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Ron Ben-Yishai  

 

Egypt's war of attrition

Analysis: Chaos in Egypt is in fact well planned strategy, on part of both Muslim Brotherhood, state; Brotherhood provokes security forces, uses high losses to gain public favor. US, EU pushing both sides to rein in talk, ignoring fact that Brotherhood not interested in compromise

Published: 08.18.13, 01:04 / Israel Opinion

What seems to be utter chaos in Egypt is in fact the result of planned strategies, both by the Muslim Brotherhood and by the army-backed interim government. Those currently setting the tone of the bloodshed are the Muslim Brotherhood, which is using tactics that started to crystallize as soon as security forces began forcibly removing Brotherhood members from lengthy Cairo sit-ins.

 

The new strategy is a war of attrition on the interim government and the defense forces, with violent clashes in dozens of places across the country.

 

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The clashes in the streets often kick off as protests held by dozens or hundreds of people provoking police or attacking a police station, often with firearms. The army shoots, armed Muslim Brotherhood opponents shoot, resulting in deaths on both sides.

 

Clashes in many places are in fact wars of attrition, which grant the Muslim Brotherhood three distinct advantages:

 

  • Losses among Muslim Brotherhood members cause the people's support of the interim government and the army to decline.

  • Fatalities bring about increasing international pressure on the interim government and the army, which will force the regime, as the Brotherhood believes, to adhere to their demands.
  • The clashes increase militants' motivation, as well as Brotherhood supporters' desire for revenge.

 

International sources, among them the US and Europe, are trying to pressure the Egyptian regime into compromising with the Brotherhood, according to an outline – already devised by the US secretary of state – which offers the Muslim Brotherhood the interim government's commitment to go to election and seek the Brotherhood's advice before any constitutional change, if the Brotherhood stops protests and strikes.

 

What the American diplomat is ignoring – as is European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton – is that the Muslim Brotherhood are not willing to compromise, and believe they can still reinstate Morsi and then dialogue with the political parties and the army. They will not settle for less than reinstatement at the moment.

 

This issue has great significance, as it stands in the way of a solution. The Muslim Brotherhood is motivated, armed and vastly supported by the people. Millions are singing praises of the General Guide Badie, who lost – as did other leaders of the movement – family members, which makes them further entrenched in their stance.

 

Al-Sisi wants quick ending

Interior Minister Ibrahim and Defense Minister al-Sisi, who both run the battle against the Muslim Brotherhood, have also made some bad mistakes. International pressure makes them want to conclude the violent clashes as soon as possible.

 

They understand that every death decreases their support and increases international pressure, to which Egypt is extremely sensitive. They do not have any sophisticated or varied equipment to disperse the crowds other than teargas, which is why they fire. Not because police officers are in danger, but in order to wrap up quickly.

 

At the root of this tactic lies the assumption that an intense and short bloodbath is better than a war of attrition with the Muslim Brotherhood. A ruthless consideration, the success of which is doubtful seeing as losses on both sides just make everyone more combative and make circumstances increasingly similar to Syria's. Fatalities lead to more fatalities and more fighting.

 

Whoever is fighting in the streets of Egypt at the moment is not only the Muslim Brotherhood against the police and the army, but also Brotherhood opponents, who were the ones who began the process that led to Morsi's ouster, including several criminal sources who have taken advantage of the situation. Weapons have been coming in from Libya, and everyone is shooting at everyone. The number of deaths is reflective of the anarchy.

 

We too, of course, are part of this. The Tamarod movement, which was the driving force behind Morsi's ouster, suggested to the interim government and the army that they refuse American aid and cancel the peace accords with Israel. That is propaganda, which was allegedly meant to thwart US pressure on al-Sisi, with the help of Egyptian countermeasures.

 

The movement, much like many Egyptians, knows that the US needs the Egyptian army to allow it to transfer forces quickly through its airspace and via the Suez Canal. They also know that the peace accord is dear to Washington, and as far as they can see, the potential of its cancelation threatens Obama.

 

For now, this is no big deal, but rather spiteful propaganda, but if the interim government fails to bring about calm in the coming week, the war of attrition will continue and Egypt will continue to deteriorate. Seeing as this is a country of 82 million people, this could blow up in the face of the entire Mideast.

  

 

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