All is quiet lately on the Egyptian front. Or so it seems at least. That we have not seen any headlines in the Israeli and world media lately concerning the most important Arab country in the region, does not mean of course that nothing important is going on. Indeed, what we are now experiencing is “the calm before the storm” for on June the 30th we are about to discover how deceptive this quiet is. While we were rightly distracted by the elections in Iran, the demonstrations in Turkey and the continuing conflict in Syria, we missed out on some extremely important developments in Egypt.
Let me help you catch up. The opposition parties in Egypt have joined a coalition which is now busy planning mass protests due to take place on June 30, a date marking President Mohammed Morsi’s first anniversary in power. The protests promise to be quite challenging, to say the least, for the Muslim Brotherhood. At a press conference yesterday, the leaders of the coalition announced plans for the week leading up to June 30.
During their first year in power, the Muslim Brotherhood discovered that it was not really ready to rule as they suddenly found out that it is quite easy to take something down, but it is another thing entirely to build and maintain it. Unwilling to share power with the opposition, Morsi has insisted on leading a one-man show, not understanding that to forge ahead and steady the ground beneath his feet, Egypt needed a joint effort and cooperation. To the average Egyptian, the end-result of this first year of post-revolution is a divisive new constitution, a crippled economy, a dysfunctional state, a threatened and insecure civil society, a beleaguered judiciary, and a legislative agenda that many find infuriating. And so, the anti-Mubarak posters held by the millions of protesters in Tahrir Square are going to be replaced by anti-Muslim Brotherhood posters and calls for political inclusion, but the popular anger fueling the agitation is exactly the same.
While all parties involved know how this latest version of mayhem is going to start, no one knows how it will end. From all the possible outcomes, a military crackdown seems the most extreme. Extreme, yet possible. The Egyptian army, which up until this point has purposely tried to stay on the sidelines, might have to intervene if protests grow to a large scale and violence gets out of hand. Signaling this possible outcome, Egypt’s Defense Minister warned of the current state of division in the Egyptian society, saying that “the continuation of it is a danger to the Egyptian state and there must be consensus among all”, and significantly adding that “it is the national and moral duty of the army to intervene, to prevent sectarian strife or the collapse of state institutions.”(Albawaba News, June 24, 2013).
From a wider perspective, should this indeed transpire, the army’s focus would likely shift internally, which would mean easing the pressure on terrorist elements in the Sinai peninsula. Bad news for Israel, which has now had to reconfigure the way it secures its borders both with Syria and with Egypt.
Whatever the outcome, Egypt will be the one to suffer since most of these scenarios would very likely end with Egypt engulfed in instability and/or paralysis for a considerable amount of time. As Morsi approaches the anniversary of his first year in power, it is perhaps the ultimate irony that this anniversary is to be marked by an attempt to repeat the 2011 revolution that actually brought him into power, and largely by the very same people who sparked that very same revolution against the former dictator who once imprisoned the current president.