Since ancient times, Egypt's riches, fertile land and strategic geographical location have made it a coveted prize for invading armies, including the Persians, Greeks, Romans, Turks, French and British. The US pretends not to be an empire, but until Egypt's revolution last year, it had dominated all aspects of Egyptian affairs for more than three decades. After the signing of the Camp David Accords in 1978, the US dictated the course of Egypt's economy through IMF control and direct aid, harnessed its military power, ensuring Israel always maintained a qualitative edge, and supported the Mubarak regime as it oppressed its people while serving as an American puppet in the region.
It would be naive to think that the US would give up this un-modern, anti-democratic and inhumane policy of dominance over the Egyptian people in favor of a strategy that would champion their desire for self-determination. Only several months ago, the U.S. Army War College's Strategic Studies Institute (SSI) published a report entitled "Presidential Succession Scenarios in Egypt and Their Impact on U.S.-Egyptian Strategic Relations." Of the many post-Mubarak scenarios presented, a Muslim Brotherhood ascendancy to power was the least desirable. It is therefore no surprise to anyone that the US and Israel are not happy with last week's election results.
For the first time in its history, Egypt went to the polls without knowing the results beforehand, and the results were surprising. Of 13 candidates, the two top vote-getters were the Muslim Brotherhood's Mohamed Morsi (of the Freedom and Justice Party, with 25% of the vote) and former Aviation Minister and last Prime Minister before Mubarak's fall Ahmed Shafiq (with almost 25% despite his connections to the deposed regime).
Expectations that the Brotherhood would perform badly were based on:
1) their huge failure in parliament,
2) lost credibility due to reneging on their "promise" not to field a candidate in the presidential elections, and
3) even those who supported them did not want them to grab all reins of power, fearing return of one party rule.
This spin accepted by many in the West and an easily swayed Egyptian polity seeking stability and eager for immediate economic improvement, was a carefully calculated plan on the part of Mubrak era cronies, the Supreme Council of the armed Forces (SCAF), US and Israeli intelligence agencies, and their collective allies in the media to undermine the popularity of the Muslim Brotherhood.
Morsi's showing in the first round of voting belies the notion of a premature Egyptian disenchantment with the FJP. That the people would punish the Brotherhood at the polls after barely four months in a transitory period that everyone knew was being hindered by the military defies logic.
Having experienced sustained repression under military rule for decades and witnessed the treatment of Hamas in Gaza after their electoral win in free and democratic elections, the Brotherhood initially sought to allay fears of an "Islamist" takeover. Further, they banked on a parliamentary system that would severely curtail the powers of a new president. However, the SCAF scrapped the constitutional committee dominated by the Brotherhood, leaving the future president's power a dangerous unknown, and the Brotherhood felt compelled to run their own candidate.
Throughout post Mubarak Egypt, Egyptians consistently view a major role for Islam in politics. Whether Salafis, Brotherhood or independent Islamists run for office, a majority of people want shariah to be the basis for Egypt's rule of law, and they consistently vote for Islamists. Now the Brotherhood and Salafis dominate the parliament. The Salafis supported independent Islamist Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh over Morsi to assert dissatisfaction with FJP power politics. Nonetheless, it is clear that Islamist trends dominate the political field.
Superficially, the polls, the media and the generals manipulating public opinion gave the impression that the choice facing Egyptian voters was between taking a chance with experimental candidates (like Morsi, Aboul Fotouh, and independent Nasserite Hamdeen Sabahi) or opting for Ahmad Shafiq, a known candidate who would bring immediate stability, security and economic fortune -- at the expense (it turns out) of Amr Moussa, the former Foreign Minister and Arab League Secretary General who is likely to finish in fifth place.
Below the surface is something much more sinister -- the inability of a disparate conglomerate of groups to accept the rising tide of "Islamist" fortunes among the masses in democratic elections. The same players that were arrayed against Hamas' 2006 electoral victory are back to undermine their like-minded mother organization, the Muslim Brotherhood of Egypt. Add to the old regime and American/Israeli meddling (via money, influence and media), anti-Islam secularists and the politically exploited Christian minority coming together to smear the Brotherhood's agenda and the FJP's candidate.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's coy written statement, "We look forward to working with Egypt's democratically elected government," suggests the US will stand by as Egypt slips from its hands to the Islamists only because its policy makers still believe that they have enough money, political power and, ultimately, military might to manipulate Egyptian affairs until they can find rulers who are more to the liking of Washington. The problem with this is that America's military decline in the world and its economic weakness are likely to accelerate and exacerbate a sense of desperation on the part of US policy makers that will ultimately lead to bloodshed in Egypt and the Middle East.
If the US continues to support the generals with 1.3 billion dollars in military aid and clandestinely undermines the democratic process, bloodshed in Egypt is all but certain. Not because Islam is inherently violent or the Arabs are backward and resistant to democracy and free modern societies. Rather, Western meddling in the Middle East led by US intervention for ascendancy, oil and Israel carries the price of blood and death.
US posture toward the so-called "Arab Spring"
is replete with lip service to the self-determination of the peoples of the
region, but actions speak louder than words. After a belated acceptance of
Mubarak's demise, the US
still continues to draw upon its long-standing and vast intelligence
network to infuse money and affect the outcome of Egypt's elections and future.
In Yemen, it strongly pushed for
what it called a "peaceful" transition that ensured the vice president Abd -Rabbu Mansour
Hadi would maintain the status quo and
perpetuate the US military presence (ostensibly to protect the Saudi monarchy)
under the guise of battling al-Qaeda.
In Syria, the US and Israel were quite comfortable with a belligerent Assad as long as Syria did not pose an imminent military threat to Israel, but seems content with internal strife and the prospect of all out civil war which would ensure Syrian weakness for years to come. Despite the fact that "Islamists" may come out on top after the dust has settled, the US/Israel alliance is confident that it can undermine Islamic rule in Syria as in Egypt and elsewhere in the Middle East. Even in Tunisia the US has used its soft power to cajole politics towards western dominated influence.
From a pragmatic perspective it is understandable why the US, still the dominant nation in the world, will not easily give up its influence in favor of self-determination for the peoples of the Middle East. However, the longer the US continues to meddle in internal Middle Eastern affairs, the more violent the reaction against its intervention. Let the Egyptians and Arabs determine their own destinies, even if it means internal strife and violence. The US invasions of both Iraq and Afghanistan have prolonged each country's insurrections and civil war, thus the extent of bloodshed. America risks repeating the mistakes of history on a scale akin to the disaster of the Crusades a thousand years ago.
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