By Jay Holmes
In Cairo on the morning of August 18, the Egyptian military and police evicted protestors from the al Fath Mosque. In the chaos that has overtaken Egypt, this eviction could be dismissed as an insignificant event, but it can also be seen as an important moment in the decision-making of the current military-backed Egyptian government.
Supporters of the recently-ousted Egyptian President Morsi, who was backed by the Muslim Brotherhood, called for protests last week. Thousands poured out and set up “occupy style” encampments in Cairo. When the Egyptian military and police broke up the encampments, Muslim Brotherhood supporters packed into the al Fath Mosque, which they had been using as a hospital. On August 18, both the Morsi supporters and the police fired shots. Both claim that the other side fired on them first.
On the face of it, the fact that thousands of Egyptians supported the Muslim Brotherhood was a victory for them, but millions of Egyptians turned out to oppose them. The Muslim Brotherhood’s loud past claims of majority rule are now falling on deaf ears in Egypt. The majority of Egyptians have unequivocally denounced both the Brotherhood and Morsi’s attempt to set up a personal kingdom for himself. Morsi had clearly intended to live well in the dictatorship that he was building, but for the average Egyptian, it was rapidly becoming a case of “let them eat Sharia Law.” The majority of people in Egypt don’t want Sharia Law as a substitute for a functioning government.
Depending on who you ask in Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood has the support of somewhere between fifteen to twenty percent of Egyptian men. In the confusion of the early post-Mubarak days, they were able to use their well-established organization to win an election with promises of religious freedom, democratic rule, and women’s rights under the label of the “Freedom and Justice Party.” Once in power, Morsi immediately betrayed his campaign promises and began to organize a powerful junta for himself and Muslim Brotherhood leaders under the guise of a Sharia Law theocracy.
On July 3, 2013, the Egyptian military calculated that it had enough popular backing to overthrow Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood. The successful eviction of the Morsi supporters from the al Fath Mosque indicates that its calculation was correct. In essence, the people of Egypt decided that they were not going to tolerate the political con job that Islamic radicals pulled off, and they did something about it. The Egyptian military realized that Morsi had lost any semblance of majority backing and acted to save Egypt from falling back into the Dark Ages.
Reactions in the West are less clear.
Most of the Western media and many in Western governments have feigned shock at the Egyptian military’s “coup-that-wasn’t-a-coup.” Some in the media and government are apparently so clueless or so immersed in irrational dogma that their dismay at the “coup” is genuine.
In the US, the White House and congressmen from both major parties have engaged in poorly-staged hand wringing exercises to show their “deep concern” that the “coup-that-wasn’t-a-coup-and-therefore-can-still-be-funded-by-us” has used violence against the Muslim Brotherhood. The “deep concern” has not been deep enough to stop funding the Egyptian military.
We still want and need Egypt to allow our military aircraft to overfly that country on short notice. We still want to be able to use Egyptian air bases for staging operations in the region. And we still want our Navy to cut to the head of the traffic line at the congested Suez Canal. Obama and other politicians can express all the “deep concern” that they want over events in Egypt, but their words come at a price. Egyptians and others in the region now have their own deep concern that the US and Europe are unwilling to help them overthrow Islamic radicals.
Fortunately Saudi Arabia and the oil-rich Gulf States see themselves at odds with the Muslim Brotherhood and are enthusiastically financing the Egyptian government. The couple of billion a year that we give to Egypt no longer constitutes economic survival for that country. US money helps, but it doesn’t carry the same leverage that it once did.
Israel realizes that the Egyptian military is capable of keeping to a peace treaty with them, and that the Muslim Brotherhood was maneuvering Egypt toward war with Israel. Israel is hoping for the current Egyptian government to succeed.
Iran and its minions in Hamas are cheering for the Muslim Brotherhood to regain control in Egypt. While the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt has no intention of accepting Iranian theocratic leadership, from the Iranian point of view, an Egypt led by the Muslim Brotherhood can at least be counted on to attack Israel and support the most radical elements amongst the Palestinians.
The normal variety of international adventure-tourist terrorists are doing their best to use Iranian funds and weapons to generate as much violence as possible in Egypt. My guess is that although they will cause misery, they will not be able to reinstall the Muslim Brotherhood or Sharia Law in that country.
What the future government in Egypt will look like is not altogether clear. Fortunately for Egyptians and everyone else in the region, it likely won’t include Sharia Law. They may end up with an “all new, more powerful deep cleaning” Mubarak-style junta, but for the sake of the Egyptian people, I hope that they end up with a government that reduces corruption and improves the rights and the quality of life in Egypt.