The world’s press is focused today on Cairo, where hundreds are dead in the crackdown by the military on the Muslim Brotherhood. Our government is at cross purposes and complicating this is a visceral hatred of the Obama Administration, and by extension, our government, by a vast majority of Egyptians.
In this country some cry for a complete cutoff of American aid and on the other side there is silence in the face of what must realistically be called a massacre.
But we must remember that there is a much larger game in play. It involves Iran and radical Sunni Islam. It is a battle for power. Part of it is being played in Syria, where the civil war has spilled into Lebanon and Iraq. Part of it is the continued attempts at destabilization in the Gulf States. Part of is the destabilization of states as far away from each other as Yemen and Afghanistan and Iraq. It also affects Israel.
Much of this is about a new Persian Empire. Iran with the support of Russia has been behind Shiite resistance in a number of states including Bahrain. The Muslim faith has been manipulated in the interests of temporal power time and again, and the vision of a new Persepolis still resonates in Qom and Teheran. The Salafist dream of a new caliphate is in direct conflict with this.
Events in Egypt play against the backdrop of the Syrian civil war, where the opposition has been recently reinforced by heavy weaponry from the Gulf. Remember the 20,000 M-16’s that disappeared from a Kuwaiti arsenal? They are now in play, but we don’t yet know where. Hezbollah has doubled down in Syria and the Sunnis in Lebanon are commuting to the war. Iraqi Shiites fighting in Lebanon are called Iran’s Foreign Legion. Former Egyptian president Morsi lent his support to radical Egyptian imam’s calls for volunteers. Iran cannot afford to lose for it will affect their power everywhere.
The Western powers are dithering in their support of the rebels. The Sunni states are not. Disorder in Egypt is antithetical to their strategic interests.
The Iranian government is waging a proxy war on many fronts. Five years into our own administration, our Middle Eastern policy is incoherent and does not seem to recognize this. The Iranians have their fingers in many pies and the enemy of one’s enemy is one’s friend whether it is supporting the Sunni Taliban in Afghanistan or shipping arms to terrorists in Sinai and to Hamas in Gaza. The art of war can be ecumenical at times. Instability in Egypt, Jordan and other states is to the advantage of Iran.
What is certainly forming is a major Sunni – Shia conflict driven by Iranian expansionism. The Israeli fears of the acquisition of nuclear weapons by Iran also factor in for it is not just the Israelis, but all of Iran’s neighbors who have now become nervous. This ups the ante in Egypt even more.
The King of Saudi Arabia spoke forcefully today in support of the Army in Egypt. Stability in the heart of the Arab world is paramount in the face of multiple threats. Reuters reports this morning that the Muslim Brotherhood has been behind a persecution of Copts and other Christians in the country with 62 churches, schools, monasteries and other buildings burned down along with hundreds of businesses and hundreds dead.
What we are seeing in Egypt is the reaction to the Muslim Brotherhood’s attempt to create an Islamist state in the face of the opposition of the overwhelming majority of the people.
I spoke last night with a friend whose family is at the heart of the Egyptian establishment. His cousins, nephews, nieces and friends were in Tahrir square when the Mubarak regime fell. The are a mix of secular and religious Muslims, but they are all Egyptian nationalists with a very international perspective. They are clued in at every level to the events of the past 2 years.
From his conversations with friends and family he said 80% of the people oppose the Brotherhood vehemently. The Brotherhood attempted to change the government, the courts and the constitution as soon as they took power. The country has fallen into crisis because of the instability at the top. Ordinary citizens are fearful of Brotherhood thugs.
He also said that over 50 soldiers and police have been killed in the past 2 days. The army has been seizing Brotherhood weapons caches all over Cairo and elsewhere which include heavy weapons. They have been arresting Chechen, Afghan and Pakistani Islamist soldiers in Cairo. There is a lot more going on than is being reported in the Western press.
It has been reported that the Israelis and Egyptian Army have been working very closely to contain Islamic radicals in the Sinai who can move towards either Cairo or Tel Aviv if not contained. Again, these are mainly foreign fighters.
Egypt has had a taste of the Brotherhood for almost exactly one year, and that was enough. The Muslim Brotherhood is a violent organization. Members have staged numerous terrorist attacks against Egyptian leaders, including the assassination of Anwar Sadat in 1981. Evidence of a parallel fighting force and the hard-line tactics used by Morsi to accrete power had the country on edge for months. North Africa is awash in weapons from Libya. Conditions for a civil war were ripe.
The evidence so far in Egypt indicates the overwhelming sentiment that the Army is the savior of the country. General al Sisi commands the respect of the vast majority of Egyptians and is beholden to no one, especially our government. He is governing the country together the Grand Sheikh of Al Azhar University, considered one of the most important Islamic leaders, and the Coptic Pope, Tawadros II. This is seen as a unity government despite the resignation of Mohammed El Baradei.
The Syrian war is spilling into Iraq and Lebanon. Libya is still a seething cauldron. We cannot afford instability in Egypt as well. And remember, as the U.S. pulls out of Afghanistan there may be thousands of Islamist warriors willing to move on to the next jihad.
The Muslim Brotherhood will not go easily, but they will nonetheless go. Egypt does not want an Islamist state. They do not want religious repression. The Egyptian people do not identify with extremism. And they do not want our meddling or manipulation or incompetence. They want and need our humanitarian aid.
Our foreign policy has been playing checkers while the real game of chess has been ignored.