The Egypt Effect: Sharpened Tensions, Reshuffled Alliances

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Summary
Throughout the Middle East, the overthrow of Egypt’s Mohamed Morsi has heightened Islamist-secularist tensions and pushed actors toward zero-sum politics.
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The military coup that overthrew then Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi in early July 2013 and the new government’s ensuing crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood are having a dramatic impact on the politics, security, and rights environment in Egypt. But the effects of these events outside Egypt’s borders—in North Africa, the Levant, the Gulf, and Turkey—are also significant.

The Egypt effect has generally heightened Islamist-secularist tensions and pushed the region in the direction of zero-sum politics rather than consensus building. Islamist leaders and parties that behaved just a year ago as though their ascendance to power through elections was a historical inevitability are now on the defensive. At the same time, secularists—whether in opposition or in power—are more assertive and less ready to compromise. This dynamic has led some Islamists to become increasingly defiant in their isolation. In some cases, it has enlivened Islamist dissent in surprising ways.

Other Islamists have become more modest in their expectations as a result of these trends. In some countries—notably Tunisia—elected Islamists with much to lose have looked at their fellow Islamists’ fate and decided to compromise to avert all-out confrontation.

Meanwhile, the Egypt effect has not been limited to domestic politics, impacting foreign policies across the region as well. Following Morsi’s ouster, Egypt’s regional partnerships have been completely reordered. Egypt’s relations have deteriorated sharply with countries that were friendly to the Islamist government and have rebounded with those that opposed the Muslim Brotherhood. The coup has invigorated regional foreign policies of the Middle East’s more conservative powers—led by Saudi Arabia—while countries unhappy with events in Egypt, primarily Turkey, have been left on the sidelines to protest the actions of Egypt’s military-backed government.

North Africa: Tunisia, Libya, and Morocco

Tunisians were “the only people who won something out of what happened in Egypt,” according to activist Amira Yahyaoui. The ripple effects of the Egyptian coup initially exacerbated tensions between Islamists and secularists in Tunisia but then helped persuade Islamists to compromise to prevent the failure of the country’s democratic experiment.

Initially, Tunisia’s political transition following the 2011 ouster of then president Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali was marked by increasing polarization between Islamists in the governing Ennahda party (affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood) and their secular opponents. The tensions heightened after the assassination of prominent leftist politician Chokri Belaid in February 2013.

Following the Egyptian military’s removal of Morsi, Tunisia’s political factions reacted in a manner that reflected the country’s divide. The Ennahda-led government condemned the Egyptian military’s actions as a “coup against legitimacy,” leading to a cooling of relations between the two countries. Meanwhile, secular activists formed their own version of Egypt’s Tamarod (Rebel) Movement. Much as the Egyptian Tamarod had called for Morsi’s resignation and early presidential elections, the Tunisian version demanded the dissolution of Tunisia’s National Constituent Assembly, the body charged with creating the country’s new constitution, and the holding of early elections.

At first, such reactions were relatively inconsequential. Although the activists secured the support of Tunisia’s largest opposition party, Nidaa Tounes, they failed to garner significant popularity on the street.

That all changed with the assassination of a second leftist politician, Mohamed Brahmi, in late July 2013. Blaming Ennahda for failing to rein in religious extremists, Tunisia’s opposition parties mobilized large protests and began more explicitly adopting the strategy of the Egyptian secularists. After forming a Tunisian National Salvation Front to coordinate actions against the government, the parties started a weeks-long campaign of protest and civil disobedience to pressure Ennahda into stepping down. The crisis escalated throughout August, with the opposition claiming that “any negotiation without the immediate dissolution of the government would be a waste of time.”

With the opposition emboldened, Ennahda worried about meeting the same fate as the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood. The Islamist party offered concessions as early as the first week of August, floating the idea that it could accept a change in government but not the dissolution of the National Constituent Assembly.

As support for the opposition’s protests waned in the fall, the two sides entered into negotiations and agreed on a framework to resolve the crisis. Ennahda surrendered control of the government, a new constitution was passed on January 26, and elections are planned for 2014. At least for now, Tunisia’s transition continues to move forward.

In Libya, the Egyptian military’s ejection of Morsi has reverberated across the political spectrum and heightened tensions between Islamists and secularists in a political and security environment that was already deeply troubled.

Following the coup, the Libyan Muslim Brotherhood, which was a limited participant in the cabinet at the time, went on the offensive against the largely secular government of Prime Minister Ali Zeidan. The movement’s political wing, the Justice and Construction Party (JCP), attacked Zeidan for meeting with Egyptian Defense Minister Abdel Fattah el-Sisi in September 2013, accusing Zeidan of validating the coup and using Egypt to distract from his own government’s failings. The JCP leadership also reiterated earlier threats to withdraw from the government and repeatedly called for Libya’s legislative assembly, the General National Congress, to issue a vote of no confidence in Zeidan. Having failed in this effort, the JCP withdrew its five members from Zeidan’s cabinet, including the oil minister, in January 2014.

Some JCP members reacted to Morsi’s downfall with introspection. They stated on social media that the Libyan Brotherhood needed to correct some of its past mistakes and do a better job of reaching out to youth.

Meanwhile, voices aligned with the secular-leaning National Forces Alliance and some Libyan army outlets rehashed timeworn arguments that the JCP and the Brotherhood were more loyal to the Brotherhood’s supreme guide in Egypt than to the Libyan state. Persistent but unfounded rumors that Morsi supporters had received safe haven in eastern Libya fueled such claims.

The Egyptian coup also stirred debates over civil-military relations and security sector reform in Libya. Opponents of Islamism—including many pro-federalist tribes with familial links to Egypt—applauded Sisi’s crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood. They called for a stronger Libyan military presence that would diminish the power of Islamist militias, particularly in the troubled eastern city of Benghazi. “We want Sisi here,” one federalist tribal leader in Benghazi said in a private conversation in November 2013, arguing that “if it can work in Egypt it can work here.”

Islamist militia leaders took a different tack. Some saw Zeidan’s attempts to build a new, U.S.-trained Libyan army as an effort to replicate the Sisi-led praetorian state in Egypt. One Islamist figure in Benghazi referred to the city’s popular special forces commander as the “Sisi of Benghazi,” arguing that such forces were “militarizing life” in the east.

Unlike other countries in the region, Libya’s relationship with Egypt has been relatively unaffected by the July coup, though a number of unresolved issues continue to trouble Libyan-Egyptian relations. The porous Egyptian-Libyan border is one source of tension, where the kidnapping of Egyptian truckers by Libyan tribes, cross-border weapons flows into Egypt, and illegal Egyptian labor migration to Libya have all rankled relations. Morsi’s ouster may have produced a slight improvement in border control because the new Egyptian government appears to be taking a stronger stance on Egyptian-Libyan border security and the security of the western desert more generally. That said, much of the security on the border is being handled by informal delegations of tribes and, on the Libyan side, militias—and these local actors were relatively unaffected by the regime change in Cairo.

Relations took a turn for the worse in late January, however, when Egyptian authorities detained the head of a quasi-official Libyan militia with Islamist leanings while he was reportedly receiving medical treatment in Cairo. Egyptian authorities claimed that the Muslim Brotherhood had sponsored the Libyan’s visit, which triggered the retaliatory kidnapping by a Libyan militia of five Egyptian diplomats in Tripoli. Although the detainees were released in a swap, the episode prompted Zeidan to visit Cairo.

For Islamists in Morocco’s government, 2013 was a difficult year, partly due to events in Egypt. The Egyptian Brotherhood’s collapse led to sharper criticism of Morocco’s Islamist Justice and Development Party (PJD). Within a few days of Egypt’s coup, Morocco saw the formation of a Tamarod Movement, and the Istiqlal Party, a major coalition partner of the PJD, withdrew from the government and called for the prime minister to resign “like his Brotherhood brother” Mohamed Morsi. The PJD acquired a new coalition partner in the National Rally of Independents in October, but the party has found it increasingly difficult to achieve much in office. Even the combative and populist Islamist prime minister, Abdelilah Benkirane, has begun to look like a bruised prizefighter forced into a defensive crouch.

As a result, the PJD’s great expectations for combating corruption and implementing the new constitution, which was approved by referendum in July 2011, have faded. Holding on to power and preserving party unity have become goals unto themselves. By the end of December 2013, Benkirane’s favorite mantra of “reforming within stability,” touted as a middle path between revolutionary change and the old system of governance, gave way to a new strategy focused on political survival and stability, even if that came with minimal reforms.

Benkirane has made many concessions but has so far failed to build a win-win relationship with the main power apparatus close to the palace. The media, business, and political elites who benefited from the status quo ante in Morocco fear that PJD policy successes would boost the party’s share of the electorate and ultimately endanger their interests. The PJD also faces a political opposition that is more interested in obstructionism and stoking ideological wars than in offering serious alternatives to the ruling party’s policies.

The Levant: Palestine, Syria, Lebanon, and Jordan

Perhaps no political system has been more deeply affected by events in Egypt than that of Palestine. And in the end, developments in Egypt may only further entrench difficult realities.

Hamas, the Islamist movement that heads the government in the Gaza Strip, had high hopes that the Morsi presidency would reconfigure the regional order and allow the movement to build a new set of alliances to replace those with Syria and Iran, which have frayed because of Syria’s civil war. It also hoped that an Islamist in power in Egypt would help break Egypt and Israel’s blockade of Gaza and induce international actors to deal with the Islamist movement rather than continue to shun it.

In the West Bank, the secular Fatah-led Palestinian Authority viewed the rise of the Egyptian Brotherhood with deep trepidation. Its leadership had come to lean quite heavily on the regime of former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak for diplomatic support. After Mubarak was overthrown in 2011, seeing the Egyptian presidency pass to an Islamist ally of Hamas, its mortal rival, was worrying indeed.

The Morsi presidency brought only marginal changes in the actual policy of the Egyptian regime, with most of the Palestinian file remaining with the military and especially the security services rather than transferring to Islamist politicians. Yet Morsi’s fall still had serious consequences for Palestinians.

The post–July 3 public environment in Egypt has been hostile to Palestinians in general and to Hamas and Gaza with special force. Until recently, sympathy for the Palestinian cause was fairly widespread in Egypt, and many Egyptians saw Gaza as a pressing humanitarian issue. After Morsi’s overthrow, however, Egyptian media began to portray the historical association between Hamas and the Brotherhood as sinister. As part of a campaign to discredit the Brotherhood, Egyptian state media have run hysterical reports that Morsi had agreed to settle Palestinians in Egypt’s Sinai, smuggle in Palestinians to launch terrorist campaigns in Egypt, and even hand Egyptian territory over to Hamas.

While such claims might be scoffed at internationally, many Egyptians have accepted them as truth. And they have led to a situation in which Palestinians feel unwelcome in Egypt and face tighter restrictions in traveling to or through the country.

In addition, the post-Morsi regime has begun enforcing restrictions on the movement of goods and people across the Egypt-Gaza border with unprecedented vigor, including trying to destroy the extensive tunnel system that even the Mubarak regime tolerated. In Gaza, this shift has reversed a steady improvement in economic conditions stretching back several years. And it has thrown the Hamas-dominated government into an extreme fiscal crisis, as much of its revenue came from illicit trade through the tunnels.

This shock to Gaza and the feeling of vindication experienced by the secular-led Palestinian Authority upon seeing the Islamists in Cairo fall have worsened the prospects for healing the long-standing rift in the Palestinian polity. The Hamas leadership seems to have decided to grasp what it has achieved in Gaza even more firmly, and there is little effective opposition. There was a brief attempt by some Gazans to emulate the Egyptian Tamarod campaign, but it fizzled. And in the Palestinian Authority, the leadership seems to have agreed for the short term, however halfheartedly, to cooperate with a U.S.-sponsored peace process that makes any outreach to Hamas unlikely.

In both Gaza and the West Bank, there remains little political space for opposition to organize and no democratic process through which Palestinians can pursue new options or press their leaders to resolve their differences.

In Syria, Morsi’s removal sharpened confrontations among rebels fighting the regime of President Bashar al-Assad. It also unleashed a wave of Islamic frustration, with individuals and groups that had previously accepted the idea of democracy calling instead for the establishment of an Islamic state. As one fighter noted, “Whether we supported Syria’s Muslim Brotherhood or not, many Islamist rebels accepted that we might have to work within a civil state. Now, it is clear that world powers and their allies in the region are targeting Islam, first and foremost.”

Rebel Islamist groups also became increasingly polarized between those receiving patronage from Saudi Arabia and those financed by Qatar, with Saudi Arabia turning more assertive after Morsi’s ouster. Riyadh began pressing for Ahmed al-Jarba, a Syrian politician with close Saudi ties, to be elected the head of the main Syrian opposition group in exile, the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces.

The Syrian Muslim Brotherhood, which initially opposed al-Jarba’s election, was forced to rethink its regional alliances as a result of the coup against Brotherhood-backed Morsi, who in any case had not embraced the movement’s cause as early or as vigorously as it had hoped. Seeing the Saudi (as opposed to Qatari) role in the region as ascendant, the Syrian Brotherhood reversed its earlier opposition and agreed in early 2014 to al-Jarba’s election.

Meanwhile, the Egyptian government has become hostile to Syrian refugees and less sympathetic to the Syrian opposition, which it associates with Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood. Egypt has placed heavy restrictions on the entry of new refugees and has deported some back to Syria, despite the continuing conflict.

The aftermath of Egypt’s coup has led to further fragmentation in the Sunni community in Lebanon, which was already negatively affected by spillover from the ongoing conflict in Syria. Relations between two major actors in this community deteriorated sharply after the Future Movement, the largest party in the country’s ruling alliance, praised the coup and al-Jamaa al-Islamiyya, Lebanon’s branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, denounced it.

In addition, Islamists who are more radical than the Brotherhood are going underground out of concern about a military crackdown on their activities akin to what happened in Egypt. They are forming a network of unregulated actors united by their fear of and opposition to the Lebanese state and its institutions, such as the army, as well as of the Future Movement politicians who used to be their allies.

The long-stalled reform process in Jordan took some minor steps forward as a result of domestic pressures brought about by the 2011 Arab uprisings, but after Morsi’s removal even that modest progress slowed down.

The Jordanian government, which faces its own Muslim Brotherhood opposition movement, could barely conceal its elation at the Islamists’ downfall. Jordan’s King Abdullah II was the first head of state to visit Egypt after the coup. Since Morsi’s ouster, the government-controlled press has been waging a continuous campaign against the Muslim Brotherhood, both in Jordan and abroad. The senate, whose members are appointed by the king, was changed in November 2013 and is now dominated by conservative, antireform elements, without even the token number of Islamists present in previous chambers. Jordan has not, however, replicated Egypt’s decision to declare the Brotherhood an illegal terrorist organization despite some calls to do so, as this would be a stark break with the monarchy’s historical toleration of the group.

Still, the Muslim Brotherhood appears to have lost some popular support in Jordan because of the situations in Syria and Egypt. Many Jordanians have established a mental link between the group and the more radical and violent al-Qaeda-affiliated militias in Syria’s civil war. With more than 600,000 Syrian refugees already in Jordan and unrest spreading in Egypt, most Jordanians do not want their country to face the same fate as that of their neighbors. Some elements in the Brotherhood, mostly east Jordanians, have developed a new initiative to project a moderate, forward-looking vision of a more inclusive political movement, but the more hardline members, largely of Palestinian origin, have rejected the idea. This development threatens to split the movement along national lines.

The Gulf: Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, and Qatar

Morsi’s fall produced a near-seismic shift in Saudi Arabia’s policy toward Egypt, resulting in a $12 billion injection of funds to the new Sisi-backed government in which Kuwait and the UAE shared.

Domestically, the fall of Morsi initially lessened fears within the Saudi government and among its clerical allies that the Brotherhood’s regional rise would animate Islamists in the kingdom to oppose the royal family—but that comfort turned out to be mistaken.

Although the Brotherhood is technically banned in Saudi Arabia, a number of prominent Salafi clerics from the so-called Sahwa (Awakening) current have doctrinal beliefs that are similar to those of the movement. Several of these figures, such as the enormously popular cleric Salman al-Awdah, denounced the crackdown in Egypt and called for political reconciliation within the country rather than repression, a stark departure from the official Saudi line.

A few clerics went so far as to call for external aid to Morsi supporters. Ayed al-Qarni, for example, tweeted on August 14, when Egyptian authorities began using force to clear a large pro-Morsi sit-in, that Muslims everywhere should “save Egypt” and prevent it from “heading toward civil war.”

Other prominent Salafists such as Mohsen al-Awaji, Saad al-Buraik, and Nasir al-Omar used Morsi’s ouster to point out the Saudi government’s failings, obliquely warning the royal family to avoid going down the same path as the Egyptian military, although some of these figures tempered their comments by implying that Morsi’s mismanagement and tilt toward Iran were to blame for his downfall. In mid-July, the Saudi regime arrested Mohsen al-Awaji and placed another prominent Salafist, Muhammad al-Arifi, under house arrest due to their support for Morsi. It also banned a Riyadh preacher from speaking publicly after his anti-Sisi sermon in August led to a scuffle among attendees.

The crackdown on Morsi and his supporters in the Brotherhood prompted the very politicization of clerical discourse in the kingdom that the Saudis were hoping to avoid when the Brotherhood was in power. It also brought to the fore an unresolved dilemma that has increasingly defined cleric-state relations in Saudi Arabia: How much oversight of Salafi sermons and social media activity can and should the government exert?

Like Saudi Arabia, the UAE strongly supported the Egyptian military’s removal of Morsi, joining in the massive injection of Gulf funds to the new government. Aid from the UAE has been used to finance billions of dollars’ worth of stimulus spending by the Egyptian government, and the UAE is also helping to finance a $2 billion arms deal between Egypt and Russia.

In contrast to Saudi Arabia, the UAE has a more active Brotherhood affiliate, the civil society organization al-Islah. Over the past two years, scores of al-Islah’s members have been arrested and imprisoned for sedition and espionage. On July 2, 2013, a day before Morsi’s ouster, an Emirati state security court handed down harsh verdicts to al-Islah members who were part of the so-called Emirati 94, a group of activists accused of trying to overthrow the government. In addition, Egyptian expatriates alleged to be providing assistance to al-Islah have been arrested. The incarceration of these Egyptians, along with others sentenced for nonpolitical offenses, had become a major source of bilateral tension between the Morsi government and Abu Dhabi.

Since the Egyptian crackdown, the pace of detentions and sentencing in the UAE has continued unabated. For its part, al-Islah has shown little evidence of retreating or retooling its strategy. Rather, it has intensified its critique of the Emirati government by drawing parallels with Egypt. On July 4, for instance, a Facebook post from the group referred to the “strange paradox” that more than 50 al-Islah members were being tried for a coup in the UAE at the same time that the UAE was blessing the military coup in Egypt.

To balance this antigovernment stance and combat claims that it is subservient to the Egyptian Brotherhood, al-Islah has made efforts to highlight its nationalist bona fides. A statement in early December 2013 on the movement’s website congratulated the people and leadership of the UAE on the forty-second anniversary of the UAE’s formation.

Kuwait, too, has experienced rising tensions between the Brotherhood and its opponents as a result of developments in Egypt, though other events in the Middle East’s ongoing conflagration (particularly the war in Syria and unrest in Bahrain) had already increased political tensions in the country.

Following Morsi’s ouster, Kuwait joined Saudi Arabia and the UAE in immediately providing significant diplomatic and financial support to the interim Egyptian government. The Kuwaiti Muslim Brotherhood, a tolerated participant in the country’s political opposition, was incensed by the actions of the Egyptian military and bluntly criticized the Kuwaiti government for supporting the new Egyptian regime. As one former Islamist parliamentarian put it, Egypt’s Interim President “Adly Mansour is an illegitimate president who came to power via a military coup against an elected Arab ruler, and welcoming him in Kuwait opens the door to supporting military coups against legitimate governments.”

Meanwhile, the Muslim Brotherhood’s opponents have sharpened their rhetoric, perhaps sensing an opportunity to damage the movement politically. Anti-Brotherhood politicians and media outlets have accused the Kuwaiti group of being subordinate to Egyptians, threatening the state, and engaging in corrupt practices. According to one anti-Brotherhood parliamentarian, the Brotherhood is “striving to overthrow the Arab states and their peoples.” Another accused the organization of engaging in “terrorism” and “money laundering.”

Wilkens is the deputy director of the Middle East Program at the Carnegie Endowment. Over the last two decades, she has held a number of senior positions in the U.S. government and nonprofit sector.
Katherine Wilkens
Deputy Director
Middle East Program
More from this author...
The movement has even been the target of a limited purge in government ministries, though this likely has more to do with the Brotherhood’s role in the opposition than any sustained campaign by the government to uproot it from public life. While Kuwait’s Muslim Brotherhood will continue to be an active and largely tolerated participant in Kuwaiti society going forward, events in Egypt have clearly contributed to the emergence of a harsher, more antagonistic tone in the country’s politics.

Egypt’s coup created a predicament for Qatar, which had been highly supportive of Morsi’s administration. It also came at an awkward moment, since Emir Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani had abdicated and handed power to his son, Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, little more than one week earlier. Though the new emir initially reacted to events in Egypt by congratulating the interim Egyptian president—prompting speculation that he was shifting away from his father’s pro-Brotherhood policies—relations between Doha and Cairo have still soured noticeably since July.

The Egyptian government resents Qatar’s continued sponsorship of the Al Jazeera news network, which remains highly critical of the coup, and has arrested several of its journalists in retaliation. Meanwhile, Qatar has expressed concern about the crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood and offered sanctuary to Islamists fleeing Egypt. While Qatar has adopted a less critical and more accommodating approach to Egypt than to Turkey, another Morsi ally, anti-Qatari sentiment remains high in the country, and Doha has adopted a lower profile as its influence in Egypt has waned.

Turkey

Morsi’s ouster was a major blow to Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and its prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. The government in Ankara shared a close personal and ideological affinity with Morsi and the Egyptian Brotherhood built on a deep foundation of two Islamic, conservative parties that had succeeded in coming to power via the ballot box. The Egyptian-Turkish relationship, which Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu called a new “axis of democracy,” was also an important component of Turkey’s post–Arab Spring regional engagement. This engagement—which increasingly was defined by Sunni and sectarian interests—included Turkey’s strong backing of the Muslim Brotherhood as the primary actor in the Syrian opposition and Ankara’s partnership with Qatar and Saudi Arabia against the Assad regime.

The removal of Morsi and the failure of Egypt’s experiment with political Islam in many ways marked the beginning of the end of this era in Turkish regional policy. With the Sunni-led governments in Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and the Gulf supporting the new Egyptian government, only Turkey took a strong, outspoken position in support of the elected Morsi government and against the military. This disagreement undermined Ankara’s already-troubled Syria policy and created a new rift between Ankara and Riyadh over who to support in the Syrian opposition. The abdication of the Qatari emir in June 2013 also weakened Turkey’s collaboration with Qatar, whose government had been supportive of Morsi as well. After the Egyptian coup, the new emir signaled that he would be adopting a less ideological approach to the region than his father and avoided Turkey’s highly critical position. By September 2013, Ankara was increasingly isolated and left with only two key regional allies, Hamas and the Kurdistan Regional Government in Iraq.

By late 2013 Ankara’s policies began to shift away from the religious, ideological tone they had taken on in 2012 and toward a more interest-based approach. When Davutoğlu visited Washington in November, he signaled a greater willingness on Turkey’s part to support nonmilitary efforts to address the crisis in Syria and temper Ankara’s insistence that Assad must go. The ensuing months have brought a steady readjustment of Ankara’s regional policies to improve relations with neighbors in Tehran, Baghdad, and Moscow.

Heightened Tensions, Reshuffled Alliances

Egypt’s coup and crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood have increased tensions between Islamist and secularist political movements as well as between governments and opposition groups throughout the Middle East.

Islamists who obtained power through the ballot box and are therefore accountable to an electorate (notably in Tunisia and Morocco) have taken a practical approach to the new environment, lowering their sights at least temporarily and showing a greater willingness to compromise on some issues.

Islamists in opposition, or those holding power but not accountable through elections, such as Hamas, have tended to become more defensive and defiant.

Secularists across the board—whether in power or in opposition—have reacted to developments in Egypt by becoming more assertive and less compromising, although they have not yet succeeded in actually pushing Islamists out of power anywhere other than Cairo.

Egypt’s coup has also completely reshuffled the country’s regional alliances. Saudi Arabia and its allies (the UAE, Kuwait, and Jordan), as well as Israel, had tepid relations with the Morsi government but have embraced the new military-led order in Cairo. Qatar, which had invested heavily in Morsi’s presidency, has taken a much lower profile. States with Islamists in power—such as Turkey and Tunisia—have been critical of the coup and have tense relations with the new government. And Egypt’s military-backed regime has not only distanced itself from Morsi’s former Islamist allies in Palestine and Syria but has also gone so far as to accuse the deposed president of conspiring with such groups to destabilize Egypt.

Only time will tell whether the ultimate lesson Islamists and secularists take from Egypt is to compromise while it is still possible or to press for total victory over their opponents to avoid the changes that compromise will entail. In the end, the outcomes may depend on whether Egypt’s new leadership manages to restore security to the country or drives it toward persistent instability.

Scott Williamson is a junior fellow in Carnegie’s Middle East Program. David Bishop, also a junior fellow in the Middle East Program, provided valuable research assistance.

End of document

About the Middle East Program

The Carnegie Middle East Program combines in-depth local knowledge with incisive comparative analysis to examine economic, sociopolitical, and strategic interests in the Arab world. Through detailed country studies and the exploration of key crosscutting themes, the Carnegie Middle East Program, in coordination with the Carnegie Middle East Center in Beirut, provides analysis and recommendations in both English and Arabic that are deeply informed by knowledge and views from the region. The program has special expertise in political reform and Islamist participation in pluralistic politics.

 

Comments (8)

 
 
  • Sherifa Zuhur
    Don't expect us to read b***s**t and lies! There was no military coup "overthrowing Morsi" - there was a popular uprising by nearly 30 milliion people not credited with a single sentence here. NO - Islamists have not become "more modest" in their expectations; Tunisians are stuck with Ennahda's false promises. Carnegie, get yourself some new "experts" who are not so invested in supporting Islamists as so-called moderates.
     
     
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    • jmbelan replies...
      3 Recommends
      Who is in charge? The military. Is there a plan for them to leave power that's viable? No. If you prefer the military to the Islamists, that is your right. But don't abuse words by calling this a popular coup when that is an oxymoron.
       
       
  • Goga
    1 Recommend
     
    To the article contributors
    As you know shaping thinking is a game of words, and politics is the game of words that both make up for concepts, and make turns in history .
    I have a proposal for you, I ll substitute some words you have used with some words of mine , and see whether your article could proceed as written or not.
    1-Muslim Brotherhood instead of Islamists( remember ElNour Salafi party and Suffis movements in Egypt are on the side of the Egyptian regime which you are still calling "military Coup"
    2-terrorists with a religious flavor instead of Islamists movements or jihadists
    3-non religious instead of secular as the Middle East throughout history didn't t have a religious empire or state, not to mention Egypt whose history never witnessed a religious state
    How is your article doing now? Does it still make sense, is it still intact with the same logic and findings?
    By the way , the words I used reflect history , they are factual.
    I wonder why the US didn't t include MB in its terrorist list , not as a reaction to Egypt decision, but because , I guess a prestigious think tank like yours know , that all " Islamic terrorist groups " are off springs of MB including el Qaada.
    Last but not least , pls check your information or who provides you with it , as Morsi was accused legally of betrayal or conspiracies with foreigners BEFORE the actual regime takes over, I.e. Before June 2013.
    Thank you for your patience
     
     
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  • Fathy Ash
    Another article from the so-called experts on Egypt and the Middle-East .
    These so called institutions which litters Washington DC , and which add nothing
    of significance to the US foreign policy in the last 70 years ; have resulted in a
    complete failure of the US foreign policy .
    From Vietnam to the present ,so-called , Arab spring !!!!!? .   
    To insist that what happened in Egypt is a military coup in beyond believe .
    God help the American politicians if they carry on taking your so called
    political nonsense into account . I am sure ,people in Egypt and the wider
    Middle-East DON'S T .

     
     
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  • Carl Peter
    Thanks, Sherifa Zuhur... nothing to be added to your comment
     
     
    Reply to this post

     
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  • Omnia
    Le fascisme islamiste dans lequel s'est s'enfonçé le pays est grâce à la politique US. Merci de nous donner l'occasion de retrouver la foi en notre armée, merci de nous apprendre que l'Egypte ne connaitra pas un scénario à la syrienne comme prévu. Occupez vous des FM et de leur confrérie qui sont aux EU, de la confrérie qui a écrit son histoire dans la violence et dans le sang, que vous n'avez toujours pas reconnu comme organisation terroriste parce qu'elle réside chez vous.
     
     
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  • Abdel-Rahman Abdel-Ahad
    1 Recommend
     
    Sherifa Zuhurs remarks crystallize the narrow, intolerant thinking of the so-called "anti-Islamists" who are unwilling to accept that Islamism, for better or worse, is the most popular force in the region. The millions of protests against Mohamed Morsi were because of his administrative incompetence and blunders, not because of a sudden popular outbreak of anti-Islamist sentiment. In fact Western media had been portraying Islamists as the "evil twin" of the Arab Spring since it started, despite the Islamists' considerable contribution (alongside secularists and others) in the uprisings.
     
     
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  • M. Mounir
    For the NICE people who refuse till this moment to confess that it is a COUP.
    If it is not a Coup, so why is the army arresting and killing his partner in the June rise.
    Please answer, Why are there many secular activists killed and arrested (6-April mov. as an example) ... Even why are some Christians arrested?
    Just an advise: don't waste your time and effort ... shortly, you are swimming against the wave.
     
     
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Source http://carnegieendowment.org/2014/06/05/banking-on-myanmar-strategy-for-financial-sector-reform/hcvo

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72%

of Europeans and Turks

are opposed to intervention in Syria.

90%

of Russian exports to China

are hydrocarbons; machinery accounts for less than 1%.

13%

of undiscovered oil

is in the Arctic.

17

U.S. government shutdowns

occurred between 1976 and 1996.

40%

of Ukrainians

want an “international economic union” with the EU.

120

million electric bicycles

are used in Chinese cities.

60–70%

of the world’s energy supply

is consumed by cities.

58%

of today’s oils

require unconventional extraction techniques.

67%

of the world's population

will reside in cities by 2050.

50%

of Syria’s population

is expected to be displaced by the end of 2013.

18%

of the U.S. economy

is consumed by healthcare.

81%

of Brazilian protesters

learned about a massive rally via Facebook or Twitter.

32

million cases pending

in India’s judicial system.

1 in 3

Syrians

now needs urgent assistance.

370

political parties

contested India’s last national elections.

70%

of Egypt's labor force

works in the private sector.

70%

of oil consumed in the United States

is for the transportation sector.

20%

of Chechnya’s pre-1994 population

has fled to different parts of the world.

58%

of oil consumed in China

was from foreign sources in 2012.

$536

billion in goods and services

traded between the United States and China in 2012.

$100

billion in foreign investment and oil revenue

have been lost by Iran because of its nuclear program.

4700%

increase in China’s GDP per capita

between 1972 and today.

$11

billion have been spent

to complete the Bushehr nuclear reactor in Iran.

2%

of Iran’s electricity needs

is all the Bushehr nuclear reactor provides.

78

journalists

were imprisoned in Turkey as of August 2012 according to the OSCE.

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