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All it would take is a further meltdown of the already melted political situation for the Salafists to move from terrorizing neighborhoods and villages to making a play for entire cities. The ruling Islamists of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood and Tunisia’s Ennhada have already shown that, as in Libya, given a choice between letting the Salafists burn churches and beat tourists and authorizing their military rivals to carry out a domestic crackdown, it is safer and easier for them to let the mobs do as they please.
“Egypt Is becoming way too much like Pakistan for comfort. We are slowly becoming a dangerous, broken rogue state, just like them,” Mahmoud Salem, the Egyptian blogger and activist wrote. And if that is true of Egypt, what real hope is there for Libya, Tunisia or Yemen?
As a new Afghanistan begins forming in the Sinai where the Bedouin tribesmen have proven an ideal mold for recreating the conditions of Afghanistan, the formerly stable North Africa is beginning to resemble Islamic Asia.
The Muslim Middle East is facing a choice between two paths. One leads ahead to a Westernized society and the other back to the barren deserts of the 7th Century. The Muslim Brotherhood and other political Islamists claim that it is possible to have the best of both worlds, combining high tech and desert morals in a society where every woman is covered and every man is an engineer. But that illusion is under siege as Islamist militias begin fragmenting countries into tribal encampments.
The Middle East that we have grown used to is a colonial legacy. Its corrupt regimes with the derivative structures of modern states are being torn down by the Arab Spring. The Islamists can have democratic elections where they are the majority, but what they cannot have are strong militaries, and that leaves them with few options but to rely on Islamist militias to fight Islamist militias; turning the region back to before the rise of the Ottoman Empire.
Islamists saw Afghanistan as the future of the Middle East and they were right. Saudi Arabia and the oil states that backed the Arab Spring are Afghanistans with oil. Egypt, Tunisia and Syria are on the way to becoming Afghanistans without oil.
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