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Senate Joint Resolution 41: The Blank Cheque of 2012

“The Emperor Francis Joseph may, however, rest assured that His Majesty will faithfully stand by Austria-Hungary, as is required by the obligations of his alliance and of his ancient friendship.” Telegram from German Imperial Chancellor Bethmann-Hollweg to Austrian Government 

It seems like it is a rare occasion when either the House or Senate combine to pass any sort of bi-partisan measure. One wishes that when they did that it would be something actually that would benefit the people of the United States. However in recent times it seems that the only time that the Senate or House can agree on anything is when they vote to raise their pay or give their blessing to a new war, of course without actually going on record as declaring war.

In July of 1914 the Austro-Hungarian Empire sought German backing to go to war against Serbia for the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand. The Balkans were boiling over. The Austrians felt that the chaos in the Balkans was an existential threat to their already fragile empire and aimed to shore up their position by crushing Serbia. However, since the Russian Empire supported the Serbs and was a direct threat to exposed areas of the Austrian empire in what is now Poland the Austrians sought a guarantee of German support for their action.

The Germans made the decision to support Austria knowing that if they did that it was likely that war with Russia, and probably France and Britain would ensue. Austria despite its limitations was Germany’s only real ally in Europe. By a series of diplomatic blunders Kaiser Wilhelm II managed to undo all of Otto Von Bismarck’s diplomacy following the German unification. He scuttled the treaty of friendship that the Bismarck and Kaiser Wilhelm I had with Russia and built a Navy that threatened Britain’s interests both against the protests of Bismarck. As Wilhelm’s Germany became more isolated the more it prepared for war and many of its military and political leaders felt that war was not only inevitable but desirable before Germany’s enemies, especially Russia became more powerful.

Now with war threatening Germany was isolated and decided to support the Austrians believing that even if war came that they would emerge victorious. It was a decision that would be fatal for the German Empire as well as the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

This week as the situation between Israel and Iran has continued to deteriorate with most experts believing that it is only a matter of time before Israel will launch a pre-emptive strike on Iran’s emerging nuclear weapons capability. Leaders of Iran and Israel have continued to escalate rhetoric as well as conduct clandestine operations against each other. Iran has been isolated by the west and by much of the Sunni Moslem world, particularly Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States. It believes that the west and the heretical Sunni’s desire the overthrow of its theocratic regime. Israel sees Iran’s possession of nuclear weapons as an existential threat and also faces local border conflicts with Hamas and Hezbollah. Israel now has to deal with the threat posed by Egypt which is now led by the Muslim Brotherhood.

Israel’s leaders, especially Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu feel that time is very short before Iran reaches the stage where it can produce nuclear weapons. The United States, the European Union and the United Nations have also opposed the development of such weapons by Iran and instituted ever tougher economic sanctions but those nations and entities feel that more time is needed for sanctions to take effect.

Likewise the leaders of Iran including President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and leaders of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards frequently talk of war with Israel which would lead to the destruction of the Jewish State. In light of Iran’s support for Hizbollah and involvement in the Syrian civil war Israel takes Iran’s threats seriously.

The tensions continue to increase and many believe that Israel could strike in the very near future the United States Senate in a rare moment of bi-partisanship the Senate passed what amounts to a “Blank Cheque” to Israel or the President to take action against Iran. In a vote Friday it passed Senate Joint Resolution 41 by a vote of 90-1. Amid all the domestic political jockeying, economic problems and yes the football season most people didn’t even know the vote occurred. The Senate voted it on the Friday that they recessed until after the November elections. The resolution stated that the Senate:

“strongly supports United States policy to prevent the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapons capability;

rejects any United States policy that would rely on efforts to contain a nuclear weapons-capable Iran; and

joins the President in ruling out any policy that would rely on containment as an option in response to the Iranian nuclear threat.”  http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/D?c112:2:./temp/~c1126dTHw8::

The lone vote of dissent was cast by Kentucky Republican Senator Rand Paul who said: “A vote for this resolution is a vote for the concept of preemptive war.”

The resolution in effect rules out and shackles any President using any form of diplomacy to deter Iran. Should Iran gain a nuclear capacity it effectively negates any form of deterrence, diplomacy or containment options other than war to stop Iran. In effect it gives the blessing of the Senate to either Israeli or American preventive war against Iran. The resolution is similar in this instance to the guarantee of Germany to Austria in 1914.

At this point I doubt that there is anything that will stop a war from happening. Too much has been invested by too many governments in ensuring that it will happen to stop it. Regardless of who is President of the United States Iran will continue its course until Israel strikes. When that happens all bets are off.

It will be a war designed to prevent a war but it will trigger events that will go well beyond a conflict between Iran and Israel. Others will be pulled in, the United States, NATO, the Gulf States, possibly Syria, Iraq, Pakistan and even Egypt. American and NATO forces in Afghanistan will be in great danger.

One would hope that we would learn from the mistakes of others. The great Otto Von Bismarck commented said “preventive war is like committing suicide out of fear of death.” Obviously we haven’t learned anything.

Pray for Peace

Padre Steve+

 

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The Gathering Storm: Shades of 1914 as War Threatens in the Middle East

Israeli Navy Dolphin Class Submarine

“The world tells Israel ‘Wait, there’s still time.’ And I say, ‘Wait for what? Wait until when?’” Benjamin Netanyahu 

The question is not if but when. The tensions between Iran and Israel continue to boil over even as the rest of the Middle East begins to melt down.

Last week on the 11th anniversary of the September 11th attacks Al Qaeda backed forces attack the US Consulate in Benghazi Libya killing Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three others. Militants in Egypt laid siege to the US Embassy while newly elected Egyptian President and Moslem Brotherhood leader Mohammed Morsi dithered torn between his party ideology and the pragmatic reality of the dependency of Egypt on the United States for military and economic assistance. Throughout the region from Tunisia to Indonesia protests, some marked by violence broke out at United States and other Western nations diplomatic outposts.

Shahab III Missile Ranges

The Iranians and their Hezbollah allies have repeatedly threatened Israel with destruction and have improved their missile forces significantly ever the past number of years even without nuclear weapons. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is demanding the United States and the west set “Red Lines” regarding the Iranian nuclear program that would trigger an automatic attack on Iran by the United States.

Like the First World War the tensions, provocations and rhetoric increase even as military forces mobilize and gather in the region. Iran is preparing for massive military exercises involving land, air defense and ballistic missile units from the Iranian military and Revolutionary Guards to begin in October.  Iran admitted this weekend that forces from their Revolutionary Guards are currently operating in Syria placing them in position to directly engage Israeli forces in the event of conflict.

By October the United States will have three Carrier Strike Groups, the USS Enterprise, USS Dwight D. Eisenhower and USS John C Stennis and an Expeditionary Strike Group with an embarked Marine Expeditionary Unit in the region. Additionally warships from more than 25 countries are gathering for exercises designed to counter any blockade of the strategic Straits of Hormuz by Iran. Other ships, including the French Aircraft Carrier Charles DeGaulle battle group and the British HMS Illustrious  “Response Task Forces Group” are in the Eastern Mediterranean and could be in the region within a week. US Navy submarines, both attack and ballistic missile are never far from a threatened area. US Air Force  Fighter Squadrons have been reinforced and it is certain that strategic air force units of B-2, B-52 and B-1 bombers are certainly deployed where they can respond as needed. The build up by all sides is unprecedented.

The countries of the region are on hair trigger alert. Any act, intentional or unintentional by any party could trigger a war that would most certainly bring great destruction to the region but would likely sink the global economy and spread around the world through acts of terror and revolutionary violence.

Numerous reports and Israel government official statements indicate that Israel is ready, to strike Iran, if need be alone to prevent what they believe is an existential threat to Israel. While some believe that any Israeli attack on Iran would be precision strikes aimed at Iran’s nuclear program and ballistic missiles sites. However, most experts believe that an Israeli strike would at best set back the Iranian nuclear weapons program a couple of years and trigger a regional war with very unpredictable outcomes. If the Israeli strike is conventional in nature the Iranians will strike back against Israel, as well as US targets in the region. The US would certainly respond but any war would affect the region and the world economy as oil prices would rise exponentially.

With that in mind it is possible that the Israelis fearing the existential threat of Iranian nukes might use their nuclear forces in a first strike role.

Most experts believe that the Israelis would only use nuclear weapons in a retaliatory “second strike” capacity. The reasoning is that the first use of nuclear weapons by Israel would be against their national interests. That is logical but history is replete with times that nations have acted in ways contrary to logic because the action is deemed “necessary.” It is the same logic that said that the Germans would not violate Belgian neutrality in 1914 knowing that such an action would trigger British intervention on the side of France and Russia. It was believed by most that “the Germans are dangerous but they are not maniacs….” The Germans faced war on more than one front and felt that they had to deliver a swift blow to knock France out of the war in order to defeat Russia. It was a risk that they were willing to take and one which helped lose them the war and set about a series of events that made the 20th Century the bloodiest in human history.

In the current situation many in Israeli leadership may view the use of nuclear weapons to stop an existential threat as a legitimate use of the weapons. Israel does face real threats and those threats are increasing as Iran increases in strength and no longer has traditional rival Iraq to worry about. Likewise the instability of Egypt and the anti-Israeli animus of the Moslem Brotherhood which now leads Egypt has increased the real and perceived threat from that country. An Egypt openly hostile to Israel armed to the teeth with advanced American weapons is a dagger pointed at the heart of Israel. Israel’s leaders may be willing to suffer international condemnation in order eliminate what they consider an existential Iranian threat to ensure their survival and ability to defend against Egypt as well as conventional and unconventional Hizbollah forces operating out of Lebanon and those of Hamas in Gaza.

If they were to use nuclear weapons the primary delivery system in such a strike would most likely be Dolphin Class submarines armed with nuclear capable Popeye cruise missiles. These missiles have a 1500 km range and while the missiles could be used in a conventional strike their utility would be limited to precision strikes against unfortified headquarters buildings housing Iranian leadership, or command and control facilities. The numbers of Popeye missiles the Dolphins carry is limited since the majority of Iranian nuclear sites are hardened facilities or deep underground their use against them in a conventional manner would be a waste.

The threat to United States and NATO forces in Afghanistan is great if a broader war erupts. US and NATO forces, already fighting an increasing Taliban insurgency are for all practical purposes surrounded if a war spreads and Pakistan shuts down the southern supply route. Even this week Taliban insurgents scored a victory successfully attacking the strongly fortified joint US Marine and British base Camp Leatherneck-Camp Bastion destroying 6 AV-8B Harrier jets on the ground, damaging more aircraft, valuable hangers and support facilities while killing 2 Marines. A war with Iran would threaten to turn Afghanistan into a trap for nearly 100,000 US and NATO coalition troops.

It could as Barbara Tuchman said of the the Germans of 1914 that the Israelis have “staked everything on decisive battle in the image of Hannibal….” but that the ghost of Hannibal might have reminded the Germans and the Israelis that though Hannibal and “Carthage won at Cannae, Rome won the war.” In mid May and early June of 1914 even before the assassination of Franz Ferdinand Field Marshal Von Molkte and others felt that the scales were tipping against them. He told his Austrian counterpart Field Marshal Conrad Von Hotzendorf that “from now on ‘any adjournment will have the effect of diminishing our chances of success.’” On June 1st Von Molkte said to Baron Eckhardstein,“We are ready, and the sooner the better for us.”

The storm clouds of war are thickening and darkness hovers as the storm gathers. In 1914 the politicians, diplomats and soldiers that realized war would be disastrous were a minority in their respective governments and their warnings went unheeded. In 1914 “war pressed against every frontier. Suddenly dismayed, governments struggled and twisted to fend it off. It was no use….” As the sun set and the lamps of London were lit on August 4th 1914 Sir Edward Grey said to a friend “The lamps are going out all over Europe; we shall not see them lit again in our lifetime.” It is as if we are watching the same drama play out in the Middle East now.

Peace

Padre Steve+

 

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Pouring Gasoline on the Fire: The True Believers and Unending War

The Consulate in Benghazi Burns

“Passionate hatred can give meaning and purpose to an empty life. Thus people haunted by the purposelessness of their lives try to find a new content not only by dedicating themselves to a holy cause but also by nursing a fanatical grievance.” Eric Hoffer, The True Believer

September 11th 2012 was a day that initially was marked by somber reflection on the attacks that killed nearly 3000 people 11 years before. However as the night settled over the Continental United States Americans were again attacked. This time two events, one in Egypt and one in Libya brought about the loss of American lives including Ambassador Chris Stevens and ignited a political firestorm.

It is no secret that extremist Moslems, Christians and Jews, each for their own particular theological and political reasons have been trying with all their might to bring about a global conflagration between the the Islamic world and the West, especially the United States and Israel.  Hatred of the other, power and the desire for vengeance against crimes real and imagined motivate all of them. The desire for the ultimate judgement of God being poured out on their enemies is a motivating force because their enemies are by necessity the enemies of their God.

The latest violence appears to have its genus in the release of a a film produced by someone named Sam Bacile who claims to be real estate broker and Israeli citizen. The Israelis say there is no such Israeli and some wonder if the name is actually a pseudonym and the AP reported that the cell phone led to a man named Nakoula Basseley Nakoula a man convicted of financial crimes who admitted a role in the film today.  Nakoula is neither an Israeli or a Jew and has used the the name as a pseudonym.

Koran Burning Pastor Terry Jones

The film, called alternately “The Innocence of Moslems” or “Mohammed: Prophet of Moslems” is being promoted extensively by Egyptian Coptic Christian expatriate and anti-Moslem zealot Morris Sadek and Koran burning “pastor” Terry Jones. In an interview with the Wall Street Journal the man who calls himself Sam Bacile claimed that the film was “a political movie” and that “Islam is a cancer, period.” One of his collaborators an Evangelical Christian named Steve Klein told Fox News that “we went into this knowing that this was probably going to happen.”

Bacile or Nakoula, whoever he happens to be released a 13 minute long trailer for the film on You-Tube in English and it was translated into Egyptian Arabic. It has gone viral in the Islamic world. The Islamic preachers of hate and the cottage industry that thrives on finding reasons to hate Americans used the film to launch demonstrations at the US Embassy in Cairo and the Consulate in Libya.

Egyptian Protestors desecrate the American flag after breaching the Embassy Wall

Warned of upcoming demonstrations the Press Officer of the US Embassy in Cairo published the following statement six hours before the protest. Please note it is not an apology, it is diplomats in danger trying to calm the situation:

“The Embassy of the United States in Cairo condemns the continuing efforts by misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims — as we condemn efforts to offend believers of all religions. Today, the 11th anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States, Americans are honoring our patriots and those who serve our nation as the fitting response to the enemies of democracy. Respect for religious beliefs is a cornerstone of American democracy. We firmly reject the actions by those who abuse the universal right of free speech to hurt the religious beliefs of others.”

In Egypt the new government headed by Moslem Brotherhood President Mohammed Morsi did little to break up the demonstration yesterday and the crowds entered the compound, pulled down and desecrated the American flag and raised the black Islamic banner. However, they did no more. Today more demonstrations have occurred but Egyptian security forces interposed themselves between the demonstrators but the Egyptian government did nothing to condemn the demonstrators.

However during the initial phases of the crisis Republican Presidential Candidate condemned the Obama administration and the Embassy for “apologizing” for the “right of freedom of speech” in response to the attack on the Cairo embassy. Romney was criticized for the statement by many Republicans for appearing to use the attacks for partisan political gain. After doubling down on the comments this morning many analysts believe that Romney has come out of the day worse off on how he is viewed than before.

Romney’s remarks were contrasted with those of Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush in 1980 when the military operation ordered by President Jimmy Carter to free the US hostages during the Iranian hostage crisis. Reagan made this statement: “This is the time for us as a nation and a people to stand united and to pray” while Bush said “I unequivocally support the president of the United States — no ifs, ands or buts — and it certainly is not a time to try to go one-up politically. He made a difficult, courageous decision.” Both Reagan and Bush would campaign using the “weakness” of Jimmy Carter as one of their key points of attack but on the day of the disaster both had the decency not to use it for their political gain.

Ambassador Chris Stevens

In Libya there was a small demonstration at the consulate. However that demonstration appears to have been pushed aside by an armed group of 20-30 men wielding RPGs, machine guns and other automatic weapons. The assault by the group lasted between 4-5 hours and during it Ambassador Stevens and three other Americans including two Marines were killed.

The Libya attack appears to be a planned and premeditated attack, possibly to avenge of Al-Qaeda’s Libyan born second in command Abu Yahya al-Libi on June 4th, which Libyan Al Qaeda allies have promised to retribution. The fact that the attack occurred when a Ambassador Stevens was on a visit to promote the opening of a new cultural center. Stevens was respected by many Libyans for his role during the Libyan revolution and the Libyan government has apologized and Libyans have marched to apologize for his death.

Libyans protest in Sympathy with the US

President Obama has order a Marine Fleet Anti-Terrorism Security Team (FAST) platoon  to Tripoli to bolster the embassy defenses and ordered two Guided Missile Destroyers to Libya. He has promised that “justice” will be served on Ambassador Stevens’ killers. Osama Bin Laden and many other Al Qaeda leaders have faced that justice during Obama’s term and I expect that these brutal killers will not live long. He also made a telling comment about how he and the administration now view the situation in Egypt:

“I don’t think that we would consider them an ally, but we don’t consider them an enemy…I think it’s still a work in progress, but certainly in this situation, what we’re going to expect is that they are responsive to our insistence that our embassy is protected, our personnel is protected.”

The operative words in his remarks about Egypt are that “I don’t think that we would consider them an ally.” It appears that the President fully recognizes that despite hopes that pro-western modernists would gain power after the revolution that the newly elected government of Moslem Brotherhood President Mohammed Morsi is not our friend.

Tonight the demonstrations in Cairo continue, others are breaking out in other countries and many Arab leaders recognize the danger and are trying to defuse the situations.

The problem is that no matter who is President that the instigators of the attacks on the embassy and the consulate as well as those that egg them on and those that intentionally try to provoke them will not stop. They will continue to do all that the can to bring about the war that they think will bring the fulfillment of their apocalyptic visions, be they Islamic, Christian or Jewish.  The fire is burning and these fools are doing all that they can to spread the flames around the world.

I wish I could say that it was going to get better but it looks like we are being pulled even deeper into this war without end.

Pray for peace but know that those that want war do more than pray for it, they are willing to do anything for it, even kill.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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The Beginning of Chaos in Egypt: Watching and Waiting as the Situation Deteriorates

Battle Lines in Tahrir Square (Yanis Behrakis -Reuters via MSNBC)

Today violent street clashes broke out in Cairo’s Tahrir Square. Following President Hosni Mubarak’s pledge not to run for the Presidency again but remain in office until September and the opposition’s denunciation of that move as too little too late Tuesday night pro-Mubarak groups entered the fray. Men on camels and horses swept into the square during the afternoon whipping and clubbing anti-Mubarak protesters as they stormed through the crowd.  Reporters were attacked and as evening came the clashes became more violent as the pro-Mubarak supports began to throw Molotov Cocktails at the demonstrators. The Army did appear to attempt to make some efforts to separate the groups and fired tear gas to disperse the crowds but did little else. The scene was remarkably different from Tuesday when the protesters calling for Mubarak to step down did so in a peaceful manner unmolested by the Army units in the square.  The Egyptian military has aired television spots asking all of the protesters to “go home for the love of Egypt.”

Although the images shown on our television sets conjure the worst and appear to the country devolving into chaotic violence with unpredictable consequences. The fact is mystery shrouds developments outside the view of the cameras surrounding Tahrir Square. We are unaware of what is transpiring inside the government or the military. We are unsure about the extent of Egypt’s government or ruling party’s involvement in today’s counter demonstrations, some reports are that some at least were ordered in from government jobs.  The only thing that we can safely assume is that unless some kind of resolution acceptable to both sides arises the situation could get dramatically worse and imperil the success of any government that replaces the Mubarak regime whether he steps down in the next few weeks or holds on until September.

Regardless of the outcome Egypt and possibly much of the Arab World is at a turning point. Authoritarian regimes as different as that of Muammar Ghadaffi and Saudi Arabian King Abdullah have condemned the Egyptian uprisings as well as that which overthrew Ben Ali in Tunisia.  They know that the dynamics at work in Egypt, unemployment, poverty and political repression are shared to one degree or another in much of the Arab World, the common factor repressive authoritarian regimes which to many lack legitimacy.  Rulers in Jordan and Yemen have already seen demonstrations and Jordan’s king has fired his government apparently to get ahead of the protests and Yemen’s ruler has pledged to step down at the end of his term in 2014.  Leaders of other Arab nations cast a wary eye on Egypt and their own opposition groups.

The Egyptian revolution will more than likely not result in fundamentalist Islam dominated state due to the unpopularity of such regimes as the Taliban and Iran in the Arab World. At the same time while Islamists are not leading the revolution in Egypt they are an important part of the Egyptian political landscape and must be taken into account.  I would think that if the violence subsides and a peaceful orderly transition takes place that a government similar to Turkey, probably not led by a religious party could be the best result. Such a government would likely not be as close to the United States as Mubarak but probably remain an ally and not an active enemy of Israel as it seeks its own economic growth and stability to reinforce its pivotal role in the Arab World.  However there is no guarantee of this outcome.

The worst outcome would be continued violence that leads to a radicalized country led by more extreme members of the Muslim Brotherhood, some of whom have called the Egyptian people to prepare for war against Israel.  Unfortunately unlike the older generation of Egyptians the new generation has not experienced war and war’s desolation. The older generation was at war with Israel for nearly 40 years suffering defeat after defeat.  In 1967 they lost control of the Suez Canal and the income derived from it in the 6 Day War and in 1973 after successfully crossing the canal and inflicting heavy casualties on the previously invincible Israelis had the tables turned on them. An Israeli Army after driving off the Syrians in a desperate battle on the Golan Heights and advancing deep into that country crossed the Suez Canal, surrounded an Egyptian Army on the far side of the canal, lay siege to Suez and were poised to drive to Cairo saved only by a cease fire brokered by Henry Kissinger and the United Nations. The war nearly brought the Soviet Union and the United States into nuclear conflict when the Soviets marshaled Airborne divisions to intervene and President Nixon raised the DEFCOM from 4 to 3. I remember talking to Egyptian officers, veterans of the wars with Israel when I was a student at an Army school in 1983, they talked of sacrifice and the brutality of war and the effects of the war on their country.  One simply said “I do not like Israel but I am tired of war and I do not want it for my children.”  Since Camp David Egypt has had all of its territory in the Sinai returned was able to reopen the Suez Canal.  Another war between Egypt and Israel would devastate both countries and for that matter not be contained.  A radicalized government set on such a course would be an unmitigated disaster for Egypt, Israel and the world.

While we watch Egypt protests are about to begin in Yemen with a “day of rage” scheduled for Thursday with demonstrations planned in Syria and Jordan Friday and Saturday and even Bahrain on February 14th. Expect such demonstrations as the old guard of the Arab World experiences the long suppressed rage of their people which is now spread in seconds through the power of the social media.  Meanwhile radicals in Iran, Al Qaeda and as well as other radicals and terrorist groups wait to take advantage. Yemen which has a strongly entrenched Al Qaeda organization and sits astride the strategically important Bab-el-Mendeb passage at the south end of the Red Sea is a country that is a prime target of these radicals and terrorists.  All the other countries for different reasons are important to the stability of the Middle East.

Today’s protests in Tahrir Square killed three and wounded over 600.

We can only watch and wait….and pray as these events develop.

Peace

Padre Steve+

 

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Walk Like an Egyptian: The Egyptian Revolution and the Radicalization of the Middle East

Egyptian Protesters with Army Soldiers (AFP Photo)

As Egypt goes so goes the Arab World. Egypt is the leader of the Arab World, the largest country and the country with the most powerful military, a developing educated class and one of the most strategically located countries in the world. Much of the world’s shipping passes the Suez Canal and the Egyptian peace treaty with Israel and cooperation with Israel on security issues has resulted in the most secure parts of the Middle East for decades.  The United States and the West count Egypt is their key ally in the Arab World but now the world trembles at the revolution going on in Egypt because of the uncertain and potentially destabilizing potential in the Middle East and the world.

Mohamed El Baradei (AFP Photo)

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak had ruled Egypt under emergency conditions since the assassination of President Anwar Sadat in 1981 by military members loyal to the Muslim Brotherhood.  Mubarak has continued Sadat’s policies and been a strong ally of the United States and frequently has mediated for Israel in the Arab World.  He has been a stabilizing influence in the Middle East but has ruled as a dictator for all practical purposes since.  Mubarak dissolved his government and appointed a Vice President for the first time during his rule. He has steadfastly refused to step down.

Protesters (AFP Photo)

Conditions in Egypt include extremely high unemployment, poverty and social services which are insufficient at best and in many locations non-existent. Discontent has been simmering for years with Egyptian Police and internal security forces keeping a tight lid on dissent. The military however is the most trusted and respected institution in Egypt as it has kept a distance between it and internal security matters. The Police on the other hand are viewed as corrupt and brutal.

Matters have blown up in ways that few anticipated in the past week and it all began in Tunisia, a country on the fringe of the Arab World. Within a week of a popular overthrow of their President the flames of change were rolling across the Arab World, Yemen, Jordan and Egypt. Popular uprisings in key Arab countries led in many cases by educated pro-Western moderate professionals using social media such as Facebook and Twitter.

As of now we are unsure of exactly what will happen. However Egypt is the key. The protests now have an internationally respected leader, the Nobel Laureate former head of the United Nations Nuclear Inspection agency Mohamed El Baradei.  El Baradei has called on the United States to support the Egyptian people and says that he has the mandate to form a national unity government and reached out to the Egyptian military which is important for the stability and security of any new government.

The demonstrations have grown in intensity and the Army had taken the place of the police on the streets to the cheers of demonstrators.  While this is happening there is a surge of looting and vandalism and individuals as well as communities are taking their security on themselves with no police on the streets to do so.

With the situation on the ground continuing to get worse the United States will have to act in support of the protestors or see its influence in whatever kind of government and with the Egyptian people dissipate.  The best outcome would be an orderly transition of power to some kind of national unity government headed by pro-Western leaders such as El Baradei.  Unless such a transition takes place the chances of the uprising to become radicalized under the domination of the long suppressed Muslim Brotherhood is a real possibility.  The key right now is the Egyptian military, respected at home and trusted it is closely linked to the United States in many ways.

We do not know how this will end and chances of it ending badly are as great as or greater than in 1979 when the Islamic Revolution overthrew the Shah of Iran and the subsequent moderate government. At least there is no Khomeini like figure ready to seize the moment and lead the country into an Iranian style revolution.  The Muslim Brotherhood has been under wraps for many years and though a fundamentalist movement is populated with professional people and not clerics and it publically renounced violence years ago. One can only hope that El Baradei and the military can lead the Egypt on a democratic and peaceful course and that Hosni Mubarak will ensure that the transition is peaceful.

Lord help us all.

Peace,

Padre Steve+

 

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