Confrontation Looms in Egypt as Army Makes Morsi’s Position Untenable

Egyptian military leaders Monday afternoon clearly siding with majority of ( non Islamists) trends when giving “Egyptian political forces”  48 hours to “fulfil the people’s will and demands,” otherwise the armed forces would present a political “roadmap” for the country that would include all political currents. Since the people’s demands, as expressed by unprecedented numbers of demonstrators ( Egyptian Ministry of interiors figures were 18 Millions) were for President Mohamed Morsi to step down and held fresh election, the army leaders in essence made his position as a president untenable. At the same time Muslim Brothers called for marches from all mosques in support of Mr Morsi after the evening prayers.

In one of history’s ironies, the army move is most welcomed by the democratic and progressive trends, as well as liberals, women and minorities. The forces that would, under normal circumstances, resist any involvement by the military in politics and prefer democratic means; however they were alarmed by the fast Islamisation of aspects of life and Muslim Brothers taking over the organs of state, local governments and most of outlets in a country where population, in the last 60 years, grew dependent on a nanny state.

“The Egyptian Armed Forces will not become involved in politics or administration; it is satisfied with its role as is spelt out in line with democratic norms,” read the army statement, stressing that Egyptian national security was in “great danger” and referring to the armed forces’ “responsibility” to step in if national security was threatened.

Western diplomats in Cairo say there were two main developments that forced the army’s hand. One was Muslim Brothers firing from their party HQ killing demonstrators, combined with a statement from the Muslim Brotherhood spokesman saying ‘they would form forces to protect their offices and organisations’. Despite MB denial, it is known they have secret militia trained to use arms. The second was intelligence reports of Hamas ( the Palestinian Islamist extremist group ruling Gaza) snipers and fighters joining the MB’s ranks. The army decided to move fearing sections of populations carrying arms, and involvement of Hamas. On Saturday Ezzeldin al-Qassam Brigades, the fighting wing of Hamas (listed as a terrorist organisation by most democracies) issued a statement warning Egypt protesters that they would get involved to “protect the first true Muslim president elected in Egypt and underpin his rule.” Independent and secular opposition media in Egypt last year was full of reports about Hamas involvement in the armed attacks on prisons during 2011 first phase of the revolution and freeing many convicted terrorists and hailed MBs members including Dr Morsi himself. There was a judicial inquiry into this episode, but most of it was heard in camera and report has yet to be published although president Morsi is resisting its publication.

Today’s military statement pointed out that the military had previously given political forces  one week to come to consensus and put an end to the current crisis, but added that the week had ended without any progress. Lack of  of national consensus is what led the people to take to the streets in full determination, the statement said adding a positive note to its recognition of the people’s will by saying Egyptian people determination ” has been praised on the internal, regional and global level.”

It is clearly what we witness now is phase 2 of the revolution, while Muslim Brothers argue that the revolution was over and all should accept the legitimacy of the “elected president.” However the MB’s argument is disingenuous as they ignore the very fact that election is only a tiny part of democracy, which lacks in Egypt. Besides they confuse legitimacy with legality. While there is legitimacy in the office of an elected president, but without legal rules and legal means such legitimacy cannot be underpinned. Within days of his election as a president a year ago, Mr Morsi ignored legalities trading it for primitive ‘revolutionary’ legitimacy of masses and slogans in the streets by his demagogic move in making the constitutional oath to accept office in Tahrir square instead of before the judges of the Supreme Constitutional Court ( constitutionally it should have been before parliament, but parliament was suspended, and the new constitution hadn’t been written). A year later such populist demagogy came back to haunt him as his opponents on the streets ( from which he claimed  to source his legitimacy) seemed to outnumber his supporters by no less than 15 to one. Within weeks in power, Mr Morsi grabbed more power, altered and twisted rules, rushed constitutional changes, and when nearly all participants walked out from the constitution writing committee, he pushed ahead with almost exclusively a Muslim Brothers constitution draft. Then his Muslim Brothers party thugs laid siege to the constitutional court preventing the judges from sitting to rule on the legality of the constitution draft, until he rushed it through a referendum. What made ordinary non-political people suspicious, was not just the Islamisation of society, but also the Muslim Brothers failure to apologise to the people for their terrorist past ( between 1930 & 1950s they bombed cinemas, theatres and bars, attacked women to force the veil and assassinated judges who sentenced their activists). Then Morsi turned a blind eye and didn’t order the army to retaliate when Hamas terrorists attacked and kidnapped Egyptian border guards, which was seen as humiliation by many Egyptians. The last straw came when Mosri appointed to the position of governor of Luxor a leader from a known terrorist group that was behind a massacre of a group of tourists in Luxor 15 years ago claiming 17 lives of tourists. The move  lead to minister of tourism resignation and mass demonstration by people of Luxor who rely on tourism for 80% of their income. Within hours of the army ultimatum, Muslim Brothers called for mass marches in support of Morsi from mosques after the evening prayer. This will be a test of force, in game of number which on day four of phase 2 of the Egyptian revolution clearly shows the upper hand of the people against the Islamists, but it could lead to the very confrontation the army wanted to avoid by its ultimatum.