Eygpt: The Coup - First Aftermath

Was it a coup or not? The definition matters because U.S. payments to the Egyptian military are only allowed when it does not overthrow the legal government. No payment, no safety for Israel. It therefore can not be allowed to have been a coup.

The governments of at least three countries called it a coup – Turkey, Canada and Tunisia. Other “western” countries and Arab countries called it something else. Of the international organizations only the African Union talked about “consequences”.

If this military coup is not even called such it must have been successful. Who ever arrange this one had a good plan and executed well. Not taking power itself but using civilian public unrest to hand power to another group of civilians will keep the military largely out of the political fray.

The coup came on the background of a coup-like change in leadership in Qatar, seemingly forced by Saudi Arabia and the United States. Qatar had been backing the Muslim Brotherhood in several countries but is now backing away from it. Today the Qatari government said that it has “always been supportive of the will of the Egyptian people” and it “praises the [Egyptian] army role in defending Egypt’s national security”. This change of heart in Qatar will have serious consequences for other regional political actors. Hamas leader Khaled Mashal clearly placed his bet on the wrong horse.

The only foreign folks still supporting Morsi are sitting in the Turkish government:

“Whatever the reason is, it is unacceptable that a democratically elected government was overthrown by illegitimate means, even more, with a military coup. A national consensus politics is possible only with the participation and support of democratic institutions, actors, opposition and civil society,” Davutoğlu told reporters in Istanbul.

The Egyptian military arrested Morsi and warrants were issued for the Brotherhood’s supreme guide Mohamed Badie and his deputy Khairat Shater, the organization’s chief strategist and financier. There are also arrest warrants against some 30 other MB leaders. The MB media were closed.

This is a (temporary) decapitation strike against the Muslim Brotherhood as a party. That does not mean that the Brotherhood will not be back or that its supporters will have no political voice. If it stays largely peaceful it will be allowed back though probably under a different name. In Turkey Erdogan’s AKP only grew through several iterations of such after-coup renames and comebacks. It would be helpful to let the Brotherhood know that it is welcome if it plays by the rules. Some of its elders could then call for calm.

Some “western” media are depicting the conflict as Islamists versus Secularists. But that is the wrong view. The Egyptian electorate is largely pro-Islam and pro-Sharia. The question is about “how much” and about “inclusive” versus “exclusive”. That is where Morsi failed. His call for war against Syria in extreme sectarian terms was the straw that broke the camels back. But there were many more reason why, in the eyes of many Egyptians, Morsi failed and had to go.

The coup was supported by Al-Azhar, Islams highest institute of learning, and by the Salafi parties which came in second in the last Egyptian election. With such support it is very likely that a decent majority of Egyptians will consent to what happened.

There are now reports about some clashes between some Morsi supporters and the Egyptian military near Cairo University. I do expect these to calm down within a day or two. There may be some further incidents, especially in the Sinai where Jihadis have been in attacking the army on several occasions. These are the guys to watch out for.

Those now in power should hold back on any unreasonable prosecution and be generous to those who feel disappointed. Shutting the Brotherhood down for a few days may help to avoid immediate big clashes. Suppressing it for long guarantees them to happen.

Reprinted with permission from Moon of Alabama.