5 things worth knowing about the Egyptian military coup 4 July 2013

1)      This isn’t the first military coup in the Middle East

Egyptian President MursiRecent history has shown that the military of Middle-Eastern countries are more than happy to oust democratically elected governments should they threaten military power. Turkey had one in 1960, 1971 and again in 1980 and technically 1997 too. In fact, many see the protests in Turkey at the moment as an attempt to seduce the military into action against Erdogan. Syria had a military coup in 1970 that brought Hafez al-Assad to power (and thus Bashar al-Assad today). Yemen too had a coup, in which Gamal Abdel Nasser was a key leader – Nasser was also the second President of Egypt, which leads on to our second point…

2)      This isn’t the first military coup in Egypt

In fact, it was a military coup in 1952 that ended British occupation and ousted the incumbent monarchy. Since then, the military has pretty much ruled the country – despite the guise of elections, almost all leaders were chosen from military ranks. The only real opposition the military ever faced came in the form of the Muslim Brotherhood, who in the 1950s were a popular and organised street movement which the military saw as a threat. Fast forward 60 years, Hosni Mubarak (a senior officer in the Egyptian air force) is ousted through protests in Tahrir Square. Elections are held, and it is the Muslim Brotherhood candidate who wins by a margin of about 200,000 votes. Naturally the military aren’t thrilled.

3)      The US is in a very awkward position

The US has been sending aid to the Egyptian military for several decades now (in total, about $300 billion). There were plans on the table to send $1.3 billion in 2014. Egypt and its military has traditionally been an ally for the US. Except now, it would be against the US’s own laws to send any money through – federal law states that it is illegal to send aid to “the government of any country whose duly elected head of government is deposed by military coup d’état or decree or, after the date of enactment of this Act, a coup d’e´tat or decree in which the military plays a decisive role.” Without US funding, the Egyptian military would very quickly be unable to pay its soldiers – weakening it more than any revolution could. The US is now faced with either letting the military fall on its face, or break its own laws and continue sending funds to the military.

4)      The military will want to disband the Muslim Brotherhood

As of the 4th July, Morsi and top Muslim Brotherhood figures are under arrest. The junta has suspended the constitution and parliament, and promises to hold elections in the future. If the Muslim Brotherhood compete in these elections, they’ll most likely win. Public support in Egypt for the movement is widespread. The military know this as well as anyone else. They could ban the Brotherhood – just as they were banned during the Mubarak era. However, no one can accuse the Brotherhood of breaking any laws and thus the military has very little pretense for such a judgement.

5)      The Muslim Brotherhood will be thinking long-term

There is a common saying that the Vatican thinks in centuries, not years. The Brotherhood is comparable. Founded in 1928 in Egypt by the charismatic Hassan al-Banna, the movement has suffered more than a few setbacks. Its founder was assassinated, its leaders have been imprisoned on more than one occasion (Morsi himself was in prison just prior to the Egyptian revolution), however, it has generally not faltered in its growth. Part of its success has been a willingness to think long-term about its goals, and it will certainly be thinking long-term about the effects of this coup.


About Abdul-Azim Ahmed

Dr Abdul-Azim Ahmed is Editor of On Religion magazine. He holds a doctorate in religious studies and an MA in Islam in Contemporary Britain.

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