Now that the Egyptian military appears to have granted the nation's wish—to be rid of Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood, as millions have been chanting, "Irhal" ["Leave office"]—al-Qaeda appears to have stepped in.
Hours before Egyptian President Muhammad Morsi was sidelined by the military council, Muhammad al-Zawahiri, Egypt's al-Qaeda leader, declared that the terrorist organization would wage a jihad to save Morsi and his Islamist agenda for Egypt. (They would not be the first Islamic terrorists to come to his aid; Hamas members were earlier arrested from inside Muslim Brotherhood headquarters, where they opened fire on protesters.)
According to a July 2 Veto Gate report, "al-Qaeda, under the leadership of Muhammad Zawahiri, is currently planning reprisal operations by which to attack the army and the Morsi-opposition all around the Republic [of Egypt]." The report adds that, hours before this information was ascertained, Zawahiri had been arrested and was being interrogated—only to be ordered released by a presidential order. He has since fled to the Sinai, where al-Qaeda is stationed—not to mention where Morsi had reportedly earlier summoned thousands of foreign jihadis to come to his aid whenever necessary, and where he may even have smuggled Muhammad Zawahiri's brother, Ayman Zawahiri—al-Qaeda's supreme leader.
In another report, Muhammad Zawahiri "offered joy to our Muslim Brothers in Egypt, for in all circumstances, we will not lose, Allah willing—quite the contrary." He added that "if matters reach a confrontation, then to be sure, that is in our favor—for we have nothing to lose. And at all times and places where chaos reigns, it's often to the jihad's advantage." Zawahiri concluded by saying that even if many and important jihadis and Islamists are arrested, it matters not, "for we sold our souls to Allah"—a reference to Koranic verses like 9:111—"and welcome the opportunity to fight to the death."
In the context of all these threats, many Egyptians are understandably worried. Right before the military intervened, a Tahrir TV host frantically and repeatedly called Morsi a "murderer," and the Brotherhood a "gang of murderers," adding, "Oh Minister of Defense—move! Move! Move and save the country! There is no time!" This may also explain why so many leading Islamists—along with Morsi himself—have been arrested and held by the military, on the charge of inciting Muslims against anti-Morsi demonstrators, by portraying them as "apostates" who must be fought and killed for are trying to resist the implementation of the Sharia of Allah.
They may also be being held as hostages to dissuade al-Qaeda from waging an all-out jihad, as many of those arrested—Safwat Hegazy, Hazim Abu Ismail, Tarek al-Zomor, Khaled Abdullah—are open friends of Muhammad Zawahiri.
On the other hand, although the Brotherhood has been portrayed in the U.S. as "just another" political party—or, in the mystifying words of James Clapper, Obama's director of national intelligence, "largely secular," which is the last thing it is—it is folly to think that Morsi, the Brotherhood, and all their Islamist and jihadi allies are going to go peacefully.
Now that the Islamists have tasted power— Salafis, Muslim Brotherhood, or al-Qaeda—it is unlikely that they will quietly give it up without a fight. History has proven that many jihadis never give up—unless they are in prison or dead. And as Egyptian al-Qaeda leader Muhammad Zawahiri pointed out, not only have they long been inured to sufferings and deprivations—they have nothing to lose.
Raymond Ibrahim is author of the new book, Crucified Again: Exposing Islam's New War on Christians (published by Regnery in cooperation with Gatestone Institute, 2013). A Middle East and Islam expert, he is a Shillman Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center, associate fellow at the Middle East Forum, and author of The Al Qaeda Reader.