There is just one short day before a game of chicken, which will possibly determine Egypt’s future political direction, will come to an end. This dangerous game pits Cairo’s present regime, the Muslim Brotherhood, and the military of Egypt against each other. Everyone involved is scrambling to secure as much influence and support as possible.
Over the last year President Morsi’s popularity has steadily degraded. At one point, to head off the negative momentum, He tried to take actions that would have meant an end to Egypt’s new democratic state and ushered in a more extreme Islamist system. Executive powers were to be increased and the legislature dissolved. The streets of Egypt filled with protests which resulted in a “backing away” from these provocative moves.
This didn’t set well with the population, and ever since there has been a growing resistance to any plans the Morsi regime has put forth. Just this last week planned peaceful demonstrations were held. As with all such emotions in the Mid-East, the conflict culminated with the demonstrators attacking and looting the Muslim Brotherhood’s headquarters in Cairo. This success has led to more people in the streets and the promise for more violence. It appears the protestors’ demands are simple—they want President Morsi gone and new elections.
Through this, Morsi has been staunchly resistant to their demands, threatening violence if the demonstrations don’t end. This only served to increase the numbers in the streets.
On Monday, the most senior general of Egypt’s military delivered an ultimatum to the President’s regime. Peacefully resolve this instability or the military, much like in the days of the previous president, would take over and start a new process that would include presidential elections.
The next day, the President called on the military to withdraw its ultimatum and called for pro-regime supporters to rally at the same time. As these two opposing factions turn into the streets, the probability of a violent collision increases with every passing hour.
The pressure to resign has continued to build since the issuance of the ultimatum. Reportedly as many as six cabinet members have resigned since June 30th, including Foreign Minister Kamel Amr. On July 2, the Egyptian judiciary, no friend of Morsi’s, upheld its ruling removing the Prosecutor General, a Morsi appointee, and reinstated the office’s predecessor.
Meanwhile, CNN is reporting that President Obama has jumped into the middle of this “no win” political situation. The Administration is apparently trying to put pressure on Morsi to step down and call early elections. He has also warned the Egyptian military that any action on their part could have a negative effect on U.S./Egyptian relations going forward, including the suspension of $1.5 billion in aid. The State Department denies it has issued any such threat.
These intrusions into Egypt’s internal conflicts will not be taken well. Time and again the Obama administration has shown a lack of understanding of the Mid-East mindset or has ignored it. These warrior cultures, on both sides, know the rules of such conflicts and they don’t include acquiescing to outsiders. They know they can live on much less, and have done so; consequently, money has little sway.
They also understand that the most committed group wins the war, so threats from those who have shown themselves to be weak are of little effect.
By the time this update is released, the initial 48 hours will have passed and some of the outcome will be apparent and in the headlines. It will be interesting to see who, if any, gives in to avoid the collision.
There are two takeaways from this present situation:
First is the action of our present administration. We continue to get involved in situations that we don’t understand. I say “we” because “we” allowed them to be elected. There are long-term consequences to not respecting or understanding your enemy. There are unavoidable consequences to these immature actions. Clearly, the present administration is progressively putting us at greater and greater risk.
Second, we must remember that the foundation of these conflicts in the Mid East is tribal in nature. They can’t be “solved” in the common understanding. These blood feuds between Shi’ite and Sunni have been going on for centuries. Their differences are no longer resolvable. The only time they cooperate is when they ally against a common enemy. Having had little success against Israel, their loosely held alliances have started to fall back into old habits.
The Mid East is truly on the precipice of all-out conflict in which not only nations will be at odds but families within them as well. Stay alert and informed. The next few days and weeks may be historic. Be sure to follow all the latest from our Twitter feed at: @kiresearch.