Egypt: Very little room for compromise?

Read few comments.

Questions:

1. After the latest bloodshed in Egypt what’s next for the country? More violence or do you see any scenario (maybe pushed from the outside forces?) under which the situation may turn into some reconciliation process, into the settlement of the conflicts?

2. What are the ambitions of Gen. Abdel Fatah al-Sissi in your opinion?

Answers:

Elijah ZarwanSenior Policy Fellow, European Council on Foreign Relations

1. I expect the state to continue to apply pressure on the Brotherhood until they capitulate. But that could take a long time. The Brothers have changed in the last year. They won’t easily accept going back to prison having been propelled from prison to the presidency in so short a time. It now appears that at least the entire top leadership of the Brotherhood will need to be removed to get to a layer perhaps more willing to strike a deal to survive

2. Sisi’s ambition is to preserve as much of the status quo and the military’s central place in the country as possible. I do not believe the military wishes to rule the country front and-center, in the spotlight, if a suitable civilian front man can be found. But anyone could be susceptible to the kind of encouragement Sisi has been getting for months, now supplanted by widespread, if manufactured, adulation.

Nathan BrownProfessor of Political Science and International Affairs, George Washington University

1. I do not see any reconciliation process at present. It is not merely the unfavorable context. It goes further–the country’s military and security establishment have made clear that they will use force to crush the Brotherhood. Whether this is a negotiating ploy or not, the impact on any reconciliation process is fatal. The Brotherhood’s position is strident at this point and it has not left out much room for compromise, but the new rulers, as the dominant party, are the ones who have to create the favorable context. They have shown no interest in doing so. Just the opposite.

2. On al-Sisi, it is unclear what his personal ambitions are. The last few days have laid bare his dominant position in the transitional order. Over the longer term, the constitutional amendment process is likely to preserve military autonomy. It may be that he does now or will soon aspire to a more ambitious role, but that is not yet clear.

Abdullah Al-Arian, Assistant Professor of History, Wayne State University

1. At this stage, it is a zero-sum game in Egypt. The dangerous escalation in words and actions, chiefly by the military, precludes any possibility for a settlement. It is difficult to talk about total defeat and a war on “terrorism” while unleashing a high level of violence on a civilian population then invite the same group to the table for talks. The military is trying to repeat the complete suppression of the Muslim Brotherhood as it did in 1954.

In the event that it cannot defeat the protesters through violence (which I don’t believe it can) the military will eventually have to consider other options, including easing of tensions and providing the anti-coup protesters with some concessions. While I don’t believe Morsi will be reinstated, a suspension of the new government and transition, along with some acknowledgement of the former process (including reinstating the constitution, holding new elections) will probably be part of that process. The real question is when will the military come to this realization and how many more lives will be lost in the process.

2. Sisi has long been only concerned with securing the privileges of the military and solidifying the control of the old regime over the state’s most important institutions (police, intelligence services, judiciary, media, bureaucracy). While the MB was in power, he was willing to negotiate this process with Morsi, but once momentum began to shift in favor of a coup, that was clearly the more desirable option from his standpoint. Sisi will be willing to give up power to a civilian government as long as it signals the restoration of the old arrangement and maintains the same privileges the army has long enjoyed.

James M. Dorsey, Senior Fellow, S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, Nanyang Technological University

I see very little room for compromise. The deaths today give the Brotherhood the fuel they need to continue their protests. They also put the military and the security forces in a bind. The high death toll has not persuaded people to leave Nasser Square. It raises the stakes for the military and prompts questions among those that have supported the military intervention so far. That is not say that the cracks in support for the military constitute a threat at the moment but over time they will. International pressure may help to avoid escalation but it won’t produce a solution, all the more so because finding a compromise that allows all sides to save face is increasingly difficult. The problem for Al-Sissi is that this situation makes it also more difficult for him to manage a smooth transition behind a civilian facade.

Tarek Osman, Author of the Book Egypt on the Brink: From Nasser to Mubarak

1. Last week’s violence will antagonise several segments within the Islamist movement, and not just the Muslim Brotherhood. And given the existence of loose groups in the country, this could usher in a wave of violence.

2. But the key peril in Egypt is that there are two segments of the society that have very different views of the country’s identity, its future, and the shape of the society. And when you take into account that this society has 45-million people under 30 years old, you get a sense of how tense this struggle over the shape and future of the society is. And keep in mind that the vast majority of these young endure very difficult socio-economic conditions on a daily basis.

3. Several initiatives for reconciliation are being put forward. But if there is no inclusion, there would be no success. But such inclusion means bringing in political Islamism, and not just the Muslim Brotherhood, into a fair and clear transition process that large social segments believe is credible.

4. But this credibility is now acutely questioned, the milieu is hardly conductive for any dialogue, and emotions are being hardened.

5. And the institutions that could have acted as mediators are severely drawn into this political struggle.

6. And so the street becomes the arbiter: projections of power on the streets (from demonstrations to clashes) become the way politics are conducted. All of this make me very skeptical that there could be a viable conciliation process at this stage.

7. As for the outside forces, keep in mind the macro picture: the forcing out of the Muslim Brotherhood from power in Egypt has important regional ramifications. Political Islam continues to rule in Morocco, lead the government in Tunisia (though there also facing immense challenges), leads the war against Bashar Assad in Syria, dominates Lebanon, is the most active opposition force in Jordan, and on the rise in the Gulf – let alone Iraq which is effectively divided along sectarian lines. This means that the future of political Islam in the largest and most strategic Arab country (Egypt) greatly influences many other regional struggles. And that’s why key Gulf powers have been very much at the heart of supporting or opposing political Islamism here (depending on which state we’re talking about). But in the case of Saudi, for example, it has been a decisive force in the fight against political Islamism in the entire region, not just in Egypt.

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One Response

  1. Surely by now someone would come to the realization that there will never be a lasting peace in this world. It costs a lot of lives, money and time to seek such a peace but I think it is not possible because of Human Nature and History.

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