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Washington Rescues Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood...Against Its Will!
Published in AL HAYAT on 15 - 07 - 2013

The second interim phase that Egypt is currently going through is more dangerous than the first one that followed the deposing of President Hosni Mubarak. During that first phase, the masses took to the streets and squares and were generally confronting the military institution that was running the state. Today however, two major societal constituents are locked in a confrontation, which means that a clash and subsequent civil war could take place if the Muslim Brotherhood were to insist on rejecting what it dubbed "the military coup." The incidents in front of the Republican Guards complex represent only a small example of what could happen if the Brotherhood group and the radical forces were to clash with the army or their adversaries.
Even if Hazem Biblawi were to form a cabinet including competent officials and figures that enjoy a high degree of acceptability within and outside Egypt, this will not be sufficient. Unless all the different parties demonstrate flexibility and willingness to form a real partnership starting with everyone's participation in coming up with a consensual constitution, the military rule might last for a long while. If this were to take place, the two "revolutions" would have reproduced the old regime albeit with different faces. The youths who started the two revolutions and the traditional parties and forces that followed do not aspire to that. It is no longer an easy matter for the army to re-seize control of the state. Even those parties that reverted to the army in order to topple President Mohamed Morsi will soon clash over the army's role in the future. Just a short while ago, following the toppling of President Mubarak, many of these parties were calling on the Military Council to clear the arenas and proceed back to the barracks.
Thus, the main priority at this point is to use every available political and economic means to prevent the country from slipping into security chaos or an Algerian-style civil war. The two opposed masses including the Tamarrod movement and the Brotherhood, coupled with the position of the military institution, are actually increasing the schism and threatening with additional vertical division. The Arab countries that decided to offer financial support to Cairo must proceed with their active intervention in order to achieve a détente in order to compensate for the economic failure of President Morsi's administration. This will help in overcoming the main reasons behind the people's frustration and the reasons that push the people to respond to the radical Islamist parties' calls to confront the army. This will also encourage the international financial institutions to help Egypt. The International Monetary Fund is expected to act following the announcement of the new cabinet in order to proceed with the talks that were launched with President Morsi and his Prime Minister, Hecham Qandil. The fact that Biblawi is heading the cabinet, that Mohammad al-Baradei is his deputy, and that Dr. Ziad Bahaeddine and other figures accepted to join will definitely encourage the international financial institutions to provide Egypt with financial and economic support and the required loans.
Dealing with the economic degradation that constituted the reason behind the increasing protests against President Morsi's rule will not suffice to ensure the success of this interim phase especially that the Muslim Brotherhood is insisting on rejecting the military action and restoring the deposed president. If most of the parties and forces, mainly Al-Nour party, were to take part in Biblawi's cabinet, the Brotherhood's position will grow weaker since it represents less than twenty percent of the voters. The participation of all the different parties in the cabinet will clearly provide the army's move with a form of popular legitimacy, thus making up for the lost legitimacy resulting from suspending the constitution. However, the Brotherhood' supporters will feel that they were unjustly treated since the legitimate elected president was toppled through a "coup." Thus, some of them will become even more radical and will reject the democratic ways and the peaceful power rotation. They might revert to the same means that were once used by several radical groups in the former three terms of Abdel Nasser, Sadat, and Mubarak. In addition, the radicals and terrorists who are fighting the army in Sinai will grow tougher unless the army defeats them through its wide campaign to cleanse the Halal Mountain and other locations.
Undoubtedly, the present events represent the natural outcome of the failure of the former interim phase that the Muslim Brotherhood group tried to exploit in order to control all the state's institutions, facilities, and administrations and also in order to subdue the judiciary, the media, and even the army and the security sources. This was one of the Brotherhood's largest mistakes. Things reached such an extent that the Brotherhood's adversaries - who, in the aftermath of the first revolution, were calling for pushing the military council and the army away from the political scene - are now asking the military institution to interfere in order to rescue them from the Muslim Brotherhood. The fact that the military institution responded to this call represents a precedent that is similar to what the Turkish army has been doing for decades by interfering to topple elected cabinets and suspend the constitution and political life. The military institution must thus prove that it does not wish to become part of the political life by acceding to power or taking part in the power rotation. It must also prove that it is ready to restore power to the civilians by the end of the interim phase next April following the completion of the parliamentary and presidential elections.
Not one Egyptian is denying the fact that the army played a part in the success of the first revolution, the toppling of President Mubarak and the subsequent accession of the Brotherhood to power. There is no need to recall all the steps and measures taken by the army that paved the way for the Brotherhood to accede to power. It is sufficient to mention that the army rushed the elections, thus depriving the revolution youths from having a reasonable opportunity at organizing themselves under the framework of parties or movements. No one can deny the fact that this same army also played a major part in providing the Tamarrod movement with a lot of momentum. This movement resulted in millions of protestors that flooded the squares and the arenas and ended up toppling the rule of the Muslim Brotherhood. The appointed Prime Minister Biblawi did well by offering the Brotherhood a place in the interim cabinet so that they do not feel that they are being cast aside once again like they felt following the July 23 revolution. This is of special importance, since the judiciary has started to chase after them as if to push them to take part in the political game or bear the legal consequences.
The Brotherhood was not the only one to suffer a setback. The Americans did too, and they are now calling for releasing President Morsi. They probably wish to keep an open door with the Brotherhood in order to be able to conduct a political swap and fix their errors. Washington placed its bets on the Brotherhood and on political Islam in general, even prior to the Arab Spring, as indicated by the meetings that were held between the two parties during the Mubarak era following 9/11. This endeavor was further amplified after the changes that occurred in Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya; not to mention the talk about the "Turkish example" and the special bonds between the Justice and Development party and the present American administration, especially that President Obama chose to address the Islamic world from Ankara at the beginning of his first term.
Thus, we would not be exaggerating if we said that the setback suffered by the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt was also a setback for American politics. This has been highlighted through Washington's confusion and hesitation in finding the right description of what happened or looking for the right position to be announced. On the one hand, Morsi acceded to power via the voting ballots; but on the other hand, his party practiced the politics of exclusion against all the parties forming more than half the protestors of June 30. Morsi's party also monopolized the new constitution and the subsequent decisions and measures in such a manner as to match its ideology and serve its staying in power. This is despite the fact that the constitution is not meant to be a text imposed by the majority under specific circumstances, but rather a social document and treaty between all the societal constituents regardless of their weight. The constitution must reflect these constituents' agreement over the identity of the state and society. The Brotherhood should not have used the constitution as if it were a document imposed by the winners of the elections; otherwise, there would be no difference between the parties' political projects and the laws and constitutions!
Based on this reality, the only thing that the American administration can do is convince the Brotherhood of the need to abstain from staging a confrontation and to push it into revisiting its past mistakes since the success of the January 25, 2011 revolution, with the hope that the interim phase will provide the Brotherhood with some time to offer a new approach of its political work away from authoritarianism and the exclusion of others under the pretext that the voting ballots brought them here. Using the voting ballots as a pretext is no longer sufficient to support democracy. The events that took place in the past month at the Tahrir Square and all the Egyptian squares represent a fair proof to that democracy has many facets and several tools.
Naturally, the blow suffered by the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood at the hands of the people first and the army second did not only represent a setback for the political Islam in this country alone. The blow was felt by all the similar movements, including the Tunisian An-Nahda, the Islamic Republic, Gaza's Hamas, Lebanon's Hezbollah, and Turkey's Erdogan as indicated by these parties' reactions. Thus, the future developments in Cairo will leave some major marks on the situation in the entire Middle East. Will the Obama administration be able to revive political Islam under its own terms? The US success in rescuing the Egyptian Brotherhood against its will represents a challenge and a test.

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