Tag: Egyptian Revolution

CONCERNING EGYPT, ONLY TWO ALTERNATIVES NOW: THINGS’LL GET WORSE, OR THERE’LL BE A CATASTROPHE

Last week, Egyptians went to the polls in record numbers, in the first free elections since Hosni Mubarak was deposed last February. Over the weekend, Egypt’s High Election Commission announced that the Muslim Brotherhood’s fundamentalist Freedom and Justice Party garnered approximately 40 percent of ballots cast, while The Nour Party, representing the more hard-line Salafi Islamists, captured nearly 25 percent.

 

The initial results, from Cairo and Alexandria, offer a strong indication of how the new parliament will look, despite two more rounds of voting in 18 of the country’s 27 provinces over the coming month, and runoff elections on Monday and Tuesday to determine all of the seats allocated for individuals in the first round. But the grip of the Islamists over the next government appears set, particularly considering their popularity in provinces voting in the next rounds.

 

The new parliament will be tasked with selecting a 100-member panel to draft Egypt’s new constitution, sparking fear amongst liberal forces that the text will be heavily influenced by Islamic doctrine.

 

This concern is being echoed in the Jewish state. On Sunday, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu reiterated his “hope that the new government that is formed in Egypt will recognize the importance of the peace treaty with Israel and its contribution to regional stability.” However, the projected combined absolute parliamentary majority for the Brothers and Salfis bodes poorly for this prospect.

 

EGYPTIAN ELECTION OUTCOME IS WORSE
THAN I EXPECTED
Barry Rubin

Pajamas Media, November 30, 2011

Since last February I have predicted that the Muslim Brotherhood would win elections in Egypt. People have thought me very pessimistic. Now the votes are starting to come in, and…it’s much worse than I thought. My prediction that the Brotherhood and the other Islamists would gain a slight majority seems to have been fulfilled, and then some. According to most reports, the Brotherhood is scoring at just below 40 percent all by itself.

The results are worse than expected for two reasons.

First: the votes we now have come from the most urban areas of the country. If there are Facebook sophisticates, they’re going to be in Cairo and Alexandria. If the moderates do that bad in the big cities, what’s going to happen in the villages up the Nile? If the fascist party came in first in some European countries’ Social Democratic districts, you know you are in trouble.

The Brotherhood came in first in Cairo and Alexandria. Think about that. Of course there are millions of migrants from rural areas in those places, but that’s also where the middle class, such as it is, lives.

Second: the moderate parties didn’t even come in second—they came in third, or close to it. The Salafists—people who are even more radical than the Muslim Brotherhood—came in second. That they did that well is a surprise. That they did that well without bumping the Brotherhood down a notch is really shocking.

Estimates for the Justice Party, the Facebook kids of January, are getting 5 to 10 percent. Even together with the other two main moderate parties, that means the liberals won’t be able to block anything. Already the Brotherhood is tasting blood and talking about pressing the army junta to accelerate the turnover of power.

It’s hard to see, though, that there can be any such transfer of power. The voting is far from finished and will be going on for about three months more, followed by a presidential election. And yes, the results so far suggest that the Islamists will also win the presidency.

That’s when the fun really starts. President Barack Obama is going to face a challenge he is incapable of meeting, since he doesn’t even understand what’s going on. He’s like a man who has been told that a ferocious lion is really a playful kitten and then tries to feed it by hand.…

The Wall Street Journal is saying that the Salafists will push the Brotherhood further to the “right,” and that’s a very sensible point. Why should the Brotherhood even pretend to be moderate when the people have spoken and they want Sharia with cherries on top?

So the Islamists won and the election was fair. Should we feel good that democracy has functioned and that the people are getting what they want? Or should we feel bad that the people want a repressive dictatorship, the repression of women, the suppression of Christians, conflict with Israel, hatred of the West, and the freezing of Egyptian society into a straitjacket that can only lead to continued poverty and increasing suffering?…

The vote count [will] become clearer…but now we know: this is what (Egyptian) democracy looks like.

EGYPT’S DESCENT
Mark Steyn

National Review, December 3, 2011

I’ve been alarmed by the latest polls. No, not from Iowa and New Hampshire, although they’re unnerving enough. It’s the polls from Egypt. Foreign policy has not played a part in the U.S. presidential campaign, mainly because we’re so broke that the electorate seems minded to take the view that if government is going to throw trillions of dollars down the toilet they’d rather it was an Al Gore-compliant Kohler model in Des Moines or Poughkeepsie than an outhouse in Waziristan. Alas, reality does not arrange its affairs quite so neatly, and the world that is arising in the second decade of the 21st century is increasingly inimical to American interests, and likely to prove even more expensive to boot.

In that sense, Egypt is instructive. Even in the giddy live-from-Tahrir Square heyday of the “Arab Spring” and “Facebook Revolution,” I was something of a skeptic. Back in February, I chanced to be on Fox News with Megyn Kelly within an hour or so of Mubarak’s resignation. Over on CNN, Anderson Cooper was interviewing telegenic youthful idealists cooing about the flowering of a new democratic Egypt. Back on Fox, sourpuss Steyn was telling Megyn that this was “the unraveling of the American Middle East” and the emergence of a post-Western order in the region. In those days, I was so much of a pessimist I thought that in any election the Muslim Brotherhood would get a third of the votes and be the largest party in parliament. By the time the actual first results came through last week, the Brothers had racked up 40 percent of the vote—in Cairo and Alexandria, the big cities wherein, insofar as they exist, the secular Facebooking Anderson Cooper types reside. In second place were their principal rivals, the Nour Party…[which] translates into English as “the Even More Muslim Brotherhood.…” In the so-called Facebook Revolution, two-thirds of the Arab world’s largest nation is voting for the hard, cruel, bigoted, misogynistic song of sharia.

The short 90-year history of independent Egypt is that it got worse. Mubarak’s Egypt was worse than King Farouk’s Egypt, and what follows from last week’s vote will be worse still. If you’re a Westernized urban woman, a Coptic Christian, or an Israeli diplomat with the goons pounding the doors of your embassy, you already know that. The Kingdom of Egypt in the three decades before the 1952 coup was flawed and ramshackle and corrupt, but it was closer to a free-ish pluralist society than anything in the years since. In 1923, its finance minister was a man called Joseph Cattaui, a member of parliament, and a Jew. Couldn’t happen today. Mr. Cattaui’s grandson wrote to me recently from France, where the family now lives. In the unlikely event the forthcoming Muslim Brotherhood government wish to appoint a Jew as finance minister, there are very few left available. Indeed, Jews are so thin on the ground that those youthful idealists in Tahrir Square looking for Jews to club to a pulp have been forced to make do with sexually assaulting hapless gentiles like the CBS News reporter Lara Logan. It doesn’t fit the narrative, so even Miss Logan’s network colleagues preferred to look away. We have got used to the fact that Egypt is now a land without Jews. Soon it will be a land without Copts. We’ll get used to that, too.

Since the collapse of the Warsaw Pact two decades ago we have lived in a supposedly “unipolar” world. Yet somehow it doesn’t seem like that, does it? The term “Facebook Revolution” presumes that technology marches in the cause of modernity.… But in London, young Muslim men use their cellphones to share Islamist snuff videos of Westerners being beheaded in Iraq. In les banlieues of France, satellite TV and the Internet enable third-generation Muslims to lead ever more disassimilated, segregated lives, immersed in an electronic pan-Islamic culture, to a degree that would have been impossible for their grandparents. To assume that Western technology in and of itself advances the cause of Western views on liberty or women’s rights or gay rights is delusional.…

O SENDS THE WRONG SIGNAL ON EGYPT
Benny Avni
NY Post, November 29, 2011

As Egypt launched a 10-day parliamentary election yesterday, President Obama was setting the wrong tone. [Last week], the White House chastised Egypt’s military rulers and urged them to “immediately” transfer power to…well, that part remained unclear, so let’s fill it in: the Islamists.

The generals of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces—Egypt’s rulers since President Hosni Mubarak was run out of office back in February—believe that letting go of power will result in fawca hareema—Arabic for “chaos,” a word now dominating the local vocabulary. With no credible economic plan or viable liberal-minded leader in sight, they have a point.

Sure, since assuming power, Field Marshall Mohammed Hussein Tantawi & Co. have grown too comfortable controlling a country that we hoped would become a democracy. And yes, the SCAF elite also has too many tentacles in Egypt’s economy. But the alternatives aren’t much better.… The young men and women that forced out Mubarak won’t make many gains in the current election for parliament or next June’s presidential poll.…

Which leaves the Muslim Brotherhood and the other Islamists, who seek to rule Egypt by sharia and steer it away from the West. In the runup to this week’s election, as the army increasingly signaled that the elected parliament and a new “civilian” government would become its puppet, the Islamists took to Tahrir Square to show their dissatisfaction.…

Meanwhile, at 3 a.m. [the next] morning, the White House released a statement: “Full transfer of power to a civilian government must take place in a just and inclusive manner that responds to the legitimate aspirations of the Egyptian people, as soon as possible.” That message…amounted to a public spanking of Tantawi.

The White House has been wishy-washy on much worse atrocities in places like Syria, but now it’s willing to turn on the Egyptian army, the one institution that’s identified with US interests in Cairo. And who’s gaining from this public spanking? As Brookings Institution foreign-policy director (and Obama supporter) Martin Indyk told The New York Times, “The ones who benefit most from it are the people who don’t necessarily have our best interests in mind—the Islamists.”

Alarmed Israeli officials reportedly sent hurried messages to DC over the weekend, warning Obama against dropping Tantawi by the wayside, as he did to Mubarak last winter. (The army is the only force willing to maintain a minimum facade of keeping intact the peace treaty with Israel—which is the basis for the $3.1 billion a year in US aid to Cairo.)

But America’s interests in Cairo go further than assuring the peace treaty with Israel. Egypt is the most populous, and for decades most influential, Arab country. A fast descent into chaos would strengthen only the Islamists and assures that anti-Americanism will intensify in its aftermath—in Egypt and across the region.

In a rush to declare Democracy Now, we tend to forget a hard-learned lesson…: Having elections before other elements of good governance are established can actually set the cause of democracy back. To help Egyptians progress toward real democracy, we must give them some time to build it up. In the meantime, we have little choice but to back the army, the one power that for now can assure some stability and that remains pro-American.

THE MUSLIM BROTHERHOOD IS RISING
AND APPEASEMENT IS NOT AN OPTION
Rabbi Abraham Cooper

FoxNews.com, December 01, 2011

How would the media and politicians react if 5,000 “activists” chanted “death to Jews” outside a City Hall in your community? How would European religious leaders react if neo-Nazis packed the Cologne Cathedral or Notre Dame to threaten Muslims, Jews and gays?

We all know the answer: Loud and sustained protests of “Not on our Watch.”

But last week, Egypt’s ascendant Muslim Brotherhood provided a foretaste of their definition of religious tolerance during a rally convened at Cairo’s most prominent mosque. 5,000 people joined where the chant “one day we shall kill all the Jews “ echoed time and again along with “Tel Aviv, Tel Aviv Judgment Day is coming.”

The world’s reaction? So far—stone cold silence. Not from the media, nor Interfaith talking heads, not the EU, and as far as we know nothing from the Obama administration. If world leaders lacked the courage to protest those genocidal rants over the weekend, they are unlikely to utter a word now that the first round of democratic elections gives every indication that the next Egyptian government will be lead by the very same Muslim Brotherhood.

Unfortunately, weakness and wishful thinking seem to be the twin pillars of current U.S. and Western European thinking about Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, much as it was about Hitler’s Nazi Party during the pre-World War II era of European appeasement.

Formed in the late 1920s, the Muslim Brotherhood—an Egyptian organization with global affiliates in North Africa, Hamas-run Gaza, and even Europe and the U.S.—consistently opposed the democratic process until a few years ago when it cynically decided that “one man, one vote, one time” could be its ticket to power.

With an estimated 40% of the vote in Egyptian parliamentary elections…the Muslim Brotherhood now opportunistically denies for political advantage its longstanding opposition toward democracy and the rights of Egypt’s women and Coptic Christians.

But about one thing it’s unwaveringly consistent: its hatred of Israel and Jews everywhere.

Such rants by the Brotherhood are designed not only to mobilize the mass of Egypt’s voters—as high as 80 percent of whom according to recent public opinion polls support Sharia-law imposed death sentences for homosexuals, adulterers, and Muslims who convert to another religion—but to lay the groundwork for killing Egypt’s thirty-year old peace treaty with Israel.

Hatred of the Jews has been consistent Brotherhood policy before and during World War II when Brotherhood founder Hassan al-Banna teamed with the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Mohammad Amin al-Husayni, as well as Adolf Hitler in trying to create a Jew-free Middle East. The Brotherhood founded its first branch in Britain’s Palestine mandate to fight against the creation of Israel in 1945. Assassinated in Egypt in 1949, Hassan al-Banna never set foot in the Palestinian territories, yet Hamas considers him their “martyr.”

Despite this clear record of hatred for Jews and Israel, as well as imposing Sharia law, western leaders, including U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, embraced official contacts with the Muslim Brotherhood last July. The sad truth is that the Obama administration’s “engagement,” in addition to immediately deflating the hopes of Egyptians campaigning for a truly democratic society, will likely produce disastrous results infinitely greater to those spawned by the Bush administration’s decision to legitimate Hamas’ participation in the 2006 Palestinian elections. That led to Gaza’s rapid conversion into a theocratic dictatorship, bringing misery to the people of Gaza, and the firing of thousands of missiles killing and maiming Israeli civilians.

The abrogation by a Muslim Brotherhood-led Egypt of its peace treaty with Israel would edge the Middle East, already on edge because of Iran’s nuclear ambitions, closer to a catastrophic regional conflict.

The world must begin to hold the Muslim Brotherhood accountable for their words and deeds. A Muslim Brotherhood unleashed further threatens religious minorities, and the hopes of the multitudes who risked life and limb in Tahrir Square to demand freedom and a better future, not an autocratic theocracy.

There may be no easy answers. But one thing is clear. Global appeasement of the Brotherhood will only ensure that last week’s genocidal slogans will soon become tomorrow’s policy.

(Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate Dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Centerin Los Angeles,
is a member of
CIJR’s International Board.)

Leon Volovici (1938-2011)

 

A dear friend, Leon Volovici z’l left us on December 2, 2011.

 

Leon was a valuable member of CIJR’s academic council. He was the author of multiple books, including Encounters in Jerusalem (2001), New Encounters in Jerusalem (2007), and his latest, From Yassi to Jerusalem and Back (2010).

 

Leon also edited Journal 1939-1944, the Romanian-Jewish Holocaust, by Mihail Sebastian (Ivan R. Dee, Chicago, 2000).

 

Leon was a participant in the latest Conference on Romanian Jewry held in Israel November 6-9, 2011.

 

We will miss you, Leon! CIJR extends its deepest sympathies to Leon’s family.

EGYPT ON THE (ISLAMIST) EDGE: OF SECULARS, CHRISTIANS, & OTHER DHIMMIS

Yesterday, Egyptian military police clashed with thousands of protesters in Cairo, in a violent escalation of a two-day battle that analysts warn threatens to undermine next week’s parliamentary elections. Police used rubber bullets, birdshot, truncheons and tear gas to disperse the crowd, and set fire to tents and vehicles in Tahrir Square, the focal point of the uprising that ousted former President Hosni Mubarak in February.

 

According to Egyptian medical sources, at least 33 people have been killed and more than one thousand injured since the conflict erupted last Friday, when tens of thousands of Islamists took to the streets to demonstrate against military rule. The Muslim Brotherhood’s political arm, the Freedom and Justice Party, organized the rally, demanding that the military junta hold elections on time and outline a firm plan for the transition of power.

 

Yet questions remain, primary of which is whether “free and democratic” elections can, or will, indeed lead to a free and democratic “New Egypt.” As things stand, the Islamists appear set for a landslide victory. Western powers, in particular the US, seem unperturbed by this prospect, with US special coordinator for transitions in the Middle East, William Taylor, having recently asserted the Obama administration would be “satisfied” should elections in Egypt produce a victory for the Brotherhood.

 

Nonetheless the writing is on the wall. The Muslim Brotherhood, progenitor of the Hamas terrorist group, maintains an Islamist ideology opposed to Western values, one that is vehemently anti-Israel and anti-Western. This reality last week led Israeli member of Parliament Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, to warn the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee that the latest developments in Egypt indicate that “over time Israel will find itself in a head-on confrontation” with its Arab neighbor, and that Israel “should start preparing for a conflict.”

 

“We are in the midst of an earthquake,” Ben-Eliezer affirmed. This earthquake, coined the “Arab Spring,” has already ushered in Islamic rule in both Tunisia and Libya, and seems destined now to do the same in Egypt.

 

EGYPT’S PRE-ELECTION CHAOS
Ryan Mauro

FrontPage, November 21, 2011

At least 33 Egyptians died over the weekend in violence ahead of the scheduled November 28 election. The country is shaking as protesters demand that the ruling military council set a date to hand over power to a civilian government shortly after the voting is finished in March. At the same time, the contests between the political parties is heating up as secularists are accused of violating Islam and the Salafists turn on the Muslim Brotherhood. Despite the instability, the council says that elections will still be held.

Demonstrators of a mostly Islamist orientation began protesting on Friday against the ruling military council’s moves to hold onto power. They are demanding that the council announce a firm date for when power will be transferred to an elected interim government. The council doesn’t want an official handover until the presidential elections take place, which it has loosely scheduled for late 2012 or early 2013. The Egyptian political parties and the presidential candidates, both secularist and Islamist, are not so patient.

Clashes took place in Cairo, Alexandria, Suez and elsewhere. By Sunday, the crowd in Tahrir Square reached 5,000. The Egyptian military and police decided to put an end to it, forcibly dispersing the demonstrators with rubber bullets, batons and tear gas. At least a dozen protest tents, along with banners and blankets, were set ablaze.… The government says at least 1,114 were wounded across the country over the weekend.…

The protests are fueled by a concern that the Supreme Armed Forces Council will undermine democratic reforms so it can hold onto power. The council has made it clear it will not allow “another Khomeini” to rise, but it is also taking action against its secular opponents. The country went into an uproar recently when the council proposed that it be given veto power over any future constitution and that it pick 80 of the 100 members of the constitutional committee. The council backed down.

The Coptic Christians, who make up about 10 percent of the population, are still being persecuted. On November 17, about 400 marched in honor of the 27 people who lost their lives in sectarian crisis, most of whom were Christians. They were attacked, with rocks and broken glass falling on them from the upper part of a building while the police did nothing. Ten Christians were injured. The victims said the attackers were supporters of a Salafist candidate running in the parliamentary elections named Gamal Saber.

There are now multiple struggles underway as the first round of elections on November 28 draws near. The secularists and the Islamists both oppose the military council. The secularists and the Islamists oppose each other and within the Islamist camp, the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafists have locked horns.

The Islamists are building support by selling essential goods to the poor at a steep discount. This includes food, clothing and medicine.… The organizational advantages of the Islamists over the secularists are plain for all to see. It is not just the Muslim Brotherhood that has a well-oiled operation and campaign infrastructure. The Salafist Al-Nour party says it has 100,000 members and 150 offices around the country.

The Salafists were originally part of the Brotherhood-lead Democratic Alliance bloc. The Al-Nour, Al-Asalah, Al-Fadilah and Al-Islah Salafist parties decided to leave and form their own coalition.… It is unclear at this point if the Salafists and the Brotherhood will coordinate their campaigns so that they don’t split the Islamist vote in individual districts.

There is not much time left before the voting begins and the Islamists’ hopes are high. The Al-Nour party predicts that the Islamists will control over one-third of parliament. Middle East expert Dr. Barry Rubin revised his projection in the wake of the Islamist Ennahda Party’s success in the Tunisian elections (winning 41% of the vote). He now believes the Islamists will get nearly half of the seats in parliament.…

The first round of elections for the lower house of parliament will take place on November 28. Nine provinces will vote in each round and there will be a run-off election in districts where the victor does not win a majority of the vote. The second and third rounds for the lower house will take place on December 14 and January 3, respectively. The three rounds for the upper house will take place on January 29, February 14 and March 4.

The elected interim government will draft the next constitution and decide the role of [Islamic] Sharia [law]. The stakes for Egypt and the region could not be much higher.

AFTER EGYPT’S REVOLUTION, CHRISTIANS ARE LIVING IN FEAR
Andre Aciman

NY Times, November 19, 2011

The images streaming from Cairo’s streets last month were not as horrifying as those of the capture and brutal death of Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi, but they were savage all the same. They were a sobering reminder that popular movements in some parts of the world, however euphorically they begin, can take disquieting and ugly turns.

When liberal Muslims joined Coptic Christians as they marched through Cairo’s Maspero area on Oct. 9 to protest the burning of a Coptic church, bands of conservative Muslim hooligans wielding sticks and swords began attacking the protesters. Egyptian security forces…deliberately rammed their armed vehicles into the Coptic crowd and fired live ammunition indiscriminately.

Egyptian military authorities soon shut down live news coverage of the event, and evidence of chaos was quickly cleared from the scene. But the massacre, in which at least 24 people were killed and more than 300 were wounded, was the worst instance of sectarian violence in Egypt in 60 years.…

Egypt’s interim prime minister, Essam Sharaf, claimed that the wholesale slaughter of civilians was not the product of sectarian violence but proof that there were “hidden hands” involved. I grew up in an Egypt that was inventing hidden hands wherever you looked. Because of my family’s increasingly precarious status as Jews living in Nasser’s Egypt, my parents forbade me to flash my flashlight several times at night or to write invisible messages with lemon ink in middle school. These were a spymaster’s tricks, and Jews were forever regarded as spies.… Sadly, the phrase “hidden hands” remains a part of Egypt’s political rhetoric more than 50 years later.…

Sometimes those hidden hands are called Langley, or the West, or, all else failing, of course, the Mossad. Sometimes “hidden hands” stands for any number of foreign or local conspiracies carried out by corrupt or disgruntled apparatchiks of one stripe or another who are forever eager to tarnish and discredit the public trust.

The problem with Egypt is that there is no public trust. There is no trust, period. False rumor, which is the opiate of the Egyptian masses and the bread and butter of political discourse in the Arab world, trumps clarity, reason and the will to tolerate a different opinion, let alone a different religion or the spirit of open discourse.

“Hidden hands” stands for Satan. And with Satan you don’t use judgment; you use cunning and paranoia. Cunning, after all, is poor man’s fare, a way of cobbling together a credible enough narrative that is at once easy to digest, to swear by, and pass around. Bugaboos keep you focused. And nothing in the Middle East can keep you as focused (or as unfocused) as the archvillain of them all: Israel.

Say “Israel” and you’ve galvanized everyone. Say Israel and you have a movement, a cause, a purpose. Say “Israel” and all of Islam huddles. Iran, Hamas, Hezbollah and now Turkey.…

Copts represent approximately 10 percent of Egypt’s population and are the direct descendants of the ancient Egyptians. Yet, sensing danger while everyone else in Egypt and in the West was busy celebrating the fall of Mr. Mubarak during the much-heralded Arab Spring, 93,000 Copts have already fled Egypt since March. In light of the events in Maspero, it is thought that another 150,000 Copts may leave their ancestral homeland by the end of 2011.

When Mr. Mubarak was in power, the Copts were frequently the victims of violent attacks and official discrimination—the New Year’s bombing of a Coptic Church in Alexandria that left 21 dead is the most recent instance. Now, with Mr. Mubarak gone, Copts fear that an elected Muslim majority is likely to prove far less tolerant than a military dictatorship.…

What doesn’t occur to most Egyptians is that the Copts represent a significant business community in Egypt and that their flight may further damage an economy saddled with a ballooning deficit. But this is nothing new for Egypt. The Egyptians have yet to learn the very hard lesson of the post-1956 departure of its nearly 100,000 Jews, who, at the time, constituted one of the wealthiest Jewish communities in the Mediterranean region.

The Egyptian economy never recovered from this loss. While blaming Zionism and the creation of Israel or turning to Islamic leadership may take many people’s minds off the very real financial debacle confronting Egypt and help assuage feelings of powerlessness, the hard lesson has not been learned yet.

The Arab Spring was a luminous instance of democratic euphoria in a country that had no history of democracy or euphoria. What happened to the Copts this fall cast a dark cloud, which the interim government, whatever its true convictions, would do well to dispel. Egypt should not lose its Copts. For if that is what autumn brings, then, to paraphrase Shelley, winter may not be far behind.

MUSLIM BROTHERHOOD MAKES FOOLS OF NAIVE WEST;
TWO SMART EGYPTIANS FEAR FUTURE
Barry Rubin

Pajamas Media, November 1, 2011

“I realized how difficult it is to understand the true nature of men from outward signs. At Ancona, for example, a kind old man…asked me to let him have some [of my] soup.… I gave it to him gladly, taken with the serenity in his eyes and his modest gestures. Immediately afterward, I larned that this repellent beast had raped his own daughter.”—Antonio Gramsci, a founder of the Italian Communist Party, Letters from Prison

Can you imagine this? The Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood lied! And can you imagine this: the two civilians who are Egypt’s greatest hope for avoiding an Islamist dictatorship are very worried.

Let’s start with the Brotherhood. First, it promised to run candidates for only one-third of the parliamentary seats, saying this would prove its moderation and willingness to share power. But a little later, it raised that number to 50 percent but said that’s all and they wouldn’t run a candidate for president. Again, we were told: they’re moderate!

Next, it created a front party to run a candidate for president. For months the Western media generally told us that this party was independent of the Brotherhood, had split off from the Brotherhood to run a candidate for president. That made this party even more moderate than the moderate Brotherhood.

Finally, now that the media admits this is a Brotherhood-controlled party, it announces, too, that it will run candidates for all the parliamentary seats. How do we know they are moderate? Well, because they say so. For example, the Brotherhood has announced that it will not run on the slogan, “Islam is the solution!” Their new official slogan is: “We bring good [things] for Egypt.” How moderate can you get?

Some details. The Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party dominates the 11-party Democratic Alliance (again, a nice “moderate” name). The Alliance will run candidates in the 76 multi-candidate proportional representation districts and in the 113 single-seat districts. Incidentally, two of its partners are leftist parties, including al-Ghad.

As in Tunisia (and Turkey and in the Palestinian elections won by Hamas some years ago), the opposition is divided, disorganized, and some of its members are ready to make a deal with the Islamists.

The opposition 21-party Egyptian Bloc has collapsed after only two months of existence. Only three determined secular-oriented parties remain in it: the genuinely liberal Free Egyptians Party (drawing mostly Christian support), the tiny Egyptian Social Democratic Party, and the radical leftist Tagammu Party.

The “Facebook kid” left-liberal Justice Party has formed its own bloc called The Revolution Continues while the Salafis (openly radical Islamists) are trying to combine in the Nour Party.

The three main “liberal” parties—Wafd, Free Egyptians, Justice—are all running against each other. They’ll split the vote and in district after district the Islamists will win.

Moreover, the Brotherhood is following a brilliant strategy to build a united front for Sharia, bringing in other clerics and gradually winning over more and more of the religious establishment to an Islamist position. The proportion of non-Islamist forces among observant Muslims thus steadily declines. Religious Islam as it has been actually practiced and political Islamism have not been the same thing but they are increasingly becoming the same thing as the Islamists win the battle of interpretation.

As a result of all of these factors, I’m changing my prediction. A poll misread by American “experts” supposedly claimed that the Brotherhood had only 13 percent support and was no threat. I analyzed the poll as putting them at 33 percent. A new poll by theDanish-Egyptian Dialogue Institute puts the Brotherhood at 39 percent. I am now predicting that the Brotherhood and other radical Islamists may get to almost 50 percent.

Am I being too alarmist? Well let’s listen to the two most interesting non-Islamist political figures in Egypt. Amr Moussa, who might well be Egypt’s next president though it seems he will have to await elections in 2013, is one of the smartest politicians in the Arabic-speaking world.

A former foreign minister and head of the Arab League, he is also an intemperate, radical Arab nationalist who knows how to use demagoguery and populism to rally support for himself. Of course, that’s also why he’s the great black-white-red (the Arab nationalist colors) hope to defeat the green of the Islamists.

So it’s worth listening to his reading of the current situation. Briefly, Egypt will elect a parliament on November 28—probably with the Muslim Brotherhood as the biggest party—that will choose a constitution-writing committee in April 2012. Only after a constitution is completed, no earlier than the summer of 2013, will a president be elected. Thus decrees the military junta. Since he’s already 75, Moussa is understandably in a hurry.

Amr Moussa says that in the interim he fears Egypt could be plunged into a terrible crisis by growing violence and economic disaster (the country has lost an estimated $10 billion due to the revolution and subsequent disruption). That makes sense. “My biggest fear is anarchy,” says Moussa. “A long transitional period…will create an opportunity for all those who want to play havoc with the Egyptian society.”

Right. Islamists will continue to attack Christians, whom the government and army won’t protect. The Brotherhood will complain that if only it was in charge and could implement a policy of hope and change everything would be great. Islamists and liberals will join together to bash the junta as anti-democratic and intending to keep power for itself.

The junta’s decision to create dual power—a military executive alongside an elected legislature—is understandable since it is horrified at the rise of Islamism and violence. But this is likely to be a turbulent situation.

Then there’s Naguib Sawiris, a billionaire, Christian, and the founder of the Free Egyptians’ Party, the only group that’s likely to fight Islamism. He has just given a fascinating interview to Bloomberg Business News.

The problem is that while the party has many Muslims in the leadership and membership (two-thirds, it claims) most of its votes will probably come from Christians, the only large sector of the population willing to battle for secularism.

Sawiris is not a man who is easily intimidated, ignoring the many death threats. Yet on the national stage he is merely an uppity dhimmi, albeit one with 139,000 followers to his Twitter account. He also has a sense of humor, posting a picture of Mickey and Minnie Mouse in Islamic garb. The Islamists, however, don’t have a sense of humor, launching a costly boycott of his businesses.

Last July, an Islamist preacher said on cable television, “We will kill him even if he repents.” You see, Sawaris lives in luxury and has massive business interests and power. But here’s how a revolutionary Islamist thinks: For all that, he’s just another infidel and one swing of the sword will cut through even the most expensive tailor-made collar.

Sawiris thinks Egypt may well end up like Iran. He watches as Christians are attacked, Islamist terrorists released from prison. and a rising demagoguery targets Israel as Egypt’s main problem.

Prediction: By mid-2012 everyone will be writing about the failure of the Egyptian revolution and how it has made things worse for the country and terrible for the region. Added prediction: they will be saying the same thing about Tunisia and Libya. Will this combination be enough to wake up the West to the threat of revolutionary Islamism and the catastrophic consequences of current Western policy toward the Middle East?

WHILE IRANIANS, EMBOLDENED, PLAN US STRIKE, EGYPTIAN “REVOLUTION” IMPERILS CHRISTIANS

OBAMA’S WEAKNESS INVITED IRAN’S PLOT

Mona Charen
National Review, October 14, 2011

If the Iranian government doesn’t frighten you, you haven’t been paying attention. The regime in Iran has been killing Americans in Iraq and Afghanistan for many years and has sworn countless times in the past 30 years to preside over the destruction of the United States. But for a lucky break, Washington, D.C., this autumn would have been the scene of a massive explosion at a high-end restaurant, with scores and perhaps hundreds killed and maimed. The principal target of this terror attack was to be the Saudi ambassador to the United States, but as one of the plotters told another during the planning: “They want that guy [the Ambassador] done [killed], if the hundred go with him f**k’em.” The FBI suggests that several U.S. senators are also known to frequent the restaurant.

This carnage was only one of several violent attacks Iran was planning to perpetrate on American soil [Israel’s embassy in Washington is reported to have been another target—Ed.]. It seems safe to say that President Obama’s outreach to the mullahs is not going well.

Some press reports have stressed the enmity between Iran and Saudi Arabia in attempting to explain this flagrant outrage. The U.S. Attorney involved in the case, Preet Bharara, also stressed that angle, saying, “Today’s charges should make crystal clear that we will not let other countries use our soil as their battleground.” But that misses a key point. This was an attack on the U.S. as well.

There are Saudi interests all over the globe. It’s not an accident that they chose to strike in Washington, D.C. For the terrorists in Tehran, killing a Saudi ambassador in America’s capital city would be a blow against two hated enemies at once. The murders would have happened under the noses of the Great Satan, thus conveying Iran’s contempt for everything we hold dea —the sanctity of life, the rule of law, international norms regarding diplomacy, and even the Geneva Conventions (which forbid deliberate attacks on civilians).…

The details of the thwarted attack read like a bad espionage novel. Mansour Arbabsiar, a naturalized American who was born in Iran, served as the middleman in a murder-for-hire plot. Directed by the Quds Force, an arm of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, Arbabsiar approached a Mexican drug gang and offered them $1.5 million to carry out the attack in Washington. Arbabsiar did not know that his Mexican interlocutor was actually an American informant.

And so the plot unraveled. Arbabsiar was arrested on September 29 at Kennedy airport, and has made a full confession. He has admitted that he was recruited, funded, and directed by men he believed to be senior officials in Iran’s Quds Force.

This is the same Quds Force that created or supports Hezbollah, Hamas, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, and the Mahdi army in Iraq. It is the same Quds Force that is currently helping the regime of Bashar al-Assad to brutally suppress the people of Syria who are demanding freedom. It is the same Quds Force that is arming and supplying the Taliban in Afghanistan, and providing $3 million a month to militias in Iraq.

Quds has a worldwide presence, including an active directorate in Venezuela, and in the tri-border region of South America (where Brazil, Paraguay, and Argentina meet), in the Magreb, in sub-Saharan Africa, and throughout the Middle East. It cooperates with al-Qaeda, and has been involved in countless acts of terror against Americans including the murder of CIA officer William Buckley, the murder of Navy diver Robert Stethem, the killing of 241 Marines in Lebanon, and the bombing of the Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia, which killed 19 servicemen.

Quds is the beating heart of the Iranian regime, and that regime is barreling toward a nuclear weapon. Stopping it ought to be, but is not, the top foreign-policy priority of the Obama administration.…

IRAN’S ACT OF WAR

Reuel Marc Gerecht

Wall Street Journal, October 13, 2011

There is still much to learn about the Iranian-directed plot to blow up the Saudi ambassador in a Washington, D.C., restaurant. But if the Justice Department’s information is correct, the conspiracy confirms a lethal fact about Iran’s regime: It is becoming more dangerous, not less, as it ages.

Since the 1989 death of Iran’s revolutionary leader, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, Western observers have hunted for signs of the end of the revolution’s implacable hostility toward the United States. Signs have been abundant outside the ruling elite: Virtually the entire lay and much of the clerical intellectual class have damned theocracy as illegitimate, and college-educated youth (Iran has the best-educated public of any big Middle Eastern state) overwhelmingly threw themselves into the pro-democracy Green Movement that shook the regime in the summer of 2009.

But at the regime’s apex—Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, his praetorian Revolutionary Guard Corps, and the clergy who’ve remained committed to theocracy—religious ideology and anti-Americanism have intensified.

The planned assassination in Washington was a bold act: The Islamic Republic’s terrorism has struck all over the globe, and repeatedly in Europe, but it has spared the U.S. homeland because even under Khomeini Iran feared outraged American power.

Iran truck-bombed the U.S. Embassy and Marine barracks in Lebanon during Reagan’s presidency, calculating correctly that the Lebanese operational cover deployed in that attack would be sufficient to confuse U.S. retaliation. But the accidental shoot-down of Iran-Air flight 655 in July 1988 by the USS Vincennes unquestionably contributed to Tehran’s determination that the White House had allied itself with Saddam Hussein and therefore the Iran-Iraq war was lost. The perception of American power proved decisive.

One of the unintended benefits of America being at the center of Iran’s conspiracies is that the U.S. is often depicted as devilishly powerful. Running against that fear, however, is another theme of the revolution: America’s inability to stop faithful Iranians from liberating their homeland—the entire Muslim world—from Western hegemony and cultural debasement. American strength versus American weakness is a dangerous dance that plays out in the Islamist mind.

Within Iran, this interplay has led to cycles of terrorism of varying directness against the U.S. Khamenei, who many analysts have depicted as a cautious man in foreign affairs, has been a party—probably the decisive party—to every single terrorist operation Iran has conducted overseas since Khomeini’s death.

The once-humble, unremarkable Khamenei—who was given the office of supreme leader in 1989 by the once-great Don Corleone of clerical politics, Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani (who assumed Iran’s presidency that same year)—has become the undisputed ruler of Iran.

It was Khamenei who massively increased the military and economic power of the Revolutionary Guards Corps while often playing musical chairs with its leadership. The supreme leader has turned a fairly consensual theocracy into an autocracy where all fear the Guards and the Intelligence Ministry, which is also now under the supreme leader’s control.…

Khamenei’s growing power and sense of mission have manifested themselves abroad. He has unleashed the Guards Corps against the U.S. and its allies in Iraq and Afghanistan. As the Treasury Department recently revealed, Tehran has ongoing ties to al Qaeda. These date back at least a decade, as the 9/11 Commission Report depicted Iranian complicity in the safe travel of al Qaeda operatives and chronicled al Qaeda contact with the Lebanese Hezbollah and Tehran’s éminence grise to Arab Islamic radicals, the late Imad Mughniyeh.

Many in Washington and Europe would like to believe that the assassination plot in Washington came from a “faction” within the Iranian government—that is, that Khamenei didn’t order the killing.… [But] Lord help Qasim Soleimani—the man who likely has control over the Revolutionary Guards’ elite dark-arts Qods Force, which apparently orchestrated this assassination scheme—if he didn’t clear the operation with Khamenei. He will lose his job and perhaps his life.…

For 20 years the U.S. has sent mixed messages to the supreme leader. Under both Democratic and Republican presidents, the U.S. has tried to reach out to Iran, to engage it in dialogue that would lead away from confrontation. For Khamenei such attempts at engagement have been poisonous, feeding his profound fear of a Western cultural invasion and the destruction of Islamic values.…

Khamenei probably approved a strike in Washington because he [now] no longer fears American military might. Iran’s advancing nuclear-weapons program has undoubtedly fortified his spine, as American presidents have called it “unacceptable” yet done nothing about it. And neither George W. Bush nor Barack Obama retaliated against Iran’s murderous missions in Iraq and Afghanistan.

President Obama has clearly shown he wants no part—or any Israeli part—in a preventive military strike against Iran’s nuclear sites. And Mr. Obama has pulled almost all U.S. troops out of Iraq and clearly wants to do the same in Afghanistan.… That’s an invitation to someone like Khamenei to push further, to attack both America and Iran’s most detested Middle Eastern rival, the virulently anti-Shiite Saudi Arabia.…

The Obama administration will be tempted to respond against Iran with further unilateral and multilateral sanctions. More sanctions aren’t a bad idea—targeted sanctions against the Revolutionary Guards and the sale of gasoline made from Iranian crude can hurt Tehran financially. But they will not scare it. The White House needs to respond militarily to this outrage. If we don’t, we are asking for it.

In the 1980s and ‘90s, the U.S. failed to take Secretary of State George Shultz’s wise counsel after Khomeini’s minions bombed us in Lebanon. We didn’t make terrorism a casus belli, instead treating it as a crime, only lobbing a few missiles at Afghan rock huts and a Sudanese pharmaceutical plant. But we should treat it as a casus belli. The price we will pay now will surely be less than the price we will pay later.

(Mr. Gerecht, a former Central Intelligence Agency officer,
is a senior fellow at the
Foundation for Defense of Democracies.)

EGYPT’S MILITARY EXPANDS POWER, RAISING ALARMS

David D. Kirkpatrick

NY Times, October 14, 2011

Egypt’s military rulers are moving to assert and extend their own power so broadly that a growing number of lawyers and activists are questioning their willingness to ultimately submit to civilian authority.

Two members of the military council that took power after the ouster of former President Hosni Mubarak said for the first time in interviews [last] week that they planned to retain full control of the Egyptian government even after the election of a new Parliament begins in November. The legislature will remain in a subordinate role similar to Mr. Mubarak’s former Parliament, they said, with the military council appointing the prime minister and cabinet.

“We will keep the power until we have a president,” Maj. Gen. Mahmoud Hegazy said. The military had pledged in formal communiqués last March to hold the presidential election by September. But the generals now say that will come only after the election of a Parliament, the formation of a constitutional assembly and the ratification of a new constitution—a process that could stretch into 2013 or longer.

A transition to civilian rule before and not after the drafting of a new constitution was also a core component of a national referendum on a “constitutional declaration” that passed in March as well. The declaration required that the military put in place democratic institutions and suspend a 30-year-old emergency law allowing arrests without trial before the drafting of the constitution to ensure a free debate. But by extending its mandate, the military will now preside over the constitutional process.

The military’s new plan “is a violation of the constitutional declaration,” Tarek el-Bishry, the jurist who led the writing of that declaration, wrote this week in the newspaper Al Sharouk, arguing that the now-defunct referendum had been the military’s only source of legitimacy.

The United States, where concerns run high that early elections could bring unfriendly Islamists to power and further strain relations with Israel, has so far signaled approval of the military’s slower approach to handing over authority. In an appearance this week with the Egyptian foreign minister, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton urged an early end to the emergency law but called the plan for elections “an appropriate timetable.”

Within Egypt, however, the schedule is a fresh source of tension between the military council and civilian political leaders from liberals to Islamists. Political leaders say they were shocked last week when two dozen Coptic Christian demonstrators died in clashes with soldiers guarding a government building. Some protesters were run over by military vehicles and others were shot.

Confidence in the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces—known as SCAF—reached a breaking point, many political leaders say, three days later when the military council placed blame for the deaths on the aggression of the demonstrators and denied that the soldiers used live ammunition. The military has blocked any civilian investigation into the clash.

“No political party can trust the SCAF now,” said Emad Gad, an analyst at the state-financed Al Ahram research group and now an active member of the Social Democratic Party. “We are seeing the real face of the SCAF, after the lifting of the mask.…”

Last spring, the military was viewed by some liberals as moving too quickly toward new elections. They feared that the military’s original timetable for transition to democratic rule, with elections of Parliament, a new president and the drafting of a new constitution all taking place within a few months, could effectively hand power to the Muslim Brotherhood, the Islamist group that was Egypt’s main political opposition under Mr. Mubarak. That was when some liberals began arguing publicly that the military should define for itself its own powers and role under the new constitution, including the broad autonomy and authority to intervene to protect the secular character of the state.

Some now call the military’s deadly violence against the Coptic protesters a wake-up call for such liberals. “The liberal elite was so blinded by the fear of Islamists’ taking over that they were willing to accept the security blanket of the army,” said Mr. Bahgat of the Egyptian Initiative for Individual Rights. “But Sunday’s massacre was a turning point because they saw what the army was capable of—brutality that came as a very early reminder of what things were like under Mubarak.…”

Selecting a committee to draft a constitution will be the most important function of the new Parliament. The military has said it will impose certain diversity requirements on the membership. Parties and candidates running for Parliament acknowledge that they do not know what powers it may have while the military controls the government. But several politicians said they planned to compete for seats, in part to have a platform for potentially challenging the military. “What else can we do?” asked Mr. Gad, of the Social Democratic Party.

ARAB SPRING LEADS TO SECOND EXODUS

Walter Russell Mead

American Spectator, October 12, 2011

As a horrified world watched coverage of Christian demonstrators dying at the hands of Egyptian soldiers this week, it underlined the possibility that the Arab Spring might permanently change Egypt after all. Coptic Christians, who have lived in the Land of the Pharaohs since Biblical times, are making an Exodus in all directions. The La Stampa affiliated site Vatican Insider reports: “Since March, increased religious tension in Egypt has led to the emigration of about 100 thousand Christians. The Egyptian Union of human rights organisations has spoken out against this, saying that this mass exodus could alter the Country’s demography as well as its economic stability.… According to analysts, this high rate of emigration is mostly a consequence of the Arab Spring revolts which began in December 2010 and are supposed to have boosted the power held by the Islamic component within Egyptian society.”

Egypt’s Copts welcomed Islamic forces as liberators in the 7th century AD; the Orthodox Church considered the Copts to be a heretical sect and under the Byzantine emperors the Copts faced persecution. Since then, relations with Muslims have had their ups and downs and in recent centuries Copts have been outsiders in Egyptian society: prosperous enough to have influence, but not populous enough to demand equal treatment as a matter of right. They depend on the ruling establishment for protection but are also convenient scapegoats for governments which rule by playing competing factions against one another.

Religious tension has grown as the Egyptian ‘revolution’ stagnates. Rising economic problems stir up anger against a religious minority many Egyptians feel benefited from special treatment during the Mubarak years. Competition over land and water in the south often pits Muslim and Christian villages and villagers against one another. Some of the Islamists reaching for political power in Egypt today are less sympathetic to the concerns of the Copts than others are.

Christian emigration from the Middle East is not new. For the last 150 years Christians have fled the region in droves.… The flight of the Copts… [and they] are more than a significant demographic presence in Egypt; they are an important pillar of the country’s economy—and of its embattled liberal tradition in politics. An Egypt without Copts, like so much of the Middle East that has steadily been losing the cultural and social diversity that once so enriched it, would be a narrower, poorer, more radical and less hopeful place.… A picture of former President Mubarak in a cage may make the front pages, but the destruction of the Copts will do more to define Egypt’s future.

EGYPT’S WAR ON CHRISTIANS

Father Raymond J. de Souza
National Post, October 13, 2011

…The scenes from Sunday night in Cairo confirmed the worst fears of Christians in Egypt: An armoured personnel carrier, careening through a crowd of protesters, apparently firing in all directions. Some 25 were killed, 17 of them Coptic Christians participating in a protest against, amongst other things, government inaction in the race of anti-Christian violence.

Government action may indeed be even worse. It’s not just a Christian concern. All those concerned about religious liberty are alarmed. The Canadian federal government, which has made religious liberty a higher priority in its foreign policy, will establish an office of religious freedom to advance that end. The new office will be all the busier given what regime change is bringing to the broader Middle East.

Last month’s religious freedom update from the U.S. State Department detailed the sorry state of affairs in Afghanistan. The report confirmed that there are no Christian churches and no Christian schools left in Afghanistan. There are not many Christians in Afghanistan, but what few remain have not a single house of worship. In Iraq, the situation is not quite as dire as that, but Iraq once had a large and thriving Christian population. It has been hemorrhaging steadily over the years.…

These are countries where foreign troops are providing stability and security, and the international community has midwifed new constitutions in which religious liberty is at least nominally guaranteed. What will happen in Egypt, and perhaps Syria, where revolutions bring to power Islamist factions unchecked by any foreign influence, military or otherwise? Is Sunday’s bloodshed in Cairo a sign of a religious war that is to come?

The outcome of such a war is known even now. Egypt’s Christians are a significant minority of some eight to 10 million, numerous but not powerful. Should the full force of Islamist violence be turned on them, the streets would run with blood. If the military were to abet the attacks, the number of corpses would be more horrific still. A new age of martyrdom is set to rise in Egypt.…

The massacre in Cairo fills the Christians of that land with deep foreboding. Christians have been in Egypt since the first Christian centuries.… An Egypt without Christians would be the product of a cultural vandalism equivalent to an Egypt without the pyramids. The pyramids are the tombs of the past. The Christians of Egypt fear that their fellow citizens are preparing for them the tombs of the present.

EX NIHIL NIHIL FIT *: REAL REVOLUTION IN CAIRO, OR NIHILISM ON THE NILE? (* “NOTHING CAN COME FROM NOTHING.”)

FIVE MONTHS OF WAITING
Sharif Abdel Kouddous
Foreign Policy, July 15, 2011

 

Five months after the fall of Hosni Mubarak, Tahrir Square has, once again, been transformed into a mass protest encampment and the epicenter of the struggle for change in Egypt. Thousands of protesters are entering the second week of a sit-in reminiscent of the one that captured the world’s attention during the 18-day uprising that began on Jan. 25.

At the heart of the matter is the feeling of many that the basic demands of the revolution have gone unfulfilled, with little indication that a path for real change lies ahead; that the calls for justice and accountability for members of the former regime and security forces accused of killing protesters have gone unanswered; and that the revolutionary demands of “bread, freedom, social justice” have all but been abandoned.…

In Tahrir, protesters have dug in for the long haul. The middle of the square has been converted into a tent city, complete with winding pathways, food stocking centers, and a hairdresser. Electricity has been routed from street lamps to power fans and recharge cell phones. Wi-Fi Internet connections and satellite TV have been set up. Protesters have organized popular committees to protect the entrances, sweep the streets, and make collective decisions about living in the square.…

The sit-in began after issues that have been simmering for the past five months boiled over in the last few weeks, culminating in massive demonstrations across the country on July 8—the biggest protests since the Supreme Council came to power.

The anger and frustration began to escalate on June 26, when the trial of the much-reviled former interior minister, Habib Al-Adly, and six of his aides was postponed for a second time. The victims’ outraged family members gathered outside the courthouse and pelted police vehicles with rocks as they drove away. Two days later, clashes broke out between police and relatives of those killed in the uprising at an event honoring martyrs of the revolution. The clashes quickly spread to the Interior Ministry and Tahrir Square, where thousands of demonstrators had rushed in solidarity, and escalated into the largest street battles between security forces and protesters since Mubarak’s fall. Security forces used rubber bullets, birdshot, tear-gas canisters, as well as reportedly live ammunition, in some cases, against the demonstrators and taunted them, some while brandishing swords. Protesters fought back with rocks and Molotov cocktails, and more than 1,000 people were injured. The fierce clashes convinced many that the security apparatus remains unreformed.…

Less than a week later, clashes erupted at a Cairo courthouse after a judge ordered the release on bail of seven police officers accused of killing 17 protesters and wounding 300 others in the canal city of Suez—widely viewed as the symbolic heart of the revolution. The ruling touched off two days of rioting in Suez, with hundreds of people torching police cars and trying to storm government buildings.… Over the past five months, only one policeman has been convicted—in absentia—for the killing of protesters during the revolution, in which nearly 1,000 people were killed. Over the same time period, more than 10,000 civilians have been tried in military courts, where they are routinely denied access to lawyers and family and receive sentences ranging from a few months to five years.…

Despite the scale of the July 8 protests and the open sit-in, there was no immediate reaction from the Supreme Council. Instead, in what activists saw as another provocation, the military announced that Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi had sworn in a new minister of information, the Wafd Party’s Osama Heikal. The Information Ministry has long been viewed as an integral part of the state propaganda apparatus, and many believed the position, which had not been filled for five months, would remain vacant.…

On July 9, Prime Minister Essam Sharaf vowed to suspend police officers accused of killing protesters and said a panel would be created to speed up court cases against them and those accused of corruption. However, that same evening, the interior minister, Maj. Gen. Mansour Essawi, publicly contradicted Sharaf’s statement and refused to suspend accused policemen.…

A July 12 televised address by the council’s Gen. Mohsen el Fangari…warned that Egypt was “facing a planned and organized attempt to disrupt the country’s domestic stability” and that the Supreme Council “will take any and every action to confront and stop the threats surrounding the country.” In a gesture much-derided by the protesters, Fangari repeatedly wagged his finger at the camera and insisted the military “will not give up its role in administering the country in such a critical time in the history of Egypt.”

The statement did not have the desired effect. That afternoon, in an impressive display of force, thousands marched out of Tahrir Square to the parliament building and the headquarters of the Cabinet of Ministers, which were being guarded by the military a few blocks away. Chanting loudly, they called for Tantawi to step down and blasted the Interior Ministry as thugs. In the evening, Tahrir had its most crowded night since the July 8 sit-in began, with thousands of people crowding the square until the early morning hours in defiance of the Supreme Council.…

The next day, Essawi announced the early retirement of 669 senior police officers in what he called “the biggest shake-up in the history of the police.” While it did not release their names, the Interior Ministry said 18 police generals and nine other senior officers were let go because they were accused of killing protesters in the uprising. In Tahrir, the move was largely viewed as a cosmetic change that did not properly address issues of accountability or a restructuring of the security forces.…

The Supreme Council also announced that parliamentary elections originally planned for September would be postponed until October or November. Many political groups had wanted to delay the poll to give them more time to prepare, and welcomed the move.…

Yet as the days go by, more tents are being set up in the square—numbering between 150 and 200—with no end in sight. Many point to a list of demands put forward by a large number of groups taking part in the sit-in. They include: banning the use of military trials again civilians and the immediate release of all those sentenced in such trials; establishing a special court to try those implicated in the killing of protesters and the immediate suspension all implicated police officers; replacing the interior minister with a civilian appointee and the declaration of a plan and timetable for the full restructuring of the Interior Ministry; replacing the prosecutor general; holding public trials for members of the ousted regime; and replacing the current budget with one that better responds to the basic demands of the poor.

During the 18-day uprising, a common chant that rang out in Tahrir was “The army and the people are one hand.” Five months later, a more frequent chant you hear is for Tantawi to step down and for military rule to end. Egypt’s revolution, it seems, is far from over.

 

EGYPT: BOUND TO EXPLODE?
Mordechai Kedar

Independent Media Review & Analysis, July 22, 2011

 

…Six months [after the Jan. 25 revolution began] the situation in Egypt has only worsened, not improved. Unemployment, which stood at 25% during Mubarak’s rule, has risen dramatically. It is now estimated at 50% or higher, i.e. one of every two wage earners does not have a steady job. The rise in unemployment stems primarily from the disappearance of the tourism industry. Millions of tourists had arrived each year and provided good income for hotel, restaurant and nightclub workers; for taxi and bus drivers; for souvenir and clothing manufacturers; for operators of Nile cruises.… Since the outbreak of the revolution, there are hardly any tourists and those millions of Egyptians who directly and indirectly benefited from such visitors have been without income for six months. Since the unemployed consume less food, clothing and services, many other branches of the economy have suffered from the domino effect of the downturn in tourism. Only a very few of the tens of thousands of Egyptians who are now completing their academic studies will find work.…

Hopes that the new government would clean up the corruption in the public sector have been dashed. Police officers suspected of fatally shooting protestors in January and February have not been suspended, interrogated or put on trial for their crimes. Even Mubarak, allegedly responsible for the shooting of demonstrators, is spending the last few months awaiting trial in a Sharm al-Sheikh hotel rather than in prison.…

The question that has occupied Egyptians this past month is what should come first: should constitutional change precede elections, or should such change be the responsibility of the parliament to be chosen in the next elections. The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces resolved the question by deciding to hold elections first; however, they continue to be postponed and are now tentatively scheduled for November. The dozens of new parties will not have sufficient time to organize, giving an advantage to the established parties including the Muslim Brotherhood; the split in that movement, however, has already given birth to five parties and it is unclear if all of them will ultimately run separately.…

The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces is playing a critically important role. On the one hand, the army took a sympathetic approach towards the revolutionary youth and ousted Mubarak from power. On the other hand, the military undertook the difficult task of running the country during the transition; of restoring the public’s faith in the government corrupt bureaucracy, which has remained largely intact; of stabilizing the economy and of conducting democratic elections in which a president and two parliamentary houses—the People’s Assembly and the Shura Council—would be chosen to jointly establish a government. The public, primarily the young people of the revolution, have well understood this difficult task and have generally accepted the decisions of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces over the last few months.

However, this past month has seen a turning point: the army increasingly operates as a ruling body and less as an organization assisting the people in achieving their goals. The public is growing less and less enamored of the Council of Armed Forces and is already waving signs in al-Tahrir Square along the lines of: “Down With the Council of the Armed Forces”; “Council of Armed Forces—Your Credit Has Run Out; “The Revolution Continues”; “Stop Military Trials for Civilians Now”. The names assigned to recent Fridays express the public’s rage at the situation—“Friday of Rage” and “Friday of Warning”—with everyone understanding at whom the rage and warnings are directed.

The above developments have been clearly reflected in the behavior of one of the members of the Council of Armed Forces, General Mohsen Fangary. From the beginning of the revolution on January 25th, he supported the rights of citizens to express their opinions peacefully, and has been very popular among the masses. Two weeks ago, on July 12th, he appeared on local and international media and, in a frightening and intimidating tone, read a statement issued by the Supreme Council of Armed Forces while waving his finger threateningly: “…The council will not relinquish its role during this critical period in Egypt’s history.… Freedom of expression is guaranteed to all, but only within the boundaries of the law. Elections will be the first step, after which the constitution will be drafted. The special courts (i.e. military courts) will not be abolished. The army will not allow violent protests or the obstruction of economic activity; it will not permit the spreading of rumors and misinformation which could lead to disunity, disobedience and the dismantling of the homeland; it will give precedence to the interests of the public over those of individuals. The council will not allow anyone to seize power and will take the necessary measures against threats to the homeland.”

Millions of Egyptians listened with great concern to this threatening announcement, which made it clear to them—from no less than the thundering voice of the popular General Fangary—that the period of hugs and flowers had ended.…

In the next few weeks or months, the [Egyptian] Spring is liable to turn into the Egyptian Summer—hot, steamy, violent and repulsive—in which the cat will be let out of the bag and the youth of Al Tahrir Square will realize that they have replaced one group of officers with another, that instead of Mubarak, they have Tantawi or Fangary, all cut from the same cloth. If conflict erupts, Heaven forefend, it will take place between the revolutionary youth and the army, which, this time, might fire massively at them.

The army may in the interim throw protesters some bones, such as a show trial for Mubarak (if he lives), his wife and sons, and the public might even get to see them swinging from a rope in al-Tahrir Square; aside from momentary joy, however, this will not calm the street. The standing of the Israeli embassy and the peace agreement with Israel might also be impacted, because the army may employ such a stratagem to douse the flames.

In the event of major clashes between the army and the population, many Egyptians are liable to try and reach Israel via Sinai and the open border. Israel must prepare for such a scenario so that it is not caught by surprise when thousands of Egyptians arrive daily, fleeing the cruelty of their army.

 

EGYPT’S FUNDAMENTALIST SUMMER
Sarah A. Topol
Slate, July 14, 2011

 

The lease on the gleaming new headquarters of the Nour Party in Mansoura, a large city in the fertile Nile delta 90 miles north of Cairo, was signed just last week, and chairs still in their plastic factory wrapping are stacked against the lime green walls. Seated in the conference room, Sherif Taha Hassan, the spokesman for the local branch of this ultraconservative Islamist party, is beaming as we discuss its chances for success in Egypt’s first parliamentary election since the revolution, tentatively scheduled for the fall. “There is a large Salafi base in Egyptian society. Once people figure out the goals of the party and its [Islamic] reference, they will come to join,” Hassan says, grinning.

Before this spring’s Egyptian revolution, Salafis—adherents to a fundamentalist approach to Islam influenced by Saudi Arabia—eschewed politics.…

Today, Nour is printing shiny blue fliers, hand-painting placards, organizing community outreach meetings, and setting up volunteer medical teams to go into villages to treat the impoverished, as well as offering reduced-price prescription drugs bearing the party’s logo at participating pharmacies, subsidized by Nour. The first Salafis in Egypt officially to register as a political party, Nour has already set up offices in 15 of the country’s 27 governorates, more than can be said for most of the fledgling liberal parties, who remain worried about organizing effective nationwide campaigns before the vote.…

Salafism is not a singular ideology with one leader; instead, it is a broad conservative movement that includes some extreme views. Salafis aspire to emulate the ways of the Prophet Muhammad’s seventh-century companions, known as the saluf. In Egypt, most Salafi schools of thought are influential in particular geographic areas—Nour in Alexandria, Al-Fadila (Virtue) in Cairo, for example—and the possibility of alliances of different sheiks across the country bringing supporters to each other’s campaigns may help all the Salafis at the ballot box.

The Salafis trying to form political parties have thus far stayed mostly neutral when it comes to controversial issues, but individual Salafi sheiks have made harsh statements to the Egyptian media denouncing the possibility of a Christian president and the right of women to assume positions of power.…

Whatever their numbers, the presence of vocal fundamentalist parties in the next parliament, which will be tasked with selecting the 100-member council that will be drafting Egypt’s new constitution, may well affect policy discussions in this already conservative country. “The Salafis could drag the parliamentary debate further to the right by setting the standard for ‘Islamic authenticity,’ saying that they represent the true voice of Islam,” says Shadi Hamid, director of research at the Brookings Doha Center.…

Eventually, Hammad concedes, the Nour Party will attempt to apply the whole of its fundamentalist understanding of Islam, which includes archaic punishments, like stoning adulterers and cutting off thieves’ hands. “But this is according to steps. This is not in one morning, that if I am the president of Egypt, I will come and cut off your hand,” Hammad tells me. First, the Nour Party plans to fix the problems of economic disparity in the country, to reduce the factors behind such crimes, then, yes, it will move on to punishment.…

It seems that a popular uprising started in large part by young, liberal, Facebook-savvy activists has brought new opportunities for Egypt’s ultraconservatives.

 

CAIRO’S CONSPIRACY PASTIME
Editorial

Jerusalem Report, July 22, 2011

 

“We know the Israelis have spies here,” says Ahmad Sleiman as he carefully places his oranges in crates outside his fruit stand in the impoverished Cairo neighborhood of Imbaba. “So it’s logical to believe that Ilan Grapel was working for the Mossad,” he continues, as several of his customers nod in approval.

Across town in the equally rundown Shobra district, Muhammad Mustafa, a 51- year-old clothing retailer, echoes their fears. “The foreigners know we are weak now and the chance for destabilizing the country is high,” he says. “So we need to be extra careful these days after the revolution.…”

[Ilan] Grapel, 27, immigrated to Israel from the US in 2005 and was arrested at his hotel in Egypt on June 8, accused of inciting sectarian strife and gathering intelligence. The Emory University law school student came to Egypt to work with a non-governmental organization focused on helping African refugees, arriving before the February revolution that deposed Mubarak. He attended many of the rallies in Tahrir Square.…

Photos plucked from Grapel’s Facebook page show him dressed in olive fatigues, and were prominently featured on the front page of many Egyptian dailies, along with articles detailing his military service as a paratrooper in the Israeli Defense Forces’ 101st Battalion and his participation in the 2006 war in Lebanon against Hizballah. The media has listed the charges against Grapel, including claims that his mission was to deliberately foment tension between the protesters and the military during the 18-day revolution.

Al-Ahram, the leading daily under the Mubarak regime, alleged in an article that “Grapel is an integral part of the Mossad. He has experience and advanced training in the Mossad.…” Grapel’s family has denied the charges against him, with his mother Irene calling them “complete fabrications,” according to media reports. Despite the lack of substantive evidence, many in Egypt were quick to declare Grapel guilty. “The Israelis are always trying to pick up information in Egypt,” says Muhammad Asfour, a 42-year-old state employee. “Being a student provides a perfect cover to learn about the country.…”

The Grapel affair illustrates that Egypt’s transition to democracy is unlikely to reduce hostility toward Israel or to dispel beliefs that the Jewish state is responsible for many of Egypt’s woes. Furthermore, with an unbridled press publishing sensational accounts and new publications competing for readers, episodes such as the Grapel affair are likely to proliferate.

“Egyptians have been taught that Israel is the enemy. That won’t change,” explains a local journalist. “With no censor to moderate views, the media can say whatever they want. And that means writing the most outrageous things against Israel.”

EGYPTIAN “REVOLUTION” DISMANTLES SADAT’S LEGACY —MUSLIM BROTHERS AS FACEBOOK’S LEGATEES

 

 

 

THE REAL EGYPTIAN REVOLUTION
Caroline B. Glick

Jerusalem Post, June 3, 2011

 

The coverage of recent events in Egypt is further proof that Western elites cannot see the forest for the trees. Over the past week, leading newspapers have devoted relatively in-depth coverage to the Egyptian military authorities’ repressive actions in subduing protesters in Tahrir Square in Cairo, particularly during their large protest last Friday.

That is, they have provided in-depth coverage of one spent force repressing another spent force. Neither the military nor the protesters are calling the shots anymore in Egypt, if they ever were. That is the job of the Muslim Brotherhood.

The proximate cause of last Friday’s mass demonstration was what the so-called Twitter and Facebook revolutionaries consider the military’s slowness to respond to their demand for ousted president Hosni Mubarak’s head on a platter. The military responded by announcing that Mubarak and his sons will go on trial for capital crimes on August 3.

Beyond bloodlust, the supposedly liberal young sweethearts of the Western media are demanding a cancellation of the results of the referendum held in March on the sequencing of elections and constitutional reform. Voting in that referendum was widely assessed as the freest vote in Egyptian history. Seventy-seven percent of the public voted to hold parliamentary and presidential elections in September and to appoint members of a constitutional assembly from among the elected members of the next parliament to prepare Egypt’s new constitution.

The protesters rightly assert that the early elections will pave the way for the Muslim Brotherhood’s takeover of Egypt, since the Brotherhood is the only well-organized political force in Egypt. But then, the liberals said they wanted popular rule.

The Facebook protesters demanded Mubarak’s immediate removal from power in January. They would not negotiate Mubarak’s offer to use the remainder of his final term to shepherd Egypt towards a quasi-democratic process that might have prevented the Brotherhood from taking over.

In their fantasy world—which they inhabit with Western intellectuals—the fates of nations are determined by the number of “likes” on your facebook page. And so, when they had the power to avert the democratic Islamist takeover of their country in January, they squandered it.

Now, when it is too late, they are trying to win through rioting what they failed to win at the ballot box, thus discrediting their protestations of liberal values.

Their new idea was spelled out last week at an EU-sponsored conference in Cairo. According to the Egyptian media, they hope to convince the military they protest against to stack the deck for the constitutional assembly in a way that prevents the Brotherhood from controlling the proceedings. As Hishan el-Bastawisy, a former appellate judge and presidential hopeful explained, “What we can push for now is that the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces has to put some guarantees of choosing the constituent assembly in the sense that it does not reflect the parliamentary majority.”

So much for Egypt’s liberal democrats.

AS FOR the military, its actions to date make clear that its commanders do not see themselves as guardians of secular rule in Egypt. Instead, they see themselves as engines for a transition from Mubarak’s authoritarian secularism to the Brotherhood’s populist Islamism.

Since forcing Mubarak to resign, the military junta has embraced Hamas, the Palestinian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood. They engineered the Palestinian unity government which will pave the way for Hamas’s victory in the Palestinian Authority’s legislative and presidential elections scheduled for the fall.

Then there is Sinai. Since the revolution, the military has allowed Sinai to become a major base not only for Hamas but for the global jihad. As Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu warned on Monday, Egyptian authorities are not asserting their sovereignty in Sinai and jihadists from Hamas, al-Qaida and other groups are inundating the peninsula.

Last week’s move to open Egypt’s border with Gaza at the Rafah passage is further proof that the military has made its peace with the Islamic takeover of Egypt. While the likes of The New York Times make light of the significance of the move by pointing to the restrictions that Egypt has placed on Palestinian travel, the fact is that the Egyptians just accepted Hamas’s sovereignty over an international border.…

Not only is Egypt denying itself hundreds of millions of dollars in revenues by cutting off gas shipments to Israel, (and Jordan, Syria and Lebanon). It is destroying its reputation as a credible place to do business. And according to the New York Times, it is also making it impossible for the Obama administration to help the Egyptian economy. The Times’ reported this week that the US tied President Barack Obama’s pledge of $1 billion in debt forgiveness and $1b. in loan guarantees to the Egyptian authorities asserting sovereignty in northern Sinai. Presumably this means they must renew gas shipments to Israel and fight terror.

The fact that the military would rather facilitate Egypt’s economic collapse than take the unpopular step of renewing gas shipments to Israel ought to end any thought that economic interests trump political sentiments. This situation will only get worse when the Muslim Brotherhood takes over Egypt in September.…

When Mubarak was overthrown in January, the Brotherhood announced it would only contest 30% of the parliamentary seats. Last month the percentage rose to 50. In all likelihood, in September the Brotherhood will contest and win the majority of the seats in the Egyptian parliament.

When Mubarak was overthrown, the Brotherhood announced it would not run a candidate for president. And when Brotherhood Shura governing council member and Physicians Union leader Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh announced last month that he is running for president, the Brotherhood quickly denied that he is the movement’s candidate. But there is no reason to believe them.

According to a report Thursday in Egypt’s Al- Masry al-Youm’s English edition, the Brotherhood is playing to win. They are invoking the strategies of the movement’s founder, Hassan al-Banna, for establishing an Islamic state. His strategy had three stages: indoctrination, empowerment and implementation. Al-Masry al-Youm cites Khairat al- Shater, the Brotherhood’s “organizational architect,” as having recently asserted that the Brotherhood is currently in the second stage and moving steadily towards the third stage.

Now that we understand that they are about to implement their goal of Islamic statehood, we need to ask what it means for Egypt and the region.

On Sunday, Brotherhood Chairman Mohammed Badie gave an interview to Egyptian television that was posted on the Muslim Brotherhood’s English website iquwanweb.com. Badie’s statements indicated that the Brotherhood will end any thought of democracy in Egypt by taking control over the media. Badie said that the Brotherhood is about to launch a public news channel, “with commitment to the ethics of the society and the rules of the Islamic faith.”

He also demanded that state radio and television begin broadcasting recordings of Banna’s speeches and sermons. Finally, he complained about the anti-Brotherhood hostility of most private media organs in Egypt.

As for Israel, Badie was asked how a Brotherhood- led Egypt would react if Israel takes military action against Hamas. His response was honest enough. As he put it, “The situation will change in such a case, and the Egyptian people will have their voice heard. Any government in power will have to respect the choice of the people, whatever that is, like in any democracy.”

In other words, the peace between Israel and Egypt will die of populist causes.…

The West’s intoxication with the myth of the Arab Spring means that currently, the political winds are siding with Egypt. If Egypt were to start a war with Israel, or simply support Hamas in a war against Israel, at a minimum, Cairo would enjoy the same treatment from Europe and the US that the Hezbollah-dominated Lebanese government and army enjoyed in 2006. To block this possibility, the government must begin educating opinion shapers and political leaders in the West about the nature of the Muslim Brotherhood It must also call for a cut-off of US military aid to Egypt.…

With the Iranians now apparently moving from developing nuclear capabilities to developing nuclear warheads, and with the Palestinians escalating their political war and planning their next terror war against Israel, it stands to reason that nobody in the government or the IDF wants to consider the strategic implications of Egypt’s reversion from peace partner to enemy.

But Israel doesn’t get to decide what our neighbors do. We can only take the necessary steps to minimize their ability to harm us.

It’s time to get cracking.

 

AS ISLAMISTS FLEX MUSCLE, EGYPT’S CHRISTIANS DESPAIR
Yaroslav Trofimov

Wall Street Journal, June 11, 2011

 

Five weeks after the fall of the Egyptian regime, Ayman Anwar Mitri’s apartment was torched. When he showed up to investigate, he was bundled inside by bearded Islamists.

Mr. Mitri is a member of the Christian Coptic minority that accounts for one-tenth of the country’s 83 million people. The Islamists accused him of having rented the apartment—by then unoccupied—to loose Muslim women.

Inside the burnt apartment, they beat him with the charred remains of his furniture. Then, one of them produced a box cutter and performed what he considered an appropriate punishment under Islam: He amputated Mr. Mitri’s right ear.

“When they were beating me, they kept saying: ‘We won’t leave any Christians in this country,’“ Mr. Mitri recalled in a recent interview, two months after the March attack. Blood dripped through a plastic tube from his unhealed wound to a plastic container. “Here, there is a war against the Copts,” he said.

His attackers, who were never arrested or prosecuted, follow the ultra-fundamentalist Salafi strain of Islam that promotes an austere, Saudi-inspired worldview. Before President Hosni Mubarak was toppled on Feb. 11, the Salafis mostly confined themselves to preaching. Since then, they’ve entered the political arena, drawing crowds and swaying government decisions. Salafi militants also have blocked roads, burned churches and killed Copts.

The Salafi vigilantes who brutalized Mr. Mitri later ignited a bigger controversy that is still playing out here in Qena, an upper Nile governorate of three million people—almost one-third of them Copts. In April, Egypt’s new government appointed a Christian to be Qena’s new governor, replacing another Christian who had held the post under Mr. Mubarak. The Salafis responded by demanding a Muslim governor and organizing mass protests, showcasing the movement’s new political influence.

The crisis in Qena, still not fully resolved, raises questions about what kind of Egypt will emerge from the post-revolutionary chaos—and whether its revolution will adhere to the ideals of democracy and equality that inspired it.…

Until recently, fears of an Islamist takeover in Egypt centered on the Muslim Brotherhood, a much better known organization that’s trying to project a new image of moderation. While many liberal Egyptians remain deeply suspicious of the Brothers’ true intentions, the Brotherhood now says it accepts Copts—the Middle East’s largest religious minority—in all government positions, with the possible exception of president.

By contrast, many Salafis believe it is forbidden by Islam for Christians to exercise political power over Muslims in any capacity, such as governors, mayors or ministers. “If the Christian is efficient, he could be a deputy or an adviser,” says prominent Salafi cleric Abdelmoneim Shehat.

Unlike the Brothers, the Salafis long refused to participate in elections and dismissed democracy as un-Islamic—a view held by their spiritual guides in Saudi Arabia. Numbering in the millions around the Arab world, Salafis seek to emulate the ways of the “salaf,” the Prophet Muhammad’s seventh-century companions, and usually reject later theological, social and political innovations as heresy. Osama bin Laden belonged to the jihadi current of Salafism that’s trying to overthrow Arab regimes. Many other Salafis, including Saudi Arabia’s Wahhabi religious establishment, and until recently, key Egyptian clerics, hold that obeying political rulers is mandatory in Islam.

After the revolution, however, many Egyptian Salafis decided that the shortest way to the Islamic state they desire is through the ballot box. They joined the Brotherhood in backing conservative constitutional amendments that passed in a March referendum. Salafi leaders say they are likely to coordinate with the Brotherhood to field a slate of Islamist candidates for parliamentary elections planned for September.

“We’ve found out after the revolution that the Salafis and the Brotherhood have the same concerns,” says Safwat Hegazy, a popular Saudi-trained TV preacher who belonged to the Brotherhood in his youth and has emerged as one of Egypt’s most influential Salafi voices.…

In Qena, a leafy city that prides itself on being named Egypt’s cleanest, the Salafi militants who attacked Mr. Mitri and radicalized the protests against the Coptic governor were led by a young man named al-Hosseini Kamal. He had been incarcerated under Mr. Mubarak on suspicion of terrorist activities and, like thousands of such detainees, was set free after the revolution.

According to Mr. Mitri and witnesses cited in the police report, it was Mr. Kamal who cut off Mr. Mitri’s ear, after first slicing his arm and neck.… In days after the amputation, the Salafi militants threatened to kill Mr. Mitri’s siblings and to kidnap his children if he pressed charges, Mr. Mitri and his relatives say. Police refused to help, he says. Scared, he changed his initial testimony to say he didn’t know who attacked him.

Instead of prosecution, Egyptian authorities pushed for a “reconciliation” between Mr. Mitri and his attackers. At the reconciliation ceremony, a beaming Mr. Kamal shook hands with the local military commander and other notables.

The ear amputation was a “mistake” and “the young people didn’t mean it,” says Qureishi Salama, imam of one of Qena’s largest mosques and a leader of the budding Salafi movement in Qena. Asked about the concerns of Christians, he responds, without elaborating: “Only those Christians who did something wrong should be fearful.…”

 

EGYPT IS THE NEW IRAN
Barry Rubin
Rubin Reports, Friday, June 3, 2011

 

1. How Egypt is the New Iran

To put it simply, what has happened in Egypt is not just the undoing of the “Mubarak regime” but the undoing of the “Sadat regime,” that is, repealing the revolution Anwar al-Sadat made in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

Sadat changed Egypt’s course from a radical state trying to destabilize other Arab countries, destroy Israel, and oppose U.S. interests. He deemphasized spreading revolution, made peace with Israel, and allied Egypt with the United States.

Now, with help from President Barack Obama, those processes have been undone. Egypt will return to the pre-Sadat era to support radical forces, try to wipe Israel off the map, and oppose U.S. interests.

According to a recent poll, 65 percent of Egyptians said they supported the revolution because of economic reasons; only 19 percent cited lack of democracy. Eighty percent of Egyptians say they believe their economic situation will improve in the next year. But it won’t. Foreign investment won’t risk sending money to Egypt; tourists won’t risk going.

When Arab governments can’t provide cheap bread they turn to cheaper hatred and foreign adventures. The only question is the relative proportion of radical nationalism and Islamism there will be in that mix. The mass media will discover this in September. Yet it is obvious in June.

Egypt’s transformation will be for today what Iran’s meant for the last thirty years. Inasmuch as U.S. influence had an effect, Jimmy Carter’s incompetence helped give us Islamist Iran, Barack Obama’s incompetence and ideology helped give us radical (perhaps Islamist) Egypt.

 

2. Egyptian “Moderate” Leader: We Don’t Want to Fight Israel; We Just Have To.

And what about the Facebook kid moderates? One of their main leaders, Ahmed Maher, gave a talk at MIT on April 29. He said, according to the translation:

“We do not want to have any problems or war with anyone. But there are things we cannot ignore. There are people beside [neighboring} us being oppressed and killed. And they have been treated very harshly, Palestine. We cannot remain silent about something like this.”

In fact, though, the translation was wrong. He used the word “ibada,” which doesn’t mean “oppressed and killed” it means “genocide.”

This mistranslation softens the point and the extreme hatred even Egyptian “moderates” have toward Israel. But let’s leave that aside to consider what Maher’s saying: “We don’t want conflict or war with our neighbors BUT there’s genocide next door and so…if you believe genocide is being committed next door one must act, right? If the United States went to war to “protect” Libyans; how can Egypt not do so to save fellow Arabs and Muslims from being murdered a few miles away?

Thirty years after the Egypt-Israel peace treaty; eighteen years after Israel agreed to the Palestinian Authority ruling almost all West Bank/Gaza Palestinians;  and six years after Israel withdrew from all of the Gaza Strip, the basic Egyptian moderate’s view of Israel has not changed one bit.…

Why should Israel’s giving up all of the West Bank and east Jerusalem have any more effect than Israel leaving the Sinai Penninsula, the Gaza Strip, southern Lebanon, and the populated portions of the West Bank? And how can anyone dare assert that doing so would end the conflict without even having the decency to deal with these facts?…

 

3. So Who Are the Good Guys in Egypt?

A star is born and her name is Yasmine el-Rashidi. She’s written an E-book on Egypt’s revolution. Her article is featured in the New York Review of Books. El-Rashidi is good at describing conditions in Egypt. Her article begins:

“On a recent afternoon…in a busy downtown Cairo street, armed men exchanged gunfire, threw rocks and Molotov cocktails, and freely wielded knives in broad daylight. The two-hour fight, which began as an attempt by some shop-owners to extort the customers of others, left 89 wounded and many stores destroyed. In the new Egypt, incidents like this are becoming commonplace. On many nights I go to bed to the sound of gunfire.…”

“Even more worrying, it seems increasingly clear that a variety of groups have been encouraging the violence.…There have been a series of attacks on Copts, and the perpetrators seem to include hardline Islamists (often referred to as Salafis), remnants of the former regime, and even, indirectly, some elements of the military now in charge, who have allowed these attacks to play out—all groups that in some way have an interest in disrupting a smooth transition to a freely elected civil government and democratic state.”

The second paragraph is a typical view hinting at a conspiracy rather than facing the reality that Muslim militants have long hated Christians and that preachers and key Islamic texts incite that violence. If any Arabs are facing “ibada” it isn’t the Palestinians, it’s the Christians of Egypt, and also the Gaza Strip, Iraq, Pakistan, and several other places.

At any rate, el-Rashid shows she’s sophisticated by not blaming Zionist and American agents. Many or most Egyptians will do so. Indeed, in one of the first talk-backs to her article an Arab reader says this instability is being promoted by the United States, Israel, and the Gulf states (i.e. Saudi Arabia).

So who are the good guys? El Rashid proposes a candidate: the Muslim Brotherhood. Of course, it genuinely does want a smooth transition to an elected government since they’re the ones who’ll be elected. In her long article, El-Rashid only mentions the Muslim Brotherhood to praise it as being moderate and a force advocating tolerance.

Yet the Brotherhood is allied with the “radicals.” The two groups work together and their differences are merely tactical, not strategic. What’s emerging in many places as the new line among Western media and experts: Al-Qaida, Salafi extremists, bad! Hamas, Syrian regime, Muslim Brotherhood, good!

We’re already hearing that theme regarding the Gaza Strip and as a rationale for opposing a revolution in Syria. Perhaps that’s what they’ll tell us after the Brotherhood emerges as the most powerful bloc in Egypt.

(Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs [GLORIA] Center,and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs [MERIA] Journal.)

EGYPT: “OBAMA GOT TAKEN FOR A RIDE, MILLIONS DIED?”

 

 

 

EGYPT—THE HANGOVER
Bret Stephens

Wall Street Journal, March 29, 2011

 

Talk to top U.S. officials here about how things are going in Egypt, and the gist of the answer reminds me of what Apollo XI astronaut Michael Collins told Mission Control while sailing over the Sea of Tranquility: “Listen, babe, everything is going just swimmingly.”

Talk to secular Egyptians about what they make of that sanguine point of view, and they’ll tell you the Americans are on the far side of the moon.

Soon after my arrival here, I am met by an Egyptian friend—I’ll call him Mahmoud—who is Muslim by birth but decidedly secular by choice. He looks shaken. The cabbie who had brought him to the hotel where I’m staying had brandished a pistol he claimed to have stolen from a police officer. The cabbie said he had recently fired the gun in the air to save a young woman from being raped.

Mahmoud has his doubts about the truthfulness of the cabbie’s story. He also thinks that levels of street crime in Cairo are no worse than before the revolution, when incidents of hooliganism and looting spiked to Baghdad-like levels. But there’s something different, too. “People are much more scared than they used to be,” he says. “And it comes from the fact that there’s no police. People understand there’s potential for a minor incident to turn into a major massacre. If someone goes nuts, everyone will go nuts.”

From the hotel we walk toward Tahrir Square, site of the massive protests that last month brought down Hosni Mubarak. Much was made at the time of the care the demonstrators had taken to tidy up the square, but now it’s back to its usual shambolic state. Much was made, too, of how the protests were a secular triumph in which the Muslim Brotherhood was left to the sidelines. But that judgment now looks in need of major revision.

Mahmoud points to a building facing the square where, until a few weeks ago, a giant banner demanded “80 Million Noes” to a package of constitutional amendments meant to pave the way toward parliamentary and presidential elections in just a few months time. The banner had been placed there by the secular groups at the heart of the protests, which have good reason to fear early elections. Early elections will only benefit well-organized and politically disciplined groups like the Brotherhood and the remnants of Hosni Mubarak’s National Democratic Party, which is really the party of the Egyptian military.

In the event, the ayes had it with a whopping 77%, despite a fevered turnout effort by “No” voters. “The West seems to be convinced that the revolution was led by secular democratic forces,” says Mahmoud. “Now that myth is shattered. Which means that either the old order”—by which he means the military regime—”stays in power, or we’re headed for Islamist dominance.”

From Tahrir Square, we walk past the burnt-out shell of the municipal tax office to meet up with some of Mahmoud’s friends. George (another pseudonym) is a twenty-something Coptic Christian from a middle-class family. His parents, who run a small factory in upper Egypt, see no future for him in the country, and they want him to emigrate. “Canada or Australia?” he asks me. I tell him the weather is better Down Under, but that he might be better off staying put and fighting for a better future for his country. He looks at me doubtfully.

Egypt’s Copts, some 15% of the population and the largest non-Muslim group anywhere in the Middle East, have good reasons to be worried. Though the protestors at Tahrir made a show of interfaith solidarity, the sense of fellowship is quickly returning to the poisonous pre-Tahrir norm. Earlier this month a Coptic church south of Cairo was burned to the ground, apparently on account of an objectionable Coptic-Muslim romance. The episode would seem almost farcical if it weren’t so commonplace in Egypt, and if it didn’t so often have fatal results.…

Ahmed, another friend of Mahmoud, stops by to say hello. A graphic designer, Ahmed got a coveted job at an ad agency two days before the protests began in Tahrir, was laid off just a few days later, and remains unemployed today. Though it’s now generally forgotten, the past seven years were economically good for Egypt thanks to the liberalizing program of former Prime Minister Ahmed Nafiz—a classic case, in hindsight, of revolutions being the product of rising expectations.

But now that’s in the past. Foreign investors are wary of Egypt, as are tourists, and the military junta currently ruling the state has embarked on a witch hunt against people who belonged to the “businessmen’s cabinet” that gave Egypt its fleeting years of growth but now serve as convenient bogeymen for a military eager to affirm its populist bona fides.

Later I return to the hotel to listen to U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Ambassador Margaret Scobey deliver upbeat assessments about developments in the country. Who are you going to believe: Secular Egyptians themselves or the crew who, just a few weeks ago, was saying the Mubarak regime was in no danger of collapse?

 

MUSLIM BROTHERHOOD MAKES GAINS IN EGYPT
Ryan Mauro
FrontPage Blog, March 25, 2011

 

On Saturday, March 19, the Egyptian people took part in their first vote since the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak. Sadly, the results of the vote give an edge to the undemocratic and Islamist forces that seek to extinguish the democracy the voters thought they were making. Parliamentary elections could come as early as June and a presidential election in September, giving the more liberal voices little time to organize to compete with the Muslim Brotherhood and Mubarak’s National Democratic Party.

Over three-fourths of voters supported the proposed amendments that included having elections before the writing of a constitution, limits on presidential emergency powers and a limit of two four-year terms for presidents. The Secretary-General of the Arab League and presidential frontrunner, Amr Moussa, voted against the amendments, as did more liberal secular parties and Coptic Christians that worry that holding elections in such a short period of time would play to the advantage of Mubarak’s party and the Islamists.…

A top Salafi sheikh named Mohamed Hussein Yaqoub praised the results of the vote, saying it was a victory for Islam. “That’s it. The country is ours,” he said. The Muslim Brotherhood predictably applauded the results as well, knowing it leaves minimal time for opponents to organize against them. The Wall Street Journal had reported that “political parties are sprouting like weeds,” raising the possibility that the younger and less conservative members of the Muslim Brotherhood could join other parties. This hopeful trend will now have very little time to culminate in a more encouraging political atmosphere. The Islamists and the NDP have organized for decades in Egypt and the holding of parliamentary elections as soon as June gives them a decisive opportunity to shape the future of the country.

“The main problem here is the next parliament will write the next Constitution. So then the fanatics and the Muslim Brotherhood will govern us for decades,” said Emad Gad of the Al Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies.

The Muslim Brotherhood says its “Freedom and Justice Party” will be formally created in the coming weeks, though the chairman, Mohammed Katatni, tries to cast it as an independence party. The Brotherhood’s leadership admits creating it and Katanani is a senior Brotherhood member. This is a transparent attempt to pull the wool over the eyes of voters and the West. The group is also planning to begin a new satellite television program and various publications including a monthly newspaper. The secular parties besides NDP are simply outmatched.

This means that the parliament’s two strongest parties going into the parliamentary elections are the NDP and the Muslim Brotherhood, leaving the secular democratic forces without a strong voice. The scenario is not much better for the secular forces in the presidential election held later, as Ayman Nour seems unable to draw the kind of attention that Muhammad ElBaradei and Moussa can.…

AMR MOUSSA: MEET EGYPT’S NEXT PRESIDENT?
Barry Rubin
Rubin Reports, March 11, 2011

 

It’s now official. The Egyptian presidential election will pit Amr Moussa against Muhammad ElBaradei. It’s hard to see a third candidate emerging with a real chance of being elected.…

In May 2007, here’s how al-Jazeera prophetically began its story on Amr Moussa: “Time magazine describes Amr Moussa, the secretary-general of the Arab League as ‘perhaps the most adored public servant in the Arab world’; others claim he is the only official most Egyptians would elect as president if they had the chance. It was his goal from day one.…”

Now, Moussa is openly pursuing this goal as a candidate to be president of Egypt. Here’s the beginning of his campaign. He’ll probably win. This is remarkable for two reasons. First, Moussa worked closely with deposed dictator Husni Mubarak for decades. He was clearly part of the old regime yet what distinguished him was his more outspoken anti-American, anti-Western, anti-Israel rhetoric.

Indeed, so clear was this factor that in 2000 a wildly popular song declared: “I Hate Israel…I love Amr Moussa….” Moussa knows well the uses of anti-American and anti-Israel demagoguery as a way to be popular in Egypt. If he wins the election he will owe his victory in large part to his harping on these themes. That could be a problem.

Moussa [also] represents the ideology supposedly thrown by the revolution into the dustbin of history: Arab nationalism. That is the doctrine that has ruled Egypt since 1952 and which has faced increasing rivalry from Islamism and moderate democratic reformism.…

Will anyone note the irony of a revolution against the regime picking a leading figure from that regime as president? And his distinction is not any love of democracy or moderation but a hatred of the democratic West and Israel.…

 

The following are excerpts from Barry Rubin’s April 5th article, entitled
Flash: American-Backed Egyptian “Moderate” Threatens War On Israel!

 

…Designated “moderate” and U.S.-backed Egyptian [presidential candidate] Muhammad ElBaradei has made a profoundly shocking statement that should change U.S. policy overnight, show how disastrous Obama Administration policy was, and mark the beginning of the coming electoral defeat for the [U.S] president.…

ElBaradei…said the following: “If Israel attacked Gaza we would declare war against the Zionist regime.” And he’s the moderate!

In other words: Despite repeated ridiculing of Israeli concerns, it is increasingly likely that the next Egyptian government will tear up the Egypt-Israel peace treaty [and] Egypt will be an ally of Hamas, a revolutionary Islamist terrorist group that openly calls for genocide against Jews and the wiping out of Israel.…

In his interview with Al-Watan,  ElBaradei also said: “In case of any future Israeli attack on Gaza—as the next president of Egypt—I will open the Rafah border crossing and will consider different ways to implement the joint Arab defense agreement.”

Think about what that means! Muslim Brotherhood and other volunteers will flood into Gaza to fight the Jews. Arms from Iran and Syria will pour into the Gaza Strip including longer-range missiles, landed openly at Egyptian ports. And that “joint Arab defense agreement”? That means Egypt would consult with Syria and other Arab states about joining the war, spreading it throughout the region.

Thank you, President Obama!…

Obviously President Obama and his administration…are not responsible for the Egyptian revolution. But there is a long list of factors that do make it their fault: they rushed the process of change; made it inevitable by demanding that the revolution succeed; acted so that it included the entire regime and not just Mubarak personally; preemptively approved the Muslim Brotherhood as a government party, didn’t press the regime for guarantees to Israel; made the new rulers feel that they can get away with anything; among other things.

Then there are the broader mistakes made previously: acting so weak that it emboldened radicals and makes everyone assume that the United States can’t or won’t do anything to enforce its interests; pressed Israel to minimize sanctions on the Hamas regime; gave several hundred million dollars to the Gaza Strip; defined only al-Qaida as an enemy and all other radical Islamists as moderates-in-training; coddled rather than confronted Syria and—to a lesser extent—Iran; distanced itself from Israel; among other things.

What will it take for the United States and Europe to realize that they have uncorked the bottle and let out the genie? How’s this sound as an election slogan: Obama got taken for a ride, millions died?

(Barry Rubin is the director of the Israel-based Global Research in International Affairs Center and editor of The Middle East Review of International Affairs. Mr Rubin will be a guest speaker at the Canadian Institute for Jewish Research’s June 15, 2011 Gala.)

 

EGYPT LIKELY TO FACE MORE DIFFICULT
RELATIONS WITH ISRAEL, U.S.
Edward Cody
Washington Post, March 30, 2011

 

Whatever new government emerges from the uprising in Tahrir Square, Egypt’s relations with Israel and the United States are likely to become more difficult in the months ahead with an infusion of Arab nationalism and skepticism about Egypt’s landmark peace treaty with Israel.

Many of those who helped oust President Hosni Mubarak, including secular democracy activists and Muslim Brotherhood leaders, say the 32-year-old treaty should…be submitted to the Egyptian people for approval, through a new parliament scheduled to be elected in September and then perhaps in a public referendum.

The desire to reconsider the treaty marks a clear difference with the policy of the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, which soon after Mubarak’s Feb. 11 departure declared that Egypt would respect all its international commitments, including the treaty with Israel. The open-ended declaration, reportedly made at U.S. urging, was designed to reassure Israel, where Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu had warned that his nation faced uncharted dangers in the months ahead because of the revolts across the Arab world.

Much about Egypt’s policy toward Israel will be determined by the relationships that emerge between the military and the civilian government due to be elected later this year, which is expected to include representatives of many of the groups that brought down Mubarak.

“There was no real end to the war with Israel, just a truce,” said Shadi Mohammed, a 26-year-old leader of the April 6 Movement that helped promote the Tahrir Square demonstrations. “That’s just my personal opinion, but there are a lot of people who think like I do.”

Mohammed Maher, a Muslim Brotherhood activist helping organize for the parliamentary vote, said that if his group gains influence through the elections, Egypt is likely to pursue closer ties with Gaza, opening border crossings and promoting trade as a way to undermine the Israeli blockade. The Brotherhood traditionally has focused on Gaza because the territory’s ruling Palestinian group, the Islamic Resistance Movement, known as Hamas, is an offshoot of the Brotherhood.

Shady Ghazali Harb, a 32-year-old surgeon in the Democratic Front Party who supports Mohamed ElBaradei, the former U.N. nuclear agency chief, also advocated stronger action to relieve besieged Palestinians in Gaza. “The environment there is inhuman,” he said. These goals for Gaza would mark a sharp change from the way Israel and Egypt have done business in recent years.

Mubarak, eager to maintain economic and military aid from the United States, cooperated closely with Israel in Gaza security matters, including attempts to halt arms and other smuggling along the border. The Egyptian intelligence chief, Gen. Omar Suleiman, was a trusted intermediary between the Israeli government and Palestinian militant groups. Suleiman is long gone, having dropped out of sight along with Mubarak.

“Mubarak believed the door to the United States was through Israel,” said Mona Makram-Ebeid, a founding member of the Egyptian Council for Foreign Affairs and a former member of parliament who lectures at the American University in Cairo. “But that is no more.…” Makram-Ebeid, who sits on the protesters’ Council of Trustees of the Revolution, suggested treaty provisions limiting the number of Egyptian soldiers stationed along the Gaza border should be reviewed. But the main difference in Egyptian foreign policy is likely to be a demand for respect, she said, adding that many Egyptians felt humiliated by what she described as servile willingness by Mubarak to do what he was told by Washington.

“No more of the headmaster telling us what to do.…” she said.

THE “SEEDS OF FAILURE” HAVE BLOSSOMED— THE 3RD PALESTINIAN TERROR WAR

 

 

 

ISRAEL IS RESILIENT BUT WATCHFUL
Yossi Klein Halevi
Wall Street Journal, March 30, 2011

 

The ambulance sirens began sounding and didn’t seem to end. The terrorist attack on March 23 that killed one person and wounded 30 was the first bus bombing in Jerusalem since 2005. And it happened just as missiles from Gaza began falling on Israeli cities and towns for the first time since the Gaza War of 2009. Suddenly it was as if the normal life we’d since managed to re-inhabit was an illusion.…

After a brutal decade that began with the collapse of the peace process in September 2000, and which brought four years of suicide bombings, eight years of missile attacks, two wars, and at least two failed attempts at peacemaking, the Israeli public is resilient and sober. As terrorism and rocket attacks return to Israeli cities, and the Arab world reels, those are precisely the qualities Israelis need to cope.

The precondition for containing terrorism is national unity, and on security matters at least, the nation is cohesive. In responding to attacks on civilian Israel, the government has the support of nearly every party. Knesset members of the opposition Kadima party are demanding that the government respond even more firmly—the left pressing the right to be resolute.

Yet so far the government’s response has been restrained—and rightly so. Another Israeli-Hamas confrontation is perhaps inevitable, but not now. As the Arab world finally begins to face itself, Israel must avoid focusing the region’s attention on the Palestinian conflict. The upheavals have proven that what preoccupies the Arab peoples aren’t Israel’s actions but Arab failures. The dictators want to deflect their people’s rage back onto Israel. Moammar Gadhafi, for instance, has urged Palestinians to board ships and descend on Israel’s coast.

This is also not the time for far-reaching political initiatives. With the open question of whether Israel’s peace with Egypt will survive the fall of Hosni Mubarak, Israelis are reassessing the wisdom of land-for-peace agreements with dictators. What is the point, many here wonder, of exchanging the Golan Heights for a dubious peace with a Baathist regime [in Syria] run by the hated Allawite minority?

Israelis are asking a similar question about Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, who is widely resented by Palestinians as corrupt and represents at best only part of his people. Why negotiate a land for peace agreement with an unelected, one-party government?… In a time of regional change, Israelis are even more reluctant to risk irreversible strategic concessions for a deal that may well lack popular legitimacy.…

Israelis these days are preparing for Passover. The Passover seder is called a night of watching, in remembrance of the Israelites who were prepared at a moment’s notice to flee Egypt and enter the unknown. This year Passover has particular resonance. For Israelis, living in a Middle East veering between freedom and even greater repression, it is a time of active watching.

(Mr. Halevi is a fellow at the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem
and a contributing editor at the New Republic.)

 

ANOTHER ISRAEL-HAMAS WAR IS INEVITABLE
Barry Rubin
Jerusalem Post, March 27, 2011

 

I’m going to make a prediction here that, unfortunately, I’m sure is going to come true.… The Egyptian revolution will make another Israel-Hamas war inevitable, with a lot more of an international mess. And I’ll go a step further: An incompetent and mistaken US policy makes such a conflict even more certain.

Why? First, Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip, is a revolutionary Islamist movement which genuinely views itself as directed by God, considers Jews to be subhuman, believes that a willingness to court suicide and welcome death will ensure victory and is certain that it is going to destroy Israel and then transform Palestinian society into an Islamic Garden of Eden. The well-being and even physical survival of the people it rules is of little importance to it.

Given this, there are only two ways to stop Hamas from waging war on Israel. The shorter-term solution is deterrence through strength. The defeat Hamas suffered in the 2008-2009 war forced it to retrench and become cautious for a while. The only longer-term solution is the overthrow of the Hamas regime in the Gaza Strip, with the maximum possible destruction of the organization.

Events in Egypt, and US policy, have destroyed the shorter-term option, and made the longer-term one impossible. With better weapons, Hamas will go to war. It’s only a matter of time. Second, the Egyptian revolution removed a regime that defined the national interest as having an anti-Hamas policy. The Mubarak government did not maintain sanctions and an (albeit imperfect) blockade of [Gaza] for Israel’s benefit. It did so because it saw revolutionary Islamism as the main threat to the nation. This was not, as current US officials would have it, some cynically manipulated mirage to justify dictatorship.…

The Mubarak government saw Hamas as part of a broader, Iran-led strategic threat. A new government, whether radical nationalist, Islamist or “liberal democratic,” will have the opposite view. The Muslim Brotherhood views Hamas as its closest ally and wants it to overthrow the Palestinian Authority as well as destroy Israel. The nationalists support Hamas as part of the larger Arab struggle against Israel. The “liberal democrats” do so because they know this is a very popular position with Egyptians, and therefore to oppose it would reduce their already tiny base of support.

And so Hamas knows it now has an ally [in Egypt] rather than an enemy at its back.

Moreover, there is no incentive in Egypt—or among its nationalist and Islamist-sympathetic officers—to [continue to] block arms smuggling into the Gaza Strip. Hamas [will] thus [be] greatly strengthened and made more confident, and hence arrogant. It is more able to fire mortars and launch rockets and cross-border attacks, and far more eager to do so.

As for US policy, while supporting some sanctions on Hamas and refusing to engage with it, the US government has not supported overthrowing the Gaza regime, though any serious assessment of US interests shows this should be a priority—part of the war against Iranian hegemony in the region, revolutionary Islamism, terrorism and instability.…

But there is no appreciation for these points in Washington today. What makes matters worse is the Obama administration’s demand—after about a half-dozen Islamist militants were killed on a ship after they attacked IDF soldiers—to [reduce the] sanctions [imposed on Hamas]. Thus, the Obama administration…ensured that there would be a genocidal, revolutionary Islamist, subversion- spreading, anti-American, brutally repressive, anti-Christian, misogynist Iranian client on the Mediterranean.…

US support for a transformation of Egypt, with no idea where that will lead, has helped turn that nation into a Hamas ally. The Obama administration has also supplied one more reason why revolutionary Islamists feel the future belongs to them, America is finished in the region and why they should be even more aggressive.

What we are seeing now is Hamas getting new weapons and escalating its use of terrorism. In addition, we are not even seeing significant international action or even criticism of this behavior. On the contrary, the more terrorism Hamas commits, the more Israel is criticized in the Western media.

Terrorism works; aggression goes unpunished.… It’s only a matter of time until Hamas once again launches a larger-scale assault on Israel. At that point, Israel will have to respond with a major counterattack on the Gaza Strip.

Will Egypt remain neutral? Will its government stop the Muslim Brotherhood and its sympathizers, or rush arms, money and even armed Egyptian volunteers into the Gaza Strip? Will the West blame Israel for the violence? Will the US take any productive action?

This crisis is inevitable, though it might take a couple of years. Yet nobody outside Israel sees—or wants to see—what’s coming.

(Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs Center.)

 

UNDERSTANDING THE 3RD TERROR WAR
Caroline B. Glick
Jerusalem Post, March 25, 2011

 

What are we to make of the fact that no one has taken credit for [last week’s] bombing in Jerusalem?

[The] bombing was not a stand-alone event. It was part and parcel of the new Palestinian terror war that is just coming into view. As Israel considers how to contend with the emerging onslaught, it is important to notice how it differs from its predecessors.…

For the public, the new tactics are not interesting.… Israelis understand that we are entering a new period of unremitting fear, where we understand that we are in danger no matter where we are. Whether we’re in bed asleep, or our way to work or school, or sitting down on a park bench or at a restaurant, whether we’re in Rishon Lezion, Sderot, Jerusalem, Itamar or Beersheba, we are in the Palestinians’ crosshairs. All of us are “settlers.” All of us are in danger.…

The new Palestinian terror war is first and foremost a political war. Like its two predecessors, which began in 1987 and 2000, the new terror war’s primary purpose is not to murder Jews. Killing is just an added perk. The new war’s primary purpose is to weaken Israel politically in order to bring about its eventual collapse. And it is in this political context that the various terror armies’ refusal to take responsibility for [the] attack in Jerusalem…is noteworthy.…

In the two previous terror wars, the terror groups had two motivations for taking credit for their attacks. The first reason was to expand their popularity. In Palestinian society, the more Jews you kill, the more popular you are. The main reason Hamas won the 2006 Palestinian elections was that the Palestinians believed Hamas terror was responsible for Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza in August 2005.… The second reason the various groups have always been quick to take credit for attacks is that they wanted to show their state sponsors that they were putting their arms, training and financial support to good use.… Over the past several decades, Iran, Syria and Hezbollah have spent hundreds of millions of dollars arming, training and financing Palestinian terror cells.…

The fact that today neither Hamas nor Fatah is interested in taking credit for the bombing in Jerusalem or for the massacre of the Fogel family is a signal that something fundamental is changing in the political dynamic between the two factions.…

For both Fatah and Hamas, the most important target audience is Europe. But before we discuss how the Palestinians’ assessment of Europe is connected to their move to obfuscate organizational responsibility for terrorism, it is necessary to consider the concrete political goal of their new terror war.

Fatah is in the midst of a global campaign to build international support for a unilateral Palestinian declaration of independence in September. From Israel’s perspective, the campaign is threatening for two reasons. First, a unilaterally declared Palestinian state will be in a de facto state of war with Israel. Second, if the Palestinians secure international recognition for their “state” in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and Gaza, the move will place 500,000 Jews who live in these areas in the international crosshairs.

Much of the discussion about this goal has centered on whether or not US President Barack Obama will veto a UN Security Council resolution endorsing such a declaration. And based on Obama’s behavior to date, the Palestinians have good reason to believe that he may support their move. But in truth, the discussion about how the US will respond to the planned Palestinian declaration is largely beside the point. The point of the threatened declaration is not to get a UN Security Council resolution supporting it. The point is to get the EU to enact further sanctions against Israel.

And this brings us back to the new policy of not taking credit for attacks on Israel, and to the decision to launch a new terror war in general. On the face of it, at such a sensitive time for the Palestinians diplomatically, it would seem that they would want to keep their traditional good cop-Fatah, bad cop-Hamas routine going and have Hamas take the credit for the recent attacks. Indeed, it would seem that the Palestinians would want to hold off on attacks altogether until after they declare independence.

The fact that Fatah and Hamas have neither waited until after September to attack nor sought to differentiate themselves from one another as the attacks coalesce into a new terror campaign indicates strongly that the Palestinians no longer feel they need to pretend to oppose terror to maintain European support for their war against Israel. The Palestinians assess that Europe is swiftly moving toward the point where it no longer needs to pretend to be fair to Israel. The British, French and German votes in favor of the Palestinians’ anti-Israel Security Council resolution last month were the latest sign that the key European governments have adopted openly hostile policies toward Israel.

More importantly, these policies are not the consequence of Palestinian lobbying efforts, and so Israel cannot hope to change them through counter-lobbying efforts. Europe’s abandonment of even the guise of fairness toward Israel is the product of domestic political realities in Europe itself. Between the rapidly expanding political power of Europe’s Muslim communities and the virulently anti-Israel positions nearly universally adopted by the European media, European governments are compelled to adopt ever more hostile positions toward Israel to appease their Israel-hating publics and Muslim communities.…

After the people of Europe have been brainwashed by their media and intimidated by the Muslim communities, they have developed a Pavlovian response regarding Israel whereby every mention of Israel makes them hate it more. It doesn’t matter if the story is about the massacre of Israeli children or the bombing of synagogues and nursery schools. They know that Israel is the guilty party and expect the governments to punish it.

What the Palestinian silence on who committed what atrocity tells us is that in this new terror war, the Palestinians believe they cannot lose. With Europe in tow, Fatah and Hamas feel free to join their forces and advance both militarily and politically.

 

OBAMA PLANTED SEEDS OF FAILURE
David Suissa

Huffington Post, March 30, 2011

 

A couple of years ago, I wrote an open letter to President Obama applauding his commitment to peace in the Middle East, but warning that he should be prepared to fail. My reasoning was that he was following Albert Einstein’s definition of insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and hoping for a different result.

In critiquing his approach, I used the metaphor of trying to plant a flower into desert sand. No matter how hard you try to force it, if the earth isn’t right, nothing will grow.

This flower—a sapling would be a more apt metaphor—represents peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians. For nearly two decades, this little tree has been paraded around the world as the “key to peace in the Middle East.” Accordingly, no issue has captivated globetrotting diplomats quite like this one.

Among all diplomats, perhaps the one who has spent the most time on this issue has been Dennis Ross, the point man on the peace process for three U.S. presidents, including the current administration. Several years ago, Ross said something to me at a charity event that stuck with me: His biggest regret was that they didn’t enforce the anti-incitement clause in the Oslo agreement.

Ross was revealing a painful truth about the peace process—you can’t have peace without education. You can haggle over borders all day long, but if the people living within those borders are poisoned with hate and are not prepared for compromise, no leader will sign on to an “end of conflict” agreement.

You can make a good case that, had the Palestinian Authority spent the last two decades educating their people for peace, they’d have their own state by now and we’d be talking today about common projects, not Qassam rockets.

But of course they didn’t promote peace. Instead, they promoted the well-worn script of Arab dictators who need to build street cred with the masses: Demonize the Jews and the Zionist entity. Is it any wonder that Palestinian leaders, from Arafat to Abbas, have found it so difficult to say yes to Israeli peace offers? How could they compromise with an enemy they helped to demonize? What would they say to their people? Sorry, we lied to you—the Jews really do have a claim to this land? It’s true, they’ve had a presence in Jerusalem for more than 3,000 years? If Israel is willing to withdraw settlements for the sake of peace, we should also be willing to compromise on the right of return? Let’s be nice with them so they will help us build a great country?

What is so shocking about those simple words is that we have never heard them spoken by any Palestinian leader, in English or in Arabic. Yet those words were the crucial missing ingredients to nourish the tree of peace. They needed to be spoken not occasionally at interfaith meetings, but consistently and persuasively in Palestinian schools, media, summer camps and mosques.

But who ever dared pressure Palestinian leaders to speak those words? Peace groups? A global community that kept pouring billions into Palestinian coffers while reinforcing their narrative of exclusive victimhood? The United States, which never gave Palestinians any incentive to stop glorifying terrorism and start teaching peace?

When Obama the peacemaker finally had his chance, instead of promoting peace, he promoted the tired old trope of putting pressure on Israel to make more unilateral concessions. Instead of launching, for example, a breakthrough peace-education campaign to convey to Palestinians that peace was worth [making] compromises…he came up with a new excuse for Palestinians to stay away from peace talks: A Jewish construction freeze as a precondition to those talks.

By the time he realized his blunder, it was too late. He had already lost both sides.… Obama planted seeds all right, but instead of seeds of peace, they were seeds of failure.

EGYPT, SYRIA, BAHRAIN: WHAT SHALL IT BE, M.E. REVOLUTION, EVOLUTION, OR DEVOLUTION?

 

 

 

DID ISLAMISM WIN EGYPT’S REVOLUTION?
Barry Rubin

Pajamas Media, March 23, 2011

 

The world’s eyes focused on Egypt’s dramatic revolution. Yet incredibly, the media, government intelligence agencies, and experts haven’t answered a simple question: Who made the revolution and what were their motives and aims?

We have been repeatedly assured that the forces that began and led the upheaval were young, liberal, pro-democratic, technically hip people. Their organizational framework was the April 6 Youth Movement. The movement’s leadership appears to be a small group of independent people and participants with no structure. These leaders and the main activists seem to be genuinely moderate—in Egyptian political terms—and supporters of democracy.

However, whenever one can identify organized groups participating in this revolution they fall into three categories: left-wing radical Marxists or nationalists, reformists allied at the time to the Muslim Brotherhood, and Islamists. Since it began, the April 6 movement itself has worked closely with the Muslim Brotherhood.

The evidence for this assertion comes from simply analyzing the history of the April 6 Youth Movement. It started as a Facebook support group for a 2008 workers’ strike. By the following year, the group claimed to have a network linking 70,000 people. It is not clear who these people were but it is hard to believe that they all “joined” one at a time, as individuals with no other organizational affiliation.

Egyptian politics and Arab politics in general are often based on linkages that make strange bedfellows in Western terms. The neo-Marxist left contains strong Islamist and nationalist elements, as well as powerful anti-Western and anti-Israel sentiments. Islamists, precisely because they want to centralize power in the state, have socialist overtones. And people who seem liberal reformers often hold views quite distant from those of Western counterparts.

It is amusing that right-wing conspiracy theorists in the United States and Middle East have leaped on a Wikileaks document showing that one member of the April 6 Youth Movement attended a State Department seminar in the United States as “proof” that the U.S. government was behind the revolution. At the same time, though, the far larger-scale involvement of leftist activists in the movement and demonstrations is ignored, while that of revolutionary Islamists is minimized or explained away as harmless.

Other than backing a labor strike, the two specific issues on which the April 6 Youth Movement was active were support for bloggers being persecuted by the government and for ending sanctions on the Gaza Strip. Helping Gazans is a popular cause in Egypt. Yet the political implications of that stance are revealing. The Gaza Strip is ruled by Hamas, a radical Islamist group that brutally suppresses internal dissent.

Whatever the intentions—often portrayed as humanitarian—a campaign to end Egyptian sanctions on Gaza was helping to entrench Hamas’s dictatorship and making it possible to smuggle in more arms for use in attacking Israel. It also sought to help the Muslim Brotherhood’s number-one foreign ally to become stronger. This activity—rather than a domestic issue or helping the repressed people of Sudan, Syria, or Saudi Arabia—was one of the movement’s two top priorities. This, too, is revealing of the participants’ politics.

Aside from well-meaning, hi-tech independents, the April 6 Movement was helped—or, if you wish, infiltrated—by four groups. Tagammu is Egypt’s leftist party, with strong Marxist overtones. Three other organizations have their origins in apparently liberal groups. These are the al-Ghad party, led by former opposition presidential candidate Ayman Nour; the Kifaya movement; and the National Association for Change, led by Muhammad ElBaradei, former head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Nobel Peace Prize winner, and presidential candidate.

Despite its liberal origins, by the time it allied with the April 6 Movement, Kifaya was largely taken over by the Brotherhood. Its origin was in a radical nationalist and leftist movement against the U.S.-led attack on Iraq in 2003 (defending, by default, the Saddam Hussein regime). It reached its peak in 2005, though deep divisions among its Marxist, leftist, Arab nationalist, Islamist, and secular liberal members were tearing it apart. In 2006, trying to build its base through populist demagoguery—and avoid repression by the Mubarak regime—the group switched to focusing on anti-Israel agitation, including a demand to abrogate the Egypt-Israel peace treaty.

Some of Kifaya’s own members, “deep inside, are against democracy and reform,” said Bahaa al-Din Hassan, director of Cairo Center for Human Rights Studies at the time. In 2007 the group’s leader became Abdel Wahhab al-Messiri, a former Communist and Muslim Brother, as well as one of the country’s leading antisemites, a purveyor of Jewish conspiracy theories based on the Protocols of the Elders of Zion.

While itself liberal reformist, ElBaradei’s National Association for Change was a small group largely dependent on the Brotherhood for organizational support and vote-getting activity.

Despite all their ideological differences—left-wing, nationalist, liberal, or Islamist—all four of the groups associated with the April 6 Youth Movement had as one of their top-priority issues the goal of ending the Egypt-Israel peace treaty.

But there is also an additional factor. Knowing that any direct association with the Brotherhood would discredit it in the eyes of many, the April 6 Youth Movement had an understanding with the Brotherhood. The two would cooperate and exchange information but the Brotherhood would not become too directly involved in the movement.

Contrary to many reports, the Brotherhood was fully informed of the April 6 Youth Movement’s plan to start an anti-government uprising last January but held back so as not to taint the campaign and to avoid repression if the struggle fizzled or failed. Once it saw that the movement was succeeding, the Brotherhood joined in fully.

In April 2009, the April 6 Youth Movement directly participated in creating the Egyptian Coalition for Change. This umbrella group also called for abrogating the treaty with Israel, thus putting the April 6 Youth Movement on the record as favoring this step. The April 6 Youth Movement’s partners in this coalition were mainly al-Wasat—the Brotherhood’s least radical faction, which split away convinced that the parent group would never become moderate; Brotherhood members; and al-Karama, a socialist, anti-Western, radical nationalist party.

In August 2009, the April 6 Youth Movement expressed support for the Brotherhood. It is important to understand that while the April 6 Movement was not a front for the Brotherhood, many of its activists were Islamists and leftist, while most of its members held strongly anti-Western and anti-Israel views. Moreover, the movement viewed the Muslim Brotherhood as a major partner and ally.

This is not to deny that the movement’s members called for free elections and the end of the dictatorship or that the leaders genuinely wanted democracy and human rights. Yet the best-organized elements had an interpretation of democracy rather different from the Western definition of that concept.

The idea that enemies of dictatorship are themselves radicals hostile to the West seems strange to Western observers. Similarly, the idea that people who use Facebook, favor democracy, and even seem secular are sympathetic with Islamism also appears strange. Nevertheless, such cross-overs are fairly common in the Arabic-speaking world.

Similar factors shape the views of the Egyptian military leaders, the men who made the revolution possible. It is well-known in Egypt that many of the highest officers are conservative, pious Muslims who do not perceive the Brotherhood as an enemy. A symbolic sign of these attitudes has been the increasingly “Islamic dress” of the generals’ wives. By supporting the revolution, radical nationalism, and more Islamization, the officers know they can be popular and ensure that their personal wealth and business enterprises will remain untouched.

Many of these officers and their families watch clerics like Yusuf al-Qaradawi on television and like what he says. From the standpoint of many in the military as well as many of those involved in the revolution, Islam is the answer not because of what’s been done in Tehran but as a response to their own society’s needs.

Facing what they see as unattractive Westernization, increased crime, and injustice—while doubtful about rapid material progress—officers see Islam as the answer to problems of identity, social justice, and internal stability. Thus, a far more Islamic Egypt is attractive. Those who would never want the Brotherhood to rule the state are often open to its having far more influence in running the religious establishment and society.

Similarly, there is a popular and deep-seated hatred of Israel, America, and the West. This relates not only to opposition to policies but an interpretation of those policies as far more aggressive, anti-Islam, and anti-Egypt than they are. This hostility has been unaltered by the efforts of President Barack Obama to make Muslims like America. Indeed, this has only led to a new conspiracy theory that Obama favors the Brotherhood and the Islamization of Egypt.

Certain U.S. government actions—the special invitations of Brotherhood figures to President Obama’s Cairo speech, the president’s definition of the Arab world in Islamic terms, and his unilateral statement of supporting Brotherhood participation in the next Egyptian government—have deepened that belief. This has not led to increased popularity for the president or the United States but merely convinced some influential Egyptians to jump on the Islamist bandwagon that seems—supposedly even to the Americans—destined for victory.

The reading of Egyptian politics prevalent in the West—a joyous revolution producing an inevitably stable, moderate democracy, whose total success can only be questioned by hateful people—is profoundly misleading. A group of 100,000 politically independent young, urban middle-class Facebook users can make a revolution, at least if the army supports them. But Egyptians in the tens of millions—overwhelmingly not middle class, urban or Facebook users—will back organizations that are radical nationalist, Islamist, and far left. The moderate secular liberals, dependent on hardline forces, have now have been shoved aside in the battle for power.

The referendum on constitutional amendments demonstrated this fact. The leaders of the nationalist (Amr Moussa) and moderate democratic (ElBaradei) blocs campaigned against the changes. Yet 77 percent of Egyptians voted the way the Muslim Brotherhood urged. That doesn’t mean they were all supporters of Islamists. Yet in this test of strength, the Islamists emerged as victors.

In addition, with the Brotherhood and ElBaradei now having a bitter quarrel—hundreds of Islamists threw stones at ElBaradei to prevent him from voting—the seemingly democratic coalition has lost most of its activist backers and voters for the presidential election.

By the end of 2011, Egypt is likely to have a radical anti-American president who was the most bitterly anti-Israel of all the Mubarak era’s establishment politicians. It is also likely to have a parliament that is about 30 percent Islamist and another 30 percent plus radical nationalist.

This parliament will write a new constitution. Facebook liberals will be of minimal importance; the 8 million Christians, about 10 percent of the population, will be ignored. The Constitution will define Egypt as a Muslim state with Islam either being the main—more likely—or perhaps the sole source of law.

Anti-American, anti-Israel, and antisemitic sentiments run far deeper and wider in Egypt than Western observers perceive. The boundaries between liberal, Islamist, radical nationalist, and extreme leftist are far more porous than is assumed. And apparently hip, Facebook users can favor a Sharia state.

All of these factors will become more obvious in the coming months. Nevertheless, the disaster for regional stability and Western interests that will exist in December should have been obvious in January.

 

FOR ALL HIS FAULTS, ASSAD IS THE DEVIL WE KNOW
Yaakov Katz
Jerusalem Post, March 23, 2011

 

Since the Yom Kippur War of 1973, one of the strongest arguments some Israelis make against withdrawing from the Golan Heights and making peace with Syria is basically, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

Of all of Israel’s borders including, the so-called peaceful ones with Jordan and Egypt, the border with Syria has always been the quietest. Yes, Israel fought a major war there in 1973, but since then, the border has been peaceful, with only a rare terror or criminal infiltration.

As Israel watches the ongoing demonstrations in Syria against President Bashar Assad, its greatest concern for the moment is the uncertainty that change in Syria would bring to the region. Israel has gotten used to Assad and he is almost predictable. A new regime, led by a new actor, would likely be unpredictable and when considering the large arsenal of long-range Scud missiles Syria has stockpiled over the years and the accompanying chemical warheads, Israel needs to be considered.…

It is no secret that Syria is in an economic crisis, lacking basic resources such as water, oil and produce. Assad has for years rejected opportunities to do business with the West—particularly Europe—and with runaway inflation and high unemployment he is now paying the price.

But when Israel looks at Syria it also sees the possible development of a new enemy, far more radical and extreme than the Assad they are familiar with. While not as strong and large as the Egyptian military, the Syrian military has obtained some advanced capabilities which, if the country falls apart, could fall into terrorist hands or be used by the country against Israel.

Just in recent years, Syria announced a decision to rebuild its aging air force and to procure new Russian MiG fighter jets. It has some of the most advanced surface-to-air missile systems and also has a significant number, perhaps hundreds, of Scud missiles.

In the meantime, Israeli intelligence services are cautious in trying to predict how the riots in Syria will end and whether Assad will be prepared to cede power as easily as Hosni Mubarak did in Egypt.

 

OPPOSING SYRIA’S CRACKDOWN
Editorial
Washington Post, March 24, 2011

 

In February 1982, the Syrian dictatorship headed by Hafez al-Assad responded to an uprising in the city of Hama with extraordinary violence. The town was indiscriminately bombarded by tanks and artillery; security forces then swept through the rubble and massacred the survivors. Estimates of the final death toll ranged from 10,000 to 40,000 or more. Hama became a symbol in the Arab world of what its authoritarian regimes were prepared to do to keep themselves in power.

Now the Arab uprising of 2011 has reached Syria, and Assad’s son, Bashar, is trying to apply his father’s solution. Early Wednesday, security forces stormed a mosque in the city of Daraa, where there had been five days of protest marches, and opened fire with live ammunition. According to Western news reports, the assault on the surrounding neighborhood continued through the day; an Associated Press reporter heard automatic weapons fire. At least 15 people were killed, including a prominent local doctor who was trying to provide medical aid. That brings to at least 21 the number of civilians murdered by Mr. Assad’s forces in Daraa since Friday.

The question now, for Syria and for the world, is whether the Hama approach still works.…

There are signs that Mr. Assad’s brutality is also producing a backlash. In Daraa, angry crowds numbering in the tens of thousands responded to the first shootings on Friday by burning down the ruling party headquarters and other buildings linked to the regime. On Monday, after another shooting death, the protests spread to at least two other towns.

After Wednesday’s massacre, Syrians are likely to feel still angrier—but they also will be watching the response of the outside world. That’s why it is essential that the United States and Syria’s partners in Europe act quickly to punish Mr. Assad’s behavior.…

For the past two years, the administration has pursued the futile strategy of trying to detach Mr. Assad from his alliances with Iran and Lebanon’s Hezbollah through diplomatic stroking and promises of improved relations. It recently dispatched an ambassador to Damascus through a recess appointment to avoid congressional objections. Now it is time to recognize that Syria’s ruler is an unredeemable thug—and that the incipient domestic uprising offers a potentially precious opportunity. The United States should side strongly with the people of Daraa and do everything possible to ensure that this time, Hama methods don’t work.

 

HIGH STAKES OVER BAHRAIN
David Ignatius
Washington Post, March 15, 2011

 

The Obama administration and its support for democratic change in the Middle East has been on a collision course with Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and other traditional monarchies of the Persian Gulf. The crunch finally came this week with a sharp break over how to deal with protests in Bahrain.

The stakes in this latest crisis are high, even by Middle East standards, for it contains all the region’s volatile ingredients: tension between Saudis and Iranians, between Sunni Muslims and Shiites, and between democratic reformers and status-quo powers. Underlying this combustible mixture is the world’s most important strategic commodity, Persian Gulf oil. How’s that for a witch’s brew?

U.S. officials have been arguing that Bahrain’s Sunni monarchy must make political compromises to give more power to the Shiite majority there. The most emphatic statement came last weekend from Defense Secretary Bob Gates, who said during a visit to Bahrain that its “baby steps” toward reform weren’t enough and that the kingdom should step up its negotiations with the opposition.

This American enthusiasm for change has been anathema to the conservative regimes of the Gulf, and on Monday they backed Bahrain’s ruling Khalifa family with military force, marching about 2,000 troops up the causeway that links Bahrain to Saudi Arabia. A senior Saudi official told me the intervention was needed to protect Bahrain’s financial district and other key facilities from violent demonstrations. He warned that radical, Iranian-backed leaders were becoming more active in the protests.

“We don’t want Iran 14 miles off our coast, and that’s not going to happen,” said the Saudi official. U.S. officials counter that Iran, so far, has been only a minor player in the Bahrain protests and that Saudi military intervention could backfire by strengthening Iran’s hand. “There is a serious breach” between the Gulf countries and Washington over the issue, warned a second Saudi official. “We’re not going in [to Bahrain] to shoot people, we’re going in to keep a system in place,” he said.

The Bahrain issue is the most important U.S.-Saudi disagreement in decades, and it could signal a fundamental change in policy. The Obama administration, in effect, is altering America’s long-standing commitment to the status quo in the Gulf, believing that change in Bahrain—as in Egypt, Tunisia and Libya—is inevitable and desirable.

The split reflects fundamental differences in strategic outlook. The Gulf regimes have come to mistrust Obama, seeing him as a weak president who will sacrifice traditional allies in his eagerness to be “on the right side of history.” They liken Obama’s rejection of Hosni Mubarak in Egypt to Jimmy Carter’s 1979 abandonment of the shah of Iran.

The crackup was predicted by a top UAE sheik in a February meeting with two visiting former U.S. officials. According to notes made during the conversation, the UAE official said: “We and the Saudis will not accept a Shiite government in Bahrain. And if your president says to the Khalifas what he said to Mubarak [to leave office], it will cause a break in our relationship with the U.S.” The UAE official warned that Gulf nations were “looking East”—to China, India and Turkey—for alternative security assistance.

The Obama White House hasn’t yielded to such pleas and threats from the Gulf. U.S. officials believe the Saudis and others have no good option to the United States as a guarantor of security. They note that military and intelligence contacts are continuing, despite the sharp disagreement over Bahrain.

In the end, this is a classic liberal-conservative argument about how best to achieve stability. The White House believes that security crackdowns won’t work any better in Bahrain than they did in Egypt or Tunisia—and that it’s time to embrace a process of democratic transition across the region. The Gulf monarchies and sheikdoms counter that concessions will only empower more radicalism—and that the big beneficiaries, in the end, will be Islamic radicals in Iran and al-Qaeda.…

EGYPT, SYRIA, BAHRAIN: WHAT SHALL IT BE, M.E. REVOLUTION, EVOLUTION, OR DEVOLUTION?

 

 

 

DID ISLAMISM WIN EGYPT’S REVOLUTION?
Barry Rubin

Pajamas Media, March 23, 2011

 

The world’s eyes focused on Egypt’s dramatic revolution. Yet incredibly, the media, government intelligence agencies, and experts haven’t answered a simple question: Who made the revolution and what were their motives and aims?

We have been repeatedly assured that the forces that began and led the upheaval were young, liberal, pro-democratic, technically hip people. Their organizational framework was the April 6 Youth Movement. The movement’s leadership appears to be a small group of independent people and participants with no structure. These leaders and the main activists seem to be genuinely moderate—in Egyptian political terms—and supporters of democracy.

However, whenever one can identify organized groups participating in this revolution they fall into three categories: left-wing radical Marxists or nationalists, reformists allied at the time to the Muslim Brotherhood, and Islamists. Since it began, the April 6 movement itself has worked closely with the Muslim Brotherhood.

The evidence for this assertion comes from simply analyzing the history of the April 6 Youth Movement. It started as a Facebook support group for a 2008 workers’ strike. By the following year, the group claimed to have a network linking 70,000 people. It is not clear who these people were but it is hard to believe that they all “joined” one at a time, as individuals with no other organizational affiliation.

Egyptian politics and Arab politics in general are often based on linkages that make strange bedfellows in Western terms. The neo-Marxist left contains strong Islamist and nationalist elements, as well as powerful anti-Western and anti-Israel sentiments. Islamists, precisely because they want to centralize power in the state, have socialist overtones. And people who seem liberal reformers often hold views quite distant from those of Western counterparts.

It is amusing that right-wing conspiracy theorists in the United States and Middle East have leaped on a Wikileaks document showing that one member of the April 6 Youth Movement attended a State Department seminar in the United States as “proof” that the U.S. government was behind the revolution. At the same time, though, the far larger-scale involvement of leftist activists in the movement and demonstrations is ignored, while that of revolutionary Islamists is minimized or explained away as harmless.

Other than backing a labor strike, the two specific issues on which the April 6 Youth Movement was active were support for bloggers being persecuted by the government and for ending sanctions on the Gaza Strip. Helping Gazans is a popular cause in Egypt. Yet the political implications of that stance are revealing. The Gaza Strip is ruled by Hamas, a radical Islamist group that brutally suppresses internal dissent.

Whatever the intentions—often portrayed as humanitarian—a campaign to end Egyptian sanctions on Gaza was helping to entrench Hamas’s dictatorship and making it possible to smuggle in more arms for use in attacking Israel. It also sought to help the Muslim Brotherhood’s number-one foreign ally to become stronger. This activity—rather than a domestic issue or helping the repressed people of Sudan, Syria, or Saudi Arabia—was one of the movement’s two top priorities. This, too, is revealing of the participants’ politics.

Aside from well-meaning, hi-tech independents, the April 6 Movement was helped—or, if you wish, infiltrated—by four groups. Tagammu is Egypt’s leftist party, with strong Marxist overtones. Three other organizations have their origins in apparently liberal groups. These are the al-Ghad party, led by former opposition presidential candidate Ayman Nour; the Kifaya movement; and the National Association for Change, led by Muhammad ElBaradei, former head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Nobel Peace Prize winner, and presidential candidate.

Despite its liberal origins, by the time it allied with the April 6 Movement, Kifaya was largely taken over by the Brotherhood. Its origin was in a radical nationalist and leftist movement against the U.S.-led attack on Iraq in 2003 (defending, by default, the Saddam Hussein regime). It reached its peak in 2005, though deep divisions among its Marxist, leftist, Arab nationalist, Islamist, and secular liberal members were tearing it apart. In 2006, trying to build its base through populist demagoguery—and avoid repression by the Mubarak regime—the group switched to focusing on anti-Israel agitation, including a demand to abrogate the Egypt-Israel peace treaty.

Some of Kifaya’s own members, “deep inside, are against democracy and reform,” said Bahaa al-Din Hassan, director of Cairo Center for Human Rights Studies at the time. In 2007 the group’s leader became Abdel Wahhab al-Messiri, a former Communist and Muslim Brother, as well as one of the country’s leading antisemites, a purveyor of Jewish conspiracy theories based on the Protocols of the Elders of Zion.

While itself liberal reformist, ElBaradei’s National Association for Change was a small group largely dependent on the Brotherhood for organizational support and vote-getting activity.

Despite all their ideological differences—left-wing, nationalist, liberal, or Islamist—all four of the groups associated with the April 6 Youth Movement had as one of their top-priority issues the goal of ending the Egypt-Israel peace treaty.

But there is also an additional factor. Knowing that any direct association with the Brotherhood would discredit it in the eyes of many, the April 6 Youth Movement had an understanding with the Brotherhood. The two would cooperate and exchange information but the Brotherhood would not become too directly involved in the movement.

Contrary to many reports, the Brotherhood was fully informed of the April 6 Youth Movement’s plan to start an anti-government uprising last January but held back so as not to taint the campaign and to avoid repression if the struggle fizzled or failed. Once it saw that the movement was succeeding, the Brotherhood joined in fully.

In April 2009, the April 6 Youth Movement directly participated in creating the Egyptian Coalition for Change. This umbrella group also called for abrogating the treaty with Israel, thus putting the April 6 Youth Movement on the record as favoring this step. The April 6 Youth Movement’s partners in this coalition were mainly al-Wasat—the Brotherhood’s least radical faction, which split away convinced that the parent group would never become moderate; Brotherhood members; and al-Karama, a socialist, anti-Western, radical nationalist party.

In August 2009, the April 6 Youth Movement expressed support for the Brotherhood. It is important to understand that while the April 6 Movement was not a front for the Brotherhood, many of its activists were Islamists and leftist, while most of its members held strongly anti-Western and anti-Israel views. Moreover, the movement viewed the Muslim Brotherhood as a major partner and ally.

This is not to deny that the movement’s members called for free elections and the end of the dictatorship or that the leaders genuinely wanted democracy and human rights. Yet the best-organized elements had an interpretation of democracy rather different from the Western definition of that concept.

The idea that enemies of dictatorship are themselves radicals hostile to the West seems strange to Western observers. Similarly, the idea that people who use Facebook, favor democracy, and even seem secular are sympathetic with Islamism also appears strange. Nevertheless, such cross-overs are fairly common in the Arabic-speaking world.

Similar factors shape the views of the Egyptian military leaders, the men who made the revolution possible. It is well-known in Egypt that many of the highest officers are conservative, pious Muslims who do not perceive the Brotherhood as an enemy. A symbolic sign of these attitudes has been the increasingly “Islamic dress” of the generals’ wives. By supporting the revolution, radical nationalism, and more Islamization, the officers know they can be popular and ensure that their personal wealth and business enterprises will remain untouched.

Many of these officers and their families watch clerics like Yusuf al-Qaradawi on television and like what he says. From the standpoint of many in the military as well as many of those involved in the revolution, Islam is the answer not because of what’s been done in Tehran but as a response to their own society’s needs.

Facing what they see as unattractive Westernization, increased crime, and injustice—while doubtful about rapid material progress—officers see Islam as the answer to problems of identity, social justice, and internal stability. Thus, a far more Islamic Egypt is attractive. Those who would never want the Brotherhood to rule the state are often open to its having far more influence in running the religious establishment and society.

Similarly, there is a popular and deep-seated hatred of Israel, America, and the West. This relates not only to opposition to policies but an interpretation of those policies as far more aggressive, anti-Islam, and anti-Egypt than they are. This hostility has been unaltered by the efforts of President Barack Obama to make Muslims like America. Indeed, this has only led to a new conspiracy theory that Obama favors the Brotherhood and the Islamization of Egypt.

Certain U.S. government actions—the special invitations of Brotherhood figures to President Obama’s Cairo speech, the president’s definition of the Arab world in Islamic terms, and his unilateral statement of supporting Brotherhood participation in the next Egyptian government—have deepened that belief. This has not led to increased popularity for the president or the United States but merely convinced some influential Egyptians to jump on the Islamist bandwagon that seems—supposedly even to the Americans—destined for victory.

The reading of Egyptian politics prevalent in the West—a joyous revolution producing an inevitably stable, moderate democracy, whose total success can only be questioned by hateful people—is profoundly misleading. A group of 100,000 politically independent young, urban middle-class Facebook users can make a revolution, at least if the army supports them. But Egyptians in the tens of millions—overwhelmingly not middle class, urban or Facebook users—will back organizations that are radical nationalist, Islamist, and far left. The moderate secular liberals, dependent on hardline forces, have now have been shoved aside in the battle for power.

The referendum on constitutional amendments demonstrated this fact. The leaders of the nationalist (Amr Moussa) and moderate democratic (ElBaradei) blocs campaigned against the changes. Yet 77 percent of Egyptians voted the way the Muslim Brotherhood urged. That doesn’t mean they were all supporters of Islamists. Yet in this test of strength, the Islamists emerged as victors.

In addition, with the Brotherhood and ElBaradei now having a bitter quarrel—hundreds of Islamists threw stones at ElBaradei to prevent him from voting—the seemingly democratic coalition has lost most of its activist backers and voters for the presidential election.

By the end of 2011, Egypt is likely to have a radical anti-American president who was the most bitterly anti-Israel of all the Mubarak era’s establishment politicians. It is also likely to have a parliament that is about 30 percent Islamist and another 30 percent plus radical nationalist.

This parliament will write a new constitution. Facebook liberals will be of minimal importance; the 8 million Christians, about 10 percent of the population, will be ignored. The Constitution will define Egypt as a Muslim state with Islam either being the main—more likely—or perhaps the sole source of law.

Anti-American, anti-Israel, and antisemitic sentiments run far deeper and wider in Egypt than Western observers perceive. The boundaries between liberal, Islamist, radical nationalist, and extreme leftist are far more porous than is assumed. And apparently hip, Facebook users can favor a Sharia state.

All of these factors will become more obvious in the coming months. Nevertheless, the disaster for regional stability and Western interests that will exist in December should have been obvious in January.

 

FOR ALL HIS FAULTS, ASSAD IS THE DEVIL WE KNOW
Yaakov Katz
Jerusalem Post, March 23, 2011

 

Since the Yom Kippur War of 1973, one of the strongest arguments some Israelis make against withdrawing from the Golan Heights and making peace with Syria is basically, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

Of all of Israel’s borders including, the so-called peaceful ones with Jordan and Egypt, the border with Syria has always been the quietest. Yes, Israel fought a major war there in 1973, but since then, the border has been peaceful, with only a rare terror or criminal infiltration.

As Israel watches the ongoing demonstrations in Syria against President Bashar Assad, its greatest concern for the moment is the uncertainty that change in Syria would bring to the region. Israel has gotten used to Assad and he is almost predictable. A new regime, led by a new actor, would likely be unpredictable and when considering the large arsenal of long-range Scud missiles Syria has stockpiled over the years and the accompanying chemical warheads, Israel needs to be considered.…

It is no secret that Syria is in an economic crisis, lacking basic resources such as water, oil and produce. Assad has for years rejected opportunities to do business with the West—particularly Europe—and with runaway inflation and high unemployment he is now paying the price.

But when Israel looks at Syria it also sees the possible development of a new enemy, far more radical and extreme than the Assad they are familiar with. While not as strong and large as the Egyptian military, the Syrian military has obtained some advanced capabilities which, if the country falls apart, could fall into terrorist hands or be used by the country against Israel.

Just in recent years, Syria announced a decision to rebuild its aging air force and to procure new Russian MiG fighter jets. It has some of the most advanced surface-to-air missile systems and also has a significant number, perhaps hundreds, of Scud missiles.

In the meantime, Israeli intelligence services are cautious in trying to predict how the riots in Syria will end and whether Assad will be prepared to cede power as easily as Hosni Mubarak did in Egypt.

 

OPPOSING SYRIA’S CRACKDOWN
Editorial
Washington Post, March 24, 2011

 

In February 1982, the Syrian dictatorship headed by Hafez al-Assad responded to an uprising in the city of Hama with extraordinary violence. The town was indiscriminately bombarded by tanks and artillery; security forces then swept through the rubble and massacred the survivors. Estimates of the final death toll ranged from 10,000 to 40,000 or more. Hama became a symbol in the Arab world of what its authoritarian regimes were prepared to do to keep themselves in power.

Now the Arab uprising of 2011 has reached Syria, and Assad’s son, Bashar, is trying to apply his father’s solution. Early Wednesday, security forces stormed a mosque in the city of Daraa, where there had been five days of protest marches, and opened fire with live ammunition. According to Western news reports, the assault on the surrounding neighborhood continued through the day; an Associated Press reporter heard automatic weapons fire. At least 15 people were killed, including a prominent local doctor who was trying to provide medical aid. That brings to at least 21 the number of civilians murdered by Mr. Assad’s forces in Daraa since Friday.

The question now, for Syria and for the world, is whether the Hama approach still works.…

There are signs that Mr. Assad’s brutality is also producing a backlash. In Daraa, angry crowds numbering in the tens of thousands responded to the first shootings on Friday by burning down the ruling party headquarters and other buildings linked to the regime. On Monday, after another shooting death, the protests spread to at least two other towns.

After Wednesday’s massacre, Syrians are likely to feel still angrier—but they also will be watching the response of the outside world. That’s why it is essential that the United States and Syria’s partners in Europe act quickly to punish Mr. Assad’s behavior.…

For the past two years, the administration has pursued the futile strategy of trying to detach Mr. Assad from his alliances with Iran and Lebanon’s Hezbollah through diplomatic stroking and promises of improved relations. It recently dispatched an ambassador to Damascus through a recess appointment to avoid congressional objections. Now it is time to recognize that Syria’s ruler is an unredeemable thug—and that the incipient domestic uprising offers a potentially precious opportunity. The United States should side strongly with the people of Daraa and do everything possible to ensure that this time, Hama methods don’t work.

 

HIGH STAKES OVER BAHRAIN
David Ignatius
Washington Post, March 15, 2011

 

The Obama administration and its support for democratic change in the Middle East has been on a collision course with Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and other traditional monarchies of the Persian Gulf. The crunch finally came this week with a sharp break over how to deal with protests in Bahrain.

The stakes in this latest crisis are high, even by Middle East standards, for it contains all the region’s volatile ingredients: tension between Saudis and Iranians, between Sunni Muslims and Shiites, and between democratic reformers and status-quo powers. Underlying this combustible mixture is the world’s most important strategic commodity, Persian Gulf oil. How’s that for a witch’s brew?

U.S. officials have been arguing that Bahrain’s Sunni monarchy must make political compromises to give more power to the Shiite majority there. The most emphatic statement came last weekend from Defense Secretary Bob Gates, who said during a visit to Bahrain that its “baby steps” toward reform weren’t enough and that the kingdom should step up its negotiations with the opposition.

This American enthusiasm for change has been anathema to the conservative regimes of the Gulf, and on Monday they backed Bahrain’s ruling Khalifa family with military force, marching about 2,000 troops up the causeway that links Bahrain to Saudi Arabia. A senior Saudi official told me the intervention was needed to protect Bahrain’s financial district and other key facilities from violent demonstrations. He warned that radical, Iranian-backed leaders were becoming more active in the protests.

“We don’t want Iran 14 miles off our coast, and that’s not going to happen,” said the Saudi official. U.S. officials counter that Iran, so far, has been only a minor player in the Bahrain protests and that Saudi military intervention could backfire by strengthening Iran’s hand. “There is a serious breach” between the Gulf countries and Washington over the issue, warned a second Saudi official. “We’re not going in [to Bahrain] to shoot people, we’re going in to keep a system in place,” he said.

The Bahrain issue is the most important U.S.-Saudi disagreement in decades, and it could signal a fundamental change in policy. The Obama administration, in effect, is altering America’s long-standing commitment to the status quo in the Gulf, believing that change in Bahrain—as in Egypt, Tunisia and Libya—is inevitable and desirable.

The split reflects fundamental differences in strategic outlook. The Gulf regimes have come to mistrust Obama, seeing him as a weak president who will sacrifice traditional allies in his eagerness to be “on the right side of history.” They liken Obama’s rejection of Hosni Mubarak in Egypt to Jimmy Carter’s 1979 abandonment of the shah of Iran.

The crackup was predicted by a top UAE sheik in a February meeting with two visiting former U.S. officials. According to notes made during the conversation, the UAE official said: “We and the Saudis will not accept a Shiite government in Bahrain. And if your president says to the Khalifas what he said to Mubarak [to leave office], it will cause a break in our relationship with the U.S.” The UAE official warned that Gulf nations were “looking East”—to China, India and Turkey—for alternative security assistance.

The Obama White House hasn’t yielded to such pleas and threats from the Gulf. U.S. officials believe the Saudis and others have no good option to the United States as a guarantor of security. They note that military and intelligence contacts are continuing, despite the sharp disagreement over Bahrain.

In the end, this is a classic liberal-conservative argument about how best to achieve stability. The White House believes that security crackdowns won’t work any better in Bahrain than they did in Egypt or Tunisia—and that it’s time to embrace a process of democratic transition across the region. The Gulf monarchies and sheikdoms counter that concessions will only empower more radicalism—and that the big beneficiaries, in the end, will be Islamic radicals in Iran and al-Qaeda.…

EGYPT’S METAMORPHOSIS: CHAOS OR CALIPHATE?

 

 

 

STILL FIGHTING IN CAIRO
Mohamed El Dashan

Foreign Policy, March 7, 2011

 

While the world turns its attention to the riveting drama in Libya…the revolution next door in Egypt is entering a new phase—one that is just as exhilarating and consequential as the protests that drove President Hosni Mubarak from power in just 18 incredible days.…

The Egyptian people endured Mubarak’s reign for 30 years, but 33 days of Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq was all it took for them to threaten to take to the streets en masse to demand his ouster. Shafiq, who was appointed by Mubarak during the early days of the revolution in a blatant bid to seem reasonable without conceding much power, was widely seen, along with much of his cabinet, as a relic of the pre-revolutionary era and the man who had overseen—or at least failed to stop—some of the most violent attacks against peaceful demonstrators in Tahrir Square.

Shafiq has been replaced by Essam Sharaf, a former minister of transportation and member of the National Democratic Party’s Policies Committee—Mubarak’s Politburo, if you will. Sharaf has nevertheless acquired the reputation of being an honest civil servant.… He also earned points with the revolutionaries, having himself led a small protest at Cairo University a few days before Mubarak stepped down.

Shafiq’s sacking came just hours after a historic TV interview that saw the prime minister sourly criticized and altogether humiliated by the other panelists, and not long before a massive protest had been scheduled to call for his removal along with several members of his cabinet.… With Shafiq’s metaphorical scalp still fresh, the protest went ahead as planned, and Prime Minister Sharaf himself took the podium immediately after the Friday midday prayer. Flanked…by Muslim Brotherhood leader Mohamed El-Beltagy (who occasionally grabbed the mic to shout a slogan or two), Sharaf was deferential. He saluted the revolution’s “martyrs” and pledged allegiance to the crowds.…

The events that followed took both the state and the revolution’s loose leadership by storm.… The evening of the protest, protesters raided the Alexandria headquarters of the state security apparatus. The next day, as the Army looked on helplessly, a crowd of about 2,000 people barged its way into the state security headquarters in Nasr City, an eastern neighborhood in Cairo, while another group of demonstrators demanded to enter the enormous state security building in 6th of October city, a western suburb of the capital—a sight that was repeated countrywide, from Marsa Matrouh in the northwest to Qena in the south.

The Nasr City takeover…was astonishing.… Amid the chaos, some offices were ransacked.… People entered the interior minister’s office and his private quarters…[and] sat on the bed or at his desk, posing for photos. Some pilfered souvenirs—a paperweight, a pen; some went all the way to unhook the “State Security Investigations” metallic signs and carry them out.… After the initial storming in, the Army had guarded the main door, blocking passage to new incoming protesters.… Only after several hours did they start shooing people out of the complex.

The next day was rather different. A small group of protesters surrounded the state security offices by Lazoghly Square, next door to the Interior Ministry. From the onset, the Army was less friendly and reacted unexpectedly violently as the crowd grew to a few hundred, beating them up with batons and electrified sticks. Later, hosts of thugs armed with batons, machetes, and swords joined from the opposite side of the square, pushing them back toward the soldiers. Eventually, as the Army fired in the air, protesters managed to run out of the square under the thundering sound of machine guns. Twenty-seven protesters were arrested.

The renewed demonstrations have provoked a fiery debate in Egypt. Some demand that protests be halted, as the Army…was, albeit slowly, responding to…requests. Others maintain that the demands go deeper than Shafiq’s head; the cleanup of the Mubarak gang is far from complete, and many pre-revolution grievances endure and need to be addressed. The Lazoghly debacle has only reinforced these concerns.

It was not the first time such a discussion has taken place—after every Mubarak speech since the beginning of the revolution, a number of voices suggested that this was “good enough” and that “we wouldn’t dare wish for that much three weeks ago.” But it was the first time this discussion has arisen since Mubarak’s abdication and the ensuing collective euphoria, which may be less unanimous than the past days have made it seem.…

All this debate may not ultimately matter much. As it stands today, Egypt is heading toward sharp bends and, save popular concerted action, there will be no one to pull the brakes. The revolution had no organized leadership, no public face—only occasional guidance. It now seems to have outgrown this phase and, whether it’s a peaceful demonstration on a Friday afternoon or the vengeful storming of a police dungeon, it will be difficult to get the street to listen to anyone.

 

CLASHES KILL 13 AS OLD WOES BESET NEW EGYPT
Matt Bradley & David Luhnow
Wall Street Journal, March 10, 2011

 

Clashes between Coptic Christians and Muslims have killed more than a dozen people in recent days in Egypt, heightening a sense that the country’s post-revolutionary euphoria is yielding to enduring problems including sectarian violence, poverty and misogyny.

Coptic Christians angry at the burning of a church clashed…with thousands of Muslims in a largely Coptic Christian neighborhood near Egypt’s capital. At least 13 died and more than 100 wounded in a four-hour clash.… The fighting between different religious groups came just hours after several hundred men roughed up female demonstrators who had gathered in Cairo’s Tahrir Square to mark International Women’s Day and demand expanded rights and opportunities.

In a separate tussle on Tahrir Square, the nerve center of Egypt’s recent revolt, scores of Egyptian troops and men armed with sticks moved…into the square and forced out several hundred protesters who had camped there for the past few days. Dozens of people were hurt.…

The military’s move came amid growing frustration that life hasn’t yet gotten back to normal after President Hosni Mubarak ceded power a month ago following massive nationwide protests. Various groups have continued taking to the streets to press their grievances. Workers have mounted strikes demanding their bosses be fired and salaries raised. Many police are reluctant to return to duty, fearing attacks by citizens angry at years of police corruption and alleged torture, and at police attacks on protesters during last month’s pro-democracy uprising. Egypt’s economy, meanwhile, is struggling to regain its footing after virtually all businesses shut down amid protests..…

Egypt’s latest sectarian unrest began last week after a mob of Muslims—furious over a rumored romance between a Coptic Christian man and a Muslim woman—torched a church near Helwan, an industrial city outside Cairo.… 2010 saw an…uptick in tension [between Muslims and Christians]. The year began with a shooting outside a church in Upper Egypt on Coptic Christmas that killed six worshippers.… Starting in the summer, Salafi Muslims began regular demonstrations outside churches in Alexandria and Cairo against the Coptic Church. The Salafis—who follow an ultra-conservative form of Islam widely practiced in Saudi Arabia—accused the church of having kidnapped two Christian women who were rumored to have tried to convert to Islam. [Then], on New Year’s Day in 2011, a bombing at an Alexandria church killed 23 people.…

Adding to sense of looming trouble is Egypt’s economy. The stock market was slated to reopen March 6 but a mob of angry retail investors demanded it remain shut until activity in the rest of the economy picks back up, avoiding what the protesters said would be unnecessarily large losses now.… Others want the market opened right away, saying the closed exchange is contributing to an overall sense of unease.… In a statement, Mr. Sharaf’s cabinet called on citizens to go back to work and “to delay factional protests and strikes so the government can return stability that would allow the national economy to overcome these difficult times.”

 

THE MUSLIM BROTHERHOOD’S COVER-UP
Ryan Mauro
FrontPage Blog, March 10, 2011

 

Al-Qaeda does its enemy a favor with its honesty. The Muslim Brotherhood does not make the same mistake. It is more politically savvy and aware of how it can manipulate the minds of Westerners with soft language. The Islamist group is trying to clean up its image, most recently by deleting its objectives from its English-language website.

The Investigative Project on Terrorism discovered that the English version of the Muslim Brotherhood’s official website no longer includes its bylaws and it makes sense why. One of them is “the need to work on establishing the Islamic State, which seeks to effectively implement the provisions of Islam and its teachings” and “defend the [Islamic] nation against its internal enemies.” Another is to “insist to liberate the Islamic nation from the yoke of foreign rule, help safeguard the rights of Muslims everywhere and unite Muslims around the world.…”

There are other telling differences between the Arabic and English websites as well. The home page of the English site mentions “freedom.” The home page of the Arabic site has the official Muslim Brotherhood logo of two crossed swords and a Quran and an Arabic word that means “make ready.” Christine Brim writes that this phrase is taken from Quran 8:60 that states, “Make ready for an encounter against them, all the forces and well-readied horses you can muster, that you may overawe the enemies of Allah and your own enemies and others besides them of whom you are unaware but of whom Allah is aware.”

David Rusin, the director of Islamist Watch, a project of the Middle East Forum, [says] that the cover-up is aimed at encouraging those who naively believe the Brotherhood is moderate. “By scrubbing its English-language site, the Brotherhood aims to make it as easy as possible for those Westerners predisposed to willful blindness—a trait rather common in the Obama White House—to continue fooling themselves about the Brotherhood’s ultimate intentions,” he said.

The Muslim Brotherhood will finally have an opportunity to be a part of the Egyptian government and is pulling out all the stops to cast itself as a democratic voice of moderation that should be of no concern. It is registering in Egypt under the name, “Freedom and Justice Party” and says it does not intend to control the government.… “The Muslim Brotherhood are not seeking power. We want to participate, not to dominate,” a member of the group’s media office says. This calming statement is almost meaningless. The Brotherhood knows it is unlikely that it will attain a majority in the next government all on its own and therefore “dominate.” Like Hezbollah in Lebanon, it will win enough seats to be a decisive voice in parliament. It is quite conceivable that the Brotherhood could be part of a parliamentary majority if it forms a bloc with other parties. It will then be in a position to decide the government’s agenda without overtly controlling it.…

The Brotherhood has told its protesters to refrain from using religious language during demonstrations. One official told a protester to hide his Quran and instead hoist up an Egyptian flag. “Open it [the Quran]…but not for the media,” he instructed.… The group is even trying to cover-up its long history for fighting for the destruction of Israel. “We will respect the peace treaty with Israel as long as Israel shows real progress on improving the lot of the Palestinians,” said deputy head Mahmoud Ezzat, inserting careful language that leaves room for the Islamists to find a pretext to end the treaty.…

This statement is simply not credible. The Muslim Brotherhood has fully backed the violent jihad by its Palestinian wing, Hamas, to destroy Israel. When the revolution in Egypt got underway, a senior official flatly stated that the Egyptian “people should be prepared for war with Israel” and another deputy leader said, “After President Mubarak steps down and a provisional government is formed, there is a need to dissolve the peace treaty with Israel.…”

Sheikh Yousef al-Qaradawi, the most influential Brotherhood theologian who was asked to lead the group, is well-practiced in the game of semantics. He says Islam “has no problem with Judaism” but says Muslims are religiously obligated to fight the Jews for the Holy Land. He condemns killing American civilians but supports killing Israeli civilians, U.S. soldiers and says Muslims should fight alongside the Taliban. He says he is for freedom but supports executing apostates.

Al-Qaradawi speaks on behalf of the vague terms of “freedom” and “democracy” but Communists used the same terms as well. Al-Qaradawi’s “democracy” does not include secularism and he believes “freedom” can only truly be attained under Sharia. His vision of governance one where “any legislation contradicting the incontestable provisions of Islam shall be null and void because Islam is the religion of the State and the source of legitimacy of all its institutions.…” [Ed.—Please refer to the article Return of the (Genocidal) Native in the “On Topics” section for more anti-semitic quotations by Al-Qaradawi].

This deception is the central part of the Muslim Brotherhood’s strategy in the United States as well. In 1993, the Brotherhood held a secret meeting in Philadelphia to plan its strategy. The president of the Holy Land Foundation, a charity later shut down for being a front for Hamas, said to Omar Ahmad, a co-founder of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, “War is deception. We are fighting our enemy with a kind heart and we never thought of deceiving it. War is deception. Deceive, camouflage, pretend that you’re leaving while you’re walking that way.… Deceive your enemy.” Nihad Awad, the Executive Director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, was recorded at that meeting saying that, “What is important is that the language of the address is there even for the American.” Omar Ahmad replies with, “There is a difference between you saying ‘I want to restore the ‘48 land’ and when you say ‘I want to destroy Israel.…’”

The Muslim Brotherhood is making over its image and is using carefully-worded language to put its adversaries at ease. The world must not be fooled. This group was created to establish a worldwide state governed by Sharia and for the Brotherhood, to abandon that goal is an act of apostasy.

 

BARACK OBAMA AND THE CAVALCADE OF NAIVETE
Barry Rubin
Rubin Reports, March 6, 2011

 

President Barack Obama told Democratic Party contributors  in Miami: “When you look at what’s happening…in the Middle East, it is a manifestation of new technologies, the winds of freedom that are blowing through countries that have not felt those winds in decades, a whole new generation that says I want to be a part of this world. It’s a dangerous time, but it’s also a huge opportunity for us.’’

Obama also said that the United States should not be “afraid” of change in the Middle East. Well, that depends on the kind of change, doesn’t it? I wouldn’t be afraid if Iran, Syria, and the Gaza Strip had revolutionary upheavals that installed moderate democratic governments, for example. But let me remind you once again, my theme from the first day of the Egyptian revolution has been that I’m worried because others aren’t worried. The more they show that they don’t understand the dangers, the greater the dangers become.

President Franklin Roosevelt said about the Great Depression that there was, “Nothing to fear but fear itself.” That is, Americans should be confident about their abilities to solve problems. But he didn’t say, when German forces seized one country after another, that Americans shouldn’t be afraid of change in Europe. Nor did he say, as the Japanese Empire expanded, that Americans shouldn’t be afraid of change in Asia. President Harry Truman didn’t say that Americans shouldn’t be afraid of change in Eastern Europe when the Soviets gained power over the governments there or China became Communist.

These (Democratic) presidents recognized the danger and worked to counteract it as best they could under the circumstances. In contrast, while giving lip service to the idea that it’s a “dangerous time,” Obama never points to what the dangers are because, frankly, he has no idea. All the points he makes about these changes are positive, cheerleading.

Yet if he’s right on what basis does the United States not want some regimes—Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Morocco, the Palestinian Authority—to be overthrown? Why does he not make a differentiation between America’s enemies and America’s friends?

To show who is really being naive, he added: “All the forces that we see building in Egypt are the forces that should be naturally aligned with us. Should be aligned with Israel.” All the forces “should be” aligned with the United States and Israel! Well, maybe they “should be” but they aren’t. In fact, it is the exact opposite: all the forces that we see building in Egypt are forces that in fact are not aligned with the United States and Israel. Here we see the arrogance of someone who tells people in other countries what they should think instead of analyzing what they do think.

Of course, what happens—and we see this quite vividly—is that the intelligence agencies and media rewrite reality to say that these people are moderate because that’s what the president expects. Here are some historical parallels to Obama’s statements (I made them up):

1932: Germany should be aligned with the Western democracies and the United States because that is the way it will achieve prosperity and stability in Europe, two things that Germany desperately needs. Only 14 years ago, Germany lost a long, bloody war. Surely, the Germans have no desire to fight again and repeat their mistake of trying to conquer Europe!

1945: The Soviet Union should be aligned with the Western democracies and the United States because we have just been allies in a great war. Moscow must understand that the United States has no desire to injure it, wants to live in peace, and respects Soviet interests. Surely, Stalin will put the emphasis on rebuilding his country and not on expansionism abroad!

1979: The new Islamist regime in Iran should be aligned with the West and the United States because they accept the revolution there, want good relations, and are the customers for Iran’s oil exports.

1989: Saddam Hussein and his Iraqi regime should be aligned with the West and the United States because they backed him in his recent war with Iran and he fears the spread of revolutionary Islamism. Saddam will cause no trouble and will put the priority on rebuilding his country after a bloody eight-year-long war with Iran and providing better lives for his people.

1993: Yasir Arafat and the Palestinians should be aligned with the United States and eager to make a comprehensive peace with Israel since that is the only way they can get a state.  Now that they are going to have elections and be responsible for administering the West Bank and Gaza Strip certainly the PLO will cease to be revolutionary or terrorist.

Get the picture? And so when Obama says: “I’m actually confident that 10 years from now we’re going to be able to look back and say that this was the dawning of an entirely new and better era. One in which people are striving not to be against something but to be for something.”

Remember those words. He has absolutely no understanding of the Arabic-speaking world, the Muslim-majority world, or the Middle East whatsoever. How are these new regimes going to stay in power, smite their rivals, and make up for not delivering the material goods to their people? What is the world view of these forces? How do they perceive America, the West, and Israel? These are the questions that should be asked, and answered, in order to understand what the world will look like in a decade.

(Barry Rubin is Director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center.)