Things in Egypt are coming to a head. The protest in Tahir Square on Sunday is being billed as the largest political protest ever. In addition to Cairo, people are protesting all over. A mob burned down the Muslim Brotherhood headquarters. Obama, after staying silent for some time, finally called upon to President Morsi to meet with the opposition and enact some democratic reforms. (Two years ago, under similar circumstances, he demanded that the Egyptian president step down.)
I see a few scenarios playing out:
1. Morsi leaves power. There is a power vacuum, and a civil war.
2. Morsi does not leave power. There is a civil war.
3. The military takes over, creating a military dictatorship. Since Morsi tried to purge as many non-Islamist people as possible from the military, it is an Islamist military dictatorship.
4. The military takes over, creating a military dictatorship. Despite Morsi’s efforts to purge as many non-Islamist people as possible from the military, the military has remained primarily secular. Once in power, it can either retain it or, having stabilized the country, pave the way for democratic elections.
5. The military, which Morsi purged of moderate elements, backs Morsi. It takes extreme measures, killing hundreds of thousands of Egyptians in order to put down the protests. The Muslim Brotherhood retains power, but with increased cruelty and despotism.
Keep in mind with these scenarios that Egypt has the largest population of any nation in the Arab Middle East, and that it shares borders with Libya (al Qaeda), the Sudan (Muslim extremists), and Israel (Jewish, democratic, prosperous). It is also a country in deep economic decline, something that began under Mubarak and accelerated under Morsi. Famine is dogging it. Finally, Obama has continued to pour money and weapons (including F-18 fighters) into Egypt.
What do you think will happen? Are any of my scenarios reasonable? I assume there are a lot of scenarios that didn’t even occur to me.
UPDATE: Right now, it looks as if the military is starting variation 4 — taking over — and to the extent it seems to support the protests, that may pave the way for a peaceful transition to a more democratic, non-sharia Egypt. I know I sound cynical, but I’m not sure that people bred on decades of Islamism are capable of making that transition: