The Muslim Brotherhood and the war on Egypt
The latest series of attacks in northern Sinai gives some idea of the scope of the challenge that President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s Egypt is facing.
On June 30, 2013, millions of Egyptians took to the street to protest against the regime of president Muhammad Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood. Yes, the armed forces sided with the people but ultimately it was the Egyptian people who brought down the rule of the Muslim Brotherhood. And so, in revenge, the group decided to launch all-out war on Egypt itself.
Arab allies, led by Saudi Arabia, stood shoulder to shoulder with the Egyptian people on the basis that the Arab world needs a strong Egypt and that the collapse of the country would serve to unbalance the region and plunge it into chaos.
The Arab states that stood with Egypt faced a number of challenges, most prominently from Washington and Ankara. The US administration fails to understand that there is a general consensus in the Arab world about the Muslim Brotherhood and its members — we can no longer differentiate between a “moderate” member of the group and a hard-line or extremist member. All members of the Brotherhood and the extremists come from the same root and are members of the same branch.
From the June 29th assassination of Prosecutor-General Hisham Barakat to the series of bombings across different regions of Egypt to the attacks on military and security outposts in northern Sinai, it is clear that the Muslim Brotherhood is trying to send a message.
The thrust of this message is that the Brotherhood has launched an all-out war against Egypt. Brotherhood members will not give up on their goal of regaining control of Egypt. This is something they will continue to pursue, seeking to benefit from the open borders with Libya and the so-called Islamic Emirate that has been established by Hamas in the Gaza Strip and particularly from the foreign powers that are backing them. What is happening is truly an open war against Egypt and there can be no doubt that foreign powers are backing this war, providing the terrorists with arms and even men.
Nobody can claim that hundreds of fighters can simultaneously attack dozens of security outposts in coordination without outside assistance. This indicates that they are an organised army that possesses sophisticated weapons. There can also be no doubt that the Egyptian government bears a heavy responsibility for its inability to take the required measures to respond to the Brotherhood’s attempts. The Brotherhood has clear plans and objectives.
Simply put, it wants to topple Sisi. The Egyptian leadership should make up its mind. It should confirm that there is no difference between a “moderate” member of the Muslim Brotherhood and an extremist; they are all the same.
The Brotherhood is the root of extremism, including al-Qaeda and the Islamic State. From Osama bin Laden to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi to Ayman al-Zawahiri — they are all from the same root and branch and that is the Muslim Brotherhood.
Most importantly, the Egyptian leadership should acknowledge and understand that Egypt is in a state of war and that its very existence is at stake and that there can be no compromise with terrorism at home or abroad, whether in Libya, Gaza or elsewhere. Egypt should take the initiative and not let itself be a theatre for proxy wars.
We cannot underestimate the forces arrayed against Egypt. These forces have already shown their strength. This requires a quick response from Egypt’s armed forces to purge the Sinai from terrorism.
There can be no doubt that anything less than a strong Egyptian response could be seen by terrorists as an invitation to escalate their campaign. So there is a need for long-term strategy, in coordination with allied Arab states, to put an end to this open war against Egypt.
However, this is more than just a war on Egypt; it is a war on moderate Islam and on the Arab world. Egypt will not eliminate terrorism overnight but now, more than ever, we need a long-term strategy that recognises that there can be no let up in the fight against the Muslim Brotherhood.