Fomenting Civil War in Egypt

Eric Draitser

of more than 50 people
at a demonstration in support of ousted Egyptian
President Morsi in Cairo on Monday has justifiably horrified many in Egypt and
internationally.  The pro-Morsi elements
have placed the blame on the military forces, while the military claims it was
attacked with live ammunition.  While
accusations are hurled back and forth, a new aspect to this story is emerging –
the presence of a third force, namely snipers stationed on rooftops firing at
both sides of the conflict.  This revelation
raises serious questions about the true nature of the conflict in Egypt and the
disturbing similarities between this incident and similar ones in Syria,
Thailand, and elsewhere.

The Cairo Massacre

As thousands gathered near the Republican Guard headquarters
where many believe the Egyptian military is holding former President Morsi,
violence erupted, killing at least 51 people and injuring hundreds.  The bloody incident marked a clear transition
from a purely political conflict to a potential civil war. 

According to military officials, pro-Morsi “terrorists”
attempted to storm the building, thereby eliciting a violent response from the
military forces defending themselves.  Colonel
Ahmad Mohammad Ali, a spokesman for the Egyptian military claimed that police
personnel were attacked while attempting to secure the area.  He noted
that, “They were on top of buildings…they either fired or threw things down…they
were firing live ammunition and the military had to defend itself.”  Colonel Ali’s comments have been echoed by
most major media outlets in Egypt which are largely controlled by forces
sympathetic to the military and the former Mubarak regime.  However, the Muslim Brotherhood and other
pro-Morsi forces paint a distinctly different picture.

on the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party website
naturally blames the Egyptian military forces for wantonly killing what it
describes as “peaceful protestors who reject the military coup and demand
reinstatement of their elected President Mohamed Morsi.” From the Islamist
perspective, the massacre, as well as the coup itself, was a direct assault not
only on the Muslim Brotherhood but on democracy itself.  Moreover, the killings seem to have set the
precedent that Islamist elements have no recourse in Egypt other than violence.

Despite the differences between these opposing factions,
there is a common thread between them – both are blaming the other for inciting
the violence that could lead to a total destabilization of the country.  However, here it is critical to note that the
bulk of the killings on Monday took place at the hands of unknown snipers
stationed on rooftops, as shown in this youtube
. Although the snipers appear to be wearing military uniforms, their
actual identity remains unclear.  Because
it is impossible to verify exactly who the snipers were, and who they were
working for, it is critical to instead examine the possible motives or lack

The military has claimed repeatedly that they were attacked
and that the response was purely defensive. 
However, this cannot possibly explain the presence of military snipers
on rooftops, no mere defensive posture. 
Conversely, the claim by the Muslim Brotherhood and allied supporters
that the snipers were obviously Egyptian military does not seem consistent with
the political circumstances, nor the facts on the ground.

First and foremost, it should be noted that the military stands
nothing to gain and everything to lose from using such
tactics.  Having seized power in what can
only be regarded as one of the most “popular coups” (not my term) in modern
history, they already had the majority of the country and world opinion on
their side.  There was no worldwide
condemnation of their actions, rather, governments seemed to be falling over
themselves to “look forward” and “call for stability”, both simply coded
language for tacit support.  So, with the
world watching Egypt, carefully scrutinizing every move the military and
secular opposition make, in what possible way could they stand to benefit from
sowing such chaos?  Naturally, they stood
to gain nothing.  Moreover, the notion
that Egyptian military snipers would fire at their fellow soldiers is far-fetched
to say the least.

Secondly, the Muslim Brotherhood and their supporters
undoubtedly understood the impossibility of fighting the military on the
streets.  Whatever weapons sources claim
they had (bottles, rocks, small arms) are certainly not enough to significantly
impact the military.  The notion that
these demonstrators attempted to “storm” the Republican Guard headquarters
seems laughable.  Although the crowd was
predominantly comprised of fervent supporters of the deposed President Morsi,
they were still regular Egyptians, not militant Salafists or some such

So it would seem that neither side really stood to benefit
or had the capability to do what the other side is suggesting.  That would then raise the most critical
question of all…if the snipers were not part of either side, then who exactly
were they?  It would seem that the only
logical conclusion would be that the snipers were from some as yet unknown
third party whose interest was not in taking sides but in ensuring that violent
clashes and killings would take place so as to stoke tensions and foment civil
war.  Keen observers will note that we
have seen this scenario before, most recently in Syria.

The Syrian and Thai

At the outbreak of the violence in Syria in 2011, many
wondered how the situation on the ground escalated so quickly.  It would seem, according to mainstream
Western media reports, that the Syrian security forces had simply gone mad and
began killing peaceful demonstrators at random. 
However, what became clear within days was the fact that unknown snipers
stationed on rooftops in cities such as Deraa and Hama were indeed the main
culprits.  As seen in these
as well as countless articles, the presence of snipers on rooftops
throughout Syria is undeniable. 
Naturally, the claim was immediately made that the snipers were merely
Assad’s military forces.  Conveniently
enough, no evidence was ever produced that showed the initial snipers were
indeed government soldiers. 

Interestingly, the Arab League observer mission, itself
openly hostile to the Assad regime, noted in its report of early 2012 that many
of the atrocities including sniper shootings, could be correctly attributed to
a third, unknown force inside the country. 
As the report


Mission determined that there is an armed entity that is not mentioned in the protocol.  This development on the ground can undoubtedly be attributed to the excessive
use of force by Syrian government forces in response to protests that occurred
before the deployment of the Mission demanding the fall of the regime.  In some
zones, this armed entity reacted by attacking Syrian security forces and
citizens, causing
the government to respond with further violence.

The report corroborates what many eyewitnesses have stated,
namely that some of the violence that erupted at the outset of the conflict in
Syria was attributable to this “third force” replete with snipers and military
training and equipment.  Predictably, the
report attempts to spin the violence from the “third force” as being purely in
response to the Syrian military, but provides no evidence other than a generic
assertion that “undoubtedly [the violence] should be attributed to the
excessive use of force by Government forces”. 
Essentially then, it should be clear that there was some element inside
of Syria during the early stages of the conflict that used snipers and other
forms of violence and terror to push the opposition and government into full
scale war.  It seems to have worked quite

Syria is certainly not the only country that has experienced
this sort of phenomenon.  In 2010,
violence erupted between the government of Thailand and red shirted supporters
of US-backed former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.  Just as in Syria, mysterious
armed with sniper rifles, machine guns, and grenades emerged within
the ranks of the red shirts and began attacking Thai troops, killing a
prominent Colonel and six other soldiers. The attempt to “storm” a military
facility with protestors was clearly a cynically orchestrated cover for the
fomenting of chaos and possible destabilization of the country with the
intention of installing Washington’s darling Shinawatra.  Here again we see that snipers and other
armed, unknown fighters were at the center of the incident.

What happened in Thailand was no mere accident.  It required coordination and planning,
financing and materiel support.  This
indicates that, contrary to the mainstream media’s fantastical narrative, this
was no mere political protest and should not be treated as such.  Rather, as in Syria, we see a clear example
of the lengths to which certain elements will go to achieve their political

The details of the massacre in Egypt are still coming out,
so it is impossible to say for certain exactly what happened.  However, judging from previous experiences in
Syria and Thailand, one should have reservations about the narrative being sold
to the public.  Who exactly were those
snipers in Cairo?  Who gave the order to
fire at both pro-Morsi protestors and at the military forces?  The answers to these and other questions must
emerge with time.  Hopefully, there is
still a united and peaceful Egypt when they finally do.

Eric Draitser is an independent geopolitical analyst based in New York City.  He is the founder of  You can reach him at