In Egypt General al-Sisi is at a loss – but a massacre on Eid would bring too much infamy

The Brotherhood doesn't want to play by the army's script

Share
Related Topics

No Muslim general wants to go down in history as the author of the Eid Massacre. That’s why many Egyptians last night suspected that their supposedly “interim” government’s self-declared failure to end the crisis with their Muslim Brotherhood enemies might still not be the ultimate collapse.

Abdul Fatah al-Sisi may be a very jolly general indeed – after all, he created this wondrous administration with himself as deputy prime minister – but sending in his goons against hundreds of thousands of Muslim worshippers on the eve of the feast marking the final day of Ramadan is not likely to commend itself to Egyptians, let alone to the Americans who supply the military with $1.5bn a year.

Of course, this may be a little naive. Armed, as he thinks he is, with the ‘people’s’ mandate, perhaps General al-Sisi thinks he can get away with corpses in the streets this week. But he has shown himself a patient man, and his ‘interim’ government’s assurance that it would still welcome international help to resolve the conflict suggests that he has not yet reached the point of no return. US deputy secretary of state William Burns – a diplomat who brings failure along in his brief case –may have departed, but the military are still trying to absorb John McCain’s description of their July 3 antics as a “coup”. Rarely has the Muslim Brotherhood had such American diplomatic support – and the Qataris are very frustrated that they were not allowed to meet Mohamed Morsi.

The trouble is that Morsi was the elected president, and when – apparently to his own great surprise – he was overthrown by the army (or the ‘popular will of the people’, depending on your point of view), his supporters simply had no plans for the future save for their demand that Morsi be reinstalled. So they blocked the roads of Cairo. General al-Sisi, assuming that the Brotherhood would tire of this tactic after a few days in the summer sun and a few mini-massacres, is now suffering the conundrum of all generals who find that their enemy doesn’t want to play by their script.

The Brotherhood knows al-Sisi does not want a mass slaughter. Al-Sisi knows the Americans do not want a mass slaughter. Perhaps some sort of ‘people power’ can be organised – now there’s a thought – to drive the Brotherhood away and leave the army unspattered with Brotherhood blood. After all, a lot of the snipers who have shot down Morsi’s supporters these last five weeks have been unidentified. But there are too many foreign diplomats, NGOs and journalists sniffing around for that to work on a large scale.

So which is more important? The will of ‘the people’ – those who hate Morsi – or the steadfastness of the Brotherhood for whom martyrdom (often in Egyptian prisons) has long been a characteristic? What about the dignity of the Egyptian army? About to set sail aboard his royal ship of exile, the ‘al-Mahrussa’ in 1952, King Farouk turned to the officers who had dethroned him. “Look after the army,” he told General Mohamed Naguib, soon to be deposed by Colonel Gamal-Abdul Nasser. Everyone loves the army.

And the Egyptian army rather loves itself. Its vast and obscenely bloated investments in real estate, banking and industry make this one of the richest Arab armies in one of the poorest Arab countries. It’s hardly in their interest to start a mini-war in the streets of Cairo. But the Brotherhood itself is bloated with arrogance, its record in power – with Morsi as their cypher – hardly worthy of the support of the ‘people’.

It’s worth remembering at this critical moment that Morsi’s government rejected proposals for free elections for trade unions, one of the principle definitions of any industrial democracy. John McCain may have identified the coup that overthrew Morsi, but he could scarcely claim that the Brotherhood were for the working man. Well, all this may be water under the Nile Bridge by this morning. But many probably hope the debate will go on– and that we shall see further foreigners arriving to ‘save’ Egypt.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

IT Teacher

£22000 - £33000 per annum: Randstad Education Leeds: ICT TeacherLeedsRandstad ...

Graduate C#.NET Developer (TDD, ASP.NET, SQL)

Negotiable: Harrington Starr: Graduate C#.NET Developer (TDD, ASP.NET, SQL) Su...

Junior SQL DBA (SQL Server 2012, T-SQL, SSIS) London - Finance

£30000 - £33000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Junior SQL DBA...

C# Web Developer (ASP.NET, JavaScript, MVC-4, HTML5) London

£35000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Web Develop...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Ukip leader Farage with former Tory MP Carswell, who has defected to his party  

Could Douglas Carswell be a Trotskyite in disguise?

John Rentoul
Richard Attenborough, who died on 25 August, attends a film premiere  

Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough? Was the beloved thespian the last of the cross-generation stars?

DJ Taylor
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

As the collections start, fashion editor Alexander Fury finds video and the internet are proving more attractive
Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy

Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall...

... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy
Weekend at the Asylum: Europe's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln

Europe's biggest steampunk convention

Jake Wallis Simons discovers how Victorian ray guns and the martial art of biscuit dunking are precisely what the 21st century needs
Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Lying is dangerous and unnecessary. A new book explains the strategies needed to avoid it. John Rentoul on the art of 'uncommunication'
Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough? Was the beloved thespian the last of the cross-generation stars?

Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough?

The atomisation of culture means that few of those we regard as stars are universally loved any more, says DJ Taylor
She's dark, sarcastic, and bashes life in Nowheresville ... so how did Kacey Musgraves become country music's hottest new star?

Kacey Musgraves: Nashville's hottest new star

The singer has two Grammys for her first album under her belt and her celebrity fans include Willie Nelson, Ryan Adams and Katy Perry
American soldier-poet Brian Turner reveals the enduring turmoil that inspired his memoir

Soldier-poet Brian Turner on his new memoir

James Kidd meets the prize-winning writer, whose new memoir takes him back to the bloody battles he fought in Iraq
Aston Villa vs Hull match preview: Villa were not surprised that Ron Vlaar was a World Cup star

Villa were not surprised that Vlaar was a World Cup star

Andi Weimann reveals just how good his Dutch teammate really is
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef ekes out his holiday in Italy with divine, simple salads

Bill Granger's simple Italian salads

Our chef presents his own version of Italian dishes, taking in the flavours and produce that inspired him while he was in the country
The Last Word: Tumbleweed through deserted stands and suites at Wembley

The Last Word: Tumbleweed through deserted stands and suites at Wembley

If supporters begin to close bank accounts, switch broadband suppliers or shun satellite sales, their voices will be heard. It’s time for revolution