Amr Moussa, most probably Egypt’s next president, has given a comprehensive
picture of his views, a taste of the likely policies of someone about to become
the most powerful individual in the Arab world.
Moussa, a former Egyptian
foreign minister (1991-2001) and head of the Arab League until his resignation
takes effect on May 15, is a figure from the old Egyptian regime. But which
aspect of the old regime – that of the centrist Hosni Mubarak, the moderate
Anwar Sadat, or the radical Arab nationalist Gamal Abd al Nasser? Moussa is the
last Nasserist. He knows the next president must also be a populist to survive,
so he will bash Israel, the United States and the Egyptian upper class. The hope
is that he will be pragmatic enough to restrict his demagoguery to
It might seem ironic that a revolution against the old regime
ends up electing a figure from the old regime.
Yet Moussa perfectly
combines experience and name recognition with radicalism. A recent Pew poll
shows him with an 89-percent positive rating.
Moussa’s prospects look so
good because the Islamists aren’t running a presidential candidate, while
moderate democrats are restricted to a small urban middle class constituency and
four of them are running, thus further splitting that vote.
reason Moussa’s election appears likely is his deft use of the anti-Israel card.
So identified is Moussa with hostility to Israel that in 2001 a popular song
titled “I Hate Israel (I love Amr Moussa)” zoomed to the top of the Egyptian hit
Indeed, Moussa is now claiming that much of the reason for his
break with Mubarak was his desire to take a stronger stance against
Moussa’s basic argument in his Wall Street Journal interview is
that Egypt has obtained nothing from peace with Israel, and that Israel is
completely at fault for the lack of an Israeli-Palestinian peace
Of course, Egypt has received the return of the Sinai; the
reopening of its oil fields and of the Suez Canal; and the opportunity for more
trade, tourism and a lower military budget. Failure to take advantage of the
latter points was due to Egyptian decisions.
In addition, Egypt and
Israel had what amounts to an alliance against revolutionary Islamism,
particularly Hamas in the Gaza Strip. President Moussa will reverse this policy
and see Hamas as an ally, albeit one that he won’t trust.
HAMAS IS now
starting to believe that by attacking Israel it will have the power to draw
Egypt into a war. If that view is not countered decisively by the next Egyptian
government, the result will be a return to the 1960s and a terrible major
conflict. Unfortunately the current US government cannot be counted on to help
eliminate that problem.
As the Wall Street Journal accurately notes: “US
and European officials said they don’t see the Egypt-Israel peace agreement in
danger in the near term. They say Cairo won’t place in jeopardy billions of
dollars in aid.”
We’ve seen this kind of economic determinism before, and
every time it is applied to Middle East states it has failed. Examples: – Yasser
Arafat will make peace with Israel because he wants to get a state and huge
– Syria will moderate and turn toward the West –
and away from Iran – in order to get trade and investment.
– Iran would
much rather become wealthy than pursue these silly ideas about spreading
Now, here’s what’s really shocking in the interview.
To quote the Journal’s account, Moussa “described a political landscape in which
the Muslim Brotherhood...
is dominant. It is inevitable, he said, that
parliamentary elections in September will usher in a legislature led by a bloc
of Islamists, with the Brotherhood at the forefront.”
Think about that.
Even Moussa, who is anti-Islamist, admits this.
He is running as an
independent, meaning he will have no political party behind him. Thus, Moussa
must constantly compromise with the majority in parliament, and he is assuming
that it will be an Islamist majority.
While I doubt that the Islamists
will have an outright majority, I think they will certainly be the largest bloc.
That also means they will take a leading role in writing the
After many years in which Egypt was oriented inward, Moussa
will reassert a leading Egyptian role in the Arab world. That probably means
conciliation with Syria and the recreation of a radical Arab bloc that includes
Egypt for the first time in more than 30 years.
The best thing that can
be said is that neither Iraq nor the Saudis would participate, while the
Jordanians would be wary.
Egypt will no longer be a US ally; the question
is the degree to which it will become an enemy .
Finally, he knows that
he will have to deliver economic benefits to the masses. But that probably means
higher subsidies and more government jobs – policies that will do nothing to
improve Egypt’s economy. The worse the economy gets, the more virulent the anti-
Israel, anti-American demagoguery will be.
We are able to predict this
crisis more than six months ahead of time, yet Western countries, media and
experts have not yet seen what is coming down the road toward us.The
writer is director of the Global Research in International Affairs Center
(www.gloria-center.org) and editor of
Middle East Review of International
Affairs Journal and Turkish Studies. He blogs at www.rubinreports.blogspot.com