On Sunday, Egypt’s electoral commission released the official results of the country’s first ever—and possibly last—democratic presidential election: the Muslim Brotherhood’s Islamist candidate, Mohamed Morsi, was declared winner, having garnered approximately 52% of the run-off vote against ex-military man Ahmed Shafiq.
THE WEST’S EMBRACE OF THE MUSLIM BROTHERHOOD
Israel Hayom, June 22, 2012
The announcement that the Muslim Brotherhood’s candidate, Mohamed Morsi, had won the presidential elections in Egypt…caused many across the Middle East to consider the implications of an Islamist victory in the most important and influential Arab state. In the West, it is doubtful that foreign ministries are in a state of shock, since there has been a growing readiness to accept the Muslim Brotherhood in recent years.
In February 2011, James Clapper, U.S. President Barack Obama’s senior intelligence advisor made an embarrassing statement in front of the House Intelligence Committee, when he said: “The term ‘Muslim Brotherhood’…is an umbrella term for a variety of movements, in the case of Egypt, a very heterogeneous group, largely secular, which has eschewed violence and has decried al-Qaida as a perversion of Islam.” Three months later on its official website, the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood condemned the U.S. for eliminating Osama bin Laden.…
Clapper’s assessment about the Muslim Brotherhood appeared to reflect a growing shift in the U.S. foreign policy establishment that…became more prominent…after the fall of Mubarak. Thus at the end of June 2011, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton explained that the Obama administration was “continuing the approach of limited contacts with the Muslim Brotherhood…[as] it was in the interests of the United States to engage with all parties that are peaceful and committed to non-violence.…”
But how was the Muslim Brotherhood seen in the Middle East? In 2005, a former Kuwaiti Minister of Education, Dr. Ahmad al-Rabi’, wrote in the Saudi-owned Asharq Alawsat: “The beginnings of all the religious terrorism that we are witnessing today were in the Muslim Brotherhood’s ideology.” He added that “all those who worked with bin Laden and al-Qaida went out under the mantle of the Muslim Brotherhood.…”
Shabokshi’s analysis was correct: bin Laden’s mentor, Abdullah Azzam, came out of the Jordanian Muslim Brotherhood; Ayman al-Zawahiri, bin Laden’s deputy (and current head of al-Qaida) came from the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood; and the mastermind of 9/11, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, grew up in the Kuwaiti branch of the Muslim Brotherhood.…
Without a doubt, the Middle Eastern understanding of the Muslim Brotherhood is more accurate. The rhetoric of the leadership of the Muslim Brotherhood is the best proof that it still remains an organization advocating violence. Its General Guide in Egypt, Muhammad al-Badi’, published a weekly message on the Muslim Brotherhood website on December 23, 2010 opposing negotiations with Israel and adding that “Palestine will not be liberated by hopes and prayers, but rather by Jihad and sacrifice.” When al-Badi’ became the leader of the Muslim Brotherhood in January 2010, contrary to the analysis in Washington and London, many Middle Eastern commentators in fact said that the movement was moving in a more radical direction; the same was true of the leadership changes in the Syrian and Jordanian branches of the Muslim Brotherhood, as well.
Given these regional trends with the Muslim Brotherhood, it should then have come as no surprise that when Morsi’s campaign for the presidency was formally launched on May 1, 2012, an Egyptian cleric, Sawfat Higazi, who shared the stage with Morsi announced: “we can see how the dream of the Islamic Caliphate is being realized, Allah willing, by Dr. Mohamed Morsi.…” He added “Our capital shall not be Cairo, Mecca, or Medina. It shall be Jerusalem, Allah willing our cry shall be: ‘Millions of martyrs march toward Jerusalem.…’” Morsi did not challenge this message.…
There remains the question of whether the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood will moderate its policies should it come to power, given that any Egyptian government first and foremost has tens of millions of mouths to feed. In the past, other Muslim Brotherhood regimes in Sudan and in Gaza rigidly adhered to their Islamist agenda. Indeed, the regime in Khartoum, under Hassan Turabi, hosted dozens of terrorist organizations from Hamas to al-Qaida in the early 1990s. It was at that time that Osama bin Laden made Sudan the center of his operations prior to his move to Afghanistan. Will the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood do the same with Sinai in the future?
The answer to this question depends on the future relations between the Muslim Brotherhood and the Egyptian army which is trying to retain certain powers for itself. But it will also depend to a great extent upon what it hears from the international community…[and] spokesmen for the U.S. State Department and the Pentagon [are] press[ing] the Egyptian Army to relinquish the governing role it is seeking to carve out for itself.…
[In fact], according to the Los Angeles Times, U.S. officials…were “deeply concerned by an Egyptian military decree giving the generals sweeping powers to pass laws and decide whether to go to war.” This was a stunning statement…given the ideology of the Muslim Brotherhood and its ties to its Palestinian branch, Hamas. Leaving Egypt’s war-making powers with the Egyptian military is far safer for the world than transferring them to a Muslim Brotherhood government.…
If the West continues down this course and uncritically embraces the Muslim Brotherhood, then it will be extremely unlikely that it will temper its confrontational political program in the future and become a more moderate movement as many in the West presently hope.
(Dore Gold, a former Israeli Ambassador to the United Nations,
is President of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.)
WHO LOST EGYPT?
Wall Street Journal, June 25, 2012
Egypt is lost.
Don’t console yourself with the belief that the victory of the Muslim Brotherhood in the country’s first free presidential election is merely symbolic, since the army still has the guns: The examples of revolutionary Iran and present-day Turkey show how easily the conscripts can be bought, the noncoms wooed and the officers purged.
Don’t console yourself with the idea that now the Islamists will have to prove themselves capable of governing the country. The Brotherhood is the most successful social organization in the Arab world. Its leaders are politically skillful, economically literate and strategically patient. Its beliefs resonate with poor, rich and middle class alike. And it can always use the army as a scapegoat should the economy fail to improve.
Don’t console yourself with the expectation that the Brotherhood will play by the democratic rules that brought it to power. “Democracy is like a streetcar,” Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey’s Islamist prime minister, observed long ago. “When you come to your stop you get off.” Any party that rules street and square makes its own “democratic” rules.
Don’t console yourself, finally, with hope that Egypt will remain a responsible, status quo player on the international scene. By degrees, Egypt under the Brotherhood will seek to arm Hamas and remilitarize the Sinai. By degrees, it will seek to extract concessions from the U.S. as the price of its good behavior. By degrees, it will make radical alliances in the Middle East and beyond.
Who lost Egypt?The Egyptians, obviously. This was their moment, opportunity, choice. They chose…a party that offers Islamic stultification as the solution to every political and personal problem. By the time they come to regret their choice, they won’t be in a position to change it.
But there are other players in this debacle, too.
First, the Obama administration. “Our assessment is that the Egyptian government is stable,” said Hillary Clinton as protesters began descending on Tahrir Square in January 2011. President Obama didn’t help matters by calling instantly for Mr. Mubarak’s removal—thereby demonstrating how foolish it can be to be an ally of the U.S.—after doing nothing in the previous two years to pressure Mr. Mubarak to relinquish power while he still had a chance. As a result, the U.S. has no credibility with Egyptians, secular or religious, and just 19% of Egyptians approve of Mr. Obama’s leadership, according to Gallup. So much for the Cairo Speech.
Next, the Bush administration. “Naturally, here in Egypt as in the U.S., there is freedom of speech, so it is possible for anyone to complain about any personal or social problem.…” This bit of sycophancy was uttered in March 2006 by Frank Ricciardone, then U.S. ambassador in Cairo, just as the Mubarak government had imprisoned Ayman Nour, its only challenger in the 2005 election.… What did it suggest to Egyptians about the sincerity of Mr. Bush’s freedom agenda? The question [is] self-answering.
Third, the liberal abdicators. That’s a catch-all term for anyone who believes the result of any free election is ipso facto legitimate and that the world’s responsibility toward Egyptians’ democracy is to preserve a studied neutrality about their political choices. But a democratic election that yields a totalitarian result isn’t “legitimate,” except in the most cramped sense of the word. In reality, it’s a double-barreled catastrophe: a stain on democracy’s good name and a recipe for turbocharged political extremism.
Yet the deeper liberal abdication is the abdication of the idea that freedom is more than simply an end in itself. If you believe that any use of freedom is a legitimate use of freedom—that Larry Flynt inhabits the same moral plane as, say, Vaclav Havel—then what you have mainly succeeded in doing is destroying the attractiveness of freedom to a large segment of the world.…
What is to be done?
In 1979, the U.S. lost Iran as an ally but formalized an alliance with Egypt. Perhaps we might get lucky should the Assad regime fall to Syrians better disposed to the U.S., not that we’re giving the Syrian people much cause to like us.…
We could also spell out to the new Egyptian government our terms for maintaining financial support and diplomatic favor. The Egyptian economy is in enough distress that the new government could be pliant. But that window won’t be open for very long.…
So prepare for an Egypt that likes us about as much as Nasser’s did and behaves accordingly. It’s going to be a long and ugly haul. And it’s just beginning.
THE BROTHERHOOD’S USEFUL IDIOTS
Caroline B. Glick
Jerusalem Post, June 21, 2012
You have to hand it to the leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood. They know how to play power politics. They know how to acquire power. And they know how to use power.
[Two Friday’s ago], the day before voters…elected the Brotherhood’s candidate Mohamed Morsi to serve as Egypt’s next president, The Wall Street Journal published a riveting account by Charles Levinson and Matt Bradley of how the Brotherhood outmaneuvered the secular revolutionaries to take control of the country’s political space.
The Brotherhood kept a very low profile in the mass demonstrations in Tahrir Square in January and February 2011 that led to the overthrow of then-president Hosni Mubarak. The Brotherhood’s absence from Tahrir Square at that time is what enabled Westerners to fall in love with the Egyptian revolution. Those demonstrations led to the impression, widespread in the US, that Mubarak’s successors would be secular Facebook democrats.…
In their report, Levinson and Bradley showed how the Brotherhood used the secularists to overthrow the regime, and to provide them with a fig leaf of moderation through March 2011, when the public voted on the sequencing of Egypt’s post-Mubarak transformation from a military dictatorship into a populist regime. The overwhelming majority of the public voted to first hold parliamentary elections and to empower the newly elected parliament to select members of the constitutional assembly that would write Egypt’s new constitution. As Egypt’s largest social force, the Brotherhood knew it would win the majority of the seats in the new parliament. The March 2011 vote ensured its control over writing the new Egyptian constitution.
In July 2011, the Brotherhood decided to celebrate its domination of the new Egypt with a mass rally at Tahrir Square. Levinson and Bradley explained how in the lead-up to that event Egypt’s secular revolutionaries were completely outmaneuvered. According to their account, the Brotherhood decided to call the demonstration “Shari’a Friday.” Failing to understand that the game was over, the secularists tried to regain what they thought was the unity of the anti-regime ranks from earlier in the year.
“Islamists and revolutionary leaders spent three days negotiating principles they could all support at the coming Friday demonstration in Cairo’s Tahrir Square. They reached an agreement and the revolution seemed back on track.” One secularist leader, Rabab el-Mahdi, referred to the agreement as “The perfect moment. A huge achievement.” But then came the double cross. “Hours before the demonstration, hard-line Salafi Islamists began adorning the square with black-and-white flags of jihad and banners calling for the implementation of Islamic law. Ms. Mahdi made frantic calls to Brotherhood leaders, who told her there was little they could do.” Checkmate.
The difference between the Brotherhood and the secularists is a fundamental one. The Brotherhood has always had a vision of the Egypt it wants to create. It has always used all the tools at its disposal to advance the goal of creating an Islamic state in Egypt. For their part, the secularists have no ideological unity and so share no common vision of a future Egypt. They just oppose the repression of the military. Opposing repression is not a political program. It is a political act. It can destroy. It cannot rule.…
While instructive, the Journal’s article fell short because the reporters failed to recognize that the Brotherhood outmaneuvered the military junta in the same way that it outmaneuvered the secularists. The article starts with the premise that the military’s decision to stage an effective coup d’etat last week spelled an end to the Egyptian revolution and the country’s reversion to the military dictatorship that has ruled the state since the 1950s.
Levinson and Bradley claim, “Following the rulings by the high court [which canceled the results of the parliamentary elections and ensured continued military control over the country], the Brotherhood’s strategy of cooperation with the military seems failed.” But actually, that is not the case. By permitting the Brotherhood to participate in the elections for parliament and the presidency, the military signed the death warrant of its regime. The Brotherhood will rule Egypt. The only thing left to be determined is whether its takeover will happen quickly or slowly.
To understand why this is the case, it is important to notice what happened in Turkey. When the Islamist AKP party won the 2002 elections, the Turkish military was constitutionally authorized to control the country. As the guardians of Turkey’s secular state, Turkey’s military was constitutionally empowered to overthrow democratically elected governments.
Ten years later, Turkey is a populist, authoritarian, Islamic state. Half the general officer corps is in prison, held without charge or on trumped up charges. Turkey’s judiciary and civil service are controlled by Islamists. The AKP is filling the military’s officer corps with its loyalists.…
The Egyptian military today is far weaker than the Turkish military was in 2002.… The only way for it to secure its hold on power is through brute force. And the generals have already shown they are unwilling to use sufficient force to repress the Brotherhood.… The regime’s decision to outlaw the parliament and decree the military above the president was not a show of strength. It was a panicked act of desperation by a regime that knows its days are numbered.…
The inevitability of the Islamic takeover of Egypt means that the peace between Israel and Egypt is meaningless. Confrontation is coming. The only questions that remain are how long it will take and what form it will come in. If it happens slowly, it will be characterized by a gradual escalation of cross-border attacks from Sinai by Hamas and other jihadist groups. Hamas’s sudden eagerness to take responsibility for the [recent] mortar attacks against southern Israel as well as [last week’s] murderous cross-border attack are signs of things to come.
With the Brotherhood ascending to power, the security cooperation Israel has received from the Egyptian security forces in Sinai is over. And the regime won’t suffice with doing nothing to stop terror. It will encourage it. Just as the Egyptian military sponsored and organized the fedayeen raids from Gaza in the 1950s, so today the regime will sponsor and eventually organize irregular attacks from Sinai and Gaza.
In the rapid-path-to-confrontation scenario, the Egyptian military itself will participate in attacks against Israel. Egyptian troops may take potshots at Israelis from across the border. They may remilitarize Sinai. They may escalate attacks against the US-commanded MFO forces in Sinai that are supposed to keep the peace with the goal of convincing them to withdraw.
Whether the confrontation happens tomorrow or in a year or two, the question of whether the military remains the titular ruler of Egypt or not is irrelevant to Israel. In their attempt to maintain their power and privilege, the first bargaining chip the generals will sacrifice is their support for the peace with Israel. With the US siding with the Brotherhood against the military, maintaining the peace treaty has ceased to be important for the generals.
This dismal situation requires Israel’s leaders to take several steps immediately. First, our leaders must abandon their diplomatic language regarding Egypt. No point is served by not acknowledging that the southern front—dormant since 1981—has reawakened and that Israel’s peace with Egypt is now meaningless.…
At a minimum, frank talk will ensure that the steps we take on the ground to meet the challenge of Egypt will be based on reality and not on an attempt to ignore reality. Straight talk is also important in the international arena. For the past 30 years, in the interest of protecting the peace treaty, Israel never defended itself against Egypt’s diplomatic assaults on its very right to exist. Now it can and must fight back with full force. This will enable Israel to wage a coherent diplomatic defense of whatever military action it will eventually need to take to defend itself against Egyptian aggression.
As to that aggression, we don’t have any good options on the ground. We cannot operate openly in Sinai. If we retaliate against missile attacks with air strikes, the Brotherhood-led Egyptian government will use our defensive action to justify war. So we need to massively expand our ability to operate covertly. Aside from that, we must equip and train our military to win a war against the US-trained and-armed Egyptian military.… The die has been cast. We must prepare for what is coming.