Three days ago, the Muslim Brotherhood had the upper hand in the national narrative after a shooting at the Republican Guard headquarters in Cairo left 54 dead and more than 300 wounded. Today in Alexandria, Mohamed Morsi supporters have a fresh public-relations debacle on their hands. A group of their supporters killed two teenagers at a demonstration, murders that were caught on cell-phone camera and broadcast to the nation:
The murders appear especially brutal, considering the age of the victims and the lack of defense they appear to have made. The chief suspect paraded around the crime scene with a black jihadi flag, but later shaved off his beard to hide from authorities, which isn’t exactly a sign of exceptional courage, either. The footage outraged Egyptians, and a week that appeared to propel the Muslim Brotherhood’s momentum in the bitter fight over power seems to be ending by reminding people who Morsi’s supporters really are.
For its part, the Egyptian military promised to de-escalate the violence as the nation starts its celebration of Ramadan. The army asked for trust, but that will take some time to earn, and the detention of more than 600 demonstrators probably doesn’t help;
Uncertainty ruled in Egypt Wednesday as the Muslim holy month of Ramadan began and the military said it would address the issues of this week’s deadly violence.
It wasn’t clear whether the religious observance would calm or inflame tensions a week after a military coup.
The military, which ousted President Mohamed Morsy from office last week, said that 206 people who had been detained Monday during deadly clashes with security forces face charges of manslaughter, voluntary manslaughter, acts of violence and illegal possession of firearms. The suspects will remain in police custody for another 15 days while investigations into their actions continue. More than 600 people in all were detained Monday.
The announcement comes as the military seeks to portray itself as a stabilizing force in the splintering nation.
Military rule is at least bringing in badly-needed aid:
Even as the interim government struggled to unify political support at home, it picked up the financial support of some regional heavyweights — neither are fans of the Muslim Brotherhood.
Saudi Arabia’s finance minister said the kingdom has pledged $5 billion in grants and loans to the interim government, according to the official Saudi news agency SAPA.
And the United Arab Emirates will give $1 billion to Egypt and lend it another $2 billion as an interest-free central bank deposit, state news agency WAM reported Tuesday.
The $8 billion in fresh aid limits the influence of the US on the situation in Egypt. While the military needs all of the cash it can get, an influx of that size makes it easier to get by if the Obama administration or Congress put a hold on aid to Cairo. That’s probably not on the table anyway — an arms sale of four F-16 jets to Egypt is still on, for instance — but it would be even less likely now. Washington doesn’t want to surrender any more influence on Egypt than it already has to Saudi Arabia and the UAE.