“Age and health aside, the likelihood of Khomeini taking and holding power for any prolonged period of time are (sic) just about nil. For one thing, the army, the most important organized force in the country could not unite behind him and his concept of instituting a sever religious state opposed to modernization and close ties to the United States.”
James Weighart, Foreign Affairs Columnist, January 18, 1979
On Saturday, the front page of the New York Times displayed a picture above the fold showing tens of thousands of Egyptian Islamists pouring into Tahrir Square in Cairo demanding that Egypt be ruled by strict Islamist law. The New York Times caption read, “Islamists show their strength in Egypt.”
This comes as no surprise to us in EMET. Ever since the dramatic overthrow of the Mubarak government in Egypt last winter, EMET was alone in demanding that the U.S. government halt the continuing supply of military aid to Egypt — or at least place it on “temporary hold” to await the results of the upcoming elections in September — if there are elections.
Anyone who has been paying attention to the Middle East should realize that a radical Islamist wind has chilled the atmosphere and high jacked many of these revolutions that began in pursuit of rights and democracy. Although these revolutions might have been initiated by the young and well-educated of the Facebook generation, this group turns out to represent only a small part of their nation’s population. They may well have initiated the process of political transformation, but it appears that they lack sufficient political influence and infrastructure to gain the support of the masses and be propelled to political power.
There is a rising tide of fundamentalist Islam throughout the Middle East and Egypt will prove no exception.
In a nation where the adult literacy rate (defined as a primary school education) reaches only 58 per cent of the population, the Muslim Brotherhood and other fundamentalist Salafi organizations have long ago planted deep roots within the mosques and Imams to spread their influence over the Egyptian masses.
On December 2, 2010, before the dramatic events of this past winter in Cairo began to unfold, the Pew Research Center released a poll of Muslims in Egypt, Indonesia, Pakistan, Nigeria, Lebanon, Jordan and Indonesia. In Egypt, a full 95 percent of the population believed that Islamic law and the Muslim religion should play a larger role in politics — the highest percentage of all Muslim countries surveyed.
Of the countries surveyed, Egypt also had the highest percentage of respondents who favored the court’s adhering to the strict punishments that are meted out according to Sharia law: 77 percent were in favor either whipping thieves or the amputation of their hands, 82 percent said that women (not men) who commit adultery should be stoned to death (only women can be tried for adultery), and 84 percent say that apostates — those who convert to Christianity — should receive the death penalty.
Yet, except for EMET, the foreign policy establishment and the pundits in Washington (unfortunately including AIPAC) since the revolutions of the Arab Spring have been on Capitol Hill arguing for continuing the flow of advanced military aid to Egypt. Amazingly, earlier this summer, the U.S. government even sold two additional advanced Abrams tanks to the Egyptians.
Now what could be the use of these advanced tanks for Egypt? Are they planning to defend themselves against attacks from Libya or the Sudan? Unfortunately, we know what they are planning to use these for.
In fact, all the arguments government officials have put forward in favor of continuing the flow of military aid to Egypt are identical to those disastrous arguments that were used to continue sending arms to Iran following the Khomeini revolution in 1979, including:
1.) It is better that the get weapons from us than anyone else.
2.) Their military was trained by America and remains close to the U.S.; the military is a moderating Western influence in a sea of radical Islamists; and as a highly professional American-trained institution their military represents Western ideals.
In terms of the first argument, I never quite understood how our supplying the weapons to a potential enemy makes them any less lethal?
In terms of the second argument: we are talking about the Middle East here! The military is neither Western nor Eastern. It wants to survive. And most people survive in the Middle East by allying themselves with the biggest bully in the playground. Besides, if the military is truly professional, it does not make policy, it implements it. Good soldiers obey orders.
Is there some sort of information that the CIA or the State Department or the DoD has that they are not telling us? On what basis do they believe that continuing to supply advanced arms to Egypt will have any greater influence over events than the continuous supply of arms we sent to Iran — who is now an implacable enemy? The Middle East is overflowing with upheaval and instability and the influence of the radical Islamists grows stronger every day. This is not the time for our continuing unthinking investment in institutions that may become tomorrow’s new despots or the tools of new radical governments. Now is the time to await developments while we seriously consider where America’s best interests lie.
Like so much else in regards to the Middle East, I wish to be proven wrong. But I fear that EMET, once again, will be proven right.
America Can No Longer “Muddle Through” The Middle East
Reading the Writing on The Wall
Help us work to ensure that our policymakers and the public receive the EMET- the Truth.