With all the news out of Syria of late, Egypt has taken a back seat in the mainstream media. But the situation in the Arab world's largest country remains very unstable, and very threatening to Israel. The following is an exclusive report about where Egypt could be headed.
Ahmed K., a 38-year old Egyptian, doesn’t believe in violence. Neither does he participate in mass demonstrations against the military that ousted his party's leader Mohamed Morsi from power in June's re-revolution, nor does he possess a weapon. But he is a staunch defender of Islam and a Muslim Brotherhood (MB) supporter.
"I don’t believe in whatever the army is trying to tell us. We are all very confused. We don’t know who or what to believe. The military tries to depict us as animals, as if we are murdering our own people but not all of us are like this," Ahmed told Israel Today, adding, "We simply want to re-establish Sharia Law and we despise the idea of the army governing the country."
Yet, footage of armed gangs going on shooting sprees in Cairo flood the Internet, but Ahmed prefers to ignore them: "I don’t know whether they actually have weapons – maybe these videos were edited by Photoshop. But even if they do, I don’t know where these arms are coming from. It's very difficult to tell the truth. Here in Egypt everything is just a part of a game called politics."
About one thousand people have been killed in this "game" so far. The army says it's fighting terrorists who stage war in the name of religion, but the Muslim Brotherhood rebuts these allegations, insisting the military is killing peaceful demonstrators.
Amr Zakariya, an Egyptian scholar and a founding member of Afaq, an institute for Middle East Studies in Cairo, said the demonstrations were far from being peaceful: "After Morsi was toppled, the Muslim Brotherhood could have opted for peaceful means. They could have boycotted the elections or demanded early polls. Instead, they resorted to violence, killing civilians indiscriminately. We thought Mubarak was too harsh on [the group], but now we see he was right. They attack [Christians], police officers and army personnel, they torch churches, hospitals and public offices, they are ruining the country."
A former Muslim Brotherhood supporter, Zakariya said the movement's actions made him turn against it. "I supported the democracy and the decision of the people. But democracy has limits. We cannot allow killing each other in its name."
Seeds of civil war
Zakariya explained to us that while more than half of Egypt's 85 million people voted the Muslim Brotherhood into power a year ago, "many people became disappointed" with the group's lies, and support has dwindled to below 20 percent. Many Egyptians are now embarrassed or afraid to identify with the group.
"It's not a conflict between the Muslim Brotherhood and the army anymore, but rather a confrontation between the Muslim Brotherhood and all other Egyptians," he noted.
Israel and the politics of Islam
Despite the reduced public support and an army crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood, the conflict in Egypt doesn't show any signs of dying out any time soon.
Zakariya argues the reason for this lies in the Muslim Brotherhood's ability to connect religion to politics. "They said that whoever supported Morsi, supported Islam. This makes it difficult for people to go against the Muslim Brotherhood."
The group emphasized that Islam is fighting the non-believers. Conveniently and predictably, Israel was chosen as a scapegoat.
Recently, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Ankara possessed evidence proving Israel’s involvement in the military coup that toppled Morsi. Even though the accusations seemed ungrounded, Ahmed believed in their validity. So did many other Egyptians.
The country's anti-Muslim Brotherhood movement claims it collected the signatures of more than 300,000 people who want Egypt's armed forces cancel the country's peace treaty with Israel. Ahmed said he was one of them: "Israel seeds conflicts in Egypt and other places because it serves their 'divide and conquer' policy. I believe Erdogan, he doesn’t have a reason to lie."
Addressing the issue, Zakariya said Israel had nothing to do with the revolution. "It's a purely Egyptian conflict and it doesn’t serve Israel's interests."
Avoiding American missteps
As for the cancellation of 1979 Egypt-Israel peace treaty, Zakariya argued that petition numbers had been largely inflated. "You cannot believe everything they are trying to sell you. The final decision-maker is the army, and it understands the importance of this pact. But its termination is still possible and can be caused by wrong US maneuvers."
The problem is that Washington gives enough reasons to panic. In mid-August, President Obama called off joint US-Egypt military drills, giving Russian President Vladimir Putin the opportunity to declear that Russia's arsenal would be at Egypt's disposal. A week later, Washington decided to withdraw $1.3 billion in military aid to Egypt.
The move sent shock waves through America's regional allies, including Israel, who fear the collapse of the Egyptian army would inevitably lead to further disorder and violence in the area.
Israeli ambassadors in Washington, London, Paris, Berlin and Brussels worked overtime to convince their host nations to maintain the flow of cash to the Egyptian military, and the Jewish state simultaneously increased cooperation with Egypt on the military and intelligence levels.
But there remain serious questions regarding Washington's motives in this regard. Some trace the decision to the influence of the powerful Arab Lobby. Others claim Qatar and Turkey – staunch Muslim Brotherhood supporters – sweet-talked the US into taking the step.
Rumors in Egypt have it that the US plans to redraw Middle Eastern borders with Egypt destined to lose its Sinai Peninsula in favor of the Palestinians under the rule of the terrorist organization Hamas, a Muslim Brotherhood offspring.
Obama's Muslim Brotherhood ties
US-based news website Guardian Express explained Obama's stance by saying that the American president has family ties to the Muslim Brotherhood. Reportedly, Obama's half-brother Malik is at least indirectly a member of the organization.
The website charged:
"Malik Obama is the executive secretary of the Islamic Da’wa Organization (IDO). This entity was founded by Hassan al-Turabi, longtime leader of the Sudanese political party, the National Islamic Front – itself an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood. ...In this capacity, it is claimed, Malik oversees the Muslim Brotherhood’s international investments. This claim has been made by Tahani Al-Jebali, former Chancellor of the Constitutional Court of Egypt."
The website continued by noting that while "President Obama cannot be held responsible for the actions or associations of his half-brother, it cannot be denied that the two have always been close; Malik Obama has visited the White House; the two have been photographed together numerous times and Malik was best man at Barack’s wedding. Malik Obama founded the Barack H. Obama Foundation, which was arbitrarily granted tax-exempt status in the US."