Sunday 24 September 2017

Coup or not, the military is now running the country

Robert Fisk

The army's in charge. Call it a coup, if you like. But the Egyptian military – or the infamous "Supreme Council of the Armed Forces" as we must again call it – is now running Egypt. By threat at first – then with armour on the streets of Cairo. Roads blocked. Barbed wire. Troops round the radio station. Mohammed Morsi – at the time still the president – may have labelled it a "coup" but long before we saw the soldiers in the city, Morsi was pleading with the generals to return to barracks. Ridiculous – the generals didn't have to leave their barracks to put the fear of God into his collapsing administration.

Morsi talked of shedding his blood. So did the army. Miserable was it to behold a free people applaud a military intervention, though Morsi's opponents would claim their freedoms have been betrayed. But they are now encouraging soldiers to take the place of politicians. Both sides may wave the Egyptian flag, which is red, white and black. The colour of khaki is no substitute.

Nor will the Brotherhood disappear, whatever Morsi's fate. The best-organised political party in Egypt knows how to survive in adversity. The Brotherhood is the most misunderstood institution in modern Egyptian history. Far from being an Islamist party, its roots were always right-wing not religious.

Even when the 2011 revolution was at its height and millions of anti-Mubarak demonstrators had pushed into Tahrir Square, the Brotherhood was busy trying to negotiate with Mubarak. The Brotherhood's leadership never stood alongside the people during Egypt's uprising.

Even Nasser's war with the Brotherhood was less about religion than security; the leadership of the original Free Officers Movement found that the Brotherhood was the only party able to infiltrate the army – a lesson which today's generals have taken to heart. If the Muslim Brotherhood is banned again – as it was under Nasser, Sadat and Mubarak – it will not lose its support within the armed forces. Sadat was assassinated by a non-Brotherhood Islamist, Khaled el-Islambouli, but he was also a lieutenant in the Egyptian army.

Sayyed Qutub, the Brotherhood's leader, attacked Nasser for leading his people back into a pre-Islamic age of ignorance but the party was more exercised by Egypt's growing relationship with the Soviet Union. Qutub was hanged. But persecuted, officially banned, the party learned how to organise, politically, socially, even militarily. And so when real elections are held, they win.

The army, as they say, belongs to the people. In 2011, the "people" were against Mubarak. Now, the "people" are against each other. Can the Egyptian army stand between the two when they themselves now come from the "people" on both sides? (© Independent News Service)

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