Egyptian Army Provoking Catastrophic Stand-Off

The call by Egypt’s Defence Minister General Abdel Fatah el-Sisi for Egyptians to demonstrate on Friday in order to “give the army and police a mandate" to confront violence and terrorism could be a declaration of war against the Muslim Brotherhood and its supporters.

If it leads to force being used to end their sit-in protest in Rabia al-Adawiya, we will witness another massacre similar to the one that occurred outside the Republican Guard headquarters two weeks ago.

This surprising appeal, the first of its kind in Egyptian political and military history, constitutes a coup against the first coup.

It also concentrates all power in the hands of the military, meaning that the civil Egyptian revolution, which amazed the whole world with its peaceful nature and was supported by the majority of Egyptian people, is over.

It also means that the country will return once again to the rule of military dictatorship.

The primary function of a national army, any army, is to be the army of all people, regardless of political or ideological affiliations, and to stand at the same distance from all political parties and blocs. But Sisi’s call to demonstrate is a departure from all these concepts and threatens the prestige of the military and may even lead to its division, which would be a disaster by any measure, given that the army – or the Egyptian military institution – is the only cohesive body to have remained so during the current period of division and polarization.

I have no doubt that the Egyptian army is facing a conspiracy, possibly hatched behind closed doors in a foreign country, just like the plot that was formed against the Iraqi army in Kuwait.

I would not be surprised if some liberals were involved in this plot, perhaps with the best intentions, perhaps not.

Some liberals, blinded by their hatred of Islamists, especially the Muslim Brotherhood, fail to see the conspiracy that exists against their army and country. They used the army as a magic stick to achieve what they had failed to achieve through the ballot box, namely the ousting of an elected president.

Or maybe what happened was the opposite, and it was the generals exploiting the attitude of the liberals for the same purpose.

This is the first time we have ever seen an army leader calling for the people to mass on the streets to support him. Even the leaders of military coups in Turkey and Pakistan,  or in South American banana republics, did not do so. I don’t know where General al-Sisi got this idea from, or even who inspired him. Was it Dr. Mohammed ElBaradei, the interim vice president?

What I do know is that ‘confronting violence and terrorism’, the title of this appeal, cannot be achieved in this way. The army supposedly already took power to the demonstrations of June 30.

General el-Sisi’s call for people, by demonstrating, to give him a mandate to beat the Muslim Brotherhood with a heavy stick as they carry out their Rabia al-Adawiya sit-in, constitutes a declaration of a state of emergency, which leads us to suppose that it was the army who created the June 30 demonstrations, that it was the army who filmed them, and the army that distributed the footage to the TV stations.

General el-Sisi is now behaving like a president. His call destroys all the measures that were taken to overthrow president Morsi, especially the appointment of Interim President Adly Mansour and Hazim el-Beblawi as Prime Minster. How can we be sure, after today, that these are real leaders and not simply tools in the hands of the army?

There’s no doubt that the Muslim Brotherhood, who have called on their supporters to demonstrate in response to General Sisi’s call, will refuse to peaceably abandon their sit-in in Rabia al-Adawiya. This means that the doors will be open for bloody confrontations that may lead to the killing and wounding of dozens or maybe hundreds of innocent people. Does confronting violence and terrorism mean using such means?

Paradoxically, the Muslim Brotherhood will emerge from this crisis as the biggest winner. Whatever the results may be, they will be the oppressed party and the victim, the victim of the first military coup that overthrew their elected president, and the victim of the second military coup that ended or will end their peaceful sit-in. A sit-in that only calls for the re-instatement of President Morsi, their man, who was properly elected and illegally toppled.

The liberals, who led the chant for an end to military rule during the interim period following Mubarak's demise, will end up being the biggest losers. They used the military coup to involve the army in their political crisis – or the opposite (the army used the liberals). We can see the evidence of the former, the involvement of the army, but can’t see evidence of the latter. I never wished them to end up like this, standing in the shade of the army tanks.

The Muslim Brotherhood and their supporters, whether we agree or disagree with them, represent the majority of the Egyptian people, and excluding, isolating or even confronting them with army and police tanks would be a catastrophic mistake. It would mean sparking a civil war which would be costly for Egypt, its people and its security.

I am worried that the Egyptian army has been dragged into a dangerous conspiracy just like its Iraqi and Syrian counterparts, and the Algerian military before that.

Arabs need strong armies, but not for use against their own people. I hope that those with wisdom inside the army act to rescue it immediately, while the chance is still there.

Egypt, and I hope I’m wrong, is about to lose its security and stability, as well as losing its democratic dream, and go back to the era of Mubarak’s regime or maybe even worse. I am not exaggerating when say it’s on the brink of losing its military institution, all the while facing a plot to lose its water via Ethiopian dams.

I do not support the Muslim Brotherhood and never will. For the millionth time, I support a strong and stable Egypt. I support a democratic Egypt ruled by the ballot box and free, popular elections.

I support Egypt as a leading regional and international power. Therefore I am completely against putting the army in confrontation with people, or any part of it, under any pretext. This is an army for all Egyptians and all Arabs, and with its loyalty and prominent role in protecting both Arab and Islamic nations, it will remain our pride.

I hope that General al-Sisi retracts his call, initiates dialogue and stops listening to his advisors who are pushing Egypt into a dark tunnel without any light at the end – because it would indeed be without end. Those who want peace and security in Egypt should avoid confrontation and look instead for solutions, but unfortunately we don’t see General el-Sisi adopting this approach.