Beyond the Cusp

June 29, 2013

All Eyes Soon to Turn to Egypt

The Arab Spring’s tide of change hit a breakwater in Syria and has been on hold awaiting the resolution of the Syrian Civil War before continuing to wash across the Middle East after sweeping across North Africa. The world placed their attentions initially on Tunisia which experienced change so rapidly that many missed and only caught up when change then came to Egypt. In Egypt it took slightly longer to extract change which also required some external pressures of which the most pronounced was the support from President Obama in the White House went from hot to cold in supporting Mubarak. President Obama finally chose to support change, demand that Mubarak step down and warmed to the Muslim Brotherhood who promised they had no interest in taking power in Egypt. When that promise proved to be less than totally truthful President Obama and those in his Administration showed little concern and allied with elected Egyptian President Morsi and the Peace and Justice Party, the political wing of the Muslim Brotherhood. From there the Arab Spring set its sights on Libya which took a more determined effort from the United States and their NATO, mainly French and British, allies providing the rebel forces with air-cover in the form of a no-fly-zone over Libya and eventually even close air support for rebel offensive advances. After a relatively short Civil War, especially compared to Syria, the old dictatorial government of Gadhafi fell and was replaced with a weak government which controls little beyond the capital city of Tripoli with a mix of different rebel forces, tribal forces and strong clan factions controlling local areas each respecting the territories of the next. Some of these separate controlling factions have had episodic clashes and there are reports that al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups have set up training camps in some of the more remote areas of the Libyan Desert. From Libya the Arab Spring hit a breakwater in Syria where Bashir Assad refused to surrender his power and has proven he will go to whatever measures are required to remain in power. This has been the main attention of the world leaders for the two years that it has raged causing collateral deaths and destruction taking over one-hundred-thousand innocent civilian lives and sending millions of Syrians fleeing across the borders mostly into Turkey and Jordan where refugee camps are overflowing. With the Civil War in Syria garnering all the attentions of the media and the world leadership there has been little attention paid to Tunisia, Egypt or Libya and the state of affairs in each resultant from the changes there. That is about to change this weekend as the events in Egypt are about to explode.

 

First let us comment very briefly on Tunisia and Libya. Tunisia held election in which the Muslim Brotherhood gained a large number of the seats in the Parliament and has taken the lead in running the country. This has left those who desired a non-Islamic government uneasy and when the economy did not improve they resumed demonstrating. Since these demonstrations began they have slowly built and may soon reach the point where the government will either hold new elections or attempt to squash the demonstrations but thus far things have been somewhat contained. Libya has broken into separate tribally ruled areas which could be said to be loosely held together by a central but very weak government. The economy in Libya is no better or worse than it was under Gadhafi but the violence there has been sporadic and limited. Yemen also saw changes somewhat tied to the Arab Spring and the new government has not changed the situation which is one of complete instability. The Yemeni government controls the capital city and the central areas of the nation with terrorist groups fighting with the southern tribes for control of the south and Iranian backed Shiites also attempting to take over the government. As long as the fighting in Yemen remains out of Saudi Arabia nobody is paying that much attention to the sporadic violence within that unfortunate country.

 

Things in Egypt are of a different nature as Egypt was a relatively functional society with working infrastructure and an economy which was heavily reliant on tourism. Since the fall of Mubarak and the election of Peace and Justice Party Candidate Morsi as President with a Parliament heavily controlled by that same Peace and Justice Party along with the Salafist supported candidates, who are even more strident Islamists than the Muslim Brotherhood, the tourism industry upon which much of the Egyptian economy depended has almost completely disappeared having crushing effects on the Egyptian economy. Additionally there has been a complete loss of control over the Sinai Peninsula where lawlessness by Bedouins and other tribes have sabotaged the gas pipeline which used to supply natural gas to Israel and Jordan. Egypt has been trying to continue to provide services despite having to purchase a large percentage of the energy, food and other staples burning through any currency reserves Egypt had. The economic squeeze has caused mushrooming unemployment and rotating blackouts as insufficient electrical power remains available. This has led to increased unease and escalating violent demonstrations which have been broken up using tear gas and water cannons. The one year anniversary of the election of President Morsi is this weekend and the opposition has declared they intend to bring down his government. In a response to this challenge to the Muslim Brotherhood’s chosen President has brought out their supporters to back President Morsi and to use whatever force is necessary to put down the anti-Morsi demonstrations. The threats, counter-threats, and violent threats and rhetoric from both sides has risen to such an extreme that Egyptian Military commanders have issued a general warning that they will not tolerate violence by either side and will also not allow violence to be implemented against the demonstrators of either side by the police. The anti-Morsi demonstrators who refer to themselves as pro-democracy activists have applauded the Egyptian Military’s warning against overt violence by the police or the demonstrators. That is not surprising as they were the most likely to be the targets of the lion’s share of the violence which would be meted out.

 

The possibility of another revolution in Egypt being sparked by the demonstrations that will escalate to their crescendo this weekend is a distinct possibility. Egypt has virtually no functioning economic production and a crumbling infrastructure which has not been properly maintained since the start of the Arab Spring demonstrations will serve as a strong motivational factor. The probability that overt violence will be brought to bear this weekend to silence the anti-Morsi demonstrators is pretty much even odds. The likelihood that overt violence will be brought down on the anti-Morsi demonstrators in the near future is high. The odds that the Egyptian Military will need to intervene seems unavoidable and once they come out it will all depend on which side they deploy. If the Egyptian Military should come out and also demand that Morsi step down in order to hold new elections then we may be seeing an Egyptian Civil War that will make Syria look like a picnic. A Civil War in Egypt pitting the Military and pro-democracy youth on one side and the Muslim Brotherhood on the other side possibly with the Salafists assisting the Muslim Brotherhood should frighten any rational person. The guaranteed losers would be both the Coptic Christians and the Shiite Muslims, both of which are relatively small minorities and could be used by the Muslim Brotherhood to turn any confrontation into a religious war of Sunnis against the infidel powers. The one prediction which is very easy to make is that should there be such violence in Egypt, then President Obama will be right behind President Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood even if that requires President Obama to have to destroy the Egyptian Military to allow Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood to retain power. President Obama will go to any lengths in order to serve the ends of the Muslim Brotherhood and the Egyptian people had best understand this as it may be the deciding factor in any attempts to remove what is basically a Muslim Brotherhood Governance. There was a good reason that the previous governments in Egypt did not allow the Muslim Brotherhood to gain the slightest foothold within Egypt, they were preserving their ability to rule. Now that the Muslim Brotherhood has returned, nobody will rule Egypt for the foreseeable future without their approval, nobody.

 

Beyond the Cusp

 

December 7, 2012

What Will the Future Bring in Egypt?

Egypt is once again on the cusp of a civil war, one that will never be permitted to be fully born. What we have been witnessing over the past days has been the last gasps of the democracy movement in Egypt. The demonstrations were likely used by the government and the Muslim Brotherhood to identify who are the newest leaders who oppose the power-grab by President Morsi and the coming Islamist Constitution which will establish Sharia as the basis for all law in the new Egypt. After a few days of allowing the opposition of President Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood free reign. We then witnessed the release of the Muslim Brotherhood enforcers who were cast as simply being President Morsi supporters. Things in Egypt will be kept from boiling over while the voting for ratification of the new Constitution is carried out. Once the Constitution has been validated by the people of Egypt, which is a given despite what some correspondents have claimed in the West, and once the Constitution is validated we will see the full force of President Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood utterly close down any demonstrations against either President Morsi or the Constitution. Egypt will soon be the Sunni version of Iran with the Muslim Brotherhood providing the religious oversight of the country and those who will make up the government.

One mitigating factor is the literacy rate within the Egyptian population. The CIA Factbook reports for 2010 the literacy rate for the total population over age ten is 72% while for the male population it is 80.3% and the female population it is 63.5%. The lower the literacy rate the higher the influence of organizations like the Muslim Brotherhood or the Salafists. This likely is an indicator that over one out of every four voters will be voting most likely exactly as his Imam will tell him to vote. Combine this with the organization and large membership and influence of the Muslim Brotherhood will likely prove more than sufficient to have the Constitution as proposed validated in the vote. This will make a basically Muslim Brotherhood written Constitution the law of the land in Egypt as the majority of the democracy delegates and Coptic Christian delegates resigned from the committee claiming they were being closed out and not allowed input to the process. This left them with absolutely no input or influence and is why the Egyptian Constitution will enforce Sharia though not immediately directly. With time Sharia will be stepped up one step at a time until Egypt will have become a Sharia State with little to no rights for anybody other than the Sunni Muslims.

This new set of developments has led to exactly what we and other pessimists had predicted would be the result of the Arab Winter transformation across numerous Arab countries. We have also seen a similar result in Tunisia which is again having riots and demonstrations as the government continues to slowly enforce Sharia based laws. This is also what will replace President Assad in Syria once he has been removed from power. The actual truth is that all of the revolutions, which so many western reporters and experts predicted would result in the flowering of democracies across the Arab World, are simply replacing secular dictators with Sharia based Theological dictatorships which will rule with harsher oppression than the governments they overthrew. Put plainly, the revolutions were hijacked by the Muslim Brotherhood with assistance by the Salafists who would prefer even more strict forms of Sharia. The real problem is that the change to Sharia, Muslim Brotherhood governance is far from over and will continue to spread and will not be finished until Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and the rest of the GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) have had their monarchs replaced by Muslim Brotherhood leadership and Sharia. In time historians will look back and ask, “What were they thinking?” Unfortunately, I doubt they will be able to fathom an answer to their query.

Beyond the Cusp

June 17, 2012

The Sad Truth About the Arab Revolutions

Whether you call the Arab uprisings against their Presidents for life dictators the Arab Spring or, as we named them early on, the Arab Winter, the results have been less than stellar. In Egypt they elected a Parliament which was a majority of Muslim Brotherhood and Salafists, both of which are varying shades of Islamists and far removed from the portrayal of their initial revolution as of young people striving for a modern democratic state with equal rights and universal freedoms, not some offshoot of Sharia. In Libya where a “No Fly Zone” intervention turned into everything short of actual massive troops on the ground in assisting the rebels to oust Muammar Gaddafi. Now the people of Libya are facing fighting between the different factions which had made up the so-called Rebel Alliance. It seems the Alliance was not all that tightly bound and now there appears to be some disagreements over who will take the leadership roles going forward. In Yemen things are so completely off the charts messed up that I’m not sure exactly how to describe things. Between al-Qaeda controlling much of the southern parts of the country and the northern tribes operating mostly independent of the government and a central government which does not control much beyond the capital city and the surrounding countryside, it is impossible to tell who is actually in charge. The one constant is that if you are too close to one of the al-Qaida leaders targeted by Washington one would be advised to keep one eye on the skies for drones carrying missiles. In Tunisia things have the appearance of some semblance of sanity. The new government which was elected is comprised of majority Muslim Brotherhood members but they appear to have been blunted from imposing Sharia and strict Islamic codes by the more liberal portions of the society. Thus far there is the quiet of a somewhat uneasy calm as things proceed forward but that could change at any time with the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamists exerting their control and imposing their strict rules based in Sharia. Lebanon, the country often left off the list of those under new governance, is still under strong influence of Hezballah which toppled the more secular Hariri Government. This situation is delicately balanced and very dependent on pressures from Iran and Syria which are used to maintain Hezballah’s influence and control, at least for the time being. The anti-Syrian factions are poised ready to take any opportunity to reinstate a more secular government replacing the Islamic governance of Hezballah. And that brings us to Syria.

Syria is now at the point where one must wonder to what extent Russia, Iran and Hezballah will be willing to go in order to maintain President Assad in power. It has been obvious for quite some time that Bashir Assad does not have the support of the vast majority of the Syrian people. When you have both France and Turkey discussing if in deed the time has come for them to jointly intervene, you know that it is time for a change. The weak statements and refusal of the United States to take the lead in Syria is as troubling as it is predictable. Much of the confusion and trouble around the globe can be traced directly back to the United States policy of leading from behind, a polite way of stating that the United States has abrogated their leadership role and are now simply followers and not even very dependable at doing that. The question for Syria should Iran and Russia decides that Assad has ended his usefulness is who then will step forward to lead? Somebody will have to take the leadership role at least until all the refugees have returned and elections can be held, or whatever does end up being the process for choosing the next governance for Syria. It has become obvious that those fighting to have Assad replaced will die before they give up their efforts, partly because even if they were to be granted amnesty to end their struggle, it is not exactly the Assad family’s way to leave enemies alive to cause future problems. So, eventually Russia and Iran will forgo backing Assad. But will they have somebody who can win an election and yet continue to have Syria play its supporting role under Iran and as the arms depot through which Russia channels arms to so many in the Middle East.

In all of these uprisings we have seen that one occurrence which is the bane of any successful revolution, the fact that those who start the revolution are rarely the ones who take the lead when it is over. In Tunisia the revolution was started by a street vegetable vendor’s act of desperation when he set himself alight in protest. Well, obviously the street vendors will not be governing any time soon in Tunisia. In Libya it was a number of different tribes and some terror groups who initiated the uprising and there it will likely be one of those who end up at the top of the heap. The problem is that once the winner is determined, most likely by force of arms and not the ballot, all that will have been accomplished is the installing of a new Muammar Gaddafi under a different name and a different tribal support making up the Armed Forces. In Egypt we have seen how the young idealists were swept aside almost before Mubarak had stepped aside. The obvious point from which those youthful supporters of what was termed the Google revolution no longer had a voice in Egypt’s future came immediately after Imam Yusuf al-Qaradawi gave his triumphant sermon in Tahrir Square upon his on February 18, 2011 return and Google’s Egyptian Internet revolutionary Wael Ghonim was then chased from the stage and informed he was not to speak nor was he of any further use. The story of all these revolutions which made up the Arab Futility (my newest title for the once so hopeful revolts) was likely best explained in song by the Who, Meet the new boss, same as the old boss. Apparently, the faster things change in the Muslim Middle East, the slower actual change occurs. It is so sad, especially for all those in the West who held out such high hopes for progress. Sorry to say, but these things have to run their course and currently, Iran is the furthest along. All the rest are now entering their Iran 1979 Stage of the progression to freedom and liberty. From Monarchy, Dictator, President for Life, or other named strongman to Sharia Islamist Theocracy, and then possibly to some form of hopefully constitutional democratic republic. One can always be allowed to hope.

Beyond the Cusp

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