Don’t Fear the Ikhwan Part Two

Why does the Muslim Brotherhood get so much bad press?     Top Egyptian journalist  Ibrahim Eissa, editor of  Egypt’s Al-Dostor newspaper, has a two part series this week on  what he calls an irrational and baseless fear of the Brotherhood reaching power.   Why does everyone talk about the MB reaching power as if it is an  imminent threat to Egyptian society, he asks in the Monday article  ( see my post  here).   Remember, Eissa is a fierce critic of the Mubarak regime and is trying to show that the NDP manipulates this fear for its own purposes.    Trying to undermine this arguement, on Tuesday, he  made the  case that the Muslim Brotherhood will never come to power in Egypt.   

 I translate/paraphrase the Tuesday article called “Ikhwano-Phobia” and then have some commentary below:

Egypt suffers from a local version of the Islamo-phobia that is found in the US and Europe.  Here it is called Ikhwan-Phobia (Ikhwan= Brotherhood in Arabic).   This irrational and totally unwarranted fear of the Ikhwan reaching power is widely present amongst government people, Coptic Christians and intelectuals.   Such fear, however, is totally unwarranted because, as I will show today, the Muslim Brotherhood will never reach power in Egypt due to the nature of Egyptian state, its people, and the Ikhwan itself. 

The Brotherhood itself is a closed organiztion, and not a party open to wider membership that cultivates members from the cradle to the grave.  To become influential you have to have risen through their ranks, not to be an especially talented thinker.   Its by nature a conservative organization which prioritizes survial and is not going to do anything that threats the organization.  Trying to sieze power is the kind of adventure that would threaten the very existence of the organization.  Moreover, the MB doesn’t possess the revolutionary nature of the Islamic Group (Al-Gama’a Al-Islamiyaa). 

Some of you might say look at how Islamists came to power in Gaza and Turkey.  First, look at how the MB won a majority of seats in Al-Sharqiya province, that didn’t mean they could win a majority overall.  Gaza is a similar situation.  And the Islamists in Turkey are based on a formula that is vastly different from the Brotherhood. 

The nature of the Egyptian state further makes an Ikhwan rise to power impossible.  Our state is a cumbersome bureacracy that is not susceptive to Revolution or dramatic and fundamental change.  The 1952 Revolution, for example, was not a real Revolution but a coup d’etat.  Egyptians change and are changed very slowly.   The borig nature of our state, which is not susceptible to pressure from mass popular movements,  prevents any dramatic change. 

And this leads us to the nature of the Egyptian people themselves.   Sure, the average Egyptian is very religous and you hear him talk in a way that suggests that he wants Islamic Rule.  But Egyptian religiosity is very superficial and not susceptible to mass religous mobilization.  This is a people that like to pray conspicously at work but as soon as he is done praying he opens his hand to take a little bribe…. The Egyptian people are fundamentally cautious by nature and not the kind that embrace adventures of actions that might rock the boat. 

This brings us to the results of the 2005 elections which are the best evidence that the Ikhwan will never govern Egypt.  Giving it their best shot, the Brothers only won 20% of the seats.  So basically they got 1/5 of the 1/5 of the Egyptians who actually voted.   Sure, there was electoral fraud and maybe they could have won more but not a majority and certainly not an ascension to power.   Remember- this is the same Ikhwan couldn’t even beat the Wafd pre-1952.  Their support has more to do with NDP corruption. 

1)  Not a Revolutionary people.  In my experience in Egypt, which is pretty extensive, I would agree with Eissa that Egyptian are fundamentally cautious and not the type that goes out on a limb.  This is not a people that are going to “sweep” anyone into power….  Eissa surprised me, however,  with his attack on Egyptian religiosity which I think is a gross generalization. 

2)  Why the fear?  Eissa is correct that there is an irrational fear of the Ikwan and its not just in Egypt.  Last December, at a family Christmas party, I was talking to my neighbor, a lawyer in his mid-50s who doesn’t follow the Middle East beyond what he reads in the newspaper.  He told me that he wants to visit Egypt but one of his co-workers of Egyptian descent told him that he had to go soon because it won’t be possible in a few years after the Ikhwan seizes power and bans all foreign tourists.  I politely told him this is ridiculous and totally incorrect.  I see nothing with the Ikhwan that leads me to believe that their ascension to power would be a serious threat to the public welfare in Egypt.  It probably would not be great for US interests, at least in the short term.  The Ikhwan is going to be more socialist and far less likely to toe the US line on foreign policy issues, such as Israel-Palestine and Counter-Terrorism.  They would be something similar to what we are seeing with Chavez in Egypt. 

3)  Parliament= not important.  People in the US focus too much on the significance of the Brotherhood’s 2005 election victory as if it has enourmous implications in te Egyptian political arena.  It really doesn’t because the Egyptian Parliament is pretty much a rubber-stamp.   Furthermore,  Eissa should have mentioned that the Ikhwan’s younger generation actually wants out of politics because they feel its a waste of time and is distracting the Brotherhood from other, more important fields.  Even Sheikh Al-Qaradawi said the Brothers were wasting their time in politics in a  September  interview with Egypt’s Al-Masri Al-Youm newspaper:

* ولكنك تعيب علي الإخوان المسلمين من حين لآخر.. وأذكر عنك انتقادك لهم لاستغراقهم في العمل السياسي الذي يستهلك جل طاقتهم وإغفالهم العمل الاجتماعي؟

– نعم، فهم لم يعدوا العدة ليندمجوا في الشعب كما يجب، ولا فهموا احتياجات الشارع كما ينبغي.. وانشغلوا بالسياسة.. وانتقادي لهم من باب التقويم، وأنا والحمد لله لا أميل للمغالاة ولا أرضي بالتفريط ولا بالتشدد.

The Ikhwanis who want to play politics are the older generation ( those who came of age in 1970s)  whereas those  in their 20s and 30s agree with Skeikh Al-Qardawi and want to quit politics and focus on Da’wa, education, upbringing etc.  This is an important point that is overlooked in the Western debate about the so-called Islamist threat.  

4)  Islamist movements= 30 years on the march.    Eissa might be right that the Brothers aren’t coming to power any time soon, but does NOT mean a failure of the Islamist movement as it is  sometimes_claimed in the West.   The MB  can not be viewed as a Western-style political party.  Their basic goal is to reform the society by returning it to its Islamic foundations and there are several ways to do this.  Politics is only one of them.  Not succeeding in politics doesn’t mean failure, it just means failure in one of their tools.  Its important to recognize that Islamist movements have been on a forward march since at least the 1970s.


‘Why does everyone hate the Brotherhood?’

Ibrahim Eissa, a fierce critic of the Mubarak regime and the editor of Egypt’s Al-Dostor newspaper, has a very interesting set of articles on the  hysteria surrounding the possibility of the  Muslim Brotherhood taking power in Egypt.  Why do so many prominent voices disparage them and act as if their taking power would represent as serious threat to the public welfare?  What has the Ikhwan ever done to deserve such negative PR?  And more importantly, what evidence is there that suggests any imminent possibility of the Ikhwan actually taking power?

My translation/ summary:
“I heard an Egyptian businessman say that he was going to liquidate all of his assets if the Muslim Brotherhood took power.  I wondered what caused him to have such fear  since the Ikhwan has never reached power, in fact the only thing they have reached is Tora Prison. … A government person once complained to me that “you want to government to permit free elections and avoid intervention so that the Brotherhood wins and takes over the country.”    I replied ” Isn’t this an acknowledgement that the NDP’s platform has failed and has so little popular support that they need to manipulate elections to keep the MB from taking over?”   This wasn’t the first time I heard from high-level NDP officials that they need to manipulate elections for the interests of “the people.”   Everyone in Egypt, from the Government to the Opposition, even the people themselves, seems to think they have a unique understanding of what the people want.  As if  the the people are little kids who can’t think for themselves. … This is also the story that Gamal Mubarak and his allies sell to the US and the West to justify their interference in elections.

The Coptic Christians are equally frightened of the Ikhwan.  Notice how the Church maintains a silence on most issues, except for one occasion — when an MB candidate is running for office.  In this case, they break their silence and call on people to vote against him. … Coptic fear is manipulated by State Security who spread rumors such as  that the MB is trying to convert unmarried Christian women to Islam. 

There is also strong anti-Ikhwan  sentiments  from certain Intellectuals despite the fact that they are snobs who don’t “meet with the masses except in their elevators of buildings,” nor do they even know their neighbor’s names.  Yet, they still feel qualified to talk, in the name of the people, about the dangers of Egypt becoming a “theocratic” state.  (Of course the masses don’t know what a theocracy means). 

What’s strange/ unfortunate  is that these rumors reached their high-point during the Israeli aggression on Gaza whose people began to pay the price for being governed by a Palestinian branch of the Brotherhood.  All of this talk about the danger of the Ikhwan reaching power in Egypt leads people to lose their judgement and to believe that what Israel is doing is only a natural attack against Hamas terrorism.  As a result, the Palestinian Resistance pays the political price of this local hatred of the Ikhwan and leads to a preference for Ramallah- based forces which are a tool of Israel. 

Given this anti-Ikhwani hysteria, now we are compelled to take a serious look at the question “Is it possible that the MB can actually reach power in Egypt?’  Tomorrow, God willing, I will try and answer this question.  But I want you to remember that he Brotherhood has been around for 81 years and never reached power.    Tomorrow,   I will tell you the end of the story-  that the Brothers will never reach power in Egypt, either through elections or by force.”

Expect part two tomorrow along with my thoughts.

Ok, so what would you do?

A major theme  in the Egyptian press (which contrary to public perception in the US is actually pretty free)  is that the Government has “misplayed” its hand vis a vis Israel-Palestine.  The critique goes something like this:  

 “instead of sticking up for Arab interests, the government has supposedly “sold-out” to the US and Israel.  Or it doesn’t work hard enough to resist US-Zionist imperial designs on Palestine and if Mubarak had played his cards better, the Palestinians wouldn’t be in the sorry position they are now in Gaza.”     

Here’s a typical piece from an English-language Egyptian blogger called Baheya: 

Like many others, I’ve been watching in disbelief as the Egyptian government enables the Israeli destruction of Gaza. This time, Hosni Mubarak and his foreign policy muwazafeen have entirely thrown in their lot with Israel and the U.S., blaming Hamas, admitting that they can’t lift a finger without Israeli permission, and hoping that Israel will get the job done this time and extinguish Hamas once and for all. But as obscene and repugnant as his current stance is, Mubarak’s behaviour is of a piece with his foreign policy posture since he succeeded Sadat. That posture is based on a simple formula: “realism”, which translates into equating his interests with those of Israel and the United States, in exchange for scraps of economic rent; and revamped authoritarianism, which translates into repressing anyone who dares to challenge his realism and imagine alternatives…..

 In my view,  this  criticism is  based on the Egyptian tendency to wildly exaggerate their country’s influence in the international arena.  “Mother of the world” (as Egyptians call their country) may have been a regional power during the era of traditional Arab-Israel wars, but when that period ended (with Camp David), so did serious Egyptian influence over the peace process.  It was inevitable.  Egypt has no other cards to play besides the threat of war, being the largest Arab military.  Now, its a poor, drastically overpopulated third-world country.  Its not a case of Mubarak misplaying his cards, but of Egypt having very limited cards to play with in the first place. 

Its easy to write op-eds calling the government a sell-out but none of these critics provide an alternative.   I’m waiting for Egypt’s  arm-chair diplomatic corps  to provide any serious ideas about how they would play their cards differently, especially considering Hamas can’t bring itself to make basic commitments to negotiations and recognition of Israel,  instead of just lobbing insults at Mubarak and Co. 

UPDATE: For a good solid English-language defense of the Egyptian approach read this post by the former Egyptian ambassador to Washington.

UPDATE II:  Here’s the  transcript of a 1/13 Al-Jazeera ‘Whats Behind the News” debate between two Egyptian journalists from Al-Ahram, one supports the government policy and one opposes.  The supporter raises the key point:   as long as Hamas refuses to make clear it supports the peace process  and can’t bring itself to say its goal does not include the liberation of ALL of Palestine, it is NOT in Egypt’s interests to work with it. So how do Egypt’s critics of Mubarak’s policy respond to this point:   Why should Egypt work with a group that is advocating an approach that runs fundamentally counter to its interests?

Heikal on Gaza

On Sunday, I posted that I think that Hamas would come out stronger from the Israeli attack on Gaza.   On January 7th,  Muhammed Hassanein Heikal,  in a  long_interview  on Al Jazeera,  apparently agrees on that.   For American readers  Heikal (read an English bio here) is by far the most important, famous and respected journalist in the Arab world.   He was the Editor- in- Chief of the Egyptian newspaper Al-Ahram  from 1957- 1974 which during his tenure was often refered to as the New York Times of the Arab world.  As a sign of his popularity, Heikal has his own show on Al-Jazeera ( With_Heikal) where he gives lectures on recent Arab history, discussing the information he acquired during his working days, the things that brought  him a new and unprecedented following in the Arab world.

For some context:  Heikal was very close to Gamal Abdel Nasser.  He was and still is a Nasserist and a believer in pan-Arabism as well as a strong critic of the change in direction towards the US that happened with Anwar Al-Sadat  (see Autumn_of_Fury for more on that point).   Many people in Egypt still believe in the pan-Arabism of Nasser so Heikal is expressing a point of view in this interview that has widespread support. 

Heikal tackled 3 main points in this interview: the situation in Gaza, the Egyptian position, and the regional status.

Inside Gaza.  Heikal believes that what’s happening in Gaza right now is not because of Hamas, rather it is a scheme to impose the US-Israeli settlement for the situation in the region, adding that the timing was not randomly chosen. Since Hamas won in the 2006 parliamentary  elections, the US and Israel were facing a stalemate in the region and that’s why Israel started to besiege Hamas and finally interfering militarily.  According to Heikal, the timing was perfectly chosen, the US is living a transitional period, the Israeli parliamentary elections is immanent, thus its an opportunity to regain the Israeli deterrence capabilities.  Heikal added that Obama knew about the attack, clarifying that if the attack succeeded Iran would be next.  Hiekal, however, said that the biggest mistake Hamas has done was its religious discourse, Palestine is Arab national cause and not a religious one.

The Egyptian side. Heikal expressed his bewilderment from the Egyptian position from whats happening in Gaza, he believed that the Egyptian interference in Gaza should’ve been 2 sided; the first, is protecting the Egyptian national security, the second, is aiding the Palestinians. What happened was Egypt helped Israel to gain more security and political ground at the expense of the Egyptian national security. The situation in Gaza represents a test for the Egyptian leadership and its ability to influence any part of the Middle East, and currently it seems that it is losing its soft powers. The point is the military superiority of Israel could mainly be balanced through the Egyptian extension regionally, which is a privilege that Israel do not possess. In his opinion, Egypt would gain absolutely nothing from clashing with Syria, or Hezbollah or Iran, he added that Egypt should maintain a very good relationship with Hamas and all those who represent the line of resistance, basically this line would never threaten Egypt it actually protects the Egyptian national security.

Regionally. Heikal described the Arab role as being very lame, he thinks that depending on the UNSC would bring them nothing because the US is in a transitional period and would never take a position that would harm Israel. However, he thought that Nasrallah’s speech shouldn’t be interpreted the way it happened, and he said that his speech is derived from his belief in the Egyptian role and history in the region, and his belief in the deep sentiments the Egyptian people hold for the Palestinians. Heikal warned from deploying international forces on the borders with Gaza which threatens the Palestinian cause, this issue is one of Egypt’s cards that it should not give up, adding to that the giving up the control of the Rafah-crossing is a threat to the Egyptian national security.

Would Hamas come out stronger?

No doubt about the unity of the Arab public opinion behind Hamas.  However, with the current bombardment of the Gaza strip this attitude might be questionable.  Rob’s thoughts about the military dimension  of Hamas vs. Israel were good but lets put them in a bigger picture.

First,  while Hamas leaders knew that Israel was looking for a chance to hit, noone expected this scale for sure. Its important to notice that for several years now Gaza represented a headache for Israel, weapons smuggled easily there, adjacent to Egypt, suicide bombers…and so forth.   So my point here is that Israel wanted to destroy the infrastructure of Gaza.   In my opinion the operation is not crushing Hamas, its more about crushing Gaza which every now and then begets a problem that disturbed Israel. The only problem Israel faced was the timing, it was necessarily that the attack be justified internationally, and what’s bettter than the expiration  of the ceasefire?

Second, its very important to define what victory means in this war? Again, this is not a traditional warfare, Israel here is setting  an intangible target: to eliminate Hamas from the political and the diplomatic landscape.   However, its very difficult to believe that for 2 reasons:

1-The nature of the campaign is too immense to believe that it just wants to eliminate Hamas.    For instance; how would one explain  the use of the Air Force to destroy a group of street fighters basically, or a militia? I think a logical decision would be using a group of the Special forces to kill the top leaders (of this group that seems to be the chief impediment to the peace talks) .  Wouldn’t this be enough to make Hamas disappear from the landscape for a couple of years minimum? Israel already has enough intelligence to perform such an operation.

2- I think Hamas could claim victory (after all the fighting stops ) if it had one member holding the organization together, even if the Israeli attack lasted for 2 months which I highly doubt.   If one member of Hamas afterwards said that Hamas government still stands and it is the legitimate representative of the Palestinian people, what do we call that?

Third, although the ground operation seems highly expected, the IDF has to take into account many considerations about how it should proceed, becauseThe Gazan mud will make it harder for tanks and armored personnel carriers to maneuver, and Hamas has clearly been preparing its defense for months. Thus any ground operation will entail many casualties” something that worries the Israeli government. The main point why Israel would risk failure there is that it adopts the same strategy it adopted against Hezbollah; an all-out-war and final-battle.  The  bottom line here is that many Palestinians find such a war acceptable, so even if Israel eradicated Hamas, reestablishing the movement or the emergence of an even more extreme replacement would not take much time. 

On the regional level, the scene shows a huge resentment against the Arab regimes:  my friend at the National was right when he differentiated between the line of negotiators and rejectionists in  Arab world. The main point would never be Hamas’ victory or loss, but the tendency for more use of force. I think crushing Hamas is more critical to the governments of Egypt and Saudi Arabia than Israel. Regardless of  who is in power,  Israel depends mainly on military superiority against the Arab regimes whether Fatah is in power or Hamas is.  So creating a security situation and bolstering its deterrence is a decisive elements in its relationship with any regional party.   As for the Arab regimes it is critical to point out that Hamas did not only pose a new preferable alternative  in dealing with Israel, but also  poses a pattern for defying authority and this was reflected on the kind of rage that existed in Egypt in specific. What’s happening now brought the conflict between Hamas and Egypt into the open which could influence the developments in Egypt. Strikingly,  what’s happening now is that Hamas is enjoying” across-the-border support from Palestinian factions and gains electoral popularity at Fatah’s expense” which means that the moderate voices in Fatah are leaning towards joining their counterparts.   When that happens Hamas would so popular that Abbas would not be able to refuse a unity government.

Inside the Arab states it seems that the ability to channel and quench the crowd’s rage is declining, the demonstrations that took place in Egypt were not seen for long ago, and the populist discourse contains speech of mockery and disdain, the government used to confront it violently.

Rob jumping in here: 

Mr Egypt mentioned above that “if Israel eradicated Hamas, reestablishing the movement or the emergence of an even more extreme replacement would not take much time.”   This is an important  point- this might sound shocking to some in the US, but Hamas, in the big picture of Islamist movements,  is actually  moderate.   Put it this way, it would take you hours, if not days, to find ten normal people in Egypt, Palestine, Jordan, or for that matter maybe anywhere in the Islamic world who don’t agree, in principle, with Hamas’  right to use violence against Israel, including the use of suicide bombers.   In fact,  every single major Islamic religous scholar would agree that their use of suicide bombers is Islamically acceptabe given the military power inbalance between Israel and the Palestinians.   And on pure theology , Hamas is  moderate, basically adhering to Qaradawi-style Islamic Centralism.     So what’s my point here?  I want to highlight a good  post by  Matt at the Wonk Room:

A number of writers have noted the possibility of Hamas being politically strengthened by Israel’s bombing of Gaza, just as Hezbollah were strengthened by Israel’s 2006 bombing of Lebanon. This would obviously be a bad outcome, but it’s important to understand that it would not be the worst. A much worse outcome would be that the bombings weaken Hamas while strengthening Salafist elements in Gaza, who consider Hamas a bunch of timid, half-stepping sellouts.

I highly recomend reading the rest of the post.  Matt is correct: there are worse outcomes than a strengthened Hamas.

The decline of the Egyptian Bar Scene

An interesting article  in the International Herald Tribune writes about the decline of the Cairo bar scene:

Armed with a bottle of Egyptian brandy and a bowl of steaming chickpeas, Hatem Fouad keeps watch each night over a historic slice of Cairo that is in danger of dying: the bars that once flourished amid the sweeping boulevards and graceful roundabouts of the city’s European-style city center.

The former police officer is part of a cadre of older Egyptian men who frequent drinking holes and belly dancing cabarets chronicled by the Nobel Prize-winning author Naguib Mahfouz in the 1940s and popular with Cairo’s artists and intellectuals until the late 1970s.

Many of these establishments have fallen into disrepair and disrepute as Egyptians grow more observant of Islam, with its prohibition on alcohol, and the country’s elite migrates away from the traffic-choked streets of the now crumbling central city.

“They were part of an Egypt that doesn’t exist anymore,” said Alaa al-Aswany, who immortalized the remnants of the Cairo bar scene in his best-selling 2002 novel “The Yacoubian Building.” He was talking about the heyday of the bar and nightclub era – when anyone from King Farouk, Egypt’s last monarch, to the British playwright-composer Noel Coward, might show up in a Cairo club.

There  has been a movement, led by non-Egyptians,  to rejuvenate the Cairo downtown bar-scene over the last couple years (mentioned in the story).  However, I’m ambivalent about whether this is something that should be encouraged.  The overwhelming majority of Egyptians are opposed to bars and alcohol consumption, and, contrary to what Alaa Aswanty implies or outright says,  this is not a matter of Islamic fundamentalism.   So I don’t see anything particularly intolerant or backwards about discouraging the presence of bars, especially in working class downtown neighborhoods. 

See this Egyptian Chronicles post for an Egyptian perspective.   I agree with Zeinab.  Alaa Aswany likes to look back nostalgically at the good old days (ie before Nasser) as if this  period represented the heyday of progress and tolerance.  I suspect  that, statistically, the amount of Egyptians who drank alcohol before the Revolution (and similarly the % that rejected it) and those who do now is very similar- very, very small.   Both pre-Rev and post-Rev the overwhelming majority of Egyptians did not drink alcoholwhich they consider prohibited according to the basic rules of Islam.    The difference is that  before 1952 , Egypt was dominated by foreign, non-local rule and customs which made it more socially acceptable for the small number of Muslims who drank, to do it openly.  Once the foreigners were kicked out,  its only natural that Egypt return to its native culture, which for 90% of the population, is clearly inconsistent with a bar culture.


Aswany says resistance to bars in downtown Cairo is a sign of Islamic fundamentalism.  I disagree and think its the other way around.  The presence of bars, something clearly inconsistent with Islamic values,  is what causes Islamic fundamentalism.  Fundamentalism is a return to what are pure Islamic values.  From 700 through the 1800s, there were no bars whatsoever in Egypt.  Only with foreign (non-Muslim) colonialism did they appear.   The imposition of something so clearly un-Islamic, is what causes the society’s desire to return to what is clearly Islamic.   So I do not necessarily  believe it is a sign of backwardness and negative fundamentalism for Egyptian society to have emptied Cairo out of its bar scene.


Why is the  narrative (especially the framing in the fundamentalist context) always   defined by AlaaAswany .  Why is he the official spokesperson for Egyptian cultural mores?  Sure he is very accessible so maybe its easier as a reporter to get ahold of him. but his politicaland social views are not shared by large percentages of Egyptians.   I am certain that intellectuals such as Rafiq Habib, Fahmy Huwedi, Hussuam Tamem, all more established and influential inside Egypt,  would also have different takes on this story.  They certainly wouldn’t see cutting back on bars as some kind of regressive return to fundamentalism.

Iran vs Egypt

Yesterday, the lead op-ed in  Al-Quds Al-Arabi’s   savaged Egyptian foreign policy, in particular the recent comments of Foreign Minister Ahmed Abu Al-Ghait. 

This is a big theme that (American)  people need to be aware of:  Egypt’s role as a regional power has seriously declined.  Why is this?  The vast majority of the analysts in the Arabic press blame it on its blind support of the US.  Ie its too close to the US.   This is something to keep in mind when we talk about repairing US-Arab or US-Islamic relations:   Most in the region, especially Egypt, are calling for their governments to distance themselves from the US, not necessarily to develop closer relations. 

Here’s my paraphrased summary: 

Recently, the Egyptian government has escalated its campaign against Iran.   Just yesterday, FH Abu Ghait accused the Iranians of trying to control the Middle East by trying to exploit the Palestinian cause.  According to the FM, the Iranians talk about the Palestine cause but do nothing of note to actually help it.    

Abu Ghait’s anger illustrates two points:
1) The rise of Iranian power which coincides with the decline of Egyptian
2) Iranian support for the Palestinian resistance vs Egypt’s new role as an extension of US foreign policy

“Iran controls the Middle East because Egypt withdrew from it…  Under previous Egyptian governments, Egypt invested millions of dollars and sacrified its best and brightest (ie people that died in Arab-Israeli wars)  in support of the Palestinian cause and in order to strengthen its regional position.   But the current government has wasted all of these investments in its blind pursuit of US policy and a fraudulent peace which benefits the Egyptians first and foremost. 

Iran is not to blame for this situation.  Its the Arab governments, with Egypt in particular who work hand in with the Israelis and US.  And the FM is wrong when he says that Iran presents only empty propaganda to the Israelis.  The great 2006 victory vs Israeli aggression wouldn’t have been possible without the aid of Iranian rockets. 

When Egypt returns to its role as protector of Arab interestes, and distances itself from blind support of US and Israeli policy, and actually helps its Arab brothers defend against Israeli agression, then Iran will no longer control the Middle East. 

For some context, Al-Quds Al-Arabi is virulently anti-US foreign policy, so one is unlikely to find this kind of harshness in Asharq Al-Awsat or even Al-Hayat (all three being London based regional papers) .  However, the sentiment expressed here in widely felt in Egypt.  Fahmy Huwedi,   Egypt’s most respected commentator, repeats this theme constantly in his 6 or 7 weekly columns in Cairo’s Al-Dostor newspaper.  I would add that the Egyptian street would strongly agreed with this analysis from Al-Quds.