Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Odd sort of news juxtaposition today with Secretary Rice in Egypt and President Bush in the White House with Prime Minister Van Khai.

Dr. Rice 's message on Democratic reform was strong and was perceived as sincere because of who it happened to irk, the respective oligarchies in Egypt and KSA. On the other hand, confusion reigned when she ruled out the USG even talking to the Muslim Brotherhood, something that must have left Egyptian heads scratching since they would be the largest opposition group in Egypt.

No they aren't our friends but neither are they our active blood enemies and if we push Democracy the influence of the Muslim Brotherhood will only grow in terms of Egyptian government policy. At least the CIA should be talking to them, if only to know what is going on in Egypt. We went down this " don't talk to the opposition" path with the Shah of Iran once and four years from now we'll be celebrating the thirtieth anniversary of the consequences of that policy of willful blindness.

The nice thing about the Van Khai visit is that the White House felt compelled to emphasize the religious freedom pact, which in all probability Van Khai has absolutely no intention of honoring but Hanoi won't be able to get away from either. Every time the Politburo want something new from Washington, this agreement will be waved by the religious right in Congress and not a few special interests who fear cheap labor competition and want something more altruistic sounding with which to bash Vietnam. The Vietnamese will have to pay a higher political transaction cost, make more agreements and travel further down a slippery slope toward connectivity and freedom.

Not perfect but I'll take an ugly win over a graceful loss any day.
I understand the part about contradiction but to talk w/ Muslim Brotherhood is akin to formally recognizing the Nazi Party. And behind their 'moderate' facade they've built up, these are hard core terrorists and enemies of the US and Israel -- and any truly moderate faction in Egypt and the Greater Middle East. They've developed a 'rap' that is meant to appeal to Euros still clinging to the idea that Tehran is not a terror sponsor. The Muslim Brotherhood is bad news. I just hope State sticks to their hard line about them. But yes -- it is a problem when the bad guys are posing as 'opposition' candidates, if the US wants to support democracy movements. The solution would be to tone down the rhetoric, now that the point has been made on the world stage; that would avoid getting boxed into the corner of having to say which party or faction the US approves of. In any case, MB set a trap and Rice managed to avoid it. Good for her.
Hi P.

The Brotherhood is bad news indeed, the best reason for not immediately toppling Assad in Syria is the likelihood of the Brotherhood seizing power in the aftermath. So I'm with you on their nature, I don't have any illusions.

Unfortunately, since they are made of sterner stuff than the tiny segment of liberal, intellectual Egyptian opinion, the Brotherhood has built a mass organization in Egypt. And then there are the real crazies even further to the Islamist right.

We need to know what is going on and if it is bad policy to appear to be giving the Brotherhood an official American imprimatur then the CIA must do it. During the 70's the CIA was totally banned from talking to the Shah's opposition and as a result, totally misread Iran's internal situation and we went along with State's rosy "world according to Cyrus Vance" analysis, slouching toward disaster.

Mubarak's regime is not going to last long and the Brotherhood needs to be neutered, divided, co-opted, checkmated or destroyed before all hell breaks loose.

" Not forgetting about disturbance when times are peaceful is an art of war. Seeing the situation of states, knowing when there will be disruption, and healing the disturbance before it happens, is also the art of war "
- Yagyu Munenori
I totally agree with your analysis. Just not sure that the CIA in its present state of carrying out such an operation with any hope of success. The truth is that MB situation points to a major stumbling block for the democracy doctrine. Democracy allows for special interests and thug groups to take it over. When the thugs are a terroist army, then what do you do? Beyond pulling a Putin? But that lands you back in the soup. The larger problem is how to implement democracy as a 'finished product,' which didn't happen anywhere democracy has had a long history of success. Democracy evolved in those countries, grew along with the economies and the knowledge base, education of the people. Now we are trying to plunk it down, fully mature, in societies with no history of democratic government.
The problem arises that we have no Putin in Egypt much less a Vaclav Havel. Mubarak could have been a Putin but he is old and corrupt and as imaginative as a block of wood.

Egypt with it's large population and its prestigious Al-Azhar university could return to its role of being the center of the Arab world it held under Nasser, except with an Islamist instead of a secular radical message.

How to forestall this ? There needs to be a modernist alternative to the Islamists, I'm not even hoping for liberal but a Party of optimism based on the educated middle-class and semi-skilled workers who want to rise in life.
a Party of optimism based on the educated middle-class and semi-skilled workers who want to rise in life

Sounds like the Muslim Brothers.

-Dan tdaxp

Exactly. We need a dynamic competitor for their base.
I understand the part about contradiction but to talk w/ Muslim Brotherhood is akin to formally recognizing the Nazi Party

This is one of the stupidest things I have ever seen written.

The Muslim Brotherhood is by no means comparable to the Nazi Party, and whatever simple minded analysis that has "bad guys" being untouchable simply doesn't have the first bloody clue about the region. Then I have read "Pundita" rather bizarre posturing on MENA before so I can't say this is suprising. Not even the idiotic "Euro" slur.

The reality is as follows:
(i) The Ikhouane are popular, they appeal to conservative religious sentiment that ranges from the whacky to the merely conservative (sound familiar dear Americans?);
(ii) Their base appeal comes from the corruption of the "secular" elites and those same elites general incompetence (as well as the same, even in opposition, being rather divorced from "the average Mohammed")
(iii) The Ikhouane have in the past dabbled in terror and/or armed opposition. Who can bloody well blame them, given the bankruptcy of the regimes in question? The world is a rough place, and realists should not be afraid of a stupid word, "terrorism."
(iv) There is no realistic base for anyone to supplant the Ikhouane and their close relatives. Again There is no bloody way it is going to happen in the real world. One then deals with what is actually on the menu. The Ikhouane.

Since the Ikhouane are on the menu, what can one see. First, they're not a bloody monolith. There is a whole range of opinion, opinion that well-educated secular Westerners may not like, but then that's not the bloody point, it's genuinely popular. Some of that range w/in the Ikhouane falls well within willing to play the democracy game. A good amount of radicalism comes from being utterly excluded.

No healthy, stable political system is going to evolve until the Ikhouane come in, whatever ignorant posturing from fools who sit outside the region say. Rice blundered, period.
Clearly, Collunsbury is under the wrong impression that I was making a 'comparison' between the Nazi Party and the Muslim Brotherhood.

I did not go into detail because I assumed that ZenPundit's readers are well-informed enough to know that the Muslim Brotherhood is the remnant of the Nazi Party in Egypt. Declassified US intelligence documents (declassified years before 9/11) and much other evidence makes this statement inarguable.

However, the Muslim Brotherhood is but one in a long list of examples that showed the downside of CIA reliance on guidance from MI6, which convinced the US that it would be a splendid idea to support the Muslim Brotherhood. This is for reasons clearly understood only by avid students of the Cold War and the barking mad.

As with so many other movements the CIA supported during the Cold War, the MB is another of America's Frankensteins -- or chickens come to roost, if one prefers.
Whoops - correction: the documents might not have been declassified until after 9/11. To the best of my knowledge (admittedly, not expert in this area) all the US intel relating to the situation under discussion was supposed to remain classified until 2015 and surely several documents relating to MI6-CIA and Muslim Brotherhood remain classified.
Actually, it would be interesting for me to hear Col and Pundita talk about international developmental aid projects in emerging markets like Egypt ;o)

Mubarak's primary virtues when he came to power after Sadat was assassinated was that Mubarak would:

a) happiy accept massive American aid in return for staying at peace with Israel.

b) would not turn back to the Soviets - though that was hardly a likely prospect. If the Russians had their way Ali Sabry would have been Egypt's dictator and Mubarak would most likely have ben purged.

B is no longer a concern and if Egypt decided to go to war tomorrow with Israel the Egyptian military would be routed and slaughtered in about three days, perhaps less.

So Mubarak's only real purpose now from the perspective of American interests is to gracefully exit the stage without provoking instability or revolution. Passing power to his son like Assad may be tried but I'm dubious that will be a lasting solution.

The Ikhwan is large in Egypt ( actually, its here in the United States too, though it keeps a low profile)and I don't know enough about them to break them down into ideological factions but splitting the moderate, " democratic" Islamists from the definitively undemocratic and dictatorial would seem to be a practical US policy objective.

Nazi intrigue in the ME in the 1930's is an understudied phenomenon. Jerusalem's Grand Mufti was a zealous Nazi agent and Nazis helped with the coup in Iraq and the Golden Square pogrom.


Pre-War Nazi activity in Central Asia penetrated as far Eastward as Afghanistan and Tibet and Nazi influence ran deep in Turkey and Iran ( until the Brits & Russians toppled Reza Shah). Syria has long sheltered Eichmann's deputy, SS Captain Alois Brunner, who allegedly advised Syrian intelligence for decades.

I would not be surprised if the SD and Abwehr ran an agent network(s) through the Muslim Brotherhood through contacts in Palestine but I've never seen documents to that effect.
If find it amusing, in a somewhat contemptible fashion, to read that the Ikhouane is a remnant of the Nazi Party in Egypt (and even more amusing that said ignoramus depends on declassified American intelligence as if that had some vague probative value).

I suppose this should be unsurprising given the general idiocy and utter illiteracy of said commentator in regards to MENA region and, well, its actual history (as opposed to the heated mythology of the political moment among those who had no fucking clue 3 years ago).

A bit of an education for the drooling fools then.

First, the Ikhouane arise out of the Salafiste or "roots" reaction to the late 19th century/early 20th century intrusion of direct European colonial rule (as opposed to indirect) and Kemalist style hard secularist modernizers. Contra the old school Islamic opposition, the Salafistes were (and are to an extent) modernizers, but desire(d) moderization in an Islamic context. Call it progressive religious conservatism.

The Ikhouane themselves emerged in Egypt under al-Banna as both anti royalist and anti British (no difference at the time) in the late 1920s and unsurprisingly took on a violent opposition cast to British rule as well as the corruption of the Farouq regime.

Now, there is no question that lots of Arab-Muslim (and Arab non-Muslim) groups, including the Ikhouane had contact with the Nazis. No bloody surprise there, except to the ignoramus ideologues, they were after all the enemy of the colonial powers (the old enemy of my enemy thing). Flirting with the Germans as a powerplay against the British, if you were in violent opposition to British and French colonial rule was an entirely rational strategy (rather like say the Islamist Afghans flirting with the Americans when fighting the Soviets.... hardly made them "The Republic Party" in Afghanistan of course, which should be clear to anyone of a moderate intelligence and ability to look up from the slime of the ideological glurge of the moment).

Now, of course, pandering ideologues, idiots, morons and other contemptible slime may wish to spin this into "The Mufti of Jerusalem" or "The Ikhouane" being "The Nazi Party" of the Middle East, this is simple idiocy and impoverished thinking. Anyone actually familiar with the Ikhouane (excluding the ideological squeeling and smears) - say people who actually know Arabic well and not carrying water for foriegn powers - knows that Ikhouane ideology has fuck all to do with the Nazis. It's good old Salafisme. Little modernist add ons but solidly and square within Islamic Salafiste political thought. Period.

(Now as an aside, hard core secularist Kemalism and even to extent the Baathism started up by the Xian Arab Michel Aflaq have rather more real connexion with Nazism than the Ikhouane)

So, we can leave aside "inarguable" statements by ignoramuses and idiots who barely comprehend what they are speaking to (or in the alternative, bankrupt ideologues merely operating on analytically bankrupt 'spin of the moment.').

The Ikhouane (and their near cousins) are a real power and pretending one can get around them merely pushes you into the Iranian situation. Petulantly smearing them with idiotic Nazi Party identity assertions and pouting on about their unpleasant views changes the calculus of power and support in the bloody region not one whit. Rather, dealing with it realistically (i.e. not as the moronic fools who mistook every Leftist as a Communist, but those who understood an onion can be peeled) is the way to go.

And no Mark, I am not going to talk development with someone so contemptibly idioticly ignorant, a mere ideologue drooling on a keyboard. This kind of idiotic willful ignorance and distortion revolts me. The same sort of contemtible idiocy that caused CPA Iraq to fail. Contemptible drooling morons.
Now, Zen my man, as to your scenarios:

Mubarek passing power on to his son strikes me as a loser from the get go.

Given the situ in Egypt, I have a hard time seeing how a revolution is not going to happen eventually. The near Malthusian disaster of the economy (and poor prospects for fundamental change without truly disruptive pain in the short term) make a revolutionary situ near impossible to avoid. Those are the simple facts.

So, does one want to be left holding the bag as in Iran, and above all for a regime no one particularly respects or even likes slightly, or should one be a cold realist and hedge the bets? I know where I make the call, but then what do I know, I only know the region. I am uninformed about the latest ideo-glurge coming from the Know Nothings.

And as another aside, the Mufti in al-Qods was not a "zealous" Nazi agent, he was a zealous opponent of the British and of Zionist settlement in his territories, and willing to get in bed with the Nazis and whomever. There is an very important difference (see e.g. the US-'proto-Taleban' alliance in the 80s) although of course ideologues simply use it as a smear. Indeed this entire thrust of conversation is fundamentally ahistorical. Of course the bloody Nazis made contacts among the bloody colonials and of course their anti-Brit and anti-French rhetoric found a bloody home, what the bloody hell would anyone expect? That is not the same as Nazism as Nazism actually finging a real echo. It's "enemy of my enemy" calculation in its rawest form. I find it contemptible and moronic (as well as impeding real understanding of the dynamic of the time) to use it as a modern smear.
Hey Col-

The Grand Mufti was definitely anti-British/anti-Zionist but he became very close to the Nazi apparatus over time, definitely a Nazi client ( specifically Himmler's, Hitler cared rather less) rather than a mere intel source or contact. He was very deeply "in bed" and quite active in areas that only indirectly related to Palestine - like recruiting Balkan Muslims for the SS. This has been extensively documented from the German archives and not just from, say, the irritated opinion of the Brits at the time or pro-Israeli activists today.

Naturally, Islam remained foremost for the Mufti who had to pick fairly selectively the aspects of Nazism he found agreeable - mainly the anti-British, anti-Jewish part and some elements of racial thinking that translated nicely into pan-arabism ( correct me here but I think the Mufti came to his position young and without too much of a scholarly rep). After all, not a few radical Nazi ideologues like Streicher, Bormann, Goebbels were militant atheists and hyper-racists who put Arabs on an Untermenschen tier alongside Asians and Turks, above Jews and Africans but below Western Europeans and some " Germanic" Slavic groups like the Czechs.

It was a counterintuitive alliance to say the least and one that made Hitler uneasy and he remained lukewarm toward Himmler's enthusiasm about Muslim SS units and Islam ( of which Himmler knew, it must be said, next to nothing).

After the war it became advisable for Arab sympathizers with the Axis, whether religious or Baathist, to look elsewhere for inspiration and foreign support against British/French colonialism and Israeli Zionism.

The Ikhwan ( except for the Saudi version which thought the Egyptians were bad Muslim innovators)did come out of Mohammed Abduh and al-Banna's ideas. I don't see the Nazis influencing the Brotherhood's political thought at the time either, except very incidentally via crude anti-Jewish and anti-British propaganda that Goebbels aimed broadly at the world in general.

Re; Mubarak

I'm pessimistic as well. We don't have much to work with, in terms of quietly nurturing moderate alternatives or time for those kind of civil society networks to be established which realistically, is 10-15 years.

Nor will Mubarak allow that - he'll do everything he can to make the only choice for the U.S. policymakers his corrupt regime vs. radical Islamists.

No disagreements that the Mufti worked with the Nazis, hand in glove. However, at base it was "enemy of my enemy" - in the case of the Mufti, that being not only British but also Zionist (in the technical sense) Jewish settlers.

I find the ideological angle on that in the end unconvincing, except on the anti-Jewish grounds. (And this itself really tied to Jews as Western Agents, not a truly a racial idea of Jewishness - see Lewis by the way for excellent and balanced history on these matters) The Jews as agents of the West / Colonizers was of course actually factually well grounded, as a commercially oriented minority and because the Colonial powers offered powerful bribes, Jews in the region (the wealthy ones) were in fact a colonial Fifth Column (taking the Arab ruler's point of view).

Not that this justifies the anti-Jewish violence that broke out, but stepping back and looking at the issues from a cold historical view, one can see clearly the play of interests and the decision drivers on all sides. Quite rational in the end, except of course the Arab Muslim rulers never could get things together with State apparatus too weak to generate effective power.

In the end, I don't find the Mufti having pretensions of promoting Bosniac collaboration with the Nazis as anything more than useful posturing in pursuit of his own interests. Rational, more than slightly on the wrong side of things, but rational.
Final note, what set me off was the idiocy of the pretension that the Ikhouane were or are a "remnant" of the Nazi party. Pure ahistorical ignorant tripe of the worst "ignorant ideology of the moment" glurge.

And mind you, I have no particular love for the Ikhouane. Believe me, I know them personally and far better than some bleeding academic sitting in a Uni far away.

At the same time, I also do business in the real world, and one can't get business done by pretending one's fantasy world exists. One deals with reality or one cuts and runs.

That's what the US has to start bloody doing in the MENA region, instead of engaging in pious idiocies.
Very informative discussion. Thank you all.
Excellent and original blog. I will comeback.
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