Mohamed El Baradei, the former chief of the IAEA and now a leader of Egypt’s liberals, warned in an FT op-ed that Egypt is on the brink of civil war:
We are back in Tahrir Square. The situation is volatile: an Egypt bitterly divided between Islamists and the rest of the country, opening the door for scenarios such as army intervention, a revolt of the poor, or even civil war. Fear grips the majority of Egyptians, who want a true democracy rather than a theocratic state. The judiciary has gone on strike. The youth who led the revolution are determined: they did not take risks and make sacrifices – including lost lives – to exchange secular dictatorship for religious tyranny. Their fight was, and is, to bring freedom and dignity to the Egyptian people.
El Baradei is one of the leaders of the protestors sweeping through Cairo and other Egyptian cities, demonstrating and grandstanding and showing their anger against Morsi and the Brotherhood. It is a coup, they chant; Morsi is more of a dictator than Mubarak. “Is this the best we can do?” writes El Baradei.
The liberals tend to overestimate their own importance. They assume that when so many pack into Tahrir Square other Egyptians must also be sympathetic to their cause, must also be angry with the government, even if they couldn’t make it all the way to Tahrir that day.
But not everyone wants to protest Morsi’s power grab. Most Egyptians want stability, reliable access to food. They want to be able to go out at night and not be harassed by stone-throwing youths lounging on the corniche. Over the past few weeks, thousands of Egyptians have joined protests against Morsi. Thousands, not millions. And besides, thousands of others rally in Morsi’s favor.
It is not clear that if it comes down to a fight in the streets the liberals will beat the Islamists.