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07 December 2012


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FB Ali


Thank you for an excellent review and analysis of the Egyptian political mosaic at this time. I doubt if there is anything of this depth and perspicuity available anywhere. It is invaluable to anyone who would like to make sense of what is happening in Egypt today -- and where it is likely to go.

There are some signs that the MB is starting to backtrack and temporize. Obviously their leadership has both hawks and doves, and this may explain their rather confused and hesitant responses to developments in the crisis. If, as is likely, one of these trends wins the internal argument, we should see them adopt a coherent policy to deal with the situation.

These conflicting views in the MB leadership may have caused them to fall into the present difficult situation. Instead of following a well thought out plan, their moves have been short-term tactical ones, where trying to avoid one looming difficulty (a court-ordered dissolution of the constituent assembly) they have landed themselves into facing a much bigger problem. Tactical thinking is unlikely to get them out of it.

As for their long-term goals, I would assume that these are also the subject of debate and competition in their leadership. Dealing with the present crisis may also solve this question by bringing one faction to the top.

William R. Cumming

The ring of truth and real insights! Thanks!


Good analysis. Now how does this fit into it? Will the army follow the orders given under this law?


President Mohamed Morsy will soon issue a law that will give judicial and protective powers to the military, according to the state-run Al-Ahram website.

Drafted with the participation of army leaders, the law will task the armed forces with maintaining security and protecting vital installations in the state, until a new constitution takes effect and legitimate parliamentary elections are held.


Fascinating insights. Thank you for sharing.

Clifford Kiracofe

Concise and useful, thank you.

Could you give us a sense of present day factions within the MB and the dynamics therein? Are there significant policy differences among any such factions? Is there external support (Saudi, Qatari, US, UK, France) for particular factions? If there is external support to various factions can such support be identified as to faction?

Who is authoritative with respect to current MB ideology? Is the official line determined by an individual or a group of individuals chaged with ideology. Can these persons be identified by name? Is there a direct relatiomship between ideology and policy? What individuals are decisive as to MB policy?

Charles I

Thanks very much for your expertise and effort. I second FB, the analysis here, and many other places at SST, is the acme of content and concision that would take me months to find elsewhere, never mind process it.

B, your report gives the Armed forces something to do, as well as something to be blamed for.

School is definitely in.

Babak Makkinejad

Mr. Kieran:

A vibrant two party system in Egypt, in my opinion, is not possible - even in principle.

Nor the kind of religious-fascist dictatorship (again, it seems to me, applying European conceptions out of their context) that you envision.

Reality will fall somewhere in between; further away from the 2-party vision that many clealry favor.

There is a struggle for the definition of the character of the Egyptian state - perhaps going as far as the creation of a new one.

I expect the Muslim Brotherhood and the Nour parties to carry out successfully their program of dismantling the secualrist military dictatorship state in Egypt and replacing it with a new non-liberal Islamic state.

My essential concern would be the extent of self-governance and representaive governance in the new state - that is the key, in my opinion, for a better future for Egypt.


Allahu a'lam. As you have suggested the inner workings of the MB are rather opaque, especially at the higher levels. There is certainly something to what FB Ali says about hawks and doves. But I really don't know. As for authority, in theory, the murshid Muhammad Badia' at the head of the Guidance Bureau. Some info on the leadership here (WINEP, sorry):


The truth is even most MB members don't know how things work at the top.

Alba Etie

Professor Juan Cole at Informed Consent has some reports that the MB Hdqts has been torched & that the Egyptian military is not protecting MB facililties from 'liberal' protestors . This is happening at the same time as Morsi has 'annuled' the decree that gave him 'supreme leader ' status . Opposition leaders including are still refusing to meet with the MB . And there are reported plans for a General Strike.

Charles I

Mursi is just stalling for a week - he's offered amendments AFTER next week's referendum, but the referendum goes on. I have previously commented on the difficulty of amendment as opposed to ratification under the reading Egypt's Constitution post

Alba Etie

What happens if the military withdraws support from Morsi ?

Alba Etie

One creative analyst called the Salafis the Egyptian Tea Party ? So is their the analog Koch Brothers sponsor of the Salafis - if so who are the sponsors and what is there agenda ?
And if the unrest continues will this not destroy the Tourism trade in Luxor & elsewhere . And if no rooms are rented at the luxury hotels at Sharm al Sheikh want the Generals step in then
to preserve their many interests that require foreign tourist to visit Egypt ?

Charles I

another showdown in the streets.


Good question. There is probably a lot of money from private Salafi sources in the Gulf. Saudi state sponsorship? I don't know. Some say the mukhabarat has helped the Salafis along as a counterweight to the MB - again, don't know. I think that the Salafis are a grassroots phenomenon that all sorts of different actors are trying to harness. The Nour Party itself however may be beholden to some interest or other. There are some interesting rumblings:


As for tourism, it was just picking up again, but now back to square one. The beach resorts struggle along, keeping up occupancy by slashing prices. Luxor and Aswan have been hit hard. A lot of people are out of work.

Clifford Kiracofe


If the economy is falling back to square one, does this open up any possibilities for opposition parties to detach some of the support for the MB and Salafis in the poor masses?

Another question: the al-Ahram article in the other thread states:

" As Tammam shows, the organizational wing, with many of its chief representatives hailing from the group’s highly secretive and iron-disciplined “special organization”, has been the most regressive, conservative and close-minded section of the Gamaa. Made up as they are of “Qutbis” (in reference to the militant doctrine of Sayed Qutob) and Salafis, this powerful branch of the group had viewed their “political” counterparts as little more than window dressing, useful in jazzing up the image of the group before the outside world, but unrepresentative and irrelevant where its internal reality and deeply held beliefs were concerned."

Could you give us any insight into the "special organization" of the MB, what it does, who is associated with it? External links? Thanks.

Clifford Kiracofe

VOA Interview on situation:


FB Ali


I would suggest that articles and editorials in al-Ahram be read with some caution. They are not an independent paper and are part of the 'remnants' that Kieran has written about above.

Clifford Kiracofe

The issue for me is the MB and its leadership in terms of organization and ideology. US policy in the region is hinging on a relationshp with the MB in Egypt and elsewhere it would appear.

There is a substatial academic literature on the MB just as on al-Afghani, Abduh, Rida and all the rest. Considering the present position of the MB in the region, considerable additional current analyis is warranted.

I naturally do not trust any journalism source whether government or private but I do seek data which can be assessed.

What is quite clear is that the Western press has been unable and/or unwilling to furnish serious analysis of the MB in the present situation.

Some years ago, the Washington Post ran a fascinating expose of the MB and its operations in the US. Such reporting today would be inconvenient in light of our present foreign policy.

IMO, the analysis cannot be evaded on the excuse that the organization is "opaque."

I imagine one could mine the WikiLeaks material from our Cairo emby for some nuggets.

Mitchell in his classic study of the MB offers some data on the "Special Apparatus"/Secret Apparatus. Of course, there are denials of its existance, disinformation and the like. But again, the issue is the organization of and ideology of the MB and this is a naturally a complex matter.

Clifford Kiracofe

In academic settings across the US the issue of the MB is often taken up in Middle East studies related courses and topics.

For example, here is a website from Mt. Holyoke College on the MB for students there:


Why is it so difficult for US journalists to write about and analyze the MB in Egypt (or Syria)? Journalists from leading US papers and news services are based in Cairo...what is the problem?

FB Ali

Clifford K,

Previous academic studies of the MB would be useful to understand its background and history but would be of limited value in fathoming its functioning today, and where it is heading. I have not studied the MB, but based on general observation of similar organizations my sense of its present state is as follows.

As stated in the literature the main leadership groups in the MB's hierarchy were those representing the 'special organization', the political organization, and the ideological wing. During the period when the MB was being repressed and attacked by the state, the 'special organization' held primacy. The ideologues were also influential, while the politicians were in eclipse.

This situation has radically changed with the overthrow of the Mubarak regime. Now the leadership role has been thrust upon the political wing, for which it was not properly prepared. There is also a tussle going on among the three groups to influence policy and determine tactics. These two factors explain what has appeared to be the MB's ineptness in handling the post-Mubarak transition and the current crisis.

The politicians are probably prepared to go along with establishing a democratic order in which the MB vies for ascendancy with other political parties. The 'specials' wish to use the MB's current leverage to rig the system so as to guarantee continued MB dominance. The ideologues wish to introduce sharia as soon as possible; the other two are not so keen, especially the politicians, who see its potential for alienating a lot of voters and arousing strong opposition. It is not at all clear how this tussle will play out, but while it is ongoing the MB's course is likely to be erratic.

In terms of my categorization of Islamists as either Political or Religious, the politicians would generally be in the former category while the ideologues are in the latter one. The 'specials' probably consist of people of both tendencies.

Charles I

I must say again the Genvieve Abdo Book, No God But God 1999 is invaluable in fathoming the MB's functioning today, and where it is heading.

She's journalist. She spoke to primary sources all over Egyptian society. She's now done the same in Iran.

Charles I

I did hear an interesting nugget on some CBC show forgot which interviewing a journalist who was detained, beaten, abused by MB types during the first Presidential Palace protests last week in a little barricade thingy set up right against a wall of the Palce, wherein protesters were dealt with.

Everyone was great pains at every juncture to state their particular position within the MB and its sundry apparats.

Clifford Kiracofe

FB Ali,

Thank you for your insights.

There would be another factor in the mix I imagine. The role and influence of foreign governments upon them.

Historically, the MB has acted at times as a tool of foreign interests, the British, the US, NATO. Thus, how biddable might they be in the current situation would be a consideration. And factors of deception and dissimulation can play into the mix as well.

I found over a thousand articles on the MB in just one academic data base. These are scholarly articles generally more than 3 years old/English language. There are a number of other data bases reflecting analysis of the recent and current situation. If I had the time, it would be interesting to review all of them.

Clifford Kiracofe

Charles I,

One of the leading European analysts, Brynjar Lia of Norway, has written on a Syrian terrorist who became a major AQ ideologue and operative in the global jihad. The book provides helpful data linking the Egyptian MB, the Syrian MB, and AQ.


Lia, retired from the Norwegian Defense establishment has a website with colleagues:

Charles I

Thanks, Clifford, you are indefatigable with the cites.

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