Egypt’s interim Prime Minister Hazem el-Beblawi appears to be backtracking on his earlier call for the dissolution of the Muslim Brotherhood, in comments on Tuesday that hinted at a possible government compromise with the Islamist group.
El-Beblawi’s statements in an interview with state media fly directly in the face of his previous, unbudging defense of the group’s dissolution: “There will be no reconciliation with those whose hands have been stained with blood and who turned weapons against the state and its institutions.” Now, the interim premier is warning that “dissolving the party or the group is not the solution and it is wrong to make decisions in turbulent situations.” His apparent about-face should inspire some skepticism, not least of all for how demonstrably at odds his justification is with the government’s actions against the Brotherhood in recent days.
In an ever-widening crackdown, security officials announced that they had detained over 60 supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood on Wednesday, including relatives of the group’s leaders. Even with the group’s top leadership already behind bars, security forces showed no sign of letting up pressure on the group, which plans to stage another massive protest this Friday.
Between the fierce security crackdown on the Brotherhood and the messaging that has successfully justified it to the Egyptian public by characterizing the group as a terrorist threat, it’s not immediately apparent where El-Beblawi is going with this new pivot. Any overture to the Brotherhood at this stage would be too little, too late. The odds of a genuine compromise are nonexistent (something El-Beblawi admitted himself in another interview on Wednesday). Though the gesture in itself will be worth something in the scheme of the military-backed government’s active campaign to have the last word on post-Morsi Egypt: while its actions suggest that it is not overly concerned with its international reputation at the moment, the interim government knows it needs to have a face-saving (even if only superficially credible) narrative to hand for when it is confronted about its anti-Brotherhood actions.