After security forces broke up two not very peaceful sit-in protests last week, killing close to 1,000 people and wounding thousands of others in the process, Egypt's military-backed government is considering outlawing the Muslim Brotherhood, which held the pinnacle of power a little more than a month earlier.
The military deposed President Mohammed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood on July 3 and his supporters who wanted him reinstated took to the streets and clashed with security forces, bringing the most populous Arab country to the verge of political chaos. Cabinet spokesman Sherif Shawki said last Saturday the government is studying the legal possibilities of dissolving the Muslim Brotherhood.
He did not elaborate, however. There can be no doubt whatsoever that the Muslim Brotherhood, which was founded in 1928 and came into power a year ago when Morsi was elected in Egypt's first free presidential elections, will be disbanded.
Egypt is back to square one. That means another era dawns in Egypt, where the rule by the military is a rule rather than an exception. Of course, General Abdel Fatah al-Sisi, commander-in-chief of the Egyptian armed forces who staged a coup d'etat to topple Morsi and put him under house arrest, will continue to keep interim President Adly Mansour and Prime Minister Hazem el-Bablawi as figureheads.
Al-Sisi is the new Egyptian strongman.
Like it or not, the United States will let Al-Sisi have his way.
US President Barack Obama cancelled a military exercise with Egypt to show his displeasure at Al-Sisi's crackdown on the protesters, but did not cut off American aid, which totals US$1.55 billion, including $1.3 million to the military.
Neither did Obama condemn Al-Sisi's coup.
In addition, Gulf Arab states, including Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates, have promised Al-Sisi some $12 billion in financial support. The UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs made no secret of its support for the Egyptian military. In a statement posted on its website, it said the UAE understands “the sovereign measures taken by the Egyptian government after having exercised maximum self-control,” adding: “What is regretful is that political extremist groups have insisted on the rhetoric of violence, incitement, disruption of public interests and undermining of the Egyptian economy, which has led to the regretful events.”
Washington's Middle East policy is founded on two pillars: the security of Israel and freedom of navigation on the Suez Canal.
After Morsi came to power, the United States worried that Egypt might renege on the Camp David accord of 1978 and do something Gamal Abdel Nasser did in 1956 to touch off the Suez War, in which President Dwight D. Eisenhower had to mediate to prevent the Anglo-French occupation of Egypt.
The Morsi government agreed to keep the Suez Canal open but refused to strictly abide by the unilateral peace agreement Anwar Sadat signed with Menahem Begin at the urging of President Jimmy Carter.
After the rise of Morsi, Egypt was seen slipping from an Arab secular state close with the United States into an increasingly fundamentalist future. That's the reason the Obama administration tacitly agreed to General Al-Sisi's coup to oust Morsi.
Al-Sisi can dissolve the Muslim Brotherhood, but it will remain an Islamic political force in Egypt.
Nasser, the country's first and popular military strongman, cracked down on the Muslim Brotherhood. It survived him and the harsh repression his successors Sadat and Hosni Mubarak continued, until Morsi, who appeared a much less fundamentalist Islamist, was elected president during the heydays of the Jasmine Revolution after Mubarak had been toppled.
Al-Sisi has to be more careful in abolishing the Muslim Brotherhood.