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Death Toll in Egypt Rises

The death toll [1] from yesterday’s violence in Egypt has risen significantly:

Egyptian authorities on Thursday significantly raised the death toll from clashes the previous day between police and supporters of the ousted Islamist president, saying more than 500 people died and laying bare the extent of the violence that swept much of the country and prompted the government to declare a nationwide state of emergency and a nighttime curfew.

In addition to further destabilizing the country and provoking more violence in the near term, yesterday’s crackdown compounds the initial error of the coup in that it will cause many Islamists in Egypt and elsewhere to conclude that taking up arms is the only route left open to them. Whether or not the latest crackdown triggers a major uprising [2] in Egypt, it is bound to aid jihadist recruitment and contribute to the radicalization of more Muslims. Paul Pillar suggests [3] that this may have been part of the military leadership’s thinking in ordering such a severe crackdown:

Most of the Brotherhood’s supporters were not ready to abandon the peaceful ways that the organization had followed for decades, but their dismay and anger made the protests and the camps inevitable. Now there is the bloody and brutal destruction of the camps, and at least some of those supporters are surely concluding that there is no method left to them but violence.

Wouldn’t the breeding of more Egyptian terrorists be a bad thing from the viewpoint of Egyptian military leaders? Not if they wish to present themselves as a bastion against terrorism and to lay claim as such to American support.

Of course, it is perverse to consider the military a “bastion” against a threat that their actions are making worse, but this will probably be accepted here in the U.S. as a “necessary” arrangement. Instead of doing our best to disentangle the U.S. from our ties to the leaders of the coup, which seems the only sane thing [4] to do at this point, Washington will find new excuses for why this week’s disaster requires even more “engagement” than before.

Update: Shadi Hamid notes on Twitter that the death toll is at least several hundred more than the official tally:

Second update: The number of Christian churches, institutions, and homes attacked has also risen greatly. According to this source [7], 56 have been attacked and/or burned since yesterday.

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5 Comments To "Death Toll in Egypt Rises"

#1 Comment By Sea Green On August 15, 2013 @ 8:52 am

Yeah, there was no military “coup”, just ask nice Mr. Baradei. And no way hundreds of dead in Egyptian streets in a single day could possibly equate to “civil war” … How silly of anyone to think so …

Good work, Mr. Obama. And hats off to you, too, Ms. Clinton. Thanks heaps for keeping the military and economic aid flowing to Egypt’s new military dictators, undermining US national security by making more enemies for the United States. As long as the Israelis are happy – that’s really all that counts …

#2 Comment By Cliff On August 15, 2013 @ 9:51 am

After a massacre like this, following on the July massacres (which seemed unbelievably horrible, until now), we would expect that the more radical among the islamists, those who always did distrust the Brotherhood’s peaceful nature and its choice to engage in elections, to respond with force. The attacks on churches indicate that this is indeed happening.

But it isn’t just the army and the islamists. Morsi did not win a majority in the presidential election; nobody did, so it went to the playoffs. There, given a choice between the Brotherhood’s candidate and the military’s, those whose candidates had lost in the first round preferred Morsi. A year later, many of them regretted that choice and switched to the military, actively calling for a coup. After the coup, some of them joined the “government”, which has now been shown to be a mere velvet glove concealing the military fist. But now, after the generals have shown their true colors, where will this “third force” go? The massacres have made Egyptian politics bipolar, and they will have to decide, again, which bad choice they prefer. Whatever they decide, this time they won’t be able to change their minds.

#3 Comment By CJ On August 15, 2013 @ 12:17 pm

In an utterly cynical, Machiavellian way, isn’t this exactly what the anti-Brotherhood forces would want? An open conflict, with battle lines clearly drawn, wherein they kick the living snot out of the Brotherhood. They don’t want the Brotherhood in power whether gained through bullets or ballots. If it is a civil war, the March to the Sea settled things much more decisively than did the Missouri Compromise.

#4 Comment By Rawls On August 15, 2013 @ 12:44 pm

If the Obama admin does not cut off aid to the Egyptian military after this, shame on them. But I find those trying to hold Obama somehow responsible for this mess to be disingenuous at best. On the whole, I think the Obama admin has handled this about as well as realistically possible given the complexity of the situation abroad and the political dynamics at home. Sea Green, maybe you should reflect on how a McCain admin might’ve handled this before implying that Obama is somehow overly loyal to the Israelis.

#5 Comment By Andrew On August 15, 2013 @ 12:59 pm

Good work, Mr. Obama. And hats off to you, too, Ms. Clinton. Thanks heaps for keeping the military and economic aid flowing to Egypt’s new military dictators, undermining US national security by making more enemies for the United States. As long as the Israelis are happy – that’s really all that counts …

Your sarcasm is misguided. It was, indeed, Hillary’s State Dept which was singing praises to Arab Spring while helping Muslim Brotherhood come to power. As for the indignation with “new dictators” (c), really? Islam and “democracy”–what a concept for a daydreaming “lovers” of liberty.