The Middle East Channel

Egyptian military delivers ultimatum to President Morsi

Egyptian military delivers ultimatum to President Morsi

In a military communiqué delivered over Egyptian state television Monday, the head of Egypt’s Armed Forces, General AbdelFattah al-Sissi, called on President Morsi to fulfill the public’s demands within 48 hours or face a military-imposed "roadmap" to end the standoff. The office of President Morsi, which was reportedly not consulted prior to the statement, warned that the military’s position "may cause confusion in the complex national scene" and would "deepen the division between the people." Late Monday night, the military issued a second statement denying that it is orchestrating a coup. Nonetheless, tens of thousands of Tamarod (Rebel) supporters celebrated in Cairo’s Tahrir Square following the military’s announcement, widely interpreted as constituting a "coup." Similar numbers of Morsi supporters took to the streets in several Egyptian governorates Monday night to rally in defense of the president. The Tamarod campaign, boasting over 22 million signatures, has already made its impact, as mounting pressure against the government has caused the resignations of at least six cabinet ministers, including most recently Foreign Minister Mohamed Kamel Amr. Meanwhile, the Salafist al-Nour Party, previously neutral versus the two camps, has announced its support for the opposition. In a private conversation with Egypt’s president, U.S. President Barack Obama urged Morsi to respond to the public’s concerns. Speculation abounds over the military’s intentions and its vaguely-worded position, while Tamarod protestors continue to threaten a campaign of civil disobediance if Morsi fails to comply with the ultimatum.    

Syria

Syrian forces loyal to Bashar al-Assad failed to make progress during the third day of their assault on Homs. Amidst the fighting, members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) urged the U.N. Security Council to convene a meeting aimed at stopping the Syrian regime’s assault on Homs. Representatives of the six GCC states — Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, Oman, and the United Arab Emirates — called on the Security Council to "urgently meet to break the siege on Homs and prevent the Syrian regime and its allies from committing horrific massacres." On Monday, Syrian rebels from the Aleppo province threatened to seize the Shiite Muslim villages of Nubl and Zahra unless residents abandon their support for Assad and surrender to the opposition. This episode underscores the conflict’s increasingly sectarian nature, deepened by Hezbollah’s entrance into the fighting and the emergence of extremist Islamist groups within the opposition.

Headlines

  • A United Arab Emirates court has convicted and imprisoned 68 Islamists accused of plotting to overthrow the government.
  • Three insurgent attacks, including a suicide attack against a Shiite mosque north of Baghdad, killed at least 25 people in Iraq. 

Arguments & Analysis

Egypt: Ruling But Not Governing’ (Steven Cook, From the Potomac to the Euphrates)

"Of all the arresting images that emerged from yesterday’s mass protests in Egypt, the ones that struck me most were those of military helicopters dropping Egyptian flags down to the crowds below.  The Egyptian commanders have been pilloried for many things in the last two and a half years, but for a group of people who eschew politics and maintain thinly veiled contempt for politicians, they are shrewd political operators.  After the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, under Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, sullied the image of the senior officer corps — if not the military itself — the Ministry of Defense is in the strongest position it has been in since February 11, 2011.

In the run-up to the June 30 demonstrations, there was a lot of commentary and speculation about what the military might do.  Would they intervene?  If so, how?  Much of this hinged on the assumption that the protests would produce almost ‘cataclysmic’ violence between the supporters of President Mohammed Morsi and those seeking to drive him and the Muslim Brotherhood from power.  Persistent rumors of various groups arming themselves made the prospect for violence and military intervention pretty much a given. The possibility that June 30 would end in significant bloodshed in Egypt’s streets — beyond the sixteen deaths and almost eight-hundred injuries — also played into an unarticulated strategy on the part of both counter-revolutionary forces embedded within the state and anti-Brotherhood activists to encourage the officers to reset the political system.

Both groups believe that a military intervention would fulfill their specific, but diametrically opposed interests.  For those within the state who have been working diligently to undermine the Brotherhood in virtually every way, the goal is the restoration of the old order. For Egypt’s myriad activists who have coalesced in a profound and at times pathological hatred of Morsi, a ‘do-over’ transition would surely improve their electoral prospects. General Abdelfattah al Sisi and his deputies are not so dim-witted as to fall into the trap the political forces have set for them, however."

Iran, Syria, and the Sectarian Challenge‘ (Suzanne Maloney, Brookings Institution)

"Much of the analysis of Hassan Rouhani’s election as Iran’s next president has focused on the domestic political implications of this unexpected outcome, as well as Rouhani’s prospects for reinvigorating international negotiations on Iran’s nuclear program. These issues are logical fixations for Iranians and Iran-watchers alike; both the internal power struggle and the economic sanctions associated with the nuclear standoff have powerful implications for Iran’s future as well as the lives of ordinary Iranians.

However, Rouhani will confront a broad range of complex issues on his agenda when he is inaugurated early next month. Arguably, the toughest and most urgent amongst these is the horrific conflict in Syria, where Iranian intervention on behalf of Bashar Al Assad has exacerbated the civil war and the intensification of sectarian passions across the region. How Iran’s new president manages its approach to the Syrian crisis will inevitably influence his ability to extricate Iran from its current quagmire of sanctions and isolation. As a result, what happens in Syria may make or break Rouhani’s presidency, and by extension the future stability of the Islamic Republic.

For Tehran, Syria invokes multiple interests: the preservation of its oldest — and for many years, only — Arab ally; its logistical pathway for resupplying its terrorist partners in the Levant and menacing Israel directly; and, increasingly, a fierce assault against the emergence of a haven for hard-line Sunni jihadist groups whose interests and ideology is inimical to the Islamic Republic. As the conflict has morphed from a mass movement advocating greater political freedom to a civil war between an externally-armed insurgency and a brutal regime, Tehran has gradually emerged as a central player in the conflict, providing arms, military advisors, and substantial financial assistance to bolster Bashar Al Assad."

— Joshua Haber