Civil War in Egypt: Government may drive Brotherhood Underground

The Egyptian government's attempt to consolidate power and end protests may in fact drive Egypt further into chaos. Photo: AP/ Egypt

WASHINGTON, August 17, 2013 — What seems to be a scene from the ghastly civil war in Syria was actually taking place in Cairo early Thursday morning. Sporadic gunfire and screams are heard in the distance. When the  smoke begins to rise  hundreds are seen running down the street in a frenzy.

Cairo’s interior minister warned that “legal means” would be taken to clear the sit-ins if the camps were not abandoned. Such legal means consisted of government forces, equipped with live ammunition, helicopters and armored bulldozers.

The Muslim Brotherhood was established in 1928 and subsequently banned from 1948 until the fall of Hosni Mubarak in the first Arab spring in 2011. After winning the presidential election with candidate Mohamed Morsi the Brotherhood began systematically consolidating power beginning with drafting an Islamist constitution and giving the president dictatorial and extra-legislative power while the economy languished. The poor economy and the seizing of dictatorial powers drove the people to come out in force on June 30th calling for Morsi’s  resignation.

Today, those supporting the former president have been driven from their camps.

Secretary of State John Kerry called the violent removal of the protesters “deplorable,” a word not often used by the State Department. “In the past week, at every occasion … we and others have urged the government to respect the rights of free assembly and of free expression, and we have also urged all parties to resolve this impasse peacefully,” stated Kerry.

While the government of Egypt clearly does not agree with Kerry, Vice President ElBaradei, perhaps the staunchest internal supporter for a peaceful solution to the political crisis in Egypt, has resigned. “I saw that there were peaceful ways to end this clash in society; there were proposed and acceptable solutions for beginnings that would take us to national consensus,” he wrote in his resignation letter. “It has become difficult for me to continue bearing responsibility for decisions that I do not agree with and whose consequences I fear. I cannot bear the responsibility for one drop of blood.”

That blood has been drawn for the past month and, with his resignation, may continue flowing for the foreseeable future. With the voice of reason removed from government, it would not be surprising to see the crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood to continue and grow in severity.

The worst day of civil unrest in modern Egyptian history included the deaths of more than 700 civilians,  43 policemen, and thousands injured.

The violent removal of Morsi comes a little over a month after 42 pro-Morsi protesters were killed during a peaceful gathering in early July. The government is also involved in a military crackdown on Islamic militants in the  Sinai.

Egypt is currently in a crisis of legitimacy and, as long as the Muslim Brotherhood decides it is not interested in negotiating a solution, the interim government may continue consolidating power through force.

In the wake of the violence, and in particular the death of 43 policemen, the interim government may make a case to ban the Muslim Brotherhood altogether. By making itself the de facto legitimate power, the government will simultaneously make its suppression of pro-Morsi activists reasonable.

The Muslim Brotherhood will not go easily, however. Their Headquarters was closed days after the ouster of Morsi due to the military discovery that it was stockpiling “flammable liquid, knives and arms to be used against the June 30 protests.” Statements from July 19th say it will begin attacks on military compounds, personnel and government buildings to recover their power. 

A Muslim Brotherhood spokesman, Mohammed Al Beltagi said “blood pools won’t prevent the people from saying no to the military coup.” Today, the Brotherhood has called for attacks on police stations and public buildings and, in turn, the government has promised to respond to any attacks with live ammunition. 

The government of Egypt is deepening the divide between parts of the population and, in its effort to consolidate control, may drive the country further into anarchy and civil war, which some believe the country is already engaged in.

Faris Sabhy, the owner of an internet café on Tahrir Square commented on what he saw. “I watched it on television. I saw many guns on the side of the Muslim Brotherhood. I saw injured soldiers and thugs attacking the security forces,” he said. “We are in a war.”


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Andrew Scarpitta

Andrew Scarpitta is a young, conservative writer who found himself in New York on 9/11 and on Boylston Street, Boston when the Marathon Bombs exploded.  A studen of History and Political Science, Andrew has experience working with WMD and Middle East Politcy for the Department of Defense and a prominent DC Think Tank.  Andrew's future includes a career in intelligence. 

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