Monday, January 31, 2011

The true dimensions of the Egyptian crisis

I've noticed that many US commentators and observers have limited their discussion of the present crisis in Egypt to those dimensions that involve or affect the USA. It's a far more critical issue than that. Egypt might go the same way as Iran in 1979. All the necessary factors are there and in play.

The international aspects of the Egyptian crisis, in combination, could - quite literally - trigger World War III. Let me explain.

Egypt is the last link in a chain of political and religious extremism. Let's follow that chain:

  1. The Muslim Brotherhood is officially banned in Egypt, but it has thousands of sympathizers. In that country at least, it's become an Islamic fundamentalist organization.
  2. It has strong ties to Hamas, a terrorist organization which is itself an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood, and controls the Gaza Strip.
  3. Hamas, in turn, is linked to Hezbollah, a Lebanese Shi'ite Muslim fundamentalist terrorist organization (where it's just brought down the government, and continues to threaten Israel).
  4. Hezbollah is a strong ally of Syria, whose military intelligence service, the 'Shu'bat al-Mukhabarat al-'Askariyya', ran Lebanon during the Syrian occupation. It's widely believed that Syria actively armed and trained Hezbollah to serve as its surrogate force during the occupation, and has actively supported it since then.
  5. Syria has close ties to Iran, and is very sympathetic to its fundamentalist Shi'ite revolutionary ethic.
  6. Both Syria and Iran have close ties to North Korea. The latter state has sold weapons to Iran for decades. Iran has, in turn, passed them on to Syria and Hezbollah. North Korea has also been implicated in the construction of a nuclear reactor in Syria, which was destroyed by an Israeli military operation in 2007. (If it comes to that, Egypt's nuclear program is also highly suspect - certainly in Israel! The Israeli government can't be happy to think that yet another Arab state, one perhaps about to be dominated by Muslim fundamentalists, has an ongoing nuclear program!)
  7. To close the circle, Iran also has ties to Hamas in the Gaza Strip. It's tried to smuggle weapons to Hamas on numerous occasions, and sometimes succeeded. Iran will be over the moon with joy if a Muslim fundamentalist government in Egypt opens that country's border with the Gaza Strip. It won't have to smuggle weapons to Hamas any more, and risk their detection and destruction or confiscation by Israel. Instead, it will be able to ship them to Hamas openly, through an Egyptian border crossing.

Get the picture? North Korea (rogue state, politically) leads to Iran (ditto), leads to Syria (ditto), leads to Hezbollah (terrorist movement), leads to Hamas (ditto), leads to Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt (at least ditto wannabe).

Israel now finds itself in the extraordinarily dangerous position of having avowed enemies, both political and (fundamentalist) religious, far to the East (Iran); to its north-east (Syria); north (Lebanon); south-west (Gaza); and possibly to the south (Egypt) if the Muslim Brotherhood or its allies take control there. Furthermore, to the east is an unstable, unpredictable and politically (if not militarily) hostile Palestinian government in the West Bank.

Put those elements together, and what do you have?

You have a paranoid nuclear power that's surrounded by enemies, and is determined that the Holocaust shall never be repeated.

Remember that, upon graduation from basic training, Israel's soldiers swear an oath: "Masada shall not fall again!"

They mean it.

Given that reality, just what do you think Israel, right now, is considering doing about the threats facing it?

If your answer was "Go to the synagogue, form a minyan, and pray about it", there's a bridge in Brooklyn, NYC I'd like to sell you. Cash only, please, and in small bills.

Furthermore, Israel considers the United States' reaction to the crisis in Egypt to be nothing more or less than a double betrayal: betrayal of the USA's only real ally in the Arab world, and betrayal of Israel, which depends on Egypt to keep the Camp David Accords (which will almost certainly be abrogated if a Muslim fundamentalist government takes over that country).

Political commentators expressed shock at how the United States as well as its major European allies appeared to be ready to dump a staunch strategic ally of three decades, simply to conform to the current ideology of political correctness.

. . .

Newspaper columnists were far more blunt.

One comment by Aviad Pohoryles in the daily Maariv was entitled 'A Bullet in the Back from Uncle Sam'. It accused Obama and his Secretary of State Hillary Clinton of pursuing a naive, smug, and insular diplomacy heedless of the risks.

Who is advising them, he asked, "to fuel the mob raging in the streets of Egypt and to demand the head of the person who five minutes ago was the bold ally of the president - an almost lone voice of sanity in a Middle East?"

"The politically correct diplomacy of American presidents throughout the generations ... is painfully naive."

Obama on Sunday called for an "orderly transition" to democracy in Egypt, stopping short of calling on Mubarak to step down, but signaling that his days may be numbered.

Netanyahu instructed Israeli ambassadors in a dozen key capitals over the weekend to impress on host governments that Egypt’s stability is paramount, official sources said.

"Jordan and Saudi Arabia see the reactions in the West, how everyone is abandoning Mubarak, and this will have very serious implications," Haaretz daily quoted one official as saying.

. . .

"The question is, do we think Obama is reliable or not," said an Israeli official, who declined to be named. "Right now it doesn’t look so. That is a question resonating across the region not just in Israel."

Writing in Haaretz, Ari Shavit said Obama had betrayed "a moderate Egyptian president who remained loyal to the United States, promoted stability and encouraged moderation."

. . .

"Throughout Asia, Africa and South America, leaders are now looking at what is going on between Washington and Cairo. Everyone grasps the message: 'America’s word is worthless - America has lost it'."

There's more at the link. Bold print is my emphasis.

If the United States, the world's only remaining superpower, is widely regarded as having 'lost it', as no longer having the political will or the nerve to intervene in a crisis to ease tensions and restore order . . . that means the nations involved will act in their own best interests, without any restraint. After all, their security can now only be guaranteed by their own actions, their own strength.

(You might also wish to consider that US economic and political policies are directly responsible, to a very large extent, for the current mess in the Middle East. The inimitable Karl Denninger has the scoop on that. Go read.)

Here's how the conflict may begin and develop.

  1. Either Hamas in Gaza, or Hezbollah in Lebanon, or both of them, will be emboldened by a Muslim fundamentalist victory in Egypt. In celebration, or in the confident hope that they now have a new, powerful and well-armed ally in Egypt, they'll launch a major rocket and missile attack on Israel.
  2. Israel will respond with military operations against Hamas and/or Hezbollah. If only one is struck, the other will attack Israel in an attempt to provide a diversion and prevent Israel from concentrating its forces against its ally.
  3. If Israel becomes involved in the Gaza Strip, look for a newly fundamentalist Egypt to protect Hamas. If Israel becomes involved in Lebanon, look for Syria to support its ally, Hezbollah. Look for Palestinian extremists in the West Bank to become involved, bombarding Israel with missiles and/or launching terrorist attacks to aid their religious partners in Gaza and/or Lebanon.
  4. Look for Iran to support Hamas, Hezbollah, Syria and a newly Muslim fundamentalist government in Egypt.
  5. Look for North Korea to support all of the above as a way of asserting its independence and international power, in defiance of the United States.
  6. Look for the USA to be totally ineffective under President Obama's leadership. He'll be just like Jimmy Carter during the Iranian hostage crisis - a portrait of incompetence, witlessness and stupidity. Thanks to Obama's mishandling of the situation, the USA has already lost almost all influence over the potential participants.
  7. If Egypt mobilizes its conventional forces against Israel, that'll almost certainly force Syria to do likewise, or lose its perceived leadership of the anti-Israel alliance. If both of them mobilize, Israel will be faced with a four- or five-front war . . . and that's when Israel is likely to take off its gloves. A nuclear war in the Middle East will no longer be inconceivable. It may even become likely: and once nuclear weapons are used, who knows how things will end?

Ever heard of something called 'Armageddon'?

Are you worried yet?



Noons said...

The whole situation reminds me of the Sorcerer's Apprentice sequence in Fantasia...

STxRynn said...

Holding the Bible in one hand and the newspaper in the other is quite interesting nowadays. Those prophets of old were proven correct in the short term, and I believe their long term prophecies are starting to shape up as well....

Interesting times to be alive, for sure and for certain.

SiGraybeard said...

Linked back from Silicon Graybeard.

Mikael said...

Who says the fundies will get the power? Certainly they'll try... but they're* A) a small minority and B) unsupported and virtually unknown to the masses.

*They as in the muslim brotherhood

And egypt depends too much on tourism and trade for the people to go all jihadi, it's bad for business. I expect any powergrab by the brotherhood is going to get firmly squashed by more pragmatic people.

Mikael said...

Small correction after reading up: Ok not small minority, sizable minority. They got the support of 20% of the people back in the 2005 parliament elections.

Still, I don't expect them to suddenly gain control of the country.

The Lost Goat said...

I hope the Egyptians as a whole are as rational as Mikael believes. One need only look to our own history, though, to see that a sizable minority, well organized, can drag the rest of the populace behind it, especially in times of uncertainty.