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Islamists back Egypt’s military

For decades, Hosni Mubarak justified his rule by claiming that democratisation would see Egypt fall into the hands of the Muslim Brotherhood, the banned Islamist opposition movement, writes Marcus Halaby
Western governments and media concurred, raising few objections in 2007 when he had 8,000 Brotherhood supporters arrested.

No surprise then that on the first of 18 days of protest that brought down Mubarak, Egypt’s interior ministry blamed it on the Brotherhood, even though its leaders played so small a role in the protests that they drew open criticism from its youth members.

On 28 January, the fourth day of the protests, former US negotiator Martin Indyk even warned of “dramatic negative ramifications” if “the regime falls, and the Muslim Brotherhood takes control of Egypt and breaks the peace treaty with Israel”.

This threat was one supposed reason why US President Obama opposed Mubarak’s immediate resignation for as long as possible, in favour of a “managed transition” to free elections in September.

Yet far from just waiting for their opportunity to seize power, the Brotherhood were among the first to offer to negotiate with Mubarak. They clearly see their goal as a share in government though a deal with elements of the old regime. They also called for support for the army in the early days of the uprising.

To emphasise its reliability to the army, its spokesman Essam al-Erian announced on 18 February that it would “not impose its view” on Egypt’s peace treaty with Israel, and that this decision belongs “to the entire Egyptian people”. But just who in Egypt supports this treaty, apart from Mubarak’s cronies in the military?

The real threat from the Islamists is not that it will hijack the democracy movement to impose an Islamic state, but that the Brotherhood add its weight to the attempts of Egypt’s military to demobilise the masses and cheat them of the democratic rights they fought and died for.

And there will be no shortage of Western pundits praising its moderation when it does it.

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