Monday, December 10, 2012

Unanswered questions in Middle East, especially in Egypt

Syria could easily become an Islamic state, with the fall of Assad, and there is now evidence that AlQaeda-type operatives could well be part of the complex of forces that move into whatever political vaccuum that follows Assad's departure.
Egypt is about to become an Islamic state, if and when the referendum affirms the constitution that would see Sharia law become the law of the land. The Muslim Brotherhood, of which Morsi is a long-standing member, is the dominate force in Egypt, although "liberals" and some Coptic christians are still hoping for an enhanced secular option in the final constitution. Was Morsi's intervention in the Israeli-Gaza conflict, as one of the brokers of the cease-fire, merely a 'sop' to the $4.5 billion in U.S. aid that he needs if the Egyptian economy is to recover and Egypt is to become a self-sustaining country, following the ouster of Mubarak?
Or is Morsi really interested in fostering healthy relations with the U.S. and more generally with the 'west' as his drives his own version of the Islamic state into reality?
And what will the U.S. do in relation to Morsi's Egypt, if it were to become another Islamic state, unfriendly to the U.S. in particular and to the west generally?
Remember when, not so long ago, President Obama wondered out loud publicly, whether or not Egypt was a friend of the U.S. and for his uncertainty he was ridiculed by his Republican opponents in Congress. However, his uncertainty, coupled with his markable restraint, coupled with his refusal to embark on a military action against the Syrian regime, while providing both medical requirments for the survivors and refugees from that dastardly civil war, demonstrates both a steady hand and a sceptical perspective, one clearly warranted by the rapidly rolling narrative that continues to unfold with a very unclear and uncertain denoument.
Iran is already an Islamic state, threatening the existence of Israel. However, her economy is in shambles, constricted by tightening sanctions, while her nuclear ambitions seem unclear, given her failure to co-operate with the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Association) responsible for monitoring and reporting on those nuclear facilities.
Hamas and Hezbollah are both terrorist surrogates for Iran, also both dedicated to the eradication of the state of Israel. Fatah, under Abbas, is attempting an "end-run" around Hamas and Hezbollah, by securing observer-member status for the West Bank at the United Nations, triggering Netanyhu's order to build some 3000 settlements in the West Bank.
Iraq teeters on stability, attempting to evolve into a secular state, with no one betting on the probability of its survival.
And we continue to call the last several months the "Arab Spring" our haste to welcome some evidence of democracy, following the overthrow of dictators whose capacity to resist the Islamic state kept their restective countries from falling into the list of Islamic states whose direction and compatibility with western values now seems quite suspect.
Where is the evidence that there is strength behind any potential move to generate a two-state solution between Israel and Palestine?
 Where is the evidence that the Middle East is not becoming a hotbed, including training grounds for more Islamic terrorists?
Where is the evidence that the U.S. and the western countries will have adequate influence to guide and shape the direction of developments in the several theatres currently embroiled in chaos in the Middle East?
What can the world do to bring some influence to bear on the need for secular states dedicated to the pursuit of democratic institutions, the respect for law, and the safety and security of diverse populations, including those who are non-Muslim?
Kelly McParland: Mohammed Morsi transforms Arab Spring into Egyptian nightmare

By Kelly McParland, National Post, December 10, 2012
What goes around comes around, it seems, even in newly “democratic” countries that suddenly find themselves with a repressive Islamist leadership trying to impose its will over the protests of a good portion of the country

On Sunday Mohammed Morsi, newly installed president of Egypt, was forced to admit as much when he finally reversed a decree giving him near-absolute power, just two weeks after it was put in place. In those three weeks, the man who was supposed to be the first leader of a new, more open and democratic Egypt, managed to return the country to near chaos, fill Cairo’s main square once again with angry protesters, bring tanks back to the streets and end any illusions that Islamic leaders were willing to run a country on any but strictly Islamist principles.
Morsi was elected as the front man for the Muslim Brotherhood, which – after years of repression under Hosni Mubarak’s military-backed government — insisted it could be trusted to protect the hard-won new rights secured via the overthrow of Mubarak in 2011. Hundreds of people died in that struggle, which ended when the military concluded it wasn’t worth fighting a civil war to keep Mubarak in place. Instead he was replaced by a temporary military council, which eventually gave way to an election that installed Morsi as a supposedly moderate Islamic president
It turned out there was more to Morsi than anyone expected, however. First he faced down the military itself, forcing some of its top figures to yield their authority. Then, following a successful bout of negotiating in Gaza, where he helped bring about a ceasefire in the recent confrontation with Israel, he returned home to declare himself all but untouchable. His surprise decrees made him immune to oversight by the judiciary, and prevented the courts from ruling against a new Islamist constitution that had been whipped together in record time by his Brotherhood colleagues and other Islamist allies. The constitution in turn would turn Egypt into the kind of sharia state that Mubarak had always warned against: civil rights would be subordinate to Shariah law, Muslim clerics would have automatic input on legislation and authority to protect “ethics and morals.” There would be no law banning discrimination against women, ensuring they remained a subservient species limited largely to child-bearing and family management.

Egypt is not Iran, however. Not yet, anyway. Significant opposition exists to Islamist domination, and for the past two weeks the sense of anger and alarm has grown, to the point that Morsi faced a choice: rescind the decrees, or turn to the military to keep him in office by force against hundreds of thousands of increasingly determined protesters. The irony of that would have been delicious: a politician brought to power by a popular uprising against military rule, turning to that same military to save him by using the tactics he was elected to end. It appears he almost went for it: The New York Times reported Sunday that Morsi had decided to impose “a version of martial law,” authorizing troops to arrest his opponents. The state newspaper Al Ahram, announced that Morsi would “soon issue a decision for the participation of the armed forces in the duties of maintaining security and protection of vital state institutions,” the Times reported.

He appears to have backed away in the end, however, instead, he cancelled the decrees awarding him new powers, while insisting the rigged constitution would still go to a referendum on Dec. 15. Opponents quickly pointed out that, if passed, the constitution would achieve everything Morsi had sought to force on the country anyway.
The weekend events leave Egypt still at a frightening crossroads. Unless opponents can find a way to cancel or defeat the referendum – a difficult task in a country in which Islamic sympathies dominate – they stand to be entombed in exactly the kind of intolerant, repressive, cleric-run theocracy that Mubarak and the military warned would seize the country if ever given the chance. The “Arab Spring” in this instance would have become a vehicle for removing one set of shackles from an unhappy people, only to replace them with another, potentially more restrictive set. And, as has been demonstrated by the uprisings across Arab countries, once in place, Middle Eastern regimes can generally only be replaced after decades in power, and only at a heavy cost in lives.

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