The protests in Egypt have turned violent, but so far the Egyptian army has remained mainly on the sidelines. The Republican Guard deployed armored vehicles and elite troops to the presidential palace yesterday, but stood by while opponents to Mohamed Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood attacked each other in the street. Today, the army has demanded an end to protests at the palace, but stopped short of explaining what would happen if they continue:
The Egyptian army sealed off the presidential palace with barbed wire and armored vehicles Thursday as protesters defied a deadline to vacate the area, pressing forward with demands that Islamist leader Mohammed Morsi rescind decrees giving himself near-absolute power and withdraw a disputed draft constitution. …
The army’s Republican Guard, an elite unit assigned to protect the president and his palaces, surrounded the complex and gave protesters on both sides until 3 p.m. (1300 GMT, 8 a.m. EDT) to clear the vicinity, according to an official statement. The statement also announced a ban on protests outside any of the nation’s presidential palaces.
But a group of several dozen anti-Morsi protesters continued to demonstrate across the street from the palace past the military’s deadline Thursday afternoon, chanting slogans against the president. And organizers called for a larger evening rally. Meanwhile, members of the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamists supporting Morsi withdrew from the area after an overnight sit-in.
Morsi remained holed up in the palace as the clashes continued, consulting his advisers on how to proceed. The number of advisers has declined in the last day, however. Four more resigned yesterday, following two others who had previously left, leaving only 11 members of his advisory panel in place. The political ground under Morsi appears to be eroding, perhaps more rapidly than when he first announced his dictatorial decrees and the Muslim Brotherhood rammed their new constitution through the objections of practically everyone else.
The army may not be entirely under his control yet, either. The commander of the Republican Guard pledged not to use violence against protesters, which made the deadline for enforcement questionable enough for them to plan for more demonstrations later today:
Six tanks and two armored vehicles belonging to the Republican Guard, an elite unit tasked with protecting the president and his palaces, were stationed Thursday morning at roads leading to the palace in the upscale Cairo district of Heliopolis. The guard’s commander, Maj. Gen. Mohammed Zaki, sought to assure Egyptians that his forces were not taking sides.
“They will not be a tool to crush protesters and no force will be used against Egyptians,” he said in comments carried by the official MENA news agency.
We’ll see whether that remains the policy of the Republican Guard, or whether Morsi may need them to start imposing an end to opposition demonstrations.
You know who used to be very sensitive to the use of troops to quell political demonstrations? Barack Obama, who has been oddly silent over the last two weeks. Michael Ramirez sums up the situation nicely for Investors Business Daily:
Also, be sure to check out Ramirez’ terrific collection of his works: Everyone Has the Right to My Opinion, which covers the entire breadth of Ramirez’ career, and it gives fascinating look at political history. Read my review here, and watch my interviews with Ramirez here and here. And don’t forget to check out the entire Investors.com site, which has now incorporated all of the former IBD Editorials, while individual investors still exist.