The predicted devastating consequences of the U.S. policy of supporting the military coup that overthrew Egypt’s democratically elected President Mohamed Morsi on July 3, 2013, are increasingly coming to pass. As expected, Islamic extremism is on the rise. Last week, the New York Times reported:
In just the last two weeks, Islamist militants have detonated a car bomb at the gates of the capital’s security headquarters, gunned down a senior Interior Ministry official in broad daylight and shot down a military helicopter over Sinai with a portable surface-to-air missile.
But perhaps most alarming to officials in Cairo and Washington are the signs that the swift increase in the scale and effectiveness of the attacks may come from a new influx of fighters: Egyptians returning from jihad abroad to join a campaign of terrorism against the military-backed government….
The military overthrow of a freely elected Islamist fulfilled the predictions of jihadist ideologies that power could never be won through democracy, and they have pounced on the opportunity to proclaim their vindication.
International terrorist groups like Al Qaeda and the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, began calling for Muslims inside and outside of Egypt to take up arms against the government. Now a growing number of experienced Egyptian jihadists are heeding that call, often under the banner of Sinai-based militant groups such as Ansar Beit al-Maqdis, according to United States and Egyptian officials involved in counterterrorism.
This is exactly the outcome that was expected. It is inconceivable that policymakers in Washington could not foresee this. It was easily predictable, and it was predicted. Some examples:
The Muslim Brotherhood, which has effectively been thrown out of power, must now figure out how to respond. The group probably will not respond violently, but it will engage in civil unrest that will lead to violence. Though the Brotherhood is unlikely to abandon the path of democratic politics, Morsi’s ouster will lead elements from more ultraconservative Salafist groups to abandon mainstream politics in favor of armed conflict.
The overthrow of Egypt’s moderate Islamist government undermines the international efforts to bring radical Islamists into the political mainstream in the wider Arab and Muslim world. Ultimately, within the context of Egypt, Morsi’s ouster sets a precedent where future presidents can expect to be removed from office by the military in the event of pressure from the masses. In a way, this was set in motion by the ouster of former President Hosni Mubarak, and it does not bode well for the future stability of Egypt.
Egypt: Military Coup Bodes Ill for Future Stability“, Stratfor, July 3, 2013 (the day of the coup)
The Brotherhood’s fall will have profound implications for the future of political Islam, reverberating across the region in potentially dangerous ways. One of the most important political developments of recent years was the decision of Islamist parties to make peace with democracy and commit to playing by the rules of the political game. Leaders counseled patience to their followers. Their time would come, they were told.
Now supporters of the Brotherhood will ask, with good reason, whether democracy still has anything to offer them. Mr. Morsi’s removal will breathe new life into the ideological claims of radicals. Al Qaeda and its followers have long argued that change can’t come through the democracy of “unbelievers”; violence is the only path. As the Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahri once said, “What is truly regrettable is the rallying of thousands of duped Muslim youth in voter queues before ballot boxes instead of lining them up to fight in the cause of Allah.”
Shadi Hamid (director of research at the Brookings Doha Center and a fellow in Middle East policy at the Brookings Institution), “Demoting Democracy in Egypt“, New York Times, July 4, 2013 (one day after the coup)
There is also anecdotal evidence that some of the former president’s Islamist supporters have grown increasingly radicalized by the military takeover: One protester directed a message to army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, saying that he had created “a new Taliban” and a “new al Qaeda” in Egypt.
David Kenner, “Egypt’s Islamists Turn Violent After Morsy’s Fall“, Foreign Policy, July 4, 2013 (one day after the coup)