Tag: Hosni Mubarak

MUBARAK ACQUITTED, BROAD ANTI-TERROR LAWS PLANNED: “DEEP STATE” RETURNS TO EGYPT

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Contents:

 

Sisi Regime Shows Confidence as ‘Deep State’ Returns to Egypt's Political Landscape: Ariel Ben Solomon, Jerusalem Post, Dec. 1, 2014— The acquittal of former president Hosni Mubarak, his sons, and other close aides demonstrates that Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has settled comfortably in power and marks the return of the deep state.

Egypt’s War on Terrorism: Neville Teller, Jerusalem Post, Nov. 6, 2014— The tentacles of Islamic State (IS), already coiled around large areas of northern Iraq and Syria, are now reaching out as far as northern Sinai. 

Egypt's War on Terrorism: World's Double Standards: Khaled Abu Toameh, Gatestone Institute, Nov. 3, 2014 — Three months after the military conformation between Hamas and Israel, the Egyptians are also waging their own war on terrorism in north Sinai.

Hunger Growls in Egypt: Daniel Pipes, Washington Times, Oct. 3, 2014— Egypt, famed for millennia as the “breadbasket of the Mediterranean,” now faces alarming food shortages. A startlingly candid report in Cairo’s Al-Ahram newspaper by Gihan Shahine, titled “Food for Stability,” makes clear the extent of the crisis.

 

On Topic Links

 

Mubarak ‘Not Guilty’ Ruling Signals the End of Egypt’s Arab Spring: Araminta Wordsworth, National Post, Dec. 1, 2014

“Terrorism” in Egypt: Elliott Abrams, Council on Foreign Relations, Dec. 1, 2014

Egypt Plans Blanket Anti-Terrorism Law Against 'Disrupting Order': Stuart Wilner, Times of Israel, Nov. 26, 2014

In Egypt, Jihadists Release Video of an October Attack: Kareem Fahim & Merna Thomas, New York Times, Nov. 15, 2014

                                                  

                   

SISI REGIME SHOWS CONFIDENCE AS ‘DEEP STATE’

RETURNS TO EGYPT'S POLITICAL LANDSCAPE                                   

Ariel Ben Solomon                                                                                                        

Jerusalem Post, Dec. 1, 2014

 

The acquittal of former president Hosni Mubarak, his sons, and other close aides demonstrates that Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has settled comfortably in power and marks the return of the deep state. The term “deep state” refers to a group of powerful nondemocratic leaders who, though they may be concealed under layers of bureaucracy, are actually in control of the country. To be sure, Sisi has smartly led the important Arab state from the depth of riots, terrorist attacks, economic crisis and outside pressures, but the style and makeup, if not the policies, of the government are reminiscent of Mubarak’s regime.

 

The fact of the matter is that the Mubarak trial was bound to be based not on a strict reading of the evidence but on the wishes of the regime in power. Muslim Brotherhood spokeswoman Wafaa Hefni admitted as much, saying that if former Islamist president Mohamed Morsi were in power, the ruling would have been different, the Daily News Egypt reported. Arab politics is a matter of winner take all, and the court verdicts can be considered as Sisi’s coattails. In March, Robert Springborg argued in an article for the BBC that the Mubarak era personalities were key to Sisi’s consolidation of power. “At present, [Sisi] he is relying on the military, other elements of the deep state and Mubarak-era technocrats to manage his campaign, thereby suggesting he hopes to rule as a sort of presidential version of King Abdullah II of Jordan or King Muhammad VI of Morocco, balancing off the various political parties and forces under him while relying on the deep state for the essence of his rule.”

 

“The Mubarak trial was a classical political trial,” Prof. Yoram Meital, chairman of the Chaim Herzog Center for Middle East Studies and Diplomacy at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, told The Jerusalem Post. “It was impossible to separate the trial and the political context in Egypt,” he said. Sisi’s regime is largely a continuation of the governing mechanism introduced by Mubarak, but following his fall, processes of dramatic political change took place, and this trial is not going to be the final word on the 2011 January Revolution, asserted Meital. Of course, the verdict is a serious blow for the supporters of the revolution, which opposed the return of an authoritarian regime, argued Meital. “The popular uprising that toppled Mubarak created a new reality in Egypt and planted a new political consciousness among many sectors, particularly the younger generation,” Meital said. “The court’s decision pours oil on the fire of this struggle,” as Egyptian society “is divided in an unprecedented way and the court’s decision regarding Mubarak intensifies the polarization and could lead to further escalation between the regime and the opposition,” Meital added.

 

Zvi Mazel, who served as Israel’s sixth ambassador to Egypt and today is a fellow at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs and a contributor to the Post, said that it is too simple to say that Egypt has gone back to Mubarak’s regime. “Sisi is different. He wants to reform Egypt, and he is working on it,” said Mazel, adding, “Mubarak wanted only calm and stability and wasted his tenure.” By contrast, Sisi has promised to maintain basic freedoms through law as he modernizes the country. That the court was able to acquit Mubarak signals that “Egypt has reached a new phase,” Mazel said, as the revolutionary period was emotionally charged with Egyptians seeking vengeance for the failure and poverty that the former president represented. After almost four years of violence, said Mazel, Egyptians are tired after having succeeded in ousting the Muslim Brotherhood regime, preventing “a religious dictatorship.” Now, people want stability and economic development and have faith in Sisi, who is doing a great job so far, asserted Mazel.

 

Regarding the trial, Mazel said that protesters were not killed during the first days but only after the Muslim Brotherhood intervened and attacked the police and public institutions. “In 2012 the court gave a verdict under pressure of the revolution; now – according to the evidence,” said Mazel, pointing out: “Everyone knows that Mubarak was not [former Iraqi president] Saddam Hussein or [former Libyan president] Muammar Gaddafi.” It is true that his police tortured citizens and he did not tackle the social-economic problems of Egypt, but he didn’t just kill people, argued the former Israeli ambassador. Mazel predicts that the Brotherhood will use his acquittal to say that the Mubarak regime has returned. “But this is not the situation,” he said.

                                                                       

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EGYPT’S WAR ON TERRORISM                                                                  

Neville Teller                                             

Jerusalem Post, Nov. 6, 2014  

 

The tentacles of Islamic State (IS), already coiled around large areas of northern Iraq and Syria, are now reaching out as far as northern Sinai.  Egypt's most active militant group is Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis, and whether or not it is formally allied with IS and its leader, the self-styled caliph of all Muslims – contradictory reports about that have recently appeared in the press – it is certainly closely aligned to IS, whose objectives it backs, and whose methods it copies. Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis, which attempted to kill the interior minister in Cairo in 2013 in a car bomb attack, has issued videos of the beheading of captives.  It claimed responsibility for the bomb attack in Sinai in September, when at least 11 policemen were killed in a convoy travelling through village of Wefaq, near the Gaza border. 

 

Based on intercepted phone calls and text messages, Egyptian security officials recently claimed to have uncovered requests for aid from Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis to IS.  According to this intelligence, the Sinai-based terror group requested the IS senior leadership to send trained members to Sinai to help carry out terrorist attacks. On Friday, October 24, two attacks in the Sinai peninsula killed 33 Egyptian security personnel.  In the first, in the al-Kharouba area northwest of al-Arish, near the Gaza Strip, 30 people were killed and more than 25 wounded. Among them were several senior officers from Egypt’s Second Field Army based in Ismailia.  One Sinai-based official said a rocket-propelled grenade was used to target two armored vehicles loaded with ammunition and heavy weapons, at a checkpoint near an army installation. Later, gunmen opened fire on a checkpoint in al-Arish, killing three members of the security forces.

 

Together the two attacks produced the biggest loss of life in decades for Egypt's army, which has been carrying out an offensive against jihadists in northern Sinai. Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi declared three days of national mourning, during which state television displayed black ribbons on screen. Following a meeting of the National Defence Council, he also imposed a three-month state of emergency in the north and center of the Sinai peninsula where the violence took place, and closed Egypt's Rafah crossing into the Gaza Strip. In short, Egypt now acknowledges that the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip has become one of the region's main exporters of terrorism, and is mounting a major offensive aimed at overcoming the threat and re-establishing effective control. Its aim is to establish a security buffer zone along its shared border with Gaza to prevent terrorists from using smuggling tunnels to launch attacks on Egyptian soldiers and civilians. The Egyptian army's security crackdown includes imposing a curfew on the region, closing the Rafah crossing into Gaza, demolishing hundreds of houses along the border with the Gaza Strip and transferring thousands of people to new locations.  In other words – words familiar from their frequent use in castigating Israel – the Egyptians are tightening their blockade on Gaza and collectively punishing not only Hamas, but the Palestinians living there…

 

Meanwhile, following the firing of a rocket from Gaza into southern Israel on November 2 – the second since the end of Operation Protective Edge on August 26 – Israel has also closed the Erez and Kerem Shalom crossings to Gaza “until the security situation allows their reopening”, according to an Israeli Defense Ministry spokesperson, who added that the closure was not meant as a punitive measure, but to protect people working at or passing through the crossings. Emergency humanitarian goods would continue to be allowed through. Hamas leader Musa Abu Marzouk declared that the Israeli closure of the crossings violates the cease-fire agreement which ended Operation Protective Edge, and called the decision “a childish and irresponsible act. This is collective punishment that is being imposed on the Gaza Strip.”  But Hamas leaders like the Egyptian actions even less.  On November 2 they appealed to the Egyptian authorities to reopen the Rafah border crossing, warning that the continued blockade on the Gaza Strip was in violation of the Egyptian-engineered cease-fire between Hamas and Israel.  Eyad al-Bazam, spokesman for Hamas’s Interior Ministry, pointed out that the closure of the Rafah terminal was preventing Palestinians with humanitarian cases from leaving the Gaza Strip.

 

However, Egypt is convinced that the two-pronged attack on October 24 that killed 33 soldiers was the work of Palestinian militants based in Gaza.  Egypt’s Major General Sameeh Beshadi told the Arab newspaper, Asharq Al-Awsat, that there was “no doubt that Palestinian elements had taken part in the attacks."  According to Beshadi, the militants, who infiltrated Sinai via tunnels linking the peninsula to the Gaza Strip, prepared the booby-trapped vehicle used to attack the army checkpoint near El Arish. The use of rocket-propelled grenades and mortars, he asserted, was proof that this attack, like all the large-scale attacks in the area in recent years "involved well-trained Palestinian elements."

 

Just at the moment Hamas needs Egypt much more than Egypt needs Hamas.  Hamas’s ability to emerge with any credit from its latest conflict with Israel is dependent on the outcome of the indirect Israeli-Palestinian talks on the Gaza truce, being brokered by Egypt in Cairo. It must therefore feel very uncomfortable with the result of the recent terrorist outrage in Sinai – namely, Egypt’s postponement of the latest round of talks until late-November.  This may explain why Hamas has denied that its operatives were responsible for firing the rocket that hit the Eshkol region of southern Israel last week, and has arrested five men it accuses of the attack. Perhaps Egypt can succeed where Israel has notably failed – in convincing the leaders of Hamas that terrorism is a two-edged weapon that can bring an unwelcome retribution down on its perpetrators.                                                                       

                                                                       

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EGYPT'S WAR ON TERRORISM:

WORLD'S DOUBLE STANDARDS                                                        

Khaled Abu Toameh                                                                                                     

Gatestone Institute, Nov. 3, 2014

                            

Three months after the military conformation between Hamas and Israel, the Egyptians are also waging their own war on terrorism in north Sinai. But Egypt's war, which began after Islamist terrorists butchered 33 Egyptian soldiers, does not seem to worry the international community and human rights organizations, at least not as much as Israel's operation to stop rockets and missiles from being fired into it from the Gaza Strip.

 

The Egyptian army's security crackdown includes the demolition of hundreds of houses along the border with the Gaza Strip and the transfer of thousands of people to new locations. Egypt's goal is to establish a security buffer zone along its shared border with the Gaza Strip in order to prevent terrorists from using smuggling tunnels to launch attacks on Egyptian soldiers and civilians. In other words, the Egyptians are tightening the blockade on the Gaza Strip and collectively punishing the Palestinians living there, not only Hamas.

 

All this is happening before eyes of the international community and media. Nonetheless, the UN Security Council has not been asked to hold an emergency meeting to condemn what some Egyptian human rights activists describe as the "transfer" and "displacement" of hundreds of families in Sinai. Egyptian lawyer and human rights activist Gamal Eid said that the Egyptian security measures were "unconstitutional." He noted that Article 63 of the Egyptian constitution prohibits the forcible and arbitrary transfer of citizens in all forms. Egyptian security experts warned this week that the "displacement" of Sinai residents would not stop terrorist attacks on the Egyptian police and army.

 

Former General Safwat al-Zayyat said he expected the terrorists to intensify their attacks not only in Sinai but also in other parts of Egypt, including Cairo, to prove that the Egyptian army's measures are ineffective. He also predicted that the transfer of thousands of families and the demolition of their homes would play into the hands of the terrorists. Egyptian activist Massad Abu Fajr wrote on his Facebook page that the forcible eviction of families from their homes in Egypt was tantamount to a "declaration of war by the Egyptian authorities" on the three largest and powerful clans in Sinai. He too predicted that the security crackdown would boomerang and further strengthen the terrorists.

 

But what is perhaps more worrying is the fear that the unprecedented security clampdown in Egypt will drive Hamas and other terror groups in the Gaza Strip to resume their attacks on Israel. The Egyptians, of course, are entitled to wage a ruthless war on the various terror groups that have long been operating in Sinai. However, by tightening the blockade on the Gaza Strip, the Egyptians are also giving Hamas and Islamic Jihad an excuse to resume their attacks on Israel. The two Palestinian terror groups are not going to retaliate by attacking Egypt. They know that Egypt's response to such an attack would be more severe than Israel's military response. That explains why Hamas and other Palestinian groups have been cautious in their response to Egypt's measures — no condemnations or protests thus far. In fact, Hamas is already in a state of panic in the wake of allegations by some Egyptians that Palestinians from the Gaza Strip were involved in the killing of the soldiers in Sinai.

 

Once again, Egyptian journalists are calling on their president to go after Hamas in response to the Sinai attack. A previous attack on Egyptian soldiers in Sinai earlier this year prompted similar calls. Reham Noaman, a prominent Egyptian journalist, called on Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi to "crush" Hamas and its armed wing, Ezaddin al-Qassam. "Israel is not better than us," she said. "When Israel wants to hit Hamas because of a rocket that is not worth a penny, it does not seek permission from the Security Council."

 

The Egyptians have finally realized that the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip has become one of the region's main exporters of terrorism. Israel reached this conclusion several years ago, when Hamas and other terror groups began firing rockets and missiles at Israeli communities. The Egyptians have also come to learn that the smuggling tunnels along their shared border with the Gaza Strip work in both directions. In the past, the Egyptians believed that the tunnels were being used only to smuggle weapons into the Gaza Strip. Now, however, they are convinced that these tunnels are also being used to smuggle weapons and terrorists out of the Gaza Strip. Now that the Egyptians have chosen completely to seal off their border with the Gaza Strip, the chances of another military confrontation between Hamas and Israel have increased. Hamas will undoubtedly try to break out of its increased isolation by initiating another war with Israel.

 

The Egyptians, for their part, are not going to mind if another war breaks out between the Palestinians and Israel — as long as the military confrontation is taking place on the other side of the Gaza Strip's border with Egypt. And of course, the international community will once again rush to accuse Israel of "genocide" against the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. Needless to say, the international community will continue to ignore Egypt's bulldozing hundreds of homes and the forcible eviction of thousands of people in Sinai. If anything, the Egyptian security crackdown in Sinai has once again exposed the double standards of the international community toward the war on terrorism. While it is fine for Egypt to demolish hundreds of houses and forcibly transfer thousands of people in the name of the war on terrorism, Israel is not allowed to fire back at those who launch rockets and missiles at its civilians.

 

                                                                       

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HUNGER GROWLS IN EGYPT                                                                                  

Daniel Pipes

Washington Times, Oct. 6, 2014

 

Egypt, famed for millennia as the “breadbasket of the Mediterranean,” now faces alarming food shortages. A startlingly candid report in Cairo’s Al-Ahram newspaper by Gihan Shahine, titled “Food for Stability,” makes clear the extent of the crisis. To begin, two anecdotes: Although compelled by her father to marry a cousin who could afford to house and feed her, Samar, 20, reports that they “have only had fried potatoes and aubergines for dinner most of the week.” Her sisters, 10 and 13, who left school to take up work, are losing weight and suffer chronic anemia. Manual, a nurse and single mother of four, cannot feed her children. “In the past, we used to stuff cabbage with rice and eat that when we did not have any money. But now even this sometimes can be unaffordable because of rising prices. Our children were always malnourished, but it’s getting even worse.”

 

These children are not unusual: According to the United Nations World Food Program, malnutrition stunts 31 percent of Egyptian children between six months and five years of age, one of the highest rates in the world. The World Food Program also found in 2009 that malnutrition reduced Egypt’s gross domestic product (GDP) by about 2 percent. One in five Egyptians faces food insecurity and “a growing number of people can’t afford to purchase enough nutritious food,” according to Australia’s Future Directions International. To fill their stomachs, Egypt’s poor rely on low-nutrition, calorie-dense foods (such as the infamous all-starch kushari) that cause both nutritional deficiencies and obesity. Also, 5.2 percent of the population is actually going hungry, an Egyptian state agency, CAPMAS, reports.

 

Many factors contribute to Egypt’s hunger crisis. Going from the deepest to the most superficial, these include: Flawed government policies: Cairo has consistently favored urban over rural areas, leading to reduced agricultural research, a lack of financial support, private-sector monopolies, cockeyed subsidies, smuggling, corruption and black markets. Farmers suffer from shortages of expensive yet inferior seeds, fertilizers and pesticides. Most pernicious of all has been the reduction in cultivated land owing to the government’s complicity in unconstrained and illegal residential sprawl.

 

Reliance on food imports: Historically self-sufficient, Egypt now, according to Future Directions International, imports 60 percent of its food. The country remains largely self-sufficient in fruit and vegetables, but depends heavily on foreign grains, sugar, meat and edible oils. Egypt imports two-thirds of its wheat (10 million tons of a total of 15 million, making it the world’s largest importer of wheat), 70 percent of its beans, and 99 percent of its lentils. Not coincidentally, lentil cultivation has dropped from 85,000 acres to below 1,000 acres. Largesse from friendly oil-exporting states of about $20 billion in 2013 has been crucial to fund food imports, but one must wonder for how long this subsidy will continue.

 

Poverty: Such dependence on fluctuating international markets is ever more risky as Egypt becomes increasingly destitute. The previous average of 6.2 percent real GDP growth fell to 2.1 percent in 2012-13, the World Food Program reports. Unemployment stands at about 19 percent. The cotton harvest, once the pride of Egypt, saw a production decline of more than 11 percent in a single marketing year, 2012 to 2013. Twenty-eight percent of young people live in poverty and 24 percent live just above the poverty line, CAPMAS reports, an increase of 1 percent in a single year.

 

Water scarcity: The gift of the Nile is already insufficient by 20 billion cubic meters annually because of such factors as a growing population and inefficient irrigation, reducing Egypt’s food production, and with new dams under construction on the Blue Nile in Ethiopia, yet more severe shortages will follow within the decade.

 

Recent crises: Future Directions International notes “the avian influenza epidemic in 2006, the food, fuel and financial crises of 2007-09, the 2010 global food-price spike, and the economic deterioration caused by political instability since the 2011 Revolution.”

 

Can the new government of Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi respond in time to reverse these calamitous trends? I am pessimistic. Millions of volatile Cairenes have far greater political clout than the more numerous farmers quietly tending their fields. Moreover, urgent issues — from discontented factory workers to a Muslim Brotherhood rebellion to a Hamas-Israel cease-fire — invariably distract the leadership’s attention from long-term systemic crises such as food production. Starvation in Egypt is yet another of the Middle East’s many deep, endemic problems — problems which outsiders cannot solve, only protect themselves from.

 

Daniel Pipes is a CIJR Academic Fellow

 

 

Contents           

 

On Topic

 

Mubarak ‘Not Guilty’ Ruling Signals the End of Egypt’s Arab Spring: Araminta Wordsworth, National Post, Dec. 1, 2014—Since the heady days of the 2011 Arab Spring, they’ve gone from the military dictatorship of Hosni Mubarak, through democracy of a kind with the Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohammed Morsi, and back to military dictatorship under Mubarak sidekick Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi.

“Terrorism” in Egypt: Elliott Abrams, Council on Foreign Relations, Dec. 1, 2014—There are acts of terror in Egypt, and there are terrorists–including some linked to Al Qaeda and ISIS.

Egypt Plans Blanket Anti-Terrorism Law Against 'Disrupting Order': Stuart Wilner, Times of Israel, Nov. 26, 2014—Egypt's cabinet approved on Wednesday a draft anti-terrorism law that would give the government blanket power to ban groups on charges ranging from harming national unity to disrupting public order.

In Egypt, Jihadists Release Video of an October Attack: Kareem Fahim & Merna Thomas, New York Times, Nov. 15, 2014 — Egypt’s most lethal jihadist group has released a video that appears to show its militants carrying out an attack that killed more than 31 soldiers in the Sinai Peninsula last month, raising new questions about the readiness of the government’s troops to confront the insurgency.

 

               

 

 

 

                      

                

                            

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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ARAB SPRING: HEADED FOR A BLOODY FALL?

ARAB SPRING DRIFTS INTO SUMMER STALEMATES
Brian Murphy & Barbara Surk

Huffington Post, July 14, 2011

 

Among the protest banners in Cairo’s Tahrir Square was a hand-drawn map of the Arab Spring with black target symbols covering each country hit by anti-government uprisings since the leaders of Tunisia and Egypt were ousted earlier this year.

But the bull’s-eyes could easily be replaced with question marks as the groundswell for change has splintered into scattered and indecisive conflicts that have left thousands dead and Western policymakers juggling roles from NATO airstrikes in Libya to worried bystanders in Syria and Yemen.

The stalemates could shift into a deeper holding pattern in August during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, when the pace of daily life traditionally slows as the Islamic world observes a dawn-to-dusk fast and other customs such as temporary truces.

It’s a huge and traumatic undertaking to shove aside regimes with decades in power—and sway over nearly every decision down to who gets hired as street sweeper. Iran did it with the 1979 Islamic Revolution, and the American-led invasion to topple Saddam Hussein cleaned the slate for Iraq and ushered in years of near civil war.

But no such wholesale change appears in the pipeline with the present revolts. That has raised concern that even if the leaders fall, the pillars of the regimes could survive, as happened when military rulers took temporary control after Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak stepped down.

“Half revolution doesn’t work,” a headline last week in Egypt’s Al-Ahram Al-Massai newspaper said after demonstrators returned to Tahrir Square to press for swifter political reforms and bolder legal action against officials from Mubarak’s regime who were accused of corruption and killing protesters.

But even a halfway mark appears farther along than most of the rebellions against the Mideast’s old guard.

Cores of loyal security forces in Yemen and Syria keep the regimes hanging on despite relentless protests. In Libya, Moammar Gadhafi could face a moment of truth as rebels press closer to the capital Tripoli and NATO warplanes hammer military sites, yet the anti-Gadhafi militias have no clear leader to prevent possible power grabs to control the country’s oil riches if he is ousted.

The country where the Arab Spring began, Tunisia, has been shaken by unrest—including a rise in ultraconservative Islamists—ahead of planned elections in October to elect an assembly that will write a new constitution. Some political groups are urging further delays in the election to give new parties a chance to organize.

Egypt, meanwhile, is questioning when—or if—the ruling military council will surrender power. The caretaker rulers [have] effectively announced a delay of the elections.…

In tiny Bahrain authorities apparently tipped the scales clearly in their favor. Security forces—aided by Saudi-led reinforcements—smothered an uprising by the kingdom’s majority Shiites seeking greater rights from the Sunni rulers. A so-called “national dialogue” began this month, but it’s unlikely that the 200-year-old ruling dynasty will give up any significant hold on power and may need a heavy hand to keep Shiite-led protests from reigniting.

“It’s not over, but we are in an ugly situation now,” said Christopher Davidson, a lecturer on Middle East and Gulf affairs at Britain’s Durham University. That’s why the definition of the Arab Spring is increasingly being stretched.…

 

BALLOTS, BULLETS AND OBAMA’S ROLE
IN RENASCENT MUSLIM WORLD
Raphael Israeli

Jerusalem Magazine, July 13, 2011

 

A plethora of self-righteous rhetoric has been wasted on the Arab Spring with the attending dominance of ballots over bullets, although until now there have scarcely been signs of a spring per se.

Initially, there were high hopes for democracy to triumph in places where non-authoritarian forms of government have hitherto never existed. Instead however, in one case after another, hopes have been shattered with the primacy of bullets overwhelming any attempts for new democracies to emerge. And due to his nonsensical policies, [U.S.] President Barack Obama—apparent leader of the free world—is inadvertently supporting the supremacy of bullets.

Democracy is not only about elections and voting rights. In some countries, including Iraq and Lebanon, elections have been known to give rise to massacres. But even in cases where votes are not rigged and elections are conducted peacefully, various political struggles still arise. Take Turkey for example, where elections invariably hail a string of arrests—particularly of journalists—and a denial of civil rights coupled with McCarthy-esque stifling of the opposition or imposed Islamization. Ironically, such acts often appeal to the most uneducated strata of these societies, which subsequently constitute the base of political parties in the main—as is the case of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s AKP party.

In 2008 in Lebanon, Hezbollah, the proxy of Iran and Syria, took over Beirut and its communication centers by force and then imposed its minority vote on the cabinet by threatening the use of more force. This was an attempt to scuttle any moves to arrest the Hezbollah-protected murderers of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri, the leader that came closest to forming a democratically-elected majority government.

Paradoxically, more than any other country, the US—which ostensibly claims to democratize those countries by ballots—has contributed to spreading the use of bullets instead. Take Syria and Libya as examples. Prior to President Obama’s non-policy of engagement in the Middle East, the tough and demanding policy of the Bush administration was paying off: Syrian President Bashar al-Assad had been under siege; forced out of Lebanon, he was isolated both politically and economically, and under pressure to retreat from his axis with Iran.

But then Obama began courting Muslims with sycophantic gestures of friendship, including reinstating his ambassador in Damascus, prostrating before the Saudi king—the most reactionary monarch in the Middle East—and finally allowing the Turks to sacrifice Israel—their democratic ally in the region—for the prize of acquiring new authoritarian allies in Iran and Syria.

As a result, Arab and Muslim dictators got the impression that since America was now their friend they could do as they jolly well pleased.…

As for Assad, well he began to massacre his own people at will, and when this began to become a sticky issue he sent Palestinians to challenge Israel’s borders as a deflection. Reinforced by US consent—implicit in its silence—King Abdullah and other leaders in Gulf States are dispatching their troops to quell protestors in Bahrain. In Lebanon, the Hezbollah effectively have carte blanche to reverse anything achieved by the Bush administration.…

The Obama administration—which no longer dares to call a spade a spade and dissimulates the mounting Islamic violence as “a minority of extremists,” is getting further and further away from the previous administration’s mission; the current administration has unwittingly shrunk the lexicon of viable terminology for terrorists—thereby changing the face of Bush’s “war on terror.”

This has allowed the Muslim world to once again slide into the familiar game of bullet-policy.

 

WILL TURMOIL DRAG LIBYA’S REBELS UNDER?
Jackson Diehl

Washington Post, July 31, 2011

 

Until last Thursday, Libya was beginning to look like the relative good news in the troubled summer that has followed the Arab Spring. The United States and more than 30 other governments had recognized the Transitional National Council (TNC), based in the rebel capital of Benghazi, as Libya’s legitimate government. Its military forces appeared to be slowly gaining ground against those of Moammar Gaddafi, who was isolated in Tripoli.

Two senior members of the TNC touring Washington last week talked cheerily about their plans to stabilize the country after Gaddafi’s departure and quickly install a liberal democracy. “Libya is actually the easy case,” one veteran Washington democracy expert enthused to me after hearing them speak.

Then came the sudden killing on Thursday of Abdul Fatah Younis, the TNC’s senior military commander, under still-unexplained—and very troubling—circumstances. The murder plunged the new government and its capital into turmoil, and raised urgent questions in NATO capitals about whether the TNC or its ragtag army were in danger of crumbling.

It also illustrated one of the enduring themes of the uprisings across the Middle East: the constant tension between the yearning for modernism—for democracy and personal freedom—that is driving a huge rising generation into the streets, and the atavistic forces of tribalism, sectarianism, corruption and autocracy that keep threatening to drag the revolutions under.

Younis, the Libyan rebel commander, appears to be a victim of what might be called the Old Middle East undertow. It’s not yet known exactly who killed him or why, but we do know that he had been called to Benghazi by elements of the rebel leadership to answer unspecified questions about his behavior and was murdered by fighters escorting him. Angry demonstrations by members of Younis’s Obeidi tribe hinted at the internecine conflict that some experts believe may be the most serious threat to a post-Gaddafi Libya.…

The Old Middle East has pulled [the TNC’s] military commander under. In Libya, as in so much of the region this summer, it’s an open question whether a new Arab order can survive that undertow.

 

CAUTION: STORM APPROACHING
Caroline B. Glick

Jerusalem Post, July 15, 2011

It was seven months ago that Mohammed Bouazizi, a vegetable peddler in Tunisia, set himself and the Arab world on fire. The 26- year-old staged his suicidal protest on the steps of the local city hall after a municipal inspector took away his unlicensed vegetable cart, thus denying him the ability to feed his family of eight.

Most depictions of the Arab revolutions that followed his act have cast them as struggles for freedom and good government. These depictions miss the main cause of these political upheavals. No doubt millions of Arabs are upset about the freedom deficit in Arab lands. But the fact is that economics has played a decisive role in all of them.

In Bouazizi’s case, his self-immolation was provoked by financial desperation. And if current trends continue, the revolutionary ferment we have seen so far is only the tip of the iceberg.

Moreover, the political whirlwind will not be contained in the Middle East.

Most of the news coming out about Egypt today emanates from Cairo’s Tahrir Square. There the protesters continue to demand ousted president Hosni Mubarak’s head on a platter alongside the skulls of his sons, business associates, advisors and everyone else who prospered under his rule. While the supposedly liberal democratic protesters’ swift descent into bloodlust is no doubt worth noting, the main reason these protesters continue to gain so much international attention is because they are easy to find. A reporter looking for a story’s failsafe option is to mosey on over to the square and put a microphone into the crowd.

But while easily accessible, the action at Tahrir Square is not Egypt’s most important story. The most important, strategically consequential story is that Egypt is rapidly going broke. By the end of the year, the military dictatorship will likely not only default on Egypt’s loans; Field Marshal Tantawi and his deputies will almost certainly be unable to feed the Egyptian people.

Some raw statistics are in order here.

Among Egypt’s population of 80 million, some 32 million are illiterate. They engage in subsistence farming that is too inefficient to support them. Egypt needs to import half of its food.

As David Goldman, (aka Spengler), reported in Asia Times Online, in May the International Monetary Fund warned of the impending economic collapse of non-oil exporting Arab countries saying, “In the current baseline scenario the external financing needs of the region’s oil importers is projected to exceed $160 billion during 2011-13.” Goldman noted, “That’s almost three years’ worth of Egypt’s total annual imports as of 2010.”

Since Mubarak was overthrown in February, Egypt’s foreign currency reserves have plummeted from $36b. to $25b.-28b.… As Goldman explained, the problem is capital flight. Due in no small part to the protesters in Tahrir Square calling for the arrest of all those who did business with the former regime, Egypt’s wealthy and foreign investors are taking their money out of the country.

At the Arab Banking Summit in Rome last month, Jordan’s Finance Minister Mohammed Abu Hammour warned, “There is capital flight and $500 million a week is leaving the Arab world.” According to Goldman, “Although Hammour did not mention countries in his talk…most of the capital flight is coming from Egypt, and at an annual rate roughly equal to Egypt’s remaining reserves.”

What this means is that in a few short months, Egypt will be unable to pay for its imports. And consequently, it will be unable to feed its people.

Egypt is far from alone. Take Syria. There, too, capital is fleeing the country as the government rushes to quell the mass anti-regime protests.

Just as Egyptian and Tunisian protesters hoped that a new regime would bring them more freedom, so the mass protests sweeping Syria are in part due to politics. But like in Egypt and Tunisia, Syria’s economic woes are dictating much of what is happening on the ground and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future.

Last month, Syrian President Bashar Assad gave a speech warning of “weakness or collapse of the Syrian economy.” As a report last month by Reuters explained, the immediate impact of Assad’s speech was capital flight and the devaluation of the Syrian pound by 8 percent.

For the past decade, Assad has been trying to liberalize the Syrian economy. He enacted some free market reforms, opened a stock exchange and attempted to draw foreign investment to the country. While largely unsuccessful in alleviating Syria’s massive poverty, these reforms did enable the country a modest growth rate of around 2.5% per year.

In response to the mass protests threatening his regime, Assad has effectively ended his experiment with the free market. He fired his government minister in charge of the economic reforms and put all the projects on hold. Instead, according to a report this week in Syria Today, the government has steeply increased public sector wages and offered 100,000 temporary workers full-time contracts. The Syrian government also announced a 25% cut in the price of diesel fuel, at a cost to the government of $527m. per year.… As Reuters reported, the government has been forced to spend $70m.-$80m. a week to buck up the local currency. So between protecting the Syrian pound and paying for political loyalty, the Assad regime is quickly drying up Syria’s treasury.

In the event the regime is overthrown, a successor regime will face the sure prospect of economic collapse, much as the Egyptian regime does. And in the event that Assad remains in power, he will continue to reap the economic whirlwind of what he has sown in the form of political instability and violence.

What this means is that we can expect continued political turmoil in both countries as they are consumed by debt and tens of millions of people face the prospect of starvation. This political turmoil can be expected to give rise to dangerous if unknowable military developments.

Poor Arab nations such as Egypt and Syria are far from the only ones facing economic disaster. The $3b. loan the IMF offered Egypt may be among the last loans of that magnitude the IMF is able to offer because quite simply, European lenders are themselves staring into the economic abyss.

Greece’s debt crisis is not a local problem. It now appears increasingly likely that the EU is going to have to accept Greece defaulting on at least part of its debt.… Worse still, the banking crisis will only intensify in the wake of a Greek default. Debt pressure on Italy, Ireland, Spain and Portugal, which are all also on the brink of defaulting on their debts, will grow. Italy is Europe’s fourth largest economy. Its debt is about the size of Germany’s.

If Italy goes into default, the implications for the European and US banking systems—and for their economies generally—will be devastating.

The current debt-ceiling negotiations between US President Barack Obama and the Republican congressional leadership have made it apparent that Obama is ideologically committed to increasing government spending and taxes in the face of a weak economy. If Obama is reelected next year, the dire implications of four more years of his economic policies for the US and global economies cannot be overstated.

Due to the economic policies implemented by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu since his first tenure as prime minister in 1996-99, in the face of this economic disaster, Israel is likely to find itself in the unlikely position of standing along China and India as among the only stable, growing economies in the world. Israel’s banking sector is largely unexposed to European debt. Israel’s gross external debt is 44% of GDP. This compares well not only to European debt levels of well over 100% of GDP but to the US debt level, which stands at 98% of GDP.…

Israel’s economy is likely to remain one of the country’s most valuable strategic assets. Just as economic prosperity allowed Israel to absorb the cost of the Second Lebanon War with barely a hiccup, so continued economic growth will play a key role in protecting it from the economically induced political upheavals likely to ensue throughout much of the Arab world and Europe.

Aside from remaining economically responsible, as Israel approaches the coming storms it is important for it to act with utmost caution politically. It must adopt policies that provide it with the most maneuver room and the greatest deterrent force.

First and foremost, this means that it is imperative that Israel not commit itself to any agreements with any Arab regime. In 1977, the Camp David Agreement with then-Egyptian president Anwar Sadat, in which Israel surrendered the strategically invaluable Sinai for a peace treaty, seemed like a reasonable gamble. In 2011, a similar agreement with Assad or with the Palestinian Authority, (whose budget is largely financed from international aid), would be the height of strategic insanity.

Beyond that, with the rising double specter of Egyptian economic collapse and the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood to power, Israel must prepare for the prospect of war with Egypt. Recently it was reported that IDF Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz has opted to spread over several years Israel’s military preparations for a return to hostilities with Egypt. Gantz’s decision reportedly is due to his desire to avoid provoking Egypt with a rapid expansion of the IDF’s order of battle.

Gantz’s caution is understandable. But it is unacceptable. Given the escalating threats emanating from Egypt—not the least of which is the expanding security vacuum in Sinai—Israel must prepare for war now.

So, too, with the US’s weak economy, Obama’s Muslim Brotherhood-friendly foreign policy, and Europe’s history of responding to economic hardship with xenophobia, Israel’s need to develop the means of militarily defending itself from a cascade of emerging threats becomes all the more apparent.

The economic storms may pass by Israel. But the political tempests they unleash will reach us.

To emerge safely from what is coming, Israel needs to hunker down and prepare for the worst.

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.

AS LENIN SAID: WHO/WHOM?—“PROTESTERS,” “REVOLUTIONARIES,” & THE ARAB REBELLIONS

 

 

 

OBAMA’S LIBYAN WAR, THE ARAB REBELLIONS, AND ISRAEL
Frederick Krantz

 

Finally, after weeks of indecisive hesitation, and with Col. Khaddafi’s forces about to conquer Benghazi, the Libyan rebels’ last strong-hold, American President Barack Obama agreed to support a Libyan intervention.

In a hurried press conference, before ostentatiously leaving in mid-crisis for Brazil (which had just abstained onintervention in the Security Council) Obama—who weeks earlier had dramatically said Khaddafi “had to go”—informed the world that America would be part of a UN coalition imposing a “no fly” zone on Libya. Obama quickly added that the allies, not the U.S., would lead, there would never be American “boots” on the ground, and Obama proudly added, even the Arab League was supporting the venture. This did not, however, include key states with strong armies, like Egypt, Jordan, or Saudi Arabia, and it soon turned wobbly when the bombs began to fall.

Yet despite the U.S. President’s transparent, and telling, cloaking of the move in internationalist bafflegab (and now the reference to the Libyan colonel’s departure had disappeared), America’s key military role, begun on the very day marking the beginning of the Iraq war’s ninth year, soon became clear.

So too did the confusion issuing from the President’s weak leadership and incoherent policy—what was initially touted as only a “no fly” zone to protect “civilians” morphed, on day one, into a “no drive” zone, a direct assault on Khaddafi’s ground forces, including what seemed an attempt (failed) to assassinate him by bombing his presidential palace in Tripoli.

Khaddafi, of course, is far from defeated. His anti-colonial (and anti-”Christian/infidel” hype) has evidently already weakened the Arab support Obama initially trumpeted. He can also hope to divide the weak Western allies (Germany, as well as Russia and China, opposed the venture) internally (Sarkozy and the French were already being blamed for being too self-seekingly aggressive, the Turks were balking at tactical bombing, and everyone was arguing about who or what will head the NATO mission Obama has now jiggered up to replace direct US leadership).

The Colonel may be counting, too, on Obama’s losing his nerve under public and Congressional criticism (already being expressed by a united Republican front and the President’s Democratic-left “base”).

The Libyan intervention may well prove a partial, if not unmitigated, disaster. Obama has repeatedly framed it as lasting days, not weeks; but if Khaddafi endures it may well (like the initial Iraq “no fly” zone) turn first into months and then years. And if the “rebels” themselves—an amorphous, heterogeneous, and largely unknown collection with no clear leadership—splinter, or if Libya is functionally partitioned, largely along tribal lines, with Khaddafi king of Tripoli and points west, and the weak rebels dominating the east, how will the U.S. avoid ownership of a third war in a Muslim land?

A cornered Khaddafi could, as he has threatened, blow up his oil fields (which supply Italy and much of Western Europe), or launch a series of terrorist strikes against Europe and the U.S. (we should never forget that Libya provided the bulk of the foreign Sunni terrorists in Iraq, and that Khaddafi’s repeated invocation of his opposition to al-Qaeda is not entirely empty rhetoric). And even if Obama does succeed in killing Khaddafi (his and Hillary Clinton’s euphemism is “make him go away”), his sons may well continue on.

Finally, all of the imponderables of “Obama’s war” (and the Arab “revolutions” around it) bear on Israel’s security and well-being. First, Obama’s initial hesitations about confronting Khaddafi, a real Arab murderer and thug, throw an inverse light on the political values revealed by his consistently hostile stance towards democratic Israel. Secondly, in regard to the practical utility of his pro forma verbal assurances about defending Israel, we should recall his rapid jettisoning of Hosni Mubarak, America’s firmest, and oldest, Middle East Arab ally, at the beginning of the Egyptian “revolution”, his dangerous vacillation in regard to another old ally still facing “protesters”, the king of strategically-crucial Bahrain, and his hesitations about the increasingly precarious (but anti-al-Qaeda) president of Yemen, Saleh.

The Egyptian “revolution” is now safely over and in the hands of the military, which evicted the “protesters” from Tahrir Square and controls a constitution-making process marked by an ever-stronger Moslem Brotherhood (see the recent constitutional amendments vote). The Saudis, well-aware of their own security interests and explicitly rejecting Obama’s imprecations, have invaded Bahrain and put down the revolutionary pro-Iranian Shi’ite “protesters” there. (Meanwhile, President Saleh, who is being allowed to twist slowly in the revolutionary wind, may well not survive.)

And now—mirabile dictu!—sudden popular protests have broken out even in Syria, only to be bloodily suppressed, and this despite the presence of the recently-returned American ambassador, put there without Congressional approval by Obama notwithstanding Assad’s literally murderous anti-U.S. role in Iraq and Lebanon. (Secretary of Defense Gates has rejected “regime change” in Syria, and Secretary of State Clinton tells us Bashar Assad is a “reformer.”)

In short, as the Arab rebellions spread dangerously around the only regional island of stability, Israel, Barack Obama and his Administration are a foreign policy disaster, stumbling from one improvised policy to another. Marked by a leftist-anti-”colonialist” mentality (read the Cairo Speech), a weakness for “re-setting” relations with dictatorships (Russia, China, Iran, Syria), and facing a severe domestic social and economic crisis, Obama’s neo-isolationist tendency is, especially in the Middle East, increasingly evident, and for Israel nothing short of a disaster.

Obama’s brief two years in office have seen the reversal of long-standing American Middle East and Persian Gulf policy, and the collapse, actual or imminent, of key traditional American allies. And as the brief hope of a truly democratic “Arab Revolution” dims, what looms ominously in its stead is prolonged chaos and reinforcement of Islamist movements (from the Moslem Brothers in Egypt and Gaza to Al Qaeda in Yemen and, possibly Libya), as well as growing Iranian Shiite influence (in Bahrain, and with Hamas in Gaza and Hezbollah in Lebanon.)

The only “bright spot” at the moment is, paradoxically, Syria, where popular Sunni elimination of the minority Alawite Assad regime would weaken Hamas, Hezbollah and, behind them, their Iranian Shiite sponsor, and might even re-spark the Iranian “Green” revolution against the mullahcracy.

Under such dangerous and unstable circumstances, and given the Obama Administration’s illusory, and dangerous, “peace process” pressures (which may well increase precisely as Obama meets defeats elsewhere) Israel must look to its own basic security. And above all, the current focus on the rebellions and their implications must not lead us into taking our eyes off the elephant in the room, the major and continuing threat to Israel of the Iranians’ nuclear program.

Given this, Israeli diplomacy must do everything it can to ensure, to minimize, to the extent possible, that the Jewish state’s international isolation, while we here in North America, the last redoubt of public support for the Jewish state, must remain united and committed to ensuring continuing, strong public and governmental backing for the Jewish state.

(Prof. Krantz is Director of the Canadian Institute for Jewish Research,
and Editor of
the Isranet Daily Briefing)

 

EVERY REVOLUTION IS REVOLUTIONARY IN ITS OWN WAY
Simon Sebag Montefiore

NY Times, March 26, 2011

 

A revolution resembles the death of a fading star, an exhilarating Technicolor explosion that gives way not to an ordered new galaxy but to a nebula, a formless cloud of shifting energy. And though every revolution is different, because all revolutions are local, in this uncertain age of Arab uprisings and Western interventions, as American missiles bombard a defiant Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi in Libya, as the ruler of Yemen totters on the brink and Syrian troops fire on protesters, the history of revolution can still offer us some clues to the future.

The German sociologist Max Weber cited three reasons for citizens to obey their rulers: “the authority of the eternal yesterday,” or historical prestige; “the authority of the extraordinary personal gift of grace,” or the ruler’s charisma; and “domination by virtue of legality,” or order and justice. The “authority of the eternal yesterday” is especially important because in the Arab world even republics tend to be dynastic.

Before his ouster, Hosni Mubarak of Egypt was grooming hereditary heirs. Before his death in 2000, Hafez al-Assad, the long-reigning Syrian dictator, handed over power to his son Bashar. Colonel Qaddafi has long ruled through a phalanx of thuggish dauphins, each playing a different role—one the totalitarian enforcer, another, the pro-Western liberalizer—and each vying for the succession. Yemen’s Ali Abdullah Saleh similarly is safeguarded by special forces commanded by sons and nephews.

Yet “the life span of a dynasty corresponds to the life span of an individual,” wrote Ibn Khaldun, the brilliant 14th-century Islamic historian-statesman. All these Arab “monarchies” have rested on the prestige of a religion (Saudi Wahhabism or Iranian Twelver Shiism), a personality (in Iran, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the founder of the revolution; in Hosni Mubarak’s Egypt, the memory of the most popular Arab ruler since Saladin, President Gamal Abdel Nasser; in Saudi Arabia, the founder-king Ibn Saud) or a heredity link (Jordan’s King Abdullah II’s descent from Muhammad). But “prestige…decays inevitably,” ruled Ibn Khaldun.…

The generational difference between…wizened pharaohs and the Twitter-obsessed youth worsened the [current] crisis, which may yet mark the end of the ancient paradigm of the Arab ruler, the wise strong sheik, el Rais, the Boss. A dictator who is regularly mocked by the young for his Goth-black dyed hair and surgically enhanced cheekbones, and whose entourage features as many nurses as generals, is in trouble—he has lost “the personal gift of grace.”

Such dictators are often so sclerotic that they do not even realize there is a revolution until it is upon them. In 1848, Prince Metternich, the Austrian chancellor, was so old that he literally could not hear the mobs outside his own palace. When the riots started, I imagine Colonel Qaddafi or King Hamad al-Khalifa of Bahrain had a conversation something like this one:

“So what is it? A riot?” asked King Louis XVI in Paris in 1789. “No, Sire,” replied his confidant La Rochefoucauld-Liancourt, “it is a revolution.”

Leaderless revolutions without organization have a magically spontaneous momentum that is harder to crush. Lenin had just reflected that the revolution would never happen in his lifetime when in February 1917, hungry crowds in Petrograd overthrew Nicholas II while the revolutionaries were abroad, exiled or infiltrated by the secret police.…

Once the crowds are in the streets, the ability to crush revolutions depends on the ruler’s willingness and ability to shed blood. The more moderate the regimes, like the Shah’s Iran in 1979 or Hosni Mubarak’s Egypt, the easier to overthrow. The more brutal the police state, like Colonel Qaddafi’s Libya, President Saleh’s Yemen or President Assad’s Syria, the tougher to bring down. Iran has brutally repressed its opposition—it helps to not be an American ally and to exclude the international news media, as it’s much easier to massacre your people without being restrained by the State Department or CNN.

“Very pleasing commencements,” wrote Edmund Burke, observer of the French Revolution’s spiral from freedom to terror, “have often shameful, lamentable conclusions.” Look at Lebanon’s Cedar Revolution against Syria and its ally Hezbollah, which has ended with a Syrian-backed, Hezbollah-dominated government. The first success of revolution creates the exuberant dizziness of democratic freedom that we saw in Cairo and Benghazi. In Europe in 1848, in Russia in 1917, there were similarly exhilarating springs.…

The [initial] fiesta does not last long. The disorder, uncertainty and strife of a revolution make citizens yearn for stable authority, or they turn to radicalism. Certainly, extremists welcome this deterioration, as Lenin, that laconic dean of the university of revolutionology, expressed it with the slogan: “The worse, the better.” (At that point, extreme solutions become more palatable: “How can one make a revolution without firing squads?” asked Lenin.)

At this stage, leadership becomes vital: Lenin personally drove the Bolshevik coup in October 1917. Khomeini was decisive in creating a Shiite theocracy in Iran in 1979 just as Nelson Mandela ensured a peaceful transition in South Africa. But there are no clear opposition leaders in Libya, Yemen or Syria: a ruthless security apparatus has long since decimated any such candidates.

In 1848, the democratic spring did not last long before outside intervention: Czar Nicholas I of Russia crushed the revolutions in the Habsburg Empire, earning him the soubriquet “the gendarme of Europe.” The Saudi intervention against Shiite rebels in Bahrain suggests the Saudis are the gendarmes of the Gulf; in Yemen, President Saleh has also begged for Saudi help, which they have so far withheld. In Libya, of course, the reverse has happened: the West is backing the rebels against Colonel Qaddafi’s onslaught. Each case is different; all revolutions are local.

Whatever happens next in the Arab world, it will not simply be a reversion to Mubarak-ish military pharaohism. After the upheavals of 1848, strange political hybrids, modern yet authoritarian, emerged from the uncertainty: first Louis-Napoleon Bonaparte, the so-called prince-president and later emperor, in France; and, later, in the 1860s, Otto von Bismarck in Prussia. In complex Egypt, the result of the Arab revolutions is likely to be a similar hybrid, a new democracy, with the military in a special role of Turkish-style guardianship; in repressed Libya, it may simply be a return to tribal rivalry.

Libya, strafed by British and American planes, may be in the headlines but it is a minor country.…

Lesser countries, however, can hold the key to major ones: Syria is the old Arab heartland. The uprising in Syria could encourage resurgent revolution in its patron, Iran, which faces the challenge of exploiting the uprisings that undermine American allies without succumbing to its own unrest. Change in Syria could also liberate Lebanon from Hezbollah; the fall of the Bahraini king could infect the Saudi monarchy—just as Nasser’s overthrow of King Farouk in 1952 in Egypt led to the liquidation of the Iraqi monarchy a few years later. And we should always remember that however liberal these Facebooking revolutions may be, the rivalries between Shiite and Sunni are far more potent than Twitter and democracy.…

No single American doctrine can or should fit this newly kaleidoscopic, multifaceted universe that is the Middle East from Iran to Morocco. We must realize this will be a long game, the grand tournament of the 21st century. We should protect innocent lives when we can—with limited airpower, not boots on the ground. We must analyze which countries matter to us strategically, and after the Facebook party dies down and the students exit the streets, figure out who is really controlling events in the places important to us.

The wisest judgments belong to statesmen who knew much about crushing and making revolutions. “Old Europe is at the beginning of the end,” reflected the ultraconservative Metternich as he was beset by revolutions, “but New Europe however has not yet even begun its existence, and between the End and the Beginning, there will be Chaos.” Lenin understood that the ultimate question in each revolution is always the unfathomable alchemy of power: who controls whom. Or as he put it so succinctly: “Who whom?”

 

THE SPEECH OBAMA HASN’T GIVEN
Peggy Noonan
Wall Street Journal, March 25, 2011

 

It all seems rather mad, doesn’t it? The decision to become involved militarily in the Libyan civil war couldn’t take place within a less hospitable context. The U.S. is reeling from spending and deficits, we’re already in two wars, our military has been stretched to the limit, we’re restive at home, and no one, really, sees President Obama as the kind of leader you’d follow over the top. “This way, men!” “No, I think I’ll stay in my trench.” People didn’t hire him to start battles but to end them. They didn’t expect him to open new fronts. Did he not know this?…

Which gets me to Mr. Obama’s speech, the one he hasn’t given. I cannot for the life of me see how an American president can launch a serious military action without a full and formal national address in which he explains to the American people why he is doing what he is doing, why it is right, and why it is very much in the national interest. He referred to his aims in parts of speeches and appearances when he was in South America, but now he’s home. More is needed, more is warranted, and more is deserved.…

Without a formal and extended statement, the air of weirdness, uncertainty and confusion that surrounds this endeavor will only deepen. The questions that must be answered actually start with the essentials. What, exactly, are we doing? Why are we doing it? At what point, or after what arguments, did the president decide U.S. military involvement was warranted? Is our objective practical and doable? What is America’s overriding strategic interest? In what way are the actions taken, and to be taken, seeing to those interests?

From those questions flow many others. We know who we’re against—Moammar Gadhafi, a bad man who’s done very wicked things. But do we know who we’re for? That is, what does the U.S. government know or think it knows about the composition and motives of the rebel forces we’re attempting to assist?…

What happens if Gadhafi hangs on? The president has said he wants U.S. involvement to be brief. But what if Gadhafi is fighting on three months from now? On the other hand, what happens if Gadhafi falls, if he’s deposed in a palace coup or military coup, or is killed, or flees? What exactly do we imagine will take his place?…

The U.S. and the allies will have to provide the rebels training and give them support. They will need antitank missiles and help in coordinating air strikes. Once Gadhafi is gone, will there be a need for an international peacekeeping force to stabilize the country, to provide a peaceful transition, and to help the post-Gadhafi government restore its infrastructure? Will there be a partition? Will Libyan territory be altered?

None of this sounds like limited and discrete action. In fact, this may turn out to be true: If Gadhafi survives, the crisis will go on and on. If Gadhafi falls, the crisis will go on and on.…

Mr. Obama has apparently set great store in the fact that he was not acting alone, that Britain, France and Italy were eager to move. That’s good—better to work with friends and act in concert. But it doesn’t guarantee anything. A multilateral mistake is still a mistake.…

And what, finally, about Congress? Putting aside the past half-century’s argument about declarations of war, doesn’t Congress, as representative of the people, have the obvious authority and responsibility to support the Libyan endeavor, or not, and to authorize funds, or not?…

America has been through a difficult 10 years, and the burden of proof on the need for U.S. action would be with those who supported intervention. Chief among them, of course, is the president, who made the decision as commander in chief. He needs to sit down and tell the American people how this thing can possibly turn out well. He needs to tell them why it isn’t mad.

 

OBAMA AND LIBYA: THE PROFESSOR’S WAR
Charles Krauthammer
Washington Post, March 24, 2011

 

President Obama is proud of how he put together the Libyan operation. A model of international cooperation. All the necessary paperwork. Arab League backing. A Security Council resolution. (Everything but a resolution from the Congress of the United States, a minor inconvenience for a citizen of the world.) It’s war as designed by an Ivy League professor.

True, it took three weeks to put this together, during which time Moammar Gaddafi went from besieged, delusional (remember those youthful protesters on “hallucinogenic pills”) thug losing support by the hour—to resurgent tyrant who marshaled his forces, marched them to the gates of Benghazi and had the U.S. director of national intelligence predicting that “the regime will prevail.”

But what is military initiative and opportunity compared with paper?…

Yet Obama deemed it a great diplomatic success that the [Arab League] deigned to permit others to fight and die to save fellow Arabs for whom 19 of 21 Arab states have yet to lift a finger.

And what about that brilliant U.N. resolution? Russia’s Vladimir Putin is already calling the Libya operation a medieval crusade. China is calling for a cease-fire in place—which would completely undermine the allied effort by leaving Gaddafi in power, his people at his mercy and the country partitioned and condemned to ongoing civil war. Brazil joined China in that call for a cease-fire. This just hours after Obama ended his fawning two-day Brazil visit. Another triumph of presidential personal diplomacy.

And how about NATO? Let’s see. As of this writing, Britain wanted the operation to be led by NATO. France adamantly disagreed, citing Arab sensibilities. Germany wanted no part of anything, going so far as to pull four of its ships from NATO command in the Mediterranean. Italy hinted it might deny the allies the use of its air bases if NATO can’t get its act together. France and Germany walked out of a NATO meeting on Monday, while Norway had planes in Crete ready to go but refused to let them fly until it had some idea who the hell is running the operation. And Turkey, whose prime minister four months ago proudly accepted the Gaddafi International Prize for Human Rights, has been particularly resistant to the Libya operation from the beginning.

And as for the United States, who knows what American policy is. Administration officials insist we are not trying to bring down Gaddafi, even as the president insists that he must go. Although on Tuesday Obama did add “unless he changes his approach.” Approach, mind you.

In any case, for Obama, military objectives take a back seat to diplomatic appearances. The president is obsessed with pretending that we are not running the operation—a dismaying expression of Obama’s view that his country is so tainted by its various sins that it lacks the moral legitimacy to…what? Save Third World people from massacre?

Obama seems equally obsessed with handing off the lead role. Hand off to whom? NATO? Quarreling amid Turkish resistance (see above), NATO still can’t agree on taking over command of the airstrike campaign, which is what has kept the Libyan rebels alive.

This confusion is purely the result of Obama’s decision to get America into the war and then immediately relinquish American command. Never modest about himself, Obama is supremely modest about his country. America should be merely “one of the partners among many,” he said Monday. No primus inter pares for him.… Yet at a time when the world is hungry for America to lead—no one has anything near our capabilities, experience and resources—America is led by a man determined that it should not.…

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.)

 

 

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.)

 

 

‘DEMOCRACY’ IN EGYPT INDUCES PALESTINIAN ELECTIONS—‘HAMASTAN’, PART II?

 

 

MUBARAK’S DEPARTURE OPENS THE WAY
TO A BIGGER CHALLENGE FOR EGYPT
David Frum
National Post, February 11, 2011

 

Egyptians are celebrating the fall of Hosni Mubarak. But we are not Egyptians. We are entitled to ask: What does this event mean for us? For Western interests? For peace in the Middle East? For the security of energy supplies? Western governments hope for a transition to an Egypt that is more democratic while still Western-oriented. But such a transition will not be easy to achieve.

Mubarak fell because he could not deliver prosperity to his people. Half the population of Egypt lives on $2 a day or less. Millions of Egyptians depend on state-subsidized bread. When Hosni Mubarak took power in 1981, the average Egyptian was 2.5 times richer than the average Chinese citizen. Today, the average Chinese is 50% richer than the average Egyptian.

Egypt has the largest population of unemployed university graduates in the Middle East. It is the world’s largest importer of grain: Sixty percent of the grain eaten in Egypt is purchased abroad, and at prices that have risen sharply since 2005. Egypt has lost the ability to feed itself in large part because the population has doubled since Mubarak took power in 1981—and quadrupled since 1950. Displaced peasants move to urban slums: Cairo’s population is estimated at some 17 million.

Disappointed by meager opportunities, these new city-dwellers turn for consolation to more intense forms of religion, which promise that Islamic government can deliver social justice. If Egypt’s new government does not deliver quick results, that Islamic message will gain appeal.…

To hold power, Egypt’s new democratizing government must do what Mubarak did not do: deliver quick economic benefits while accelerating long-term growth. Unfortunately, those two goals radically conflict with each other. Egypt is a heavily state-directed economy, led by inefficient state-owned industries, overseen by a bloated bureaucracy. Long-term growth demands that bureaucracy shrink and that industry be privatized. In the short run, however, those two economic reforms imply higher unemployment, especially for the university-educated.

Unemployment will bring discontent—and in a more democratic Egypt, governments will be less able than Mubarak’s police state to survive the protests of the discontented. Those rejoicing over the changes in Egypt should remember that other revolutions have inspired similar hopes. And they should remember what became of those hopes within a very few short months and years.

Edmund Burke foresaw it all 220 years ago. He observed the overthrow of another authoritarian regime, the French monarchy, and reflected prophetically on what he saw: “When I see the spirit of liberty in action, I see a strong principle at work; and this, for a while, is all I can possibly know of it. The wild gas, the fixed air, is plainly broke loose; but we ought to suspend our judgment…until we see something deeper than the agitation of a troubled and frothy surface. I must be tolerably sure, before I venture publicly to congratulate men upon a blessing, that they have really received one.… The effect of liberty to individuals is that they may do what they please; we ought to see what it will please them to do, before we risk congratulations which may be soon turned into complaints.”

If Egypt can move toward democracy while excluding from power the anti-democratic Islamic movements; if Egyptian defence and security services continue to co-operate with the United States; if Egypt honors the peace treaty with Israel; if Egypt protects and respects its Christian religious minority—then this revolution will truly be a liberation. But if an authoritarian government has given way to instability; if successor governments try to appease Islamism by breaking with the United States and persecuting Christians; if they connive with Hamas and abrogate the peace with Israel—then this revolution will show itself one of the great disasters in the history of the Middle East.

But the most likely course is also the most depressing: Egypt opens a little, then closes again. The regime tries to buy popularity by bloating the state sector. It emits nationalist noises against the United States and Israel, downgrading co-operation with former partners. Its foreign policy pivots away from the West and toward Turkey and Iran. In this scenario, Egypt’s future would resemble its Nasserist past: exploiting nationalism to justify authoritarianism. The new dawn will yield to the old twilight.

 

EGYPT’S MUSLIM BROTHERHOOD?
GAZA’S HAMAS? LEBANON’S HEZBOLLAH?
DALAL MUGHRABI PROVES FATAH IS NO DIFFERENT!
Moshe Phillips

NewsRealBlog, February 14, 2011

 

Much ink has been spilled over the last several weeks over questions about the Muslim Brotherhood. How powerful is it? How extreme is it? How dangerous is the group? Are they sponsors of terrorism? No doubt now that Mubarak has relinquished power these questions will continue to be debated. And let’s be clear, these are vitally important questions for Egypt, for the U.S. for Israel and for the entire Middle East.

But, the things being asked about Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood must be asked about [Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’] Fatah Party as well. They should have been asked a long time ago.

Fatah is the largest component of the PLO. It was led by Yasser Arafat until his death in 2004.… Fatah is the Palestinian entity that the U.S. State Department groomed for leadership of the Arabs in Judea and Samaria (the West Bank) beginning in 1988 when Arafat supposedly renounced terrorism.

We are expected to believe that Fatah is different. We are told to believe that the PLO has changed. There are just a few problems with that—the big one being that they really have not changed. The Palestine National Covenant continues to call for the destruction of Israel and Zionism.…

When Mubarak’s predecessor Sadat forged ahead and negotiated with Israel, Fatah struggled to find a way to stop the negotiations. They chose violence. Violence against non-military Israeli targets.… Fatah sent a unit of its terrorists into the heart of Israel. On a quiet coastal road north of Tel Aviv they hijacked a bus full of civilians. On that terrible day of violence and terror 38 were murdered. Thirteen were children; 77 were injured. The first victim was an American citizen named Gail Rubin.

Dalal Mughrabi, the female leader of the terrorists, shot Rubin in the head at point blank range.… Rubin was a nature photographer from New York and she was taking pictures on the beach when [Mughrabi] found her. She was 39 years old.…

That was March 11, 1978. It was the deadliest attack against civilians in Israel’s history up to that time.… In the intervening decades, the attack was seldom mentioned in the world media. But Fatah never forgot it. They never forgot their hero Dalal. They turned her into a martyr.

In 2010 the Palestinian Authority government named a town square in El Bireh after this murderer. In Jericho, a summer program for students was named for her. Just last week the U.N. was exposed for supporting Fatah’s efforts to honor Mughrabi.

But no matter what Fatah does, Israel and the U.S. seek to keep them at the center of Arab-Israeli politics. Of course Fatah is very different than Hamas.… But that does not mean they don’t share many common goals. And the destruction of Israel is the most important one of those goals.…

This State Department game (that too many successive Israel governments have participated in) of pretending that Fatah will ever be a peace partner must end. Fatah remains what it has always been, a violent criminal organization with a Nazi-like hatred for Jews at its core. The United States undertook a policy of de-Nazification in Europe after World War II to insure that its victory would not be in vain.… It is past time for the de-Fatahification work to begin.

 

HARD TO TAKE PALESTINIAN ELECTION PLAN SERIOUSLY
Jonathan S. Tobin
Commentary Blog, February 13, 2011

 

Hard on the heels of the fall of Egypt’s Mubarak, another Arab authoritarian is trying to pretend to be a democratic leader. The Palestinian Authority announced on Saturday that it planned to hold presidential and parliamentary elections by September. That sounds nice, but those expecting a flowering of Palestinian democracy shouldn’t hold their collective breath.

After all, it is the Palestinians who have proved as much as anyone that there is more to democracy than holding an election. Palestinian Authority elections in the past never meant much since the candidates—and the results—were controlled by the ruling Fatah Party. But when Hamas, a terrorist group that is just as anti-democratic and even more violent than Fatah, contested the 2006 parliamentary ballot, the result was a Hamas victory. For the next year, the two sides co-existed uneasily until Hamas seized control of Gaza in a bloody coup.

The reaction of Hamas to the PA’s announcement yesterday was a declaration that such a vote was illegitimate, since the PA government has been holding onto power for years after Mahmoud Abbas’s presidential term expired. They’re right about that, but the PA’s rule in the West Bank is no more illegitimate than that of Hamas in Gaza.

It is anybody’s guess as to which of these two groups of terrorists is more popular in the West Bank, but the idea that any race that pitted them against each other would be in any way democratic is a joke. But whatever the outcome of such a vote (assuming one ever happens), a push for more voting is not what is needed if the long-term goal is the creation of a democratic and peaceful Palestinian Arab government.

As hard as it will be to create space for genuine democrats in Egypt between the military on the one side and the threat of the Muslim Brotherhood on the other, there is even less room for a Facebook/Twitter revolution among the Palestinians. Palestinian political culture remains stuck in an endless loop of anti-Israel hate and lust for terrorist violence. The only players that offer something really different, such as the economic development plans put forward by PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, are, like Fayyad, popular in the West but have no real following of their own. It is only the people with the guns who count in Palestinian politics.

Both the United States and Israel ought to encourage and, where possible, support the creation of democratic institutions in Palestinian society so as to lay the groundwork for a theoretical sea change in which peace could become possible. But yet another Palestinian election contested by terrorist gunmen and their fronts won’t bring them any closer to democracy.

 

FOR VALID ELECTIONS
Editorial

Jerusalem Post, February 13, 2011

 

The ripple effects of Hosni Mubarak’s ouster over the weekend are being felt all over the region. The message being sent out from Tahrir Square is that Mideast leaders who want to stay in power must garner legitimacy through a fair, democratic election process.…

In response, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, anxious to shore up legitimacy for Fatah leadership, announced on Saturday, just one day after Mubarak stepped down, that the PA would hold presidential and parliamentary elections as early as September. Abbas hopes, apparently, to learn from Mubarak’s mistake and receive a new mandate from the people.

But that will be easier said than done. Hamas, which forcibly took away control of the Gaza Strip from the PA in 2007 after winning the 2006 Palestinian parliamentary elections, has announced that it will boycott such elections, already therefore robbing a Fatah victory of any real significance.

Dr. Nabil Kukali, director-general of the Palestinian Center for Public Opinion, says Hamas opposes elections right now because it is afraid of losing.… Still, it is not at all clear that Kukali’s assessment is up to date. In recent weeks the PA has suffered a drop in popularity. Though there was nothing terribly new in the “Palestine Papers,” this trove of classified documents was tendentiously leaked by Al-Jazeera as “proof” that the Palestinian negotiating team had “caved in” to Israeli demands by recognizing a few Jewish neighborhoods in parts of east Jerusalem or by showing some flexibility on the Palestinian refugees’ right of return. It is not at all clear, therefore, that Fatah would win elections against Hamas, particularly in the West Bank.

Regardless of which of the two is more popular, however, it would be a mistake to rush headlong into elections again right now anyway. Among the Palestinians, precisely as among the Egyptians, premature elections will not be sufficient to establish a stable democracy.

In the West Bank, Fatah thugs continue to arrest and intimidate Hamas-affiliated activists. Hamas is doing the same to Fatah members in Gaza. Neither in the West Bank nor in Gaza is there freedom of the press or freedom of assembly (when dozens of Palestinians tried to stage an anti-Mubarak rally in Ramallah last week, PA security forces used force to disperse them). The court systems in both areas are far from fair-handed, and the official education systems continue to incite against Israel. In both places, “fear societies” continue to exist, where voters will simply choose whichever of the two violent factions they think will protect them best.

Violently controlled by Hamas, Gaza appears to be a lost cause for the near future. But as in post-Mubarak Egypt, the Abbas-led PA has an opportunity to deepen the process of democratic institution building and to create the genuinely free climate, which are the prerequisites to a truly democratic election.

This should be the Palestinians’ lesson from the events that led to Mubarak’s ouster. Succeeding would send an invaluable message to the people of Gaza that there is an…alternative to Hamas.