How the Muslim Brotherhood lost Egypt

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When Egyptians poured onto the streets in their millions to demand the fall of President Hosni Mubarak in 2011, few thought they would return two years later demonstrating for the overthrow of the man they elected to replace him.

The stunning fall from power of President Mohamed Mursi, and the Muslim Brotherhood which backed him, has upended politics in the volatile Middle East for a second time after the Arab Spring uprisings toppled veteran autocrats.

Some of the principal causes were highlighted a month before the army intervened to remove Mursi, when two of Egypt's most senior power brokers met for a private dinner at the home of liberal politician Ayman Nour on the island of Zamalek, a lush bourgeois oasis in the midst of Cairo's seething megalopolis. It was seen by some as a last attempt to avert a showdown.

The two power brokers were Amr Moussa, 76, a long-time foreign minister under Mubarak and now a secular nationalist politician, and Khairat El-Shater, 63, the Brotherhood's deputy leader and most influential strategist and financier. Moussa suggested that to avoid confrontation, Mursi should heed opposition demands, including a change of government.

"He (Shater) acknowledged what I said about the bad management of Egyptian affairs under their government and that there is a problem," Moussa told Reuters. "He was talking carefully and listening attentively."

Shater, a thick-set grizzly bear of a man who is now in detention and cannot tell his side of events, replied that the government's problems were due to the "non-cooperation of the 'deep state'" - the entrenched interests in the army, the security services, some of the judiciary and the bureaucracy, according to Moussa's account.

"The message that I got after one hour was that OK, he would discuss with me, agree with some of my arguments, disagree with the rest, but they were not in the mood of changing," Moussa said. Nour gave a similar account, saying Shater did not budge. But he added that the talks might have started a process of political compromise had they not been exposed in the media.

"(Shater) is a normal person and his appearance does not do him justice. His appearance gives the impression of mysteriousness and ruthlessness, but he is well-mannered and gentle," Nour said.

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