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Egypt - Confusion in the Administration

JINSA Report #: 

February 11, 2011

[Ed. Note: The resignation of Hosni Mubarak in no way changes or mitigates the spectacle of America's intelligence chiefs' inane pronouncements yesterday. The resignation, in fact, makes our concerns about the Muslim Brotherhood's possible ascension to power more salient and our worries about the skill of American leadership more pronounced.]

Egypt is hard. On the one hand, the Administration has to calibrate its support for the understandable anger of the people and its support for a leader who has helped us abroad while he cooked his own goose at home. On the other hand, the United States has to be careful not to encourage forces that ultimately will undermine American regional interests and further revolution and jihad.

OK, it's hard. So listen more than you talk, read a book, check the web or find an expert. This is Washington, for Pete's sake - shake a bush. Oh, wait. James Clapper and Leon Panetta are the experts. Or so we're told.

CIA Director Panetta told the House Select Committee on Intelligence that his information indicated Mubarak could be out by Thursday night; there was a "high likelihood" of that. He didn't say how he knew, but did say he was "seeing what you're seeing." The CIA Director gets his information from CNN?

Could Panetta really have so little understanding of the import attached to his words? In a quick loop, the media carried his remarks at home and in Cairo. The crowd in Tahrir Square was ecstatic when Mubarak went to make his speech. Some people really do believe the CIA controls the universe, and in this case they believed President Mubarak was stepping down because the CIA said so. But Mubarak didn't go, was never going to go, and the mood turned ugly.

Director of National Intelligence Clapper said, "The term 'Muslim Brotherhood' an umbrella term for a variety of movements, in the case of Egypt, a very heterogeneous group, largely secular, which has eschewed violence and has decried al Qaeda as a perversion of Islam... They have pursued social ends, a betterment of the political order in Egypt, et cetera... In other countries, there are also chapters or franchises of the Muslim Brotherhood, but there is no overarching agenda, particularly in pursuit of violence, at least internationally."

Tarek Heggy, the Egyptian liberal political thinker, reminds us, "The Muslim Brothers have never condemned the use of violence against civilians, except if it is directed against Muslim civilians and even that only selectively."

But it isn't only about violence. It is about limiting future political and social norms to those of a religious organization with its head in a different century. Heggy again, "The Brotherhood remains extremely opposed to Western civilization (and)... Contrary to the system of government applied in a democracy, which is based on the peaceful rotation of power through elections, the Muslim Brothers call for a system of government based on the principles of Sharia and the revival of the Islamic Caliphate." He adds, "One must know that the Brothers are likely to use taqqiyya, a principle which - according to some clerics... allows Muslims to lie if so doing assists them in ultimately defeating the infidels."

The Muslim Brotherhood is not a political party; it is the political arm of the Islamic revivalist movement. A takeover by an Islamist government, using a phony commitment to the electoral process to get rid of the concept of free elections and the "peaceful rotation of power," would doom liberty, tolerance, equality before the law and consensual government in Egypt - as it has done elsewhere. Hamas, Hezbollah, Iran and, increasingly Turkey are the models.

Is that the aspiration of the United States government for the people of Egypt?

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