Egypt’s defense minister Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi issued a statement on behalf of the armed forces Monday, July 1, warning the politicians they had 48 hours to “meet the people’s demands” and agree on an inclusive road map for the way ahead. He did not define “the people” either as the millions who voted for the Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohamed Morsi as president or the masses demanding his resignation. The army chief’s statement acted as a warning to the politicians in both camps that if they failed to agree, the army would step in and assume power once again.
The military statement went on to say that the Egyptian army will not get involved in politics but had decided to act in view of the real danger facing national security.
President Barack Obama also voiced his concern about the situation in Egypt and called on President Morsi to respond to opposition demands and work with the protest leaders.
The morning after millions of Egyptians demonstrated fairly peacefully Sunday night, June 30, for and against President Mohamed Morsi and Muslim Brotherhood rule, a mob Monday stormed and ransacked Brotherhood headquarters in Cairo and set it on fire. The building was empty at the time.
In the early stage of the opposition uprising, the Brotherhood more or less avoided direct street clashes in the 20 or so Egyptian towns where protests were staged, even though they and their premises were often under assault.
There were two reasons for this restraint:
1. The morning after the big event Sunday, which was timed for the first anniversary of Morsi’s presidency, found him shaken but still hanging in there. The first crack came later Monday, July 1, when four members of his cabinet, the ministers of tourism, environment, communication and legal affairs, handed in their resignations.
2. The protest organizers gave Morsi until Tuesday to step down and call an early election, or else face more demonstrations and a long campaign of civil obedience. Against this ultimatum, the Brothers reckoned they could hold out until next week, when the Muslim month of Ramadan begins. During that month, they hoped the millions of protesters would be too busy breaking their daily fast after nightfall to be available for mass rallies against the government.
Muslim Brotherhood tacticians changed their minds after the attack on their Cairo headquarters was found to have been carried out by a “rebel unit.” The MB spokesman then announced that “self-defense units” were being considered to protect the movement. What this means is that Egypt’s ruling Islamists are contemplating activating armed militias, or paramilitary groups, in the face of attacks by “rebel units.” This would take the country another step towards greater violence and a more protracted confrontation. For now, the army is not interfering in the contest.
It is feared in ruling circles in Cairo that the protest movement will resort to violent assaults on their institutions, alongside a campaign of civil obedience, to keep the flames of their campaign to topple the Islamist government burning high.
Se debkafile’s exclusive eport on Sunday.
The protest rallies against Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi staged across Egypt Sunday June 30, a year after he took power, offered two surprises. Rather than an outpouring of anti-Islamist rage, the tenor of the banners, placards and chants raised over Cairo’s Tahrir Square echoed the slogans of pan-Arab, nationalism, socialism and xenophobia, with which the charismatic Gemal Abdel Nasser caught the Arab world by storm half a century ago. The Muslim Brotherhood rule in Egypt, thrown up by the Arab Revolt, may face the challenge of a neo-Arab nationalistic uprising, a throwback to the Nasserist era.
There was also a strong strain of anti-American sentiment.
In Cairo, placards of US Ambassador Anne Patterson, accused of currying favor with the Muslim Brotherhood, were hoisted alongside those of President Morsi – both defaced with large red exes.
The second surprise was the less-than expected turnout – hundreds of thousands – at most one millon – rather than 3-5 million the organizers hoped to rally in Cairo alone and no more than two-to-two and a half million in all the main city centers combined.
According to the Egyptian Interior Ministry, 17 million demonstrators counting supporters and opponents of the president, were in the streets Sunday night. Our sources say this figure is much inflated.
No one is even trying to guess what sort of Egypt will emerge from this new turbulence, or who will rule the country when it subsides. Some facts and figures may offer some clues to where Egypt is heading:
1. The organizers of the “Tamarod” (Rebellion) have laid long-term plans for a civil disobedience campaign to disrupt the government administration until it is forced to quit – although the initial phase was marked with scattered violence: Ten people were killed Sunday night and 700 injured, after seven were left dead in clashes between pro-and anti Morsi supporters in the past week, including an American.
The protest leaders claim to have harnessed various anti-government groups – liberals, pro-democracy factions, academics, members of the free professions, secular politicians, students and ordinary people who elected the Muslim Brother for jobs and a better and safer life and are now jobless and unable to feed their families.
Among the demonstrators in Tahrir Square Sunday night were police officers and judges.
2. The next stage planned is for a shutdown of 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. The uprising has a leader, the Nassersit Hamdeen Sabahi, who came in third place after Morsi in last year’s presidential election. But the trouble for the protest leaders is that he is virtually faceless on the national scene and has never made his mark as a figure able to inspire the masses to rise up against the government. Without a strong figure, the uprising may soon lose traction.