Egypt’s 60-year-old order is about to collapse, and the world’s largest Islamic supremist movement, the Muslim Brotherhood, will join Cairo’s transitional government and win broad support in future elections. Egypt could then become the Iran of the West thanks in part to President Obama.
An Egyptian government dominated by the Brotherhood would quickly cast aside its democratic and nonviolent facade to establish Egypt as an Islamic state. The Brotherhood, like its terrorist offspring Hamas, would impose radical Sharia law, seek Israel’s annihilation, create a new terrorist sanctuary, and might declare war on the United States.
This dire prediction is not far-fetched if you consider Brotherhood statements and its history, which Obama apparently ignored to advance the Islamists’ inclusion in Egypt’s emerging transitional government.
Obama praised the “passion and dignity” of Egypt’s protesters, which include many Brotherhood supporters, as an “inspiration” to people around the world. He said, “I have an unyielding belief that you [Egyptians] will determine your own destiny.”
The President’s praise for anti-government protesters alienated regional partners such as the Saudis, according to an Arab official quoted in the Wall Street Journal. Arab leaders are rightly concerned that Obama’s push to oust Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak reflects incredible naiveté about the strength of Egypt’s Islamists’ opposition. In 2009, Obama demonstrated similar naiveté by inviting the Brotherhood to attend his speech at Cairo University.
Then late last week, Obama called for an immediate “orderly transition” to democratic reforms and threw his weight behind a gradual transition with General Omar Suleiman, the new vice president, who promises to broker a compromise with opposition groups such as the Brotherhood.
During the week, Obama’s ambassador in Egypt, Margaret Scobey, met at least twice with Muhamed ElBaradei, the former International Atomic Energy Agency chief, named by the Brotherhood and other protest groups to speak for them.
Although the details of those talks are not public, the results are crystallizing by the hour. Mubarak is leaving, the transitional government is emerging, and talks with the Brotherhood began yesterday. There is little doubt Egypt’s future government will include Islamists and most prominently the Brotherhood.
The Brotherhood is not a legal group, which must change before it can join the transitional government. But in spite of its lack of status, Brotherhood candidates won 88 seats in the 2005 parliamentary elections. This is impressive given the regime’s repressive measures.
The Brotherhood’s election prospects are especially bright because the democratic opposition is fractured and the Brotherhood already commands a third of the vote. Also, Shaykh Qaradawi, the most prestigious Brotherhood cleric, claims that in a Muslim country, secular reformers will never beat those who say “Islam is the solution” [the Brotherhood’s slogan], and according to a recent Pew poll, 95% of Egyptians favor an Islamic-leaning government.
Brotherhood apologists argue the group, which was closely allied with the Nazis in World War II and embraces a theology based on Wahhabism —extremist Islam, does not aim to create an Islamic theocracy in Egypt like the one in Iran. Rather, its spokesmen claim it is a nonviolent charitable and educational organization.
Mohammed Habib, a former deputy leader of the Brotherhood, told Radio Liberty he rejects the suggestion that the organization aims to create an Iranian-like Islamic theocracy. “We want a democratic government based on genuine political plurality.”
But Habib’s claim of “political plurality” does not agree with the Brotherhood’s strategic plan used by franchises in 70 countries. That plan calls for Islamic dominance through subtle integration, becoming part of the national social and political life, and the application of Sharia law. That strategy could soon become a reality in Egypt.
The Brotherhood’s new supreme guide, Mohammed Badie, is not a pluralist, but does advocate violence. Both Badie and al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden are devoted followers of Sayyid Qutb, a fundamentalist scholar who advocated Islamic holy war and was the chief developer of doctrines that legitimate violent Muslim resistance.
Last year, Badie demonstrated his radicalism in a series of sermons. He said “Waging jihad is mandatory” for all Muslims, especially against Israel and the United States. He called for “all forms of resistance for the sake of liberating every occupied piece of land in Palestine, Iraq, Afghanistan, and all [other] parts of our Muslim world.” He also said the United States can be defeated through violence because it is “experiencing the beginning of its end and is heading toward its demise.”
Both Badie and his predecessor outlined their political plans for Egypt. Badie said the Koran should “become our constitution,” and in 2007 then-supreme guide Mohammed Mahdi Akef drafted the Brotherhood’s political platform.
That platform states Islam will be the state religion and that Islamic Sharia “is the main source for legislation.” The Supreme Council of Clerics—similar to Iran’s all-powerful Guardian Council—will exercise veto power over the legislature. Non-Muslims and women are barred from the presidency, and the 1979 Camp David Peace Accords with Israel would be put to referendum, which means certain defeat in the Muslim majority country. And tourists visiting Egypt must “be in line with Islamic principles, values, and laws,” which would put a serious damper on Western tourism.
There are at least five worst-case consequences should the Brotherhood or a coalition of Islamists govern Egypt.
First, the Islamists could adopt a political platform similar to the one outlined above. That would radically transform Egypt’s and the region’s security and trade. Keep in mind regional trade depends on Egypt’s Suez Canal, and vacating the Camp David Peace Accords would return the region to a war footing
Second, an Islamist Egypt would realign partnerships. Cairo would grow closer to the Palestinians, Syria, Lebanon, and Iran, while becoming hostile to oil-rich Arab totalitarian regimes such as Saudi Arabia, and most of the West, especially the United States.
Third, an Islamist-controlled Egypt woud eventually purge its American-trained and -equipped military much like the transition that is now happening with Turkey’s armed forces. Egyptian guns could soon be pointing at Americans.
Fourth, terrorist groups would find safe harbor in Egypt. That would radicalize the region and could turn Egypt into another terrorist Mecca like Pakistan or Yemen.
Finally, Hamas could be emboldened to expand its influence over the Palestinian Authority before reigniting a new war with Israel. That war could become a replay of the 1973 regional conflict, but this time it would include a Hezbollah-controlled Lebanon supported by a soon-to-be nuclear-armed Iran.
These dire consequences just might take place if Islamists rule the roost in Cairo. A similar thing happened 32 years ago this week in Tehran, Iran, which caught then-President Jimmy Carters by surprise. Let’s hope Obama has learned from Carter’s foreign policy fumbling and avoids making more tragic Mideast history.
Mr. Maginnis is a retired Army lieutenant colonel, and a national security and foreign affairs analyst for radio and television.