Where to, Egypt?

An Egyptian street vendor sells the country’s national flag and masks of the Egypt’s Defence Minister General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi as voters queue outside the polling station during the second day of voting on a new constitution on January 15, 2014 in the southern Cairo Giza district. (Photo: AFP – Khaled Desouki)

Published Wednesday, January 15, 2014
The Egyptians worship two deities, God and State: the creator of life and its organizer. Both often met in the form of a pharaoh, then separated, but their placenta kept them firmly tethered. The state is needed to organize and maintain the flow of the Nile. Egypt, first and foremost, was “the gift of the Nile.”
Then, Egyptians discovered on June 30, 2013 how leaving the bosom of the state to those who remained outside it for eight decades would be an uncalculated adventure. Returning to the state – despite the corruption of its institutions and its tyranny – would be safer and more reliable than following unknowledgeable crowds.
The fall of the Muslim Brotherhood from its pinnacle in early 2011, to its darkest depths two and a half years later, can only be accounted for by its inadequacy and fragility. The interpretation is not helped by saying the media sullied its image, or the Gulf – except Qatar – funded a war against it. Above all, the Brotherhood’s failure to provide a convincing alternative was the main reason behind its seismic tumble; it became a near acolyte to the West. It had abundant cadres but weak quality. It lacked a socioeconomic model, except that of the capitalist with a beard. It lacked a collective revival project.
The Brotherhood spent four decades building a wide and securely financed organization within the confines of counter-revolutionary regimes. It contributed greatly to sealing the image of Egypt of the July Revolution in the collective consciousness. This guaranteed its spot as the power ready to replace Hosni Mubarak. And so it was: Mubarak fell and the Muslim Brotherhood was ready. This was coupled with Washington adopting an approach of empowering the Brotherhood as an antidote to three poisons: Sunni jihadism, Iran and the Shia, and Arab nationalism. The Brotherhood was the most able to push ahead with an “American” mediation with Israel.
Washington was not aware that the Brotherhood’s image from the outside did not reflect its insides. It started to get this feeling in early 2013, yet it fought it. Society as a whole could not wait for the the state, so it came out in masses on June 30.
Ever since, a strange sight began to appear on the horizon: a Nasserite street and an elite, which mostly looks up to Sadat. They formed an odd mixture, which is impossible to sustain. Between the two, the army sits waiting and trying to avoid the “strife” of having to choose, keeping its options open. In particular, it is because the economy of Egypt is about to fall into a ditch without bottom. Its security is breached in Sinai, which is about to become an Egyptian Kandahar, and across its western borders, brimming with arms. This is on top of the Brotherhood’s disruptions in the streets, where it has reverted to arms.
The army’s deviation from the US scenario, which hoped for coexistence with the Brotherhood, found it tactical allies in the region: those who saw the Brotherhood’s rule over a central Arab country to be an existential threat, especially the rulers of Saudi, the UAE, and Kuwait. These countries only want Egypt to float, not to rise or sink, since both will cause danger. Therefore, the army will walk with them to the crossroads.
By voting yes on the constitution, the Muslim Brotherhood would have been completely defeated. The Brotherhood’s defeat will not be in security, despite its blatant appeal, but with society spitting it out and sending it back to its previous situation of decades prior, when saying someone was part of the Brotherhood was an insult.
With Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi’s advance to the presidency, the military elite – which controls half the economy and realizes its monopoly on violence – is threatened by jihadists and, now, the Brotherhood’s call to arms. It will face difficult choices: Where to get the money to rise? What shall we do with those who carry arms? What is Egypt’s position in the tremors hitting the region? Who do we latch onto internationally, and how do we face our fate?
The Nasserist-Sadatist alliance will break up. The question is: To whose benefit? Logic dictates that Egypt’s safe exit into the wide space of immunity could only occur through a modern Nasserism. However, the remnants of dependency interests will fight this to the end.
The answer remains with Sisi.
This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.
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