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Shadi Hamid, director of research at the Brookings Doha Center, echoed that assessment. “Sinai was critical. If it didn’t happen, Morsi wouldn’t have made these changes so soon,” he said. “Sinai presented a window of opportunity for Morsi. He already shuffled the decks with the mukhabarat head and governor of Sinai, and the failure in Sinai highlighted a number of internal problems, especially with regard to SCAF’s competence.”
Paul Sullivan, a North Africa expert at National Defense University notes the risk involved. “This is a palace coup and a very risky one,” he said. “Firing most of the SCAF is a bold move that could backfire at Morsi. He has been losing credibility with the Egyptian public since his election. The Sinai attack was seen by many in Egypt as a sign of Morsi’s weakness, not the military and intelligence people. Now he is trying to turn the tables on them.”
Unsurprisingly the White House and State Department were also caught off guard, noting that they too had not been notified in advance. At first they had no comment, but the Washington Post’s David Ignatius writes that U.S. officials “appear to have confidence in the new defense minister, Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Sissi, who had extensive contact with the United States in his previous post as head of military intelligence.” Yet Ignatius is forced to admit the obvious, noting that the Muslim Brotherhood “has now tightened its grip on Egypt, controlling the military as well as the presidency and the parliament.”
Add the Egyptian media to the list as well. On Saturday, Al-Dustour, a privately owned newspaper, had its editions confiscated after an Egyptian court ruled that it had insulted Morsi and instigated sectarian discord, according to Egypt’s official news agency. The discord? They were warning Egyptians that the Brotherhood was going to seize power, and needed to be stopped by a coalition of liberals and the military. And no doubt by sheer coincidence, Morsi has just named the editors of the top Egyptian newspaper, as well as other state-owned media outlets.
All this leads inexorably to one one conclusion: a successful Muslim Brotherhood power-grab has taken place in Egypt. It is one that has caught the Obama administration completely off guard, as have so many other “unexpected” developments of the so-called Arab Spring. Once has to wonder if such an event could have happened so rapidly if America had an administration grounded in reality, rather than one with an affinity for Islamists that defies logic. Barring a complete turnaround by the military, Morsi can do anything he wants. No doubt president Obama will try to put a happy face on it when Morsi visits the White House next month. Ironically, one is left to wonder whether that invitation, essentially legitimizing Morsi over Israeli objections, was part of the impetus that prompted his seizure of power.
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