EGYPT & THE ISLAMISTS: Exception or rule?

Complexity still rules in the Arab winter of discontent.

Now that the useful idiots have all gone quiet about just how much Islamics in North Africa are gagging for democracy, it allows the rest of us some more time to spend on understanding the detail – rather than telling the fluffies over and over why they’re wrong.

Nothing like an even-handed start to a post, but I will counter that by saying how daft I felt yesterday when a comment threader asked the simple question, “Do you think Egypt is different?” The fact is, in the last six months Egypt has gone onto my mental back-burner and I didn’t even notice. The question was both astute and valid.

Over the same time period, Islamic terrorists carried out a massive attack on the Egypt/Israel borderlands in Sinai. I was surprised to hear that Egyptian security officials and Mossad had been ‘cooperating’ about this, thinking that the Brotherhood’s view would be ‘bring it on’.

Now this morning, Egypt says it has carried out air strikes against ‘suspected Islamic militants’ in the Sinai peninsula, with reports of ‘up to 20 people killed’. In case nobody had noticed, the government of Egypt is, um, Islamic. Mind you  – and this is important – it is Sunni…as are over 90% of Egyptians.

My contacts in Egypt were never that good apart from one brief period, but I have one or two in Israel. I understand the general view in Tel Aviv is that the Army v Brotherhood thing in Egypt is still far from being a done deal, and that these clashes show the Islamists broadcasting that fact, and the army top brass demonstrating what they can do when necessary. Maybe this is simplistic, I’m not sure.

However, the cooperation must be warming many a Jewish heart in the Israeli Cabinet. Especially now that the Sunni hegemony is playing into their hands in Syria and Iran (see Monday’s Slogpost).

It feels to me like the same pattern: Saudis, Americans and Israelis back Sunnis in general and the Brotherhood in particular. And in Egypt, the Israelis probably have both options covered.

But this is hypothesis. The usual source democracy applies: if you have reliable information about any of this, write to jawslog@gmail.com

PS And as always, I’d prefer to read stuff from folks who know something, rather than from jerks who seem to know everything. Bless you.

18 thoughts on “EGYPT & THE ISLAMISTS: Exception or rule?

  1. Returned a couple of weeks ago from hols near Hurghada. Have been there before and unlike many I engage the staff in discussions to improve their English and my arabic [which is understandable if you know in advance that that is what language I am speaking. that was from one of the managers. I keep thinking that I must sound like the gendarme in 'ello,ello].

    Nearly all staff bus in from the 3 major connerbations, Alex, Cairo and Luxor. They work 21 days then a week off and so they look forward to waving goodbye and take the bus home.
    Things I noted.
    We pass through the town of Hurghada on our way in and out.
    1. Construction seems to have stagnated. A couple of years ago everyone had a mattock in the left hand and a cement mixer instruction book in the right. many half finished buildings seem the same as 2 years ago. wish I’d taken phots to be sure. Land clearances in prep for new resorts that we noted last time, remain just that. The resort we stayed at is not spending money on infrastructure, just maintenance.
    2. In Hurghada, lots of working age men sitting around in the shade drinking coffee or water. They do smile back if you wave, but it doesn’t reach their eyes which appear to look at infidels as both the problem and the solution.[can't strip the amateur novelist from the comments -sorry.]
    3. Being away from famillies for 3 weeks could be a big issue if stuff were kicking off in the home town, but staff were calm, no evidence of tensions.
    4. The one person who did not shy away immediately from discussion about regimes and things [asked about 5 decent english speakers in general conversation how things were after the elections], he said that mostly they wait to see what happens. It was apparent that he sat in the revolutionary pro democracy side of the house, he did not say he did not like the brotherhood, just that that wasn’t what he wanted.
    RECAP: These are the folk who are not naturally revolutionaries but actually want a bit of demos and were around 50% of the vote based on the results we saw in the preliminaries. The preliminaries wiped out the revolutionary vote because they had too many candidates and none got enough votes to go through to the next stage which left those revolutionary voters with an unpalatable set of choices. Mubarrak by proxy in the former pm, the Brotherhood or not voting in protest because there were no candidates you liked.
    My opinion is that it is a tough call as to whether there will be a second rising to satisfy these people. The islamic party in charge however is well aware and no doubt will tread extremely carefully until fully embedded and controlling the army. If they cock it up though and start getting all theocratic, and that impacts on the many, many thousands of famillies dependant on tourists for their male income, then it could kick off again PDQ..

  2. Pingback: UPDATE: EGYPT & THE ISLAMISTS: Exception or rule? | A diary of deception … « Regional Wars!

  3. As you so often say, John, follow the money. From what I have seen the Egyptian military is; a. the biggest commercial business, b. the biggest employer (not including soldiery), c. the biggest land owner, d. the biggest property owner and e. the biggest consumer of GDP. As I understand it, and never having lived there I may be entirely wrong, Mubarak lost the support of the military when he tried to build a separate power base centred on his family, which threatened the behind the scenes military hold on power.

    I doubt Egypt will ever escape the hold of the military without bloody revolution, but how far the military will go in allowing non-military organisations any kind of power or control will depend on what they think will best serve their interests and privilege. Try thinking on it from that angle and see what you come up with.

    • Someone high up in Egypt’s military is very smart. It must have been very tempting to steam in and go for martial law when Mubarak wobbled, but the astute move was to leave just enough vacuum for the people to rise up, not have the army become the visible enemy, and yet be on hand to control the elections, the constitution, the food supply, and quieten the streets.
      Who is that guy?

      • Good question, who is/are the guy/guys?

        I first smelt a rat when all the demos took off there and simultaneously every little neighbourhood had their own little people’s militia organised protecting their patch. The MSM prattled on about it being a grass roots reaction or secretly organised by the MB. Both ideas sounded crap to me, Occam’s Razor says it was the military/state police who put the word out.

        As I alluded to above, that set me off on a bit of research that seemed to confirm the Army has been in total control since Nasser. Events since Tahrir Sq only confirm my impressions.

  4. I’m pretty sure that the MB see straight through Washington’s intentions, and are going to take full advantage of them. Surely the US knows this too?
    What will happen after all the dust has settled, uneasy bedfellows? Somehow I don’t buy that scenario.

  5. John
    My years of experience of Islam is that it always seeks irrevocable power. It will cooperate if it has to but if the opportunity for control apears it will take it. In Egypt many organisations map the world in terms of the Muslim population

  6. Sadly, the west will always be wrong footed when it comes to Arab / Islam politics. The Koran endorses total dishonesty when it comes to dealing with the infidel, so we can’t take anything for granted, nor believe what is said.
    For some reason everyone, and particularly the politicians and media want to believe the best of Islam when the evidence of history shows the opposite.

    • “The Koran endorses total dishonesty when it comes to dealing with the infidel, so we can’t take anything for granted, nor believe what is said.”

      Where in the Quran does it say you can be dishonest with infidels?

  7. Pingback: EGYPT: Mursi makes his move as two top Generals chopped | A diary of deception and distortion

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