by Zafar Bangash (Islamic Movement, Crescent International Vol. 43, No. 10, Safar, 1436)
Islamic Awakening movements have been undermined by the corrupt regimes subverting the will of the people. Much greater effort based on clarity of thought will be needed to consign these oppressive regimes into the dustbin of history.
Four years after Islamic awakening movements swept many long-entrenched dictators from power in the Muslim East (aka the Middle East), it appears the old order is back with a vengeance. The uprisings were also referred to as the “Arab Spring” or “People’s movements” depending on the political orientations and preferences of those describing them.
What is indisputable is that changes that were ushered in proved transitory and were easily overcome in places like Egypt and Tunisia. In other locales — Libya, for instance — the country was completely destroyed leading up to and following Colonel Muammar Qaddafi’s public lynching by a US-trained group of terrorists. Libya has since remained in turmoil making life intolerable for the vast majority of its traumatized people. Yemen continues to be gripped by an unending crisis despite periodic agreements; Bahrain is under the heavy boot of the Khalifa family, essentially because of Saudi military invasion to shore up the regime while Syria and Iraq have been sucked into crises of gigantic proportions. Saudi-Zionist-American backed and financed takfiris have been unleashed, creating havoc in both countries.
For Islamic movements struggling to establish systems based on socio-economic and political justice in their societies, it is important to understand what has happened in the Muslim East, what forces were involved both openly as well as behind the scenes during the upheavals and what lessons can be drawn from them. Of all places, Egypt’s situation has been the most heart-wrenching because it has the potential to be on the cutting edge of the Islamic movement. Its loss to the military and by extension to the imperialist-Zionist duopoly is a major loss to the global Muslim Ummah.
There was great enthusiasm among Muslims when the movements for change started. This is natural but there is a difference between exuberant hopes and reality on the ground. There were both internal weaknesses as well as external manipulation of these movements. It is also important to be clear that the changes which occurred were not revolutions although in their enthusiasm, supporters of these movements were keen to invest them with this aura. An (Islamic) revolution overthrows the old order completely and establishes its own institutions that would serve the interests of the new order based on principles of fairness and justice.
This is what happened in Iran in 1978–1979 when the US-Zionist backed regime of the Shah was overthrown by the Islamic Revolution. It eliminated the old system and in its place established a new one. Without such cleansing, the Islamic Revolution would have faced serious problems. Even while establishing new institutions, there was constant internal sabotage from the old guard that continued to exert influence in many state institutions.
In the countries that experienced upheavals — Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Yemen (that is still underway) — only a few faces at the top were replaced; the systems have remained largely intact. It could be argued that Tunisia has made a successful transition from the dictatorship of Ben Ali to a “democratic” dispensation. This is arguable. After Ben Ali’s overthrow, primarily because the military refused to come to his rescue, al-Nahda Party won the election but it was thrown out of office in the recent elections (end of October 2014). Ben Ali’s party is back in power. The problems that had led to the upheaval have not been addressed: unemployment remains high; corruption is rampant and the military is all supreme.
In Egypt, the situation is even worse. The military did not even wait for the political process to take its course as in Tunisia. Within one year of the election of Mohamed Mursi as president, the military returned with a sledgehammer. It not only ousted Mursi from power but also slaughtered thousands of innocent people, including women and children. People were not spared even when they sought refuge in masjids; they were gunned down mercilessly.
Tens of thousands have been thrown in Egypt’s notorious dungeons while hundreds have been sentenced to death after kangaroo trials presided over by judges beholden to the brutes in uniform. What is even worse, many people have been terrorized into supporting the military’s brutal crackdown. Fear reigns supreme. Supposedly educated Egyptians indulge in vile propaganda against the Ikhwan al-Muslimeen and proudly support the military proclaiming them as “heroes.” The Egyptian military like that in all other Muslim societies has a dismal record of confronting the external enemy. Their only achievement is the frequent assaults and “conquest” of their own hapless people.
Let us, however, address the issue of internal weaknesses. The greatest failure of these movements was and remains misreading the internal situation, more specifically misunderstanding the systems in their societies. There is a common misconception that there is nothing inherently wrong with these systems; all that is required is for efficient and honest men (and perhaps a few women) to run them. This is a colossal mistake. Systems, like individuals, develop interests and work to safeguard them. Institutions emerge that support the system’s survival because their own survival depends on it.
To take Egypt’s example, it was simplistic to assume that the various state institutions — military, bureaucracy, judiciary, business, etc. — would allow the Ikhwan to govern unhindered. No amount of appeasement, especially of the military, helped. Mursi conferred vast powers on the military and incorporated these in the Egyptian constitution including no oversight of their budget, appointment of the defence minister by the military and frequent statements about how “great” and “noble” the Egyptian military was. None of this satisfied the military; it was simply not prepared to share political space with the Ikhwan, even if the latter was willing to work in a subservient role.
The judiciary, leftover from the Hosni Mubarak dictatorship, was equally disruptive. At each step, it worked to undermine the new government. Mursi was constantly struggling to put out the fires lit by the old guard. The military also manipulated the youth as well as leftovers of the Mubarak era to launch a campaign to destabilize Mursi’s government. The military not only organized but financed street protests against the new government. When these did not achieve the desired results because the Ikhwan could bring out bigger crowds, the brutes in uniform attacked directly. They threw Mursi out of the presidential palace like pulling a fly out of ointment. Their pretext was that he failed to satisfy the opposition parties in the stipulated time frame set by the military. The ultimatum was designed to fail.
When the Ikhwan organized peaceful sit-ins in Rabia al-‘Adawiya Square and in Giza, these were allowed to continue for a few weeks before the military and other security forces struck with extreme brutality. On August 14 and 16, 2013, thousands of Ikhwan supporters, many of them women and children, were mercilessly gunned down. Even funeral processions were attacked. The Egyptian military that has not once been able to stand up to the Zionists, notwithstanding its self-serving propaganda about non-existent victories and services in “defence” of the homeland, shot and killed its own people with great enthusiasm. Worse, many Egyptians applauded the massacres claiming that Egypt had been “saved.” One wonders from what and for whom?
If there has been failure of clarity of thought on the internal front, there has also been massive manipulation from abroad. As Julian Assange, the WikiLeaks founder, reveals in his book, When Google met WikiLeaks, the US State Department, Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) as well as the myriad American Foundations for “Democracy” were working hand-in-glove with Google executives to bring about “colour” revolutions in other countries. Assange reveals that Google’s CEO, Eric Schmidt, was working closely with the White House while director of Google’s Ideas, Jared Cohen, an old State Department hand who moved to Google in 2010, was working the colour revolutions. Interestingly, Cohen had met Wael Ghonem, the Google “whizkid” in Cairo, in the early days of the Egyptian uprising. Ghonem became the face of the Egyptian youth against the Mubarak dictatorship.
In the November/December 2010 issue of CFR’s mouthpiece, Foreign Affairs, Schmidt and Cohen co-wrote a policy piece titled “The Digital Disruption: Connectivity and the Diffusion of Power.” They not only praised the transformative potential of Silicon Valley technologies as an instrument of US foreign policy but also claimed it offered a new opportunity to exercise the doctrine, “duty to protect” citizens around the world! They called it “coalition of the connected!”
Cohen’s fingerprints can be seen on every crisis, real or contrived, in the world. He was present at the 2008 Inaugural Alliance of Youth Movements Summit that later rebranded itself as Movements.org. The Alliance of Youth Movements was a vehicle to bring tech-savvy youth from the “Third World” and train them in ways to launch uprisings in targeted societies. People in the “Third World” are constantly looking for opportunities to secure funding and invitations to conferences abroad. America is their dream land. This is how people, especially youth, are recruited to advance the American agenda. The proliferation of non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) is another vehicle for the advancement of US policy in the world.
While Schmidt and Cohen claim that their work is funded by private donations, Stratfor’s vice president for intelligence, Fred Burton (former State Department security official), wrote in an internal email to his organization, “Google is getting WH [White House] and State Dept support and air cover. In reality they are doing things the CIA cannot do… [Cohen] is going to get himself kidnapped or killed. Might be the best thing to happen to expose Google’s covert role in foaming up-risings, to be blunt. The US Gov’t can then disavow knowledge and Google is left holding the shit-bag.” (Yazan al-Saadi, “StratforLeaks: Google Ideas Director Involved in ‘Regime Change,’” al-Akhbar, March 14, 2012). Stratfor itself is not an innocent outfit; it works as a private arm of the CIA and perhaps felt its position was being undermined by Google’s intrusion into its domain (no pun intended!).
Cohen’s globetrotting activities have taken him to Azerbaijan to stir trouble for Iran, as well as trips to Turkey, Lebanon and even to Gaza. In one internal email, a frustrated Stratfor described Cohen’s trip to Gaza as “Google Shitstorm Moving to Gaza,” (email ID 1111729 (10 February 2011), Global Intelligence Files, WikiLeaks, 14 March 2012).
Two other points are relevant for the Egyptian scene. First, it could be asked, why the US wanted to get rid of Hosni Mubarak; and second, the role played by Saudi Arabia in the coup against Mursi. Mubarak had become senile and his longevity in power was proving counter-productive. Further, his plan to pass on the leadership to his children — Gamal and ‘Ala — riled many within the Egyptian establishment. Further, the frustration building up in Egyptian society needed to have a safety valve. A few weeks (three weeks to be precise) of street protests allowed the people to vent their anger and with Mubarak’s resignation, they all felt relieved and vindicated.
Mubarak’s removal, the Mursi interregnum and the military’s return to power have restored the old order and given the military regime a new lease on life. Ironically, the vast majority of people that wanted Mubarak out are now yearning for peace and quiet and believe the military can do it, hence their enthusiastic welcome of its brutal tactics. This is shocking; people will ultimately regret it but not before tens of thousands of other innocent people have been butchered.
It appears that the US was not keen to have the Egyptian military strike so soon. Washington had already secured agreement from Mursi and the Ikhwan to advance its agenda. Mursi did not repudiate the humiliating treaty with the Zionist regime; he did not cut off gas supplies to Israel nor did Mursi do anything meaningful for the Palestinians in the besieged Gaza Strip. While the US may have been agreeable to Mursi remaining in power for a little while longer, the Saudis were not.
They viewed Mursi — and more broadly, the Ikhwan — as a threat to their claim to being the leaders of “Sunni” Muslims. While few Muslims outside the narrow circle of their paid agents accept their leadership claim, the Saudis continue to delude themselves. The Saudi point man was Bandar bin Sultan, a venal character notorious for many criminal acts. In preparation for the coup, Saudi Arabia paid $5 billion to the Egyptian military and after the coup’s success another $12 billion were handed to them. The Saudi regime was the first to congratulate the Egyptian military for its great “feat.”
The triangle of terror represented by the Saudis, Egyptian generals and the Zionist war criminals was complete. Since the coup, the Egyptian military has been busy destroying tunnels through which the besieged Palestinians used to smuggle much needed goods — food, medicines and household items — for mere survival. This was unacceptable to the Zionists and, therefore, to the Egyptian generals. The Saudis have been very tight with the Zionists as well and cooperating with them to undermine any manifestations of Islamic revival. It is equally revealing that the Saudis have not uttered a single word about recent Zionist incursions onto al-Masjid al-Aqsa and their attempt to take it over.
The destruction of this triangle of terror is a pre-requisite for the Islamic movement to have any chance of success. At the top of the agenda must be the removal of the House of Saud that has caused immense damage to Islam and Muslims.