On July 3, the Egyptian military forcefully removed the first democratically elected civilian president in Egypt. Mohammed Morsi was removed after a protracted demonstration against his regime by millions of frustrated Egyptians. The Defense Minister, General Abdul Fattah Al-Sisi had warned Morsi of the impending action if he does not find a timely and satisfactory solution to the differences with his opponents. Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood rode to power on the back of a popular revolution that overthrew Egypt's long time tyrant, Hosni Mubarak.
Since Morsi and the brotherhood came to power under the Freedom and Justice Party platform, tensions have increased in Egyptian society. There has been increased strife between Christians and Muslims. Christians are terrified and are emigrating in large numbers to the United States and Europe. The plan of the Brotherhood was to drive all Christians out of Egypt as happened in Iraq after Saddam Hussein's overthrow. The economy was in a free fall because foreign investors were scarred to invest and wealthy Arab nations like Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and The United Arab Emirates with held their financial assistance to Egypt. Tourists stayed away because of insecurity and uncertainty. Unemployment was skyrocketing and prices of basic commodities were getting beyond the reach of the average citizen.
Moreover, Morsi was issuing bizarre decrees and gradually concentrating power in his hands, setting the stage for another dictatorship. Nobody knew how governmental decisions were made and transparency was thrown out of the window. The founder of the Muslim Brotherhood, Hassan Al Banna had articulated a one party theocracy for Egypt, millions of Egyptians were beginning to believe that Morsi and the Brotherhood were slowly dragging them towards Theocratic State. Egypt is an Islamic nation, but Egyptians do not want an Islamic or a theocratic state. In addition, Morsi was trying to drag Egypt into the Syrian quagmire, and the army was very nervous about that. Hence the stage for confrontation was set.
After all is said and done, strategic errors made by Morsi and the Brotherhood led to their down fall. First, as a civilian, Morsi should have avoided an early confrontation with the leadership of the army. The manner in which he removed Marshall Tantawi and the military leadership that handed over power to him did not sit well with the army. He should have left Tantawi as Minister of defense until he consolidates power. This is a consequence of inexperience and proved costly. Secondly, he promised to appoint a Christian as a Vice President but reneged on that promise. That alienated the Christian population and deepened the mistrust between Christians and Muslims. Third, the moderate Gulf states led by Saudi Arabia and Kuwait were not comfortable with a radical Brotherhood regime in Egypt and saw it as a threat to their own governments. Their reaction was to with hold economic assistance to Egypt, thereby exacerbating economic difficulties. Fourth, Morsi and the Brotherhood became too comfortable and failed to take a lesson from the past.
In the 1940's, the British prevented the founder of the Brotherhood Hassan AL Banna from taking a seat in parliament after he was elected, and in the 1990's the Algerian army prevented an Islamic party from taking power after it won an election. This action led to a brutal civil war. Fifth, Morsi failed to learn that no far reaching social and political transformation can take place in a any country with the old order still in place. The army is always a representative of the old order. You cannot build a new order on the back of the old order. The old order must be swept away. Allende in Chile and Mossadegh in Iran made the same mistakes and paid the price. Khomeini and the Mullahs in Iran learnt that lesson and are still in power.
Now that the deed has been done, what is next for Egypt?. The army has been careful to project its action as a “corrective action” backed by popular will, not a classic coup. It has quickly assembled a civilian caretaker government under the Presidency of Adly Mansour, a Mubarak era judge. In order to assure Egypt's friends in the United States and Europe, Mansour has appointed Mohammed el Baradei, former Chief of the Atomic Energy Commission as Vice President for foreign affairs. The Egyptian army receives about $1.5 billion from the United States annually and will lose this assistance if Washington sees the military action as a coup.
However, the United States and other European nations are quietly sympathetic to the Egyptian army. The United States is going ahead to supply Egypt with the f-16 jets that were in the pipeline before Morsi's overthrow. Moreover, since Morsi's fall, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates have pledged a sum of $12.1 billion dollars to the new regime. This is the money they with held from the Brotherhood regime.
The dust has not yet settled in Egypt. The possibility of civil war in Egypt is real. Brotherhood inspired Muslims are accusing Christians of being behind the overthrow of a Muslim ruler, and are instigating attacks on Christians. Unlike before, Christians have vowed to fight back. The Brotherhood have refused to join the Mansour caretaker government and may likely go underground and start a violent confrontation with the army. They are well organized and well armed. They have turned violent before under Nasser, Sadat and Mubarak and could do it again.
However, one thing is clear-majority of Egyptians are proud to belong to an Islamic nation but do not want a theocratic state. And the Christian minority are glad that attempts by the Brotherhood to Iraqinize them have been prematurely aborted by the army.
*Dr. Leonard Madu is President of the African Caribbean Institute and African Chamber of Commerce. He is also a Fox TV foreign affairs analyst and writes from Nashville, TN.