Against the backdrop of a mass civilian uprising in Egypt, senior Egyptian diplomats have relayed a calming message to Israel declaring their commitment to preserving peace between the two countries, Army Radio reported Tuesday. The diplomats said the peace agreement with Israel was of strategic importance to Egypt.
Of course it is. Egypt can barely afford to feed itself — actually, it can’t even do this — and the last thing it needs is a war with Israel. But this doesn’t mean that when (not if) the Muslim Brotherhood takes complete control of the government and begins the process of replacing key military leaders with its own people — that’s the real ‘Turkish model’ — it will not begin to work closely with Hamas, providing arms and even volunteers.
Hamas is in fact an offshoot of the Ikhwan (Brotherhood) itself, and while it was happy to accept Iranian support in the days of Mubarak, it will be more comfortable with its own Sunni parent organization. It will also be important for Egypt to wean Hamas away from Iran; Egypt still sees itself as the preeminent power in the region and views Iran’s growing power as a threat.
Although it’s said that the turmoil in the Middle East is due to a desire of the masses for democracy, truly progressive forces are very much in the minority, and don’t stand a chance of taking over in any Arab country (surprisingly, I think that there might be hope for one non-Arab country — Iran, which has an educated middle class that is strongly opposed to the mullocracy!).
Here is a better explanation:
The US has bled itself almost dry in two wars and is struggling to maintain its role as regional boss. Although it hasn’t happened yet and it is not a forgone conclusion that it will, it’s possible to see America withdrawing the way Britain did after WWII.
Many of the regional players expect this. US influence has dropped like a stone everywhere that Islamists are becoming more powerful: Turkey, Egypt, Tunisia, Lebanon, etc. The Arab Spring is really an anti-American season. Somehow the White House missed this when it helped overthrow Mubarak, and it is missing it now in its support of Turkey.
A contest for leadership is developing between three regional powers: Iran, which wants to control the flow of Persian Gulf oil and establish a Shiite caliphate; Egypt; and Turkey, which sees itself — the Turkish foreign minister was quoted saying as much in a Wikileaks report — as the center of a new Ottoman empire.
This is playing itself out in various places, for example Syria, where Turkey is trying to help push Assad out so he can be replaced by an Ottoman-friendly Sunni Islamist regime, and Gaza, where Egypt is replacing Iran as patron of Hamas.
The Russians seem to be aligning themselves with Iran, both to help push the US out and because of their historic geopolitical rivalry with Turkey.
I wonder if the Obama Administration really understands where its policies are leading?
While Israel does not expect that Egypt will announce that it is abrogating the peace treaty and returning to Nasser-like confrontation any time soon, it is quite correct in beefing up its defensive capability in the South. And I don’t think it’s time yet to cut the defense budget.