Monday, April 23, 2012

Egypt’s Elections: Titanic of Western Interests, Meet Iceberg of Islamist Revolutionary Zeal

By Barry Rubin

Egypt will hold its presidential election May 23-24 with a possible run-off on June 16-17. It is impossible at this point to predict what’s going to happen but I can make a good guess. Eight weeks from now Egypt will be led by either a radical anti-American Islamist who wants to wipe Israel off the map or by a radical anti-American nationalist who just hates Israel passionately.

Let’s review the background and then analyze the likely events to come.

Since Egypt’s revolution began a year ago five propositions have monopolized the Western debate and coverage, all of which were wrong:

--That Egypt would become a real democratic state in which human rights and civil liberties would be respected.
--That this state would be dominated by moderate and modernist secular groups.
--That the Muslim Brotherhood is moderate and a bulwark against the really radical Islamists.
--That the army is simultaneously the main enemy of democracy in Egypt that should be opposed and yet also the force that would keep Egypt stable and pro-Western.
--That the new Egypt would remain an ally of the United States or at peace with Israel.

Only the second has been reluctantly dropped by governments and mass media. All the others are still in place today! Indeed, the Muslim Brotherhood has become the substitute moderate democratic hope. This blindness ignores all the daily evidence to the contrary.

The “moderate democratic” forces up until now have defined the military as their main enemy. Perhaps they still do so.  But they also woke up to realize that a constitution written by a vast majority of Islamists wouldn’t be a great thing for them. So they followed the classical Arab mistake of boycotting the constitution-writing process, thus ensuring that the Islamists will have even more power.

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Two Islamist candidates—the Brotherhood’s Khairat al-Shater and the Salafists’ Hazem Salah Abu Ismail—and one secularist—Omar Suleiman—have been disqualified. The Brotherhood simply substituted Muhammad Mursi, leader of its Freedom and Justice Party, for al-Shater, who returned to his job as deputy head of the Brotherhood.  Morsy told a news conference, “We intend to make the Palestinian issue our main issue.”

The other main candidate is the radical nationalist Amr Moussa. His stances have varied depending on whether he thought he could hope for the Brotherhood’s backing. Since his main rival is the Brotherhood-backed Morsy, Amr Moussa is in a relatively anti-Islamist phase.  And that’s not to say that Moussa, albeit the lesser of two evils, is any great prize, though he is certainly preferable.

Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. His book, Israel: An Introduction, has just been published by Yale University Press. Other recent books include The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley), and The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan). The website of the GLORIA Center  and of his blog, Rubin Reports. His original articles are published at PJMedia.

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