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Egyptian Military Tries to Restore Order

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With time ticking away on the military's ultimatum to President Morsi, political machinations are happening behind the scenes as different factions try and carve out space in Egypt’s uncertain political future. Military sources leaked a draft of the military’s potential roadmap for the future. The roadmap could reportedly involve the suspension of the constitution, the dissolution of the Islamist-dominated Parliament and rule by an interim governing council until new elections can be held. The leak is most likely the military testing the waters to see if it represents a palatable solution to Egypt’s competing political forces. Going forward, the military will continue to try and satisfy all sides as it seeks to bring calm and order back to the country. 

After a brief lull in the action Tuesday morning in part due to hot summer weather, Egyptians have returned to demonstrate in the streets. The Tamarod movement has called for protests across the nation, including at presidential palaces in Cairo and at the now-iconic Tahrir Square. Perhaps most important is the group’s announcement that it authorized Constitution Party President Mohamed ElBaradei to represent the movement in negotiations, demonstrating the opposition knows it must maintain cohesion and discipline if it is to be successful. Meanwhile, pro-Morsi forces are also rallying across the country to express solidarity with the embattled president.

Pressure has continued to build on Morsi since the military’s ultimatum; Cabinet ministers have resigned, and the judiciary took the opportunity to rule against Morsi’s prosecutor general appointment. Even so, it is important to remember that both Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood are not without leverage of their own. The Muslim Brotherhood remains a potent political force in the country. It remains to be seen how many people the Brotherhood will be able to organize in protests and demonstrations in the coming hours, but even so it has already demonstrated the support of tens of thousands of supporters. How many protesters show up will dictate the degree of its leverage in backroom political negotiations, but that the Brotherhood has influence is not in question. It is in this context that reports that Morsi met with Prime Minister Hesham Kandil and Defense Minister Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Sisi on July 2 – it is behind the scenes political negotiation.

It is likely that Morsi will have to leave office at some point – that has been the most salient demand of the protesters since their start. But the military has been very clear publicly that it does not want to stage a coup, nor does it want to be solely responsible for the daily governance of the Egyptian state. The military is stuck between trying to satisfy all the various constituents: It wants to be seen as responding to the protesters in the streets in such a way that will restore calm and stability, but it also does not want to forcibly remove Morsi in such a way that would ignite widespread Islamist anger. The military also has its own interests at stake, but if the leaks of its drafted roadmap are any indication, it may have no choice but to suspend the constitution and rebuild some of the system from scratch to maintain its image of legitimacy.

But the military is also preparing for any eventuality. There have been reports that armored vehicles, central security forces and military troops are preparing to intervene, should clashes between pro- and anti-Morsi protesters get out of hand. For now, the military’s ultimatum may hold these forces back from clashing; the focus now turns to how large the protests get on both sides tonight, and whether the military’s plans can satisfy a critical mass of the Egyptian population when the ultimatum runs out tomorrow.

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