Egypt’s combination of popular street power and military power continued to dominate the unfolding events in that country on Friday. On Wednesday, Defense Minister Abdel Fattah al-Sisi called on the Egyptian masses to gather on Friday to “delegate” to the army the authority necessary to root out terrorism.
Al-Sisi got his wish, as enormous crowds gathered in Tahrir Square and in front of the presidential palace to show their approval of the Egyptian military. Pro-government (I mean the army-appointed transitional government) demonstrations were also held in Alexandria, the country’s second largest city, and in towns and cities all over Egypt. It seems as though he now has their delegation for a vigorous campaign against the Muslim Brotherhood.
Ominously the army announced that it was looking into bringing charges against deposed president Muhammad Morsi for alleged links to Hamas, the Palestinian party-militia that dominates Gaza. It also fostered rumors that it might decide to move against the Muslim Brotherhood crowds at Rabi`a al-Adawiya. That would be a bloodbath!
Leftist groups like April 6 and the Revolutionary Socialists refused to join, as did some left-liberal political parties, on the grounds that they wanted the military to remain out of sight in its barracks. However, their counter-demonstration was tiny.
The Muslim Brotherhood continued to demonstrate at the square in front of the Rabi`a al-Adawiya Mosque. At one point, according to journalist Bel Trew, some of them tried to assert control over October 6 Bridge, and when the army intervened to stop them, clashes broke out that left 20 dead [the estimated death toll grew substantially after I wrote this]. Earlier, clashes between al-Sisi supporters and troops, and pro-Morsi groups in Alexandria, in which som]e people died. Aside from the 6 October Bridge tragedy, some deaths also occurred in those Alexandria clashes.
Political scientist Dr. Ammar Hassan Ali, on Alarabiya, said that there were massive demonstrations in villages and small towns in favor of the army, and you had to go back to anti-British demonstrations of 1919 to find another time when rural populations were as important in the demonstrations in urban areas.
There is a severe question of whether the Egyptian military will drive the Muslim Brotherhood underground and radicalize them in a way not seen since 1948, when they were dissolved and persecuted because one of their members assassinated Mahmoud al-Nuqrashi, the sitting prime minister of the day.