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What Lies Ahead For Egypt


To talk more about the changes in Egypt, we turn to Michele Dunne. She's director of the Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East at the Atlantic Council, a think tank here in Washington. Welcome to the program.

DR. MICHELE DUNNE: Thanks, Audie.

CORNISH: So let's go back to the interim president, Adly Mansour. He was the supreme justice of Egypt's Supreme Constitutional Court. Tell us more about him and some of his ties to previous regimes.

DUNNE: Adly Mansour has been a senior judge in Egypt for a long time. He sat on the Supreme Constitutional Court for more than 20 years, but he's not really a nationally known figure. In fact, he only became the chief justice just days ago when the other chief justice reached retirement age.

So he's not a well-known figure at all, and those who do know him personally say he's a quiet, modest man and someone who's not really - doesn't really have a political profile in the country.

CORNISH: So what does his selection tell us about the approach the military is taking this time around given the criticism that they suffered after Hosni Mubarak stepped down?

DUNNE: Well, first of all, this time, the military was careful to put a civilian out front. During the 18 months in which the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces ruled after Mubarak, they themselves - this military body and the head of the body, who was a defense minister - was acting president. So, this time, the acting president, the interim president, is a civilian.

And the Supreme Constitutional Court is a respected body in Egypt. So this man was chosen because he's the head of that body, not because he is himself that prominent. And in the old constitution, this person, the head of the Supreme Constitutional Court, was in the line of succession to the presidency. So that's why he's there.

CORNISH: Are there any actions that we can look for to give us a sense of who's really calling the shots, though?

DUNNE: The first thing I'm looking for is who's going to be head of the interim cabinet. Will it be a political figure or a technocrat? What I'm hearing today is it's more likely to be a technocrat. The last name I heard was Farouk Okdah, who was the head of the central bank until recently. So it could very well be an economic figure.

But the unfortunate thing about that is if you have the acting president and the prime minister not being really prominent national figures, it means they can't really stand up to the military, and the military is still calling the shots, although from behind a veneer of civilian rule.

CORNISH: Let's talk a little bit about the Muslim Brotherhood. How significant is the treatment of these figures? How important is that going to be? Obviously there's concerns being raised that the military could be using the protest in the streets as an excuse to confront the brotherhood and with excessive force.

DUNNE: This is really troubling. There are reports today that more than a dozen of the senior figures from the brotherhood, from the Freedom and Justice Party, have been arrested. There are reports coming out of various charges that might be brought against them.

Now, what I'm guessing is, of course, the military is thinking here that they don't want these brotherhood leaders on the loose, sort of forming a shadow government or perhaps inciting unrest and so forth. But it's troubling. In the past, Egypt has had this habit of trumping up legal charges against political opponents, and I'm afraid that might happen here again.

CORNISH: But also, I mean, what effect could this have on the future political engagement of this party's supporters?

DUNNE: The, you know, the interim president and even the defense minister, when he made his statement, you know, announcing this coup, were careful to use the word inclusive, that everyone is going to be included, the Islamic trend is going to be included going forward. But it's really going to be difficult to include them while at the same time you're arresting their leaders.

And the danger here, of course, is violence. There already is violence breaking out between Morsi supporters and police in several parts of the country. It's on a small scale at this point, but it could be larger.

And, you know, Egypt is a different place now than it was before the revolution two-and-a-half years ago. Small arms have spread widely within the country. Guns are in many, many - if not most - Egyptian houses now. And so the possibility for anti-government violence or for clashes between Morsi supporters and others I think is high going forward.

CORNISH: Now, you wrote in an op-ed for today's Washington Post that United States has made a hash of its Egypt policy, talking about this based on the fear of losing Egypt's security cooperation in the region. In what ways have you seen that over the years, some examples, over the last year?

DUNNE: What the United States has done is just to cling to whoever was in power in Egypt and to just construct a narrow government-government relationship, you know? So that was with Mubarak. That was with the military. They were in power. That was with Morsi when he was in power.

And the United States has not engaged as broadly as it should with other political forces, with civil society and so forth. And this leads everyone, you know, as Leila Fadel said in her report, to accuse the United States of having no principles, you know, and really not standing up and supporting the growth of democracy in Egypt, which the United States, as Egypt's longtime friend and as one of the most important democratic nations in the world should be doing.

CORNISH: Michele Dunne, she is vice president at the Atlantic Council and director of the Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East. Thank you so much for coming in.

DUNNE: It was my pleasure, Audie. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.