The Brotherhood’s ‘scorched earth’ politics

Abdel Latif el-Menawy
Abdel Latif el-Menawy
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A scorched earth policy is a military strategy that involves “burning” anything that might be useful to the “enemy” while advancing through or withdrawing from an area.

The term originally meant the burning of agricultural crops in order to prevent the “enemy” from using them as food supplies. But now, the term implies the burning of food products and the destruction of major infrastructure, like shelters, transportation and telecommunications facilities and industrial resources.

Destroying the “enemy’s” resources in a punitive manner is one of reasons the scorched earth policy is implemented.

Notice how this policy is always directed towards the “enemy.” If we apply this concept to the recent behavior of the Muslim Brotherhood towards Egyptians, we'd realize the group has been committed to the policy and we'd understand the extent of their hostility towards those who are supposedly their own (as Egyptians).

At the beginning, I didn't want to believe the news confirming that the Brotherhood command gave orders to all of the groups’ leaders in Cairo and different provinces to launch an attack against the state’s facilities and vital institutions and to burn and destroy them.

News reports said the attack also included burning all national and private newspapers and all ministries and police stations, targeting the ministry of interior and raiding and destroying the media production city.

Scenes of Cairo on fire after one of its own sons set the fire are painful to observe.

Abdel Latif el-Menawy

Brotherhood supporters adopted the “scorched earth policy” as a basis for the organized terrorist operations they carried out for days. These operations included burning institutions and private and public property in a manner that reflects a state on fire and that displays lack of carelessness in property and lives. It was a clear message to anyone who opposes the Brotherhood's path. Raiding, destroying and looting public institutions is the second form of violence practiced by the Brotherhood against the state and its citizens. Blocking major roads to obstruct traffic was the third strategy.

In an act that reminds us of the burning of police stations and raiding prisons in January 2012, the Brotherhood targeted police stations and state institutions burning them and destroying them as part of their clear plan to attack security institutions and harm the state's prestige. Attacking churches and the Egyptian Christians’ property is a new take on an old style for the Brotherhood and its allies; historically it has practiced violence against the Copts.

The situation is not limited to Egypt. Intelligence apparatuses have detected that the international organization of the Brotherhood have made clear statements announcing a “state of alert” in all Arab countries where Brotherhood members are present. The announcement of this “state of alert” was made after the pro-Mursi protesters were dispersed.


What's currently happening is an accurate implementation of a plan in which I do not want to believe. The Brotherhood is implementing chaos at the expense of its people and its country by expanding the zones of confrontations with security forces in order to confuse them and exhaust them.

What the Brotherhood doesn't realize is that the scorched earth policy has only increased their isolation. Many Egyptians feel shocked that this group once governed them. A large number of Egyptians hold the Brotherhood responsible for the dangerous escalation which killed and injured dozens, including security forces members. They see the Brotherhood as responsible because they rejected local and foreign initiatives to contain the crisis and resort to dialogue.

The door to participate in drawing Egypt's roadmap for the future has remained open since day one after Mursi's ouster. But the Brotherhood specified that its loyalty lies outside the country's borders. It refused to do anything other than destroy and burn the land behind it. One member said that they will either rule Egypt or burn it. Scenes of Cairo on fire after one of its own sons set the fire are painful to observe. Brotherhood members are unaware that by practicing the scorched earth policy they are in fact creating a state of hostility that's difficult to easily overcome.

This article was first published in al-Masry al-Youm on August 17, 2013.


Abdel Latif el-Menawy is an author, columnist and multimedia journalist who has covered conflicts around the world. He is the author of "Tahrir: the last 18 days of Mubarak," a book he wrote as an eyewitness to events during the 18 days before the stepping down of former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. Menawy’s most recent public position was head of Egypt’s News Center. He is a member of the National Union of Journalists in the United Kingdom, and the Egyptian Journalists Syndicate. He can be found on Twitter @ALMenawy

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