Egyptian protesters chant against the Muslim Brotherhood and President Morsi outside the presidential palace in Cairo, Egypt, Dec. 6, 2012.(Photo: Hassan Ammar, AP)
The brutal crackdown Wednesday against Muslim Brotherhood sit-ins in Cairo and the imposition of martial law that followed will probably put Egypt on a path to another dictatorship and not the inclusive and stable democracy desired in Washington, analysts said.
"Today's events will simply disperse the Brotherhood and encourage them to continue their protest activities, perhaps including violence, more broadly," said Eric Trager, a scholar at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy who has researched the Brotherhood. "We should expect the same civil strife that is likely to get worse due to the (military) crackdown."
At least 149 people were killed, including 43 police officers, and hundreds injured when security forces using bulldozers, tear gas and guns moved to clear a sit-in in Cairo. By the end of the day, nearly 300 were dead.
The sit-ins were by supporters of former president Mohammed Morsi, who was ousted July 3 by the military after protests by millions of demonstrators who accused Morsi of straying toward tyranny.
But the crushing of the protests may not crush dissent, say analysts, and it may hurt relations between the current interim government and its military backers and members of the Egyptian public who did not oppose ending Morsi's presidency.
Khairi Abaza, a senior fellow at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies and a former official in Egypt's secularist Wafd Party, says Egypt's interim rulers had to act to save Egypt's imploding economy, and that more repression may follow if the Brotherhood doesn't back down.
"The only way forward is for the military to rule with many parties in a way that avoids the risk of being taken over by one party," he said. "The only way forward is democracy for a simple reason: The army cannot rule directly."
The same is true for the Muslim Brotherhood, which lost the support of the Egyptian people by trying to rule without working with others, Abaza said. Either they change by returning to politics and renouncing violence, or they will be crushed, he said.
"They are a minority, but an organized minority and cannot be neglected," Abaza said. "If they don't engage in the political process, we are headed to a lot of confrontation and a lot of oppression by the regime toward the Muslim Brotherhood."
The U.S. State Department agreed.
"We have no alternative to getting back to an inclusive process, and that means stopping the violence and returning to the political process. ... The bloodshed we have seen is certainly disconcerting," spokeswoman Jen Psaki said.
Brotherhood leaders, such as Mohamed el-Beltagy, whose daughter Asmaa, 17, was killed in Rabaa Square on Tuesday, had warned that all of Egypt's Islamists would mobilize against the government if Morsi were not reinstated.
Abaza said many Egyptians saw such statements as condoning near-daily jihadist attacks since Morsi's ouster that have killed dozens of members of Egyptian security forces in the Sinai.
Trager said it is unrealistic to think the Brotherhood will negotiate with its adversaries. The Muslim Brotherhood was never likely to participate in any political process after Morsi's removal "because that would imply acceptance of the coup," Trager said.
Wednesday's crackdown will only harden its stance and "make civil strife a far more prevailing component of daily life in Egypt," he said.
Tamara Cofman Wittes, who as deputy assistant secretary of State from 2009 to 2012 coordinated U.S. democracy policy in the Middle East, says Egypt cannot establish an inclusive democracy while cracking down on the Brotherhood.
Even if a large proportion of Brotherhood supporters are violent, "it's not true for 100%, and you can't expect to build an inclusive democracy when there's no room in your action for people with opposing views," Wittes said.
After throwing off the yokes of Morsi, and Hosni Mubarak before him, the Egyptian people have demonstrated they will not accept a government that deals with them in an exclusive or coercive manner, meaning more confrontation and repression lies ahead, she said.
"Egypt appears to be on the road back toward a military-led dictatorship because the Egyptian people are far more mobilized today than they were a few years ago," Wittes said. "It's inconceivable to me that a dictatorship will be able to maintain its rule without significant repression."