The interim government doubled down on its allegations that the deadly confrontation two days ago in front of a Republican Guard headquarters was instigated by the Muslim Brotherhood.  The top prosecutor in the military-supported government ordered the arrest of the party’s top leadership for charges of inciting violence, in a move that will guarantee to inflame passions in Cairo:

Egypt’s top prosecutor ordered the arrest Wednesday of the Muslim’s Brotherhood’s leader, Mohamed Badie, and nine others suspected of inciting violence in Monday’s clashes with the military that left more than 40 dead. Most of those killed were supporters of deposed President Mohammed Morsi.

At a government briefing in Cairo following the arrest order, a foreign ministry spokesman said Brotherhood leaders are inciting violence against citizens and institutions, reports CBS News’ Alex Ortiz.

The spokesman insisted that no political parties will be excluded from the post-military takeover roadmap going forward, but added there is no place for those who incite violence against the state.

Regardless of whether the evidence justifies this arrest order, the offer to be included in the post-military political scene sounds rather hollow while the party’s top leadership gets arrested and taken to jail.  It’s certainly not going to convince the Muslim Brotherhood’s rank and file to feel jolly about the opportunity to take part in post-coup Egyptian politics, and it’s the rank and file that will be going out into the street to either block these arrest orders or protest them after the fact.  If the new government wanted to avoid a civil war, they’re not demonstrating it with any appreciable restraint at the moment.

The Muslim Brotherhood also rejected an earlier offer to join the interim Cabinet in unspecified ministries:

A Brotherhood spokesman said the group will not take part in an interim Cabinet, and that talk of national reconciliation under the current circumstances is “irrelevant.” He spoke on condition of anonymity because of concerns for his security. …

Still, its rejection underscored how polarized the nation’s politics have become, and laid bare the monumental task the interim leadership faces in trying stabilize the country. The nascent government will soon face demands that it tackle economic woes that mounted under Morsi, including fuel shortages, electricity cutoffs and inflation.

Attempting to address those issues will be made all the more difficult if the government ends up in a civil war with the Muslim Brotherhood, too.  Passive non-cooperation might be a drag on progress, but a shooting war or a massive demonstration of obstructionism would be worse.  At some point, the new government has to be looking for ways to defuse the situation rather than throwing gasoline on the fire.

The US could have been in position to offer its services as a mediator. Thanks to two years of fecklessness on policy in Egypt, though, the Obama administration finds itself in the odd position of being equally distrusted and disliked by both sides in the conflict, according to the Washington Post:

There is little that the angry supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood have in common with the secular, liberal revelers in Tahrir Square these days — except for one thing.

They both believe the U.S. government is conspiring against them.

After a year of outreach to the Muslim Brotherhood following the election of its candidate, Mohamed Morsi, as president, the United States is widely perceived here as siding with Islamists it once eyed with distrust.

At the same time, the Obama administration’s cautious refusal to condemn Morsi’s ouster last week quickly spent the goodwill it had built with the Brotherhood — without buying any trust from the other side.

Instead, the liberal forces who drove the revolution to topple Morsi view the United States with even more wariness.

“We love the American people,” said Bolis Victor, 34, a middle-class merchant in the Egyptian capital, who said he has relatives in Chicago. “But we hate Obama and Patterson.”

That would be U.S. Ambassador to Egypt Anne W. Patterson, a career diplomat who assumed the top post in Cairo in 2011.

Ah, yes …. smart power.  The only leverage we have now is the aid to the military, which we can’t afford to suspend for very long without losing all leverage, and which is intended not for good governance but just to keep the peace with Israel.  We pushed Egypt into fast elections which served only the Muslim Brotherhood and its Islamist ambitions, and now we’re backing the strategy that should have been deployed in 2011 — a slow walk to a pluralistic constitution, followed by national elections, but this time after a coup rather than an anti-coup.