The Egypt Crisis in a Global Context: A Special Report

By George Friedman, Stratfor

Posted By Newssleuth

An Egyptian demonstrator holds a sign up following prayers in Tahrir Square in Cairo, on January 31, the seventh day of mass protests calling for the removal of President Hosni Mubarak.  Marco Longari/AFP Photo/Newscom

It is not at all clear what will happen in the Egyptian revolution. It is not a surprise that this is happening. Mohamed Hosni Mubarak has been president for more than a quarter of a century, ever since the assassination of Anwar Sadat. He is old and has been ill. No one expected him to live much longer, and his apparent plan, which was that he would be replaced by his son Gamal, was not going to happen even though it was a possibility a year ago. There was no one, save his closest business associates, who wanted to see Mubarak’s succession plans happen. As his father weakened, Gamal’s succession became even less likely. Mubarak’s failure to design a credible succession plan guaranteed instability on his death. Since everyone knew that there would be instability on his death, there were obviously those who saw little advantage to acting before he died. Who these people were and what they wanted is the issue.

Let’s begin by considering the regime. In 1952, Col. Gamal Abdel Nasser staged a military coup that displaced the Egyptian monarchy, civilian officers in the military, and British influence in Egypt. Nasser created a government based on military power as the major stabilizing and progressive force in Egypt. His revolution was secular and socialist. In short, it was a statist regime dominated by the military. On Nasser’s death, Anwar Sadat replaced him. On Sadat’s assassination, Hosni Mubarak replaced him. Both of these men came from the military as Nasser did. However their foreign policy might have differed from Nasser’s, the regime remained intact.

Mubarak’s Opponents

The demands for Mubarak’s resignation come from many quarters, including from members of the regime — particularly the military — who regard Mubarak’s unwillingness to permit them to dictate the succession as endangering the regime. For some of them, the demonstrations represent both a threat and opportunity. Obviously, the demonstrations might get out of hand and destroy the regime. On the other hand, the demonstrations might be enough to force Mubarak to resign, allow a replacement — for example, Omar Suleiman, the head of intelligence who Mubarak recently appointed vice president — and thereby save the regime. This is not to say that they fomented the demonstrations, but some must have seen the demonstrations as an opportunity.

This is particularly the case in the sense that the demonstrators are deeply divided among themselves and thus far do not appear to have been able to generate the type of mass movement that toppled the Shah of Iran’s regime in 1979. More important, the demonstrators are clearly united in opposing Mubarak as an individual, and to a large extent united in opposing the regime. Beyond that, there is a deep divide in the opposition.

Western media has read the uprising as a demand for Western-style liberal democracy. Many certainly are demanding that. What is not clear is that this is moving Egypt’s peasants, workers and merchant class to rise en masse. Their interests have far more to do with the state of the Egyptian economy than with the principles of liberal democracy. As in Iran in 2009, the democratic revolution, if focused on democrats, cannot triumph unless it generates broader support.

The other element in this uprising is the Muslim Brotherhood. The consensus of most observers is that the Muslim Brotherhood at this point is no longer a radical movement and is too weak to influence the revolution. This may be possible, but it is not obvious. The Muslim Brotherhood has many strands, many of which have been quiet under Mubarak’s repression. It is not clear who will emerge if Mubarak falls. It is certainly not clear that they are weaker than the democratic demonstrators. It is a mistake to confuse the Muslim Brotherhood’s caution with weakness. Another way to look at them is that they have bided their time and toned down their real views, waiting for the kind of moment provided by Mubarak’s succession. I would suspect that the Muslim Brotherhood has more potential influence among the Egyptian masses than the Western-oriented demonstrators or Mohamed ElBaradei, the former head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, who is emerging as their leader.

There is, of course, the usual discussion of what U.S. President Barack Obama’s view is, or what the Europeans think, or what the Iranians are up to. All of them undoubtedly have thoughts and even plans. In my view, trying to shape the political dynamics of a country like Egypt from Iran or the United States is futile, and believing that what is happening in Egypt is the result of their conspiracies is nonsense. A lot of people care what is happening there, and a lot of people are saying all sorts of things and even spending money on spies and Twitter. Egypt’s regime can be influenced in this way, but a revolution really doesn’t depend on what the European Union or Tehran says.

There are four outcomes possible. First, the regime might survive. Mubarak might stabilize the situation, or more likely, another senior military official would replace him after a decent interval. Another possibility under the scenario of the regime’s survival is that there may be a coup of the colonels, as we discussed yesterday. A second possibility is that the demonstrators might force elections in which ElBaradei or someone like him could be elected and Egypt might overthrow the statist model built by Nasser and proceed on the path of democracy. The third possibility is that the demonstrators force elections, which the Muslim Brotherhood could win and move forward with an Islamist-oriented agenda. The fourth possibility is that Egypt will sink into political chaos. The most likely path to this would be elections that result in political gridlock in which a viable candidate cannot be elected. If I were forced to choose, I would bet on the regime stabilizing itself and Mubarak leaving because of the relative weakness and division of the demonstrators. But that’s a guess and not a forecast.

Geopolitical Significance

Whatever happens matters a great deal to Egyptians. But only some of these outcomes are significant to the world. Among radical Islamists, the prospect of a radicalized Egypt represents a new lease on life. For Iran, such an outcome would be less pleasing. Iran is now the emerging center of radical Islamism; it would not welcome competition from Egypt, though it may be content with an Islamist Egypt that acts as an Iranian ally (something that would not be easy to ensure).

For the United States, an Islamist Egypt would be a strategic catastrophe. Egypt is the center of gravity in the Arab world. This would not only change the dynamic of the Arab world, it would reverse U.S. strategy since the end of the 1973 Arab-Israeli war. Sadat’s decision to reverse his alliance with the Soviets and form an alliance with the United States undermined the Soviet position in the Mediterranean and in the Arab world and strengthened the United States immeasurably. The support of Egyptian intelligence after 9/11 was critical in blocking and undermining al Qaeda. Were Egypt to stop that cooperation or become hostile, the U.S. strategy would be severely undermined.

The great loser would be Israel. Israel’s national security has rested on its treaty with Egypt, signed by Menachem Begin with much criticism by the Israeli right. The demilitarization of the Sinai Peninsula not only protected Israel’s southern front, it meant that the survival of Israel was no longer at stake. Israel fought three wars (1948, 1967 and 1973) where its very existence was at issue. The threat was always from Egypt, and without Egypt in the mix, no coalition of powers could threaten Israel (excluding the now-distant possibility of Iranian nuclear weapons). In all of the wars Israel fought after its treaty with Egypt (the 1982 and 2006 wars in Lebanon) Israeli interests, but not survival, were at stake.

If Egypt were to abrogate the Camp David Accords and over time reconstruct its military into an effective force, the existential threat to Israel that existed before the treaty was signed would re-emerge. This would not happen quickly, but Israel would have to deal with two realities. The first is that the Israeli military is not nearly large enough or strong enough to occupy and control Egypt. The second is that the development of Egypt’s military would impose substantial costs on Israel and limit its room for maneuver.

There is thus a scenario that would potentially strengthen the radical Islamists while putting the United States, Israel, and potentially even Iran at a disadvantage, all for different reasons. That scenario emerges only if two things happen. First, the Muslim Brotherhood must become a dominant political force in Egypt. Second, they must turn out to be more radical than most observers currently believe they are — or they must, with power, evolve into something more radical.

If the advocates for democracy win, and if they elect someone like ElBaradei, it is unlikely that this scenario would take place. The pro-Western democratic faction is primarily concerned with domestic issues, are themselves secular and would not want to return to the wartime state prior to Camp David, because that would simply strengthen the military. If they win power, the geopolitical arrangements would remain unchanged.

Similarly, the geopolitical arrangements would remain in place if the military regime retained power — save for one scenario. If it was decided that the regime’s unpopularity could be mitigated by assuming a more anti-Western and anti-Israeli policy — in other words, if the regime decided to play the Islamist card, the situation could evolve as a Muslim Brotherhood government would. Indeed, as hard as it is to imagine, there could be an alliance with the Muslim Brotherhood designed to stabilize the regime. Stranger things have happened.

When we look at the political dynamic of Egypt, and try to imagine its connection to the international system, we can see that there are several scenarios under which certain political outcomes would have profound effects on the way the world works. That should not be surprising. When Egypt was a pro-Soviet Nasserite state, the world was a very different place than it had been before Nasser. When Sadat changed his foreign policy the world changed with it. If Sadat’s foreign policy changes, the world changes again. Egypt is one of those countries whose internal politics matter to more than its own citizens.

Most of the outcomes I envision leave Egypt pretty much where it is. But not all. The situation is, as they say, in doubt, and the outcome is not trivial.

108 responses to “The Egypt Crisis in a Global Context: A Special Report

  1. Video: Has Revelation’s ‘pale rider’ shown up in Egypt?
    Riot footage shows mysterious horse-like figure floating through crowd

    • Creepy. It definitely moves like a horse but the flowing fabric looks like it’s hanging from a horizontal pole. Bizarre.

    Senate Fort Hood report whitewashes Obama’s culpability

    One year ago I noted that: “All three major domestic terror attacks of 2009 were directly enabled by Obama’s reverse-profiling orders, exempting Muslims from scrutiny.”

    First was the shooting of two soldiers at a Little Rock Army recruiting office. Shortly after Obama ordered our intelligence agencies to “back off” from investigating black Muslims, a black Muslim who had previously been under surveillance killed one soldier and critically wounded another.

    The case of the Christmas 2009 “underwear bomber” indicates that Obama’s “back off” command extended to ALL Muslims. According to one State Department employee, watch-list monitors were: “encouraged to not create the appearance that we are profiling or targeting Muslims.” The employee admitted that this policy was the reason Abdulmutallab was not flagged for scrutiny after the British denied him a visa for trying to attend a phony school in England, proving that State Department personnel understood Obama’s policy as a general order not to investigate Muslims, even when they had cause that had nothing to do with a person being Muslim.

    This reverse-discrimination goes beyond counter-terrorism. The recent Civil Rights Commission report on Obama’s DOJ found a systematic refusal to enforce civil rights law against minority perpetrators on behalf of white victims, and Barack “I will stand with [the Muslims]” Obama has made it perfectly clear that he places Muslims on the favored side of that unequal justice.

    The Fort Hood massacre itself also suggests that Obama’s counter-terrorism “back off” command extended to all Muslims. It came out in November 2009 that agents dropped their Nidal Hasan investigation because they deemed his communications with al Qaeda leader Awlaki to be protected speech: U.S. officials now confirm Hasan sent as many as 20 e-mails to Awlaki. Authorities intercepted the e-mails but later deemed them innocent or protected by the first amendment.

    Could such a glaring misapplication of the First Amendment have occurred if agents were not looking for ways to give Muslims special consideration? Not likely.

    The Senate’s “Ticking Time Bomb” report fails to mention Obama’s reverse-profiling orders, or the First Amendment excuse for ignoring Hasan’s emails to al Qaeda

    The Senate report covers up the Obama administration’s First Amendment excuse by attributing the dropped Hasan-Alwaki ball to confusion of responsibilities between regional and central Joint Terrorism Task Force offices (p. 85): There was a fundamental disjunction between the San Diego JTTF and the Washington JTTF concerning who was responsible for investigating [REDACTED] communications between Hasan and the Suspected Terrorist. … As a result, the FBI’s inquiry into Hasan was terminated prematurely.

    Sorry, but the Obamatons admitted otherwise. The Senate report does do some dancing around the First Amendment issue. Page 57 notes that investigations are required to be protective of First Amendment rights: Also as discussed in the Guide, investigations or assessments are precluded appropriately – “based solely on the exercise of First Amendment protected activities or on the race, ethnicity, national origin or religion of the subject.

    But there is no discussion about what this means and how it might apply to Hasan. To consist with what the First Amendment actually requires, the stated rule should be understood to mean that investigations must be based on concerns that go beyond what trouble someone might cause by exercising his right to free speech. Thus the question for agents should have been whether, in listening to Hasan, they found reason to worry that he would go beyond saying nasty things and start doing nasty things.

    The answer to that question was a glaring “yes.” Page 31 of the Senate report lists some of Hasan’s worrisome conduct:

    • Giving a class presentation perceived as so supportive of violent Islamist extremist conflict against the United States that it was almost immediately stopped by an instructor after classmates erupted in opposition to Hasan’s views.

    • Justifying suicide bombings in class at least twice, according to the accounts of classmates.

    • Suggesting in writing in his proposals for presentations that some actions of Osama bin Laden may be justified.

    • Telling several classmates that his religion took precedence over the U.S. Constitution he swore a military oath to support and defend.

    • Stating three times in writing that Muslim-Americans in the military could be prone to fratricide.

    Hasan was not hiding the fact that he was likely to go beyond just saying nasty things, but the Senate report can’t be bothered to clarify what the First Amendment actually requires. The conclusion of the report does includes another brush with the First Amendment issue, finding on p. 87 that:

    JTTF personnel never cited any legal restrictions as the reason that Hasan’s communications were not shared with DoD counter intelligence officials.

    But this finding is about the sharing of information. It is not about the failure of the Joint Terrorism Task Forces to keep investigating Hasan on their own. Thus it does not cover the question of whether First Amendment concerns were the reason the JTTFs gave Hasan’s emails to Awlaki a pass, as unnamed Obama administration “officials” claimed. In short, the Senate report does consider whether legal restrictions came into play, but it ignores the one such restriction that was front page news!

    Given the direct evidence that the First Amendment WAS misapplied, this should have been a key subject for Senate review. Was it ignored despite the strong evidence of why the egregious misapplication occurred: that Obama had issued sweeping orders NOT to investigate Muslims? Or was it ignored because of the strong evidence that Obama is to blame?

    The report notes the obvious: that “political correctness” is out of control in the Department of Defense (p. 31), but it completely ignores all that we know about WHY the politically correct thing at this point in time is to give even the most dangerous Muslim’s a pass. It ignores the clear evidence that failure to investigate Muslims is a top-down policy directive from President Obama himself.

    That is a dangerous whitewash, which is about what we should expect from a bi-partisan effort. Republicans should know by now: if we want to get to the truth of anything, we can’t rely at any point on Democrats.

    Sunday, January 30, 2011

    Is Obama following the Carter strategy of fomenting unrest, then sitting by as America’s enemies take over? First the United States helps to undermine a stable but unpalatable ally. See “The American Left’s Role [the Obama left’s role] in Leading Mid-East Regime Change.”

    Then we stand by and let America’s enemies come to power in the aftermath. See “Clinton on Egypt: ‘We’re not advocating any specific outcome’.”

    Just as Carter did in Nicaragua and Iran. Undermining a stable but unpalatable ally COULD be tenable, but not in the absence of any plan or effort to guide the nation towards a superior alternative. So instead of the Shah and Somoza, we got the Stalinist Sandinistas and the Islamofascist Ayatollah. This time we could well get the Muslim Brotherhood (the parent organization of al Qaeda).

    This Tea Party signage I concocted last July seems appropriate:


    Obama already propped up the Islamofascists in Iran

    In the wake of Iran’s stolen 2009 election, Obama said that the future of Iran had to be decided by Iranians, but he did not say it had to be decided by legitimate election. On the contrary, he called for letting the regime’s legal process decide the matter and only asked that the Islamofascists try not to kill too many people in the process of enforcing their election theft:

    My understanding is, is that the Iranian government says that they are going to look into irregularities that have taken place. …

    I think it’s important that, moving forward, whatever investigations take place are done in a way that is not resulting in bloodshed and is not resulting in people being stifled in expressing their views.

    Whatever the outcome of the election conflict might be, Obama expressed his determination to proceed with diplomatic engagement (i.e. with friendly concessions). To justify all this passivity, Obama invoked the assumption that the whole world hates America as much as he does. If we took the side of the Iranian people, it would only de-legitimize their cause:

    I want to start off by being very clear that it is up to Iranians to make decisions about who Iran’s leaders will be; that we respect Iranian sovereignty and want to avoid the United States being the issue inside of Iran, which sometimes the United States can be a handy political football…

    Thus obama left the field to the Islamofascists, insuring the failure of the side we should have backed: the Iranian majority.

    Now after a public-private consortium of his own minions has helped to undermine the a psuedo-ally in Egypt, Obama seems to be doing the same thing. America will stay out of the aftermath (can’t make ourselves the issue!) again leaving the field to the Islamofascists. Unlike Iran in 2009, the Islamofascists are not the challenged regime this time, but are one of the challengers: a small but organized sect, poised to steal the regime change, just as the Nicaraguan communists managed to do with Carter’s help/acquiescence in 1979.

    Carter’s post-presidential career proves he favored the communists all along

    Time has revealed Carter’s post-presidential career as an elections monitor to have been in pursuit of legitimately elected Communism. I can’t find the citation, but I once read a report from someone on the scene in Managua when Sandinista presidential candidate Daniel Ortega was defeated by Violeta Chamorro in the Carter facilitated Nicaraguan election of 1990. Carter reportedly spat a stream of the most bitter vituperation over the Communist defeat. The closest reference I can find is this statement from Steven Hayward that “Carter returned to the U.S. bitterly disappointed that his Sandinista pals had been turned out.”

    Since then Carter has given up on achieving a legitimate communist electoral victory and has become a shameless backer of communist election stealing. (Ibid.)

    If Obama acquiesces in the rise to power of Muslim Brotherhood favorite El Baradei, it will be pretty clear that he is indeed pursuing the Carter strategy for advancing America’s enemies.

    UPDATE: Well, that didn’t take long. Top Obama Middle-East advisor pens op-ed: “Don’t fear Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood.” Also, “US Ambassador in Cairo Margaret Scobey spoke on the phone today with Mohamed ElBaradei.” Now this: “White House open to role for Muslim Brotherhood in post-Mubarak Egypt.” Too bad the American people were never apprised of the overwhelming evidence that Obama is actually a Muslim.


    We suspected that George Soros had a hand in this; now here’s some proof. Aaron Klein writes, “An international ‘crisis management’ group led by billionaire George Soros long has petitioned for the Egyptian government to normalize ties with the Muslim Brotherhood. The International Crisis Group, or ICG, also released a report urging the Egyptian regime to allow the Brotherhood to establish an Islamist political party. The ICG includes on its board Mohamed ElBaradei, one of the main opposition leaders in Egypt, as well as other personalities who champion dialogue with Hamas, a violent offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood. In a June 2008 report entitled,
    ‘Egypt’s Muslim Brothers Confrontation or Integration,’ Soros’ ICG urges the Egyptian regime to allow the group to participate in political life. The report dismisses Egypt’s longstanding government crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood as ‘dangerously short-sighted.'”

    As I said on another thread, I totally believe that the reason Barry didn’t answer Bill O’Reilly directly about the Muslim Brotherhood, but said only that what he wants to see is “representative government” in Egypt, is because Barry’s idea of representative government includes (actually is DESIGNED TO INCLUDE) representation by the Muslim Brotherhood, which wisely under Mubarak was BANNED. That was the goal of this “revolution”. O’Reilly seems to believe that Barry is naive, inexperienced, or simply keeping his cards close to his vest so as not to “offend” Muslims, when in actuality it’s more likely that Barry will NEVER criticize the Muslim Brotherhood because he SUPPORTS them and WANTS them to have a role, perhaps even THE LEADING ROLE, in Egyptian government. They are, after all, his brothers. When will fools like O’Reilly wake up and smell the qahwah?

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