Misconception or Betrayal? The U.S., Egypt, and Iran

The similarities between Iran and Egypt concerning U.S. policy are disconcerting.  Is Egypt repeating the 1979 Iranian revolution, led by religious preaching against authoritarian friend of the U.S., the shah, resulting in an Islamic theocracy?  Will the Islamic theocracy led by the Muslim Brotherhood win, or will the military keep its political power?  

At the beginning, the U.S. supported the shah in Iran and Mubarak in Egypt overtly, but pressured them to democratize and liberalize the regimes covertly.  Both the shah and Mubarak declined, claiming of outside (the communists) and inside (the Muslim Brotherhood) threats, respectively.

The politics of Islamic disguise (Taqiyah)

Both branches of the Muslim Brotherhood brilliantly practiced Islamic Taqiyah to hide their real intentions and political ambitions amidst the mass uprisings.  During his exile, when Khomeini was under the glare of the international media, his declarations were mild and non-aggressive.  He understood what the U.S. wanted to hear, and promised a more responsive democratic government.  Not once before his return to Iran did he mention his ideology and perceptions, and the media and political leaders, led by a policy of ignorance, found him appealing and moderate.

The U.S. ambassador, William Sullivan, wrote that Khomeini would work well with army officers.  Professor Richard Falk in the New York Times argued that Khomeini, surrounded by moderate politicians, had a "notable record of concern for human rights."

This is exactly the situation in Egypt concerning the MB words and activities [i].  Its step-by-step plan, as developed by its Charter [ii], is phony moderation, a pragmatic facade, which will vanish as its power increases.  Its acceptance of the existing situation will be replaced by Muslim rule whose foreign policy is based on jihad.

However, "experts" in the media have concertedly representing the MB as benign, unpopular, and marginal.  The MB's tactical absence from the protests in the streets of Cairo has been widely misread as proof of their lack of political ambition and marginality.  Indeed, this is the best Taqiyah.  The MB are the most powerful organized political group in Egypt, dedicated and committed to death-cult jihad: the Egyptian people "should be prepared for war against Israel ... the peace treaty must be cancelled," said Muhammad Ghanem[iii].  This attitude reiterated by Mahdi Akef, former MB Supreme Guide [iv], and Rashad al-Bayoumi, MB deputy [v].  For Muhammad Badi, "the improvement and change the Muslim nation seeks can only be attained through Jihad and sacrifice, by raising a Jihadi generation that pursues death, just as the enemies pursue life"[vi].

The U.S. perspective

The climax of U.S. failures in the Middle East was Carter's policy in Iran in 1979.  He described Khomeini as Gandhi, as a human rights reformer, and gave him millions of dollars.  In contrast, he tossed out the shah like a plague corpse or a dead rat.  Yet, the U.S. does not learn even from its own failures.  Obama's betrayal of Mubarak is even worse.  If the Egyptian military regime falls, Obama will bear the major responsibility for the chaos in Egypt and the whole Middle East.  His appeasing and apologizing policy has deteriorated U.S. prestige and image in the world, and invites radical players with expansionist agendas like Iran's to fill the vacuum.

White House press secretary Robert Gibbs issued an implicit threat that the Egyptian government had to address the "legitimate grievances" of the Egyptian people immediately otherwise, the U.S. will be reviewing its foreign aid.  Obama demands that Mubarak step aside, without clear insight into who will assume power in Egypt.  The White House staff members "made clear that they did not rule out engagement with the MB as part of an orderly process."  A secret document sent from the U.S. Embassy in Cairo discloses the extent of American support for the protesters [vii].  Like the shah, Mubarak is considered a "dead man walking," and is expected to fly into exile.

Outcomes: the reversal

In Iran, leftist and other secular forces were duped and then outflanked by Islamist supporters of Komeini.  Ambassador Sullivan recommended working with Mehdi Bazargan, Khomeini's candidate as prime minister, instead of Shaphur Bakhtiar, the shah's appointee.  Within eight months, Khomeini threw out Bazargan, and appointed a new government more reflected the Islamic revolution.

In Egypt, the West sees Mohamed ElBaradei, as an interim president to replace Mubarak.  However, without popular support, he could easily be toppled by the MB once it is more securely in power.

What Mubarak and the shah both failed to understand is never to make concessions when one is weak, because it just increases the appetite for more concessions.  What the U.S. has not understood is that its pressures are disastrous, since they encourage the opposition to believe that the regime has lost its legitimacy and support on the international arena.  The most dangerous analogy between Iran in 1979 and Egypt in 2011 is how the dangers of a new radical Islamic regime are deeply misunderstood.  Cairo 2011 is more likely to become Tehran 1979 than Berlin 1989, and the big question remains: would Obama even care if Egypt becomes another Iran?  

David Bukay, Ph.D. is  at the School of Political Science, the University of Haifa.

[i] Mohamed Morsy, the MB's spokesman, to CNN: http://parkerspitzer.blogs.cnn.com/2011/02/03/muslim-brotherhood-against-violence/

[ii] http://www.ikhwanonline.com/Data/2007/5/21/البرنامج%20الانتخابي%20للشوري%202007.pdf

[iii] http://www.memritv.org/clip/en/2787.htm

[iv] http://www.ikhwanweb.com/article.php?id=14768

[v] http://en.rian.ru/world/20110203/162433368.html

[vi] http://memri.convio.net/site/R?i=eFiCOrbXcu4Pvt1UtxmWww.., September 23, 2009; March 18, 2010; April 15, 2010, June 1, 2010.

[vii] http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/africaandindianocean/egypt/8289698/Egypt-protests-secret-US-document-discloses-support-for-protesters.html


The similarities between Iran and Egypt concerning U.S. policy are disconcerting.  Is Egypt repeating the 1979 Iranian revolution, led by religious preaching against authoritarian friend of the U.S., the shah, resulting in an Islamic theocracy?  Will the Islamic theocracy led by the Muslim Brotherhood win, or will the military keep its political power?  

At the beginning, the U.S. supported the shah in Iran and Mubarak in Egypt overtly, but pressured them to democratize and liberalize the regimes covertly.  Both the shah and Mubarak declined, claiming of outside (the communists) and inside (the Muslim Brotherhood) threats, respectively.

The politics of Islamic disguise (Taqiyah)

Both branches of the Muslim Brotherhood brilliantly practiced Islamic Taqiyah to hide their real intentions and political ambitions amidst the mass uprisings.  During his exile, when Khomeini was under the glare of the international media, his declarations were mild and non-aggressive.  He understood what the U.S. wanted to hear, and promised a more responsive democratic government.  Not once before his return to Iran did he mention his ideology and perceptions, and the media and political leaders, led by a policy of ignorance, found him appealing and moderate.

The U.S. ambassador, William Sullivan, wrote that Khomeini would work well with army officers.  Professor Richard Falk in the New York Times argued that Khomeini, surrounded by moderate politicians, had a "notable record of concern for human rights."

This is exactly the situation in Egypt concerning the MB words and activities [i].  Its step-by-step plan, as developed by its Charter [ii], is phony moderation, a pragmatic facade, which will vanish as its power increases.  Its acceptance of the existing situation will be replaced by Muslim rule whose foreign policy is based on jihad.

However, "experts" in the media have concertedly representing the MB as benign, unpopular, and marginal.  The MB's tactical absence from the protests in the streets of Cairo has been widely misread as proof of their lack of political ambition and marginality.  Indeed, this is the best Taqiyah.  The MB are the most powerful organized political group in Egypt, dedicated and committed to death-cult jihad: the Egyptian people "should be prepared for war against Israel ... the peace treaty must be cancelled," said Muhammad Ghanem[iii].  This attitude reiterated by Mahdi Akef, former MB Supreme Guide [iv], and Rashad al-Bayoumi, MB deputy [v].  For Muhammad Badi, "the improvement and change the Muslim nation seeks can only be attained through Jihad and sacrifice, by raising a Jihadi generation that pursues death, just as the enemies pursue life"[vi].

The U.S. perspective

The climax of U.S. failures in the Middle East was Carter's policy in Iran in 1979.  He described Khomeini as Gandhi, as a human rights reformer, and gave him millions of dollars.  In contrast, he tossed out the shah like a plague corpse or a dead rat.  Yet, the U.S. does not learn even from its own failures.  Obama's betrayal of Mubarak is even worse.  If the Egyptian military regime falls, Obama will bear the major responsibility for the chaos in Egypt and the whole Middle East.  His appeasing and apologizing policy has deteriorated U.S. prestige and image in the world, and invites radical players with expansionist agendas like Iran's to fill the vacuum.

White House press secretary Robert Gibbs issued an implicit threat that the Egyptian government had to address the "legitimate grievances" of the Egyptian people immediately otherwise, the U.S. will be reviewing its foreign aid.  Obama demands that Mubarak step aside, without clear insight into who will assume power in Egypt.  The White House staff members "made clear that they did not rule out engagement with the MB as part of an orderly process."  A secret document sent from the U.S. Embassy in Cairo discloses the extent of American support for the protesters [vii].  Like the shah, Mubarak is considered a "dead man walking," and is expected to fly into exile.

Outcomes: the reversal

In Iran, leftist and other secular forces were duped and then outflanked by Islamist supporters of Komeini.  Ambassador Sullivan recommended working with Mehdi Bazargan, Khomeini's candidate as prime minister, instead of Shaphur Bakhtiar, the shah's appointee.  Within eight months, Khomeini threw out Bazargan, and appointed a new government more reflected the Islamic revolution.

In Egypt, the West sees Mohamed ElBaradei, as an interim president to replace Mubarak.  However, without popular support, he could easily be toppled by the MB once it is more securely in power.

What Mubarak and the shah both failed to understand is never to make concessions when one is weak, because it just increases the appetite for more concessions.  What the U.S. has not understood is that its pressures are disastrous, since they encourage the opposition to believe that the regime has lost its legitimacy and support on the international arena.  The most dangerous analogy between Iran in 1979 and Egypt in 2011 is how the dangers of a new radical Islamic regime are deeply misunderstood.  Cairo 2011 is more likely to become Tehran 1979 than Berlin 1989, and the big question remains: would Obama even care if Egypt becomes another Iran?  

David Bukay, Ph.D. is  at the School of Political Science, the University of Haifa.

[i] Mohamed Morsy, the MB's spokesman, to CNN: http://parkerspitzer.blogs.cnn.com/2011/02/03/muslim-brotherhood-against-violence/

[ii] http://www.ikhwanonline.com/Data/2007/5/21/البرنامج%20الانتخابي%20للشوري%202007.pdf

[iii] http://www.memritv.org/clip/en/2787.htm

[iv] http://www.ikhwanweb.com/article.php?id=14768

[v] http://en.rian.ru/world/20110203/162433368.html

[vi] http://memri.convio.net/site/R?i=eFiCOrbXcu4Pvt1UtxmWww.., September 23, 2009; March 18, 2010; April 15, 2010, June 1, 2010.

[vii] http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/africaandindianocean/egypt/8289698/Egypt-protests-secret-US-document-discloses-support-for-protesters.html


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