Egypt: Obama’s 1979 Iran

Dr. Majid Rafizadeh, an Iranian-American political scientist and scholar, is president of the International American Council and serves on the board of the Harvard International Review at Harvard University. Rafizadeh is also a senior fellow at the Nonviolence International Organization based in Washington, DC and is a member of the Gulf project at Columbia University. He can be reached at rafizadeh@fas.harvard.edu. Follow Dr. Rafizadeh at @majidrafizadeh.


abaphotos937500-460x250Since the clashes between the Muslim Brotherhood and Egypt’s security forces broke out early last week, the Western liberal media, Obama administration, and other Western political leaders in Europe have depicted the Muslim Brotherhood as a democratic non-violent movement, and as a political party victimized in the latest clashes. Most of the far left and liberal analyses, as well as the Obama administration’s recent policy stances on Egypt, imply that the Muslim Brotherhood is a political party that advocates for social justice, democratic values, rule of law, and gender equality.

Firstly, it is both a crucial and intriguing point that similar Western-backed foreign policy mistakes and liberal analyses were made with regards to the Iranian Revolution of 1979. The Western liberal media, left-wing journalists and scholars, along with the Carter administration harshly criticized the ruling Shah, siding and sympathizing with the religious movement under Ayatollah Rooh Allah Khomeini’s leadership. Khomeini’s Islamic movement was seen as a democratic and spiritual party, which was victimized by the Shah’s governmental apparatuses. This perception considerably contributed to providing a platform for Khomeini’s anti-Semitic and fundamentalist Islamist movement to come to power in the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Some analysts and scholars would defend the current political position of the Obama administration— along with Western liberal media and political leaders—by contending that the only 40-year-old history of Iran cannot be compared to the current situation in Egypt, claiming that it is logical that the Western liberal media, political leaders, and Obama administration may have forgotten lessons that Middle Eastern history has given us on Muslim society (and the socio-political and the socio-religious fabric that links it together).

Nevertheless, there is no need for a history lesson to analyze and discover the political truth about the Muslim Brotherhood movement, and its religious and political leaders’ agenda. Immediately after both Mohamed Morsi was elected as president and the Muslim Brotherhood won the majority of the Egyptian parliamentary seats, the organization pushed for an Islamist constitution that worked to centralize power to the Muslim Brotherhood, discriminate against minorities (particularly Christians), amplify gender inequality by the treatment of women as second-class citizens, diminish basic human rights, and lessen the considerable amount of political and economic power that other institutions possessed.

Additionally, Mohamed Morsi granted himself sweeping powers that primarily exempted his decrees from judicial review, until the ratification of a constitution. Even former Egyptian leader Hosni Mubarak, who ruled the country for 30 years, did not possess that same type of unchecked power that Morsi was able to exert.

Millions of protesters marched in the streets against Mohamed Morsi, choosing to occupy the symbolic Tahrir Square for days so as to avoid having a ruling theocratic regime similar to that of the Islamic Republic of Iran. The clerics and Islamists of Iran slowly changed and revised the constitution after taking control through the revolution. The changes included an enforced dress code for women, a ban on drinking alcohol, increased gender segregation, and a ban on communication between opposite sexes, effectively using Sharia law as the legal guidelines of the nation. Just a mere few years after the 1979 Revolution, the Iranian people found themselves under a complete dictatorial, Islamist, and brutal regime.

After the policy changes by the Muslim Brotherhood and Mohamed Morsi, millions of Egyptian citizens, ranging from various social groups, demanded that Egypt’s Supreme Council of the Armed Forces take serious action and remove the Muslim Brotherhood from power. According to Mustapha, a 22-year-old Egyptian engineering student, “this is what the majority of the Egyptian people want. It is not a military coup. These are demands of millions of people in the street.”

Other major grievances addressed by the Egyptian masses protesting in the street were attributed to political and economic woes stemming from the incapability of Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood to produce an effective system of governance. Egyptian citizens demanded that the new government be able to adequately address the country’s economic catastrophe, high unemployment rate, fuel shortages, basic food supply issues, dwindling hard currency reserves, and increasing sectarian conflict between the Sunnis and Coptic Christians. In addition, the Egyptian people have repeatedly shown concern about the increasing influence of Morsi’s party and Muslim Brotherhood in different government institutions, as Mohamed Morsi had been criticized for appointing many of the Muslim Brotherhood’s members to high official positions.

Even further, the Muslim Brotherhood leaders have repeatedly, and particularly after losing power and popularity, threatened to endanger Israel’s security by allowing violence to spill over to Tel Aviv through instigating conflict in the Sinai. Recently, suspected Islamist militants ambushed and killed approximately 25 Egyptian police officers in the northern part of Sinai, proof of the plausibility of the threat. While Israel did not have any role in the overthrow of Mohamed Morsi, the Muslim Brotherhood has threatened to take revenge on what their leaders have referred to as the “ Zionist enemy” or the “Zionist and American collaborators,” essentially jeopardizing the peace between Egypt and Israel.  The Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis group, an Islamist- and al-Qaeda-affiliated terror group based in Sinai, has claimed that their “heroes became martyrs during their jihadi duties against the Jews in a rocket attack on occupied lands.”

With the Obama administration and media pushing for the realease of Musim Brotherhood leaders as those who come from a peaceful, victimized, and democratic organization, the need to examine the ideological agenda of the Muslim Brotherhood becomes important.  The revolutionary spirit of the Middle East once brought forth the Islamist party and theocracy that is Iran, and the ruling Muslim Brotherhood of Egypt has revealed a policy of fundamentalism that foreshadows a similar fate.

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  • john

    Obama is the best.

    • jhn.mcleod@gmail.com

      The best goofbaal ever to be in the Whitehouse.

    • tokoloshiman

      for whom?

  • Kim

    If we had a Republican President, we would have been involved in 20 wars ( Egypt, Libya, …..) . Enjoyed the analysis.

  • bf

    If it would not for Obama we would not have this citation in a Middle East in a first place.

  • adumbrate

    Egypt is “acting stupidly”

    • HAN BAE

      so inciteful

  • Mladen_Andrijasevic

    Apart from slavery, the Obama administration’s support for the anti-American and anti-Semitic Muslim Brotherhood is probably the most disgraceful episode in American history.

    • Gee

      Considering that the Muslim Brotherhood intended to reimpose slavery – why the exception?

      • Mladen_Andrijasevic

        The scope and the
        duration. Up to 4 million slaves and from 1776 to 1865

        • Biff Henderson

          From the get-go every administration since the founding of the Republic have countenanced abuses of human rights that were accepted as the normative standard of their time. Disgraceful is one thing, treasonous and destructive is another. The slow, plodding path of tweaking the moral compass of a nation is all for naught if those entrusted with its care seek to tear it asunder.

  • HAN BAE

    The Muslim Brotherhood evil true nature is out of the box. They are being exposed everywhere – not just Egypt. Times of confict reveals their true identity – they will not be able to hide under rocks any longer. And sadly our president, Obama has strong MB genes in his blood, research his brothers !- it has cleverly been hidden from the publics eyes for years but time is on our side and will reveal his terroristic and evil past. Research Obama and know his blood.
    Please listen closely: OBAMA IS A TERRIST BY BLOOD AND ACTION!

  • tokoloshiman

    The MB is very well represented in the white house. but obama was not the first to cozy up to them by a long shot.
    It is very true and apt what the author says about the similarities to Iran 1979.
    very often there are stark choices to be made in the mid east with no clearly democratic principles acceptable by enough people to keep things in check.
    Egypt like many other countries have reached a tipping point where the radicals are too vast in number to ignore but unwilling to genuinely part of any democracy
    because of their desire and mania for sharia implementation.
    Europe is getting to this stage and some countries are almost there as it gets progressively worse.
    Obama and his crew are on the wrong side of history and on the wrong side of the american people.

  • JVictor

    Yet another correlation between the two most damaging and anti-American presidents since Woodrow Wilson. Lest people be quick to say this type of “naivete” is unique to liberals, remember that this type of blundering foreign policy in the Middle East did not occur during the Clinton years. Even though Clinton and his cronies were/are as progressive as they come, the Clinton administration did not have a loathing of this country and the utter disdain for Israel that are so blatantly obvious in the Carter and Obama administrations. Whereas it took decades for Carter’s biases and agenda to surface, Obama has been acting as if no one is smart enough to see what he has been doing.

  • amspirnational

    Dem and GOP cold warriors both supported arming jihadists to drive the USSR out of Afghanistan. Both are responsible for 9-11-2001 and other revenge that ensued.
    Who is NOT responsible? Only non-elite, anti-war statesmen of both right and left.
    Ron Paul, Dennis Kucinich…any who oppose taking sides in the Middle East and that includes Israel’s side. Taking Israel’s side meant bribing Mubarek and Sadat to do Camp David. You surprised the MB would object and grow in response to their leaders’ betrayal? Most secular Egyptians are also opposed to the treaty and if Sisi doens’t adopt a policy independent of US wishes, the unrest will continue in both secular and religious forms.
    As for the US, it should get out of the Mideast, period.

    • watsa46

      If the treaty is scraped, IL will have to take back what is hers. This S…t talk is easy 30 years later!

  • watsa46

    Why is the West lying to itself?

  • http://twitter.com/WinstonCN WinstonCN

    Dems have a tendency to backstab US allies. Carter kicked the Shah to the curb, Obama did that to Mubarak.

  • Ellman48

    “Most of the far left and liberal analyses, as well as the Obama
    administration’s recent policy stances on Egypt, imply that the Muslim
    Brotherhood is a political party that advocates for social justice,
    democratic values, rule of law, and gender equality.”

    Reminiscent of how the same far left viewed the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. How much social justice, democratic values, rule of law did communism produce? Admittedly, it did make advances in ‘gender equality’ as women were allowed to do the work of men who were often too drunk or too dead to perform basic and essential tasks.

    One has to wonder what makes the Left so naive and susceptible to utopian fantasies when contemplating obviously tyrannical and totalitarians systems and governments. I don’t know which despotism is worse, Soviet Communism or Islamist Sharia. Yet the Left seems to consider either more preferable to other western alternatives, especially those offered by the USA, which receives more of their hostility and revulsion than any communist or Islamist system that ever existed.

    They were against using military might to rid Iraq of Saddam Hussein, yet they supported the same to get rid of Omar Qaddafi in Libya. They opposed using the military to overthrow the Taliban in Afghanistan but support doing the same preserve the tyranny of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. Their inconsistent and contradictory positions are never analyzed or resolved. They simply attack those who point them out. What a strange and irrational psyche they possess!