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RIDDLE OF THE SPHINX: WHO WILL PREVAIL, MUSLIM BROTHERS, EGYPTIAN ARMY, OR SHEER CHAOS
Volume XI, No. 2,804 • April 17, 2012
STATE OF CHAOS PREVAILS OVER EGYPT’S DIVISIVE CANDIDATES
Issandr El Amrani
Nation, April 17, 2012
No one can tell you where Egypt is headed. Not the revolutionary groups that have become a sideshow as politics has moved from the streets to parliament and the courts. Not the politicians who, even if they were not spending most of their time bickering and manoeuvring for advantage, are bound by rules that are a bundle of contradictions. Not the generals now nominally running the country, who sulk at the ungratefulness of their subjects and have lost whatever moral authority they may once have had. Not even the country’s leading presidential candidates, all of whom may be barred from the race on various technicalities by the time of the vote. And certainly not the Egyptian people, hostage to all this political confusion, who have seen their “glorious revolution” go from crisis to crisis since Hosni Mubarak was forced out over a year ago.…
The transition process is falling apart under the weight of its contradictions, from a court ruling putting a stop to the work of an Islamist-dominated constitutional assembly to the possibility that arcane nomination rules will block some of the more popular candidates from running. Perhaps most worryingly, each of these leading candidates represents a scenario, if he were elected, that many thought was unthinkable just a year ago, and would be a catalyst for yet more political tension.
The Muslim Brotherhood had said it would not run a presidential candidate, on the grounds that it could be destabilising, and even kicked out members who disagreed. Yet it now claims that, for the sake of the revolution, it must run Khairat Al Shater, its long-time strongman, for the post. Mr Al Shater’s candidacy is in effect a showdown with the ruling military council, but not one to salvage democracy as the Brothers argue. It is about maximising their negotiating position with the generals, who are not going anywhere anytime soon.…
Whatever hope that the Brotherhood would act as an inclusive political force…was put to rest several weeks ago when it made it clear that it did not care to even discuss the composition and mission of the constituent assembly [tasked with drafting Egypt’s new constitution] with non-Islamists. Its strategy of only being revolutionary when it’s politically expedient has discredited it…and is beginning to make it look cynical and power-hungry to the broader population.
Likewise, Omar Suleiman—Mr Mubarak’s former spy chief—had repeatedly assured everyone that he would not run, before also throwing his hat into the ring.… A full partner and overseer of the worst human-rights abuses and political trickery of the Mubarak era, Mr Suleiman now claims to want to reclaim “the revolution that was stolen from the youth by the Muslim Brotherhood.…”
[Then there is] Hazem Abu Ismail, a fiery [Salafist] preacher who has gathered around him the most devoted followers of any candidate and has combined religious radicalism with an anti-establishment streak. But his facile populism does not provide any answers, and there is no greater irony than that this candidate who embraces the xenophobic, anti-cosmopolitan trend in Egyptian politics is the one most likely to be irrevocably disqualified—because his mother, in contravention of narrow-minded eligibility rules, held an American passport.…
The destabilising prospect of these three candidates, who are thought by many to have the best chance of winning the election, is why the presidential electoral commission’s recent decision to exclude them on eligibility grounds (because Mr Suleiman has insufficient qualifying endorsements, Mr Al Shater is a former convict, and Mr Abu Ismail’s American mother) may turn out to be a blessing, no matter how unfair. The fact is that among ordinary Egyptians and the country’s fragmented elite, the victory of any one of them would be difficult to stomach. There are those who reject the Brothers’ societal project just as there are those who could not tolerate [what] a Suleiman victory would symbolise, while the populist antics of Mr Abu Ismail are the stuff of nightmares for both those camps.
There are still another two weeks before the final list of candidates is known, and in this time of politics as “lawfare”, court decisions, last-minute laws passed by parliament and electoral commission decrees could still introduce more surprises. And so could the actions of some of the followers of these candidates, who have threatened unrest if their man is ruled out.
Now is the time for other candidates, those who represent a more inclusive Islamism, a more pragmatic revolutionary current or a less tainted experience in the Mubarak regime, to show they represent a real alternative.
(Issandr El Amrani is an independent journalist based in Cairo.)
ARMY AND BROTHERHOOD—THE LAST GREAT BATTLE?
Jerusalem Post, April 15, 2012
With Khairat el Shater and Omar Suleiman vying for the presidency, the long simmering conflict between the Brotherhood and the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) has turned into open warfare.
Ever since Hosni Mubarak’s ouster conventional wisdom had it that there was some form of understanding between the army and the Brothers. The generals, accepting the fact that the Brotherhood was the main political force that would rule Egypt in the coming years, were keen to make a deal. The army would keep its special status and its immunity under the new regime—and in return would support the Brotherhood and let them draw up the new constitutional framework. Only thus, explained political pundits, could the army retain its economic empire and escape having to answer for what it had done during the Mubarak years.
Many things appeared to confirm this theory. Drafting the transition constitution was left to a committee consisting largely of Islamists; when it was submitted to a referendum, the Brothers campaigned so vigorously in its favor that 77 percent approved of it, thus giving the army an important propaganda victory. The timetable for elections set down in that constitution was thought to favor the Brothers, and they refrained from taking part in many of the subsequent mass demonstrations in Tahrir square.
However, all that is in the past. Suddenly the Brothers have 47% of the seats in the new parliament, and together with the Salafists can muster nearly three quarters. Now they are flexing their muscles. They want the Ganzouri government to resign; they threaten to pass a no-confidence motion. They have the votes for it.…
A communiqué issued by the Brothers accuses the SCAF-appointed government of attempting, at its bidding, to tamper with the results of the referendum on the constitution and of the presidential election. These are very serious allegations which the army angrily refuted with a communiqué of its own. Hadn’t it made it possible to hold the free and fair elections that gave the Brotherhood its majority in the parliament?…
The fact is that according to the transition constitution—which the Brothers supported and voted for—the army holds executive and legislative powers until a president has been elected.… [irrespective], the “supreme guide” of the Brotherhood, Muhammad Badi’e, proclaimed that the government had to be dismissed forthwith. “There is no honeymoon between us and the SCAF, since we never got married” he said bluntly, hinting that no deal had been struck with the army and that since he was the leader of the majority party in parliament he had every right to confront the army.
While the issue is as yet unresolved, another crisis is looming regarding the composition of the special council tasked with drafting the constitution. The parliament decided that half of the 100 delegates would come from the lower and upper houses, and the other half would be chosen among leading figures by that same parliament—where the Brothers and the Salafists hold 73% of the seats in the lower house and 85% in the upper house. As a result, 75% of the delegates chosen were Islamists; with only six women and a handful of Copts (though Copts make up 10% to 12% of the population). This was clearly a blueprint for a thoroughly Islamic constitution. It was apparently too much.
Twenty-five of the chosen delegates—the representative of Al Azhar included—did not attend the first session of the council; six resigned; a complaint was submitted to the supreme court, demanding that the committee be disbanded.… Secular and liberal forces are all too aware that this is their very last opportunity to stop the wave of radical Islam threatening to engulf the country and turn it into an Islamic dictatorship.
If that was not enough, the Brotherhood, which had always said it would not have a candidate of its own for the presidency so as not to unsettle local and international public opinion, suddenly backtracked. It had previously stated it would only field parliamentary candidates in 30% of the districts—but then changed its mind and carried a large majority. Now that the prize seems within reach, it let itself be tempted and announced that Kheirat el-Shater, founder of the Brotherhood’s economic empire, would run for president. In other words, the Brotherhood wants all three key power points: the parliament, the constitution and now the presidency. A formidable threat for the army.
As to the army, accused of maneuvering to remain in power, it tried an interesting ploy. General Mahmud Nasser, a highly respected member of SCAF, gave an informal briefing to a select number of media representatives and public figures.… He [highlighted that] economic growth for 2011-2012 had been a dismal 0.6%; foreign currency holdings had dropped from 35 to 15 billion dollars; a further 12b. dollar of private money had fled the country.… The general [then] extolled the tireless efforts of the army to improve and develop the many companies it owns, which saw a profit of more than a billion dollars over the past 10 years.… Moreover the army tried to help by lending nearly $2b. dollars to the government, and selling its food and clothing surpluses at reduced prices to the population, thereby easing its plight.
This was the first time the usually close-mouthed army had made public the extent of its economic activities, and it made it clear that it would fight to keep what it had so carefully built over the years.
Battle lines have been drawn. At stake, the fate of Egypt.
(Zvi Mazel is a former Israeli ambassador to Egypt
and a fellow at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.)
OBAMA FUNDS THE EGYPTIAN GOVERNMENT
Andrew C. McCarthy
National Review, Aril 7, 2012
In October 2010, on the eve of the Islamic revolution that the media fancies as “the Arab Spring,” the Supreme Guide of the Muslim Brotherhood called for jihad against the United States. You might think that this all but unnoticed bombshell would be of some importance to policymakers in Washington. It was not. It is not.
This month, the Obama administration quietly released $1.5 billion in foreign aid to the new Egyptian government, now dominated by a Brotherhood-led coalition in parliament.… It is not easy to find the announcement. With the legacy media having joined the Obama reelection campaign, we must turn for such news to outlets like the Kuwait News Agency. There, we learn that, having dug our nation into a $16 trillion debt hole, President Obama has nevertheless decided to borrow more money from unfriendly powers like China so he can give it to an outfit that views the United States as an enemy to be destroyed.
This pot of gold for Islamic supremacists is the spoils of a Brotherhood charm offensive. Given the organization’s unabashed goals and hostility towards the West, it was U.S. policy, until recently, to avoid formal contacts with the Brotherhood.… By contrast, the Obama administration from its first days has embraced the Ikhwan—both the mothership, whose leaders were invited to attend Obama’s 2009 speech in Cairo despite its then-status as a banned organization under Egyptian law, and the Brotherhood’s American satellites, which have been invited to advise administration policymakers despite their notorious record of championing violent jihadists and repressive sharia.
Obama has overlooked the MB’s intimate ties to Hamas, which self-identifies as the Ikhwan’s Palestinian branch and is formally designated a terrorist organization under American law. Administration officials have absurdly portrayed the Brothers as “secular” and “moderate,” although the organization, from its founding in the 1920s, has never retreated an inch from its professed mission to establish Islam’s global hegemony.
The administration further hailed the Brotherhood’s triumph in post-Mubarak legislative elections and made a point of abandoning the policy against formal MB contacts—though, in now-familiar Obama fashion, it simultaneously claimed that this “outreach” broke no new ground. And last week, the White House hosted a Brotherhood delegation to “broaden our engagement” with Egypt’s new political actors, as an administration spokesman put it.…
On the agenda was a [discussion about] Khairat el-Shater, the Brotherhood’s newly announced presidential candidate. Shater is Washington’s new darling. That much is clear from an unintentionally hilarious dispatch from the New York Times’ David Kirkpatrick, who portrays the Brotherhood as America’s “indispensable ally against Egypt’s ultraconservatives.” Sure, they may be the world’s leading exemplar of what Kirkpatrick gently calls “political Islam,” but our policy geniuses reckon the Brothers are much to be preferred over the “Salafis”—reputedly, the more hardcore Islamic supremacists. As the Times elaborates, the Obama administration is alarmed by the rise of a charismatic Salafist, Hazem Salah Abu Ismail.… Shater, the theory goes, could overtake Ismail and lead Egypt in the Brotherhood’s more “pragmatic direction.”
What the Times neglects to tell you is that Ismail, the extremist, is actually an Ikhwan guy. His father was a popular Islamist and he has already run for office twice as a Brotherhood candidate.… There is little substantive daylight between Ismail and Shater—the Brotherhood and Salafists disagree mainly on the pace of change, not the direction.
And what about Shater? The Times dutifully reports that he embodies “the Brotherhood’s pragmatic focus on stable relations with the United States and Israel and free-market economics.” But what is most pragmatic about him and his Brothers is their understanding of Western opinion elites—gullible, biddable, and desperate to believe Middle Eastern Islam, which the Brotherhood exemplifies, is unthreatening. The Brotherhood’s actual agenda is to destabilize the United States and destroy Israel.…
It turns out that a year ago in Alexandria, Shater delivered a lengthy, remarkable lecture, “Features of Nahda: Gains of the Revolution and the Horizons for Developing.…” Speaking in Arabic to like-minded Islamists rather than credulous Congress critters, Shater was emphatic that the Brotherhood’s fundamental principles and goals never change—only the tactics by which they are pursued. “You all know that our main and overall mission as Muslim Brothers is to empower God’s religion on earth, to organize our life and the lives of the people on the basis of Islam, to establish the Nahda [i.e., the ‘renaissance’ or ‘rise’] of the Ummah [the notional global Muslim nation] and its civilization on the basis of Islam, and to subjugate people to God on earth.…”
No one should be remotely surprised.… The Egyptian Brotherhood’s political arm, the Freedom and Justice Party, has released a 93-page platform that proposes to put every aspect of human life under sharia-compliant state regulation. The document is unmistakably anti-Western and virulently anti-Israeli…and describes Israel, “the Zionist entity,” as “an aggressive, expansionist, racist and settler entity.”
This is the Muslim Brotherhood—the rabidly anti-American organization President Obama has courted for nearly four years and on whom he just decided to rain down a billion-and-a-half more American taxpayer dollars. It was two years into Obama’s term that Shater’s superior, MB Supreme Guide Muhammad Badi…[said in Arabic] that jihad—which he called “resistance”—“is the only solution against the Zio-American arrogance and tyranny.…”
Sounds like an indispensable ally to me.
DON’T COUNT ON EGYPT
Ynet News, April 8, 2012
The rocket that exploded near residential buildings in Eilat earlier this month surprised residents of the southern city but not defense and intelligence officials. While there was no specific warning, IDF, Shin Bet and police officials recently estimated that rocket and mortar attacks from Sinai on Eilat are merely a matter of time.…
By now it’s clear that the Egyptians won’t be doing the [interdiction] job for us…because they cannot. Their control in central and eastern Sinai is weak. Hence, the IDF and Shin Bet must do the job of thwarting terror attacks if they want it to be done efficiently.
In order to do this, Israel needs an active system comprising three components: An effective fence (half of it is already built), thorough intelligence gathering from the air and on the ground, and the ability to use air, ground and possibly naval forces to hit terrorists. In short, a similar arsenal to what is used by Israel on the Gaza Strip border.
The results of the latest round of escalation in Gaza showed militant groups in the Strip that the effectiveness of rockets is declining rapidly. Moreover, the IDF’s success in thwarting attempts to plant bombs near the Gaza fence makes it clear to Islamic Jihad, the Popular Resistance Committees and other groups that this terror channel has largely exhausted itself. Hence, the Sinai Peninsula has become the preferred theater for Gaza groups seeking to carry out attacks and fire rockets.…
Should diplomatic and deterrence efforts fail and rocket fire from Sinai will escalate, Israeli decision-makers will have to mull the option of allowing the IDF and Shin Bet to operate in the Sinai. This will require significant financial costs, yet the other option is the grave economic damage to tourism and port activity in Eilat and vicinity as result of rocket fire.…
Simultaneously, Israel must boost its deployment and preparation to defend the home front in Eilat and the southern Negev desert.… This isn’t simple…yet the government and defense establishment better formulate a quick solution, before the attacks on the deep south escalate and spin out of control.
Pajamas Media, April 3, 2012
U.S. Government and Media Cheer Muslim Brotherhood Regime in Egypt
New Republic, April 9, 2012
The Muslim Brotherhood's Mendacious Charm Campaign In Washington
Prof. Frederick Krantz, Director (Canadian Institute for Jewish Research)
Prof. Harold Waller (McGill University)
Prof. Ira Robinson, Associate Chairman (Department of Religion, Concordia University)
Baruch Cohen, Research Chairman (Canadian Institute for Jewish Research)
Rob Coles (Canadian Institute for Jewish Research)