Egypt's Brotherhood is panicking, Western capitals are confused

Dina Ezzat, Monday 1 Jul 2013

Western capitals were surprised by the scale of Sunday's anti-Morsi protests; Washington may be forced to drop President Morsi like it did Mubarak

Fire works are seen over hundreds of thousands of Egyptians gathering in Tahrir Square during a demonstration against Egypt's Islamist President Mohammed Morsi in Cairo Sunday, June 30, 2013 (Photo: AP)

“I want to tell the US administration: you are so fake because when you talk about democracy you don’t really mean it. You supported [ousted President Hosni] Mubarak for 30 years because he was serving your interests and when you found someone else [President Mohamed Morsi] who could serve these interests you decided to support him – against the will of the population,” said Madiha, a woman in her 30s protesting near the presidential palace in Heliopolis on Sunday.

Wearing a headscarf in the colours of the Egyptian flag, Madiha, a pharmacist, said that she could not believe “the stupidity of the Americans. They are making the same mistakes; they are siding with the dictator and I am sure that in a few days they will realise they've made a mistake and they will try to convince us that they were on our side. But this time it will not work.”

Madiha and her friends were marching among endless crowds expressing their anger against President Mohamed Morsi who was celebrating his first year in office.

There were even larger demonstrators in Tahrir Square and elsewhere across the nation. For Western diplomats in Cairo and in Western capitals, especially Washington, it was a surprise to see millions of demonstrators demanding a premature end to the four-year term of Morsi, the Muslim Brother who made it "from prison to palace."

In the words of one European diplomat in Cairo, “This is so much bigger than what we anticipated. I mean even bigger than we were anticipating yesterday [Saturday] when it was becoming clear that the demonstrations would be bigger than we had anticipated,” she said.

Speaking before the marches that began at sunset, she added, “At the end of the day, and despite what we had expected, we will have to come around and acknowledge the choices made by the Egyptian people.”

Until last week, Washington was under the impression that "nothing really big is expected in Cairo" and only a few thousand middle class people who had never liked the Muslim Brotherhood would show up.

By sunset in Cairo, the number of demonstrators was growing and according to Ahram Online sources there was an extended debate in Washington over whether or not the US should go beyond the "we are concerned and all parties must talk" comments adopted by US President Barack Obama two days ago, or if the line should be to "wait and see" the outcome to make sure that it was not a one-day show of strength by Mubarak regime remnants.

“[The US] is confused; they are not sure what to predict simply because nobody knows how things will unfold. I think when it becomes clearer that the people will stick to their demands and the number of demonstrators will not decline in the next few days, then one can expect a shift of the announced position from the US – especially because it seems clear the army is not going to turn against the people,” one Washington-based foreign diplomat said.

Several Western capitals have been asking the Muslim Brotherhood leadership for their reaction. For the most part the Islamist group's reaction has been three-fold: the volume of demonstrators is bound to decline; there are also demonstrators supporting Morsi; it will take a few days before the whole matter is defused; and Morsi is capable of getting over this difficult period as he did last autumn when he was faced with demonstrations over the constitutional declaration.

But according to Western diplomats, the Muslim Brotherhood leadership does not sound comfortable. “Actually, they tell us they will have the upper hand but they don’t sound it at all,” said a Cairo-based Western diplomat.

Speaking to Ahram Online, some Brotherhood members reiterated the traditional line that the “Muslim Brotherhood does not interfere in the affairs of the presidency,” but added that there would be more demonstrations in support of President Morsi in the coming days.

So far, Morsi supporters have only been protesting in Cairo's Nasr City. This offers a striking contrast to the protests against Morsi in almost every governorate.

For the Brotherhood members who spoke to Ahram Online, these demonstrators are to the credit of Morsi because it shows a truly democratic president who does not oppress protestors like Mubarak did.

“Yes, we feel safe of course and that is why we are here with our children and wives,” said Hassan, an engineer in his 40s demonstrating against President Morsi outside the presidential palace on Sunday. “It is very obvious from everything the police and army have been saying during the past few days that demonstrators would be safe.”

Hassan‘s words were interrupted by an SMS from a friend in Tahrir Square. He read it and announced “army helicopters flying over Tahrir Square are dropping Egyptian flags; it is a sign that we will have our way.”

He added, “Yes, we will have our way and the Americans and everybody else will have to agree because their interests are with the people. It was clear by what they did with Mubarak who had been their obedient servant all the time.”

A merger between the will of the people and the army is something Washington would have to heed. In the words of an Egyptian diplomat, “Perhaps there will come a moment when the Americans will decide that it is in their interests to speed up and support the demonstrators, especially because there are indications that Jihadists are already creating unrest in Sinai – this is the red line that Israel, and therefore the Americans, will not allow anyone to pass.”


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