A week after Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi was removed from power in a coup, Egyptian authorities have issued arrest warrants for the leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood, including the group’s spiritual leader, Mohammed Badie. Morsi’s supporters have condemned his ouster and have opposed the plan announced by his replacement, interim President Adly Mansour, for restoring a democratically elected government:
Despite the military’s insistence that Morsi’s dismissal was not a coup and that civilians are firmly in charge, events of the past week suggest that Mansour — who was a little-known judge before he was thrust into the presidency — remains subservient to the nation’s powerful generals.
Mansour did not make any public appearances on Tuesday to announce his moves, communicating instead through written statements and leaks to the news media. The commander of Egypt’s armed forces, however, did speak. In a recorded statement broadcast Tuesday on Egyptian television, Gen. Abdel Fatah al-Sissi told the nation that the new president’s declaration provided “more than enough assurance” that the country was moving in the right direction.
The road map outlined a “specific timetable for every step of the rebuilding of the constitution in a way that will guarantee and achieve the will of the people,” Sissi said. “And that means the landmarks of the path are determined and clear.”
The Obama administration has pressed Egypt’s generals to set a clear course for returning to democracy and has urged them to avoid arbitrary arrests or other acts of reprisal against the Brotherhood, an Islamist group that the military has long sought to oppress.
But nearly a week after Morsi’s ouster, he and a group of top aides remain cut off from the world, having been effectively detained without charge. Prosecutors have issued arrest warrants for hundreds of Muslim Brotherhood members, including, on Wednesday, warrants for Badie, his deputy, Mahmoud Ezzat, and eight others, a spokesman for Egypt’s Interior Ministry said. The men are wanted for questioning in connection with Monday’s events, the spokesman said. He would not say whether any of them had been taken into custody.
Two Islamist television channels thrown off the air in the minutes after Morsi’s ouster remained dark.
U.S. policy in Egypt, meanwhile, has frustrated both Brotherhood and Morsi’s opponents:
After a year of outreach to the Muslim Brotherhood following the election of its candidate, Mohamed Morsi, as president, the United States is widely perceived here as siding with Islamists it once eyed with distrust.
At the same time, the Obama administration’s cautious refusal to condemn Morsi’s ouster last week quickly spent the goodwill it had built with the Brotherhood — without buying any trust from the other side.
Instead, the liberal forces who drove the revolution to topple Morsi view the United States with even more wariness.
“We love the American people,” said Bolis Victor, 34, a middle-class merchant in the Egyptian capital, who said he has relatives in Chicago. “But we hate Obama and Patterson.”
That would be U.S. Ambassador to Egypt Anne W. Patterson, a career diplomat who assumed the top post in Cairo in 2011.
“She needs to pack her bags. She needs to go home. We hate her more than Morsi himself, and that is something very remarkable,” Victor said.
As he spoke Tuesday in Tahrir Square, everyone around him nodded their heads in agreement: They hated her, too.
The businessman and his friends were savoring their revolutionary victory, “the popular uprising, aided by the Egyptian army,” as he put it, that forced Morsi from office. And they were sitting under a banner in Tahrir Square that read: “Obama loves terrorists.”
In Tahrir Square these days, “terrorists” is the shorthand used by some for the Muslim Brotherhood.
After Morsi’s victory last June, the United States offered support of the country’s nascent democratic process and its first democratically elected leader. In the fall, the U.S. embassy hosted a high-level delegation of business leaders in an effort to promote investment. During the conflict between Israel and the Gaza Strip, Americans leaned heavily on Egypt to help broker a truce.
But while the U.S. government has rarely been popular on the Arab street, the anti-American vibe among the anti-Morsi crowds in Cairo in recent weeks has been especially pronounced.
For a review of events in Egypt in the past year, watch this video:
The Youtube celebrities known as the “vlogbrothers” — in real life, Hank and John Green — have laid out the big-picture issues in a dizzyingly fast-paced, eight-minute video, with help from a Carnegie Endowment for International Peace researcher named Mokhtar Awad. It touches on the major factions vying for power, the problems with Egypt’s 2012 elections and the military’s many oddities. Fun fact: They control somewhere between five and 45 percent (!) of the Egyptian economy.
We’d quibble with Hank and Mokhtar on a few issues. For example, it’s not crystal clear the military “just wants stability” so it can focus on its economic exploits; though the generals appeared uninterested in governing directly after they ushered out Hosni Mubarak, they still seem to see a role for themselves as a check on power. They soften the Brotherhood’s history a bit, perhaps hoping to preempt American suspicion of the group, which has not always been quite as peaceful as they say but has in fact “toggled throughout its history between violence and peaceful opposition,” as the Post’s Abigail Hauslohner recently put it.
Max Fisher argues that the arrest warrants for Brotherhood leaders are likely to polarize the country and obstruct democracy:
The military crackdown sends a strong signal to the group and its leaders, deliberately or not, that they are not welcome in the Egyptian political system they dominated until one week ago. That would seem to make the Islamist group much, much likelier to oppose the system from the outside. And that makes Egypt’s democratic experiment significantly less likely to ever really get off the ground. . .
Egypt’s non-Islamists weren’t wrong to feel they were being excluded from Morsi’s government, nor were they wrong to question whether his vision of democracy was actually democratic. Whether or not you believe that the July 2 coup to remove Morsi from power was a good thing, at some point, Egypt’s major political factions will have to stop opposing and undermining one another and actually work together if they want to move out of this cycle of coup-transition-powergrab-coup. Someone has to try to govern on behalf of Egypt, not just their half of it.
None of this is to deny the Muslim Brotherhood’s own role in excluding huge swathes of Egyptian society during Morsi’s rule and thus setting the stage for its fall from power. But the Egyptian military should understand that the Muslim Brotherhood is not the same thing as former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak’s government, which co-opted many groups but ultimately represented a small group of wealthy elites. The Muslim Brotherhood has been around for decades and it’s endured some truly backbreaking oppression. Arresting Badie and Morsi isn’t going to make them, their movement or the large numbers of Egyptians they represent disappear. But it is likely to turn them against the post-Morsi order, whatever that looks like. That’s not something the military, the military-appointed civilian leaders or whoever succeeds them can really afford.
For past coverage from Egypt, continue reading here.