Egypt in Turmoil

Egypt is in turmoil. The N. African country is now in a political and constitutional vacuum. Military leaders have dissolved the solitary national-level representative assembly, the Shura Council, and they have rescinded the constitution. Nothing has been put into its governing place. Egypt is a country under military rule. Massive protests and political unrest continue unabated.

The country is to have five months to amend the constitution suspended when Mohamed Morsi was deposed, ratify it in a referendum, and then hold parliamentary elections, according the text of the decree published online by the Al-Ahram newspaper.

Egypt’s military, which picked top judge Mr Mansour to succeed Mr Morsi, has promised a quick return to civilian rule. This is the news after fifty-one people, mostly loyalists of Egypt’s ousted president, were killed earlier this week in front of the place Morsi was believed to be held.

Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey said that the world and the region need Egypt to be stable. “As a student of that part of the world and someone who lived there… what we’re see is that democracy takes a while to stick,” Dempsey said.

Is the violence limited to Cairo?

No. Unrest has occurred throughout the country. Instability has spread and grown since the Egyptian military intervened to throw out the Islamist government. Divisions between Muslim Brotherhood supporters and opponents have been on open display in mass demonstrations across the big cities. Mob sexual assaults on women are one disturbing element of the protests. Reports out of Cairo claim that the instigators of the sexual assaults on women are being paid to create the chaos.

How does the Muslim Brotherhood plan to withstand the assault on its power?

After a year in control of the presidency, the Muslim Brotherhood is back in familiar territory as it challenges the military from the street. The Muslim Brotherhood is not backing down. Its large following is accustomed to a political struggle waged over decades with underground tactics. The leadership has called for an uprising, though it is not clear what form this will take. But the holy month of Ramadan has started and the traditional public gatherings will strengthen the Muslim Brotherhood’s ability to mobilize its followers.

Can the Egyptian army manage the transition?

The options are narrowing for the generals. The military had hoped to follow a “roadmap” by drawing on judges, technocrats and some non-Muslim Brotherhood politicians to run the country until elections under a new constitution. But key political backing from the movement’s opponents, including the ultra-Islamist Nour party, has evaporated.

General Abdel-Fatah al-Sissi is the military leader in charge. One could easily deduce that Adly Mansour, is not a president, but merely a figurehead. The military has taken on the most powerful political and social movement in the country and is running the risk the Islamists will turn to violence.

Arab nations have rushed in to pledge $12 billion to help stabilize affairs in Egypt.  The US response has been measured, given that US law requires aid to stop to countries that experience a military coup. US government officials seem to be taking a “wait and see” approach, despite strident calls from both political parties.

Will the new Egyptian government be friendly to the US?

This is a really good question and the simple truth is that it is doubtful. Virtually every party or organization of influence is lukewarm at best and decidedly chilled to the US in many instances. The US seems willing to continue scheduled aid to Egypt, including delivery of 4 F-16s to the military as currently scheduled for this month.

American diplomats and government officials have a very fine line to walk in the days ahead. What will happen in Egypt is anyone’s guess at this point. What sort of government, will prevail? Will the new government be will be an improvement on the governments of Mubarak and now Morsi? Will democracy in some form take hold? It’s anyone’s guess.

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