Egypt is in crisis. A full scale civil war in Egypt could be the spark that sets the entire region on fire. The tinder for this potentiality is the Muslim Brotherhood, unwilling, after decades in the political wilderness, to give up easily. The Brotherhood has tentacles throughout the region and will no doubt call upon support from surrogates.
The Egyptian Brotherhood now states they are “defending Islam”. No mention of defending Egypt. Defending Islam is a clarion call to the region, not to be dismissed. ‘Defensive Jihad’ is, in Islamic law, a call for all Muslims to rally to the defense of Muslim lands. The Quran demands armed struggle in the cause of defensive Jihad. If the call for defensive Jihad is taken up around the region it may begin as a civil war but it will spread. Brotherhood positioning in defense of ‘Islam’ is well considered, in hopes of the appropriate reaction and a flow of resources. In the keep hope alive department, Islam while perceived as stringent, and it is, has always been ‘flexible’ in the moment, when political issues dominate and the potential for a ‘safer’ interpretation serves situational demands upon the Clerics.
Commentators, Left and Right observe that what we say and do is not having much of an effect; a case of our recent penchant for delivering politically correct and yet contradictory messages. Russia is the counterpoint to nebulous, contradictory American messages. The Russian commitment to Iran and Syria is unapologetic; there is no question that Russian policy carries the weight of action and is fully self interested. Talking and Walking are two different things. Speeches do not ‘reset’ the Middle East.
Beitbart News reports that Egypt is sending a diplomatic mission to Russia. The opportunity for Putin to poke the U.S. in the eye with Egypt will be too sweet to pass up. Egypt won’t be lost in the streets; it will be lost in the haze of shifting American pronouncements towards Egypt; firm, consistent policy absent. Honest recognition of what the Brotherhood represents is absent as well, despite the evidence of MB intentions demonstrated over decades. Morsi used a democratic election to deconstruct the very institutions that democracy depends upon. Were the U.S. to have publically attempted to bring Morsi to heel early in his administration we might not be seeing the violence that is now a fact of life for Egypt and could be for some time to come.
A coup d’être is not a coup d’être! That message spoke of support for the Egyptian military and the interim government. Knowing the Brotherhood better than anyone, the Military knew that harsh measures would be necessary to get things under control with the implied support of the American government; a coup d’être is not a coup d’être. But wait, we now decry what they do when what they do was based, in some measure, on our implied support. Support was just so, two weeks ago. Confused? You should be!
We speak to Democracy, but for decades and currently we’ve supported dictators of one color or another; Assad, Mubarak, Saddam, the Saudis and the Shah, all the lesser of evils. Problem is that even the lesser of evils is evil. Democratic ‘elections’ in the Middle East have led to Hamas being in control of Gaza, Iranian influence prevailing in Iraq and the Muslim Brotherhood elected in Egypt. There has not been another election in Gaza since Hamas took control and there would not have been one in Egypt with the MB in control; one man, one vote, one time. The reality is that Democracy in the Middle East is nothing more than a political means to an end supported by Western blindness. The closest you get to a label for Islamist governing philosophy in a Western context is Fascism; the parallels are undeniable.
Not complicated enough? Al Qaeda is, seemingly, all of a sudden to some, active everywhere and surprisingly not ‘on the run’: Libya, the Sinai, Gaza, Syria, Yemen, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Lebanon. Al Qaeda flags are present in Cairo as well. Turkey is an uncertain ally. Iran continues on the nuclear path. Qatar after initially supporting the Egyptian Brotherhood is now under severe pressure from Saudi Arabia as they require Saudi support against their own Islamist insurgency. Sectarian combat in Iraq escalates. Reports have up to 400 MANPAD surface to air missiles ‘missing’ from Libya.
Still not complicated enough? Should the Suez Canal comes under Islamist control you can expect Iran to get frisky with the Straits of Hormuz. Russia will offer Egypt whatever they want and U.S. noise about cutting off aid will turn to being pressured to increase it, as the Middle East looks at one more U.S. inconsistency. Russia won’t care much about the canal or the Straits; increases in oil prices help as Russian oil is carried by pipelines.
The best the U.S. can do at this point is a combination of quietly increasing aid to the interim government and the military, including humanitarian aid. The U.S. needs to use best efforts to keep non Egyptian players out of the game, especially Russia. The administration should avoid public statements in the interest of ‘sensitive discussions’. The message to Russia needs to be; “get involved in Egypt and we’re done for the foreseeable future.” Situations like this is when the true value of our Israeli allies come into play, they will know what is what and who is who. They have and will keep an eye on Suez.
he Brotherhood in their short time in office demonstrated distinctly totalitarian instincts as do all Islamist ‘governments’. How does that serve U.S. Interests? We saw the same in Syria; too much rhetoric, not enough thoughtful consideration. The choice is Assad on the one hand or al Qaeda and the Brotherhood on the other.
We’ve had our issues dealing with what we believed to be the lesser of evils, how will we do with the greater of them???