Thursday, December 22, 2011

The Pessimists Win in the Middle East

by Joseph Puder

In the Arab Middle East, a betting man should always bet on a pessimistic outcome to life changing events, because generally speaking, he will be proven right. The so called Arab Spring that began early this year created a sense of euphoria around the world, as well as in America and Israel and especially in the liberal press. Even in Egypt, the largest Arab state, Christian Copts and Muslims shared optimism as to the outcome of the people’s uprising. Although in the minority, the pessimists who warned of an Islamist takeover were dismissed and in fact castigated for their views.

The pessimistic minority however was proven right. In Libya, where longtime dictator Gaddafi was ousted and killed by the revolutionary forces aided by the Obama administration and NATO, the interim leader of Libya, Mustafa Abdel Jalil, head of the Transitional National Council declared in his ‘liberation’ address that Sharia law would govern the new Libya. Sharia – the source of the doctrine of jihad that triggered the attack on America on 9/11. Mustafa Abdel Jalil was careful not to utter the word ‘jihad,’ which is obligatory to anyone following the application of Sharia in the public domain. Rather Jalil’s pronouncement took on the more salacious aspect of Sharia: “We as a Muslim nation have taken Islamic Sharia as the source of legislation; therefore any law that contradicts the principles of Islam is legally nullified. This includes changing marriage laws to allow men to more easily take on a second wife.” In other words, bigamy is now lawful in Libya.

In Tunisia, the birthplace of the Arab Spring revolutions, the “moderate” Islamic party won 41.47% of the vote in free elections where liberals and Islamists faced off this past weekend. Thousands of Islamist supporters swooped down on central Tunis on Saturday to confront liberal demonstrators rallying against extremism as MPs were drafting a new constitution for Tunisia. The protest was partly a response to ongoing demonstrations at a university outside the capital, where Islamists disrupted courses, demanding a stop to mixed-sex classes and the wearing of full-face veils or niqabs for female students. Shaikh Rashed al-Ghanushi, the leader of the winning Islamist Party Al-Nahdha (“The Revival”), called for jihad against Israel, but in the West he is considered a “moderate Muslim.”

Similarly in Morocco, the Islamic Justice and Development party (PJD), called moderate by the British Guardian newspaper, won the majority of the votes in the parliamentary elections, and for the first time an Islamist, Abdelillah Benkirane, will likely serve as Morocco’s next Prime Minister.

President Obama and his administration are particularly fond of the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) in Egypt. In February this year, the White House demanded that the next government in Egypt “has to include a whole host of non-secular actors (the Muslim Brotherhood fit this bill) that give Egypt a chance to be a stable and reliable partner.”

Fortunately for the MB in Egypt, which adopted the benign name of Freedom and Justice Party and became the largest party in the parliament with 36.6% of the vote, another Islamist party that is far more extreme took second place in the recent elections. The salafist Al-Nour party having garnered 24.4% of the vote in the recent parliamentary elections in Egypt obscures (for many in the press) the true nature of the Muslim Brotherhood. At this point in Egypt’s unfolding history the Islamist parties now control a large majority of the parliament. The difference between the two parties is significant. The salafist Al-Nour seeks to bring 21st century Islam back to the Islam of the 7th century, while the Muslim Brotherhood/Freedom and Justice Party alleges that it wants to fashion 7th century Islam into a 21st century reality. Both parties however intend to see Egypt governed by Sharia Islamic law.

Iran’s Major General Qassem Suleimani, Chief of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) Quds Force, delivered a speech on May 22, 2011 at the Haqqani Theological Seminary in Qum during which he stated that the revolutions in the Middle East and North Africa “…provide our revolution with the greatest opportunities. Iran’s victory or defeat no longer takes place in Mehran and Khorramshahr. Our boundaries have expanded and we must witness victory in Egypt, Iraq, Lebanon, and Syria. This is the fruit of the Islamic revolution.” Suleimani sent a clear message to the Obama administration that in Egypt, Tunisia, Libya and Morocco, and for that matter anywhere else in the Arab world where a revolution might occur, a new Islamist Iran-like state will emerge.

The Arab world is marching towards an “Arab Winter,” as the authoritarian regimes that fell by the wayside have given way to the emergence of even darker regimes, steeped in Islamist intolerance and hatred of the West and Israel. The Islamist victories in Tunisia, Libya, Morocco and Egypt were not supposed to happen according to the Western governments, including the Obama administration. In Washington, the Director of National Intelligence James Clapper testified before the House Intelligence Committee, and declared that Egypt’s branch of the Muslim Brotherhood movement is “largely secular…” It prompted Richard Engel, NBC’s News Chief Foreign correspondent to call Clapper’s statement “a wild misreading of the organization.”
Last month a pre-election Muslim Brotherhood rally in Cairo’s most prominent mosque turned into a venomous anti-Israel protest with attendants vowing to “one day kill all Jews.” This is the same MB that we are told by members of the western media and governments is “moderate” and “marginal.” The same MB that liberal western pundits claimed is only 20% of the vote.

Interviewed by Fox News, Frank Gaffney, head of the Washington-based Center for Security Policy, articulated the contrast in how Obama dealt with the aftermath of the stolen 2009 elections in Iran when millions of Iranian demonstrated against the theocratic regime, and last February demonstrations in Egypt. The Obama administration’s cautious response to the uprising in Iran – a vicious US enemy – was explained as being part of President Obama’s attempt to “engage” Iran. In Egypt however, Obama called for the swift departure of former President Hosni Mubarak – a US ally. According to Gaffney, “The President of the United States in both cases did the bidding of the Islamists, who wanted to preserve the regime in Iran and who wanted to remove the regime in Egypt. Gaffney told Fox News, “I think that quite apart from what his intentions were, in so doing, he made all the more predictable the very unhappy outcome that I think is playing out before our eyes.”

In Egypt, the largest Arab Muslim country, secular liberals and especially Christian Copts are no longer harboring illusions about the revolution called the “Arab Spring.” For them it is already a dreadful “Arab Winter.” And, for all the optimists in the West, next time they’ll be better off betting on the worst case scenario when it comes to revolutions in the Arab Muslim world.

Joseph Puder


Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

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