Abo El-Maty of the Salafist party 311 R.
(photo credit: REUTERS/Amr Dalsh)
Coverage of the region-wide upheaval known as the “Arab Spring” would make it
seem that terrorism, especially Islamist terrorism, is pretty much as dead as
are its thousands of victims. After all, if the protest demonstration and
balloting have proven able to resolve grievances then who needs to blow people
And the same applies to intimidation and instability since presumably people
vote, a government is elected, and democracy immediately ensues.
Middle East is far from through with violence. Where should we look in 2012 for
the greatest threats of terrorism and what will be the targets? If we think this
through in advance we can better plan to avoid or minimize these
Let’s start with Egypt. If the military refused to move forward
with elections or turn power over to the winners (that is, the Islamists) there
would be a violent response. And that’s one of the reasons why this is
unlikely to happen. The moderates are not going to engage in violence, which is
one reason the military feels free to repress them. The problem of crime and
general anarchy has already become very serious.
Yet political violence
in Egypt is very likely and it will come mainly from the Salafists. Remember
that there are numerous groups and leaders, even within the al- Nur party which
has done so well in the elections. Some radical Salafists will not be satisfied
with the pace of progress (?) toward Islamism. They will target Christians,
liberals, secularists, women demanding rights, tourists and Israel. Continuing
attacks on Christians are inevitable, with the goal of forcing them to submit or
encouraging them to flee.
The Muslim Brotherhood has no interest in
promoting violence – except against Israel – but it has a great interest in
condoning violence since to oppose attacks on Christians, moderates, or others
will reduce its popularity. But the Brotherhood doesn’t have to worry since the
military will be blamed for violence and be pressed to turn over power to the
civilians, that is, the Muslim Brotherhood. Talk about having your cake and
eating it, too.
A ROUGHLY similar pattern will emerge in Libya and
Tunisia. The West will praise “progress” toward democracy while the radical
Islamists chase or intimidate anyone who pushes for moderation on key issues,
much less supports secularism. The governments will from time to time condemn
the murder, beatings and threats against the moderates but will not necessarily
do anything about it. And there aren’t too many moderates in Libya to begin
This might be characterized as: We won. The Americans won’t
save you. Shut up.
For Hamas in the Gaza Strip violence is also, thanks
to the West, cost-free. Why? First, while some fighters and civilians will be
killed by Israeli retaliation, Hamas doesn’t care about that. Those deaths
create martyrs (urging the rest to fight harder and hate more) and the West will
blame Israel. Again, killing and fighting is a win-win
situation. Or letting others kill and fight, since Hamas can allow
smaller groups to do the attacking (Islamic Jihad; the local al-Qaida
affiliate) and blame them while posing as peaceful and moderate.
it can always hope that terrorist and rocket attacks on Israel will provoke
enough violence to bring Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, Egyptian government, and
even Egyptian army support.
In Syria, there’s no real cost for the regime
continuing to murder its own people. There’s little media coverage; the
Arab League has no stomach for actually doing something about it.
The violence there will continue, especially against Christians, until they are
all pretty much forced out of the country. The Sunni and Shia will keep
fighting, to the detriment of civilians on both sides, even if the main factor
determining power will be politics.
Lebanon? Hezbollah will use violence
against its rivals and nobody in the West will do anything effective about it.
Once again, radicals murder moderates; moderates complain. The same point
applies in Iran; the regime’s oppression of the opposition won’t make sanctions
As for al-Qaida, well, Osama bin Ladin’s dead, yet it will
continue to claim victims in such far-flung places as Yemen, Somalia, Iraq and
very possibly Morocco, Gaza and even perhaps Jordan.
Am I cynical? What
I’m trying to do is to rouse people against cynicism, to realize that their
countries’ policies are encouraging violence and repression because it most
cases they won’t say anything about it and in a few others they won’t do
anything about it. Precisely because there is now an open political struggle,
the most radical Islamists will use violence against anyone who speaks up or
And the more “moderate” Islamists who the US government is
courting will not stop their militant brethren while benefitting from the
incitement, threats and violence they dispense. If 2011 was the year of the
“Arab Spring,” 2012 will be the year for the Islamists to consolidate their
gains and eliminate their domestic critics.The writer is director of the
Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and a featured
columnist at Pajamas Media. His latest book is
Israel: An Introduction (Yale