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23 June 2012


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Alba Etie

So Zawhari and the rest of alQaida are not aligned with the the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt ?


the brotherhood are not the Salafists. this is what the brigadier is saying. the KSA & the Gulf states are the citadels of the Salfists school which they have exported to Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, and now are working on Syria, Lebanon (thru the Hariris), and Egypt.


What's interesting here is the role of Saudi Arabia. I have often read that the Saudis support the MB financially. But they are no fans of the Palestinian branch, Hamas, so that claim is questionable.

Instead, the Saudis were big fans of Mubarak...and now are reported to actively support the Salafis, along with Qatar.

Could the MB's biggest problem be that they have no powerful patron? The colonial powers don't like them because they represent opposition. The Saudis and Qataris don't like them because of their religion. And the Israelis don't like anybody very much, except well-armed, reliably bought off dictators, which conveniently suits the other powerful players to a tee.

Alba Etie

I thought Zawhari came from the Muslim Brotherhood . Are there any good books to read about the history of the MB ?



"Zawahiri," not "Zawhari." Zawahiri was never a member of the MB. In the Islamist world there are many mansions. Start with the wiki. pl


Rami Khouri, writing for the conservative Beirut newspaper, The Daily Star, addresses what he calls the biggest problem in the Arab world: rule by military dictators.

"Three generations of Arabs have been numbed, insulted and dehumanized by this legacy of homegrown political brutality; the fourth generation has made it known that it will not quietly endure such mistreatment, and has risen up in mass revolt to end the rule of incompetent soldiers, their criminal associates, and their insatiably greedy families."


The beaver

Mohamed Morsi (the MB candidate) has been officially declared the winner of the presidential race


FB Ali

To remain a peacenik in the Middle East, one has to be a diehard optimist. That may colour Avnery's view of the MB. However, the important point he makes is that they are pragmatists, not ideologues. They have proven that when put to the test -- Hamas in Palestine and Ennahda in Tunisia. It is likely that the MB in Egypt will follow the same path when they come to power in Egypt.

Another important point often overlooked is that the support they have among the populace is also due to the social and charitable work they have always done at the grassroots. During the long era of dictatorship and corruption, they were often the only ones who stood up for those at the bottom rungs of society.


FB Ali

"...they are pragmatists, not ideologues. They have proven that when put to the test -- Hamas in Palestine and Ennahda in Tunisia." Neither group holds sovereign power yet. pl


Could it be that politics in the Muslim world are evolving? Information technology has made it much harder to keep information controlled, which is an important aspect. I think Mr. Ali is providing a more accurate picture of the MB and I suspect their biggest problem will be to change their internal culture, going from the shadows and the outside to try to govern in a volatile era.



"I think Mr. Ali is providing a more accurate picture of the MB." Ah, I see. Once again I am revealed as a dinosaur. My record as a forecaster is unimportant? Or is it that you want it the way you want it to be? pl


I imagine they are pragmatists in a similar way that right-wing Baptist Christians are pragmatists. Once in power, I would expect a similar pattern of "pragmatic" pursuits.

Alba Etie

Thank you Col Lang .


I learned a long time ago that if the crowd is going one way, you are probably better off going in the other direction. I doubt that anyone knows how the Muslim world will develop. Powerful forces seem to have been unleashed in many places. What Mr. Ali provides is a little different take on the situation than what is usually found. I find that useful, since compared to me, he is on the inside and I am not.

As far as forecasting, I am skeptical of most of them. History is usually not all that kind to them.



You are actually WITH the crowd.

My record is pretty good. I have heard the bull about forecasters before. I have made a good living from the fact that I am rarely wrong. If I am it is usually a matter of timing. On two occasions I have been badly wrong. One was my unwillingness to believe that the Guatemalan Army would butcher Indians en masse in 1965 to defeat insurgency in Guatemalan Yucatan. The other was that I thought US casualties would be higher in the First Gulf War. That was caused by laziness on my part. I did not go to enough US war games. pl


Most comments that I have seen holds that the MB will be very bad for Egypt and the US. But with that schedule, you should be wrong again in about 5 years. By then we may know more about what is happening in Egypt and elsewhere in that neighborhood.

FB Ali

Col Lang,

The difference between ideologues and pragmatists, as I see it, is that the former pursue their ideological goals irrespective of the situation or their chances of success, while the latter do so within the limitations imposed by circumstances .

Thus, I do not at all rule out the MB ultimately bringing in an 'Islamic' system in Egypt, provided they believe that it can be done with the support of the majority of the Egyptian people, and without the violent opposition of powerful internal and external forces. I think the same applies to Hamas and An-Nahda (Ennahda).

To me the real difference is between political and religious Islamists. The MB, An-Nahda, Hamas (and Erdogan's AKP) are political Islamists. The Salafis and their ilk are religious Islamists.

How these various parties and groups appear from the point of view of US interests is an entirely different matter. I would say, though, that ultimately US interests in the Muslim world will not be served by its encouraging or supporting religious Islamists, as it is doing now in Syria, and as it has done (and does) by its blanket support to the Saudi regime and its machinations in Muslim countries.

Shah Alam

It's nice to read that the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) are pragmatists: and the fact that this comes from some one across the aisle makes it sound sweater. I had be very happy to see this being practiced in reality by Mr. Morsi after his winning the election.

One reason of MB getting a reduced response and support from a larger electorate is that most Egyptians still do not believe them at their face value: many feel that they have a hidden agenda. If they show greater accommodation for the liberal Muslims and the Christians their future holds promise - not only in Egypt but else where in the Arab world too. If, on the other hand, they start practicing fundamentalism their success may be short lived.

Time will tell if MB has learnt and made amends to its core ideology. I would like to hope that they will turn the page, be more liberal and democratic, and work hard to bring peace, progress and economic prosperity to the poor Egyptians.

Medicine Man

Well, if Col. Lang suspects that some people would dearly like to believe FB Ali's appraisal of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, he is entirely correct in my case. I'm not unnerved by Islam on principle nor do I have any objection to Egyptians finding their feet by turning towards more traditional religious-motivated leadership.

That all said, I'm mindful of the fact that no opposition party is truly tested until they hold the reigns of power. There are plenty of political groups in western countries who maintained their integrity and moderation largely because they were never confronted by the compromises and opportunities presented by control of the state (communists, libertarians, etc.). Principles may be stood upon and biases may remain unexamined when one has no other choice.

Even if the Muslim Brotherhood has remained principled in opposition to this date, Col. Lang's observations about the trajectory of Islamic parties could easily prove accurate in the future. I don't have any answers here, clearly, so I remain cautious.

I note that the Egyptian military does not trust the MB's intentions in the least. Why not? Are they protecting their piece of the pie? Fearful of reprisals for years of keeping the MB down? Or suspecting the political/social reaction that Col. Lang warns about?

Babak Makkinejad

The distinction you make - between political and religious Islamist is an artificial one in my opinion. They are part of the same continuum since the distinction, per Muslim tradition, between religion and state does not exist.

MB did not start the Egyptian Spring nor did MB lead it since, per Sunni Islamic Tradition, that would have been an un-Islamic act - going against the "Wali al Amr".

No, they had to wait until the government was overthrown by others before moving in.

I suppose that indicates some sort of flexibility.

Babak Makkinejad

Egypt is not an abstraction - it is its people. And those people have a right to be wrong and pursue a course of action that many foreigner will either find foolish or incomprehensible.

"Man is not alive by bread alone but by the knowledge of Word of God".

Egyptian Muslims have the "Word of God" with them and their entire society - excepting the Christains - is part of a civilization that is squarely and exclusively is founded on the Word of God.

There is no escaping that structural constraint.

Furthermore, be advised that the geographical area of Egypt - since the Roman times - has been an appendage to the wider Mediterranean world.

That has always posed a constraint on the strategic exercise of sovereign power by Egypt when there was an independent state there.

Persians, Greeks, Romans, Omavid Arabs, Ayyubid Kurds, Ottomans, English have ruled Egypt for most of her existence since the death of the Pharonic Egypt.

The only time that Egypt acted without constrains on her was under the Mamluks and that was ended by Ottomans.



"I'm not unnerved by Islam on principle nor do I have any objection to Egyptians finding their feet by turning towards more traditional religious-motivated leadership." Neither am I, but, a question, did you feel the same way about the Iranian revolution? pl



"I note that the Egyptian military does not trust the MB's intentions in the least. Why not?" The Egyptian military is a secular tribe that has repeatedly purged itself of Islamists. They know that high on the agenda of the Islamists will be two things 1- the gadual installation of sharia to replace Egypt's present law system and 2- a reverse purge of the officer corps. It will take a while to accompish this but the MB will work at it steadily, just as in Turkey. And, unlike you they know that an Islamist government will NEVER willingly and peacfully give up power to an electoral process. That would be sinful, would it not, Babak? I predict a flight out of Egypt by Copts. pl

FB Ali

I believe that upholding secularism and preventing the establishment of an Islamist dictatorship is the line that the Egyptian generals spin to retain Western support. The main reason for their opposition to the MB is to retain their privileged position in the country, which includes the holding of a substantial chunk of the economy (off which individual generals do quite well).

The military has grown accustomed to being bribed by dictators and the US, and sees these lucrative streams of cash drying up if the MB establish themselves. The generals will try their best to avoid this. With Mursi's election, and the likely repeat of the MB's success in the upcoming parliamentary election, they will try and make a deal with the MB to protect their turf. Since the latter appears keen to avoid turmoil in the country, they will likely acquiesce -- for the time being.



As you know, I am your friend. I wish that I could share your belief but my heart was buried long ago. pl

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