Army Coup in Egypt -- History Repeating

By Ariel Ben Solomon

An ultimatum issued by the army to Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi to reach a solution with the opposition within 48 hours increases the likelihood of a military intervention, since the opposition now has little motivation to negotiate with the regime, and will instead increase the intensity of its protests as it runs out the clock.

In fact, a clock winding down until Wednesday appears on Egyptian TV, according to reports.

The situation parallels a sporting match, where one team has taken the last second lead and holds the ball, wasting the remaining time so that they will win. Now that the army has set a concrete deadline for intervention, there is little chance a reconciliation will be found.

The Muslim Brotherhood leadership has its back against the wall, though with strong US support, Morsi may be able to weather the storm. An aide to Morsi was quoted stating as much - that a coup would only go forward with American approval - thus signaling that it was counting on the American support to restrain the military.

"Obviously we feel this is a military coup," the aide said according to a report by the British Guardian. "But the conviction within the presidency is that [the coup] won't be able to move forward without American approval."

Prof. Khaled Fahmy, from the American University in Cairo, wrote on his Facebook page on Monday that the Muslim Brotherhood - along with its backers in the West - committed a number of critical errors in the lead-up to the current standoff.

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Fahmy argues that the regime's leadership went too far in pursuing power at the expense of any sense of cooperation with the large opposition that voted against Morsi in the last elections. Not only that, but the efforts by the government to blame the country's ills on the opposition and feloul - a derogatory slang word used to reference remnants of former president Hosni Mubarak's regime - proved to be a major blunder, said Fahmy.

"I believe the Muslim Brotherhood is dead," he bluntly concluded.

If Abel-Fattah el-Sisi - defense minister and commander in chief of the Egyptian Armed Forces - decides to take full power, it would not be the first time that Egypt experienced a coup.

In 1952, Gamal Abdel Nasser, a strong nationalist leader of the Free Officers Movement, overthrew King Farouk and then moved to abolish the constitutional monarchy, leading to a series of dictators that came from the army as well.

Prof. Barry Rubin, director of the GLORIA Center and a columnist for The Jerusalem Post, told the Post that the statement released by the military on Monday seems to favor the opposition.

"The army does not want to take power, but are only doing this because they think it is a necessity," said Rubin. He said that the army now has two basic options: Hold talks for a certain amount of time, leaving Morsi in power temporarily to avoid overthrowing the government, or, take control again.

On the other side, noted Rubin, there will likely be violence from the Muslim Brotherhood and its Islamist supporters, as they "are not going to go quietly."

"The army does not want a civil war," he said.

"They do not want a repetition of what happened in Algeria," referring to the military coup that took place as Islamists were on their way to win the elections. The resulting civil war claimed the lives of hundreds of thousands of people.

Regarding the repercussions of a coup, Rubin said he believes the new military regime would give less support to Hamas, as the organization would back the Brotherhood in any civil war.

Perhaps anticipating future violence, the army has reportedly shut down activity in around 95 percent of the tunnels between Gaza and Egypt, according to a report in the Saudi Gazette.

Rubin also predicts that US President Barack Obama's administration may end up going along with a coup, and a possible US statement will probably call for a return to democracy and elections as soon as possible.

The US should quickly move to give aide to the new military regime, Rubin said, which would be much closer to Western powers than the current government.

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