Mohamed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood is the new President elect of Egypt. Just hours before the announcement was made on Sunday, The Lighthouse reported the following:
The question is what is happening behind closed doors, and if the Generals will really give up the country to the Brotherhood? What seems to be taking place is that the army will declare them victorious, as long as they accept that they lead the government in name only. It will be a weak presidential office, and rubber stamp parliament (if it ever is allowed to convene) and real power will remain with the military.
That appears to be exactly what happened. Morsi and the Islamists accepted the reduced powers of the office and Constitutional amendments in return for the military council declaring him the winner albeit by a very small margin. The constitutional amendments effectively reduce the President to that of a Governor of a province or state. The army retains full independence in action, appointments of Generals and of the Minister of Defense (currently the real boss in Egypt, the formidable Gen. Tantawi). The President cannot declare war nor peace, and cannot even deploy troops internally without the Military’s consent.
In Egypt, the army is deeply intertwined with the industrial and financial base of the country. The military owns vast assets, runs businesses and is deeply influential in local policy across the country. This has been the case for years, and with the additional powers, the President (unlike Mubarak was) is so in name only.
The extent of the military’s influence is widely being reported now.
So why did the Muslim Brotherhood accept these terms? With less than half the population behind them, and the Generals firmly in control of the army, they had little choice.
Why less than half?
- A large portion of those voted for Morsi did so reluctantly in order NOT to vote for what they considered a continuation of army rule and the Mubarak regime as opposed to actually favoring Islamist rule.
- Secondly, turnout was only about 50% and the half which remained at home are largely not Islamist supporters. Many of them simply chose to abstain when faced with a choice between Islamists and the old guard.
This points again to what I have reported often during the entire Arab Spring; there is a large gap between the rebel mobs and the average citizenship in many of these countries, especially in Egypt. The mobs in Tahrir square, just as the militias in Libya were largely Islamist.
Faced with a population that was far more likely to support the army and stability than a long drawn out Islamist insurgency, and a powerful military looking for the excuse to crush them, the Muslim Brotherhood chose caution.
Some “I told you so’s”
Back in Jan of 2011, my article pretty much puts us where we are now. As the uprising intensified I first wrote indicating the army retained true control in Egypt:
Mubarak is in an increasingly bad shape. He is meeting with his generals, who I think realize they really hold the power, and as long as they don’t switch sides, the rabble can’t do anything and will peter out. Of course there are limits to this, as any man regardless of how powerful, quickly is reduced to just that, a single man, if his aura of power vanishes. Everyone in leadership is always aware of this, including the Generals. They too worry about losing control of their men.
I then predicted Mubarak’s next and final move:
You have the extremely powerful Intelligence chief Suleiman, who apparently Mubarak is increasingly relying on, and is much more popular with the army than Mubarak’s son, and he may be a successor. However, I doubt the rabble would be to happy with him.
As we know now, Mubarak in fact appointed Suleiman as a successor, and the rabble was NOT happy with him so he was nicely asked by the Generals to step aside as well.
At the time the media was focused with their loved pet ElBaradei and no one spoke about the Muslim Brotherhood. Everyone was in love with the Arab Spring. In the same article I went one to say (bold type in the original):
The one asset Mubarak has in this protest is that the most visible figurehead is Elbaradei, a weak academic bureaucrat who will quickly find himself over his head in this mess. The Muslim Brotherhood is relaying on this, because they see their taking of power under Mubarak to be extremely difficult, they imagine it quite easy under an Elbaradei.
They are by far the most powerful, organized and dedicated of the opposition movements, and they are laying low in these protests, to not scare off the west or the secular sections of the rabble protesting, and to not consolidate an opposition to the protests behind Mubarak (large sections of the population which would be afraid of the Muslim Brotherhood), but they are building up, and getting ready to pounce.
So now ElBaradei is largely forgotten and the Muslim Brotherhood has the Egyptian presidency.
In an article from only eleven days later, as Mubarak fell, I spoke about the inevitable conflict the army and the Muslim Brotherhood will face
If this is so, the army now in charge will be much less tolerant of the Muslim Brotherhood and the protestors in general. It will also not be too keen on fast Democratic reform, and Egypt could find itself in prolong civil disobedience and even low intensity conflict or revolution if the rabble attempts to resist the army.
Basically, this is what has happened so far. The low intensity conflict has been prolonged for over a year and a true clash postponed until now. Now faced with the battle over Egypt, both sides balked again. The Islamists accepted a symbolic Presidency and the army accepted their election win. It is unlikely that they will be able to put off the fight for much longer. As soon as one side feels weakness in the other, it will strike. The army truly believes it must save Egypt from the fanatics, and the fanatics believe in… well they believe in the Koran.
What is Next?
Would Morsi and the Islamists be typical secular Arab rulers, they would be content with power, prestige and money. Fear of losing all that might keep them in check and allow them to rest in their laurels. However, Islamists often believe what they preach and this is what makes them much more dangerous adversaries. They believe they have bought themselves time… and have taken a crucial first step towards real power. They believe they can gain strength by implementing social reforms (catering to the poor is a favorite strategy of the Islamic groups) and slowly infiltrate more branches of the State.
The Army meanwhile they hope will weaken. The Generals are mostly of Mubarak’s generation, and with control of the budget and most legislation the civilian government they hope will slowly loosen the military’s grip on itself. Real power of course, almost always rests with the military as no mob could stand against tanks, and jet fighters. Therefore, real power rests with controlling the soldiers in the tanks and fighter jets. Mubarak fount out that at the moment when they were not willing to shoot at their countrymen and would no longer obey him, he instantaneously went from being Egypt’s richest, most powerful man and autocrat to a hapless broken old man (perhaps this is why Qadhafi preferred to go down beaten to death by the vicious mob and not live that endless humiliation). The Islamists will attempt to integrate more Islamist youth into the army and security services (they will no doubt begin by establishing a new or revamped Police force loyal only to the President and the Brotherhood), and attempt to slowly replace secular officers with their own. Changing the military’s doctrine taught to soldiers, and their enlightenment oaths will also be a target.
The army of course, has an entirely opposite set of goals. At first of course, they hoped to win the election outright by backing General Shafiq. The people’s fear of the Islamists and respect for the stability the army can bring made it a real possibility. This would allow them an entire term to figure out what to do. When recent polls turned against them, they quickly stripped the new office of any real power. This way, the army is seen to have allowed civilian rule and free elections, but has maintained its reign. It is hard to see how that can last; perhaps they merely hope that the Islamist fad will pass after one or two election cycles and then a balanced democracy can safely take hold. In any event, the Generals have no interest in allowing the Islamists to start a war (against Israel) that they will have to fight and lose.
Weather or not the military’s grip will weaken with time and the Islamists will be left with REAL power of the Arab world’s leading state and its largest army is in large part based on what the West will do. Egypt is very much dependent on foreign aid, in forms of food, money and military equipment. The West undoubtedly will tie these to “democratic reforms” ie continue to supply them as long as the elected President (the Muslim Brotherhood) have control over them. If Morsi is able to control the foreign aid, and the national budget, he will in time succeed over the military who cannot pay its own bills without state support.
The courts already seem to be aligning themselves with the Brotherhood. Reuters is reporting that just hours ago, a court struck down the military’s right to detain civilians. We will see how Tantawi reacts to this. During the post-Mubarak period, he has often ignored the courts and judges.
Obama never fails to Fail
Obama as is to be expected, has already joined Iran in praising the election results and congratulating Morsi’s victory. The West continues to live in the illusion that no unelected leader may be a friend, and no elected leader may be an enemy, no matter how often he declares himself so, no matter how ruthless, tyrannical or aggressive he may be, regardless of values, beliefs or actions.
Democracy is the West’s new creed. It used to be freedom. We may laugh at the medieval concept people had of divine right but we have one of our own. Democracy is the new divine. People believed Kings were chosen by Gd to reign.. but we are no less absurd in believing there is any divinity or superior legitimacy of a ruler chosen by 51 out of 100 people. I am not proposing something different, but rather pointing out that it is only an arrangement agreed upon by society or at least by the powers that be in a society. It makes little difference to the 49 ruled over against their wishes that 51 people favored it, and in fact it makes little difference to the 51 when they are ruled poorly, abused or oppressed that they themselves once voted for the leader doing so. Frankly, it is easier to believe Gd willed a certain individual to rise above others than to believe in the wisdom of the majority over the wiser (and dumber) minority.
Tangents aside, Iran praised the election result as the country’s:
final stages of an “Islamic Awakening.”
The mullahs dreams of Islamic caliphates spanning the globe are just that much closer today than a year ago as the leaders of the West allowed and helped rioting Islamist mobs to seize control of nations. Israel finds itself even more surrounded than before, as the calculating stabilizing forces of secular leaderships are falling throughout the Arab world. In response Obama:
“emphasized his interest in working together with President-elect Morsi, on the basis of mutual respect, to advance the many shared interests between Egypt and the United States,” the White House said.
“Morsi expressed appreciation for Obama’s call and welcomed U.S. support for Egypt’s transition,” the White House said in a press release. Obama and Morsi also agreed to stay in close touch in the coming weeks and months.
Sweet isn’t it. Iran continues to laugh at the West. The noose continues to tighten around Israel. Next article on interesting developments in Syria, Putin’s visit to Jerusalem (that left me stuck in traffic) and the West’s mishandling of that situation.