WRITTEN BY CHRISS W. STREET
Egyptian Defense Minister Abdel Fatah al-Sisi announced on July 3rd that President Mohammed Morsi was removed from office by the nation’s military. An interim government of national reconciliation is being formed in cooperation with Egypt’s al-Azhar University of Islamic Studies, and Pope Theodorus II of the Coptic Christian Church. The Defense Minister stated that the interim government will be led by Chief Justice Adly Mansour of the Constitutional Court, who will be sworn by the General Assembly of the Court on July 4th. The military stated they expect a broader coalition than the ousted Muslim Brotherhood will be able to address the demands of public protests.
After less than a year in office, huge public protests began on June 29 ahead of the one-year anniversary of the election of Mohammed Morsi as the first popularly elected president in the history of Egypt. The military finally stepped in to take control when Muslim Brotherhood’s political allies, including the radical Salafist al-Nour and Gamaah al-Islamiyah parties, joined the protests and threatened violence.
Muslim Brotherhood supporters across the country, particularly within the Cairo suburb of Nasr City near Cairo University, are vowing to keep defending their ousted president and the electoral legitimacy of his government. Tensions will remain high for several days and both opposition and pro-Brotherhood protests continue to fill the streets. Although the Muslim Brotherhood’s still retains the largest and most cohesive political machine within the Egyptian state, but with Morsi under detention by the military and Salafist warriors defecting to the opposition, the Muslim Brotherhood does not appear to have the strength to wage a successful civil war against the military.
Now on their fourth government in the last three years, Egypt’s economy has stalled after thirty years of world class 6% annual growth under the tyrannical dictatorship of Hosni Mubarak. The Muslim Brotherhood achieved political success after the first revolution by instituting bread distribution and social outreach programs for the poorest Egyptians. But with inflation running at 20% and the banks insolvent, the current protests were led by the nation’s urban middle class.
The Muslim Brotherhood is not going to vanish overnight. The party has been active since 1928 and endured several decades of suppression under previous military-backed presidents. The military issued arrest warrants for 300 Muslim Brotherhood members, but today’s coup has only stalled the movement’s political gains. Egypt’s economic and political challenges continue to play to the Brotherhood’s strength as party of the poor.
The overthrow of Egypt’s moderate Islamist government undermines the Obama Administration’s international efforts to bring radical Islamists into the political mainstream in the Arab and Muslim world. But Morsi’s ouster will convince the radical Islamist elements in the ultraconservative Salafist groups to abandon mainstream politics in favor of armed conflict.
CNN reported on July 3rd that President Obama urged the Egyptian military to hand full control back to a democratically elected civilian government and abstain from arresting President Morsi or his supporters. He also said the United States was reviewing the implications of the coup for its assistance to Egypt.
President Obama thought his grand tour of Africa would be a welcome distraction from the growing scandal fatigue at home. But with live television coverage of the protests and a military coup d’état in the streets of Africa’s biggest city, the President’s trip was relegated to a side show.
CHRISS STREET & PAUL PRESTON
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