Egypt: Muslim Brotherhood Defiant as Government Mulls Dispersing Crowds in Cairo, Giza

There are two places the Muslim Brotherhood is emulating the revolutionary youth of 2011 and occupying a public square– the place in front of the Rabi`a al-`Adawiya Mosque near Nasr City and the Nahda Square in Giza.

The interim Egyptian cabinet ominously directed the Interior Ministry on Wednesday morning that it intended to disperse these crowds.

This is a stupid thing to do, not to mention probably illegal in current Egyptian law, and it will cause Egypt a great deal of bloodshed and heartbreak if they go through with it.

The Muslim Brotherhood said it would defy any attempt to remove them.

The crowds in those two places have been largely peaceful, though over the weekend some Muslim fundamentalist from Rabi`a tried to occupy 6 October Bridge using molotov cocktails and stone-throwing, and the army pushed them back way too violently, massacring over 70 people.

In the absence of more such attempts to use Rabi`a to paralyze Cairo city traffic, there doesn’t seem an obvious reason why the government doesn’t just let them demonstrate. The crowds don’t seem to be growing or gaining support, so even just on a political calculation, why not let them gradually dwindle?

The Egyptian police and military are not good at crowd control, and have committed many massacres since Jan. 25, 2011– at Tahrir, Maspero, the Ministry of Defense, etc., etc. The Muslim Brotherhood appears to be relatively unpopular at the moment, and it would be foolish to make them martyrs.

So far, the Egyptian officer corps has not behaved wisely. Their increasing witch hunt against the Brotherhood as a “terrorist” organization makes them look paranoid and foolish to the outside world. Morsi may have been arrogant and high-handed, but he isn’t a terrorist.

Meanwhile, the Arabic press says that the interim government is looking into the sources of the wealth of high Brotherhood officials, implying that they are paid foreign agents or at least getting kickbacks from someone.

In the provinces, clashes are still breaking out between nationalist peasants and Muslim Brotherhood members. Near Mansura, Morsi supporters demonstrated and blocked a main road, infuriating the other villagers, who attacked them but discovered that the Brotherhood members had firearms. The security forces were intervening after hours of hard fighting.

France24 reports on the Brotherhood’s defiance:

In the meantime, April 6, the Revolutionary Socialists and other left-liberal youth organizations central to the Jan. 25, 2011, revolution have set up a protest at a “Third Square.” They reject both theocratic Brotherhood rule and military rule.

VOAnews reports:

Posted in Egypt | 15 Responses | Print |

15 Responses

  1. Dear Prof. Cole,
    is it not high time to put the responsibility for the great deal of bloodshed and heartbreak that you are forecasting where it belongs, i.e. squarely with the Egyptian Army and its international backers?

    In the past you have been a proponent of non-violent public protest in the Arab Spring countries. Should this not equally apply to the Muslim Brotherhood? Pointing out potential illegality under whatever martial law is now in place in Egypt seems out of place. Is the highly-touted “Rebellion” movement aware that the tactics they used for their revolution are now illegal? Are we not on the way to the restoration of the Mubarak system (without the man himself) rather than the secular constitutional democracy that was heralded in 2011 and again a month ago? Whatever fault Morsi and the new constitution may have had, once you get tear the constitution up via a coup there is no protection left for the democratic process and civil liberties. If the “Rebellion” thought they had all the people behind them could they not just have waited for parliamentary elections later this year?

      • On the other hand, a lot of apparently informed observers and commenters apparently feel that “the US,” or some active part of our -ariat, is indeed “backing the Egyptian military.” Along with several of our “partners.” A little google search turns up these exemplars:

        “Never mind the coup: U.S. military aid will continue to flow to Egypt”: link to

        “Muted Response on Military Sparks Theory U.S. Backs Coup”: link to

        And a whole lot more, including of course some easily discountable ones like FOCHSNews.

        I know, the question you want to work from is whether there is any evidence that “the Obama administration” is putting pressure on he Egyptian military to “go back to its barracks,” that wonderfully democratic-sounding phrase. Your evidence is a CNN article on how the Obama administration is apparently delaying (not stopping) delivery of F-16s to the Egyptian Air Force. Your link, , does not work on either Firefox or Bing (maybe my security clearance level is not high enough), but I was able to get this little bit from one other browser’s search:

        “Jul 24, 2013 · President Barack Obama has decided to delay the delivery of four F-16 fighter jets to Egypt in a sign of U.S. pressure for the military there to move…”

        Wow, that is some sub-freakin’-stantial PRESSURE! I don’t know HOW they can RESIST it, especially knowing that the US supplier getting paid for those jets will be screaming bloody murder about interference with its trade relationships, and that the F-16s will eventually, soon, scream in for a happy landing, whatever the military rulers choose to do… They being all tied up in the politics and commerce of Egypt the way they are, just trying to protect their various perks and positions from any particle of diminution that might redirect rights and wealth to the broader populace. Kind of like our own multi-trillion-a-year militaryindustrial-contractor continuum, when you come to think of it, though “our” guys are more subtle, of course… So far…

        • Hey, I know this game, JT: “Why don’t Muslims denounce terrorism?”

          “Uh, they do. Here’s a story about it.”

          “Yeah, well, why don’t they do it more?

          Narrative uber alles. Yes, CNN is lying to you, and if they’re not, well…

        • Hey, JT: what we to make of the fact that the administration didn’t play any hardball with the military aid during the Morsi administration, but is doing so now?

        • Wrong game, Joe. You are playing “dangle the shiny object in hopes of changing the subject,” with a side play of “if you don’t have the facts or the law to support you, attack the credibility of the opponent.”

          So delaying the delivery of 4 F-15s is “playing hardball?” In which game is that, again? And do you have a working link for your original cite-in-support, for some you know, like, context and corroboration?

        • And Joe, per your own recent post, use of “the fact that” with zero support, is an automatic TKO impeachment. Naughty, naughty. Or, as with the part of the polity you seem to speak so consistently for, is adhering to “the rules” just for suckers?

          Another one of those things that are obvious, so everyone knows them, right? Common knowledge?

      • Given how dependent the Egyptian military is on the US, there is just no way they would refuse a serious order through classified channels to stop the mayhem.

        When Mubarak was falling, everyone familiar with the Egyptian military noted that the Army wouldn’t do anything, one way or the other, without Pentagon approval.

        Obama makes lots of public statements. On his record you really have to stop taking them seriously. Watch what he actually *does* instead.

        • I think the Egyptian military’s dependence on U.S. arms is often over-stated. Certainly they might have short-term problems with spare parts, but militarily, even an army at 50% strength has overwhelming force.

          Iran was a U.S. client, and they managed to transitioning to arms from China and then Russia. And they repelled Sadaam Hussein along the way.
          link to

  2. Hey, why bother reviving the old police state apparatus and army’s power to arrest if you aren’t going to use it? In any case, I don’t think they have a choice but to keep the Muslim Brotherhood and anyone sympathetic to it out of power now that they have a few massacres on their hands already.

    The main question in my mind is whether the ‘3rd Square’s as they are calling themselves now will get big enough to be worth repressing.

  3. “In the absence of more such attempts to use Rabi`a to paralyze Cairo city traffic, there doesn’t seem an obvious reason why the government doesn’t just let them demonstrate. The crowds don’t seem to be growing or gaining support, so even just on a political calculation, why not let them gradually dwindle?”

    There is the strong possibility that the purpose is and has been to provoke a violent reaction from the Brotherhood. For some, there is a two tier system of law: One law for an elite whose power and wealth is all that matters, and another for all others.

    Attempting to abort the onset of freedom and democracy through the diverting the course of the revolution into an artificially created conflict seems to be the present course preferred by the military-oriented elite. However, the Brotherhood’s unwillingness to go underground, the recent slaughter, as well as the presence of western diplomats in Egypt trying to mediate the situation, have complicated matters.

    If the Brotherhood is destroyed, the next step is the inevitable conflict between real liberals and others and those espousing continued rule by a political-economic-military complex. Such an elite invariably produces a house divided against itself situation.

    The 2011 revolution was a serious shock to the power structure; its power will remain continously in jeopardy unless a distracting crisis can be created to draw away attention from reform and renewal.

    The third square is correct. Both “sides” are two aspects of the same aggressive coin, with the military one being the more violent at the present time. The interior minister could end up dragging down this cabinet and whittling away at its popularity.

  4. The military regime needs to step down ASAP. Negotiate an acceptable caretaker government and get some elections scheduled.

    Whether you think the revo-coup-tion was the right thing or not, a bunch of generals can’t be running the country like it’s Guatemala 1960.

    • Generals certainly can run Egypt. Now that the Muslim Brotherhood has been established at the bête noire, the general public might even let them get away with it.

      I’m so depressed. The military is awful. The Muslim Brotherhood is unable to see their failings. The liberals are unwilling to do the hard work of organizing.

      I think the military government believes they have to crush the protests from the MB in order to have any chance of resuscitating the economy. Maybe that is a correct analysis; but even if not it will become a self-fulfilling prophesy.

      It’s gonna be ugly for a couple years, even if there are some sort-of elections. The military will not let go of power any time soon.

  5. I think you have the second and third sentence switched around so it looks as though you are condemning the occupation as “stupid,” whereas, I assume, it is the decision to clear the protestors that you are aiming at.

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