the streets. It will not be a one-day event, but the start of a long sit-down strike in city centers to paralyze the entire country. Each town will have its own organizing commander.
No one-day event, massive disruptions of public utilities
The Tamarod organizers say the movement encompasses not just liberals, democrats, academics and members of the secular Egyptian parties, but also the masses, who once supported the Muslim Brotherhood and now despair of improving their lives, enjoying personal security, or finding jobs and better income. Many are so reduced in circumstances that they can’t afford to feed their families every day.
These ordinary Egyptians are more than ready to take to the streets en masse. Their pent-up disillusionment will fuel the sweeping popular campaign for driving the president and Brotherhood out of power.
Muslim Brotherhood governors, mayors and other officials already feel the sharp edge of popular anger. In hundreds of cities across the country, they are afraid to show their faces in public for fear of attack. The first wave of violence erupted Thursday night, June 26, in towns of the Egyptian Delta.
2. The shutdown ordered by the protest organizers will apply to public transportation, factories, financial companies and the flow of oil and gas in and out of Egypt. Within days, the country will face electricity and water outages and start the grim descent into complete chaos.
3. After seizing control of the main city squares and strikebound factories and offices, the protesters are expected to start setting up defensive bulwarks. In some places, people are collecting old cars, sandbags and steel beams for fortificatons.
Army on alert for big cities and Suez Canal
4. The Muslim Brotherhood is not eager to stand up for Morsi, who he is too independent for their liking and refuses to rubber-stamp their wishes like a good puppet. Still, if he goes, Brotherhood rule will be next on the chopping block. In his defense, therefore, the Brotherhood this week placed its paramilitary units and activist militias on full alert. Their effectiveness is limited, because they are familiar faces on Egyptian streets and afraid to move around for fear of attack. The coming transport shutdown and road blocks will make it even harder for them to move from place to place.
5. Both sides to this contest are fully aware that civic action will quickly slide into armed clashes. Western intelligence agents present in Egyptian streets warn that casualties could be extremely high.
6. Anticipating violent outbreaks, the Egyptian army placed its units on the ready Tuesday June 25, five days before the big day of the Tamerod. DEBKA Weekly names those units as the 2nd and 9th armored Egyptian divisions based near Cairo.
Their instructions are to elevate the alert level by a notch per day and reach the highest point Saturday, June 29.
Additional army units standing ready are the Second Army, which is responsible for the area between the town of Ismailia and the point at which the Nile empties out into the Mediterranean, and the units on guard further south, on the banks of the Suez Canal and the Gulf of Suez.
The imponderable pro-al Qaeda Bedouin of Sinai
But military intervention for curtailing the unrest in Egypt is far from plain sailing.
– No one in Egypt or anywhere else can tell which parties the generals favor – or at what point they mean to step in. They may stand aside until the first blood is spilt in clashes and then decide to seize power themselves and announce Morsi’s removal.
The protest organizers would welcome the army doing their work for them by ousting the president and even the restoration of the military junta, which governed the country in the transition up to Muslim rule.
– The army could decide to stay out of it until a very advanced stage;
– All the Egyptian army’s bases are located near the main cities; it has no military presence in the outlying regions of the Delta and the South. The army would therefore be restricted to operating against trouble between the protesters and the Muslim Brotherhood only in Cairo, Alexandria and the Suez Canal cities – not in other places.
7. The nearly 10,000 armed Sinai Bedouin Salafis, some allied to Al Qaeda, are another imponderable. Traditionally antagonistic to any Egyptian rule, they appear now to have opted to join the fight against the Muslim Brotherhood. In recent weeks, they have begun testing new missiles every few days, a secret closely guarded by Washington, London, Paris and Jerusalem.
The Bedouin radicals conducted their last test on Tuesday June 25 by shooting a salvo from central Sinai which exploded near Al Qanjarah on the eastern bank of the Suez Canal, just a few meters short of the water.
If the armed Salafis of Sinai decide to use their missiles to disrupt shipping in the Suez Canal, the oil and insurance markets would fly off the board. This would put the Egyptian uprising squarely in the realms of regional and global geopolitics.