by Chas Danner
Bassem Sabry outlines the treacherous path that lies ahead for the organization:
On one hand, the Brotherhood is faced with the combined power of an antagonistic administration, the media, the judiciary and a substantial number of people who seem to be confronting the Brotherhood in the streets out of their own volition. The Brotherhood is even facing the leaderships of the country’s top two religious institutions, the Coptic church and Al-Azhar. Most remarkably, a senior Al-Azhar leader and scholar, Dr. Ahmed Kreima, had reportedly declared that Al-Azhar’s council of Sharia scholars has deemed the Brotherhood apostates.
On the other hand, as the Brotherhood seemingly continues to lose control over its base, and and as supporters resort to open violence, their cause and any sympathies garnered are damaged, and the position of the government strengthened. The prevailing narrative in Egyptian media of an “Egypt Fighting terrorism” becomes more palatable for some than it previously seemed.
Eric Trager adds that, while the Egyptian military has been very successful in targeting the Brotherhood’s leadership, the consequences of that success may prove dire:
[The generals have] demonstrated that they understand the Brotherhood’s vulnerabilities, since the Brotherhood cannot function effectively once its top leaders have been apprehended. After all, the Brotherhood is at its core a hierarchical vanguard, in which legions of fully indoctrinated cadres are organized under a nationwide, pyramidal chain-of-command. …
Still, the military’s decapitation of the Brotherhood is a double-edged sword.
By removing the top layers of the organization, the military has made it impossible for the Brotherhood to execute a change in strategy. The military thus has no way of compelling the Brotherhood to abandon its disruptive protests and instead re-enter the political process, as the military says is its goal, because all of the top and provincial leaders who could command their cadres to change course are being removed from the scene.
Even worse, by disorganizing Egypt’s most cohesive Islamist group, the generals have turned hundreds of thousands of deeply ideological Muslim Brothers into free radicals, who will no longer listen to their typically cautious leaders.
Lynch surveys the response of other prominent Islamists across the Arab world, noting that the crackdown in Egypt may result in greater polarization between Islamist organizations and Gulf nation governments, most of whom have loudly offered their political and financial support to Egypt’s military-backed government. And then there’s the Syria angle:
These Islamist networks and personalities have been instrumental in building support and raising money for the various factions of the Syrian opposition. Now, they are prominently equating Egypt’s General Abdel Fattah al-Sissi with Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad. Suwaidan, for instance, proclaims that “the right is clearly with the revolutionaries in Syria and with those who adhere to legitimacy and reject the coup in Egypt.” What will happen if the Islamist networks which have been working to support the Syrian opposition begin to turn their fundraising and mobilizational efforts to Egypt?