Egypt's Morsi should be worried

Rick Moran
Whose side is the Egyptian army on?

The Tahrir crowd roared approval when an army helicopter hovering overhead dropped Egyptian flags on the protesters. The military source said the move was intended to encourage patriotism and was not a gesture of political support.

The army also gave an eye-popping estimate of the crowds who turned out for demonstrations across the country:


A military source said as many as 14 million people in this nation of 84 million took part in Sunday's demonstrations in sweltering heat. There was no independent way to verify that estimate, which seemed implausibly high, but the armed forces used helicopters to monitor the crowds.

And then, there was the unthinkable; an attack on the Muslim Brotherhood headquarters:

Militants hurling petrol bombs and rocks and firing shotguns attacked the Brotherhood's national headquarters in a Cairo suburb, sending flames billowing from the main entrance. There was no sign of police protection or fire fighters.

"No sign" of police or firefighters? At the main headquarters of the political party in power? Gee...you'd think the police and army were taking sides or something.

Things have gotten so bad in Egypt that President Morsi may find himself in exactly the same position that former dictator President Mubarak found himself; either fire on the protestors or pack up and leave.

But Morsi's major challenge is coming from the same kids and young adults who toppled Mubarak. There is a hopelessness in Egypt now and the people are angry.

Interviewed by a British newspaper, Mursi voiced his resolve to ride out what he sees as an undemocratic attack on his electoral legitimacy. He offered to revise the Islamist-inspired constitution, saying clauses on religious authority, which fuelled liberal resentment, were not his choice.

He made a similar offer last week, after the head of the army issued a strong call for politicians to compromise. But the opposition dismissed it as too little to late. They hope Mursi will resign in the face of the large numbers on the streets.

Some Egyptians believe the army may force the president's hand, if not to quit then at least to make substantial concessions to the opposition.

Chief-of-staff and Defence Minister General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi was following the situation from a special operations room, the military source said.

In Cairo, marchers stopped to shake hands and take pictures with soldiers guarding key buildings. At least six high-ranking police officers took to the Tahrir Square podium in support of the demonstrators, a Reuters witness said.

Mursi and the Brotherhood hope the protests will fizzle as previous outbursts did in December and January. If not, some form of compromise, possibly arbitrated by the army, may be on the cards.

Both sides insist they plan no violence but accuse the other - and agents provocateurs from the old regime - of planning it.

The U.S.-equipped army shows little sign of wanting power but warned last week it may have to step in if deadlocked politicians let violence slip out of control.

If these protests can be sustained, Morsi may have no choice but to either resign or call for early elections. The problem for the opposition is that they are still disorganized and quarrelsome. It is doubtful they could settle on a single candidate which means Morsi and his Islamist allies in the Nour party would probably have an easy path to victory once again.

Until Egypt has a viable, functioning civil society, expect this kind of chaos.



Whose side is the Egyptian army on?

The Tahrir crowd roared approval when an army helicopter hovering overhead dropped Egyptian flags on the protesters. The military source said the move was intended to encourage patriotism and was not a gesture of political support.

The army also gave an eye-popping estimate of the crowds who turned out for demonstrations across the country:


A military source said as many as 14 million people in this nation of 84 million took part in Sunday's demonstrations in sweltering heat. There was no independent way to verify that estimate, which seemed implausibly high, but the armed forces used helicopters to monitor the crowds.

And then, there was the unthinkable; an attack on the Muslim Brotherhood headquarters:

Militants hurling petrol bombs and rocks and firing shotguns attacked the Brotherhood's national headquarters in a Cairo suburb, sending flames billowing from the main entrance. There was no sign of police protection or fire fighters.

"No sign" of police or firefighters? At the main headquarters of the political party in power? Gee...you'd think the police and army were taking sides or something.

Things have gotten so bad in Egypt that President Morsi may find himself in exactly the same position that former dictator President Mubarak found himself; either fire on the protestors or pack up and leave.

But Morsi's major challenge is coming from the same kids and young adults who toppled Mubarak. There is a hopelessness in Egypt now and the people are angry.

Interviewed by a British newspaper, Mursi voiced his resolve to ride out what he sees as an undemocratic attack on his electoral legitimacy. He offered to revise the Islamist-inspired constitution, saying clauses on religious authority, which fuelled liberal resentment, were not his choice.

He made a similar offer last week, after the head of the army issued a strong call for politicians to compromise. But the opposition dismissed it as too little to late. They hope Mursi will resign in the face of the large numbers on the streets.

Some Egyptians believe the army may force the president's hand, if not to quit then at least to make substantial concessions to the opposition.

Chief-of-staff and Defence Minister General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi was following the situation from a special operations room, the military source said.

In Cairo, marchers stopped to shake hands and take pictures with soldiers guarding key buildings. At least six high-ranking police officers took to the Tahrir Square podium in support of the demonstrators, a Reuters witness said.

Mursi and the Brotherhood hope the protests will fizzle as previous outbursts did in December and January. If not, some form of compromise, possibly arbitrated by the army, may be on the cards.

Both sides insist they plan no violence but accuse the other - and agents provocateurs from the old regime - of planning it.

The U.S.-equipped army shows little sign of wanting power but warned last week it may have to step in if deadlocked politicians let violence slip out of control.

If these protests can be sustained, Morsi may have no choice but to either resign or call for early elections. The problem for the opposition is that they are still disorganized and quarrelsome. It is doubtful they could settle on a single candidate which means Morsi and his Islamist allies in the Nour party would probably have an easy path to victory once again.

Until Egypt has a viable, functioning civil society, expect this kind of chaos.