The Middle East Channel

Morsi defiant as deadline approaches

Morsi defiant as deadline approaches

Facing mounting pressure and the end of the military’s 48 hour deadline, Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi delivered a defiant speech Tuesday evening firmly rejecting calls for his resignation and declaring himself the country’s "guardian of legitimacy." Hours before the deadline, Defense Minister Abdel Fatah al-Sisi has convened a crisis meeting with top military commanders to discuss the country’s developments and prepare for a path forward. Opposition leader Mohamed El Baradei, the grand sheikh of al-Azhar, and the Coptic pope are also reportedly meeting with top military commanders today. Egyptian military sources report that the generals have already devised a plan to enforce their 48 hour deadline. Elaborating on their "roadmap" to "fulfill the people’s demands," the generals announced on Tuesday their intention to suspend the existing constitution, appoint a "committee of experts" to draft a new charter,  form a three-member interim presidential council led by the chief of the constitutional court, and insert a military figure as interim prime minister. Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of anti-Morsi protesters took to the streets for the third consecutive day to demand the president’s "removal or resignation," while Morsi’s Islamist supporters held massive rallies throughout the country. Morsi’s defiant stand, combined with unrelenting public pressure and the military’s alleged plan to enforce the deadline, portends a looming confrontation with the potential to unseat Egypt’s president by the day’s end.

Syria

Syrian government forces dropped leaflets over the northern province of Idlib on Wednesday urging rebels to surrender in the face of an impending regime offensive. Forces loyal to Bashar al-Assad continue to launch military offensives to retake rebel-controlled areas. On Tuesday, armed clashes in Aleppo, Homs, and elsewhere killed at least 40 civilians and 70 combatants (both regime and opposition fighters), according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.  In Brunei, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov to discuss plans to hold an international peace conference on Syria – but major differences persist between Russia and the United States. A weakened Syrian opposition, continued regime offensives against key rebel strongholds, and the heightened involvement of Hezbollah and Iran in Syria have dimmed prospects for negotiations.

Headlines

  • A series of insurgent attacks in mostly Shiite areas killed at least 49 Iraqis on Tuesday, heightening fears of renewed sectarian violence.
  • Iranian President-Elect Hassan Rouhani urged the government and clergy to cease interference in the private lives of individuals, reduce internet restrictions, and increase the openness of state media. 

Arguments & Analysis

The Egyptian Military’s Playbook‘ (Jeff Martini, RAND Corporation)

"An intervention absent Islamist support would risk an Algeria-like scenario, in which the military’s overturning of an Islamist electoral victory led to a civil war that embroiled the country throughout the 1990s. To mitigate against the possibility of a violent response, the military could try to coax the Muslim Brotherhood to the bargaining table with the opposition. Failing that, it could try reach out to Islamists from outside the Muslim Brotherhood, such as the Salafists, or breakaway groups, such as the Strong Egypt and Center parties.

Second, if the officer corps learned anything from leading the political transition in 2011 and 2012, it is that a go-it-alone approach pushes the public to lay all its grievances on the military’s doorstop. This time, the generals could not rule by fiat with only the window dressing of a civilian government. Instead, they would need to form an actual caretaker government — with explicitly defined authorities and representation from across Egypt’s ideological spectrum — that could oversee affairs before new elections.

Building a real caretaker government is easier said than done. There are few consensus figures in Egyptian politics today. Abdel Moneim Abu al-Futuh, who was a Muslim Brotherhood stalwart and presidential candidate last year, has revolutionary credentials and boasts some cross-ideological appeal. But he is also one of the more vocal critics of military rule. Another option would be the al-Nour party. Although it sits to the right of the Muslim Brotherhood in its politics, it has tried to play an intermediary role between the Muslim Brotherhood and the NSF. But al-Nour would be anathema to many secular Egyptians. As for the antagonists, the Muslim Brotherhood has no interest in sharing power with the opposition, which it continues to see as a small minority trying to overthrow an elected leader. At any rate, any division of the cake is likely to lead to squabbling within the non-Islamist bloc that is, for the moment, united only by its contempt for the Islamists."

Can Morsi, Brotherhood Survive?‘ (Bassem Sabry, Al-Monitor)

"It is quite an image to fathom or comprehend. One year ago, Morsi stood in the center of Tahrir Square with relatively minimal protection, opening his jacket to cheering crowds in the ultra-packed square to show them that he wore no bulletproof vest, as he knew he was safe among them. The crowd was visibly a diverse one, even if the Islamist presence was somewhat expectedly predominant. Still, it represented the wide multi-ideological revolutionary coalition that allowed Morsi his slim margin of victory of just 51.7% against his opponent. And despite how many in Tahrir Square and elsewhere were apprehensive of the idea of a Muslim Brotherhood president, there was still a general willingness to give him a chance, and to be proven wrong in suspicions or preconceived notions. The media was also ostensibly willing to be positively surprised. By early November, it seemed as if Morsi was turning out to be at least more capable than expected, and he could end up succeeding in making a mark as a local and international statesman.

Today, no one even knows for sure where Morsi is right now. In fact, there are even claims that Morsi, presidency staffers and Muslim Brotherhood leaders are banned from travel by the military. The country has seen what were certainly the largest protests ever in its history — and in the region — on June 30, and it is set for massive protests again on July 2, with Egyptians demanding Morsi resigns in favor of early presidential elections. The military has issued a statement giving 48 hours for the ‘people’s demands’ to be met before it comes out with a ‘road map’ of its own, while somehow stressing that it also will not go back into ‘the circle of governance.’ Military choppers sporting Egyptian flags continued to circle Tahrir in what seemed to be a direct message of support to roaring crowds. And throughout the day on July 1, following the military’s statement, people walked with flags in hand in the streets or hang them from their apartment buildings and honked at cars and passersby, even more so than on June 30."

– Joshua Haber