Saturday, February 19, 2011

Who and What's Behind the Popular Uprisings?

Part One: The Muslim Brotherhood's Clever Disguise
David Eshel

Mass social movements are normally instigated, or even directed by key players, often operating behind the scenes, but  directing manifestations with very specific goals and intentions in mind. Of course the quick response from most of the press releases is, that the people of Tunis, Egypt, Yemen, Jordan and as late, also Libya and Bahrain,  are just disgusted from decades of corruption and injustice by their political leaders and that it is merely a public response to years of  continued misery, mismanagement and power grabbing.  But digging a little deeper into the reasons surrounding these momentous events some interesting patterns are emerging.
We believe that there is a hidden hand shrewdly manipulating these historic events, with a definite strategy, carefully calculated in achieving a long aspired regional plan.
There are three major reasons, which are currently motivating the masses in the Arab world:
-   Popular discontent over lasting economic mismanagement by ruling corrupt despots and  unacceptable disparity in national wealth among a small upper class and the people
-   Decline in Western prestige in the region, diminishing support to moderate Sunni nations, pronounced through  its waning military performance in Iraq and Afghanistan and passive conduct in critical situations facing strategic challenges by Islamic subversive elements. 
- Unprecedented diffusion of mass media information technologies available to middle class citizens- who previously had no access to free uncensored information, all used to evoke large masses raising against the authorities.
The Internet , Facebook and Twitter have indeed been key mediums in organizing and directing the demonstrations, making these to appear as mere social movements.  While the same mass media also offers wide public dissemination around the globe in real-time, it is highly hypothetic to assume, that such contagious manifestations could incite simultaneous mass demonstrations, without some guiding force behind it. Organizing large-scale public events requires preparations, which are extremely dangerous in autocratic nations, constantly monitoring such activities closely, and striking home before they emerge.
The present series of such mass demonstrations, infecting others in unprecedented succession, is a new development in the Middle East. Rather than being a mere public response to injustice and corruption, which no doubt seem genuine under the circumstances, there appears to be a very specific strategy which has not yet been fully exposed.
Western media are engulfed by a wave of enthusiastic euphoria, describing scenes of cheering popular awaking- in revival of long gone romantic memories- like the fall of Communism, or the toppling of the Berlin Wall. But unfortunately, the Clocks in the Middle East are moving quite differently. Even in such momentous past events, in which kings and brutal despots were removed, the ultimate outcome proved worse than before and the peoples' misery and despair became aggravated by even more ruthless leaderships.
A strange phenomenon, which is missing in the present popular manifestations, is the obvious leadership directing the masses. This missing link is presenting a lucrative void to be exploited by highly organized, usually shrewdly operating elements, normally emerging from radical Islamic sources.
Someone is already lurking in the shadows, having waited patiently for the opportune moment to gain his coveted goal- Shia domination of the Sunni hegemony in the region: Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s supreme leader has already called the popular uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia an “Islamic liberation movement”.
The Khomeini example could illustrate the dilemma confronting the Egyptian leaderless opposition. A missing dynamic leader may end up stunting their genuine revolutionary movement. But even having one has its own dangers. All too often, successful revolutionary leaders, once having tasted their power, may turn out to be even more despotic than their ousted predecessors.
Perhaps the most intriguing aspect of the ongoing Domino effect, spreading like wildfire around the entire region, is the enigma of the Muslim Brotherhood- perhaps the only organized entity, which could recruit sufficient power to benefit from the popular uprising. But so far, the Brotherhood has kept invisibly hiding carefully in the shadows. Are they waiting until chaos is reaching unacceptable proportions, and only then step in to the gather the spoils?
The answer could already be in the offing. At the zenith of the "victory Parade" last Friday, Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, the ultra-radical spiritual father figure of the Muslim Brotherhood suddenly appeared on Tahrir Square, having returned from his long exile in Qatar. Holding a fiery sermon before the packed audience, the 84 year old sheikh lauded political Islam in a future role in Egyptian politics.
One of the strangest school of thought is also emerging from Washington. Testifying recently before the U.S. House Committee on Intelligence, retired air force general James Clapper (70), Director of U.S. National Intelligence and the overseer of 16 various intelligence agencies, actually made an unbelievingly startling comment, describing the Muslim Brotherhood as "largely secular", totally misplacing that this very organization became one of the founders of Osama bin Laden's Islamic Al Qaeda, with some of its members being active leaders in this global terrorist group!  How the top US intelligence director could misguide on such an important issue, which his very own organization is fighting for decades, is past comprehension!  No wonder then, that his boss, President Barak Hussein Obama is ignoring, or even misunderstanding most of the burning issues, which are already inflaming  one of the most explosive regions on earth.
Moreover, a recent translation of a book written by the movement’s fifth official leader  should shed light on just how Egypt’s Brotherhood views itself and its mission. Titled 'The Laws of Da’wa'  by Mustafa Mashhur,  details the Brotherhood’s objectives of advancing the global conquest of Islam and reestablishing the Islamic Caliphate. Reading Mashhur's and other such writings, which are in abundance, one must come to an uncontested conclusion, that any White House rambling over the Muslim Brotherhood being moderates is absolute nonsense. In fact, The Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt is as radical as Hamas and Hezbollah. But meanwhile the Brotherhood is using a cunning guise to shield its real intentions. Leaving the "dirty" work to its affiliated terrorist group Al-Gama'a a Islamiyya, actually its military wing, the Brotherhood can hide behind a curtain of moderation.
But Al Gama, under the leadership of the notorious Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman,  imprisoned in the US following the 1973 World Trade Center bombing, engaged in a ruthless terrorist campaign during the nineties. During the present manifestations, the group's new spiritual leader, Muhammad Badi,  has publicly called for violent jihad, including against the U.S.
But matters are getting even more precarious, as Wikileaks tell us: Even as people in Washington  were officially supporting their staunch ally, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, American officials were secretly helping Egyptian dissidents interested in using social media to overthrow his regime. This astonishing news was revealed in a secret cable from Cairo Embassy, to the State Department dated December 30, 2008 noting: " A leader of the April 6 Youth Movement (a Facebook-driven group that has played a major role in Egypt's current upheaval)l  told U.S. officials that opposition groups had agreed on a plan to replace the autocrat with a parliamentary democracy". Virtually undermining their ally, U.S. officials helped this man to attend the “Alliance of Youth Movements Summit,” which took place that same month at  Columbia University in New York, in which speeches were held among others by a senior undersecretary in the U.S. State Department.
If this is not sufficient evidence of American ignorance, if not monumental stupidity, the result from this caper was that the same "April 6" Movement leaders, now affiliated to the anti-American Muslim Brotherhood have expressed similar radicalism against the United States and the Egypt-Israel peace accord, which they defy and abolish.
The way in which the Obama Administration is handling the ongoing crisis in the Middle East leaves much to be desired, an understatement, if any.  It could, if not curbed in time, with an energetic change of strategy, bring to total disaster and inevitably to  Shia hegemony of the entire Sunni region.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Cairo 2011: Next Stop-an Islamic Republic?

Photo: AFP

There is a lot of confusion about the ongoing Egyptian crisis, yet it is vital that people understand what is really at stake here.
It all happened before, but unfortunately, the American leadership headed by Barak Hussein Obama seems to have a short memory- or is simply ignorant of the new Middle East-  already on its way becoming a radical Islamic caliphate.
Former US President Jimmy Carter will go down in American history as "the president who lost Iran" a major US ally, trurning into a brutal Islamic state, destabilizing the entire Middle East. Now, thirty years later, President Obama is losing western oriented Turkey, Lebanon and now Egypt to the same fate. What started a few weeks ago in the so-called "Jasmine Revolution" in Tunis- has engulfed millions of Egyptians in their "Twitter Revolution" , with the epicenter culminating in Tahrir Square urging 83 year old President Hosni Mubarak to go, under Obama's obsessive pressure.
The collapse of the old regime in Cairo, once it takes place, will have a massive  on the entire region. The Domino effect, is  shaking the rulers in Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States. Israel's thirty year long peace treaty with Egypt is questionable and will require a comprehensive strategic re-assessment, with significant military and economic repercussion.
Obama's incomprehensible  incompetence in foreign affairs has already become deadly for Middle East and for the entire western world- his present mishandling of the dangerous developments in Tunis, Beirut and now Cairo- seem catastrophic, to say the least. 
Within days, America's position in the "moderate" Arab world crumbled into an unprecedented abyss. So many carefully built relationships, which kept this volatile region on the brink of war, by careful crisis management and wise statesmanship in Washington, have evaporated, within days, into chaos and dangerous anarchy, from which only irresponsible elements, such as Islamic Jihad can benefit.
And so they shall indeed, sooner than later, as history teaches us here, for decades, but unfortunately, these trends remain strangely unheeded in Washington, as by many European leaders, which should know better, being already next in line, as targets of Islamic fundamentalism.
Freedom and liberalism are at the roots of western society and its culture and should be nourished by every democracy- but, as history in the Middle East has, time and again demonstrated, the Arab world has not yet absorbed the benefits of this domain and extremist elements exploit free elections as convenient instruments in gaining ruthless power for their Islamic ambitions. Hezbollah and Hamas are only two recent detrimental events.
Now the Washington's oppressive demand to dismantle Hosni Mubarak's thirty year rule, which may not have been based on liberal principles, but nevertheless kept eighty million people living in peace for three decades,  within a volatile region, in which thousands of  Egyptians lost their lives in three wars with Israel. Now, with Mubarak, the Tyrant gone, and with chaos and anarchy ruling the streets, with no reliable leadership in sight, the scene will soon be ripe for an Islamic take over, which will have serious consequences. These will not only be highly precarious for the Egyptian people, longing for freedom, which will be denied them, but catastrophic for the entire region. The big question asked by secular moderates is wether Muslim Brotherhood will hijack the "Twitter Revolution"?  Indeed, many of the Egyptian seculars demonstrating in the streets of Cairo, are fearing the Muslim 'fixers in the shadows'  may emerge as Egypt's new leadership.
So who are those Islamic elements, which are sofar carefully watching events, waiting in the background, only to make their move when the right moment arrives.
Introducing the Muslim Brotherhood
Being the most organized factions in Egypt, excluding the army,  the Muslim Brotherhood has a long history in Middle East politices and foremost in Egypt. Founded by Imam Hassan al-Banna in 1928, as an Islamic political social movement, its ranks swelled to nearly two million members, during WW2, supporting the Nazis, involved in agitation against the British, espionage and sabotage, as well as support for terrorist activities orchestrated by the Mufti Haj Amin el-Hussaini. The Brotherhood has been an illegal organization, but remains the largest opposition group in Egypt, advocating Islamic reform. In the 2005 parliamentary elections, the Brotherhood's candidates, who had to run as independents due to their illegality as a political party, won 88 seats (20% of the total) to form the largest opposition bloc. However in last November elections, the Brotherhood was totally banned, which may have aggravated the tension already building up against Mubarak.
The Egyptian Brotherhood has also strong links with Al Qaeda. Dr Ayman Muhammad Rabaie al-Zawahiri, a leading member of the Muslim Brotherhood, had joined al Qaeda in 1998 to become Osama Bin Laden's Second in Command. Several of Al Qaeda's prominent leaders were also members of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood.
Mohamed ElBaradie, the Nobel Laureate who ran the International Atomic Energy Agency, now aspires to serve as an interim leader, following Mubarak's regime.  He is supported by the Muslim Brotherhood, and, in turn, tries to portray the Islamic organization as a moderate, social oriented faction, which should not arouse fear in the mostly secular majority, now demonstrating against the military regime. But once the Brotherhood will gain political power filling the vacuum, those very seculars will be in for a terrifying surprise, as happened to the  secular student of Tehran thirty years ago.
But there is an even more sinister scenario lurking in the shadows. The Mubarak regime has long been suspicious of the connection between the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood and Iran, based in large part on Iran's strong ties to Hamas, an offshoot of the Brotherhood. Although most oriental analysts claim that Sunni Egypt is far from coming under the banner of Tehran's Shiite influence, it is perhaps lesser known, that Egyptians are more receptive and positively disposed toward Shiism than other Sunni Arabs. One reason is the Fatimid Dynasty that was established in Egypt in the tenth century as an offshoot of the Shiite Ismaelite movement. According to official estimates, the Shiites constitute less than 1 percent of the Egyptian population (approximately 657,000), but Muhammad al-Darini, a prominent Sunni who converted to Shiism, puts the figure at 1.5 million, However the Muslim Brotherhood, although being Sunni in its religion, has already long-standing relationship with the Shiite clerics in Tehran Following the 1979 Islamic revolution, the Egyptian Brotherhood openly sided with Khomeini's revolutionaries as they overthrew the Shah. Now ignoring  lessons from the past, Obama and his aides gamble  that an anti-American Islamist government in Cairo, allied with Iran won’t emerge from the chaos. But when polled only recently, 59% of Egyptians said they backed the Islamists, which should have raised alarm bells in Washington long ago. As the world now watches the present turmoil in Egypt, there is a palpable fear that the Muslim Brotherhood will eventually seize power. With Iran already deeply involved with Hamas in Gaza and Hezbollah in Lebanon, there is little doubt that, given the opportunity, Tehran's Islamic specter will also target Cairo.