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Hosni Mubarak

Barry Rubin


by Rhonda Spivak, January 30, 2011

I have spent the last few days scouring the English and Hebrew Press to find what I think is the best analysis of the consequences of the upheaval in Egypt.

On the top of my list of recommendations is an article by Barry Rubin, from the Gloria Centre, Global  Research in International Affairs,  entitled SPECIAL REPORT: THE REVOLT IN EGYPT AND U.S. POLICY

The United States seems to have adopted a policy, that on the whole tends to be pushing the Egyptian regime out of power.

As Rubin writes, “The situation could not be more dangerous and might be the biggest disaster for the region and Western interests since the Iranian revolution three decades ago,” as “ This could lead to an Islamist Egypt, if not now in several years.”

As Rubin points out, in Tunisia, “The elite stepped in with the support of the army and put in a coalition of leadership, including both old elements and oppositionists. We don't know what will happen but there is a reasonable hope of stability and democracy. This is not the situation in Egypt where the elite seems to have lost confidence and the army seems passive [emphasis added].”

In fact, in Hebrew reported that private planes filled with the Egyptian business class departed from Egypt—a sign that the elite has lost confidence.

Rubin questions whether Omar Suleiman, long-time head of intelligence, as vice-president  and former Air Force chief  Ahmed Shafiq as prime minister  can stabilize the situation.

If not, then as Rubin correctly says  power will be up for grabs—and that may well in lead to a takeover by Islamicists:

Remember the Iranian revolution when all sorts of people poured out into the streets to demand freedom? Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is now president.

Remember the Beirut spring when people poured out into the streets to demand freedom? Hizballah is now running Lebanon.

Remember the democracy among the Palestinians and free elections? Hamas is now running the Gaza Strip.

Remember democracy in Algeria? Tens of thousands of people were killed in the ensuing civil war.

It doesn't have to be that way but the precedents are pretty daunting.

What did Egyptians tell the Pew poll recently when asked whether they liked "modernizers" or "Islamists"? Islamists: 59%; Modernizers: 27%. Now maybe they will vote for a Westernized guy in a suit who promises a liberal democracy but do you want to bet the Middle East on it?”

Egypt has been for the last 30 years an American ally generally and its loss to an anti-American government would be a tremendous defeat for the United States.

“Moreover, a populist and radical nationalist-much less an Islamist-government could reignite the Arab-Israel conflict and cost tens of thousands of lives,” as Rubin says.

This means that U.S. policy should put an emphasis on the regime's survival—even without Mubarak .

President Obama’s "pro-democracy" approach is based on the belief that Egypt will produce a moderate, democratic, pro-Western state that will then be more able to resist an Islamist challenge. And there are those in the American mass media  that believe rather naively   the Muslim Brotherhood isn't really a threat at all, or can be incorporated into a moderate government.

Obama  has said:

"I've always said to [Mubarak] that making sure that they are moving forward on reform -- political reform, economic reform -- is absolutely critical to the long-term well-being of Egypt, and you can see these pent-up frustrations that are being displayed on the streets.... so the government has to be careful about not resorting to violence... As I said in my State of the Union speech, there's certain core values that we believe in as Americans that we believe are universal: freedom of speech, freedom of expression -- people being able to use social networking or any other mechanisms to communicate with each other and express their concerns."

Unfortunately, as Rubin concludes, “ if the regime does what Obama wants it to do, it will fall. And what is going to replace it?

“.. the ruler who emerges is likely to be from the best organized, disciplined group.’[emphasis added]. People in Russia in 1917 were yearning to be free also and they got the Bolsheviks. In Iran where people are yearning to be free, the Obama Administration did nothing.”

In fact the difference in Obama’s approach to a popular revolt in Egypt and Iran could well turn out to be especially toxic : When Iran faced a revolt, rather than push to help the opposition, Obama did nothing—thereby ensuring the survival of the Ahminenijad’s regime. Leaving Ahminenijad in power, while propelling opposition in Egypt will enable Iran to support bringing the Muslim Brotherhood into power. In retrospect if Obama wanted to promote democracy in Egypt or elsewhere in the Middle East he ought to have done everything possible to support revolt against the Iranian regime. He ought to have been consistent in his approach to both Iran and Egypt.

MEMRI reported in January 28, 2011 that Ahmad Khatami of Iran in last Friday ‘s Sermon said that in contrast to the U.S.'s dream of a new Middle East
under its domination, a new Middle East based on Islamic principles is now taking shape.He added that the recent uprisings in the Arab world have Islamic support, as people poured into the streets with the slogan of "Allahu Akhbar (Allah is the Greatest)."

Ha’aretz recently showed a photo of a poster held by a protester with a face of Mubarak with a Magen David on him—obviously protesting  the peace treaty with Israel.

On Jan 30, 2011, Asharq reported that two out of eight Hamas prisoners who broke out of a Cairo prison during the revolt made their way back to Gaza. If the revolt strengthens Hamas, just how is that in American interests?

As Rubin writes, “No matter what the United States says or does at this point, it is not going to reap the gratitude of millions of Egyptians as a liberator. For the new anti-regime leaders will blame America for its past support of Mubarak, opposition to Islamism, backing of Israel, cultural influence, incidents of alleged imperialism, and for not being Muslim. … .”

As Rubin says “There is no organized moderate group in Egypt. Even the most important past such organization, the Kifaya movement, has already been taken over by the Muslim Brotherhood. Its leader until recently was Abdel Wahhab al-Messiri, a former member of the Muslim Brotherhood and a virulent antisemite." 

According to Rrubin, even Muhammad el-Baradei, leader of Egypt’s reformist movement, says that if he were to be president he would recognize Hamas as ruler of the Gaza Strip and end all sanctions against it.

“I have pointed out that the Brotherhood's new leader sounds quite like al-Qaida and has called for war on both Israel and America.

“And here is 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 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!"

“A study of the Brotherhood members of Egypt's parliament shows how radical they have been in their speeches and proposals. They want an Islamist radical state, ruled by Sharia and at war with Israel and the United States.

“Then it is also being said that the Brotherhood is not so popular in Egypt. Then why did they get 20 percent of the vote in an election when they were repressed and cheated? This was not just some protest vote because voters had the option of voting for secular reformers and very few of them did.
 “The deeper question is: why does the Brotherhood not engage in violence in Egypt? The answer is not that it is moderate but that it has felt the time was not ripe. Knowing that it would be crushed by the government, and its leaders sent to concentration camps and tortured or even executed, as happened under Gamal Abdel Nasser in the 1950s and 1960s, is a deterrent. It is no accident that Hamas and Hizballah-unrestrained by weak governments-engaged in violent terrorism while the Muslim Brotherhood facing strong and determined regimes in Egypt and Jordan did not."

Rubin also notes that Egypt's resources and capital are limited-there aren't enough jobs or land or wealth. How would a new regime deal with these problems  of lack of jobs, land or wealth to mobilize popular support?  The most likely answer is through  demagoguery: 'blame America, blame the West, blame Israel, and proclaim that Islam is the answer.”
Rubin concludes, “The emphasis for U.S. policy, then, should be put on supporting the Egyptian regime generally, whatever rhetoric is made about reforms. The rulers in Cairo should have no doubt that the United States is behind them. If it is necessary to change leadership or make concessions that is something the U.S. government can encourage behind the scenes.

“But Obama's rhetoric-the exact opposite of what it was during the upheavals in Iran which he should have supported-seems dangerously reminiscent of President Jimmy Carter in 1978 regarding Iran. He has made it sound-by wording and nuance if not by intention-that Washington no longer backs the Egyptian government. And that government has even said so publicly.

‘'Without the confidence to resist this upheaval, the Egyptian system could collapse, leaving a vacuum that is not going to be filled by friendly leaders.

'That is potentially disastrous for the United States and the Middle East. There will be many who will say that an anti-American Islamist government allied with Iran and ready to restart war with Israel "cannot" emerge. That's a pretty big risk to take on the word of those who have been so often wrong in the past.”

The second must read is an article by Michael Widlanski 30 January 2011 entitled OBAMA'S LEGACY OF HOPE AND CHANGE IN THE MID EAST, which can be access in its entirety at

Here are a few choice excerpts:

“• In a dramatic speech before thousands at Cairo University, Obama attested that America was one of the largest Islamic countries, expecting
his statements would produce "moderation" in the Islamic sphere. Less than a year later, Obama and his top advisors appear clueless and impotent, as
Islamic militants seem poised to seize power from the regime Egyptian President Hosni Mubarrak (over issues ranging from corruption to high food
prices). Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton are urging "restraint" (the favorite theme of the US State Department) the same way Jimmy Carter
urged restraint on the Shah of Iran in the face of Ayatollah Khomeini. We know how that ended. The Obama-Clinton public statements actually seem to
be a disavowal of Murbarak who is far from perfect exemplar of democracy. Still, Mubarak, for all his faults, is a better friend to the US than Muhammad Baradei, the UN-foisted opportunist who helped cover up proliferation of WMD by despots on his way to winning a Nobel peace prize.[emphasis added]

“• Obama "engaged" the Iranian revolutionary regime, and the Iranians responded by speeding up their construction of nuclear weapons, while
simultaneously brutally repressing real democratic protests over a pathetically rigged election…

‘Obama and Clinton are missing the real story in Egypt, which has some similarity to the story of Iran in 1978 and 1979: a pro-American
authoritarian regime has invited protest because of personal and economic weakness combined with charges of corruption. The ailing octogenarian
Mubarak (who has been in and out of hospitals) resembles the ailing Shah. Neither man would have been my choice as a contestant for American Idol, but
the question was and is—who is the alternative? The ayatollahs of Iran have certainly been worse than the Shah in every respect, and they established
the worst terror-supporting government in the world (even more than North Korea). Of course, the ayatollahs were not the only ones protesting the
Shah, but they knew how to exploit the general unrest—and calls for democracy—in order to come to power. Once in power, they epitomized
Professor Bernard Lewis's adroit description of the Islamist desire for democracy: "one man, one vote, one time only."

“In Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood and its kindred groups al-gema'at al-Islamiyya and Takfir Wa-Higra as well as Egyptian Islamic Jihad are
the kinds of organizations that spawned the groups that attacked the World Trade Center in 1993 and September 11, 2001. We should remember that every time Obama and Hillary Clinton rushed to scold Mubarak for trying to hold on to power, they were strangely silent when the ayatollahs used far more
abusive power against a non-Islamic democratic protest.

 [Dr. Michael Widlanski, who has studied and worked in several Arab countries, teaches Arab politics and communication at the Hebrew University in
Jerusalem. He is a former reporter, correspondent and editor, respectively, at The New York Times, The Cox Newspapers-Atlanta Constitution, and The
Jerusalem Post, serving as a special advisor to Israeli delegations to peace talks in 1991-1992 and as Strategic Affairs Advisor to the Ministry of
Public Security, editing secret PLO Archives captured in Jerusalem. He is currently completing a book on Arab-Islamic terror.]

My next recommendation is Ari Shavit in Ha'aretz,  Jan 30, 2011--showing how Obama's betrayal of Mubarak will lead to the end of the American Empire

" ...for 60 years the American empire kept the world stable, and provided relative quiet, peace and prosperity. The current U.S. president, Barack Obama, is undermining the American empire.

"'Obama's betrayal of Hosni Mubarak is not just the betrayal of a moderate Egyptian president who remained loyal to the United States, promoted stability and encouraged moderation. Obama's betrayal of Mubarak symbolizes the betrayal of every strategic ally in the Third World. Throughout Asia, Africa and South America, leaders are now looking at what is going on between Washington and Cairo.

"Everyone grasps the message: America's word is worthless; an alliance with America is unreliable; American has lost it. A result of this understanding will be a turn toward China, Russia and regional powers such as Iran, Turkey and Brazil.

"The second result of this insight will be a series of international conflagrations that will result from the loss of America's deterrent power. But the general result will be America's rapid disappearance as a superpower.

"The policy setback which Washington will experience will be no less dramatic than the regime debacle which Cairo is experiencing. Barack Obama is, indeed, poised to make history. Should he not change direction, he will be remembered as the U.S. president who undid the American empire with his own hands. "

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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

Opinions expressed in letters to the editor or articles by contributing writers are not necessarily endorsed by Winnipeg Jewish Review.