So “the [Egyptian] people want the downfall of the regime”. Indeed, it is ironic that the people are demanding the overthrow of a DEMOCRATICALLY ELECTED government, but hardly surprising when we consider that it represents the latest breed of “democratic regime” the US has been promoting in the region to reverse its losses incurred by the “Arab Spring”. But the first indications of this new trend in government were in fact visible in 2005 when the first State Dept. colour coded “revolution” occurred in the region, aka “the Cedar revolution.” In 2007 I wrote about the March 14 ruling bloc in Lebanon and Mahmoud Abbas’ government in the West Bank: “Such governments appear to be the latest breed of democracy that Washington is cultivating: the democratic regime. This is democratic, insofar as the political systems of which it is part is a democracy; but it is a regime, in that it represents a new form of government which is challenged by the people, its constitutionality is widely disputed, and it derives its legitimacy from external powers. In short, this is the closest the US can get to an authoritarian regime without admitting the reality.”
This description is particularly applicable to Mursi’s regime today, which, like its predecessor is perceived as illegitimate, dictatorial and increasingly, repressive. And like other democratic regimes, it too is the only type of outcome one can expect from US-engineered “procedural” or “low intensity” democracy which possesses only the structures and institutions of liberal democracy (itself an oxymoron of sorts and a defective form of democracy) minus the substance. As a basic principle of any real democracy, national self-determination is the prerequisite for any substantive democracy to take hold in our region.
The somewhat misleading title of this piece— “United by a common threat: Israel, Egypt and Hamas all fear Iran and its Islamic Jihad proxy in Gaza”—from the Times of Israel belies a very interesting analysis about Hamas’ conflicting tendencies and identities :
“The rise of Islamist regimes, such as the one in Egypt, has translated into a greater shared hostility for Israel on the one hand, but an increase in the importance of religion and ethnicity in the region alongside a dwindling emphasis on national interests [important to note here that even Israeli writers acknowledge that unity over Israel served our national interests], as seen in Iraq, Lebanon and especially Syria.
“Once you take Damascus out of the Iran-Syria-Hamas axis, there is no more axis.”
In this Hamas is trapped between its two clashing identities. On the one hand, according to an Israel Radio interview with Kadima MK and former deputy director of the Shin Bet Israel Hasson, Hamas views itself, after shirking the rule of the Palestinian Authority in Gaza, as the bellwether of the Arab Spring — the first Arab entity to shake off corrupt, semi-secular control for a devout, Islamist government in the mold of Turkey and Egypt. In other words, a legitimate mainstream Sunni regime. On the other hand, according to Livne, Hamas’s credibility within Gaza is also very much linked to its ability to retain supremacy as the chief agent of “resistance” to Israel.
Livne described the two major players in the region as Egypt and Iran, both vying for supremacy in the Middle East. “In the end, the war for control of the region is between them,” he said. And Hamas – linked by ideology and religion to the Muslim Brotherhood of Egypt – “does not want to be the marionette of Iran.”
Much is being said and written about Khaled Mishaal’s press conference yesterday in which he thanked Egypt, Qatar and Tunisia but failed to mention Iran, Syria or Hizbullah. Here is what he said: “I salute President Mursi’s decision to stand by us from the first moment and sending the Prime Minister Dr Hashim Qandil [to Gaza], and I salute the Tunisian Foreign Minister’s visit and salute once again the Qatari Emir for breaking the political siege on Gaza.” When cornered by a journalist who asked about Iran, Mishaal responded “Our dispute with Iran over the Syrian crisis is no secret, but we will not forget Iran’s support for us in the past.”
Mishaal’s failure to recall the Resistance Axis—Iran, Syria, Hizbullah—military and political support for Hamas and the Palestinian resistance, was not lost on Nasrallah who responded in a speech a few hours later:
The question here arises, despite the blockade imposed by some Arabs, how did the weapons reach Gaza, how did Fajr 5s reach Gaza? And how did Grad rockets reach Gaza? And how did anti-tank missiles reach Gaza, Kornet and other types? And how did anti-aircraft missiles reach Gaza? And WHO sent it? And who transported it? This is the big question that needs to be asked today, before we discuss which states are bringing us medicines and giving us a few cents. We need to ask who enabled Gaza to stand on its feet today , to fight and make surprises and to shell Tel Aviv and Jerusalem and to fire at planes and battleships…The Arabs have acknowledged they besieged Gaza.
We must ask anew about the role of the Islamic Republic in Iran and the role of Syria. And I tell everyone [quotes from Quran here in my rough translation], “he who doesn’t thank the creature, doesn’t thank the creator; and gratitude perpetuates blessings, and if you are thankful we will increase them [the blessings].” However, God says in the Quran that few worshipers thank him.
Iran and Syria and Hizbullah will not abandon Gaza and its people, and just as we were with them over the past several years we will continue to stand by them, even if we disagree on some political positions here and there. We are fulfilling our religious , national and humanitarian duty when we stand with them. The main battle is this battle which requires everyone to stand with them [Gaza].”
The response was clearly critical and even somewhat dismissive of Mishaal’s rhetoric (the allusion to Qatar’s money). But although it was a stinging riposte, it was also a reassuring one: that despite Mishaal’s ingratitude and Hamas’ position on Syria, Hizbullah and Iran would continue to support it as a matter of principle and ideology. Supporting Palestine is the foremost duty for both actors . In fact, were Iran or Hizbullah to discontinue support for a Palestinian resistance which is actively resisting, both actors would be undermining their ontological security; that is the security of their political identities as particular kinds of actors. In short, they would be undermining their own raison d’étre.
Nasrallah’s remonstrations should therefore not be construed as a demand for some kind fealty owed to Iran or Syria, which would effectively reduce such support to pure self-interest rather than ideological or political obligation, but rather, to two central concerns : First, is the fact that Hamas didn’t merely fail to thank its Resistance Axis allies, but that it thanked Egypt, Qatar and other “moderate” Arabs on more than one occasion, and omitted any reference to Iran, Syria and Hizbullah (actually Nasrallah doesn’t mention Hizbullah, only Iran and Syria). Had it not thanked anyone this omission would surely not have been such an issue.
Second, is the fact that this selective gratitude—and a misplaced one at that given Egypt’s token gestures of support for Gaza and the continuation of its blockade, as well as Qatar’s purely monetary support—isn’t occurring in a political void but in the midst of an unprecedented level of anti-Shi’ite sentiment in the region and in the context of a highly sectarian climate. In paying homage to his Sunni Ikhwan brethren in Egypt who have done little more than pay lip service to Palestine while closing more tunnels than Mubarak—and excluding the support of Shiites actors who have never had any problem arming Sunni resistance groups, Mishaal was unwittingly reinforcing sectarian tensions in the region. As has become patently obvious to all, sectarianism has become the new Israel and sectarian sentiment only serves to distract from the struggle against Israel and normalizes it in the region.
But none of this is to say that Hizbullah’s or Iran’s military support for Hamas and other resistance groups will be effected by either of these grievances. Ismail Haniyyeh’s interview on Al-Jazeera Arabic earlier this year is very telling in this respect. Despite the clumsily written title of the video, and the AJ interviewer’s biased and heavily loaded questions, Haniyyeh’s rather reserved answers actually demonstrate the unequivocal and consistent nature of Iranian support for Hamas, despite the latter’s abandonment of its Syrian sponsors. I have transcribed excerpts from the interview below:
Q. Many reports claim that Iran changed the nature of its support for Hamas because its asked Hamas for a clear stance on Syria
A. Our relationship with Iran is a good one, Iran stood by our side and supported our people and our resistance
Q: was this only in the past but not at present or in future?
A: No this remains the case, in one form or another, it continues
Hamas was always careful that whoever supports the Palestinian people should not ask for anything in return in terms of political positions or political blackmail
Q: So you were subjected to blackmail [by Iran].
A: No I am describing reality. The reality is that Hamas’ relationship with Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt and Jordan is a balanced relationship based on the [principle that] support for the Palestinian people is a duty and that Hamas can’t be in anyone pocket in exchange for this support….
Q: So you have no intention of making any concessions in return for the continuation of support?
A: WE HAVE NOT BEEN ASKED TO MAKE ANY FUTURE CONCESSIONS
Even Israeli media, Ynetnews, acknowledges that Morsi has done next to nothing to help its ally Hamas or the besieged people of Gaza:
“So far, Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi has recalled his ambassador from Israel, but did not take a particularly harsh response. On Thursday, he spoke to US President Barack Obama and said that he was “standing by the Palestinian people.”
“Shortly before dawn, I called President Obama and we discussed the need to put an end to this aggression and to ensure it does not happen again,” he said. ”We discussed ways to promote calm and to stop these acts… and to achieve peace and security.I explained Egypt’s role, Egypt’s position, that we have relations with the United States and the world, but at the same time we totally reject this aggression.”
As his words insinuate, Mursi’s hands are tied. As a “moderate” [read, Israel and Empire enabling/neutral] Islamist he has to reconcile two irreconcilable tendencies: the MB’s proximity to the US and the West [“we have relations with the United States and the world”] with its proximity to Hamas and its rejection of the Israeli aggression. Recalling Egypt’s ambassador to Israel while falling short of expelling the Israeli ambassador is effectively a compromise position which aims at appeasing Hamas and relieving public pressure to cut off diplomatic relations with the Zionist entity, while preserving relations with the “international [read UNSC and NATO] community”. This pragmatic position is also evident in Morsi’s sterile public discourse, i.e. calling the Zionist murderous rampage “unacceptable” and the need to reign in “this aggression, which can only lead to instability in the region” echoes UN diplotalk catchphrases like “disproportionate violence” (as if there is a proportionate benchmark for violence the IDF should aspire to follow).
To counterbalance this emotionally detached discourse and virtual inaction, the Muslim Brotherhood has issued a statement which basically expresses what Morsi does not dare say: that Arab states are “standing idly as Palestinian blood is shed,” and that the government “cannot stand less than cutting all relations with the Zionist entity, since the Egyptian state needs to stand as a role model to Arabs and Muslims.” Although Hamas officials have praised Morsi’s token gestures, the movement is clearly aware that the Egyptian government’s position falls far short of Egypt’s potential to bear pressure on Israel.
While there is no doubt in my mind that the Arab uprisings in Egypt, Tunisia, Bahrain and Yemen, (I am omitting Libya and Syria for obvious reasons) were spontaneous popular revolts pursuing freedom, justice and national sovereignty against western-backed dictatorships , it has become increasingly clear that the Arab Spring has been instrumentalized by the Empire and its regional clients as an Arab springboard for defeating resistance forces fighting imperialism and Zionism.
What the US , Israel and their allies failed to secure with successive invasions, occupations and wars against Palestine and Lebanon, they have now achieved with the defection of HAMAS, the weakening of Syria and a regional climate characterized by widespread sectarian sentiment that has blinded many to the existential threat posed by Israel.
Thanks to the power of mainstream western media and official Arab media, as well the incendiary rhetoric of some Muslim clerics and Arab leaders, the region’s fault lines have been recast from a strategic conflict between the resistance axis and the US-Israeli-GCC axis, to a Shi’ite/ Persian conspiracy to dominate the Sunni Arab world. None of this is to say that this is the final outcome of the Arab uprisings, only that it is a critical phase in the interim which requires us to remain more vigilant than ever before and to redouble our efforts to raise awareness about the sectarian weapon.
The Cannonfire blogspot makes some very interesting observations and draws some convincing conclusions about the “Muslim Innocence” movie:
Think about it. Who the hell is going to loan Nakoula — a guy guilty of freakin’ bank fraud — the sum of five million dollars? Even if the actual budget was $50,000, how would this jailbird scrape up the dough? He was sent to prison for 21 months in 2010; how did he secure an early release?
You can’t make a movie of any kind — even a student film — if you can’t communicate via the internet.
How many times have we seen this pattern? First, a shady low-life gets into trouble with the law. Then the spooks find him, whisper in his ear, and promise to make all of his problems go away — as long as he plays along with some bizarre scheme.
And what sort of crook would make it his first order of business, after walking out of jail, to make a movie denigrating Mohammed — a film intentionally designed to create an international incident? If you had no job, no prospects, a prison record and a debt of more than three-quarters of a million dollars, would your first instinct be to make a damned movie? Even though you’ve never made a movie before in your life?
Believe me, that script was written weeks ago, maybe months ago. This whole thing is an operation.
I mean, what the hell could Nakoula (freshly released from the joint) have hoped to gain for his co-religionists in Egypt? Did he really think that his inane film would cause all the Muslims in Egypt to slap their heads and shout: “Oh no! We’ve been following the wrong religion! Time to switch!”?
Anyone with any sense could have foreseen that this cinematic stunt would incite outrage, riots and persecution of the Copts. Nakoula — or rather, his funders — wanted to get people killed.
Incidentally, a friend of mine “in the industry” has seen the YouTube material and estimates the budget of Nakoula’s film at around $30,000. I’d go higher, but not much higher. The rest of the $5 million budget was Nakoula’s payoff. It’s blood money.
Neocons in America and Israel concocted this plot long ago. I would stake my life on it.
We can state with the certainty of a geometrical proof that Sam Bacile is a Mossad asset — a “sayan” — and that he did what he did under orders, not of his own initiative. The motive is transparent: Likudniks want the United States to attack Iran, and they know that Obama won’t do it. Romney will. He has made that point very clear. Thus, Israeli war hawks concocted a plan to make sure Romney gets into office.
The conspirators made this film for the express purpose of provoking a violent reaction, which would, in turn give the Republicans a political cudgel to wield against the president.
I do not doubt for a second the presence of provocateurs on the ground in Cairo and Libya. (How did they even know about the YouTube clip?) I also believe that this plan would have remained “on hold” if Romney had attained a comfortable lead.
I’m pretty sure that CIA had nothing to do with this. Only Israeli intelligence is so reckless.
The blog’s analysis is all the more compelling when read in conjunction with these excerpts from an NYT piece here:
When a 14-minute trailer of it — all that may actually exist — was posted on YouTube in June, it was barely noticed. But when the video, with its almost comically amateurish production values, was translated into Arabic and reposted twice on YouTube in the days before Sept. 11, and promoted by leaders of the Coptic diaspora in the United States, it drew nearly one million views and set off bloody demonstrations….. The history of the film — who financed it; how it was made; and perhaps most important, how it was translated into Arabic and posted on YouTube to Muslim viewers — was shrouded Wednesday in tales of a secret Hollywood screening; a director who may or may not exist, and used a false name if he did; and actors who appeared, thanks to computer technology, to be traipsing through Middle Eastern cities….He said the film had been shown at a screening at a theater “100 yards or so” from Grauman’s Chinese Theater in Hollywood over the summer, drawing what he suggested was a depressingly small audience. He declined to specify what theater might have shown it, and theater owners in the vicinity of the busy strip said they had no record of any such showing….As the movie, “Innocence of Muslims,” drew attention across the globe, it was unclear whether a full version exists. Executives at Hollywood agencies said they had never heard of it. Hollywood unions said they had no involvement. Casting directors said they did not recognize the actors in the 14-minute YouTube clip that purports to be a trailer for a longer film. Production offices had no records for a movie of that name. There was a 2009 casting call in BackStage, however, for a film called “Desert Warrior” whose producer is listed as Sam Bassiel.”
Mursi’s non-non-aligned position on Syria: Mu’allem described Mursi’s reference to the Syrian government as “oppressive” and the Syrian opposition as “actively seeking freedom, dignity and human justice,” as expressions emanating from “the leader of a party” and not “the leader of a non-aligned movement”.
See quote in Arabic here on al-Mayadeen’s Facebook page
If this was the result of a genuine intifada in Egypt (and no it wasn’t a CIA colour-coded revolution in Egypt) then it doesn’t take a giant leap of the imagination to envisage what a post-Assad Syria would look like:
President Shimon Peres received today (Tuesday, 31 July 2012) a first official letter from Egyptian President Mohamed Morsy. In his letter, President Morsy writes: “It was with deep thanks that I received your congratulations on the advent of the Holy Month of Ramadan. I take this opportunity to reiterate that I am looking forward to exerting our best efforts to get the Middle East Peace Process back to its right track in order to achieve security and stability for all peoples of the region, including the Israeli people.”
Very disturbing yet unsubstantiated Haaretz report about Hamas offering to provide intel to Washington on the Syrian army’s movements (assuming it has such info), among other concessions. Not sure how accurate the cited Rose al-Yussuf story is, but if true, then it looks like there is no going back for Hamas, and it’s unlikely the movement won’t break into two or more factions in future. Al Mayadeen, which is by far the most balanced tv station on the Syrian crisis, also published the Haaretz report on its Facebook page. Some excerpts:
“The relationship with the new Egyptian leadership, abandoning of the Syrian power-base and cutting off relations with Iran along with the recognition of the hopelessness of an armed resistance against Israel, is compelling Hamas to examine different strategic alternatives.
Unlike Mubarak who did not hesitate to cooperate in imposing sanctions on Gaza, Morsi will not want to be in a position he is forced to maintain Mubarak’s policy regarding Gaza. For this purpose, he needs Hamas to make concession primarily in its armed operations, something which Mashal must have understood.
In a meeting held last week, Egyptian weekly Rose al-Yusuf reported that Hamas’ Khaled Mashal had presented Muslim Brotherhood leader Muhammad Badia with a plan to end Hamas’ armed operations within a year. The details of the plan were not specified; however Egyptian sources believe that the plan represents Hamas’ willingness to announce an arms reduction (in exchange for an Israeli assurance to cease its actions against Hamas), disengagement from extreme Salafis operating in Sinai, and a gradual transformation of Hamas to a political movement, exclusive of a military wing.
According to the report, what surprised the Brotherhood’s leader was Mashal’s request that Egypt would ask the U.S. to pressure Israel to release 220 Hamas prisoners, handing over a list of their names to his host.
Mashal had also offered detailed information regarding the deployment of the Syrian army - information which he said could “determine the outcome of the campaign.”
So much for Hamas’ excitement about the ascendance of the Muslim Brotherhood. While Syria, Hizbullah and Iran have supported the movement and fiercely criticized Mubarak’s Egypt for its stranglehold over Gaza in Israel’s onslaught in 2008/2009 —and let us not forget how Hizbullah operatives were detained by the Mubarak regime for smuggling weapons and supplies to Hamas via Egypt— Egypt’s MB won’t even lend rhetorical support to removing Egypt’s blockade on Gaza. Excerpts from AP’s report here:
Egypt’s new president holds the key to blockaded Gaza, but he is signaling that he won’t rush to help the territory’s Hamas rulers by striking a border deal with them, even though they are fellow members of the region’s Muslim Brotherhood.
A bilateral border agreement between Egypt and Hamas could hurt chances of setting up a single Palestinian state, made up of the West Bank and Gaza, alongside Israel.
“I don’t think they (the Egyptians) are ready for that,” said Palestinian economist and business leader Samir Hulileh.
Hamas was jubilant over Morsi’s election in neighboring Egypt in June, hoping the Egyptian leader would lift years of travel and trade restrictions that have hit the Gaza economy hard.
But for now Morsi is keeping Hamas at arm’s length, focusing on his relationship with Egypt’s powerful military and with the U.S., which gives Egypt $1.3 billion in annual military aid.
The Egyptian leader reiterated in a weekend meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton that he would honor all of Egypt’s international obligations.
He has also avoided preferential treatment of Hamas. This week, he’ll receive Abbas in Cairo, while Hamas leaders are still waiting for their invitation.
Morsi would like to lift the blockade, but is worried about violating international protocols, said Egyptian security officials familiar with Gaza policy, speaking on condition of anonymity in line with regulations.
Egypt will approach the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and other financial institutions to help get its economy back on track once new President Mohammed Mursi appoints a government, a presidential financial adviser told Reuters.
The decision represents a reversal of position for the new premier, who had previously been hesitant to back the loan.
Speaking in March, Mursi – then the head of the Muslim Brotherhood’s political wing – said: “The loan will be a burden on the shoulders of Egyptian people, who have the right to know how it will be spent and how it will be paid off.”
A popular uprising last year plunged the economy into crisis, chasing away tourists and foreign investors and prompting government employees to strike for higher wages.
Mursi was sworn in on Saturday as Egypt’s first Islamist, civilian and freely elected president and will begin working to form a new government in the coming days.
“We intend to approach the IMF again,” said Amr Abu-Zeid, development finance adviser to Mursi’s Muslim Brotherhood.
“Give him one week or two weeks, so at least he has a cabinet…I believe these issues will not go further until they have a cabinet at least.”
The country’s army-backed interim government kept the economy under the cosh since the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak in February 2011 through a series of short-term measures.
The ruling military financed a burgeoning budget deficit by borrowing short term from local banks at high interest rates, draining the country’s foreign reserves.
The military council that took power from Mubarak rejected an agreement that Egypt negotiated with the IMF in mid-2011, then resumed talks for a $3.2 billion loan early this year.
The economy contracted by 4.3 percent in the first quarter of 2011 and stagnated in the following three quarters.
IMF loans are often criticized for coming with conditions that determine the country’s economic policies, undermining the power of sovereign governments.
Egyptians are also wary that the IMF could be a new method to constrain Egypt’s new found freedom at the behest of the IMF’s largest contributor, the United States.
Abu-Zeid dismissed the criticism, saying the country’s financial woes meant that they would accept support from all potential sources.
“We will negotiate with the IMF, with the World Bank, with the Islamic Development Bank, with anybody who wants to help. We are very open to this,” Abu-Zeid said.
A lesson to those who refuse to acknowledge that the people can also side with politically un-trendy regimes, particularly in Syria where the regime’s followers are a very vocal and clear majority: “So many journalists and commentators have become so enamored with Facebook, Twitter and Tahrir Square that we couldn’t see that an entire population group in Egypt, almost half of the country’s citizens, wanted to preserve the old regime. Members of this silent population generally did not take to the streets and when they did so it was in small groups. Their voices were not heard on Facebook or Twitter and so they were overlooked in the new era of social networks, governed by the principle that if you aren’t connected, you don’t exist.”
“Like all other Islamists and even many secular nationalists for that matter, the Muslim Brotherhood has been vehemently opposed to Egypt’s peace with Israel, only reluctantly growing to accept it out of sheer pragmatic self-interest.
Without that, it would have been near impossible for the ruling military generals to have allowed them anywhere near the seat of government.
It is also known that they have reassured the Americans - who brokered the Camp David Accords between Israel and Egypt more than 30 years ago - that they would abide by the deal.
However, an Islamist Egypt - if that ever becomes a full blown reality - will most likely avoid upsetting the Gulf rulers.
So, the four main areas that formed the cornerstone of Egypt’s relations with the outside world during the Mubarak years - strong ties with the West and the conservative Gulf monarchs, peace with Israel (albeit a cold one), and containing Iran’s regional ambitions - are set to remain unchanged for the near future at least.
Here, Mr Mursi and his new government will most likely push for a change and even possibly explicit support of the rebels, especially given that such a policy would not put Egypt on a collision course with either the West nor with Gulf monarchs, who openly support the insurgency against the Assad rule.”
Egyptian presidency denies Mursi gave interview on stronger ties with Iran and reviewing Camp David here: “The Egyptian presidency has denied that President-elect Mohamed Majdalawi Mursi gave an interview to Iran’s Fars agency on Monday, in which he had been reported to say that he was looking to expand ties with Tehran to create a strategic “balance” in the region….Fars also quoted Mursi as saying that he wants to “reconsider” the peace deal with Israel, according to AFP. Reuters also quoted Mursi as saying the same statement. “We will reconsider the Camp David Accord,” Mursi was quoted as telling a Fars reporter in Cairo on Sunday, just before his election triumph was At the time, Al Arabiya was not able to confirm the report about reconsidering the Camp David treaty with Israel, especially that the President-elect had vowed to respect all international treaties on his first speech to the nation on Sunday night.”
The new brand of Amerikan Islam—Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood calls for military intervention in Syria. It is safe to say that whether former regime strongman Shafiq or MB candidate, Mursi win the runoffs, Egyptian foreign policy will not be a significant departure from that of the Mubarak era:
“The Muslim Brotherhood calls on Arab, Islamic and international governments … and the people of the free world to intervene to stop these massacres, especially after the failure of international forces and international monitoring to stop them,” spokesman Mahmoud Ghozlan said in a statement.