The size of nationwide protests on 30 June wrong-footed not just Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood leadership but also key Western capitals, not least Washington.
The mass protests were accompanied by a show of sympathy for the Armed Forces whose leadership was receiving assessments suggesting that protester numbers would exceed 10 million. Demonstrators also received a sympathetic nod from both the grand sheikh of Al-Azhar and the patriarch of the Coptic Church.
"I don't need encouragement from anyone to join the demonstrations. I have never protested before, not during 25 January Revolution or afterwards, but I am protesting now because things cannot go on this way. I spent five hours last night queuing to get fuel for my car and that's just the tip of the iceberg of our problems," said Ahmed, an accountant, on the eve of 30 June demonstrations.
A day later and Ahmed's sentiments were being expressed by millions of demonstrators who flocked to the presidential palace. Complaints of deteriorating living conditions dominated, but there was also concern over attacks on freedoms, especially the freedom of expression.
Informed sources say that as the demonstrations were growing Morsi, "secured" in an annex of the offices of the intelligence, was insisting that protesters numbered only tens of thousands, all of them supporters of the ousted regime of Hosni Mubarak.
"He was not just arguing, he really believed it. When he was shown pictures of Tahrir Square he actually claimed the pictures were false," said one source.
The leadership of the Muslim Brotherhood, which had anticipated a much smaller turnout, was left clinging to claims of legitimacy. Numbers obviously meant nothing. "Legitimacy is on our side. People have the right to express themselves, but it doesn't change a thing," railed Sobhi Saleh, a leading member at the group.
The Army General Command — a 50-member committee of top brass — had already issued a 48-hour ultimatum for "all the parties concerned to bow to the will of the people". The ultimatum was designed to prompt the president to acknowledge the mass call for early presidential elections. It failed. The president, according to one informed source, "was furious when he heard the ultimatum".
Morsi's fury was shared by a vast majority of the Brotherhood's leaders, though stories circulated that there was some dissent voiced within the organization. Sources say that Saad Al-Katatni argued for a more realistic approach only to be overruled by his colleagues.
"We are doing this for a reason. Morsi is the elected president; the statement of the army is a military coup. It is a slap in the face of legitimacy," said Muslim Brotherhood member Hamdi Hassan. "To bow to the call for Morsi to step down is to overthrow the results of the free and fair presidential elections."
Not so, says political scientist Rabab Al-Mahdi. A coup would involve the army, for its own reasons and away from any public pressure. "We saw this happening in Venezuela with Hugo Chavez but the people went to the streets and reinstated Chavez."
A political activist who long opposed the Mubarak regime, Al-Mahdi insists that "what we are looking at here is the military going with the popular will".
"Democracy manifested itself when Morsi was elected," she argues, "and it re-manifested itself when the masses took to the streets to ask Morsi to step down."
Like many opposition figures, Al-Mahdi accepts the military's reassurances that it will not "rule the country from the driver's seat".
A military source tells Al-Ahram Weekly that Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi, appointed less than a year ago by Morsi to replace Hussein Tantawi, declined the Muslim Brotherhood's offer, supported by the US, to become prime minister and retain Morsi as a "symbolic president".
"He is very clear that there will be no military rule. Al-Sisi declined all suggestions that there should be a military prime minister with expanded prerogatives," he said.
On the second day of the ultimatum sources say Morsi was close to agreeing to delegate his powers to a new prime minister and call early presidential elections in exchange for a safe exit and immunity from prosecution for himself and other Brotherhood leaders, only to make a U-turn and broadcast a televised statement insisting he would remain. "This is the rule of legitimacy; if we deviate from legitimacy, our democratic march would suffer a setback… and the country could fall into civil unrest."
The statement shocked the crowds in Tahrir and in front of the presidential palaces in Heliopolis and Al-Qubba who had been expecting "a moment of celebration".
The president's strategy, an impression reinforced by the frantic tweeting of his aides Essam Al-Haddad and Pakinam Al-Sharkawi, had crystallised: the goal now was to persuade the international community that Morsi was threatened by a coup.
Western diplomats speaking to the Weekly insist their governments cannot endorse a military coup and want to see a resolution to the crisis via a mechanism that cannot be judged extra-constitutional. Washington issued conflicting reports, eventually telling the army leadership that it would have to suspend military aid to Egypt even in the event of a "grey coup", according to CNN. The US capital later denied the report.
While the US embassy and the Muslim Brotherhood were pushing to keep Morsi as a "symbolic president" pending fresh presidential elections, Morsi was grabbing at an initiative that when it was proposed by the Salafist Nour Party he resolutely ignored. Suddenly he conceded that a national unity government and revisiting controversial articles of the constitution might not be such a bad idea after all.
Such were the concessions an increasingly beleaguered Morsi offered in his Monday evening speech. This time, though, it was the protesters who resolutely ignored them. "We accept no offers from him. We don't accept him as a president, honorary or otherwise. He just needs to go. No more," said Amr, an activist making his way to Al-Qubba palace on Tuesday afternoon. "This evening he will have to be gone. We expect a statement from opposition forces and the army any moment."
The next day Al-Sisi and other top brass were meeting with representatives from political forces, including Islamists. It was not clear as the Weekly went to print whether Al-Katatni had heeded calls to join the meeting to allow the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) to take part in the next government.
"We are hoping to see all the key parties, including the FJP, at the table. We are not here to exclude any political group but to help Egyptians sit together and fix their differences in a way that allows the country to move away from polarisation," said a military source.
But what is the post-Morsi roadmap?
Egypt, it appears, is heading for a new interim phase to be co-managed by the head of the Supreme Constitutional Court, an independent government and the army, with the latter insisting they are not at the wheel. The controversial constitution that was adopted last winter with the support of just 20 per cent of eligible voters will be suspended and revised. A prime minister mandated to focus on the economy will be asked to form a national unity government. It is not clear how Islamists opposed to this deal will react, or how far they will go in defence of a legitimacy they do not realise they have squandered.
The Weekly went to press after the military ultimatum had ended and still no statement had been released. However, media reports stated that Al-Sisi was to address the nation at 9pm attended by the Grand Sheikh of Al-Azhar Ahmed Al-Tayeb, Patriarch of the Coptic Church Tawadros II and opposition leader Mohamed Al-Baradei. A flurry of reports circulated that Morsi was under house arrest and senior Muslim Brotherhood leaders, including Khairat Al-Shater and Essam Al-Erian, banned from travelling abroad pending investigations into their roles in the mass escape of prisoners from Wadi Al-Natroun prison two years ago.
There has been a distinct difference between the rallies of the two opposing sides as this crisis has built since Sunday. The anti-Morsi protesters have been festive and optimistic, buoyed by a sense of momentum; the Morsi supporters defensive and a little paranoid. The Brotherhood people don't just feel cheated; they feel hunted and persecuted. Their numbers in Nasr City have been robust and consistent. The Brotherhood has always been famously efficient at marshaling a crowd. But the pro-Morsi rallies have also been dwarfed by the size of the anti-Morsi rallies — a fact that became immediately and permanently clear on June 30 when the current protest wave began.
It is instructive to review Morsi's foreign policy during the (short-lived) experiment of the Muslim Brotherhood's setting of the foreign policy agenda in Egypt. From the outset, Morsi sought to adopt an "independent" line and made it known to Western powers that the past era of sheepish obedience to their interests was over. Egypt was to act according to its own interests.
It was the pursuit of this new orientation that brought Morsi to Tehran last August to participate in the Non-Aligned Summit, an occasion which he used to express solidarity with the Syrian people fighting against the Assad regime, and to propose a "Syria quartet", including Iran, Turkey, and Saudi Arabia. The Saudis never showed interest in this proposal and boycotted the quartet's meeting in Cairo last year. Nor did the Saudis or the Qataris, two principal financial backers of Cairo, ever welcome Morsi's initial toying with the idea of a diplomatic rapprochement with the Islamic Republic.
Consequently, caught between conflicting priorities, Morsi scrapped a deal for direct flights between Tehran and Cairo, or the facilitation of visa requirements for Iranian tourists, and slowly backed away from the quartet in favor of a Saudi-favored hardline vis-a-vis Syria, which was reflected in his decision last month to close the Syrian embassy in Cairo, coinciding with a generous Saudi loan to Egypt.
With respect to Israel and future of Arab-Israel relations, despite a pledge to uphold the Camp David accords and closing the border tunnels dug by Palestinians holed up in Gaza, Morsi was never able to secure an American-Israeli confidence about his intentions. He was always regarded with suspicion that his intention was to consolidate his own power before turning against the accords, which the Muslim Brotherhood had denounced in the past as a sell-out. Without doubt, Morsi's downfall will be viewed as a foreign policy plus by both Washington and Tel Aviv, whose leaders dreaded Morsi's positive signals to Iran and his "cloak and dagger" approach to foreign policy.
In turn, this led to incoherent policies that ultimately satisfied no one and was aggravated by Morsi's lack of diplomatic skills and inability to bargain hard for leverages.
Henceforth, a post-Morsi Egypt will likely embed itself more firmly in the Saudi-led conservative camp, take a more assertive role vis-a-vis the crisis in Syria, provide greater assurance to Israel and put to rest the US and Israeli concerns about any regional realignment, in other words, a "thermidorian" restoration of status quo foreign policy approach favored by the unreconstructed Egyptian armed forces.
For sure, such a development in Egypt is antithetical to the interests of Iran, Syria, and Hezbollah in Lebanon, not to mention Hamas in the Palestinian occupied territories, and will free the hands of Israelis even further with respect to their current policy of settlement expansion, their disregard for a Middle East peace process, and the strangulation of Gaza. Indeed, looking at Israelis discourse on the "greater Middle East" it becomes clear that an independent and self-assertive Egypt was and has never been part of their equation. Naturally, they and their American patrons prefer a docile and non-problematic Egypt that simply toes the line, just as it did for decades before the tumults of Arab Spring in 2011. But now, with the 'falling out' of Egypt from the domain of American hegemony having turned into an arrested development, the big question is how will a coup regime in Egypt tackle the powerful sentiments that brought Morsi to power exactly one year ago in the first place?
Saudi king congratulates Egypt's new interim president
By K.Gajendra Singh 14 February, 2011
The power and responsibility for clearing and cleaning up the mess created by over nearly 4 decades of pro-US regimes of Anwar al Sadat and since 1981 of the just forced out Dictator Hosni Mubarak, himself an air force general, has fallen into the lap of Egyptian armed forces. Mubarak fled from the presidential palace on 11 February.
On Sunday , 13 February , 2011, Egypt's military disbanded the country's parliament and suspended the constitution and proclaimed that it will rule for six months or until presidential and parliamentary elections are held, according to a statement by the military council read on state television. The anti-government protesters had been demanding since 25 January Mubarak's resignation and even a trial; and the dissolution of the parliament and constitutional reforms.
Before going away on 11 February to attend a clutch of marriages, I had circulated the following note to some friends
Peoples Revolt in Egypt; Birth Pangs of a New Middle East!
This Arab revolt is against Washington unlike the WWI British engineered against Istanbul
"Don't knock your head against it," received wisdom in the Arab world on unarmed people taking on powerful regimes, "You are just fighting a mountain."
In a revolutionary stage, once the fear of authority disappears, like virginity it cannot be undone nor repaired –Anon
Max Weber-. Power flows from the barrel of a gun but authority is rooted in legitimacy
Feb 2, 2011
It is quite clear that Egypt has started a revolutionary process a week ago in the Middle East with almost one million Egyptians out is streets in Cairo (Maidane-Tahrir - freedom square), Alexandria and elsewhere. After the brutality by Egypt's notorious security police in which over 100 people have died and many hundreds injured , the military , consisting of conscripted soldiers ,which is now out in the streets has allowed peaceful demonstrations .
With a population of over 80 million , centre of gravity , prime mover and leader of Sunni Arabs, Egypt ,never had this kind of spontaneous revolt by the people , called Fallahin , down trodden and mostly ruled by foreigners including queens like Cleopatra and Nefertiti .
by K. Gajendra Singh==
Let us look at the history how Britain and then USA have promoted Islamic fundamentalism against popular, nationalist and socialist governments in Muslim countries to safeguard Western interests.
In his book "Devil's Game: How the United States Helped Unleash Fundamentalist Islam," Robert Dreyfuss paints a vivid picture of how the United States spent the last century taking over the British imperial apparatus in the Middle East ;sponsoring and manipulating Islamic fundamentalism to control and exploit petroleum resources and politics. Dreyfuss's book based on major academic literature and actors on the scene is an excellent survey of the history of the Muslim Brotherhood and its various 20th-Century offshoots.
The United States , Dreyfuss argues, has supported radical Islamic activism over the past six decades, "sometimes overtly, sometimes covertly," and is thus "partly to blame for the emergence of Islamic terrorism as a world-wide phenomenon." He writes about U.S. support for the Muslim Brotherhood against Gamal Abdel Nasser in Egypt , whose goal was to end Western domination and control in the Middle East . Western interests used the Islamic Brotherhood to destabilize the Nasser government. The Brotherhood remains active and continues to conduct terrorist activities in Egypt .
Britain's Imperial History of Divide and Rule in Middle East
Although the Muslim Brotherhood was formally launched in Egypt in 1928, the roots of the British-sponsored policy began in the last quarter of the 19th Century , when the British intelligence sponsored the career of a Persian-born Shia named Jamaleddin, later known as Jamaleddin al-Afghani (1838-97) to hide his sect. A British (and French) Freemason and a professed atheist, al-Afghani spent his entire adult life as an agent of British intelligence, fomenting "Islamist" insurrections where they suited British imperial goals. At points in his fascinating career, he served as Minister of War and Prime Minister of Iran, before leading an insurrection against the Shah. He was a founder of the Young Egypt movement, which was part of a worldwide network of British Jacobin fronts that waged war against Britain 's imperial rivals during the second half of the 19th Century. In Sudan , following the Mahdi-led nationalist revolt and the murder of Britain 's Lord Gordon, al-Afghani organized an "Islamist" counterrevolution in support of restoration of British colonial control.
In 1899, two years after al-Afghani's death, Lord Cromer made Abduh the Grand Mufti of Egypt. Abduh in turn, begot Syrian Mohammed Rashid Rida (1865-1935), his leading disciple. Rida founded the organization that would be the immediate precursor to the Muslim Brotherhood, the Society of Propaganda and Guidance and an Institute. It published a journal, The Lighthouse, which provided "Islamist" backing to the British colonial rule over Egypt , by attacking Egyptian nationalists as "atheists and infidels." In Cairo , under British patronage, Rida brought in Islamists from every part of the Muslim world to be trained in political agitation in support of British colonial rule.
Hassan al-Banna (1906-49), a graduate of the Institute for Propaganda and Guidance, founded the Muslim Brotherhood in 1928, which was an unabashed British intelligence front. The mosque in Ismailia , Egypt , which was the first headquarters of the Brotherhood, was built by the (British) Suez Canal Company, near a British World War I military base. During World War II, the Muslim Brotherhood functioned as a de facto branch of the British military. In 1942, the Brotherhood created the "Secret Apparatus," an underground paramilitary organization that specialized in assassinations and espionage.
Hitler's and London 's Grand Mufti
During the formative years of the Muslim Brotherhood, the British were simultaneously promoting the career of another "Islamist" named Haj Amin al-Husseini. A notorious anti-Semite with little Islamic theological training, he was promoted by Sir Ronald Storrs, the British Governor General and in 1921 installed as president of the Supreme Muslim Council, a British-sponsored association of hand-picked Muslim religious leaders. With British rigging , Al-Husseini was 'elected ' next year the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem . During the World War II, al-Husseini, and al-Banna, wound up in Berlin as a propagandist for the Nazi assault against the Jews. But al-Husseini was back in the Holy Land , again on the British intelligence payroll, now a firebrand anti-communist propagandist for the Middle East Broadcasting Station. [The current Western proxy leaders in Iraq , Ahmed Chalabbi and Ex Prime Minister Iyad Alawi , have been unabashed operatives of CIA,MI6 and others .So the pattern continues]
Hassan al-Banna was assassinated in 1949 by Egyptian security but by that time, the Muslim Brotherhood had vastly expanded its ranks, and had spread to other parts of the Middle East , where the British had a major postwar presence. The Muslim Brotherhood established branches in Transjordan , Syria , Lebanon , and Palestine .
'British Brains and American Brawn to rule the world' � Churchill
After the untimely death of Franklin Roosevelt in 1945 , Winston Churchill 's famous "Iron Curtain" address came to define the Cold War. An Anglo-American partnership that Churchill once described: "With British brains and American brawn, we can rule the world."
During the 1950s the United States sided with Great Britain against the legitimate, popular secularist governments of Egypt 's Gamal Abdel Nasser and Iran 's Mohammed Mossadegh. And in both instances, the Anglo-Americans used the Muslim Brotherhood as the battering ram to bring down the popular regimes. In the case of Egypt , President Dwight Eisenhower, in a most decisive postwar break with London , neutralized the joint British-French-Israeli invasion of Suez in 1956, temporarily backing the Nasser regime. (For years after the Suez crisis, Eisenhower and the United States were admired in Egypt ).
One of the architects of playing the Islamists against the nationalist /socialist /communists in the Middle East was Dr. Bernard Lewis, a wartime British intelligence Arab Bureau spy, who in his crucial 1953 essay "Communism and Islam," argued for a strategy of promoting right-wing Islamist movements and regimes as a weapon against Soviet backed nationalist and socialist regimes in the region. Lewis's scheme was embraced by the Dulles brothers, Secretary of State John Foster and CIA Director Allen, despite reservations from President Eisenhower and some leading CIA Middle East specialists.
Despite Washington 's ambivalence about Nasser, Britain 's Prime Minister Anthony Eden had no doubt that the Egyptian President was a menace to British interests and had to be eliminated. George Young, a top MI6 officer posted in Cairo , ordered by Eden to assassinate Nasser, according to MI6 documents, turned to the Muslim Brotherhood's for the job , leading to a full-scale war between the Brotherhood and Nasser . Thousands were killed, and eventually, the Brotherhood was forced to flee, taking refuge in Saudi Arabia , Jordan , and other pro-US/UK Arab regimes. Saudi Arabia funded Egypt 's Brothers against Nasser .Riyadh also funded the Brothers in Jordan as King Hussein complained when I was posted at Amman (1989-92).
The next British-backed battle between fundamentalist Islam and nationalism occurred in Syria where the branch of the Muslim Brotherhood was founded by Ramadan. When a Baathist military coup took place in 1969, the Brotherhood began a campaign of irregular warfare, that built momentum throughout the 1970s. In 1979, the Muslim Brotherhood staged a military assault on the Syrian Army academy at Hama, setting the main building on fire and killing 83 cadets mostly from Alawaite sect belonging to the ruling Assad regime. The government killed many thousands of Syrian brothers who then escaped to Saudi Arabia .
Afghanistan and Muslim Brotherhood
Dreyfuss gives a brief history of the evolution of the Muslim Brotherhood in Afghanistan with roots in Egypt . A group of young Afghan students after spending several years at the al-Azhar mosque in Cairo , a center of Muslim Brotherhood activity, returned to Afghanistan and formed a branch of the Brothers, the Islamic Society. "The Professors," as they were known, would later form the backbone of the Afghan Mujahedeen, who waged a West and Saudi backed decade-long war against the Soviet Army occupation. The three leading "Professors" were: Abdul Rasul Sayyaf, Burhanuddin Rabbani, and Gulbuddin Hekmatyar. Sayyaf and Hekmatyar, in particular, were backed by the Pakistani ISI, and by Pakistan 's own Muslim Brotherhood, the Islamic Group, founded by Abdul Ala Mawdudi. The three professors led the major factions of the Afghan insurgency.