Caroline Glick assesses the situation in Egypt in light of the recent mob attack on the Israeli embassy in Cairo. The crowd was prevented from killing six Israeli security officers only because the military leaders of Egypt, who had been sitting on their hands as the drama played out (either in order to appease the mob or because they sympathized with it, or perhaps both), finally acceded to US pressure and intervened at the eleventh hour to save the Israelis.
This says quite a few things, some of them things we already knew. One is that in the absence of Mubarak events will probably be going more poorly for Israel in terms of Egyptian attitude and actions towards it. Another is that in a pinch, the Obama administration will sometimes intervene to avoid a result that is bad for Israel. If one looks at it cynically (and I am strongly inclined in that direction), Obama knows that any bad repercussions from the current Egyptian leaders will be placed at least somewhat on his head, and that that sort of thing could bode very badly for him in the 2012 election (see this for more).
Of course, it’s also possible that Obama is trying to do the right thing by Israel. But there’s not a whole lot of precedent that would support that belief.
At any rate, as Glick writes:
…US leverage may end after [Egypt's] November’s elections. The Muslim Brotherhood and its allies are expected to win a parliamentary majority and the presidency.
And then it will get a lot more interesting.
Egypt is not alone in this trend. Iran, of course, is the template, as many (including me) feared when the movement to depose Mubarak began, and Obama decided to play the Jimmy Carter role. But once-moderate Turkey is not far behind, as well.
Michael Totten has an in-depth piece on what’s been happening in Egypt since the revolution, and the news isn’t good (the piece, on the other hand, is). Here’s the summary version of the article, which features an interview by prominent liberal Egyptian intellectual Hala Mustafa:
“All we can do,” Mustafa said, “is preserve the minimal amount of our liberal tradition that still remains. But the military rule and the growing Islamization of the society make it very difficult. The conservative forces are trying to prevent any sort of progress in the country. The military rulers are different from the Muslim Brotherhood, but they don’t contradict each other.”…
“It was a premature revolution. Mubarak’s regime wasn’t Mubarak’s. It was the regime that was founded in 1952 and it’s still here. The regime’s attitude against Israel is the same. Americans thought Mubarak was with Israel, but it’s not true. Mubarak did nothing to change the propaganda or advance peace. You have to rethink what was happening.”
The elite in the government and the army [have] never stopped broadcasting the message that Israel and the United States are their enemies. Right now the army is blaming all the problems in the country on foreign (i.e., Israeli and American) saboteurs and subversives, and just a few days ago tightened entry requirements on Western visitors, even tourists. This is not the way a peaceable ally behaves, but aside from the new visa requirements, it’s nothing new, really. Mubarak’s government did the same thing.
So Totten’s interviewee doesn’t think the new regime will be worse than Mubarak’s was—but that’s scant comfort to those who support Israel, because Mubarak’s relative friendliness to Israel was a sham, anyway.
As fare as transparency of the new leaders goes, this says it all:
It’s next-to impossible to get an interview with anyone on the junta. I was laughed at when I tried. “They won’t give interviews to the Egyptian media let alone the American media,” by Egyptian colleague Yasmin El-Rifae said.
They are the men behind the curtain, pulling the levers of power. After the election, will they lose some of that ability? And will it even matter, or are the military leaders mostly reacting to both the mob and to the Muslim Brotherhood, already?
Mustafa makes it clear that she thinks the military will remain in control in Egypt even after the elections; after all, they’ve been in control there for at least a half century. And certainly she knows more about Egypt than I do. But I’m not sure she’s correct, because something in my gut tells me that Iran—which effectively destroyed the old military leaders of its country after the revolutionary Islamicists came to power—may be the model in that respect, despite major differences otherwise between Egypt and Iran. As Totten writes:
Egypt’s revolution is very different indeed from Iran’s, but history doesn’t need to repeat itself exactly before its lessons ought to be heeded.