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Egypt Military Coup Slaps Down Islamist Power

Politics / Middle East Jul 04, 2013 - 11:48 AM GMT

By: Andrew_McKillop


This is far from an existential question for President Obama and Western leaders. One reason is that political rules, even constitutional laws prevent their governments recognizing or giving aid to coup leaders who declare themselves rulers of a country after overthrowing its elected government.

From the night of 3 July, feverish work was afoot in Western chancelleries, concocting the right way to approve of the Egyptian coup. They did this knowing that Morsi's government was not only of extreme incompetence, but in 12 months had “succeeded” the exploit of making itself hated by a large and straight majority of Egyptians – including many who had previously voted for the Peace and Freedom Party, the “political vehicle” of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood.

Many Egyptians said in interview they voted for Morsi, one year ago, because it was a choice between cholera and the plague. Support to the Army's almost bloodless removal of Morsi was huge.

Outside of Egypt – more especially in Qatar and Saudi Arabia – Morsi's removal was very bad news. Qatar's Al Jazeera TV, Internet and press reporting of the event gave massive coverage to the defiant words, but not deeds of the dead wood swept away with Mohamed Morsi. A typical quote, from  Essam al-Haddad, a senior adviser to Morsi was: "The message will resonate throughout the Muslim world loud and clear: Democracy is not for Muslims". Haddad was quoted as also “warning the world” that there could be  “catastrophic ramifications", of what he repeatedly called a "military coup."

To further blacken the vast majority of Egyptians who wanted one thing only – get rid of Morsi – Al Jazeera on 4 July carried this comment from Bashr el-Assad on Morsi's removal:  "What is happening in Egypt is the fall of what is known as political Islam." "Anywhere in the world, whoever uses religion for political aims, or to benefit some and not others, will fall. You can't fool all the people all the time, let alone the Egyptian people who have a civilisation that is thousands of years old, and who espouse clear Arab nationalist thought."

 To be sure, unelected Qatati theocrats sitting on vast revenues acquired from sitting on large gas resources, like their counterparts in Saudi Arabia who squat atop large oil resources, have every reason to want consumers of the media they own and control to believe Assad was a mortal enemy of the Muslim Brotherhood - and a mortal enemy of Islamist rule. Qatari and Saudi media were also quick to add another strand to the propaganda campaign – now running full tilt in these media - to fan Islamic “resistance” in Egypt to the ouster of their puppets, headed by Morsi. Qatari and Saudi media sees “the hand of the USA” behind Morsi's ouster – betraying the thinly veiled contempt of the Petro-theocrats for the Egyptian people, who were “obviously too stupid” to overthrow Morsi, themselves.

The reason is simple. Arab autocrats ruling the Gulf states are terrified by the word 'democracy' and these unelected Islamist regimes believe the only reason the U.S. and other Western democracies, after weeks of agonizing and handwrining, finally agreed to send arms to rebels battling Bashr el-Assad's regime in Syria was to empower West-friendly rebel factions and prevent the growing clout of hard-line Islamists, financed by Qatar and Saudi Arabia, among the rebel ranks.

In the United Arab Emirates, this week, a secret security court handed down an unprecedented sentencing, of dozens of alleged Muslim Brotherhood members to jail terms between 10 and 15 years. Only commented under terms of strict anonymity, Western political observers based in the Gulf states believe this is one of the clearest signals that Qatar and Saudi Arabia are no longer able to maintain “overdog status” and outright Islamist political hegemony inside their home region.

Outside the region, elsewhere in the Arab and Muslim world, their power base is eroding rapidly. The Morsi ouster was surely and certainly a death knell for Qatari and Saudi hopes that through petro-money and the supine or hypocritical tolerance of Western leaders, they can extend their autocratic form of Islamist rule across the entire Middle East and North African region.

Qatari and Saudi media bleat the message that "There is a pattern", shown starkly by the Morsi ouster that if and when Islamists in the region grab power, they will not be allowed to stay in power. Inside Egypt, which until July 3 was the regional showcase of the thirst for power of Qatari and Saudi rulers, the signs are that the Muslim Brotherhood will break apart. The Brotherhood  – which for nearly all its life since its 1920s founding has been clandestine or outlawed – contains many cadres who said that holding power in Egypt was a trap and two-edge sword for the movement. Its leadership however, prodded by Qatari and Saudi petro-dollars, took the gamble and must now face the blame and recriminations, disputes and disagreements that will explode among its ranks.

Brotherhood intellectual in Egypt, quoted following Morsi's ouster said that almost from the first day of their short-lived power there had been open splits between “pragmatists” advocating a “reformed Islamist political strategy”, and others backed by Qatar and Saudi Arabia who pushed for a more defiant application of Islamic fundamentalism. Brotherhood meetings were riven by these differences which repeatedly flared into the open.

The basic strategy of Qatari and Saudi ideologists – in Egypt – was already clear. Once power was obtained legitimately and democratically, this would be cemented forever through the massive brainwashing of young Egyptians using every trick in the book. Brotherhood cadres not onboard in this strategy detailed the “youth push” employed by the Islamists, ranging from football to Internet and the media, films, books and music – despite Islamist pretence these are “impure and anthropomorphic”.

Egypt was certainly the biggest, most enticing target for an Islamist power grab, and has certainly become the most embarassing failure of this strategy – in less than 13 months. While Libya, Tunisia and Yemen have all enacted highly different and specific regime-changes since 2011, counterpart attempts in the Gulf heartland – especially in Bahrain – were massively repressed with little or no Western media coverage, and even less high level political criticism of the bloodshed.

This careful, we mean hypocritical desire of Western democratic leaders and their media to not offend the Petro-princes and their ideologists has massively backfired – because it incited or encouraged these oil-fuelled autocrats into believing they could take over Egypt, and engage a bloody civil war in Syria “for as long as it takes”. The first error of the autocrats is to ignore a huge number of national and historical differences between Egypt and other MENA (Middle East and North African) countries, starting with the calculated passive “non-role” of Egypt in Arab political affairs, for decades.

Almost no one in the region has looked to Egypt for leadership in either the political or security sphere. Recurring but feeble attempts by Egyptian politicians, only recently including the Muslim Brotherhood and its political party front, to brand Egypt as the role model and leader for other Arab nations to emulate have always failed. Political Islam as I have noted in other articles, however has a major historical link with Egypt, not the Arab Gulf states.

Centuries back in time (not decades), Egyptian political Islam morphed into a ethical and philosophical mold, and away from direct power.

In some aspects, all the post-revolutionary Arab nations are similar. Each has an array of Islamist and liberal left-right political parties vying for power. All of them also have what can only be called sclerotic economies that are a legacy of their often thirty-year-long Soviet style rule by corrupt and oligarchic authoritarian rulers. One key propaganda victory of these sclerotic regimes was to paint a picture – with Western media collusion – of neoliberal economic reform and free market rule.

Imagining these societies will now troop to adopt the autocratic Political Islam of the Petro-princes and their tame imams is nothing but a delusion of billionaire princes wallowing in arrogance. The reform of islamist rule, to Political Islam 2.0 is under way.

By Andrew McKillop


Former chief policy analyst, Division A Policy, DG XVII Energy, European Commission. Andrew McKillop Biographic Highlights

Co-author 'The Doomsday Machine', Palgrave Macmillan USA, 2012

Andrew McKillop has more than 30 years experience in the energy, economic and finance domains. Trained at London UK’s University College, he has had specially long experience of energy policy, project administration and the development and financing of alternate energy. This included his role of in-house Expert on Policy and Programming at the DG XVII-Energy of the European Commission, Director of Information of the OAPEC technology transfer subsidiary, AREC and researcher for UN agencies including the ILO.

© 2013 Copyright Andrew McKillop - All Rights Reserved Disclaimer: The above is a matter of opinion provided for general information purposes only and is not intended as investment advice. Information and analysis above are derived from sources and utilising methods believed to be reliable, but we cannot accept responsibility for any losses you may incur as a result of this analysis. Individuals should consult with their personal financial advisor.

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