Egypt Security UpdateJuly 25, 2013 in Egypt
Clashes are expected on Friday, 26 July following an unusual statement by Egyptian General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.
On 24 July, al-Sisi, gave a speech at a military graduation ceremony. In the televised speech, he said, “I urge the people to take to the streets this coming Friday to prove their will and give me, the army and police, a mandate to confront possible violence and terrorism. So that in case there was a resort to violence and terrorism, the army would have a mandate to confront this.”
Millions of Egyptians are expected to take to the streets tomorrow in support of the government mandate, as the Muslim brotherhood has been protesting daily, with escalating violence and negative economic impact since the removal of President Mohamed Morsi on 4 July.
While the call for civilian mobilisation is unusual, the reasons behind it may be two-fold. First, it is important for the Egyptian government to prove to Western authorities that they acted legitimately on behalf of the broad majority of Egyptians. The mobilisation of the Egyptians could prove, in a sense, that what the army did on 4 July was not a military-directed coup, but a civilian revolution with assistance from the military. The difference in this language means the difference between deliveries or withdrawals of vital financial aid packages, particularly from the US.
Second, the call for civilian mobilisation follows a bombing conducted in Mansoura on 24 July, which resulted in the death of 1 office, and the injury of 19 officers and civilians. This is the first time a bomb has been detonated in Nile Valley Egypt since 3 July, and is an alarming escalation. While the military has been tolerant of peaceful and even semi-violent protests, the use of gunfire has instigated reaction. The detonation of a bomb, unusual for the region, signals an impact from outside influence, and directly threatens civil order. Intelligence from the region has indicated that weapons have been sent through the Sinai Peninsula in to Egypt, from Gaza.
Meanwhile, Interim President Adly Monsour has taken a step back from the proceedings. He must walk a fine line between providing hopes of re-establishing dialog with the Muslim Brotherhood in order to create an inclusive new government, and reassuring the West that Egypt is on a path to stability and economic improvement.
In his speech, Al-Sisi again urged against public unrest, and called for national reconciliation. However, it is likely that a large turnout of Egyptians on Friday will give the military the “permission” they need to crack down on the Muslim Brotherhood. If reconciliation is not a conceivable option for the Brotherhood, who have rejected several opportunities to work with what they term “the false government”, then it is possible that the Egyptian military could consider, once again, driving the group underground as they had done in the 1950s.
As such, clashes and mass arrests are expected on Friday. Those travelling in the region would be advised to refrain from participation in rallies, as violence is expected. Foreigners should also be wary of unscheduled changes to protest destinations or marches between sites.