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Mon, Aug 20, 2012 | RubinReports | By Barry Rubin

A supporter of Egypt’s first Islamist President Mohamed Mursi cheers with a poster of Mursi at Tahrir Square in Cairo (Photo: Reuters)

A short history of democracy in Egypt. In February 2011, the Mubarak regime fell. There was going to be a parliament elected in Egypt. The parliament was elected. Its election was invalidated. Today there is no parliament in Egypt.

The Muslim Brotherhood said it would want to run one-third of the candidates for seats. Then they ran one-half. Then they ran all. Then they said they would not run a president. Then they did and elected a president. And they and the Salafists elected 70 percent of the parliament. But now there is no parliament.

The parliament was going to pick a constituent assembly to write a constitution. But now there is no constitution. There are no restrictions on presidential powers.

And then there was a Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, but that was supposed to restrain the Muslim Brotherhood president. And it was supposed to be restrained by the Egypt-Israel peace treaty and by the hope of getting U.S. military aid. But the president got rid of it and fired the two top people and put in his own generals. And there is no restraint.

And we were told that the Egyptian government had promised to adhere to the Egypt-Israel peace treaty. But when it wished, the regime simply violated the treaty and sent forces into the eastern Sinai. And it announced an alliance with Hamas, which openly declared its desire to go to war with Israel and destroy it. And Cairo did not demur.

The Egyptian regime did more economic damage to Israel by violating its contract on natural gas shipments than any other Arab regime in the history of the country because Israel had to spend billions of dollars replacing that lost fuel. That is why Israeli taxes are going up and social spending must decline. The U.S. government did not lift a finger to help.

The entire Israeli strategic plan has had to be altered to add a new defensive front along the border with Egypt. New units will be organized; new fences built; new equipment ordered and paid for.

Saad Eddin Ibrahim, arguably the Arab world’s leading sociologist and certainly the leading advocate of a liberal-Islamist alliance against the old Arab military regimes, has now totally changed sides, warning that the Islamists want to hijack power and establish dictatorships. He pleads for Westerners to wake up.

Egyptian President al-Mursi has now named the heads of the main Egyptian newspapers, radio stations, and television networks. They include sleaze balls that sold out to the Mubarak regime and will do whatever he tells them and supporters of Islamism. The first roundups have begun of reporters who are too bold and honest in their investigations. The walls are closing in.

Soon the generals will be replaced; soon the judges will be replaced, and so too will be the diplomats. In other words, the internal and external bureaucracy of Egypt’s government will become transformed. The old national security considerations will change.

The next stop is the court system, where plans are being made already to eliminate judges. True, there were many corrupt jurists, but there was no institution in Egypt where there were more courageous individuals and advocates of democracy. But that’s the problem. The very integrity that made these men stand up against Mubarak will make them do the same against the Brotherhood and they will not enforce Sharia law. Their vote against the parliamentary result was a warning. They will soon be ousted.

An upcoming conference of pro-Islamist judges will recommend massive retirements; the new constitution, written by Islamists, will weaken the courts against Sharia as interpreted by Islamic clerics. The Brotherhood will take over al-Azhar University and appoint one of its men as chief qadi (Muslim judicial official). They will get into control of the religious endowments. Within a year, Egypt will be fundamentally transformed. Irretrievably transformed.

Consider what this means in foreign policy.

Current Egyptian Strategic Assessment (End of Mubarak Regime) Main threat: Revolutionary Islamism in the form of Muslim Brotherhood, Salafists, al-Qaida, and Hizballah.

MAIN THREAT (End 2012): ISRAEL, MODERATE ARAB STATES.

Competing local leadership 2011: Shia Islamism in form of Iran-led alliance, including Syria and Hizballah

Competing local leadership 2012: COMPETING SHIA ISLAMISTS IN HIZBALLAH, SYRIAN REGIME, IRAN, TO SOME EXTENT IN IRAQ AND BAHRAIN

– Arab allies 2011: Saudi Arabia and Jordan. Egypt wanted to help against Iran and Jordanian Muslim Brotherhood.

ARAB ALLIES 2012: HAMAS, MUSLIM BROTHERHOOD IN JORDAN, SYRIA, TUNISIA, LIBYA, ETC. Will get along with Saudis if give money and don’t interfere.

– Israel 2011: Dislikes but understands it shares common interests in battling Islamists of both Brotherhood-Hamas and Iran-Syria varieties as well as al-Qaida. Keep Hamas under control to avoid war and violence along border.

ISRAEL 2012: WIPE OFF MAP POSSIBLY INCLUDING WAR BUT CERTAINLY SUBVERSION AND TERRORISM CAN BE USED AGAINST IT; ALL ISLAMIST AND ARAB FORCES SHOULD BE MOBILIZED; AND ANY NEGOTIATED SOLUTION BLOCKED

Overall posture 2011: Minimize Egypt’s role in regional affairs to be left alone and focus on survival and development.

Overall posture 2012: Maximize Egypt’s internal transformation into an Islamist state and change of all institutions including army. Take leadership over Gaza. Tunisia. If possible Libya can be senior partner to Syrian Islamist regime. Brush aside Turkish influence. Minimize Iranian influence in Arab and Sunni spheres.

U.S. 2011: Though will use anti-American demagoguery periodically, the alliance with America is important as source of military, economic, and strategic support. They have common friends, enemies, and common goals, seek regional stability and defeat of radical forces.

U.S. 2012: Get along with U.S. if low-cost and can get aid easily, but don’t let Washington get away with interfering with regime goals. Reduce U.S. influence in Egypt and demonize those friendly to America. Undercut U.S.-Israel cooperation. Defy U.S. on Gaza.


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