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Egypt: Will the Brotherhood make a comeback?

Dr. Naser al-Tamimi

Published: Updated:

The dramatic developments in Egypt have put the spotlight on the future of the Muslim Brotherhood and had prompted some to predict the fall of the movement, or at least the end of its ascendency in the Egyptian political scene. Indeed, the Muslim Brotherhood movement now stands at a crossroads, and its political choices have become complex.

The situation in Egypt pushes the movement to confront two options between bad and worse. The first scenario, on the Algerian path, is to engage in a comprehensive armed confrontation with the Egyptian army. This would certainly have a disastrous impact on Egypt and ultimately may lead to the destruction of the Muslim Brotherhood movement itself. The Washington Post columnist Charles Krauthammer rightly predicted that if the Muslim Brotherhood chose the route of going to war by creating its own military and fighting Egyptian forces instead of seeking a peaceful solution, the Muslim Brotherhood will lose. "The Brotherhood leadership, I think, understands that if it does an Algeria and decides it's going to go and make war on the army, it's going to lose and it will lose badly and be imprisoned and disperse or go back to the 1950s," he added.

The second scenario is a "re-play" of the Egyptian version of the Turkish scene during the eighties and nineties when the Turkish army dismissed the Islamists, who never gave up the peaceful struggle through establishing new parties and appointed new leaders. Of course, all these attempts lasted for decades eventually led to the victory of Erdogan. In that regard, I do not agree with many of the Brotherhood's opponents who were quick to celebrate the dismissal of Mursi and predicting the demise of Muslim Brotherhood movement. From my long observations of the Muslim Brotherhood movement, all indications are that they are on their way to the adoption of the Turkish scenario, of course, after that they will work to strengthen their internal cohesion and drain their political opponents.

The Brotherhood should not be underestimated

The leadership of the Muslim Brotherhood realized in last days of Mursi’s presidency that accepting the demands of the opposition to hold new elections may lead inevitably to exclude them from power and facilitate a crackdown on them, this time by a legitimate and elected government. As for Mursi’s resignation and a call for a referendum on his presidency may lead to the same result and perhaps even worse.

The Muslim Brotherhood is betting on Egyptian political groups becoming divided.

Dr. Naser Al-Tamimi

The strategic planners in the Muslim Brotherhood earlier realized the best way to defend is to attack, by challenging the opposition and the army together. They realized that the continuation of the situation could lead to a depletion of the opposition and ultimately change the mood of Egyptian masses, and if the army decides to oust Mursi (of course this is what happened), the Brotherhood may be granted the opportunity to challenge the legitimacy of the new system and continue to play the role of "victim" in front of the masses.

We should not underestimate the Muslim Brotherhood’s organizational capabilities, or their ability to be patient and wait for opportunities. The movement is aware, (and they, of course, rightly so), that the problems of Egypt are complex and phenomenal (as was the case in Turkey) and need long years and enormous potential to solve, or as Thomas Friedman put it bluntly: "This confluence of population, climate, unemployment, water scarcity and illiteracy may be making Egypt ungovernable."

They are betting on the Egyptian political groups being divided later on and problems may worsen. The opportunity to rule may return to the Brotherhood once again, but this time in a more substantial and powerful way.

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Dr. Naser AL-Tamimi is a UK-based Middle East analyst and the author of the forthcoming book "China-Saudi Arabia Relations, 1990-2012: Marriage of Convenience or Strategic Alliance?" He is also Al Arabiya's regular contributor with particular research interest in energy politics and political economy of Saudi Arabia, the Gulf and Middle East-Asia relations. The writer can be reached on Twitter: @nasertamimi or email: nasertamimi@hotmail.co.uk

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.