I wrote in this blog over two years ago that I know of no way to defeat the MBs in Egypt other than allowing them to participate in the political process. Risking the criticism of some friends that this was a naïve position, I reminded all at this early post that since their beginning in the late 20s until the last free parliamentary elections in 1951, the MBs had zero members in the parliament. After that I have seen these guys arrested in 1954, 1959, 1965, their leaders hanged in 1966 and prosecuted harshly by Mubarak. All this was done to diminish their influence and minimize their expansion. The result was gaining over 45% of the last (and relatively free) elections in addition to the presidency (though with a small and questionable margin).
Now we just saw over 20 million Egyptians filling the streets to bring the MBs down. In fact, the revolt started in the Nile Delta, not in major cities and not by the “Westernized Intelligencia”. Talking about the Fallahin (peasants) is no more relevant. Only 22 – 28% of the population works in agriculture. It was a coalition of different segments of the population. The poor for economic reasons, the urban middle class for the obvious lack of ability to run the country, the liberals for fear of a theocratic dictatorship, the remnants of the previous regime to revenge, and everybody else for the total loss of direction the MBs had. It seemed that their slogan “Islam is the solution” brought only more problems.
But all these arguments apart, the significance of what happened should not be underestimated. It was the defeat of the largest Islamic political organization in the world, and above all, in its birth place.
I recently insisted to move around Cairo in a service car (a kind of collective taxi-a minivan that takes anything between 7 to 10 passengers and go from a specific popular quarter to another). I used to start conversations by simply asking the driver if there were protests today that may delay our arrival. That was usually sufficient to hear the views of all passengers in the events in Egypt without even having to utter an additional word. And my conclusion was that we are heading to a perfect storm that no doubt will topple the MBs.
The writing was on the wall, all walls. Yet, the MBs did not see it. Only 24 hours before June 30, one of their leaders, Essam Al Arian (the head of the Freedom and Justice Block in the parliament) said “June 30th will be just another day. It will end with the fall of night”.
But that was not the only error. I will only say that sometime very intelligent people, as some comments in this blog shows sometimes as well, create imaginary concepts and definitions to fall subsequently prisoners of their own creation. Instead, one should give prominence to what really happens on the ground. These facts, the facts of the real world, should be the point of departure of any analysis and not any pre - assumed subjective concepts.
These same pre – assumptions were also one of factors that lead the MBs to this stunning miscalculations in their 11th hour. Their leaders assumed that the opposition cannot mobilize the population, that the US will restrain the army, that the army will indeed be restrained and that their big organization will all make the 30th of June “just another day”.
The opposition did not need to mobilize the population. The dramatically economic deterioration did. The US did restrain the army and the army was indeed restrained. But the calculation changed quickly under the pressure of what the French media called “the largest political protest in history”.
It was obvious that 1) The large mass of the protesters indicated that it is way more than what was anticipated. 2) This huge number of people will not accept to return home with no tangible results. 3) If the population remains in the street, the risk of the collapse of the country will be much higher, with the inevitable resort to violence of these neglected masses.
In fact, and until the 28th of June, Abdul Fatah Al Sissi was still trying to convince president Morsi to give some concessions to the opposition. Morsi promised he will consider it but gave a speech on June 29th refusing any kind of sensible concessions.
A friend asked me few days ago “why Morsi did not accept a deal?” Indeed, that is a key question. Any attempt to answer this question will reveal very clearly where the US administration and some Washington “experts” were dead wrong, and where my old friend Col Lang was right.
During the first military rule in the long transitional period (Feb 2011 – June 2012) we witnessed the fight about how to start rebuilding Egypt. All political parties except the MBs wanted to start with writing a constitution. The MBs insisted that the presidential and parliamentary elections should take place first. The military supreme council sided with the MBs.
Why the MBs adopted that position? And why the military accepted it?
It is now obvious to all that the MBs wanted to write “their” constitution. And in order to that, It was necessary to control the institutions first depending on their absolute superiority and huge popularity at that time.
Later on, and in a conversation between Gen Tantawi and a group of Egyptian diplomats, he answered a question about the reason why he accepted the MBs argument concerning the constitution by simply saying “ask the Americans”. I listened few months later to a prominent General in the police force confirming that Washington accepted the MBs argument about the constitution after obtaining their commitment to certain principles like the rule of law, the respect of minorities and women etc. But this was the beginning of the mistakes that followed.
The constitution which was written only by the Islamists included 22 articles that could not be accepted to the opposition. There were many “traps” which were designed to enable the MBs to control the machine of the state. And that is what they started doing right away.
It was clear that the MBs were marching on a different drum even before the referendum on the constitution which the majority did not participate in. Last November, when the judiciary started causing troubles to the MBs plan, Morsi went the short cut by simply issuing a “constitutional decree” that gives him expansive authority. The opposition raised hell. Washington was surprised. And he had to retreat.
The tactics of the MBs were becoming clear. The challenge for them was : How to control the country and Ikhwanize it (they are called in Arabic the Ikhwan which means the brothers) in a totally “democratic” way. You will not fear democracy if you control the media, the army, the police, the parliament, the municipalities, the economy and the mosques. The choice will be between a “brother” or another “brother”. Sort of sweet little in-house democracy.
But the bigger challenge was how to get this done in a way accepted by the US and the Western powers. All what the US wanted was to respect the appearance, the procedures. It did not matter much the “content”. The evidence is abundant. Why for example the real reason of the confrontation between the judiciary and the MBs was not examined? Or, in other words, why the MBS were always given the benefit of the doubt? The MBs said they were fighting the remnants of the Mubarak regime. This was only partially valid.
All the steps of the MBs were tailored to have two interpretations for each decision, one provided to Washington whether to believe it or to use it to shield the MBs of any criticism, and the other was tailored to achieve an additional part in their plan to control the whole country. The media was left alone, yet, they put a comprehensive plan to buy almost all the private TV channels and the opposition papers. An organized plan to infiltrate the police academy was implemented. A total and utter control over the municipalities was accomplished in relatively short time in order to control the next elections. A change in the governors to complete the control over the local government machine was decreed. A change in senior positions in the ministries of education and culture took place. A purge of the ministries, particularly the sensitive ones, was on the way with replacements by their loyal members.
All this has to be done “democratically”. It was simply an attempt to change Egypt.
Sharing power was therefore unacceptable to the MBs. Their objective was not to rule Egypt, but rather to change it into an Islamic state. They were not even Erdogan. They were more ambitious than the Turkish PM. They simply decided to start from a more “advanced” point than he did. In doing so, they sealed their fate.
Therefore, ruling Egypt was merely a “means” to justify a different end. I did not have enough time to answer my friend’s question about the reason why Morsi refused to compromise. But I did now. I have just to add that the MBs were not interested in ruling the country, they were interested in Ikhwanizing it from head to toe. Why would they gain in tactics and loose in strategy? Sharing power would not have enabled them to achieve their goal. For all the defenders of the MBs, please come forward with any different answer. I will be interested.
But could Washington had been a victim of the “Grand Game” of deception by the MBs or was it an accomplice? I really do not know what Ambassador Paterson reported back to States, but I believe many people will search the truth and reveal who really “lost” Egypt.
Many questions remain however. The future of political Islam and its organizations in the Middle East after Egypt. Are the MBs over really? What will happen in Egypt now after placing Morsi under arrest? But these issues will have to be dealt with in other posts. I apologize for mistakes or lack of clarification.