Monday, January 31, 2011

Flash: Egyptian "Moderate Democratic" Leader Negotiating Coalition Government With Islamists

By Barry Rubin

As I've been warning, Muhammed al-Baradei, seen as the leading "moderate, pro-democratic" leader in Egypt is negotiating with the Muslim Brotherhood to form a national unity government.  That doesn't mean the negotiations will succeed but it gives a clear glimpse of what a post-Mubarak regime Egypt would mean.

As one shrewd analyst remarks, "al-Baradei being put in power by the Muslim Brotherhood is effectively like the `moderate' Miqati being put in power [as prime minister] in Lebanon by Hizballah.  What matters is that the Muslim Brotherhood and Hizballah are calling the shots." 

If you believe that al-Baradei, with no real political experience or any organized movement behind him, can dominate the Muslim Brotherhood, I have a bridge over the Nile I'll sell you. But it's even worse than that. It has been well-known in Egypt that much of al-Baradei's presidential campaign has been run by the Brotherhood. He's certainly not their puppet but to a considerable extent he is their pawn.

And for those of you who think that the Muslim Brotherhood is really a moderate group, here is one example of its rhetoric from Rajab Hilal Hamida, a member of the Brotherhood in Egypt’s parliament, who proves that you don’t have to be moderate to run in elections:

“From my point of view, Bin Ladin, al-Zawahiri and al-Zarqawi [the leaders of al-Qaida who staged the September 11 attacks and massive killings in Iraq] are not terrorists in the sense accepted by some. I support all their activities, since they are a thorn in the side of the Americans and the Zionists.…[On the other hand,] he who kills Muslim citizens is neither a jihad fighter nor a terrorist, but a criminal murderer. We must call things by their proper names!”

[After he said this the Brotherhood issued a statement, albeit only in English on a site known for trying to make the group sound moderate to a Western audience, that he did not represent their viewpoint. It is quite true that the Brotherhood does not support al-Qaida, as I have pointed out. But shorn of those specific names, he did state the position that the Brotherhood has frequently taken.]

And here's Muhammad Badi, the Brotherhood's leader:

"Resistance is the only solution….[Today the United States] is withdrawing from Iraq, defeated and wounded, and it is also on the verge of withdrawing from Afghanistan. [All] its warplanes, missiles and modern military technology were defeated by the will of the peoples, as long as [these peoples] insisted on resistance–and the wars of Lebanon and Gaza, which were not so long ago, [are proof of this].”

Let's assume that al-Baradei became Egypt's president. The Muslim Brotherhood might get key ministries such as education and social welfare, transforming large sectors of Egyptian society, putting thousands of their supporters into key positions, and consolidating power for the next step. They would also infiltrate and recruit pro-Islamist officers in the army.

What effect would such a coalition have on Egypt's policy toward the United States and Israel? Would U.S. economic aid and military sales continue to such a regime? One of the new government's first steps would be to end all sanctions to the Gaza Strip, allowing weapons and terrorists to flow there freely.

This development shows precisely why the existing regime should be preserved--without Mubarak and with some reforms--rather than overthrown.

There should be no more illusions about what's happening in Egypt. If the Brotherhood is so weak, why is it the proposed partner in the next government?

The key factor now is the army, which al-Baradei--with no good prospects of it happening--hopes to win over. Will the army support Mubarak, get rid of him and preserve the regime, or remain passive and watch as a revolution happens?  

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 latest books are 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 GLORIA Center's site is and of his blog, Rubin Reports,

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