They're in Tahrir Square Again

Richard N. Weltz
The crowds are out again in Cairo's Tahrir Square. Egypt's military has dissolved the newly-elected Parliament -- which consisted mostly of members of the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood -- and has taken full power, including the exclusive power to make laws.

The results of the presidential election have not yet been made public, and there's much arguing back and forth about who the winner is between the generals and the Brotherhood.

Meanwhile, according to the New York Times, President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton continue to cozy up to the Muslim Brotherhood:

A State Department official, speaking on the condition of anonymity under diplomatic protocol, said that in recent days American diplomats had heard alarm about the prospect of a military takeover from their contacts with the Brotherhood. (The United States has cultivated closer ties as the Brotherhood approached power.)

*     *     *

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton publicly urged this week that the generals complete their promised exit, and administration officials said others had privately delivered the same message as well. Congress has made the $1.3 billion in annual American aid contingent on steps toward democracy.

Once again, it appears that this administration is backing the wrong horse in the Middle East, particularly in Egypt, where it loudly called for the ouster of Mubarak.  This resulted in the urban secular rioters of Tahrir Square ending up as "fronts" for the Muslim Brotherhood. This enabled the Brotherhood to take control of the Parliament and run a candidate for the presidency -- both goals which it had denied that it would seek.

Now, when the smoke clears, it seem apparent that Egypt is going right back to square one -- a military dictatorship, much the same as it had before the so-called Arab Spring protests. For the US, and for Israel, a stable rule by the military is much preferable to a régime of Islamists -- and our allies in the region know it:

At the same time, administration officials worry that America's regional allies - Israel, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates - have taken the opposite tack, and are supporting a crackdown in Egypt, said Jonathan Alterman, director of the Middle East program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. "There's a deep feeling among a lot of people in Egypt and elsewhere that the U.S. is naïve about the Brotherhood," he said.

If those allies are "supporting a crackdown," it is because they realize that their interests will be far better served by a stable, experienced, military government than by one run by religious fanatics. And they are surely savvy enough to realize that any sort of real democracy is not a possible alternative in any foreseeable time frame. The professionals, students, entrepreneurs, and techies who did most the rioting that resulted in the Mubarak government's fall are concentrated in urban areas; but they are outnumbered by the lower classes of Giza and the rural vastness of Lower Egypt, where the Muslim Brotherhood holds numerical sway.

The MB, of course, tries to assert itself by standing behind the democracy-demanding young seculars to form a large enough coalition to exert power and pressure; but when they do succeed, they sell out the seculars immediately, as we have seen. In any case, the military will not cede power; and it is they who have the troops and tanks.

On the other hand, my Cairo source has sources he considers reliable who advise that British and US Intelligence are working behind the scenes with Egyptian Intelligence (a first-rate service) to ensure an outcome keeping the military in control -- and that the demands by Obama and Hill for "democracy" are no more than a sham of words designed to sound good for the American voter.

In a subsequent article, the Times states:

"As the beginning of a transition to democracy, it is a disaster," said Omar Ashour, a political scientist at the University of Exeter and the Brookings Doha Center, who is here in Cairo. But, he added, the disaster began the day before the presidential runoff, when the military dissolved the Brotherhood-led Parliament and seized legislative power.

"The generals have their fingers on the reset button if they don't like the outcome," Mr. Ashour said. While the Brotherhood may have more legitimacy and the ability to bring hundreds of thousands into the streets, "the generals have the guns and tanks and armored vehicles," he said. "We are playing realpolitik at the moment."

Right now, the only thing certain is that the situation in Egypt is in a state of chaotic flux, but I am betting my dollar that the end result will be military rule, a régime much more favorable to the US, Israel, and other region allies than would be control by the Islamist Brotherhood, which is, at heart, a fanatic organization closely allied with other terrorism-practicing groups such as Hamas.



The crowds are out again in Cairo's Tahrir Square. Egypt's military has dissolved the newly-elected Parliament -- which consisted mostly of members of the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood -- and has taken full power, including the exclusive power to make laws.

The results of the presidential election have not yet been made public, and there's much arguing back and forth about who the winner is between the generals and the Brotherhood.

Meanwhile, according to the New York Times, President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton continue to cozy up to the Muslim Brotherhood:

A State Department official, speaking on the condition of anonymity under diplomatic protocol, said that in recent days American diplomats had heard alarm about the prospect of a military takeover from their contacts with the Brotherhood. (The United States has cultivated closer ties as the Brotherhood approached power.)

*     *     *

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton publicly urged this week that the generals complete their promised exit, and administration officials said others had privately delivered the same message as well. Congress has made the $1.3 billion in annual American aid contingent on steps toward democracy.

Once again, it appears that this administration is backing the wrong horse in the Middle East, particularly in Egypt, where it loudly called for the ouster of Mubarak.  This resulted in the urban secular rioters of Tahrir Square ending up as "fronts" for the Muslim Brotherhood. This enabled the Brotherhood to take control of the Parliament and run a candidate for the presidency -- both goals which it had denied that it would seek.

Now, when the smoke clears, it seem apparent that Egypt is going right back to square one -- a military dictatorship, much the same as it had before the so-called Arab Spring protests. For the US, and for Israel, a stable rule by the military is much preferable to a régime of Islamists -- and our allies in the region know it:

At the same time, administration officials worry that America's regional allies - Israel, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates - have taken the opposite tack, and are supporting a crackdown in Egypt, said Jonathan Alterman, director of the Middle East program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. "There's a deep feeling among a lot of people in Egypt and elsewhere that the U.S. is naïve about the Brotherhood," he said.

If those allies are "supporting a crackdown," it is because they realize that their interests will be far better served by a stable, experienced, military government than by one run by religious fanatics. And they are surely savvy enough to realize that any sort of real democracy is not a possible alternative in any foreseeable time frame. The professionals, students, entrepreneurs, and techies who did most the rioting that resulted in the Mubarak government's fall are concentrated in urban areas; but they are outnumbered by the lower classes of Giza and the rural vastness of Lower Egypt, where the Muslim Brotherhood holds numerical sway.

The MB, of course, tries to assert itself by standing behind the democracy-demanding young seculars to form a large enough coalition to exert power and pressure; but when they do succeed, they sell out the seculars immediately, as we have seen. In any case, the military will not cede power; and it is they who have the troops and tanks.

On the other hand, my Cairo source has sources he considers reliable who advise that British and US Intelligence are working behind the scenes with Egyptian Intelligence (a first-rate service) to ensure an outcome keeping the military in control -- and that the demands by Obama and Hill for "democracy" are no more than a sham of words designed to sound good for the American voter.

In a subsequent article, the Times states:

"As the beginning of a transition to democracy, it is a disaster," said Omar Ashour, a political scientist at the University of Exeter and the Brookings Doha Center, who is here in Cairo. But, he added, the disaster began the day before the presidential runoff, when the military dissolved the Brotherhood-led Parliament and seized legislative power.

"The generals have their fingers on the reset button if they don't like the outcome," Mr. Ashour said. While the Brotherhood may have more legitimacy and the ability to bring hundreds of thousands into the streets, "the generals have the guns and tanks and armored vehicles," he said. "We are playing realpolitik at the moment."

Right now, the only thing certain is that the situation in Egypt is in a state of chaotic flux, but I am betting my dollar that the end result will be military rule, a régime much more favorable to the US, Israel, and other region allies than would be control by the Islamist Brotherhood, which is, at heart, a fanatic organization closely allied with other terrorism-practicing groups such as Hamas.