In the days following the ouster of Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi and his stock of Muslim Brotherhood appointees, a number of curious things have happened. Egypt suddenly came into a ton of money in the form of billions of dollars in aid, loans, and grants from other Arab countries. The U.S. has all-but-assured its military aid is safe. And, in a stunning turn, Egyptian police are suddenly back on the street and gas lines have disappeared.
Seeing these events as a conspiracy led by the Egyptian military, the Muslim Brotherhood is stepping up its efforts to get Mohamed Morsi back into power. The group’s first step, following a surge of violence in which dozens of Egyptians were killed after Morsi’s ouster, has been to distance itself from the recent violence as the military presses for the arrests of Muslim Brotherhood members seen as sowers of insurrection.
The Brotherhood statement came a day after arrest warrants were issued for the group’s spiritual leader, Mohammed Badie, and nine other Islamists accused of inciting violence after deadly clashes — the latest moves by the new military-backed government as it tries to choke off the group’s campaign to reinstate Morsi.
“We will continue our peaceful resistance to the bloody military coup against constitutional legitimacy,” the Brotherhood said. “We trust that the peaceful and popular will of the people shall triumph over force and oppression.”
The group is also aiming to capitalize on the ideological variegations within the military itself to make headway. While the Egyptian military has a venerated status in the country, as Eric Trager points out, there are still ways for the Muslim Brotherhood to maneuver.
First, the Brothers doubt that the military is unified in favor of the ongoing crackdown. They see the possibility of fragmentation within the military’s ranks if the generals escalate violence further. Although the thinking of the Egyptian military below the top generals is rather opaque, recent history validates the Brothers’ gamble. After all, one of the more plausible theories about the military’s failure to order a crackdown on Tahrir Square during the 2011 uprising is that soldiers stationed in the Square would have refused, creating chaos. Whether there are many Muslim Brotherhood sympathizers within the military — and it’s impossible to know if there are — Egypt’s military leaders always face the risk that soldiers, who are drafted through universal conscription, will refuse to fire on their fellow countrymen. The Muslim Brotherhood also believes that it does have allies within the military who would try to prevent a total assault against the group.
The other thing the Muslim Brotherhood has going for it, which has proven to be not so useful in governance, is that (as Trager points out) the group is thought to be a quarter-million strong and pretty ideologically driven to return to power. As in, that willing to lay down their lives kind of stubborn. We shouldn’t expect that they will fold quite so easily.