Arab Discontent Abounds…
Since unrest began in Tunisia in early 2011, news outlets have reported unrest or threats of unrest in eight Arab nations including Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Libya, Morocco, Syria, Tunisia, and Yemen, comprising a combined population of over 222 million people (see “Deadly Clashes Rock Egypt Capital”).
…While Radical Islam Marshals to Fill the Vacuum
The frustrations of the Egyptian people are understandable given thirty years of autocratic rule. The reason for fear, however, is what forces will fill the power vacuum left by Mubarak’s broken mandate as the Muslim Brotherhood waits in the wing.
Radical Sunni Islam thrives in chaos.
It filled the void in Iraq when U.S. forces overthrew Saddam’s government in 2003. It thrived in the power vacuum the Red Army left in its wake when it withdrew from Afghanistan in 1989. It has prospered in lawless Somalia for decades. It has dominated the political stage in the volatile Caucasus region after the collapse of the Soviet Union. It has forced the Chinese to send troops to its Western provinces to restore order among its restive Uighur population.
The West seems to have tacitly endorsed the mild-mannered Mohamed ElBaradei, the former Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency, as an alternative to Hosni Mubarak. Yet, other than being Egyptian, Dr. ElBaradei does not really have strong ties to Egypt. Rather, the Muslim Brotherhood, the intellectual forebears of al Qaeda and Hamas, stands in the wing ready to take power.
The Muslim Brotherhood initially kept a low profile at the advent of the crisis. However, over time, it has become increasingly assertive. Today, the group issued a statement calling for President Mubarak to step aside for a transitional government.
The Muslim Brotherhood, founded in Egypt in 1928, is the world’s oldest and largest Islamist movement and has adherents in nearly every Muslim country and in Europe and the United States. One of its prominent thinkers, Sayyid Qutb, was an advocate of violent jihad who later inspired organizations like al Qaeda (see “As Islamist Group Rises, Its Intentions Are Unclear“).
Like Hezbollah and Hamas, the group mixes terrorism with charity. This clever organizational apparatus tends to confuse weaker willed people as to whether the group is good or evil. In case you had to guess, I think the group is evil. As such, “experts” on the Muslim Brotherhood have concluded that it is so influential that the United States would have no choice but to accept the group’s role.
I disagree with this assessment. The United States can still influence Egyptian behavior by threatening to withdraw the billions of dollars in aid it grants the country each year if the Muslim Brotherhood assumes power. USAID, alone has provided Egypt with nearly $28.6 billion since 1975.
That said, Egyptian unrest is the least of America’s concerns. It is where that unrest spreads that has far more ominous implications.
Stay tuned for Part II tomorrow to learn where Egypt’s unrest may ultimately lead.