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Meinardus: 'Dramatic escalation in Egypt'

Egyptian police have cleared the Muslim Brotherhood's protest camps; Vice President ElBaradei has resigned as a result. Violence is no solution, says Ronald Meinardus, head of the Friedrich Naumann Stiftung in Cairo.

Egyptian security forces move in to clear one of the two sit-in sites of supporters of ousted president Morsi, near the Rabaa Adawiya mosque in Cairo, Egypt, 14 August 2013. (Photo: EPA/MOSTAFA DARWISH)

Ägypten Räumung des Mursi Anhänger Lagers in Kairo 14. August 2013

DW: Mr. Meinardus, what do you think about the most recent developments in Egypt?

Ronald Meinardus: The situation has escalated dramatically. In the last few days and weeks, there has been kind of a ceasefire. This ceasefire has now been broken. The protest camps were cleared in a fashion that can best be described as excessive.

The Muslim Brotherhood calls it a massacre and has announced retaliation. What we see right now is an expansion and decentralization of the protest. The people who were kicked out of the protest camps don't go home - they gather, and some of them roam the streets, marauding. Then, violent clashes with the Brotherhood's opponents occur.

So it doesn't look like the military interim government and the Muslim Brotherhood are approaching each other?

Dr Ronald Meinardus, head of the Cairo office of the Friedrich Naumann Stiftung on the phone in his office, Monday, 01.07.13. (Photo: private)

Meinardus: there's no basis for political talks in Egypt right now

The precondition for a peaceful agreement are political talks. But they require a willingness on both sides and a certain climate of trust. These things do not exist right now. The country was deeply divided even before this most recent escalation, and the polarization has even worsened after today's events. There are - and that is part of the Egyptian tragedy - no significant forces of moderation. You're either on one side or on the other. The country is missing a connective entity.

Last week, politicians from abroad tried to mediate. One of them was Germany's Foreign Minister, Guido Westerwelle. But their efforts didn't go anywhere, because the Egyptian government said 'We will solve these problems in our own fashion.' At the moment, it doesn't look like a political process can start any time soon.

Even Egypt's most important western ally, the US, demanded that the protests be allowed and that Mursi be released - so far without success. How much influence does the West still have on the Egyptian leadership?

Opportunities to appeal are rare. The men in power are western-minded and secular. The head of the military, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, attended a military academy in the US. But it's obvious that they don't really care about any advice from the west. Egyptian media run an almost xenophobic campaign. They say that the issues are internal Egyptian ones and that the West shouldn't intervene. Some observers talk about a nationalist revolution.

Egyptian security forces detain demonstrators after a crackdown on a protest camp by supporters of ousted president Mohamed Morsi and members of the Muslim Brotherhood on August 14, 2013 in Cairo's Rabaa al-Adawiya mosque. (Photo: STR/AFP/Getty Images)

Egyptian security forces detain demonstrators at one of the pro-Mursi protest camps in Cairo

What could be done to include the Muslim Brotherhood after all?

The Muslim Brothers have suffered many losses. They now see themselves in the role of martyrs. It will take a very long time for this pain to subside. The blood on the streets of Cairo and other cities can be washed away. But the psychological trenches will be very hard to bridge.

The Brotherhood has said before that the least they demand is for their leaders to be released. Of course they want the disempowered president Mohammed Mursi to return to office. The interim government says this is a no-go.

How strong is the Muslim Brotherhood and how much support does it have among the people?

We can compare the Muslim Brotherhood to a Leninist party. It grew in the underground and was persecuted and criminalized for decades. There is a tight network of cadres. The Brotherhood is well organized and structured and apparently very well financed, too.

The Brothers are one of the big political powers in Egypt. There are estimates that they would get around 20 percent in a political election. The large majority of Egyptians, though, is sick of the Muslim Brotherhood's rule. That's why there were huge anti-Mursi protests that finally led to the military intervention.

We are in a very explosive situation right now. All I can say is, you're not doing yourself any favors if you're trying to eliminate the Muslim Brotherhood by military means. That is not an option. It won't be successful.

Ronald Meinardus is head of the Cairo office of the Friedrich Naumann Stiftung, which has close ties to Germany's liberal party (FDP).

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