Here is a link. We covered the political upheavals, terror threats, alignments, backing of destabilizing forces and general conditions for all the countries from Western Sahara and Morocco to Iraq and Iran. This article will try to look at the reasons and future mostly dealing with the Middle East after a brief summary on North Africa. For reference here is a map of the area we will cover which adds Turkey to our considerations as they had a few mentions previously.
The first step to understanding the area is to determine which nations are playing the controlling interests and what the status of the remaining nations have especially their ties to the controlling players (We can think of this as a game of RISK where only the MENA nations get to play). The players who are vying for the position of leader of the Arab and Muslim world do include one non-nation player which we should cover initially including naming some of their aliases. That force is the Muslim Brotherhood which never actually uses their real name when interacting. In Egypt their political influence is through the Freedom and Justice Party (Arabic: حزب الحرية والعدالة). Egypt’s former President Mohamed Morsi was a Freedom and Justice Party member and they still hold a plurality though not an outright majority of the Egyptian Parliament. Currently the Freedom and Justice Party holds 47.2 per cent of all seats in the country’s lower house of Parliament, while allied Islamist parties al Nour Party holds 24.7 and al Wasat Party holds 2.0 per cent, respectively. This gives the Islamists in the lower house of parliament a total of just under 74 percent, a solid majority and a limit on President Sisi’s ability to govern and accomplish all he would prefer to implement. In Turkey the closest alignment with the Muslim Brotherhood, though unofficial, is the ruling Justice and Development Party headed by Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. The relationship has its moments and President Erdoğan did support United States President Obama’s demand that President Morsi be released and returned to the Presidency of Egypt as its duly elected leader after the military coup. This demand continued even after the new elections were held and died a slow and thankfully quiet death and the rise of Sisi from commander of the military to the newly elected President of Egypt (more on this further when we talk about Egypt’s role in the MENA Garden). In Syria, before everything hit the fan and a civil war with more sides than can be easily defined, the Muslim Brotherhood was most closely aligned with the Islamic Socialist Front (more in depth discussion of Syrian Civil War will follow). There is even a branch of the Muslim Brotherhood closely aligned with the situation in Israel which is Hamas. In Iraq the Islamic Party is the largest Sunni political party and would have to be considered the closest link with the Muslim Brotherhood though they are not in a position of any real power as we will see. In Iran the relations with the Muslim Brotherhood are another case of strange bedfellows but in Saudi Arabia, which would pretty much include the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) nations though they can be less trident that are the Saudis who support the Wahabbist strain of Islam, the Muslim Brotherhood is considered as a terrorist group. Through the rest of North Africa the Muslim Brotherhood supports Sunni groups but has little interaction since al-Qaeda aligned Boko Haram swore allegiance with the Islamic State. Some have seen the rise of Islamic State as a challenge to the Muslim Brotherhood within the Islamist communities. The main influences which we will cover in greater detail are the Islamic State, Turkey, Iran, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and the Syrian War and Russian concerns in Syria.
The oldest force in the area would be Egypt if one were to count the Pharos but that civilization was a completely separate civilization, but we need an excuse to start somewhere. Egypt has the advantage of population as the most populous of the MENA nations. Egypt is also the home of the most respected school for Islamic thought, Al-Azhar University, located with Al-Azhar Mosque in Islamic Cairo and is the oldest degree-granting university. As far as Sunni Islamic thought and interpretation, Al-Azhar is the most prestigious university. It is the central thought center for all Sunni thought and interpretation. Al-Azhar sets the dogma and interpretations used in Quranic thought in all of Sunni Islam which includes near eighty percent of all who follow the prophet Mohammad. This is important as it was during a speech President Sisi gave at Al-Azhar University to a gathering of the entire faculty where he made a request, which has some weight as Sisi is the President of Egypt, the former General of the Armies and very popular with the population which elected him in what could be referred to as a landslide. He has made some moves as best as his position has allowed and without smashing too many toes and defeated every challenge from the Muslim Brotherhood, no small feat. The demand, or request if one is to be polite, was for the Al-Azhar University faculty and Imams throughout all Islam to work within the Quran and adjust the supremacist view of Islam and instead alter the chosen Sura from the Quran and use more of the Sura from the original Mecca writings and allow for them to supercede their contrary Medina version of the Quran. (For an introduction to the two separate versions of the Quran and many quality links throughout the comments may we suggest our article and the comments of Which Quran, Mecca or Medina? The difference between the two writings are so stark that there have been rumors that they were dictated by different people rather than the idea that Mohammad had a different set of circumstances when writing the two versions.) President Sisi did this not just once but in two separate speeches to the Imams of Al-Azhar University. Reforming Islam such that it is made such that it can coexist with other faiths and separates from politics completely and become simply a religion of approaching two billion adherents. President Sisi is also using his position to advance the idea of a unified Islam such that the Sunni and Shiite as well as the lesser sects coexist in a similar manner as the many different Christian groups exist in the world today without open warfare or denouncing of one another.
The next most influential Sunni nation would have to be Saudi Arabia with its oil wealth. In many ways Saudi Arabia and Egypt work together to defend Sunni Islam with their main threat currently being Iran. The third nation in the Sunni hierarchy is Turkey which is at odds with Egypt as Turkey largely supports the Muslim Brotherhood and called for the return of Morsi to the Presidency after Sisi and the military had removed him presumably at the behest of the people. Turkish President Erdoğan joined President Obama and the two were close for a period as they both stood in support of the Muslim Brotherhood. General Sisi rejected their demands and called for resumption of elected governance and arranged for general election to fill the now vacant office of President and for a new Parliament. Sisi had resigned his post leading the military before running which would have resulted in his being unemployed. The Egyptian Freedom and Justice Party, which is the Muslim Brotherhood representative in Egyptian politics, was included in the elections but Sisi had won the admiration of the Egyptian people and has delivered on his promise to be a reformer. This was proven with his speeches calling for rejection of the supremacy and spread of Islam by the sword rejecting the Muslim Brotherhood calling such calls for world conquest dangerous and injurious to Islam and predicted that such actions would only bring destruction down on the Islamic world. This position is not shared by the Wahabbists in Saudi Arabia or by Erdoğan and definitely rejected by the Muslim Brotherhood. The Muslim Brotherhood was founded by a core group who believed that Islam needed to return to its golden age by imposing the strictest possible and most extreme interpretations of the Quran and Islam which they claimed was during the supremacist periods of conquest and that only by returning to the spread of Islam by any means necessary would Islam return to greatness. President Sisi sees only destruction of Islam if such a policy were to be implemented in today’s world. As for which position is correct we would vote let’s not test both and see which proves superior as the destruction and potential end of human civilization should a full blown all-out war between the Muslim world and the rest of the world be fought neither side would win and only utter destruction would be the end result. Such a war would eventually result in the use of the most extreme weapons at human disposal which would bring on a catastrophic conflagration destroying both sides. As the WOPR computer stated at the end of the movie “War Games” after testing every scenario of thermonuclear war, “A strange game. The only winning move is not to play. How about a nice game of chess?”
What remains is Iran which can best be examined by explaining the war in Syria which includes the war in Iraq and the war in Yemen, all of which have an Iranian component as does the governance in Lebanon and the terror war against Israel. This will be quite a long explanation and will be best covered in our next article tomorrow, stay tuned.
Beyond the Cusp