“With the overthrow of Morsi by the army on 3 July and the massacre of Muslim Brotherhood followers on 14 August, the Egyptian army is gambling that it can win an outright victory and crush the Brotherhood, eliminating it permanently from Egyptian political life,” Patrick Cockburn writes in The Independent.

Too much blood has been spilled to make compromise feasible. It seems unlikely that the army would ever cede power back to the Muslim Brotherhood leaders it had imprisoned, and those leaders were not going to recognize the legitimacy of a military coup against a legally elected government. The suggestions made in early August about how the crisis might be resolved seem impossible to apply to Egypt altogether.

Ten generals and two police commanders from the Mubarak era now serve as provincial governors. Many of the predictions about the trajectory of Egyptian politics since the beginning of 2011 have been debunked by subsequent events, Cockburn writes. Expert sages gazing into their crystal balls were “over-influenced by the assumption that protagonists will act in their own best interests.” Morsi had convinced himself, “against compelling evidence to the contrary, that the Egyptian armed forces had accepted a subsidiary role so long as their interests were protected. By policies of sustained ineptitude Morsi and the Brotherhood forced together a strange and awkward alliance against themselves of officials from Mubarak’s police state, the military establishment, anti-Mubarak leftists and liberals, businessmen, Copts, intelligentsia and even Salafists.”

That alliance was doomed from the start, Cockburn continues. Copts could see that they would be safer under a military regime than under Morsi and the Brotherhood. Businessmen could foresee enormous subsidies under an authoritarian government, and liberals, leftists and the intelligentsia who believed the army would share power with others forgot or never heard Lenin’s dismissal of a suggestion that he do the same. The person who gave that advice, he said, showed “a sweet naivety which would be touching in a child but is repulsive in a person who has not yet been certified as feeble-minded.”

Morsi and the Brotherhood mistakenly assumed they could make revolutionary changes in Egyptian leadership while “expecting their opponents to be restrained by the letter of the law and a controversial constitution.”

“The Brotherhood’s rhetoric was radical enough to frighten opponents without diminishing their power to act,” Cockburn continues. “Its leaders now complain that it is unfair to blame them for failing to tackle Egypt’s appalling economic and social problems such as mass poverty, unemployment and inflation because the civil service was virtually on strike from the moment Morsi became president. This is undoubtedly true but the non-cooperation of the bureaucracy and the security services should have been a hint to the Brotherhood of the real weakness of their position.”

The army is now “closing in for the kill.” The Brotherhood has been demonized as “terrorists,” propaganda on official media is “hate-filled” and “mendacious.” Most Brotherhood members are peaceful and unarmed, as the casualties they suffered at the pro-Morsi rallies that were brutally dispersed show. This while a Foreign Ministry spokesman claimed demonstrators “are raising al-Qa’ida flags in the heart of Cairo. They are using machine guns against civilians.”

“In other words,” Cockburn concludes, “there is going to be a fight to the finish with both sides believing the other has bitten off more than it can chew. The army and security forces control most of the instruments of power and are very unlikely to lose, but can they emerge as an outright and conclusive winner? For all their expressions of dismay at last week’s bloodbath, the US and the EU states were so mute and mealy-mouthed about criticising the 3 July coup as to make clear that they prefer the military to the Brotherhood. Given that 500 Egyptian military officers a year — including General Sisi and the air force head General Reda Mahmoud — train in the US they will be well-attuned to what America wants or will accept. … Egyptians will be lucky if they are not at the start of a new dark age of military repression.”

— Posted by Alexander Reed Kelly.

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