Arab Fall

How the Muslim Brotherhood Won and Lost Egypt in 891 Days

Eric Trager

"Written in a narrative style accessible to students, scholars, and general readers. "
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How did Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood win power so quickly after the dramatic “Arab Spring” uprising that ended President Hosni Mubarak’s thirty-year reign in February 2011? And why did the Brotherhood fall from power even more quickly, culminating with the popular “rebellion” and military coup that toppled Egypt’s first elected president, Brotherhood leader Mohamed Morsi, in July 2013? In Arab Fall, Eric Trager examines the Brotherhood’s decision making throughout this critical period, explaining its reasons for joining the 2011 uprising, running for a majority of the seats in the 2011–2012 parliamentary elections, and nominating a presidential candidate despite its initial promise not to do so. Based on extensive research in Egypt and interviews with dozens of Brotherhood leaders and cadres including Morsi, Trager argues that the very organizational characteristics that helped the Brotherhood win power also contributed to its rapid downfall. The Brotherhood’s intensive process for recruiting members and its rigid nationwide command-chain meant that it possessed unparalleled mobilizing capabilities for winning the first post-Mubarak parliamentary and presidential elections.

Yet the Brotherhood’s hierarchical organizational culture, in which dissenters are banished and critics are viewed as enemies of Islam, bred exclusivism. This alienated many Egyptians, including many within Egypt’s state institutions. The Brotherhood’s insularity also prevented its leaders from recognizing how quickly the country was slipping from their grasp, leaving hundreds of thousands of Muslim Brothers entirely unprepared for the brutal crackdown that followed Morsi’s overthrow. Trager concludes with an assessment of the current state of Egyptian politics and examines the Brotherhood’s prospects for reemerging.

Table of Contents

Introduction: Rapid Rise, Faster Fall
1. Late to the Revolution
2. An Islamist Vanguard
3. Postrevolutionary Posturing
4. Preparing for Power
5. The Road to Parliament
6. Powerless Parliamentarians
7. The Road to Ittahidiya Palace
8. The Power Struggle Continues
9. Power, Not Policy
10. The Power Grab
11. In Power but Not In Control
12. The Rebellion
Conclusion: Broken Brothers
Appendix: Interviews
Select Bibliography
About the Author


"The book's wealth of detail may challenge the lay reader, but it is indispensable not just for its account of how the Brothers failed so disastrously at governing Egypt but also equally for its analysis of how Washington failed so completely to understand them."—Wall Street Journal

"Asks a very big question and delivers an unequivocal answer."—Foreign Affairs

"First-class . . . A brilliantly-researched book that is already the definitive work on the topic."—The Times of Israel

"Written in a narrative style accessible to students, scholars, and general readers."—ProtoView

"Add Trager’s book to the 'must-reads' on the Muslim Brotherhood. His years of research that includes large numbers of interviews with Brothers up and down as well as across Egypt offer an extraordinarily rich picture of the organization’s structure, the ways its members think, and the Brotherhood’s political goals. Trager writes extremely well, which makes the volume a great read, too."—Steven Cook, Eni Enrico Mattei Senior Fellow for Middle East and Africa Studies, The Council of Foreign Relations

"Eric Trager is Washington's go-to expert on Egypt, the Arab Spring, and the rise and fall (and possible rise again) of the Muslim Brotherhood. Clear-eyed, incisive, and authoritative, Trager specializes in making sense of a maddeningly complicated crisis, and he does so without sacrificing scholarly rigor in the process. "Arab Fall" is an indispensable book about a tumultuous period in the history of a hugely important country, and in the history of the Brotherhood, a group that has profoundly shaped the world in which we live today."—Jeffrey Goldberg, The Atlantic

"Throughout the Mohamed Morsi’s presidency, Eric Trager was consistently prescient about Egypt’s political trajectory through an unprecedented period. In this book, he is just as thoughtful as he threads seeming disparate events to tell Egypt’s story, both during the uprising and now. This is a must read for anyone who wants to understand the Muslim Brotherhood and its impact on today’s Egypt."—Nancy Youssef, Senior National Security Correspondent, The Daily Beast

"This is the definitive book on the Muslim Brotherhood that you have been waiting for since the Egyptian uprising. This is a brilliant chronicle of a collapse foretold. The closed, rigid political culture of the MB, its disciplined cohesiveness and exclusivism; the very reasons for its initial brief success, quickly became the causes for its thunderous, bloody collapse."—Hisham Melhem, Columnist, Al Arabiya News Channel


Supplemental Materials


About the Author

Eric Trager is the Esther K. Wagner Fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, where his research focuses on Egyptian politics. His writings have appeared in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Foreign Affairs, and elsewhere.

296 pp., 6 x 9
3 figures, 2 tables
ISBN: 978-1-62616-362-1
Oct 2016

296 pp., 6 x 9
3 figures, 2 tables
Oct 2016

296 pp.
3 figures, 2 tables
ISBN: 978-1-62616-363-8
Oct 2016

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