Sisi moves to further isolate Muslim Brotherhood
Cairo - The return to Egypt of a pro-Muslim Brotherhood TV presenter after assurances that he will not face arrest reflects President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s desire to further sideline the already-weakened Islamists.
Tarek Abdel Gabir left Egypt after the army ousted Islamist president Muhammad Morsi in July 2013 and repeatedly criticised Sisi on the pro- Brotherhood channel al-Sharq but he has been assured by Sisi that no legal action would be taken against him.
Abdel Gabir is apparently not the only Brotherhood backer allowed to return from self-imposed exile. According to Abdullah al-Senawi, a writer who attended a meeting between Sisi and a group of intellectuals in late March, the Egyptian president said he would allow other Brotherhood supporters to return as well.
Underlying Sisi’s decision is his desire to emasculate the Brotherhood by sidelining their supporters to make it easy for him to vanquish them.
“Sisi is opening the door for the return of these people only to weaken the Brotherhood,” said Sameh Eid, a Brotherhood dissident. “History teaches us that no enmity lasts forever.”
Along with sending assurances to Brotherhood supporters in self-imposed exile, Sisi is taking measures in Egypt, such as releasing several imprisoned Islamist figures, including leaders of the pro-Brotherhood National Alliance for the Defence of Legitimacy. Hundreds of Brotherhood supporters have been freed from prison after being charged with rioting, joining an outlawed movement and damaging public property.
These moves are seen as unbefitting a man who is viewed by the Brotherhood as the number one enemy. Sisi harbours equal contempt for the Brotherhood.
As defence minister under Morsi, Sisi said several times that he had seen how the Brotherhood wanted to control Egypt, rule it for hundreds of years and change its cultural identity. He has said the Brotherhood has an ideology that cannot endure.
Some leaders and backers, including Abdel Gabir, avoided prison by secretly leaving Egypt, ending up mainly in Qatar and Turkey, two countries that opposed Sisi’s rise to power.
Abdel Gabir said he has colon cancer and wants to return to die in Egypt and Sisi is giving him what he wants.
“However, in his desire to win the Brotherhood’s allies to his side or at least sideline them, Sisi wants to disempower the Brotherhood in preparation for totally crushing them,” said Kamal Habib, an Egyptian political analyst. “He also wants to save his energy for his other enemies, namely the extremists in the Sinai peninsula.”
Scores of Egyptian troops and police have been killed in attacks by militants linked to the Islamic State (ISIS) in Sinai.
Sisi’s war against the Brotherhood is reducing the influence of the Islamist organisation, which had a strong following especially in rural Egypt and among the poor. Weakened on the street, with most of its leaders in jail and its members hiding their political affiliation for fear of prosecution, the Brotherhood appears to be totally down.
The movement’s leaders in Turkey are appealing to the authorities through emissaries to allow them to return.
Saad Eddin Ibrahim, a pro-reconciliation activist and one of the emissaries, told a local newspaper that he met a group of Brotherhood leaders in Istanbul who asked him to convince Sisi to allow them to return to Egypt.
This was seen as a sign of surrender on the part of the movement.
“The Brotherhood is no longer capable of challenging the authorities,” Eid said. “They are going through their lowest point now.”
This is why experts say that Sisi’s next move will not be for him to mend fences with the Brotherhood but to give them one final punch.