Brotherhood, Army risk Civil War: 30 Dead, Hundreds Wounded

Egypt veered sharply toward the looming specter of civil war on Friday, as the leadership of the Muslim Brotherhood continued to call for resistance to the overthrow of Muhammad Morsi, who had been the elected head of state before the army deposed him on Wednesday.

On Thursday, the military had arrested the Supreme Guide of the Muslim Brotherhood, Muhammad Badie, at Marsa Matrouh and brought him by helicopter to Cairo. Apparently they were attempting to intimidate him into accepting Morsi’s overthrow and wanted him to call on his followers to go home and prepare for the upcoming elections. The officers released Badie Friday morning and allowed him to address the enormous crowd of Morsi supporters at the Rabia al-Adawiya Mosque.

If Badie did make any agreement with the military, he reneged on it when he mounted the dais. He called for the Muslim Brotherhood to go into resistance and to attempt to restore Morsi to power, saying people should stay in the streets and refuse to be shooed away.

For the military to remove Morsi was dangerous and unwise. But for the Brotherhood to attempt to bring Morsi back by street action is also dangerous and unwise.

As a result of Badie’s fiery and defiant speech, Muslim Brothers tried to invade the grounds of the Revolutionary Guards barracks where they thought Morsi was being held; local troops warned them off, but when they kept coming, they opened fire and killed three. Hundreds of thousands of pro-Morsi demonstrators remained in the square in front of the Rabi`a al-`Adawiya Mosque.

Other Muslim Brothers crossed 6th of October Bridge in Cairo and most went to the state television station at Maspero, where they demonstrated, then ultimately dispersed. A group of Muslim Brothers, when they got across the bridge, headed straight for Tahrir Square, allegedly attacking the anti-Morsi youth there. Some fundamentalists deployed firearms. The other youth responded with rock-throwing and then began shooting fireworks at the Brotherhood attackers. The soccer fanatics and other Tahrir militants pushed the Brotherhood back across the bridge. Ultimately the army closed the bridge, but many hours after it should have.

Some 12 of the 30 dead on Friday died in clashes in Alexandria, the country’s second-largest city, in the biggest demonstrations for two years. The Brotherhood maintained that they were fired on when they demonstrated in favor of Morsi there, and that the police took the side of the attackers, deploying tear gas against the right wing crowd.

In the Delta depot town of Damanhour, 25 were wounded in fighting between pro-Morsi and anti-Morsi factions.

In the Suez canal port of Ismailia, Morsi supporters attempted to storm the offices of the governor, but withdrew when troops began firing over their heads. I heard one report on Friday of 100 wounded in Ismailiya.

In Luxor, Egyptian troops and police used tear gas to stop pro-Morsi fundamentalists from invading the Coptic Bishopric.

In Tanta, a march in support of Morsi was launched from Salam Mosque and there was a demonstration at the town center.

In Bani Suef, pro-Morsi demonstrators tried to take over the barracks of the military police, while anti-Morsi forces staged a counter-rally.

Five Egyptian troops were killed in separate incidents in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula. The city of El Arish is in open rebellion, and Alarabiya reported that rebels were flying the black al-Qaeda flag there.

It is difficult to know the size of the rallies or numbers of persons involved in the provincial clashes. Some reports speak of “hundreds” coming out, which local police should be able to deal with if they get out of hand. If enough pro-Morsi people do as Badie ordered and stay in the streets until Morsi is reinstated, Egypt will be in for a long summer of discontent.

39 Responses

  1. There are some reports that some of generals said to be loyal to Mursi. Have you heard anything about that?

    • I just checked my twitter fed and some forums and FB pages, and didn’t find anything that could confirm these reports. I really do hope that a split in the military doesn’t happen for very obvious reasons

    • Morsi appears to have tried to reach out to Gen. Wasfy of the third army, but was rebuffed. This move by the former president may have been part of what precipitated the coup.

      • According to Hamza Hendawi & Maggie Michael, from Associated Press, Morsi’s advisers saw the writing on the wall on June 23rd. Al-Sissi went to Morsi and asked him to step down. Morsi refused, but was opened to offer concessions, other than resigning. Al-Sissi didn’t want to hear it. Morsi reached out to some sympathetic officers in the 2nd Field Army based in Port Said and Ismailia on the Suez Canal to create some leverage over Al-Sissi, but Al-Sissi shut him down completely.

        According to this piece, Al-Sissi wanted Morsi to leave no matter what.

        Here is the link: link to guardian.co.uk

        • I don’t see anything in that article saying MM was open to compromise. NYTimes says he changed his tune a day or two before the end but by that time the oppo was no longer interested. The Guardian article does say, “In recent months, Morsi had been at odds with virtually every institution in the country, including leading Muslim and Christian clerics, the judiciary, the armed forces, the police and intelligence agencies.” That sounds positive..

  2. I can’t help but think that the rebel movement went too far and that it would have been better in every way to exact large concessions from Morsi rather than overthrow him, particularly like this, using the military. It is deeply polarizing and it creates a narrative where both sides view the other as illegitimate, not just wrong-headed or opposed. The one side seems to be trying to destroy the MB as a counter-revolutionary dictatorship while the other views its foes as supporting an illegal putsch. In either case, violence seems justified and will seems moreso as the dead pile up and martyrs are created on both sides.

    Whichever one is ‘true’ both are internally consistent and plausible enough that people who want to believe them can and will. That’s enough for conflict.

  3. The threat of a civil war in Egypt might be mitigated by the reality that unlike Syria and Libya, there are no major external proxy interests which would either benefit from it or which have prepared the ground.

    Algeria was a model for the “redirection” policy of the neocons, who sought to weaken non-U.S./Israel friendly states by promoting sectarian conflicts from within. This began during the Bush administration: link to concernedafricascholars.org

    We are not going to see this influence in Egypt, where the likes of Saudia Arabia and Qatar have played heavy roles in funding the Sunni MB, and would prefer stability at the expense of ‘democracy’ and Brotherhood rule if that is the choice.

    The divisions in Egypt seem to fall more along secular/youth vs religious and urban elite vs rural/indigenous lines which do not make for any easy coalition or polarization.

    How interesting is it that the Salafist al-Nour party seem to be supporters of the military intervention against the Brotherhood …

    • I hate to disagree with you, but the civil war/violence in Algeria was not sectarian-based or laden. And the neocons had no role whatsoever in Algeria.

      Algeria has and will always be in the French sphere of influence (it’s sort of a French Monroe Doctrine), not the American one. As the French would say, Algeria is “la chasse gardée de la France”–i.e., it’s its backyard.

      In Algeria, the military intervened for several reasons. The chief among them was to protect their economic interests (just like the Egyptian military) and to avoid future prosecutions–the FIS campaigned hard on the promise of “dragging all the generals to jail and holding them accountable.” The specter of the Iranian generals hanging from electric poles was frightening enough to them to make them move and cancel the 2nd round before it was too late. Thus, creating civil strife for the next 20 years or so.

      Moreover, the Saudis (read, Wahhabis) have never had a warm and fuzzy relations with the MB–especially the MB post-1980s. However, the Saudis have excellent relations with the Salafis who are now part of the Military Junta coalition Post-Morsi.

      • I don’t think I said or implied that the conflict in Algeria was sectarian in nature, nor that the neocons had any role.

        What does seem to be the case is that the conflict factionalized and divided them when they could not achieve their ends. In the end they were severely weakened by the war.

        The neocons took their cue from that and saw such conflicts as a paradigm of ‘divide et impera’ for the future.

        The Saudi state version of Wahhabism is something akin to “render unto Allah what is Allah’s and render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s”. In this sense they have given Salafists wide lattitude in local interpretation of Sharia law so long as they recognize the supremacy of the state as ruled by the Royal Family. Those Salafists who saw the Royal family as infidels were one thing, and those who simply wanted Sharia law to be observed in their local communities either in Saudi Arabia or elsewhere received their tolerance if not their active support.

        The Saudi’s are not going to thwart U.S. interests in the region in any case. Neither are the Qataris. Without this proxy support I don’t see any long term organized and violent opposition holding up in Egypt.

        The MB in Egypt has historically placed its money organizational resources on politics and social welfare, even in the most repressive years. I think they will return to that given the lack of other effective alternatives. They have too much to lose in terms of economic interests any way.

        • When you say “the conflict factionalized and divided them,” them is in reference to the Algerians in general or the Islamists? Honestly, I am not sure what you are talking about.

        • I thought it clear that I was referring to the Islamists who were left weakened and divided towards the end.

          Naturally U.S. interests were served by the military’s ultimate victory, at least we presumed to know what to expect from them, however undemocratic.

          All in all I don’t think our two accounts differ much in perspective — just that I don’t see much chance of a similar civil war in Egypt today for the reasons I have stated.

  4. Check this footage from ITN tv: link to youtube.com

    And this is not the first instance where the military has fired live ammo at peacefully gathered crowd.

    Clearly, the military wants the confrontation to be bloody and the situation to worsen so they can claim full powers.

  5. I look at Egypt for what it might portend for our politics. The contempt for democracy and pluralism of the Brotherhood is mirrored in the habits of mind of our Republicans.

    • Just do not think the majority of Pubs would go as far as the MB; for the voters and our system of checks and balances should keep the Republican taliban in check. Under Morsi, however, the MB revealed their true selves and agenda; and Egypt does not have the institutions that we have, institutions that (so far) have stood the test of time.:The MB are a menace to society, anywhere.

      • The restoration of Jim Crow has already begun in America. The rich are bankrolling the political party that works day and night to come up with new ways to make it harder for blacks to vote than whites. If the rest of us try to stop it, their pet governors and congressmen threaten nullification and secession.

        Now of course the corporations probably lose money if actual secession occurred, but you can see that by such threats in the 1870s they obtained the ideal state of affairs: the country pretends to have civil rights, but in practice where the rich need to be able to crush and exploit the poor, it doesn’t. It is not a coincidence that after Jim Crow began taking away black voting rights, the South began using massive convict slave labor, leased to private businessmen. Now, both disenfranchisement and broader convict labor are back on the American table. Once you’ve enacted both, all other restraint on corporate crime, pollution, fraud, usury, union-busting, etc will crumble.

        But the corporate bluff only works if the Tea Party crazies they bankroll AREN’T bluffing. Any resulting bloodshed doesn’t mean a damn to our investor class, as long as liberals chicken out on the brink of all-out war.

        Our vaunted institutions can often be defeated and co-opted by economic interests. So our religious and racist extremists needed only to entangle themselves with those interests, which is what the Conservative Movement actually is.

  6. The majority in Egypt have already voted Morsi out, symbolically, with their overwhelming demonstrations. Let the islamic Morsi supporters take to the streets, now. let them have their war. They will be crushed, and deservedly so. Sometimes it is just true in history that beliefs do not change until they are met with such violence that they MUST change. This was true in the case of the Nazis and of the fascists in Japan, both of which had extreme beliefs similar to islamic fundamentalism. At least this time the military in Egypt is on the side of the moderates.

    • Do you realize what you are saying? Do you realize that you sounding like an extremist–more extremist and radical than all MB members combined?

    • so, actually, lets invent a better system than the democratic one: a demonstratic one. every time when many people come ot to the streets to protest, the results of elections can be abolished, right?

    • and one more thing, to all those who like such military intervention against legally elected government: do you agree that the next government in Egypt should be removed already after a year, if MB suceed in orginizing such mass demonstrations?

  7. One thing this all seems to have clearly demonstrated is the flawed nature of the presidential model of government. If Morsi had been a Prime Minister, a vote of no confidence could have brought about new elections in a more normal manner, in theory at least. But a President is there for the full term, come hell or high water. Is this a topic for debate there at all?

    • The parliamentary model with PM didn’t keep the Royal Thai Army to oust the PM, fire the parliament, cancel the Constitution and stay in power until their people kicked them out again.

      As far as military coups, the parliamentary system doesn’t seem to be immune from coups.

      • Yes. Look at Weimar Germany. Although Hitler’s seizure of power wasn’t exactly a military coup, his militarized supporters intimidated the parliament into conceding power. However the Egyptians have a fondness for their army; a year or so ago the crowds in the streets were chanting, “OUR soldiers, with US!”

        • Well, it wasn’t a coup, and even it is a coup, it’s just one case.

          I have never met an Arab or a Muslim (from Morocco to Pakistan) who loves his army or the military. The only people who love the military are members of the ruling and privileged class.

        • And yet, Tahar, it was the Army that defended the protesters in Tahrir Square in the Spring of 2011, when the ruling elite’s thugs started shooting at them.

          The same Army that refused Mubarak’s orders to open fire.

    • I agree. Having a President is a stupid idea in the first place. Hardly better than a heriditary monarch. Having a Prime Minister may not solve anything though. If the prime minister holds power with the permission of only one or two parties he is in power until the next elections.
      A better way is to have a Central Committee of 11 to 15 members in charge of the executive branch of government. Even if all of the members are from the same party there will be much more input in to a discussion of what policy position to take.
      On the question of whether or not the Putsch should or should not have happened, I think that it is much more important what a goverment does once it is in power than how it takes power. There is NO LEGITIMATE WAY TO TAKE POWER INCLUDING ELECTIONS. Legitimacy comes from doing the right thing, even if it is unpopular, which means that legitimacy is not neccissarily something that can be determined at the time. You will know in 30 40 or 50 years whether or not something was legitimate, until new historians give a new ruling 40 years after that.

  8. Certainly, no system is immune from coups, but a parliamentary system would be far simpler and more responsive to shifts in opinion. Then again, with the world going faster and faster every day, terms should be shorter, because long terms are an invitation to turn machinery of state into a fiefdom.

  9. It seems that most of us agree that a parliamentary system offers some flexibility for a fledgling attempt at democracy.

    But the Presidential system should have worked too. Morsi could have been a poor leader and still serve out his term. Morsi did not even meet this very low bar, he was not simply incompetent, he was menacing. I wonder if appointing a radical Islamacist as a governor was the last straw.

  10. Two serious developments took place today:

    1) Al-Quaradaoui issued a fatwa-like declaration (Technically, it’s not a fatwa–it’s more than a very powerful a statement and less than religious edict) condemning this transitional military junta government, the coup, and calling on Al-Sissi to back off and bring back Morsi. Al-Quaradaoui might not be very powerful within Islamist circles, but he is still very popular with the regular folks and has a serious impact on Al-Azhar rank & file.

    2) Al-Nour Party is not happy with AlBaradei and it is threatening to leave the military junta coalition. If this happens, it would be a serious blow to the military junta. However, i suspect that the real reasons might not be or has nothing to do with Al-Nour Party dissatisfaction with the nomination of Al-Baradei as a PM, but it has to do with the base of the party that has been literally enraged by the more of its leadership. Members of the base literally lit up their leadership on facebook and twitter and on religious forum going as far as calling them “khawana” (traitors). So to stop the bleeding and stop the base from walking out and joining the MB, Al-Nour party might very well throw a big monkey wrench into the military junta coalition government.

  11. And where is the opposition now or they are just frozen giddy at the suffering of their neighbors however disagreeable they might be. Where are the details for the road map forward? Haven’t we seen this movie before, way before the revolution? What steps other then knives and bullets are they proposing for reconciliation with an obviously aggrieved section of their citizenry. Maybe the straw man character of their movement explains the lake of support in the ballot box and clinging to the generals coats.

  12. You know, there really is a very simply explanation to all this that most people can’t seem to get:

    Egyptians just don’t understand democracy. They think democracy is a personality thing, where if you don’t like someone in power you just get rid of him regardless of any laws or rules.

    Any American who defends this must also believe that the US military would have the right to over-throw Obama (or Bush back then) if enough people took to the streets.

    • Honestly, this is not true and is a complete load of bullshit. The Republicans fantasize about the American people doing this every single day, which is why they purposefully resist any legislation which might infuse the American people with a feeling that government can actually work. If you can’t realize that you are burying your head in the sand.

      And for the record, I still refuse to recognize the legitimacy of the evil Bush regime of war criminals or their unlawful, un-Constitutional treasonous policies, namely torture and illegal, aggressive warfare, not to forget illegal spying or the witch-hunt against Gov. Don Siegelman.

    • You pose an interesting question, lets make a fair analogy.

      The Pat Robertson Ministry somehow wins a popular presidential election due to a divided field. Pat behaves autocratically, oppressing Catholics and other non-evangelicals, packs the courts with fundamentalist Christians, starts to rig the officer corps of the Army with radical Christians loayal to the Robertson Ministry, arrests Jon Stewart, Bill Maher and David LEtterman for disrespecting the state, appoints Reverand Fred Phelps as his Attorney General.

      The economy collapses due to his incompetence.

      A 100 million Americans sign a petition demanding the removal of Robertson. Similar numbers are in the streets demanding a new government. Robertson makes no concessions.

      Ya, sure, I unequivocally support the military or civilian militias removing the Christian theocracy before it consolidates power any further.

      • I would be trying to overthrow the bastard long before all that, because I have spent years studying the Christian Right and have come to understand its mandatory long-term goals as outright theocracy. If Rick Perry tried to secede, I’d be organizing his future victims to battle his neo-Confederate hordes. No legal mechanism justifies sitting still while we go back to what we know was intolerable injustice.

        However, we did impeach Nixon long before 100,000,000 Americans were out in the streets. You can argue there were specific legal charges that ruined him, not his unpopularity, but I strongly feel the economic mess in 1974 is why more of his followers didn’t fight for him. It is Egypt’s misfortune that they don’t seem to have had an impeachment mechanism that could be used against Morsi’s specific acts.

    • Any American who defends this must also believe that the US military would have the right to over-throw Obama (or Bush back then) if enough people took to the streets.

      Define “enough.” The American Declaration of Independence reads, in part, “governments are instituted among men, deriving their just power from the consent of the governed.” If “the governed” – that is, the people – cease to consent to the government, the government becomes illegitimate.

      You write as if the democratic Egyptian government was humming along, doing its thing, and then the mean old military overthrew it because they didn’t like the President’s tone of voice. In reality, the Egyptian government failed some time ago, and the military stepped in late in the game to provide a coup de grace and achieve a swift transition. It’s a sad day for Egyptian democracy, no question, but it is not the equivalent of the US military staging a coup after some Tea Party rallies.

      Like most beginners, the Egyptian people as a whole probably don’t understand democracy very well. Then again, in the early 1800s, it was common for supporters of American electoral candidates to travel around with jugs of whiskey, and let people have a slug if they promised to vote the right way. Andrew Jackson’s campaign developed the innovative practice of bringing along a rope of tobacco, so the voter could replace the chunk he’d spit out when he took the slug of whiskey. These things take time.

      Democracy: whiskey, but not always all that sexy.

    • Khaled Shaalan complains that Western media talk only about the conflict between the military and the Islamists, that they don’t talk about the Egyptian people’s defiance of Brotherhood rule. Well, as of now, 28% of Egyptians support the MB and 35% support the opposition. Why talk about “the people” as if MB supporters are not people?
      Also, Shaalan implies that the MB is a mere tool of the West. Maybe $haalon has a touch of the Orientalism he complains about.
      Now, I agree that we should put our attention on the anti-Morsi people that impress him. It seems that there only goal was to remove Morsi. They removed Mubarak, now Morsi. So what? What kind of movement is that?
      Then, there is their tendency to chant the name of al-Sisi. The fondness of the young hipsters for the military makes me think of Mussolini’s blackshirts. Shaalan is right that groups that upset the plans of the West are ignored or criticized by the West. At the same time, such groups are often unduly romanticized by leftists.

    • The theory presented here is that the western media is afraid of grassroots democracy, and therefore clings to the muslim brotherhood versus military paradigm.

      I expect this sort of silly, conspiracy theorizing from Sarah Palin, not from a supposed intellectual.

      • The Western media IS afraid of grassroots democracy, especially when it’s anti-capitalist or anti-military. The media has it sweet when it only has to cover 2 political parties, and turn the election into a horserace with odds-makers and he-said-she-said videos, and collect a fortune selling campaign ads. The media loves doing press-release journalism, a stenographer for the government. The media hates when its corporate advertisers are denigrated.

        Not surprisingly, Occupy was denigrated by the media for not having a “plan”. Plans can be debated, and smeared, by the usual media-appointed experts, and we will rely on the media for our opinions instead of coming up with our own, unpredictable ideas for solving public problems.

        If the media has such contempt for their own fellow citizens trying to exercise sovereignity, I’d hate to hear how the editors and publishers feel about foreign citizens trying to do the same.

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