Egypt is complex. In contemporary terms, the country is seen from the prism of its religious importance (Al-Azhar University) and its large cultural footprint on the Arab masses (Egypt is our Hollywood). Its size (About 90m) makes it the largest Arab and Muslim country in the world.
In reading some of the Blogs, I noticed that many smart western analysts are fearful of the Muslim Brotherhood taking control of the government in Egypt. Let us assume they do. What would happen then?
For one Hamas will turn to Egypt for support instead of Iran and Syria. That may, given Egypt’s resources, create some sectarian balance very much able to freeze Syria and Iran. And if the new Egyptian government chooses instead to address the expansionist policies of Iran, then Egypt’s revolution may be a blessing in disguise for Lebanon, Syria, and Israel.
If, however, the Islamists in Egypt choose the tactic of directing their anger against Israel by siding with Iran, they will have to take into consideration a citizenry who may bolt at the notion their historic country has now become a satellite to the Wilayat al-Faqih of Iran. One important Imam from al-Azhar is all it takes to re-direct Egypt’s foreign policy. Further, Saudi Arabia fearful of Iran, will supply the necessary aid to Egypt to persuade its government to focus on the clearest of dangers.
However, given the turbulent history Islam has had with outsiders and given our modern history with how we treat the State of Israel, let us assume Iran and Egypt will merge their foreign policy goals when it comes to Israel. Iran will use violence and threats to contain dissent the way it did in Lebanon and Saudi Arabia would not be able to do a damn thing about it. It would not surprise me at all if Iran has not already sent some high-level IRGC operatives into Cairo to plant their venomous seeds.
Under these circumstances, the west must contemplate what I have suggested in my article to Reuters, mainly break the long hand of Iran by breaking off its supply routes in Syria. Syria becomes key to freezing the two new extremist giants represented by two extremist governments.
Some will say: But what if the Islamists in Syria take charge if we help you dismantle the regime? I know Syria and I know Syrians; alternative to Assad are: Secular Syrians, Socialist Syrians, Ba’athist Syrians, Minority Syrians, Communist Syrians, Islamist Syrians, and moderate Muslim Syrians. Not just the Muslim Brotherhood.
OK, you’re not convinced, so let us assume Islamists will rule Syria after Assad. What then?
Two scenarios in this case.
The most likely scenario is the empowerment of all Arab Sunnis across the region. This is good and bad at the same time (I speak as a Sunni). Good because it will contain the extremist government in Iran and choke Hezbollah, a terrorist organization. The Gulf, with its petro-dollars and need for protection by the US military, will dictate the tempo when Assad is deposed. Bad because too much empowerment of a Sunni majority will inevitably lead to oppression and atrocities, something the region can no longer afford.
The other and unlikely scenario is that extremist Sunnis, even though forming the majority in the region, continue to take marching orders from Tehran. Considering Assad and Hezbollah killed Hariri who was Sunni, it is almost certain this scenario won’t happen. The new Syria, run by extremists, will form delineating and clear lines and tip the balance towards containing the extremists in Tehran.
Two or more extremist governments watching each other. What better scenario to wish for?
As far as truly secular or moderate Muslim leaders are concerned, our turn will come when the Islamists in Damascus fail to provide what the people of Syria demanded and continue to demand: Freedom, Democracy, and Human Rights in addition to economic prosperity.
We have no choice but to depose Assad if Egypt falls.