Gas flames 20 meters high signal the birth of a new Middle East. That pillar of
fire, unlike the biblical one, indicates that Egyptians are following new,
would-be prophets into the desert. A new Pew poll, despite the positive spin by
the mass media, is very worrisome.
Once again the Egyptian pipeline
supplying 40 percent of Israel’s natural gas supply has been bombed. It had just
reopened after the previous bombing, following a delay so long as to make one
suspect it wasn’t just technical. The terrorists simply waited until damage from
the prior attack was repaired before launching another one. No doubt, this
process will continue. This is a major setback for Israel – a high price for
having trusted in trade with an Arab neighbor with whom peace had been concluded
– supposedly – more than 30 years ago.
Whether or not Egypt formally
renounces or demands changes in the Egypt-Israel peace treaty, that too is
finished as a source of stability. Egyptians support tearing it up by a 54 to 36
percent margin. But many of that 36% would probably support major revisions – a
position now advocated by most Egyptian politicians.
developments, the Egyptian government supported Syria in the UN to prevent any
condemnation of that country for repression of peaceful demonstrators. Arab
solidarity has trumped any consistent stand supporting democracy and human
rights. Mubarak had a bad relationship with a terrorist-sponsoring, anti-
American Syria. The new regime will reverse that. Meanwhile, Foreign Minister
Nabil Elaraby has announced that the Egypt-Gaza Strip border will soon reopen
fully, meaning that arms, money and terrorists can flow freely into Gaza. As if
that’s not enough, the Egyptian government helped negotiate a Fatah-Hamas deal
that radicalizes the Palestinian Authority and makes negotiations, much less
As part of this deal, Egyptian troops will enter the
Gaza Strip. And what will they do there? Help unify the Hamas and Fatah
militaries, in theory.
But that’s not what’s going to happen. What
is more likely is that the Egyptian officers will become military advisers to
Hamas. And what if Hamas attacks Israel and Israel retaliates? Will this trigger
a war with Egypt, especially if Egyptians are accidentally killed?
this new Pew Poll, Egyptians view the Muslim Brotherhood favorably by a margin
of 75% to 20%. Asked directly, 31% say they sympathize with Islamists; 30%
don’t. While 62% say laws should strictly follow the Koran, most of the others
say all laws should merely adhere to its values and spirit.
amounts to is that roughly one-third of Egyptians want an Islamist state and
support the Brotherhood, one-third are open to its propaganda, and one-third are
opposed (including, presumably, the country’s 10+% Christians).
respect the military – at least for now – and think well of the democratic
movements that made the revolution. But when it comes to programmatic sympathy
for an organized group, Islamists are clearly the strongest force.
poll also shows some interesting variations in public opinion. Contrary
to Western expectations, sympathy for the Brotherhood is greater among
high-income (43%) and middle-income (41%) than among low-income Egyptians
Remember the conventional wisdom that poverty and ignorance breeds
Islamism? It’s just flat wrong; this finding suggests that revolutionary
Islamism might be more a wave of the future than a relic of the past. Moreover,
it shows that even the middle and upper classes don’t naturally embrace
democratic moderation – another conventional wisdom in the
Islamism, like Marxism, is a coherent ideology that fulfills the
needs of people looking for systematic answers to their problems. Why are the
poorer less Islamist? I would suggest two factors. Poorer Egyptians are likely
to be more traditional in religious terms, and loyal to the nationalism of the
old regime. In other words, they are relatively passive recipients of what
they’ve been taught in religious and political terms.
This explains the
seemingly contradictory finding that while 59% with only a primary school
education want to annul the treaty with Israel, “only” 40% of those with a
college education do. Xenophobia is a simple idea quite consistent with both
tradition and the Arab nationalism dominant in Egypt for the past 60
Here, we see the potential power of anti-Israel and anti-American
demagoguery. The most sophisticated, I’ll bet, would prefer some clever
maneuver that guts the treaty without making Egypt look bad
Speaking of attitudes toward the United States, guess
what? President Barack Obama’s assistance in wrecking the old regime overnight
brought no additional popularity to America. Attitudes toward the United
States are negative by a 79 to 20% margin. Hostile views of Obama personally are
less overwhelming, but still strong – 64 to 35% – and unchanged from before the
The conclusion was that the US involvement was negative by a
39 to 22% margin, with 35% saying it was neither, which also represents a defeat
for Obama. In other words, Obama’s actions convinced no one.
presidential candidates, Amr Moussa scored an amazing 90% positive rating.
Readers know I feel he will be Egypt’s next president and follow a radical
nationalist policy, opposed to Islamism but willing to make concessions to the
Brotherhood that might be the first stage in a longer-term Islamist
FINALLY, THERE is a new force to be reckoned with:
Islamists more radical than the Brotherhood. Suddenly these groups – many
comprised of former Brotherhood activists – are getting a lot of media time.
Some think they could get 5 to 10% of the parliamentary seats if they run
candidates, in addition to the Brotherhood’s likely 30%.
Also, these are
going to be the people committing a growing number of terrorist attacks and
assaults on Christians.
The natural gas pipeline is only the beginning. A
real revolution and fullscale regional war might be the end.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