Egypt: hopes of democracy die as Brotherhood faces eradication
The notion that the Arab Spring would produce stable, democratic, open government was naive and even delusional
WILLIAM HAGUE has declared the turmoil in the Middle East the most serious crisis of the 21st Century so far. Speaking on the BBC Today programme this morning, the Foreign Secretary said: "This is worse than even the financial crash of 2008, and it is likely to last for generations."
It is hard to dispute his claim, given the latest round of killings and sectarian warfare in Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Sudan, and with sign of growing violence for and against the Ennahda regime in Tunisia, which was once held up by western governments as the poster child of moderate, democratic Islamic governments resulting from the Arab Spring.
Now any hopes of progressive democracy emerging from the upheavals across the Arab world in 2011 are all but gone. Hague seemed to acknowledge this fact against a background of worsening news from Egypt.
The military junta in Cairo now seems to be doing its best to pitch the country into the kind of civil strife gripping Syria. It has declared war on the Muslim Brotherhood.
After a precarious existence of just over 80 years above and below ground in Egyptian politics, sometimes recognised and at other times banned, the Muslim Brotherhood now faces eradication at the hands of the military.
Among the latest deaths, 36 Brotherhood prisoners were killed when their prison bus was ambushed by bullets and gas grenades. In Sinai, 24 policemen were killed by militants firing rocket grenades.
There local anti-Cairo tribesmen have sided with radical elements shorthand for al-Qaeda affiliates.
The military led by General Abdul Fattah el-Sisi are unrepentant about their aims and tactics. Their brazenness has shocked foreign observers in the country, and visitors. On 6 August a delegation from the US led by Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham reported their dismay to the New York Times.
Sisi "seemed a bit intoxicated with power," according to Senator Graham. "People were itching for a fight. The prime minister (Hazem el-Bablawi) was a disaster. He kept preaching to me: 'You can't negotiate with these people. They've got to get out of the streets and respect the law'."
Despite promises to release key prisoners, and open dialogue with the Brotherhood, the regime went ahead with plans to crush the Brotherhood protest camps as soon as the US senators left. Today Reuters has reported that the convicted former president Hosni Mubarak is to be released from jail, according to his lawyer.
The divisions in the Egyptian crisis are deep and seismic in this Hague is right. We now have a military regime, backed overtly by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates and covertly by Israel, fighting what they see as extreme Islamism led by the Brotherhood. The Brotherhood has the support of Qatar, and branches of the movement across the Arab world, especially Syria and Hamas in Palestine.
The cause of the Brotherhood is also backed by al-Qaeda in several variations but they, too, have their own agenda. In Syria, al-Qaeda elements have been fighting each other. Syria is now a deep supply base for al-Qaeda in Mesopotamia in a major offensive against the Shia regime of Nuri al Maliki. They are held responsible for the spate of 30 car bomb attacks in Baghdad over the past month up from only three a month earlier this year.
As America and the West grapple with a coherent policy towards Egypt and President Obama still hasn't declared the military takeover a coup and has not stopped the $1.5 billion military aid several conclusions are clear.
The first must be that the notion that the Arab Spring would produce stable, democratic, open government was naive and even delusional.
Though elections have occurred in Egypt and Tunisia, they have led to autocracy and another round of violence. Democracy has sat awkwardly with demography and it is the surge of Arab populations that was the potent catalyst to the Arab Spring: not for nothing was it called a 'youthquake'. The push for democracy has produced populist autocracies: once having won power, those on top have been reluctant to share it.
America and its European allies are now seen to be soft on the military regime of Egypt yet hard on the anti-Islamist military dictatorship of Syria.
Confusion has almost encouraged the 'something must be done' approach which appears to be David Cameron's mantra on Syria, though William Hague did not endorse this approach today.
Short-term gestures and here even the international intervention in Libya provides no guide are likely to be self-defeating or even worse. What really counts is a long-term strategy to bring stability and peace to the Middle East, whose career as a geopolitical trouble spot began almost a century ago with the dismantling of the Ottoman Empire in the First World War.
Stability and peace will come from good governance, willed and supported from within and not imposed from outside. And it won't necessarily come from the barrel of a gun, or a barrel of oil. ·