Saturday, February 5, 2011

Column One: Israel and Arab Democracy

by Caroline B. Glick

Over the past week, Israel has been criticized for being insufficiently supportive of democratic change in Egypt. While Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has been careful to praise the cause of democracy while warning against the dangers of an Islamic takeover of the most populous Arab state, many Israelis have not been so diplomatic.

To understand why, it is necessary to take a little tour of the Arab world.

In the midst of Tunisia’s revolution last month, the Jewish Agency mobilized to evacuate any members of the country’s Jewish community who wished to leave. Until the end of French colonial rule in 1956, Tunisia’s Jewish community numbered 100,000 members. But like for all Jewish communities in the Arab world, the advent of Arab nationalism in the mid-20th century forced the overwhelming majority of Tunisia’s Jews to leave the country. Today, with between 1,500 and 3,000 members, Tunisia’s tiny Jewish community is among the largest in the Arab world.

So far, six families have left for Israel. Many more may follow. Two weeks ago, Daniel Cohen from Tunis’s Jewish community told Haaretz, “If the situation continues as it is now, we will definitely have to leave or immigrate to Israel.”

Since then, Rached Ghannouchi, the leader of Tunisia’s Islamist party Ennahda, has returned to Tunisia after 22 years living in exile in London. He was sentenced to life in prison in absentia on terrorism charges by the regime of ousted president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.

Then on Monday night, unidentified assailants set fire to a synagogue in the town of Ghabes and burned the Torah scrolls. In an interview with AFP, Trabelsi Perez, president of the Ghriba synagogue, said the crime was made all the more shocking by the fact that it occurred as police were stationed close by.

The day after the attack, Roger Bismuth, president of Tunisia’s Jewish community, disputed the view that the scorching of Torah scrolls had anything to do with anti-Semitism. The man responsible for representing Tunisia’s Jewish community before the evolving new regime told The Jerusalem Post that the attack was the fault of the Jews themselves, “because they left [the synagogue] open... This is not an attack on the Jewish community.”

The fear now gripping the Jews of Tunisia is not surprising. The same fear gripped the much smaller Iraqi Jewish community after the US and Britain toppled Saddam Hussein’s regime in 2003. The Iraqi community was the oldest, and arguably the most successful, Jewish community in the Arab world until World War II. Its 150,000 members were leading businessmen and civil servants during the period of British rule.

Following the establishment of Israel, the Iraqi government revoked the citizenship of the country’s Jews, forced them to flee and stole their property down to their wedding rings. The expropriated property of Iraqi Jewry is valued today at more than $4 billion.

Only 7,000 Jews remained in Iraq after the mass aliya of 1951. By the time Saddam was toppled in 2003, only 32 Jews remained. They were mainly elderly, and impoverished. And owing to al-Qaida threats and government harassment, they were all forced to flee.

Shortly after they overthrew Saddam, US forces found the archives of the Jewish community submerged in a flooded basement of a secret police building in Baghdad. The archive was dried and frozen and sent to the US for preservation. Last year, despite the fact that Saddam’s secret police only had the archive because they stole it from the Jews, the Iraqi government demanded its return as a national treasure.

As embattled Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak began his counteroffensive against the anti-regime protesters, his mouthpieces began alleging that the protesters were incited by the Mossad.

For their part, the anti-regime protesters claim that Mubarak is an Israeli puppet. The protesters brandish placards with Mubarak’s image plastered with Stars of David. A photo of an effigy of newly appointed vice president, and intelligence chief, Omar Suleiman burned in Tahrir Square showed him portrayed as a Jew.

ON WEDNESDAY night, Channel 10’s Arab affairs commentator Zvi Yehezkeli ran a depressing report on the status of the graves of Jewish sages buried in the Muslim world. The report chronicled the travels of Rabbi Yisrael Gabbai, an ultra-Orthodox rabbi who has taken upon himself to travel to save these important shrines. As Yehezkeli reported, last week Gabbai traveled to Iran and visited the graves of Purim heroes Queen Esther and Mordechai the Jew, and the prophets Daniel and Habbakuk.

He was moved to travel to Iran after Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad ordered Esther and Mordechai’s tomb destroyed. The Iranian media followed up Ahmadinejad’s edict with a campaign claiming that Esther and Mordechai were responsible for the murder of 170,000 Iranians.

Gabbai’s travels have brought him to Iran, Gaza, Yemen, Syria, Lebanon and beyond. And throughout the Arab and Muslim world, like the dwindling Jewish communities, Jewish cemeteries are targets for anti-Semitic attacks. “We’re talking about thousands of cemeteries throughout the Arab world. It’s the same problem everywhere,” he said.

Israelis have been overwhelmingly outspoken in our criticism of Western support for the antiregime forces in Egypt due to our deep-seated concern that the current regime will be replaced by one dominated by the Muslim Brotherhood.
Representing a minimum of 30 percent of Egyptians, the Muslim Brotherhood is the only well organized political force in the country outside the regime.

The Muslim Brothers’ organizational prowess and willingness to use violence to achieve their aims was likely demonstrated within hours of the start of the unrest. Shortly after the demonstrations began, operatives from the Palestinian Muslim Brotherhood branch in Gaza – that is Hamas – knew to cross the border into Sinai. And last Thursday, a police station in Suez was attacked with rocket-propelled grenades and firebombs.

Hamas has a long history of operations in Sinai.

It also has close ties with Beduin gangs in the area that were reportedly involved in attacking another police station in northern Sinai.

Western – and particularly American – willingness to pretend that the Muslim Brotherhood is anything other than a totalitarian movement has been greeted by disbelief and astonishment by Israelis from across the political spectrum.

It is the likelihood that the Muslim Brotherhood will rise to power, not an aversion to Arab democracy, that has caused Israel to fear the popular revolt against Mubarak’s regime. If the Muslim Brotherhood were not a factor in Egypt, then Israel would probably have simply been indifferent to events there, as it has been to the development of democracy in Iraq and to the popular revolt in Tunisia.

ISRAEL’S INDIFFERENCE to democratization of the Arab world has been a cause of consternation for some of its traditional supporters in conservative circles in the US and Europe. Israelis are accused of provincialism. As citizens of the only democracy in the Middle East, we are admonished for not supporting democracy among our neighbors.

The fact is that Israeli indifference to democratic currents in Arab societies is not due to provincialism.

Israelis are indifferent because we realize that whether under authoritarian rule or democracy, anti-Semitism is the unifying sentiment of the Arab world. Fractured along socioeconomic, tribal, religious, political, ethnic and other lines, the glue that binds Arab societies is hatred of Jews.

A Pew Research Center opinion survey of Arab attitudes towards Jews from June 2009 makes this clear. Ninety-five percent of Egyptians, 97% of Jordanians and Palestinians and 98% of Lebanese expressed unfavorable opinions of Jews. Three quarters of Turks, Pakistanis and Indonesians also expressed hostile views of Jews.

Throughout the Arab and Muslim world, genocidal anti-Semitic propaganda is all-pervasive. And as Prof. Robert Wistrich has written, “The ubiquity of the hate and prejudice exemplified by this hard-core anti-Semitism undoubtedly exceeds the demonization of earlier historical periods – whether the Christian Middle Ages, the Spanish Inquisition, the Dreyfus Affair in France, or the Judeophobia of Tsarist Russia. The only comparable example would be that of Nazi Germany in which we can also speak of an ‘eliminationist anti- Semitism’ of genocidal dimensions, which ultimately culminated in the Holocaust.”

That is why for most Israelis, the issue of how Arabs are governed is as irrelevant as the results of the 1852 US presidential elections were for American blacks. Since both parties excluded them, they were indifferent to who was in power.

What these numbers, and the anti-Semitic behavior of Arabs, show Israelis is that it makes no difference which regime rules where. As long as the Arab peoples hate Jews, there will be no peace between their countries and Israel. No one will be better for Israel than Mubarak. They can only be the same or worse.

This is why no one expected for the democratically elected Iraqi government to sign a peace treaty with Israel or even end Iraq’s official state of war with the Jewish state. Indeed, Iraq remains in an official state of war with Israel. And after independent lawmaker Mithal al-Alusi visited Israel in 2008, two of his sons were murdered. Alusi’s life remains under constant threat.

One of the more troubling aspects of the Western media coverage of the tumult in Egypt over the past two weeks has been the media’s move to airbrush out all evidence of the protesters’ anti- Semitism.

As John Rosenthal pointed out this week at The Weekly Standard, Germany’s Die Welt ran a frontpage photo that featured a poster of Mubarak with a Star of David across his forehead in the background. The photo caption made no mention of the anti-Semitic image. And its online edition did not run the picture.

And as author Bruce Bawer noted at the Pajamas Media website, Jeanne Moos of CNN scanned the protesters’ signs, noting how authentic and heartwarming their misspelled English messages were, yet failed to mention that one of the signs she showed portrayed Mubarak as a Jew.

Given the Western media’s obsessive coverage of the Arab-Israel conflict, at first blush it seems odd that they would ignore the prevalence of anti-Semitism among the presumably prodemocracy protesters. But on second thought, it isn’t that surprising.

If the media reported on the overwhelming Jew hatred in the Arab world generally and in Egypt specifically, it would ruin the narrative of the Arab conflict with Israel. That narrative explains the roots of the conflict as frustrated Arab-Palestinian nationalism. It steadfastly denies any more deeply seated antipathy of Jews that is projected onto the Jewish state. The fact that the one Jewish state stands alone against 23 Arab states and 57 Muslim states whose populations are united in their hatred of Jews necessarily requires a revision of the narrative. And so their hatred is ignored.

But Israelis don’t need CNN to tell us how our neighbors feel about us. We know already. And because we know, while we wish them the best of luck with their democracy movements, and would welcome the advent of a tolerant society in Egypt, we recognize that that tolerance will end when it comes to the Jews. And so whether they are democrats or autocrats, we fully expect they will continue to hate us.

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Caroline B. Glick

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Dictatorships and Egyptians

by Nonie Darwish

The Egyptian people have finally awakened to the reality of decades of oppression, dictatorship, backwardness and extreme poverty. For now, they are united in viewing Hosni Mubarak as the one obstacle to their freedom and democracy — but will they finally take responsibility for the true reason behind the long line of tyrannical Egyptian regimes? Will they examine their own failures and contributions to their problems? Or will they continue to blame America for supporting their dictator? Will they reject victimhood status and stop finger-pointing? Will they finally join the rest of the world in a new era of friendship based on mutual respect and not based on tribalism and the “us against the West” mentality?

The idea that America is behind the Mubarak dictatorship is ludicrous, but it has become a slogan not only in the Arab world, but also among many Americans. Chris Matthews of MSNBC has repeatedly blamed America for the Mubarak dictatorship. I have news for Mr. Matthews: only 3 men have ruled Egypt since 1952. Gamal Abdel Nasser was much more oppressive than Mubarak and he was certainly no friend to the US or to any other Western country. The fact is that Egyptians, and the Arab countries in general, have continually installed their own dictators, without America’s influence. America can only hope and encourage dictators who are not bellicose and who do not hate the US.

The majority of Arab dictators have been enemies of the West. The US never supported Al Assad of Syria, either father or son, nor Mohmar Gadhafi of Lybia, and yet they are brutal dictators. The West needs to understand that there is something intrinsic in Islamic culture that creates animosity with the West and it has nothing to do with what the West does or does not do. Every Muslim leader who aspires to gain popularity will be guaranteed it if he gives a speech calling America the “Great Satan.” Ahmadinejad’s popularity skyrocketed in Egypt after insulting the American president on American soil in his speech in New York. It is a litmus test in the Arab world that a truly loyal Muslim leader must automatically be an enemy of the West.

This is not a coincidence. Sharia (Islamic) law obliges the Muslim head of state to do violent jihad against non-Muslim countries and never truly befriend them or treat them as equals. Muslim leaders often hide their friendship with the West, and it is time for us and for the Arab world to openly ask: why? Why is it that befriending Western nations will brand them as “puppets of the US,” the one description no Arab leader can survive? To avoid the devastating title of “US puppet” Muslim leaders go to great lengths to appear harsh and critical of the West when, in fact, they really want co-existence. They end up having the well-known two faces of the typical Muslim leader: a friendly one to the West in private, and a critical one in public. That game must be exposed for what it is and it must end.

For some in the American media to take the Egyptian uprising as an opportunity to blame America for the Mubarak regime is not only wrong and untrue, but unfair to both Egypt and the US. This cheap-shot propaganda will not help the Egyptian people move beyond the blame-game, which they have perfected over many generations, and which keeps them in their miserable state. If anything, the Egyptian people today need to see reality and take responsibility. They must critically examine the real causes that turned a great ancient civilization into such a mess.

I hope that the blame-American crowd would for once — please — put aside internal bickering. By blaming America, you are neither helping the Egyptian people, nor helping your own country. You are perpetuating Arab psychology of refusing to take responsibility for one’s own failures. Arabs must take responsibility for their own homegrown dictatorships, terrorists and jihadists. The West needs to tell the truth resolutely: the Muslim world needs enormous reforms at all levels, politically, socially, legally and religiously. Blaming the West for Islamic failure will not bring Egypt or any other Muslim country freedom or democracy.

It is time for the Arab world to take responsibility for its failings; it is not the West, it is not even Arab dictators. If Arabs want to pursue freedom, then they must undergo tremendous change. They must seek peace with the rest of the non-Muslim world, and start a new relationship based on respect for human rights and tolerance of other cultures.

As it stands now, the Muslim world clings to a hatred of other ways of life. The Islamic view of non-Muslim countries as “dar-Al Harb,” or “land of war,” and Muslim countries as “dar-Al Islam,” is really at the core of this divide. If the Muslim world is to have any peace, democracy, and stability, it must reject archaic and oppressive Sharia law which perpetuates jihad and obligates Muslim heads of state to engage in permanent war with non-Muslim countries.

The Arab world needs the help of the whole world to see this reality. This can only come by stating the truth. Egyptians and Muslims in general must realize that to have democracy, they must have secular rule, separation of mosque and state, fair education, peace with Israel and an end to hate and demagoguery.

The world is waiting to embrace a new era and a new relationship with the Muslim world.

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Nonie Darwish

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Obama vs. Mubarak

by Stephen Brown

President Barack Obama poured gas on the Egyptian fire on Wednesday when he demanded that Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak immediately resign to make way for a quick transition of power. The administration has been engaged in intense meetings with Egyptian officials in the ensuing days, and is discussing plans for Mubarak’s rapid departure, both the New York Times and Reuters reported. The president’s haste to replace Mubarak, many observers legitimately fear, may now create the political instability that the Muslim Brotherhood (MB), the only organized opposition in Egypt, needs in order to dominate the transition process and eventually gain power.

With his resignation insistence, Obama, whose obvious sympathy for the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) has not gone unnoticed, has simply made a dangerous situation even worse. The Egyptian army is one of the country’s most stable institutions and now it is being asked by an American president to undermine itself by getting rid of its own leader. (Ironically, it was Obama who, in 2009, said in Cairo that “no system of government can or should be imposed by one nation on any other.”) U.S. special envoy Frank Wiesner had already asked Mubarak to step down on Monday, but Mubarak refused, believing such an unpatriotic move on his part would only lead to chaos.

“President Obama has been clear on Egypt that the transition must begin now, and now means now,” a White House spokesperson was quoted as saying after Mubarak’s supporters engaged anti-government protesters in bloody street battles on Wednesday. The clashes started the day after Mubarak told the Egyptian nation he would step down from power in September, and they continued into Thursday. Eight people have died in the violence, which have seen rocks, machetes and guns used.

Indicating the Obama administration’s frustration with the violence and its powerful desire to be rid of Mubarak, the publication DEBKAfile states that pressure was applied directly to the Egyptian army to unseat its president. The White House called up its A Team and had Secretary of State Hillary Clinton call Vice President Omar Suleiman, US Defense Secretary Robert Gates phone Egypt’s defense minister and US Chief of Staff Admiral Mullen speak with his Egyptian counterpart. French President Sarkozy, German Chancellor Merkel and Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron, Obama’s B Team, were also enlisted “to lean hard on Egyptian army chiefs to bring Mubarak’s presidency to an end in the coming hours.”

But at the time of this writing, all appeals had fallen on deaf ears. It appears Mubarak does not intend to go anywhere until he is ready. And the army and security apparatus is fully supporting him in this decision.

As evidence of this, the Mubarak regime has been following a calculated strategy regarding the escalation of violence, in which both the security services and the army have played a part. Last Friday, the government pulled the police from city streets to allow criminal elements free reign. On Wednesday, the army did not interfere when thousands of pro-Mubarak supporters, some riding camels and horses, attacked anti-government demonstrators on Tahrir Square in Cairo. Protesters believe there were both members of the police and paid criminals among the attackers, whose violence, like that of the criminals on Friday, was meant to create a chaos that would demand a “law and order” response, and which would end their presence on the street.

The reason for the army’s passivity in Wednesday’s clashes between the pro-Mubarak and anti-government protesters is that the military indeed believes it is time for the demonstrations to end. Mubarak said in his speech on Tuesday he will step down in September, so the army now regards any further street protests as superfluous. The demonstrators, in the army’s view, have achieved their stated goal and therefore should now go home and allow order to be restored.

Another important factor in the military’s support of Mubarak is that the Egyptian president is himself a general who is regarded as a hero by Egyptians, especially by the military. In the 1973 Yom Kippur War against Israel, he was the commander of Egypt’s air force, which performed well in that conflict, although Egypt was defeated. With such service to the nation, which Mubarak alluded to in Tuesday’s speech, many Egyptians therefore believe their president should be allowed to leave office in his own time, with dignity and honor, and not be thrown out like an old sofa.

There is also a large element of self-interest in the Egyptian military’s defiance of the White House. In Third World countries like Egypt, the military also acts as a business corporation. In Pakistan, for example, the army is the largest commercial entity in the country, earning it the sobriquet Military, Inc. The Egyptian military also has substantial interests in areas like construction, tourism and manufacturing, in which retired officers often find employment. Military families also enjoy their own hospitals and schools. So it is unlikely the Egyptian officer corps will heed Obama’s demand to remove Mubarak if such a sudden change will threaten its privileged existence, especially since some in the higher ranks owe their positions to their president as well as their loyalty. If they do succumb to the pressure to dump Mubarak, his replacement will simply be another from their ranks holding a similar outlook and similar values.

The fact Obama is targeting the military to help remove Mubarak indicates he has finally woken up to the fact the army holds the real power in this crisis. But Egypt, he now realizes, is not Tunisia, whose army showed its president the door two weeks after disturbances broke out there. While the Egyptian army did not shoot at the demonstrators, which earned Obama’s praise, it also did not force Mubarak out. Obama is also discovering that Mubarak is an old soldier who will not run away from a fight and, after surviving 30 years in Middle Eastern politics, still has a few tricks up his sleeve.

Although he would never do it, Obama should actually heed Mubarak’s warning. An abrupt removal of the Egyptian leader would cause a chaos that would only benefit the Islamists. They are waiting on the sidelines for such a vacuum in power to occur before they make their move. The chaos the Islamists would create would dwarf anything Mubarak’s supporters are doing now and start Egypt down the road to becoming a failed state like Somalia or Pakistan. And such failed states, the world has discovered, become havens for terrorists.

The Islamists are also impatiently waiting for the dissolution of the Egyptian intelligence services, which, under Mubarak, have been so effective against extremists. As their decades-old nemeses, the security branches would be the MB’s first target, if they ever acquired any kind of power. These important agencies already showed a weakening during the current political disturbances when four prisons were attacked and hundreds of Islamists escaped. For Egyptians to succeed in reorganizing their political system, it is of paramount importance that the security services be maintained undamaged, and even strengthened.

Besides not understanding Egyptian society, Obama is also proving he does not learn from history. The deposing of the Tsar in Russia and the Shah in Iran only led those countries down the road to perdition. An untimely removal of Egypt’s pharaoh would only have the same result. And the Muslim Brotherhood has the most to lose if its old enemy, Mubarak, stays on, ensures stability and oversees the transition, while the democratic opposition forces have the most to gain. Inconceivably, though, with the stakes so high, it appears this is not what the White House wants.

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Stephen Brown

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A Call for Tougher Canadian Immigration Scrutiny

by IPT News

Canada's skyrocketing immigration is creating new security challenges that should prompt the nation to consider more direct steps to try to weed out those who may bring radical Islamist ideology with them, an intelligence expert testified Thursday.

David B. Harris, former Canadian Security Intelligence Service chief of strategic planning, told a Senate committee in Ottawa that the rate of immigration – 250,000 people per year – is creating more enclaves in the country, diluting the normal pattern in which "a newcomer's radical tendencies might more readily have been overwhelmed by Canada's ambient liberal-pluralist atmosphere."

Canada's population grew from 29 million people to 34 million people in just over a decade. Many of them come from Muslim majority countries that have extremist movements. In many cases, those immigrants may have been escaping from that radical ideology. But others might be importing it.

As an example, Harris noted 20,000 new permanent residents from Egypt, where a recent Pew poll found overwhelming support for Islamic law tenets such as the death penalty for adultery and for converts from Islam, and 20 percent support for al-Qaida.

"Does extremism travel well?" asked Harris, who now directs the International and Terrorist Intelligence Program for INSIGNIS Strategic Research. "A 2007 Environics poll says 12 percent of Canadian Muslims could justify a Toronto-18 type plot calling for mass-casualty attacks in Canada, including invading Parliament and beheading the prime minister. That means that between 49,000 and 119,000 Canadians could justify making war on fellow Canadians."

That isn't helped by two organized Islamist groups in Canada: the Muslim Association of Canada, which openly declares allegiance to Muslim Brotherhood founder Hassan al-Banna, and the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR)-Canada, which Harris said is "known for its divisive, poorly documented insistence that Muslims are subject to broad-ranging persecution in Canada."

His concerns, he said, are shared by moderate Muslim groups in Canada. See the entire testimony here.

Meanwhile, reports indicate that the U.S. and Canada are about to unveil significant changes regarding border and security cooperation between the two countries.

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IPT News

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Galloway Endorses an Islamic Revolution in Egypt

by IPT News

Former British MP and Viva Palestina leader George Galloway slammed the United States, Britain and President Hosni Mubarak on Wednesday in a fiery speech he delivered at a Stop the War Coalition meeting in support of the Egyptian revolution in London.

"Mubarak is not a person without status, he has a status. And that status is murderer, torturer, dictator and he should be on trial," Galloway told a cheering crowd.

Galloway insisted that "we have no need to be going around saying that this is not a Muslim revolution," because "a very significant number of the population of Egypt support the Islamic Movement of Egypt and that Movement has no need to hide itself under a bushel."

Galloway offered advice to Egyptian protestors:

"This revolution must go forward to victory, or it will go back to defeat. And if it goes back to defeat, all these dictatorships who starve their people, who prostitute their countries in the interests of America and Israel and Britain and other imperialist countries will breathe a sigh of relief."

"But if that revolution goes forward," he continued, "the gates of Rafah will come down. The siege on Gaza will be over. The Palestinian national movement will be able to be reunited instead of being divided. And the hand of the Palestinian people under siege and occupation will be immeasurably strengthened by an Arab Egypt, a patriotic Egypt, a nationalist Egypt once again."

Given his support for Hamas and Hizballah, it's no surprise that Galloway advocates an Islamic revolution in Egypt. Galloway was declared persona non grata by the Egyptian military in January, 2010, barring him from entering the country again. Accused of being a national security threat, Galloway was refused entry into the country during Viva Palestina's fourth land convoy to Gaza.

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IPT News

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Why Egypt Will Not Soon Become Democratic

by Daniel Pipes

The Economist asked Anoush Ehteshami of Durham University and Daniel Pipes to address the motion: "Egypt will become a democracy within a year." Ehteshami's response in favor can be read here. Mr. Pipes's opposition follows below.

Two reasons lead me to assert that the Arab Republic of Egypt will not boast a democratic political system at this time next year.

First, democracy is more than holding elections; it requires the development of civil society, meaning such complex and counterintuitive institutions as the rule of law, an independent judiciary, multiple political parties, minority rights, voluntary associations, freedom of expression, movement, and assembly. Democracy is a learned habit, not an instinctive one, that requires deep attitudinal changes such as a culture of restraint, a commonality of values, a respect for differences of view, the concept of loyal opposition, and a sense of civic responsibility.

Further, elections need to be practiced to be made perfect. Ideally, a country starts electing at the municipal level and moves to the national, it begins with the legislative branch and moves to the executive. Simultaneously, the press needs to acquire full freedoms, political parties should mature, parliament should gain authority at the expense of the executive, and judges should adjudicate between them.

Such a transformation of society cannot take place within months or even years; the historical record shows that it takes decades fully to implement. It is out of the question that an Egypt with minor experience in democracy can put together enough of these components in twelve months to establish a fully democratic order.

Second, whichever scenario one plays out, democracy is not in the offing.

  • If Hosni Mubarak stays in power, unlikely but possible, he will be more of a tyrant than ever. As shown by his actions in recent days, he will not go quietly.

  • If the military asserts more directly the power that it has wielded behind the scenes since its coup d'état of 1952, Omar Suleiman, the newly-appointed vice president, would presumably become president. He would make changes to the system, eliminating the most obvious abuses under Mubarak, but not fundamentally offering Egyptians a say in the regime that rules them. Algeria 1992, where a military-backed government repressed Islamists, provides a precedent.

  • If Islamists come to power, they will foment a revolution along the lines of Iran in 1979, in which their belief in God's sovereignty trumps political participation by the masses. The inherently anti-democratic nature of the Islamist movement must not be obscured by the Islamists' willingness to use elections to reach power. In the prescient words of an American official in 1992, the Islamists forward a program of "one person, one vote, one time."

However looked at – abstractly or specifically – Egyptians are in for a rough ride ahead, without imminent prospect of choosing their leaders.

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Mr. Pipes is director of the Middle East Forum and Taube distinguished visiting fellow at the Hoover Institution of Stanford University. He has lived for three years in Egypt.

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Brotherhood Statements Foster Confusion

by IPT News

It's no wonder world leaders don't know what to make of the Muslim Brotherhood. The group's leaders can't even reach consensus amongst themselves.

Amidst the chaos of what is being dubbed the Papyrus Revolution, the leaders of Egypt's primary opposition party are taking to the airwaves worldwide in droves. From the United States to the United Kingdom, and Russia to Japan, senior Brotherhood members are being questioned about how they would manage the Egyptian state should they accede to power in the aftermath of President Mubarak and the ruling National Democratic Party. Of primary concern to many is the Brotherhood's stance on women's rights, the implementation of Islamic law, policies toward Egypt's sizeable Coptic Christian minority, and its projected plan for relations (or a lack thereof) with its neighbor, Israel.

On that last issue, the Brothers just can't seem to project a unified message.

On Monday, shock headlines made their way around the web that, when in power, the Brotherhood planned to scrap Egypt's more than 30-year peace treaty with Israel. The Egyptian people "should be prepared for war against Israel," senior London-based MB leader Muhammad Ghanem said to Iran's Arabic-language news station, Al-Alam.

Backing Ghanem's stance, Brotherhood deputy leader Rashad al-Bayoumi later told Japan's NHK TV that a new provisional government—likely to include a Brotherhood presence regardless of recent claims that the group has no interest in a leadership role in a post-Mubarak government—should "dissolve the peace treaty with Israel." Unlike Ghanem, who is a part of the group's mysterious international organization, Bayoumi is a central leader of the movement's domestic presence in Egypt.

However, the group's public stance on Israel and the longstanding peace treaty does not appear to be based upon geographic location. Speaking on a BBC panel about the recent events in Egypt and the prospects for the future, former spokesman for the Muslim Brotherhood in the West, Kamal Helbawy told host Andrew Neil pointedly that, if in a position of power, the Brotherhood would uphold Egypt's treaty with Israel:

NEIL: Would you adhere—if you party came to power in free and fair elections—would you adhere to the 1979 peace treaties with Israel.

HELBAWY: We will. But I'll tell you something…

NEIL: But that's not what your party says. Are you representing the Muslim Brotherhood this morning?

HELBAWY: I am not speaking in their name, but I am a senior member now…

NEIL: of the party?

HELBAWY: Yes, of course.

NEIL: Well it is clear, the documents—every document coming out from the Muslim Brotherhood— says to rip up the 1979 [UI] treaty.

HELBAWY: Which ones? You asked me one question but you didn't give me one minute to answer.

NEIL: Ok, so answer it because…

HELBAWY: Yes, I am telling you. We will adhere by any political or peace process but it should be reviewed to bring justice in. We cannot accept occupation. We cannot accept brutalities. Whether it comes from Mubarak, or from a Muslim, or from a Jew, or from a Christian...

When pressed further about his stance's apparent conflict with Ghanem, Helbawy struck back, that the comments did not sound like those of a Muslim Brother:

NEIL: Do you here agree with a prominent member of the Muslim Brotherhood, Muhammad Ghanem, who, in an interview with Iranian news outlets, said the Egyptian people should prepare for war against Israel, the Suez Canal should be closed immediately, and the flow of gas to Israel should be cut off…


HELBAWY: This is Ghanem? This is Nasser-y speak. It's Nasser is speaking again.

NEIL: Do you agree with that?

HELBAWY: I don't think he is representing the Muslim Brotherhood and I don't think this is the idea or opinion of Muslim Brotherhood.

NEIL: Are you aware of the widespread suspicion—sometimes not with all gullible Western journalists—but a widespread suspicion among a lot of people in the West that the Muslim Brotherhood puts up people like you to sound and look moderate and to cover the fact that you're a highly extremist and Islamist organization.

HELBAWY: That is your accusation, that is your suspicion, but it is not reality.

Not representing the Muslim Brotherhood? It seems Helbawy's tune has changed. Now banned from entering the United States, Helbawy spoke in Oklahoma City at the 1992 joint conference of the Muslim Arab Youth Association (MAYA) and the Islamic Association for Palestine (IAP)—a now-defunct Hamas propaganda arm in the United States—about how Jews and Christians are the enemies of Muslims and how the now-designated terrorist group, Hamas, was holding the mantle for Muslims in "an absolute clash of civilization" against the them. Hamas, founded in 1987 as a splinter from the Muslim Brotherhood, has long been committed to violent jihad against Israel, and has, from the outset, denied the state's very existence.

Ghanem's comments do, in fact, fit perfectly in line with the Brotherhood's traditional policy line. While the Brotherhood's official releases have shied away from directly tackling the issue of relations with Israel, former and current leaders have been more forthright in their pronouncements. As noted in a 2007 article on the group, then-Muslim Brotherhood Supreme Guide, Mohammed Mahdi Akef, said that the "'Brotherhood has not recognized Camp David from the very first day it was signed,' explaining not only that the group rejects all agreements with Israel but that Arabs and Muslims should 'resist the enemy [Israel] with armed jihad.'" This theme of "resistance"—aka armed violence—against the "Zionist occupier" and their "Anglo-American" supporters has been a common one coming from the Brotherhood over the years, and was explained at great length in a draft of the group's 2007 party platform.

That year, Akef slapped down another leading Muslim Brotherhood official who had been quoted saying the group "would recognize Israel and accept the treaties" if it ever came to power. Essam El-Erian was quoted in the Arabic newspaper Al-Hayat saying "we will not declare war on Israel" and that the Brotherhood would seek to revise the Camp David treaty, not renounce it.

Days later, Akef made it clear El-Erian was off base. "The Brotherhood," he said, "does not and will never recognize Israel … Israel does not exist in the Brotherhood's dictionary." El-Erian claimed he was misquoted.

Also outlined in the 2007 platform—a so-called blueprint for Egypt under Brotherhood-rule—was a general Islamization of Egyptian society, with a determination made that women and Copts could not rise to become Egypt's head of state. When asked on the BBC about these troubling conclusions, Helbawi went on the defensive, declaring the document null and void:

NEIL: But your program—the most comprehensive one published 4 years ago, specifically excludes a woman as head of state.

HELBAWY: It is not a program, it was not published, it was a draft…

NEIL: But it did exclude her, didn't it?

HELBAWY: No, no. it excluded completely at the time, but this was a draft and a proposal, and now it is off.

NEIL: You say that's not Muslim Brotherhood policy because I…

HELBAWY: Yes it is.

NEIL: It is part of Muslim Brotherhood policy?

HELBAWY: Not to seclude women and Copts. It was a proposal—they sent it to many thinkers and writers. And the feedback came—we did many seminars, one of them in Westminster here, and we declared completely that this is nonsense.

NEIL: Alright, well I have not seen this…

HELBAWY: …and that this is out of Islam.

Helbawi is not alone in his flip-flopping. In an interview with CBS News Tuesday, Brotherhood spokesman and former Secretary-General Mahmoud Ezzat claimed his group wants "peace with all the world." As part of this, "we will respect the peace treaty with Israel as long as Israel shows real progress on improving the lot of the Palestinians."

Ezzat struck a very different tone in 2007 when interviewed by the Brotherhood's English-language website, IkhwanWeb:

"As for international treaties, specially [sic.] Camp David, the Muslim Brotherhood's attitude towards the treaty hasn't changed, and that Palestine is not owned by the Palestinian people alone, but it is owned by all the Arab and Muslim World. No one is allowed to concede even single span from it. As for all treaties, we respect them, and Camp David can, like other treaties, be amendment or even cancelled according to the international law."

And Thursday, Mohamed Morsy, the Brotherhood's media spokesman, told CNN that his group was "not against the Jews…[but] against Zionism…[and] torturing the Palestinian people." Morsy also told the cable news channel that the Brotherhood rejects "violence against anyone." Try telling that to Helbawy circa-1992 and a host of other Brotherhood leaders over the years who have spoken of a war between Muslims and Jews, of severing ties between Israel and Egypt as soon as possible, and of armed jihad.

The numerous and conflicting statements make the Brotherhood's true position somewhat of a mystery.

As Barry Rubin notes, senior Brotherhood members seem to finally be coordinating on a unified public message that "avoid[s] extremist statements as [the Brotherhood] tries to sell itself to the Western audience and (insert adjective) media as moderate and cuddly." For this reason, many Brotherhood leaders in interviews with the West are now changing their tone to say they support all treaties that uphold "justice.". As Rubin concludes, because the Brotherhood considers Israel's existence to be an "occupation" of Muslim lands, Israel cannot, in and of itself, be just. Thus, "paradoxically…the only way Israel could have a peace treaty with Egypt is not to exist at all."

With this in mind, Americans should be wary about taking the Muslim Brotherhood at its word with regard to Israel—or anything else for that matter. And while any group has its uncontrollable elements who don't like to toe the party line, it seems many of the Muslim Brothers have now gotten the memo to proceed with caution and to tout a line that Americans are more comfortable with—"justice."

One former radical-turned-moderate author and current Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) Senior Fellow, is reassured by the change in tone, signaling a transformation from a group whose motto included "death in the service of God is the loftiest of our wishes" to one that is simply seeking "justice." At a CFR panel on February 2nd entitled "Ramifications Of Egypt's Political Upheaval," Ed Husain told a U.S. audience:

"[We should]…believe the Muslim Brotherhood when it says it wants to uphold the peace agreement – that's something that Kamal Helbawy said last weekend, but they want to ensure that it's just. That's a huge advance from where they were five years ago, saying they don't recognize Israel or the peace agreement."

Clearly it's not easy to tell U.S. officials which side of the Brotherhood mouth to listen to.

But Ian Johnson, author of A Mosque in Munich, in an interview with IPT News warns that we should not be fooled by the Brotherhood's new public persona, and should choose our partners in that region carefully.

"In foreign policy, governments should never rule out dealing with anyone if it advances our national interests, but we need to do so cautiously and with a long-term view, not just asking ourselves, how can we get rid of Mubarak ASAP and come out looking like the good guys?" Johnson said. "We need a more strategic view of who we really want as partners in the Mideast. Mubarak and that generation of strongmen was the wrong choice, but that doesn't make their enemies the right choice."

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IPT News

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Lessons For Egypt: The United States Can Count On Israel, But Can Israel Count on the United States?

by Alan M. Dershowitz

It's too early to learn all the possible lessons—and there will be many—from the current turmoil throughout the Middle East, but one important lesson is that there is only one democracy that the United States can always count on to remain a strong ally. That democracy is Israel. No one knows whether any or all of the Arab states that are currently in flux will pull an "Iran" on us - turning from friend to foe in the blink of an Ayatollah.

The optimists are hoping for more of a Lebanon than an Iran, but even Lebanon—with a better history of democracy than any other Arab country—is now essentially in the hands of Hezbollah. The United States cannot count on the new Egypt remaining an ally, even with the carrot of massive aid.

Some of the blame for this uncertainty falls on us for supporting friendly dictators, from the Shah to Hosni Mubarak to King Abdullah, but the reality is that the United States simply cannot rely on the increasingly vocal Arab street to support our interests. That is precisely why we have, rightly or wrongly, felt the need to cozy up to Arab tyrants who falsely promise us stability in exchange for financial and military support.

Not so with Israel. But the pressing question remains: Will the United States reciprocate, or will we be a fair-weather friend to our stalwart ally?

So far, we've been principled enough to reciprocate. United States administrations may prefer some Israeli electoral outcomes to others. We may prefer certain Israeli leaders over others. But in the end, we recognize that Israel is a stable democracy that does not need propping up from the outside.

The military aid we give Israel is not designed to protect a regime against its own citizens, as it is with regard to the aid to Jordan and Egypt. Our assistance to Israel is calculated to protect it from external enemies like Iran, sworn to its destruction.

The people of Israel may not love a particular American President or administration, but they love America and what we stand for. And Israel helps America - with intelligence gathering, development of military weapons, cyber technology defense and in numerous other ways. The relationship is a model of symbiosis.

But recent events in the Mideast, particularly the haste with which we abandoned Mubarak, our most loyal Arab ally, has raised questions among some Israelis as to whether Israel can always count on the United States.

Skeptical Israelis wonder how this, or any other, American administration would react to a demand from the Arab street across the entire Middle East or the United States to abandon Israel. This demand could come even if Israel makes peace with the Palestinians and agrees to permanent borders, since Islamic radicals don't recognize Israel's right to exist within any borders. Israelis recall how quickly we abandoned the shah and how responsive our government has been to the demands of protesters in Tunisia and Egypt.

Israelis wants real democracy among its Arab neighbors, but they fear that elections alone—particularly elections that put groups like Hamas, Hezbollah and the Muslim Brotherhood in power—will produce anything but real democracy. Hamas' violent takeover in Gaza provides the negative model that they fear will emerge from the Egyptian chaos.

While recognizing the enormous difference between democratic Israel and the tyrannical regimes against which the Arab street is now rising, these concerned Israelis are contemplating a worst case scenario. They fear that history has shown that a friend in desperate need is a friend often betrayed by superpowers.

This skepticism is not necessarily fueled by any criticism of the United States, but rather by a realistic recognition that America has its own national interests which it will always place over the interests of even its staunchest allies. The United States is, for better or worse, the world's most important superpower, and it must necessarily serve as a kind of policeman to the entire world.

Most Americans believe that it will always be in America's interests to support Israel because of its commitment to values akin to our own. But there are some Americans—from those on the extreme right like Sen. Rand Paul, to so-called realists like Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer, to those on the extreme left, like Noam Chomsky—who would see no problem in abandoning Israel at the drop of a keffiyeh.

Accordingly, though most Israelis believe that America will always support its survival, many refuse to count on it. That's why they developed a long term strategy of self-reliance. The attitude of many Israelis can perhaps best be summed up by the important lesson Elie Wiesel has taught all Jews to learn from the Holocaust: "Always believe the threat of your enemies more than the promises of your friends."

The threats being made by the Muslim Brotherhood to destroy the Jewish state by force must be taken seriously. The promises by the United States to stand behind Israel, though I believe they will remain true, must necessarily be viewed skeptically by Israelis. Israel must always be prepared to defend itself.

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Alan M. Dershowitz

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The Arab World's New Political Establishment

by Khaled Abu Toameh

There are growing signs that radical Islamic groups are trying to hijack the pro-democracy uprising that is currently sweeping the Arab world.

In Tunisia and Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood is already trying to exploit the popular uprisings to score political gains.

If the pro-democracy, anti-government movements in these countries fail to distance themselves from the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt and Tunisia could easily fall into the hands of Iran's proxies.

The fundamentalist Muslims in the two countries have until now kept a low profile, staying out of the spotlight as much as possible.

But this does not mean that the Muslim Brotherhood and their allies are not working behind the scenes to help bring down secular Arab regimes.

Iranian Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani has said that uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt are the result of "the Islamic awakening" in Middle East countries, and a growing number of political analysts in the Arab world seem to share the same opinion.

They point out that while the Islamists did not played a major role in bringing down the regime of President Zine al-Abideen Bin Ali -- with the exception of Al-Jazeera --- they are nonetheless poised to become part of the new political establishment in Tunisia.

Thousands of Tunisians turned out to welcome Rashid Ghannouchi, the exiled leader of Ennahda – the country's Muslim Brotherhood equivalent.

Hamas's prime minister, Ismail Haniyeh, was one of the first leaders to phone Ghannouchi to congratulate him on his return home. The phone call is seen in the context of Hamas's efforts to win political allies in the Arab world.

In Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood has given emerging opposition leader Mohammed ElBaradei political backing in his decision not to meet newly-appointed Vice-President Omar Suleiman.

This means that although the Islamists have kept a low profile in the street demonstrations, they are deeply involved in the key political decisions that will determine the outcome of this popular uprising.

The decision not to meet with Suleiman and negotiate an orderly transfer of power is a vote for the further radicalization of the current crisis.

The well-meaning pro-democracy protesters in Cairo, Tunis, Amman and other Arab capitals have set in motion a process of political change, but the Islamist extremists hiding in the shadows are just biding their time, waiting for the moment when they can turn these developments to their own, more sinister, advantage.

The US Administration would do well to send a forceful message to the Facebook and Twitter agitators throughout the Arab world to keep their revolution clean from Muslim Brotherhood, Al-Qaeda, Hamas and Hizbullah -- all of whom who are poised to create a new fundamentalist Middle East.

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Khaled Abu Toameh

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Arab world Protesters are Proving Their Regimes are Illegitimate

by Raphael Israeli

Hypotheses abound regarding the reasons for the ugly wave now sweeping the Arab world - some of them intelligent, others highly unconvincing. They include rulers' plans to pass the reins of government to their offspring, unemployment and economic shortages, youthful rebellion in a population whose median age is just over 20 and a longing for democracy.

The truth is that the crisis mostly derives from perceptions of the legitimacy of these countries' regimes. In liberal democratic regimes of the sort we know, legitimacy is founded on the sovereignty of the people. If the people are satisfied, they express confidence in their government, and if not, they oust the government via an orderly transfer of power. Even when the elected government is securely entrenched, the opposition sits in parliament, ready to take the reins of power when the time comes.

In the Arab world, in contrast, sovereignty rests with absolutist or semi-absolutist rulers - with military juntas who have seized power by force or presidents who were "elected" on single-candidate ballots. As they aged, some founded "republican monarchies" in which their illegitimate power is passed on to their sons, just as it is in monarchical regimes. So long as the ruler governs, the opposition sits in jail, not in parliament.

In both these types of illegitimate regimes, rulers invent justifications for their power to take the place of the nonexistent social covenant between ruler and ruled, a covenant holding that a ruler who does not fulfill his obligations to the people will be ousted in the next election.

A third type of regime, the Islamic one, derives its justification for power from the supremacy of Sharia, or Muslim religious law. Sharia gives the rulers divine legitimacy, as in the cases of Iran, Sudan and the former Taliban regime. Sovereignty belongs to Allah alone, and since the laws of the Koran are absolute, mortals cannot amend them in any way. Thus only the ruler can claim to govern legitimately.

All Arab leaders seek to justify their power, usually either by relying on Islamic law or by using anti-Israel and anti-Western ideology as a pretext to force unity against the outside world and confer political legitimacy. Thus the king of Saudi Arabia calls himself "the defender of Islam's two holy cities," while the King of Jordan, on whom Israel dubiously conferred the status of "the guardian of Al-Aqsa," uses this title to claim legitimacy and to repulse the Muslim Brotherhood, which threatens him. The king of Morocco terms himself one leg of the holy triad of "Allah, homeland, king."

And secular leaders like Hosni Mubarak of Egypt, the Assads in Syria, Saddam Hussein in Iraq, Muammar Gadhafi in Libya, Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in Tunisia, Abdelaziz Bouteflika in Algeria or Ali Abdullah Saleh in Yemen, none of whom were genuinely elected, rely on the tradition of "revolution" - that is, the forcible seizure of power - or on hatred of Israel to extract a semblance of support from the people for their warped regimes, which would never stand the test of free elections.

Added to all this are the peace agreements that Egypt and Jordan forged with Israel and the American umbrella that shelters all these illegitimate regimes. Both factors increase hatred of the regime among the masses, who, nourished by Islam, are readily disposed to accept the promises of blood, sweat and tears spouted by preachers who have waited in the wings for their moment of opportunity. These preachers have made a point of living modestly and showing concern for the plight of the masses, in contrast to the corrupt leaders who perpetuated their power partly due to support from the hated West.

These are the enraged masses of Tunis, Cairo, Amman and other places. When an earthquake occurs in one place, the shock wave quickly spreads elsewhere in an unstoppable tsunami.

U.S. President George W. Bush was correct to view democratization as the antidote to all these ailments. But President Barack Obama - like Jimmy Carter before him, who supported the shah of Iran and called him an "island of stability," then turned his back on him and threw him away like a squeezed lemon - erred when he did not have a word to say about democracy to Mubarak, Saleh, Ben Ali and their colleagues. Obama even pledged support for the Arab world in a speech delivered in corrupt Cairo, which was perched atop a volcano about to blow, then hastened to abandon the regimes the moment the flames erupted. His secretary of state behaved the same way.

These two inexperienced, ignorant and unimaginative leaders brought disaster to the Western world and paved the way for troubled times in the Arab world. If only we were not the ones who will have to pay the price for these mistakes.

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Raphael Israeli is a professor emeritus of Middle Eastern studies at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem

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Thursday, February 3, 2011

Key Military, Intelligence Assets Imperiled in Egypt

by Rowan Scarborough

U.S. military and intelligence agencies would lose vital air, land and sea assets if Egypt falls into the hands of radical Islamists, as Iran did in 1979, foreign policy analysts say.

The U.S. armed forces are entwined with Egypt's military more than with any other Arab country’s. But if Islamists seize Cairo, as the mullahs captured Tehran, this complex relationship unravels.

Let me count the ways,” said Ken Allard, a retired Army colonel and military analyst. “They are our biggest strategic partner in the Middle East. At that point, you’ve lost your biggest Arab partner. Geostrategically, the mind boggles.”

The U.S. Navy would not be able to use the Egyptian-run Suez Canal. The 150-year-old waterway sharply reduces sailing time for Atlantic-based carriers and other warships going from the Mediterranean to the Red Sea and Persian Gulf, and to wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The Air Force likely would lose overflight rights into the Middle East, and the Army would lose a partner in building the M1A1 tank.

If you are talking an Iran scenario, these are some of the things that happen first,” Mr. Allard said.

Egypt receives more than $1 billion in U.S. military aid each year and uses it to buy tanks, F-16 fighters, Patriot anti-aircraft missiles and other weapons systems.

The region’s other U.S. allies sent their militaries to Egypt for an exercise known as Bright Star to practice urban warfare, air assaults and ground operations.

Egypt is the birthplace of the shadowy Muslim Brotherhood, a fraternity committed to replacing secular governments with autocrats who follow Shariah, or strict Muslim law.

Amid the ongoing protests against Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, the Brotherhood announced that it wants to share power with Mohamed ElBaradei, an opposition leader who is a former head of the U.N. International Atomic Energy Agency.

“If we lose Egypt to the Brotherhood, it is absolutely devastating,” said former Rep. Peter Hoekstra, who led the House Select Committee on Intelligence. “The Egyptians are a key stabilizing force for us throughout the Middle East.”

It raises the basic question of everyday military operations,” the Michigan Republican said.

Do they facilitate our use of the Suez? Do they frustrate, meaning to make it inconvenient, or do they downright make it impossible?”

A radicalized Egypt likely would stop hosting the scores of Egyptian officers who come to the U.S. to attend service schools such as the Army War College. The Pentagon thinking is that decades of training have helped turn out generations of commanders comfortable with civilian rule and human rights.

Our military has benefited from the interactions with the Egyptian armed forces — one of the most professional and capable in the region,” Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said during a 2009 visit to Cairo.

We are always looking for ways to expand these ties through education, training and exercises.”

While the Pentagon has worked to foster a professional Egyptian military, Mr. Allard said, he thinks more officers are sympathetic to the Muslim Brotherhood today than 30 years ago. He said the country’s persistently high unemployment and poverty rates have helped the radicals recruit disciples.

What you’ve got is a generational situation in the officer corps in Egypt,” he said. “If you had a council of colonels, it would probably be a lot more Islamists and have their own grudges against Israel and the U.S. I’m sure there are people in the officer corps, who we do not know their names yet, who have got their own generational grudges. Over time, that has become a much more troubling situation.”

The U.S. also has been working with Egyptian forces to stop the smuggling of arms into the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip.

A Cairo run by Islamists likely would end such operations and develop close ties with Hamas, a U.S.-designated terrorist group that calls for the destruction of Israel.

The importance of Egypt‘s role was underscored by Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, the top commander in Afghanistan, when he testified before a Senate committee as head of the U.S. Central Command.

Egypt remains a leading Arab state, a stabilizing influence in the Middle East and a key actor in the Middle East peace process,” he said. “In recent years, however, the Egyptian government has had to deal with serious economic challenges and an internal extremist threat. …

Egypt has played a pivotal role in the international effort to address worsening instability in Gaza. [The U.S.] continues to work closely with the Egyptian security forces to interdict illicit arms shipments to extremists in Gaza and to prevent the spread of Gaza’s instability into Egypt and beyond.”

The CIA, too, would lose a valuable partner. It operates a robust station at the U.S. Embassy as well as classified bases. The two governments exchange information on terrorism suspects.

Egypt is a hotbed of radical groups and thought. Violent cells that spun off from the Muslim Brotherhood were responsible for the assassination of President Anwar Sadat in 1981 and the massacre of European tourists in Luxor in 1997.

Mr. Mubarak has used his internal security apparatus to launch periodic crackdowns on Islamists.

One of the first acts by Muslim Brotherhood allies in the current crisis was to storm prisons and release accused terrorists, some of whom belong to Hamas.

The biggest threat is that rather than having an ally in Mubarak, who has helped keep a lid on radical jihadists in Egypt at this pivotal crossroads, you may have a government that facilitates radical jihadists throughout the region and as a potential export location to other parts of the world, primarily into Europe,” Mr. Hoekstra said.

What I worry more about, rather than impacting our ability to collect intelligence, it opens up a whole new avenue of where we would need to collect intelligence,” the congressman said. “If it becomes a base, and you’ve got a government in Egypt that tolerates it rather than having a government that may have worked with us to collect intelligence against radical jihadists, you’ll now potentially have a government that not only supports these folks, but is now a barrier to us collecting information on them.”

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Rowan Scarborough

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U.S. Reexamining its Relationship with Muslim Brotherhood Opposition Group

by Craig Whitlock

As it braces for the likelihood of a new ruler in Egypt, the U.S. government is rapidly reassessing its tenuous relationship with the Muslim Brotherhood, an opposition movement whose fundamentalist ideology has long been a source of distrust in Washington.

Although the group has played a secondary role in the swelling protests that are threatening to topple President Hosni Mubarak, U.S. officials have acknowledged the political reality that the Muslim Brotherhood is poised to assume at least a share of power should Egypt hold free and fair elections in the coming months.

On Monday, in what analysts said was a clear reference to the Brotherhood, the White House said a new government in Egypt should "include a whole host of important non-secular actors."

The move drew the skepticism of some U.S. officials who have argued that the White House should embrace opposition groups that are more likely to support a democratic government in Egypt, rather than one dedicated to the establishment of religious law.

It also marked a change from previous days, when Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and other officials expressed concern that the uprising in Egypt could shift power to an Islamist government much like the one in Iran, where ayatollah-led factions elbowed aside other groups to seize control of the country in 1979.

Officially, the U.S. government has long shunned the Muslim Brotherhood because of doubts about its stated commitment to non-violence and democratic principles. For years, however, U.S. officials have engaged in back-channel talks with Egyptian members of the movement in recognition of its substantial popular support.

The unofficial contacts have taken place sporadically since the 1990s but became more frequent after members of the Brotherhood were elected to the Egyptian Parliament in 2005. Afterward, U.S. diplomats and lawmakers held several meetings with Brotherhood leaders, including at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo.

U.S. officials justified the meetings by saying they were merely speaking with duly-elected members of the Egyptian legislature.

"I do think that having contacts with the Muslim Brotherhood was not a bad idea," said Robert Malley, an official in the Bill Clinton administration who directs the Middle East and North Africa program for the International Crisis Group. "They are an important constituency in Egypt. They're very likely to play a role in any future arrangements there."

Some U.S. officials and analysts have long urged the State Department to reach out even further to the Brotherhood.

"If we are truly going to engage with the 99 percent of Muslims who do not support terrorism or violence, then we've got to engage indigenous groups, including Islamic political parties," said Emile Nakhleh, a former CIA official who directed the agency's political Islam analysis program.

Although the Brotherhood is Egypt's best organized opposition group, with an active charitable arm that dispenses social services nationwide, Nakhleh said it would not necessarily win a majority of votes in an open election. "They would be a hefty minority," he said, predicting that it would receive support from about 25 to 30 percent of the Egyptian population.

The movement was founded in 1928 by Hassan el-Banna, an Egyptian imam seeking to overthrow British colonial rule, and it has spread to scores of countries.

In Egypt, the Brotherhood has been officially banned for decades, and many of its leaders have been imprisoned and tortured. Mubarak has warned U.S. officials for years that the group wants to establish a theocracy modeled on the Islamic Republic of Iran, although he has relaxed restrictions on the group's political activities at times.

Members of the movement are often vague about their political goals. In an interview this week with the BBC, Kamal el-Helbawy, a Muslim Brotherhood leader in exile in Britain, said the group wants "freedom, consultation, equality, freedom of everything."

He ducked questions, however, about whether an Egyptian government led by the Brotherhood would guarantee equal rights for other religious groups - such as Egypt's Coptic Christians - and women. When asked whether all women would be required to wear veils, he said, "not necessarily."

Some critics have accused the group of having fundraising and organizational links to terrorist groups. But terrorism experts note that al-Qaeda and other jihadi groups regularly accuse Muslim Brotherhood figures of being apostates and sellouts.

Analysts said the movement strives in public to play down concerns about its agenda, partly for self-preservation. By presenting itself as a moderate group that would embrace a multi-party democracy, it seeks to preempt worries about its goals, said Emad Shahin, an Egyptian American scholar at the University of Notre Dame.

"They don't want to be seen as taking part in an uprising or upheaval that seeks to establish an Iranian-type government," he said. "They need to shield themselves behind a broader opposition front."

Despite the White House's decision Monday to extend a rhetorical olive branch to the Brotherhood, analysts said the Obama administration remains divided over whether and how to deal with the group, both in the near and long term.

J. Scott Carpenter, a State Department official in the George W. Bush administration, said the White House overture could backfire by alienating leaders in the Egyptian military, who could remain in control of the country even if Mubarak is forced out.

"It was completely unnecessary and counterproductive," he said of the White House statement. "It sends the wrong message to the military."

Hillel Fradkin, an analyst at the Hudson Institute, said the U.S. government should be spending more energy reaching out to secular factions that have been active in the anti-Mubarak protests.

"If we're going to deal with people in the opposition, it makes the most sense for us to engage with groups that can be reasonably thought to support a liberal democratic outcome in Egypt," he said.

In contrast, he said deepening a dialogue with the Muslim Brotherhood is unlikely to bear fruit, because the movement's goals are at odds with U.S. interests. "How are we going to persuade them to like us?" he said. "They don't, and they won't."

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Craig Whitlock

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'Al-Qaida on Brink of Using Nuclear Bomb'

by Heidi Blake and Christopher Hope

Al-Qaida is on the verge of producing radioactive weapons after sourcing nuclear material and recruiting rogue scientists to build "dirty" bombs, according to leaked diplomatic documents.

A leading atomic regulator has privately warned that the world stands on the brink of a "nuclear 9/11".

Security briefings suggest that jihadi groups are also close to producing "workable and efficient" biological and chemical weapons that could kill thousands if unleashed in attacks on the West.

Thousands of classified American cables obtained by the WikiLeaks website and passed to The Daily Telegraph detail the international struggle to stop the spread of weapons-grade nuclear, chemical and biological material around the globe.

At a Nato meeting in January 2009, security chiefs briefed member states that al-Qaida was plotting a program of "dirty radioactive IEDs", makeshift nuclear roadside bombs that could be used against British troops in Afghanistan.

As well as causing a large explosion, a "dirty bomb" attack would contaminate the area for many years.

The briefings also state that al-Qaida documents found in Afghanistan in 2007 revealed that "greater advances" had been made in bioterrorism than was previously realized. An Indian national security adviser told American security personnel in June 2008 that terrorists had made a "manifest attempt to get fissile material" and "have the technical competence to manufacture an explosive device beyond a mere dirty bomb".

Alerts about the smuggling of nuclear material, sent to Washington from foreign U.S. embassies, document how criminal and terrorist gangs were trafficking large amounts of highly radioactive material across Europe, Africa and the Middle East.

The alerts explain how customs guards at remote border crossings used radiation alarms to identify and seize cargoes of uranium and plutonium.

Freight trains were found to be carrying weapons-grade nuclear material across the Kazakhstan-Russia border, highly enriched uranium was transported across Uganda by bus, and a "small time hustler" in Lisbon offered to sell radioactive plates stolen from Chernobyl.

In one incident in September 2009, two employees at the Rossing Uranium Mine in Namibia smuggled almost half a ton of uranium concentrate powder - yellowcake - out of the compound in plastic bags.

"Acute safety and security concerns" were even raised in 2008 about the uranium and plutonium laboratory of International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the nuclear safety watchdog.

Tomihiro Taniguchi, the deputy director general of the IAEA, has privately warned America that the world faces the threat of a "nuclear 9/11" if stores of uranium and plutonium were not secured against terrorists.

But diplomats visiting the IAEA's Austrian headquarters in April 2008 said that there was "no way to provide perimeter security" to its own laboratory because it has windows that leave it vulnerable to break-ins.

Senior British defence officials have raised "deep concerns" that a rogue scientist in the Pakistani nuclear program "could gradually smuggle enough material out to make a weapon", according to a document detailing official talks in London in February 2009.

Agricultural stores of deadly biological pathogens in Pakistan are also vulnerable to "extremists" who could use supplies of anthrax, foot and mouth disease and avian flu to develop lethal biological weapons.

Anthrax and other biological agents including smallpox, and avian flu could be sprayed from a shop-bought aerosol can in a crowded area, leaked security briefings warn.

The security of the world's only two declared smallpox stores in Atlanta, America, and Novosibirsk, Russia, has repeatedly been called into doubt by "a growing chorus of voices" at meetings of the World Health Assembly documented in the leaked cables.

The alarming disclosures come after Barack Obama, the U.S. president, last year declared nuclear terrorism "the single biggest threat" to international security with the potential to cause "extraordinary loss of life".

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Heidi Blake and Christopher Hope

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