By Barry Rubin
A short history of democracy in Egypt. In February 2011 the Mubarak
regime fell. There was going to be a parliament elected in Egypt. The
parliament was elected. Its election was invalidated. Today there is no
parliament in Egypt.
The Muslim Brotherhood said it would want to run one-third of the
candidates for seats. Then they ran one-half. Then they ran all. Then
they said they would not run a president. Then they did and elected a
president. And they and the Salafists elected 70 percent of the
parliament. But now there is no parliament.
The Parliament was going to pick a constituent assembly but to write a
Constitution. But now there is no Constitution. There are no
restrictions on presidential powers.
And then there was a Supreme Council of the Armed Forces but that was
supposed to restrain the Muslim Brotherhood president. And it was
supposed to be restrained by the Egypt-Israel peace treaty and by the
hope of getting U.S. military aid. But the president got rid of it and
fired the two top people and put in his own generals. And there is no
And we were told that the Egyptian government had promised to adhere to
the Egypt-Israel peace treaty. But when it wished the regime simply
violated the treaty and sent forces into the eastern Sinai. And it
announced an alliance with Hamas which openly declared its desire to go
to war with Israel and destroy it. And Cairo did not demur.
The Egyptian regime did more economic damage to Israel by violating its
contract on natural gas shipments than any other Arab regime in the
history of the country because Israel had to spend billions of dollars
replacing that lost fuel. That is why Israeli taxes are going up and
social spending must decline. The U.S. government did not lift a finger
The entire Israeli strategic plan has had to be altered to add an entire
new defensive front along the border with Egypt. New units will be
organized; new fences built; new equipment ordered and paid for.
Saaed Eddin Ibrahim, arguably the Arab world’s leading sociologist and
certainly the leading advocate of liberal-Islamist alliance against the
old Arab military regimes has now totally changed sides, warning that
the Islamists want to hijack power and establish dictatorships. He
pleads for Westerners to wake up.
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Egyptian President al-Mursi has now named the heads of the main Egyptian
newspapers, radio stations, and television networks. They include
sleaze balls that sold out to the Mubarak regime and will do whatever he
tells them and supporters of Islamism. The first round-ups have begun
of reporters who are to bold and honest in their investigations. The
walls are closing in.
Soon the generals will be replaced; soon the judges will be replaced,
and so too will the diplomats. In other words, the internal and external
bureaucracy of Egypt’s government will become transformed. The old
national security considerations will change.
The next stop is the court system where plans are being made already to
eliminate judges. True, there were many corrupt jurists but there was no
institution in Egypt where there were more courageous individuals and
advocates of democracy. But that’s the problem. The very integrity that
made these e men stand up against Mubarak will make them do the same
against the Brotherhood and they will not enforce Sharia law. Their vote
against the parliamentary result was a warning. They will soon be
An upcoming conference of pro-Islamist judges will recommend massive
retirements; the new constitution, written by Islamists, will weaken the
courts against Sharia as interpreted by Islamic clerics. The
Brotherhood will take over al-Azhar University and appoint one of its
men as chief qadi, Muslim judicial official. They will get into control
of the wealth religious endowments. Within a year, Egypt will be
fundamentally transformed. Irretrievably transformed.
Considers what this means in foreign policy.
Current Egyptian Strategic Assessment (End of Mubarak Regime) Main
threat: Revolutionary Islamism in the form of Muslim Brotherhood,
Salafists, al-Qaida, and Hizballah.
MAIN THREAT end 2012): ISRAEL, MODERATE ARAB STATES.
Competing local leadership 2011: Shia Islamism in form of Iran-led alliance, including Syria and Hizballah
Competing local leadership 2012: COMPETING SHIA ISLAMISTS IN HIZBALLAH, SYRIAN REGIME, IRAN, TO SOME EXTENT IN IRAQ AND BAHRAIN
–Arab allies 2011: Saudi Arabia and Jordan. Egypt wanted to help against Iran and Jordanian Muslim Brotherhood.
ARAB ALLIES 2012: HAMAS, MUSLIM BROTHERHOOD IN JORDAN, SYRIA, TUNISIA,
LIBYA, ETC. Will get along with Saudis if give money and don’t
–Israel 2011: Dislikes but understands shares common interests in
battling Islamists of both Brotherhood-Hamas and Iran-Syria varieties as
well as al-Qaida. Keep Hamas under control to avoid war and violence
ISRAEL 2012: WIPE OFF MAP POSSIBLY INCLUDING WAR BUT CERTAINLY
SUBVERSION AND TERRORISM CAN BE USED AGAINST IT; ALL ISLAMIST AND ARAB
FORCES SHOULD BE MOBILIZED; AND ANY NEGOTIATED SOLUTION BLOCKED
Overall posture 2011: Minimize Egypt’s role in regional affairs to be left alone and focus on survival and development.
Overall posture 2012: Maximize Egypt’s internal transformation into an
Islamist state and change of all institutions including army. Take
leadership over Gaza. Tunisia. If possible Libya, be senior partner to
Syria Islamist regime. Brush aside Turkish influence. Minimize Iranian
influence in Arab and Sunni spheres.
U.S. 2011: Though will us ant9American demagoguery periodically the
alliance with America is important as source of military, economic, and
strategic support. They have common friends, enemies, and common goals,
seek regional stability and defeat of radical forces.
U.S. 2012: Get along with U.S. if low cost and can get aid easily but
don’t let Washington get away with interfering with regime goals. Reduce
U.S. influence in Egypt and demonize those friendly to America.
Undercut U.S.-Israel cooperation. Subvert remaining U.S. ales. Defy U.S.
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.