Muslim Brotherhood Versus the Army

Night Watch
Posted: Apr 03, 2012 12:01 AM

Burma: Myanmar dissident Daw Aung San Suu Kyi won a parliamentary seat in by-elections today, a member of her party said, in a closely watched poll.

Comment: After two decades of imprisonment or house arrest for so-called political crimes, Suu Kyi is again a member of parliament. This is tonight's good news.

Egypt: The Muslim Brotherhood's (MB) leader, General Guide Muhammad Badi, plus the group's Secretary General Mahmud Husayn and the leader of the Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party announced in a joint news conference on 31 March that the Muslim Brotherhood would field a candidate for president in the presidential elections on 23 and 24 May. The nominee is the Deputy General Guide Khayrat al-Shatir

Husayn read out the MB's statement on the nomination, which said the MB's decision on 10 February 2011 not to nominate a presidential candidate was based upon "domestic and foreign justifications to guarantee the success of the revolution and prevent pretexts for thwarting the democratic transition."

Since that time, Husayn added that the MB has found a "real threat to the revolution, democratic transition and the transfer of power to an elected civilian government." He cited those threats as the rejection of forming a new cabinet, threats to dissolve the elected parliament, and moves to field candidates belonging to the former regime.

"In the face of these challenges, the MB's Shura Council decided in an emergency session on 31 March 2012 to field a candidate for the presidency," he said.

In his comments, Badi said that when Al-Shatir knew about the MB's decision to nominate him for the presidency, he submitted his resignation as the group's Deputy General Guide and member of its Guidance Bureau (the central body). He read out Al-Shatir's resignation appeal.

Comment: Nothing is as it seems and the political situation continues to change rapidly. The Brotherhood's statement is worded to appear as a rebuke to a recalcitrant and reluctant military leadership. This apparent struggle between the Brotherhood and the Generals has been played out during the past week in the Generals' statement to the parliament to keep hands off military enterprises and the Generals insistence on veto power over provisions of the new constitution that affect the military.

While these are real issues, the press coverage of them appears to be mainly for public consumption to cover a more basic struggle.

The New York Times deserves credit for spotlighting the more insidious threat to the fledgling Egyptian democracy from ultra-conservatives who want the treaty with Israel abrogated, want separation of genders in Egypt and who cite Iran as their model of a successful Islamic state that has stood up to the United States.

The ultra-conservative candidate Abu Ismail has been running second in polls taken before the Brotherhood's announcement. He promises, according to the Times, that he will bring prosperity to Egypt if it rejects the West. This would be risible were he not running second.

The irony of the fall of Mubarak is that it has untethered political activism far beyond anything imagined by the initial secular opposition and the US policy makers and others who backed them. The Westerners seem to have given no thought to the likelihood that powerful Islamic forces could not only emerge but appeal to a large portion of Egyptian voters.

Taking sides against a longtime US ally carried unforeseen risks. To paraphrase the concluding statement in Kissinger's essay on the Arab spring, what emerges from the Arab spring will determine the wisdom of the US policy approach.

What is emerging in Egypt is so viscerally hostile to US interests that the US now seems to prefer the Muslim Brotherhood to the alternative. Shatir, it turns out, is a millionaire who is well known to American diplomats. This is a study in democracy.

Mali: Tuareg rebels, joined by Islamists, raised their flag in the northern town of Timbuktu after government forces fled, according to local sources.

Tuareg rebels also entered Gao on 31 March after exchanges of gunfire with some government soldiers. Gao serves as Mali's northern military headquarters. The nearby town of Kidal fell to the rebels on 30 March.

Comment: The Niger River forms the geographic boundary between northern, mostly desert Mali and the more populace regions around Bamako and the south. The capture of Kidal, Timbuktu and Gao mean the regions north of the Niger River are now under rebel control or domination. Mali has been cut in two.

There are no large US interests in Mali, aside from cooperation in controlling al Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb. The dissection of Mali is an indirect consequence of the overthrow of the Qadhafi regime in Libya. Qadhafi had hired Tuaregs to fight for him. After his overthrow, the Tuaregs returned to Mali and other Sahelian African countries. In Mali, they strengthened a simmering secession movement, but could not have achieved the success of the past week without the junior officers' coup in Bamako.

End of NightWatch.

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