A year ago this week, on January 25, 2011, the ground began to crumble under
then-Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak’s feet. One year later, Mubarak and his
sons are in prison, and standing trial. This week, the final vote tally from
Egypt’s parliamentary elections was published. The Islamist parties have won 72
percent of the seats in the lower house.
The photogenic, Western-looking
youth from Tahrir Square the Western media were thrilled to dub the Facebook
revolutionaries were disgraced at the polls and exposed as an insignificant
social and political force.
As for the military junta, it has made its
peace with the Muslim Brotherhood. The generals and the jihadists are
negotiating a power-sharing agreement. According to details of the
agreement that have made their way to the media, the generals will remain the
West’s go-to guys for foreign affairs. The Muslim Brotherhood (and its fellow
jihadists in the Salafist al-Nour party) will control Egypt’s internal
This is bad news for women and for non-Muslims. Egypt’s
Coptic Christians have been under continuous attack by Muslim Brotherhood and
Salafist supporters since Mubarak was deposed. Their churches, homes and
businesses have been burned, looted and destroyed. Their wives and daughters
have been raped. The military massacred them when they dared to protest their
As for women, their main claim to fame since Mubarak’s
overthrow has been their sexual victimization at the hands of soldiers who
stripped female protesters and performed “virginity tests” on them. Out
of nearly five hundred seats in parliament, only 10 will be filled by
The Western media are centering their attention on what the next
Egyptian constitution will look like and whether it will guarantee rights for
women and minorities. What they fail to recognize is that the Islamic
fundamentalists now in charge of Egypt don’t need a constitution to implement
their tyranny. All they require is what they already have – a public
awareness of their political power and their partnership with the
The same literalist approach that has prevented Western
observers from reading the writing on the walls in terms of the Islamists’
domestic empowerment has blinded them to the impact of Egypt’s political
transformation on the country’s foreign policy posture. US officials forcefully
proclaim that they will not abide by an Egyptian move to formally abrogate its
peace treaty with Israel. What they fail to recognize is that whether or not the
treaty is formally abrogated is irrelevant. The situation on the ground in which
the new regime allows Sinai to be used as a launching ground for attacks against
Israel, and as a highway for weapons and terror personnel to flow freely into
Gaza, are clear signs that the peace with Israel is already dead – treaty or no
EGYPT’S TRANSFORMATION is not an isolated event. The disgraced
former Yemen president Ali Abdullah Saleh arrived in the US this week. Yemen is
supposed to elect his successor next month. The deteriorating security situation
in that strategically vital land which borders the Arabian and Red Seas has
decreased the likelihood that the election will take place as
Yemen is falling apart at the seams. Al-Qaida forces have been
advancing in the south. Last spring they took over Zinjibar, the capital of
Abyan province. In recent weeks they captured Radda, a city 160 km. south of the
capital of Sana.
Radda’s capture underscored American fears that the
political upheaval in Yemen will provide al- Qaida with a foothold near shipping
routes through the Red Sea and so enable the group to spread its influence to
neighboring Saudi Arabia.
Al-Qaida forces were also prominent in the
NATO-backed Libyan opposition forces that with NATO’s help overthrew Muammar
Gaddafi in October. Although the situation on the ground is far from clear, it
appears that radical Islamic political forces are intimidating their way into
power in post-Gaddafi Libya.
Take for instance last weekend’s riots in
Benghazi. On Saturday protesters laid siege to the National Transitional
Council offices in the city while Mustafa Abdul-Jalil, the head of the NTC, hid
inside. In an attempt to quell the protesters’ anger, Jalil fired six secular
members of the NTC. He then appointed a council of religious leaders to
investigate corruption charges and identify people with links to the Gaddafi
In Bahrain, the Iranian-supported Shi’ite majority continues to
mount political protests against the Sunni monarchy. Security forces killed two
young Shi’ite protesters over the past week and a half, and opened fired at
Shi’ites who sought to hold a protest march after attending the funeral of one
As supporters of Bahrain’s Shi’ites have maintained since the
unrest spread to the kingdom last year, Bahrain’s Shi’ites are not Iranian
proxies. But then, until the US pulled its troops out of Iraq last month,
neither were Iraq’s Shi’ites. What happened immediately after the US pullout is
another story completely.
Extolling Iraq’s swift deterioration into an
Iranian satrapy, last Wednesday, Brig.-Gen. Qassem Suleimani, the commander of
Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps Jerusalem Brigade, bragged, “In reality, in
south Lebanon and Iraq, the people are under the effect of the Islamic
Republic’s way of practice and thinking.”
While Suleimani probably
exaggerated the situation, there is no doubt that Iran’s increased influence in
Iraq is being felt around the region. Iraq has come to the aid of Iran’s Syrian
client Bashar Assad who is now embroiled in a civil war. The rise of Iran in
Iraq holds dire implications for the Hashemite regime in Jordan which is
currently hanging on by a thread, challenged from within and without by the
rising force of the Muslim Brotherhood.
Much has been written since the
fall of Mubarak about the impact on Israel of the misnamed Arab Spring. Events
like September’s mob assault on Israel’s embassy in Cairo and the murderous
cross-border attack on motorists traveling on the road to Eilat by terrorists
operating out of Sinai give force to the assessment that Israel is more
imperiled than ever by the revolutionary events engulfing the region.
the truth is that while on balance Israel’s regional posture has taken a hit,
particularly from the overthrow of Mubarak and the rise of the Muslim
Brotherhood and the Salafists in Egypt, Israel is not the primary loser in the
so-called Arab Spring.
Israel never had many assets in the Arab world to
begin with. The Western-aligned autocracies were not Israel’s allies. To the
extent the likes of Mubarak and others have cooperated with Israel on various
issues over the years, their cooperation was due not to any sense of comity with
Jewish state. They worked with Israel because they believed it served their
interests to do so. And at the same time Mubarak reined in the Muslim
Brotherhood and Hamas because they threatened him, he waged political war
against Israel on every international stage and allowed anti-Semitic poison to
be broadcast daily on his regime-controlled television stations.
Israel’s stake in the Arab power game has always been limited, its losses as a
consequence of the fall of anti-Israel secular dictatorships and their
replacement by anti-Israel Islamist regimes have been marginal. The US, on the
other hand, has seen its interests massively harmed. Indeed, the US is the
greatest loser of the pan-Arab revolutions.
TO UNDERSTAND the depth and
breadth of America’s losses, consider that on January 25, 2011, most Arab states
were US allies to a greater or lesser degree. Mubarak was a strategic ally.
Saleh was willing to collaborate with the US in combating al- Qaida and other
jihadist forces in his country.
Gaddafi was a neutered former enemy who
had posed no threat to the US since 2004. Iraq was a protectorate. Jordan and
Morocco were stable US clients.
One year later, the elements of the US’s
alliance structure have either been destroyed or seriously weakened. US allies
like Saudi Arabia, which have yet to be seriously threatened by the
revolutionary violence, no longer trust the US. As the recently revealed nuclear
cooperation between the Saudis and the Chinese makes clear, the Saudis are
looking to other global powers to replace the US as their superpower
Perhaps the most amazing aspect to the US’s spectacular loss
of influence and power in the Arab world is that most of its strategic collapse
has been due to its own actions. In Egypt and Libya the US intervened
prominently to bring down a US ally and a dictator who constituted no threat to
its interests. Indeed, it went to war to bring Gaddafi down.
the US acted to bring about their fall at the same time it knew that they would
be replaced by forces inimical to American national security interests. In
Egypt, it was clear that the Muslim Brotherhood would emerge as the strongest
political force in the country. In Libya, it was clear at the outset of the NATO
campaign against Gaddafi that al-Qaida was prominently represented in the
antiregime coalition. And just as the Islamists won the Egyptian election,
shortly after Gaddafi was overthrown, al-Qaida forces raised their flag over
US actions from Yemen to Bahrain and beyond have
followed a similar pattern.
In sharp contrast to his active
interventionism against US-allied regimes, President Barack Obama has
prominently refused to intervene in Syria, where the fate of a US foe hangs in
Obama has sat back as Turkey has fashioned a Syrian
opposition dominated by the Muslim Brotherhood, and the Arab League has
intervened in a manner that increases the prospect that Syria will descend into
chaos in the event that the Assad regime is overthrown.
to speak grandly about his vision for the Middle East and his dedication to
America’s regional allies. And his supporters in the media continue to applaud
his great success in foreign policy. But outside of their echo chamber, he and
the country he leads are looked upon with increasing contempt and disgust
throughout the Arab world.
Obama’s behavior since last January 25 has
made clear to US friend and foe alike that under Obama, the US is more likely to
attack you if you display weakness towards it than if you adopt a
confrontational posture against it. As Assad survives to kill another day; as
Iran expands its spheres of influence and gallops towards the nuclear bomb; as
al- Qaida and its allies rise from the Gulf of Aden to the Suez Canal; and as
Mubarak continues to be wheeled into the courtroom on a stretcher, the US’s
rapid fall from regional power is everywhere in
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