Will Egypt's government now strike a deal with the Muslim Brotherhood?
The Muslim Brotherhood said it was entering direct talks with the government Sunday. Democracy protesters in Cairo's Tahrir Square remain suspicious of any compromise deals that may be promised by Vice President Omar Suleiman.
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Suleiman is a devout Muslim himself and is also deeply suspicious of the Brotherhood, a longtime enemy of the Mubarak government. Though the movement eschewed violence decades ago and has hewed to a gradualist course, men like Suleiman -- not to mention much of the foreign policy establishment in the US and Europe -- view them as a threat to stability.Skip to next paragraph
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Suleiman's place in Egyptian politics was secured in 1995, when he insisted that Mubarak use an armored car on a trip to the Sudan. While both men drove through the streets of Khartoum, they were ambushed by members of the Gamaa Islamiyah, a group of violent Islamists that split from the Brotherhood in disgust over the group's refusal to use violence in the 1970s. Mubarak credited Suleiman's advice, and the two men spent the next decade working in concert to wipe out the group.
Now he's at the forefront of the old military elite, which appears likely to shed Mubarak in elections scheduled for September but do what it can to maintain its position (the 82-year-old Mubarak promised last week that he won't run).
Muslim Brotherhood makes its move
Blake Hounshell, the managing editor of Foreign Policy magazine who's in Cairo following the uprising, says it appears the Brothers are turning their back on the protesters at Tahrir and attending to their own interests.
"They see they're losing leverage, and they want to get the best deal possible they can, now," he says. "The longer this thing draws out, the more it goes against the protesters, and the Brotherhood knows that."
At Tahrir Square, which has been turned into an encampment for democracy protesters over the past 12 days, many today were suspicious of the Brotherhood.The group is clearly popular in Egypt, but without free elections or decent polling, their true support is impossible to gauge. Many Egyptians argue that the group wouldn't be able to take clear power in fair elections, and may see a deal now that allows it to legally participate in politics and give it a voice in some political reforms as its best chance at short-term influence.
"The Muslim Brotherhood wants to steal the success of this revolution. They are welcome to play a part, but they're not the leaders," says Samie el-Shafie, a woman who holds a senior position at the Ministry of Health and has just joined the protests at Tahrir Square. "They don't represent us."
-- Ann Hermes contributed to this report.