Opinion: Egypt’s “war on terror”

The head of Egypt’s armed forces, General Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi, has once again proven himself a master of political timing.

Just as people were beginning to despair at the vicious cycle of violence and political stalemate, wondering whether the state was truly capable of firmly standing against vandalism and outright terrorism instigated by the Muslim Brotherhood, Sisi chose to address the nation on Wednesday.

His immediate audience were the families of fresh military graduates, middle-class parents, the vanguard of conservative values. They are the ones most affected by the chaos on the streets and are fearful of the uncertain future facing the new state. General Sisi managed to allay the growing fears and banish the spectre of a failed, leaderless Egypt.

His messaging was concise, precise, forceful yet spoken from the heart (not once did he look at his written notes). The content was also strong, with phrases ike: the army will not permit a descent into chaos, democracy is the power of the people, and so on.

Most importantly, however, he asked for a show of popular support on Friday to grant the army a mandate to "confront possible violence and terrorism." It is the first public hint of an imminent security crackdown on the Brotherhood, and its alleged affiliates in terrorist cells in the Sinai Peninsula. I expect people to respond to the general's request and take to the streets on Friday because they are fed up of being bothered by the Brotherhood's militias on the streets of Cairo, the Delta and other governorates.

If they do, it will indeed be the green light General Sisi needs for his supposed war on terror. The army believes that its primary enemy from within is now the Muslim Brotherhood, who show no sign of giving up and agreeing to negotiations or national reconciliation. Neither the Ikhwan, nor their affiliates and allies, were ever genuinely interested in national dialogue after 3 July because they realised that with Morsy gone, their collective Islamic project was history. There is no future for political Islam in Egypt, at least for decades to come. This is why the Islamists will never give up without a fight.

On Wednesday, General Sisi seemed to signal that he is ready to bring it to them. Politically, he has put his neck on the line in a gamble that will probably pay off when people take to the streets Friday. With the Ikhwan’s show of violence since Morsy's ouster, it seems as if the army – strategically at least – has no choice but to attack the Brotherhood and attempt to uproot its alleged militias and armed cells in the Sinai.

Many people worry that this will mean more violence and strife. But deep down, we all probably realise that there is no way out of the current national crisis without violence. The Brotherhood has left no room for negotiations or peaceful reconciliation. Instead, once again, they will reunite the country behind the military in a war on terror – of their own making. And the military will have no choice but to fight back.

The intriguing factor in all this is the future role General Sisi will play in politics. After yesterday, it's hard to imagine him retreating to the shadows of the Egyptian political scene.

All views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, Egypt Independent.