ANALYSIS: A Coup-Within-a-Coup

Masses filled the streets of Egypt to celebrate the fall of President’s Morsi’s regime, but deep down they know that their country’s test is just beginning now. The ouster of Morsi did not change the fundamental problems the country faces, and no coup or appointment of any one person will solve those, certainly not in the short term.

Egypt is beset by severe unemployment, shortages of basic products, spiking prices, a stagnating tourism market, a high rate of illness, a shortage of gasoline, a dearth of potable water and water for agriculture, and clashes between the secular and religious, and between Muslims and Christians.

Egypt has been infiltrated in recent years by extremist Islamists, some of whom came armed or found weapons within the country. They have basically settled in the Sinai Peninsula and are threatening to damage the Suez Canal, the sea route that is the primary source of income today for the Egyptian government, since the tourism industry has been virtually decimated.

Egyptian citizens live in constant fear, with a severe lack of personal security. Bands of marauders and looters roam the streets and attack anyone carrying baskets of provisions or driving a car. They toss the driver out and sell the car for a tenth of its value. Storeowners are strong-armed by youths demanding protection money, and many young residents are banding together to protect their neighborhoods because everyone has given up on the ability of the police to do so.

Thousands of factories and stores, businesses and sources of employment, have closed down in the two and a half years since the beginning of the first coup that deposed President Hosni Mubarak. These closures have taken millions of Egyptians out of the work force, and they have joined the ranks of the unemployed. The unemployment rate in the country is estimated at 30 percent. Many of the jobless are young university graduates.

Many of those who closed the factories were wealthy, and they simply took their families and left the country. Among them are members of the Coptic Christian sect, which numbers some 10 million people who are persecuted by their Muslim neighbors.

These are the people we’ve seen in the streets in recent days demonstrating against their government and crying for help. They have nothing to lose. Morsi was blamed during the demonstrations not only for doing nothing significant to address his country’s problems, but for allowing the wealthy elements in the Muslim Brotherhood to buy those shuttered factories and stores for pennies. He then appointed thousands more “Brothers” to various positions, taking care of his party and its ranks rather than his country and its problems.

The millions who have taken to the streets and signed petitions to oust Morsi and effect a coup-within-a-coup are not fighting for democracy and freedom. They are battling for the barest essentials needed by citizens of every state, which Morsi did not provide.

The question is whether another elected president will be able to change the situation in which Egypt now finds itself.

What Will the ‘Brothers’ Do Now?

The Egyptian army, the strongest force in the country, decided to accede to the demands of the masses and depose Morsi. But it wasn’t just the ouster of one man. The Egyptian army has in essence launched a conflict with the largest Egyptian movement, which certainly hasn’t said the last word yet.

Removing the Egyptian president from power means that the Muslim Brotherhood has been sent home, to the opposition, or alternately that its members could join some type of broad coalition government that the military rulers would install.

This is not a minor party. The Muslim Brotherhood has millions of loyal supporters all over the country, and they have waited more than 80 years since the group’s establishment for the historic moment when they could take over the reins of leadership.

Will they give up now? Will they remain in their houses, unresponsive to what the army has done — sent them back in time and shattered their dreams of leading the largest Arab nation?

The stability of Egypt is dependent now on what the “Brothers” will do, and it’s hard to see them caving in without a fight. They are a movement with large armadas and well-armed friends, and if they reach the conclusion that now is the time for them to go out and fight for the regime that they claim was “stolen” from them, Egypt is liable to be swept up in a bloodbath that will remind us of Syria.

The deposed president has called on them not to sit quietly, but to refrain from violence. These two things do not go together. If they don’t sit quietly, there will be violence.

In order to thwart this before the worst-case scenario for Egypt unfolds, the army has flooded the streets with hundreds of thousands of soldiers. Tanks and APCs are on every corner, and they are the clearest message to the “Brothers” that if they go out to fight, they will find themselves facing an entire army — the same army that doesn’t want to rule but wants quiet. Any intervention the army makes will be to prevent clashes between the Egyptian nation and its leadership.

The question now is whether the Muslim Brotherhood will accept the army’s decision and prepare for the next elections in the hope that they will be able to recapture the regime in a democratic fashion. Will they realize that leadership doesn’t mean worrying only about your friends, or will they fail again and disappear into oblivion, marked forever as a force that was not made to rule?

The prediction of many analysts is that Morsi’s ouster is not the last word, but the beginning of a new struggle for the leadership of Egypt. It also means that an era of conflicts and violence, demonstrations and clashes that which will shake the countryfoundations for the long term, has begun. Anyone looking for stability in Egypt is not likely to find it in the near future.