Egypt: Military announces ‘War on Terror,’ Calls for Massive Demos Against Muslim Brotherhood

Here are two videos from AFP that help explain all those people milling in the street today in Egypt.

Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, the Minister of Defense, called for big demonstrations on Friday so that that people can “delegate” to the military the ability to wage a “war on terror.” The use of that language came after a state security police building was bombed in Mansoura. I tweeted that when activists call for demonstrations, that is activism; when generals do, that is Peronism. Al-Sisi gave the Muslim Brotherhood 48 hours to sign on to the national road map to the future (new constitution, new elections). I also tweeted that in history, giving the opposing side a 48 hour ultimatum is often a prelude to war.

Al-Sisi is playing with fire by ensuring that dueling crowds will be out on Friday, and they could clash. To their credit, some liberal political parties and youth movements like April 6 and the Revolutionary Socialists have announced that they will not participate. The Muslim Brotherhood pledged counter-demonstrations in favor of deposed President Muhammad Morsi.

AFP has video and a translation of some of al-Sisi’s speech:

AFP also has the Muslim Brotherhood response with English trans. :

I have a bad feeling about this.

12 Responses

  1. It is inevitable. The MB overdid it in every possible way. They fought every segment of the society at a time people have found their voice, are scarred, feeling left out by Time, ashamed and hungry. Currently those fighting them the most are the ones who trusted them the most. If they had done one good thing for the people such as raise the minimum salary as promised. They did not keep one promise.
    The events in Sinai, the release of the terrorists, the attempt to change the culture, tradition, and the core beliefs of the Egyptians is too much to bear!
    It was a nightmare for all.
    You are right to be afraid. I have been since day one. I remembered the slaughter of the Cathares, Templars, and other religious sects… I wondered did they anger the others so much as well? It seems as well, unfortunately, the march of History! You kill the old for the new to live! Nothing can stop it! Except of course Egyptians may surprise us once more! Will see what they are made of!

    • They have been in office for one year. One year, not 4. By this standard, Obama should have been removed in his first year as well as Hollande, Cameron, Clinton etc…

      Moreover, even if they sucked at governing (by the way, culture doesn’t change by flipping a switch or in a matter of 12 months–culture is a very slow moving latent variable), there is no room for mob rule or military intervention in a civilian democratic governance. The “man on the horseback” (to borrow from Samuel Finer’s great book on military coups “The Man on Horseback: The Role of the Military in Politics.”) should stay in his little barracks. The only way to remove an elected executive/legislature is through the ballots, not the bullets and the canons. Moreover, the only thing that Morsi and Justice and Development Party can be accused of is majoritarianism (the same accusation can be extended to most governments in Europe–check the French constitution of the 5th Republic). Nothing else.

      If i have to say, Al-Sissi overdid it, and stepped way beyond his prerogatives. He’s been issuing ultimata as if he is King Louis XIV. And now, he’s and will be responsible for all this bloodshed.

      By the way, where are all those Human Rights organizations? Where did they go? Or is it ok to slaughter those we don’t agree with?

      The way out of this crisis is clear: bring back Morsi. Stop this stupid baseless trial, and then negotiate an honorable exit for everyone. Someone needs to do the hand-holding exercise and keep the parties around the negotiation table; and that someone is us. That’s the only way for the MB to leave the streets and for things to calm down. Otherwise, more blood will be slipped as i predicted it over and over.

  2. If some of the Tahrir Revolutionaries 1.0 were opposed to al Sisi’s call and were quick enough on their feet; they could have pretended to support it and eagerly yelled: “Where do you want us to gather to show our numbers?” And then they could all hav avoided that spot.

    • If the general is calling for mandate, the crowd is just minor technicality.

  3. First, Al-Sissi’s speech was not really a call for massive protests against the MB, but a call for a civil war that pits Egyptians against Egyptians (by the way, it’s better in Arabic–the translation doesn’t do it justice)

    Second, what legitimacy does Al-Sissi have to make such call? Where is Adly Al-Mansour, the interim president, in all of that? Have we finally stopped pretending that this was not a military coup?

    Third, everyone that i know and who knows the MENA (scholarly knowledge) has vehemently condemned and denounced Al-Sissi’s speech as reckless and dangerous. Even Egyptian scholars (on the left as well as the right side of the political spectrum), and Al-Azhar theologians have done so as well. Yesterday Al-Quaradawi went as far as almost issuing a fatwa ordering the military not to fire one bullet because “doing so is “haram mouharem”" (a cardinal sin). Mohamed Selim Al Awa (legal scholar and thinker, not an Islamist, was an advisor to Al-Sadat and even Mubarak) called Al-Sissi’s speech one of the most troubling and dangerous speeches he has ever heard. Even Marina Ottaway published a good piece in the Wa-post yesterday saying that this was Nasser 1952 2.0 (link to washingtonpost.com). Add to that editorials in almost every serious newspapers from the French Le Monde to the Guardian, the Telegraph, Huffpost, Fareed Zakaria, everyone with a lick of sense called Al-Sissi’s speech dangerous representing a descent toward civil war.

    Finally, the speech/call failed to bring the Egyptians to massively protest against their brothers/sisters and compatriots who happened to be supporters of Morsi. It clearly failed. I have been watching Al-Jazeera (English + Arabic), Al-Arabiya, Al-Magharibiya, and there are more pro-Morsi supporters in almost every important city in Egypt today protesting the coup/military rule that there are pro-Al-Sissi supporters. Today’s failure of the pro-coup/Sissi protests is a serious blow to Al-Sissi. But i expect the events to turn bloody and very soon. Reports of serious gangs of baltajias in Cairo’s streets (armed with knives) are lighting up my twitter fed (these reports are not from Islamists but from foreign correspondents). I hope i am wrong, but the old scenario of someone attacking/shooting someone else, which would unleashes the military…and we all know how that ends.

    In conclusion, Al-Sissi doesn’t seek reconciliation or even a peaceful exit to this crisis. Al-Sissi and the military are in total control of Egypt, they are seeking to legitimize their political role via street protests. What a twisted political logic. Mob rule and anarchy of the streets replaced elections! The liberals in Egypt must be heartbroken now to finally see and realize that Al-Sissi played them for fools.

    • “Al-Sissi doesn’t seek reconciliation or even a peaceful exit to this crisis.”
      What do you want Al-Sissi to do? What specifically would a peaceful exit to the crisis look like?

      I agree with much of what you say, Al-Sissi’s speech seemed to raise temperatures unnecessarily.

      I disagree with you that Egypt is in crisis; my prescription for Al-Sissi is to largely ignore the protests and proceed with the announced plans for a new constitution and election. Respond with minimal force.

      I’ll be very interested in hearing what steps you prefer him to take.

      • “What specifically would a peaceful exit to the crisis look like?”
        Well, I think there is a solution, Al Sissi and Morsi should both resign in a deal that will end open season on brotherhood and the defense minister’s over rich. A firm date for parliamentary election and enough time and notice to opposition, get your people off the street and in to a voting booth before brotherhood and military sober up.

      • 1-Free Morsi and all political prisoners (this will calm the street)
        2-Reinstate him to bring about some constitutional basis (because now, everything is on an ad-hoc basis, and Al-Sisi is making stuff up as he goes)
        3-Form a government of national unity with limited scope and prerogatives
        4-Set up a constituent assembly or convention (i prefer a convention because it’s faster)
        5-Agree to the pre-coup plan of a constitutional referendum on a limited number of amendments (there are about 4 in total)
        6-Don’t change the electoral law because that would open up another Pandora’s box.
        7-Set a time table for the next legislatives
        8-Once the legislature is sworn in, Morsi steps down and the president of the legislature acting as an interim president for 2 months during a new presidential elections are organized.
        9-Hope for the best :)

        This is a giant compromise. Everyone loses something and gets something. No one gets everything.

        In my opinion, any other plan (including the one that says: let’s ignore the streets and the MB, they will go away somehow) that excludes the MB and keeps Morsi in jail is inviable, unattainable, and would lead to more chaos and very likely to a total civil war.

        As Marina Ottoway said in her Wa-post piece, Egypt is sliding toward a renewed authoritarian rule under military tutelage. “But such a regime would have to be even more repressive than Hosni Mubarak’s because Islamists are more mobilized, more organized — and angry.”

      • Responding with minimal force is not the hallmark of military regimes or actions. The body count tonight is in the 100s deaths and 1000s of injured.

  4. “I have a bad feeling about this.”
    Me too.
    I’m scared for the people of Egypt. Very troubled times ahead and I sense there will be a flux of refugees from there in the near future. Things aren’t looking good for them. So sad.

  5. This is democracy taking root by having the military void millions of previously cast votes, but we are sure in the future they will count and support ours.

  6. “I tweeted that when activists call for demonstrations, that is activism; when generals do, that is Peronism. Al-Sisi gave the Muslim Brotherhood 48 hours to sign on to the national road map to the future (new constitution, new elections). I also tweeted that in history, giving the opposing side a 48 hour ultimatum is often a prelude to war.”

    I don’t know enough about the situation “on the ground” in Egypt (or the situation that I’d really be interested in knowing, in the minds of all 80+ Million of Egyptian people) to say anything about that, however I have to say thank you again Juan, as a historian I have to fervently applaud your two conclusions about types of calls for demonstrations, and the nature of 48-hour ultimatums in “high political” situations.

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