Is Egypt on the slippery slope towards an Islamic fundamentalist government?

I’ve written about the so-called ‘Arab Spring‘ revolution in Egypt in several previous articles, pointing out the danger that radical Islamic movements such as the Muslim Brotherhood might use them as a springboard to power. In a recent article, Michael Totten identifies some very worrying trends in Egypt that suggest this may, indeed, be happening. Here’s an excerpt.

I suspect the army is working with the [Egyptian Muslim] Brotherhood mostly for pragmatic reasons. Their ideologies are different, but they overlap in some ways. Both are anti-Western and anti-Zionist. Neither are interested in secular liberal government where religion is strictly a private affair, where the economy is beyond the control of the state, and where military officers follow orders from elected civilians.

. . .

Americans who are more interested in peace and stability than popular self-government in the Middle East may be heartened to think the army may act as a check on the Muslim Brotherhood or any other potentially dangerous political movement, but the army has better relations right now with the Muslim Brotherhood than with anyone else in the country. On the flip side, though, the army is entirely uninterested in fighting another hot war with Israel.

. . .

Egypt isn’t Iraq, and it is not Lebanon. Its politics are not militarized. Nearly every gun in the country is held by the army, and if the army has an ideology it’s one of crony capitalism and nationalism, not radical Islam. It was only a few months ago that liberals in Tahrir Square said “the army and the people are one hand” after the military forced Mubarak out, but today they correctly describe the junta as the military dictatorship that it is. It hasn’t fallen out of favor as much as Mubarak did, but it has fallen.

The Muslim Brotherhood has lost some of its popularity, too, for a number of reasons. It denounced and intimidated Egypt’s liberal and leftist activists, it is colluding with the military dictatorship, and Egypt’s political space in the post-Mubarak era has opened up space for more parties. Last year the Muslim Brotherhood was the only real opposition in town. It could count on the anti-Mubarak “protest vote.” That is no longer true. Both the Islamists and the army have less legitimacy than they recently did.

But what if they save each other by banding together? … Paul Berman said as much himself not long ago in The New Republic.

“The Egyptian army,” he wrote, “which must be dreaming of action, is also maneuvering to survive, and if the generals have not already cut a deal, surely they are working on one, which can only mean that, in the Arab world’s leading country, the army and the Brotherhood are arranging a do-over of their unfortunate falling-out in 1952, and this time the results will make room for both of them.”

No doubt Washington and Jerusalem prefer to do business with the military instead of the Brotherhood even if the regime was founded in a spirit of Arab Nationalism and Egyptian supremacy. But what if the U.S. and Israel will soon have to contend with both?

There’s much more at the link. Interesting and very thought-provoking reading. Highly recommended for everyone who follows events in Israel and the Middle East.


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