All signs from Egypt and U.S. leadership now point to an increased role for the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) in Egyptian politics – a terrifying reality that has just been given a blessing by the Obama administration, no less. In a highly disturbing departure from American foreign policy, Washington officially accepted a Muslim Brotherhood presence in a new Egyptian government, meaning that a U.S. president has publicly embraced a faction in Egypt that is intent on establishing a Khomeini-like Islamic Republic. The consequences of this move are horrifically catastrophic.
The Obama administration’s embrace of the Muslim Brotherhood came within the context of a chaotic chorus of dramatic events: Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak acquiesced on Tuesday to the demands of Egypt’s roiling streets and announced that he will decline to run for presidency in September, although he wishes to oversee the transition to a new government until that time. Most don’t expect him to last that long. In his television appearance, made the evening of the day that hundreds of thousands took to the streets demanding his resignation, the 82-year-old Egyptian president stated that maintaining stability in the country would now be his main priority. “I am now absolutely determined to finish my work for the nation in a way that ensures handing over its safekeeping and banner,” Mubarak said. “I will work in the remaining months of my term to ensure the peaceful transfer of power.”
But it is what happens during and after that “peaceful transfer” that constitutes the greatest concern in the region, especially in Israel. For among the hundreds of thousands of jubilant Egyptians, no one is happier with Mubarak’s retreat from power than Egypt’s fundamentalist Muslim Brotherhood, the country’s best organized opposition group. Officially banned under Mubarak, it is no secret that the MB wants to establish an extremist Islamic regime in Egypt similar to the one Khomeini set up in Iran after that country’s 1979 revolution. And, like all revolutions fired by extremist views, a Muslim Brotherhood insurrection will involve vicious violence – and a lot of it.
But instead of taking a visible and concrete stand against a force that seeks a Khomeini-style theocracy, the Obama administration, through its voice of Press Secretary Robert Gibbs, said as early as Monday that a post-Mubarak government had to include “a whole host of non-secular actors,” clearly an allusion to the Islamist political forces that pervade Egypt’s government and society. Obama adviser Robert Malley, meanwhile, noted that Obama’s openness to the MB being part of a ruling coalition in Egypt was a “pretty clear sign that the U.S. isn’t going to advocate a narrow form of pluralism, but a broad one.”
What kind of “pluralism” Islamists can bring to a post-Mubarak Egypt remains highly questionable. Tragically, however, the Muslim Brotherhood also has the blessing and support of informal opposition leader, Mohamed ElBaradei, who is almost assured to play a significant (if not leading) role brokering a new coalition government. He views the MB as a legitimate element of Egyptian politics and has flatly said accusations that the MB is a violent extremist group are “bogus.” Instead, ElBaradei likens the group, believe it or not, to evangelical Christians in the U.S. and Israeli Orthodox Jews. ElBaradei, who the MB supported to lead the opposition against Mubarak, is a Nobel Prize laureate and has had amicable relations with President Obama in the past due to the duo’s mutual opposition to the Bush administration’s tough stance on Iran and its nuclear weapons ambitions. The MB, in other words, will face little opposition in its mission to become a fixture of Egyptian democracy.
Strategically, the MB knows it can’t reveal its true intentions right now amidst the euphoria of the people’s street victory over the unlamented Mubarak. During the run-up to the expected free elections for regime change, the MB will also have to restrain itself. But the Islamists in Egypt have already demonstrated their political ruthlessness and readiness to use violence: prisons were attacked in recent days to free MB members and other Islamic extremists. Along with thousands of other violent religious fanatics already at large in Egyptian society, they will pose a serious threat to Egypt’s stability if they decide to revive their terror campaign of the 1980s and 1990s that reached its high point with the 1981 assassination of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat.
The MB and other Islamic extremist groups will make Egypt’s future political road a dangerous one. One can expect, just like in Pakistan, the brutal face of death to become an everyday sight in the form of bombings, assassinations and other politically-motivated acts of violence against anyone who gets in the way of the Islamists’ utopian goal. Founded in 1928, the MB has waited a long time for this opportunity and does not intend to squander it.
Among the first to experience the MB’s true face will be the democratic Egyptian opposition groups that helped force Mubarak to step down. They will be tolerated as long as the MB needs them to establish itself in power. The situation in Egypt resembles, in some respects, Russia after the fall of the tsar. Until they seized power by force several months later, the extremist Bolsheviks played at being democrats, calling for free elections to a national assembly and seducing the impoverished, uneducated masses with the powerful slogan: “peace, land, bread.” But instead of freedom, democracy and prosperity, Russia’s downtrodden classes instead got the Red Terror and murderous totalitarianism.
Like the Bolsheviks, the MB also has a lot of uneducated and impoverished people in Egypt it can manipulate. More than one third of the country’s population, and almost half of the women, can’t read, while many Egyptians are destitute, existing on less than two dollars a day. Ignorance and backwardness is widespread, and female genital mutilation is still a common practice, as well as honor killings.
No country was more shaken by Mubarak’s Tuesday announcement than Israel. Almost feverishly, the Israelis had been asking other governments to stop criticizing Mubarak and give him their support. Israel knows that the Egyptian president, despite his faults, was instrumental in keeping the fragile peace in the Middle East intact and in opposing radical Islamic entities like Hamas and Iran. Without Mubarak as a regional stabilizer and mediator with other Arab countries, Israel can only view prospects for peace in the Middle East with deep foreboding.
And with good reason. The MB has never recognized Israel and opposes the peace agreement signed more than 30 years ago between Egypt and Israel. But while MB sympathizers say the Islamist organization only wants the peace deal renegotiated, in reality, it wants Israel destroyed. So, it was no surprise when it was reported that Mohamed Ghanem, an Egyptian MB member, speaking recently on Iranian television, revealed in plain language the MB’s true feelings about the Jewish State when he said: “Prepare for war with Israel.” One can rest assured the Israeli general staff is reviewing its old war plans for Egypt.
Astonishingly, that “orderly transition” in the world of the Obama administration means acceptance of groups in any new Egyptian government who are not friendly to US interests. Reacting to the prospect of Mubarak’s departure, Obama only repeated the deceptively innocuous refrain that a new Egyptian government will include a “broad spectrum” of the opposition. But all indications are that the breadth of this spectrum will certainly include the MB.
To the banned MB, Obama’s tolerance of its intolerance towards Israel and other religious minorities is unsurprising. A blogger for Time Magazine revealed on Tuesday that Obama had invited MB members to his Cairo speech in 2009 where they must have been delighted to hear him say “no system of government can or should be imposed by one nation on any other.” This guarantee of American non-interference is exactly what extremists want to hear before they go about their sinister business.
To many Americans, Monday’s White House statement is also less than shocking. It is simply in keeping with what one has come to expect from a president who in the past has exhibited destructive anti-Israeli and pro-Muslim tendencies – and has refused to vocally champion courageous protesters fighting against an Islamic fascist regime on the streets of Iran. It is transparently obvious that Obama’s twisted hope is that, by engaging in such tactics, he will score points with the Islamic world and now, with his outreached hand to the Muslim Brotherhood, somehow pacify and humanize an Islamist terrorist group. But like other like-minded world leaders in the past, the president is creating a recipe for a totalitarian disaster. The lessons of Khomeini’s killing fields and Hezbollah’s Lebanon-takeover should have been more than enough. Egyptians, Middle Easterners, Israelis, and freedom-loving people everywhere deserved more from an American president – and must now face the heavy price of his Neville Chamberlain Middle East moment.