Military arrests 650 Morsi backers after shootings

National reconciliation took a back seat to message-sending in Egypt today on both sides of the political chasm that opened last week.  The military government announced that they had arrested 650 pro-Morsi supporters after a deadly confrontation two days ago that resulted in more than 50 deaths and 300 wounded.  Among the detained, one official said, were Syrian and Palestinian nationals:

An Egyptian security official says 650 people, mostly backers of ousted President Mohammed Morsi, have been detained for allegedly trying to storm a military facility, an incident the military claims sparked violence that left more than 50 pro-Morsi protesters dead.

The detainees were largely pro-Morsi protesters seized during clashes early Monday outside the Republican Guard headquarters. Protesters and Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood deny any attack took place on the headquarters, saying troops opened fire on their sit-in nearby as the protesters finished dawn prayers.

The security official said Syrian and Palestinian nationals were among those arrested. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the press.

We’ll get back to the potential import of the nationalities involved in the melee.  For their part, the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt has rejected the plan put forward by the military government for a new constitutional referendum and national elections:

Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood on Tuesday rejected a new timetable announced by the military-backed interim leadership that sets a fast track for amending the Islamist-drafted constitution and holding new parliamentary and presidential elections by early next year.

The quick issuing of the transition plan showed how Egypt’s new leadership is shrugging off Islamists’ vows to reverse the military’s ousting of President Mohammed Morsi and wants to quickly entrench a post-Morsi political system. …

Essam el-Erian, a senior Brotherhood figure and deputy head of its Freedom and Justice Party, rejected the transition timetable, saying it takes the country “back to zero.”

“The cowards are not sleeping, but Egypt will not surrender. The people created their constitution with their votes,” he wrote on his Facebook page, referring to the constitution that Islamists pushed to finalization and then was passed in a national referendum during Morsi’s year in office.

He said the military and its allies were targeting “not just the president but the nation’s identity, the rights and freedoms of the people and the democratic system enshrined in the constitution.”

That would be a good argument, except for the facts surrounding the enshrining of the suspended constitution.  The MB stacked the constitutional panel with Islamists, pushing out any sense of balance.  When courts attempted to intervene to make sure that the results would be pluralistic, Morsi assumed dictatorial powers to prevent their interference.  That move, above all others, is what legitimized the massive demonstrations and the military coup, which was prompted more by the dire economic conditions in Egypt under Morsi’s rule.

What of the nationalities involved in the pro-Morsi demonstration?  It’s no secret that Islamists in the region are dismayed by the fall of Morsi, including the rebels in Syria that want Islamist rule to replace the dictatorship of Bashar al-Assad.  Palestinians, especially Hamas in Gaza, see it as an even bigger nightmare, reports McClatchy:

For the Islamist Hamas rulers controlling the Gaza Strip, the ouster of Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood movement is a “nightmare” situation.

Hamas, which began as the Palestinian offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood, celebrated Morsi’s election to office last year, becoming a key Islamist ally and supporter in the Arab world.

“What happened in Egypt is a nightmare for Hamas which it did not expect,” Mukhaimer Abu Saada, a political science professor at Al-Azhar University in Gaza, said in an email to reporters. …

When Morsi emerged as the victor of Egypt’s first free elections in 30 years, many in Gaza celebrated what they thought would be renewed ties with Egypt and the rest of the Arab world.

“We believed that this would mean a complete renaissance for Gaza, a complete opening of the Rafah border between Egypt and Gaza, trade deals, no travel restrictions. We imagined that we would finally be connected to the rest of the region,” said one Hamas legislator, who asked to speak anonymously because Hamas has refused to comment on the ongoing turmoil in Egypt. “Instead, there were only small changes. Now there is this, and the mood in Gaza is very dark. We feel we are stranded.”

For Egyptians, the focus on Palestinians in Gaza was a sore point with the Morsi regime, thanks to the starvation and economic disaster presently unfolding in Egypt.  Under normal circumstances, Egyptians would be sympathetic to Gaza and the Palestinians, but not at their own expense in the crisis:

“They send things to Gaza which we do not have in Egypt. We want to get rid of Morsi and get a new leader who puts Egypt first,” said Ala Mafrouk, a 23-year-old student who took part in the protests in Cairo’s Tahrir Square.

It’s not too surprising to see Palestinians and Syrians promoting Islamist rule in Egypt, but that’s not going to help the Muslim Brotherhood rescue itself from the current political crisis it created for itself, either.