As members of the Muslim Brotherhood lick their wounds as well as lament the opportunity they have lost to consolidate their rule and vision of political Islam in Egypt, they will likely be reflecting on the multiple strategic missteps that pulled their country to the edge of civil war. Crowning this list will be their decision—in the weeks after the January 25 Revolution—to invest in a strategic relationship with the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), to the detriment of their relationship with Egypt’s revolutionary forces. As its cadres now call for the continuation of the January 25 Revolution and its objectives, it is necessary to question whether the Muslim Brotherhood ever was a revolutionary force.
Just as the Muslim Brotherhood had allied with former president Gamal Abdel Nasser and the Free Officers in the military coup of July 1952, the Brotherhood’s elites entered the political sphere in 2011 with the attitude that their political base coupled with the power of the military would allow them to dominate the new political scene. In 1954, however, the attempted assassination of Gamal Abdel Nasser resulted in a crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood as they witnessed the imprisonment, and even execution, of their members. These events undoubtedly bred the Muslim Brotherhood’s eagerness to avoid confrontation with the SCAF in 2011, and instead to seek a strategic relationship with the generals during the transitional period. Yet just as Nasser turned on the Muslim Brotherhood in 1954, the Brotherhood again witnessed the decimation of their once-strategic relationship with the military in 2013—a tactical disaster that has been in the making for over two years. Whether history will refer to the mass uprising of 30 June 2013 as a coup or a revolution, the Muslim Brotherhood had failed to consolidate its strategic military relationship—a relationship that has come at the expense of cooperating with and incorporating opposition forces in governance.