When political forces in Egypt ascertained that the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) and other political entities that represent it – the group’s political wing the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), the candidates who won the confidence of the people such as the president and members of People's Assembly and Shura Council – have a firm hold on power, there have been many concerns about what will happen to the country.
For example, there is fear that the group’s position regarding the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty could trigger a war that consumes everything and everyone, which would make development efforts impossible. But in all honesty, the group’s response was reassuring; it rejected the need to go to war and said it respects all agreements signed by Egypt.
In pragmatic terms, it adopted a balanced position when the Israeli embassy was attacked, and after President Morsi came to power coordination between Egypt and Israel has continued.
After the Rafah attack where 17 Egyptian soldiers were killed, the president ordered an overhaul of the Armed Forces and sent a large number of troops to Area C – naturally, after coordinating with Israel.
And thus, it appears the “group” kept its word but what is happening on the ground seems to be an alarming harbinger. Salafist jihadist groups are heavily present in Sinai and are able of attacking the Armed Forces, civilian institutions, and even Israel. These groups seem adamant on imposing a reality on Egypt that is similar to Hizbullah in Lebanon, namely moving on Israel with complete independence from the state.
This would put Egypt in a position it does not want, namely when responses to Salafist jihadist attacks do not come from across the border in Israel, but from inside Egyptian territories. While Egypt could not remain silent in such a circumstance, any action would be unconvincing to the world because the country’s official and popular position is not decisive or resolute regarding these developments.
Even more disconcerting is the way the “group” and “rulers” handled the crisis over the hapless film and how it spread to the US embassy, which undermined Egyptian-US relations and in turn undermined a key guarantee of the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty. Such a development cannot be offset by Egyptian-Chinese relations not only in terms of grants, aid and international influence, but more importantly the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty.
Circumstances like this usually snowball into a bigger problem if the domestic front is not in the best shape. There are some positive steps being taken to combat corruption, the Constituent Assembly is trying to finalise a constitution, and attempts to create large coalitions that could reset the balance on the political scene to end what is described as MB “takeover” and hegemony.
At the same time, there is something more sinister: the Ministry of Interior recently announced that 1,400 strikes, sit-ins and protests took place within the past 48 days. This is almost as many as throughout 2010 before the revolution, but in the past this was not accompanied with road barricades, immobilising railway services, suspending work in public institutions and at such a large scale.
It is difficult to describe them as exceptions that cross the line between revolution and chaos, especially since they occur in all sectors and in some that are especially sensitive such as public transportation and education. The minister of industry has even declared that if the status quo continues the national economy will collapse.
It is an alarming situation. There is a threat that we could be submerged into a war that neither the state, government nor the political majority wanted. Meanwhile, the economy is threatened with complete collapse despite huge efforts to attract foreign and domestic investments. The reality that everyone inside and outside the country sees discourages both from launching new production operations, especially since there are 4,500 shuttered factories and power plants that are unable to meet the needs of customers, whether producers or consumers.
What is surprising is that after tangible improvements were made regarding Egypt’s reputation on the world stage, because of fair and free elections and the president’s conscientious moves, we are now entering tensions that could have been avoided and a crisis with the US that could have been evaded as we stand on the threshold of launching talks on an IMF loan and amid U.S. electioneering.
All this is because the MB does not want any of Islamist Salafist or jihadist groups to beat it in responding to provocations by malicious groups that want to drag Egypt into a serious clash with various world powers.
Governance, irrespective of its ideological and intellectual orientation, requires a deep breath based on research within its institutions and among its aids and advisers. It also requires consulting various political forces and opinion makers in information centres and think tanks on how to deal with these threats to Egypt’s national security.
Egypt could soon be facing an economic and security catastrophe. Its indicators are shown in the military operations taking place on the border, the falling figures on national reserves, and recent developments in foreign relations. In all honesty, if we do not confront these with the necessary determination and resolve we will find ourselves in a catastrophic situation that is even worse than the 1967 defeat.
That war was an outside aggression and the political leadership remained steadfast and solid, but this time we are facing a breakdown that would prevent schools from functioning; transportation from moving; factories from producing; electricity from lighting; a country disconnected from each other; and a world concerned about the number of terrorist groups that are running wild up and down country threatening neighbouring states.
This is not why we had a revolution, and not even what the MB wants, whether or not we agree with them. This is not the Egypt we or they want.
(The writer is a columnist for Ahram Online, where this was first published Sept. 26, 2012)