Egypt’s “Morsillini”

Photo Credit: Topical Press Agency/Getty Images, composed by Al Arabiya

Last Wednesday, Mohamed Morsi was hailed by leaders in the United States for his negotiating prowess and leadership as Israel and Hamas announced a ceasefire. Within hours, Morsi, who has been dubbed ‘Morsillini’ by Egyptians on twitter, issued a decree taking control of the Egyptian Judiciary and ordering the retrial of Hosni Mubarak and his cohorts.

Prosecutor General Abdel-Meguid Mahmoud, along with the Egyptian Judiciary, is having none of it. After an emergency meeting, the Supreme Judicial Council announced that Morsi’s decree was “an unprecedented attack on the independence of the judiciary and its rulings.” As a result, hundreds of Muslim Brotherhood members tried to storm the entrance of their Judicial Building and were stopped by riot police.

At the Ministry of the Interior, those opposed to Morsi’s power grab raged and protested. These protesters, who are said to be more hardline and include relatives of those who were killed last year, eventually burned down a school on Thursday night — a school being used as a base by police.

On Thursday, the US State Department issued a press release that was decidedly empathetic to the perpetrators of Egypt’s revolution and offered helpful advice for the crafting of a sufficiently democratic constitution. The Department also called for calm and democratic dialogue. Egyptians, many of whom oppose relations with Israel, have not been swayed by international praise for Morsi’s role in the Israel-Hamas truce negotiations. Crime and the poor economy remain atop the agenda.

As Morsi won the June election with only 52 percent of the vote, his opponents say this margin is certainly not enough to give him the mandate necessary for the radical steps he has taken. These opponents now seek to capitalize on widespread dissatisfaction with the lack of economic and social progress since Morsi’s ascent, and are rallying supporters in efforts to oust him.

Meanwhile, Morsi has remained defiant, assuring his supporters of his good and democratic intentions, while divisively referred to his detractors as ‘weevils.’ The Presidency issued another statement yesterday telling Egyptians that the terms of Morsi’s decree would only be temporary, and affirmed Morsi’s noble democratic purpose.

As of Sunday, which is a normal working day in the Middle East, some 216 injuries and a 10% decline in Egyptian stocks were reported by Egyptian media. Protesters tried for hours to overrun police and occupy Tahrir Square, and have now called for a general strike. The Muslim Brotherhood has responded with a scheduled demonstration on Tuesday near Cairo University “to express support for President Mohamed Mursi’s recent decrees.” Mahmoud Ghozlan, the group’s media spokesman, has called on all forces to join the demonstration for the sake of ‘legitimacy and stability.’

While international attention remains firmly affixed on Egypt, the terms of the Israel-Hamas ceasefire have already been substantively breached. The ceasefire was reached last Wednesday, solely as a result of Obama giving his personal word to Israel that with Morsi’s confirmed agreement, US troops would arrive in Sinai this week to actively curb the smuggling of missiles and weaponry into Gaza. In a stunning development, Morsi’s administration has strenuously denied that any such agreement was reached between Morsi and Obama. Morsi has since affirmed that US troops would never ever be allowed on Egyptian soil. He has also
barred American troops from access to the Sinai region.

After days of over 1 million Israelis being pounded by over a hundred rockets a day, Israel launched surgical attacks on Hamas installations in Gaza in a bid to destroy the arsenal of missiles and rockets amassed by Hamas and other militant jihadists over the years. These rockets have been prolifically smuggled from Libya and Iran through Sudan and Egypt’s Sinai region. Morsi undertook to stop these smuggling activities in return for a ceasefire from Israel.

Although, the trio running Israel’s Gaza campaign — Netanyahu, Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman — were willing to take Morsi at his word, Egypt has nothing near the required capabilities for such operations. Israel’s leadership only agreed to a ceasefire after Obama made personal guarantees that US troops would arrive in Sinai this week to commence with anti-smuggling initiatives.

Perhaps President Morsi is telling the truth and Obama and Clinton read too much into his statements. Perhaps they asked Morsi if they could dispatch US troops and as is the Arab custom, he did not say ‘no’, buts skirted the issue. Perhaps, Obama and Clinton are not aware that in Arab culture, it is extremely rude to meet a request with a flat ‘no’ and as a consequence, the art of procrastination is a key Arab negotiation tool.

Regardless of their reasons, Obama’s administration retains a stunned silence over Morsi’s about turn. Morsi was not directly addressed in the State Department’s Thursday press release, which was decidedly placatory and helpful in tone. Conceivably, the decision to educate the masses about democracy is the only option open to the administration as it avoids embarrassment after gushing over Morsi’s role in the Ceasefire negotiations. The White House continues its ‘wait and see’ stance in respect of the potential escalation of protests and Morsi’s continued Presidency, along with the outcome of the Israeli elections.

Whatever the motives for Obama’s uncharacteristically Republicanesque silence over the latest attacks on his character, it is certain that Egyptians will witness more bloodshed and violence in days ahead as they resume their campaigns of unrest in their quest for a secular democracy.

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