Muslim Brotherhood strikes back in Egypt

The Muslim Brotherhood, having lived underground for decades, is not about to give up and go away after the military coup that ousted President Morsi. Supporters of the MB and opponents have been clashing on the streets of Cairo, Alexandria, and elsewhere, with the reported death toll of 30 so far surprisingly light. Skepticism about the diligence of the Egyptian Ministry of Health in collecting an accurate toll may be warranted.

Mike Collett-White and Asma Alsharif of Reuters report:

At least 30 people died and more than 1,000 were wounded after Mursi's Muslim Brotherhood movement called "Friday of Rejection" protests across the country and tried to march on the military compound where the ousted president is held.

The most deadly clashes were in the Mediterranean city of Alexandria, where 14 people died and 200 were wounded. In central Cairo, pro- and anti-Mursi protesters fought pitched battles late into the night with stones, knives, petrol bombs and clubs as armored personnel carriers rumbled among them.

It took hours to restore calm. The Nile River bridges around the landmark Egyptian Museum where the street fights raged were still covered with the debris of rocks and shattered glass on Saturday morning. Both pro- and anti-Mursi activists remained encamped in different squares in the capital.

It is hard to see a peaceful way forward, given that the MB has no incentive to participate in peaceful democratic politics. President Obama, taking time off from his golf game, is calling for them to be part of the political process. Nicole Gaouette and John Walcott of Bloomberg write:

The Obama administration's call for an "inclusive" political process in Egypt with a role for the Muslim Brotherhood has been overshadowed by deadly clashes between security forces and supporters of the Islamist group.

Violent protests yesterday in Cairo and elsewhere over the military's ouster of President Mohamed Mursi raised doubts about prospects for an eventual accommodation that would allow the Brotherhood that supports him to compete in new elections.

While President Barack Obama's administration has stopped short of condemning the July 3 military takeover, it has called on Egyptian leaders to pursue "a transparent political process that is inclusive of all parties and groups," including "avoiding any arbitrary arrests of Mursi and his supporters," Bernadette Meehan, a spokeswoman for the National Security Council, said July 4 in a statement.

Given the president's loose definition of "transparency" (secret FISA courts are "transparent" in his view), perhaps a coup is sufficiently transparent.

The mess in Egypt is likely to get much messier. President Obama made his first overseas speech in Egypt, to reach out to the Arab and Muslim worlds. It looks like his success is about on a par with his success in lowering health care costs at home.