Tuesday, February 8, 2011

America's Islamist Hypocrisy: Egypt and Iraq

A piece in today's WaPo starts with two stupid questions: Is the Obama administration in direct contact with the Muslim Brotherhood? And, would it accept the group as part of a new Egyptian government?

Answer to question 1: I hope so. If they aren't, and they hope to have an ear to the ground in Egypt, then they're fools.

Answer to question 2: I hope so, but if they won't, it's their loss (and Israel's), not the Egyptians' - who by now probably could give a rat's behind about Obama's opinion about how they decide to shape any new democracy (which, in itself, is by no means a done deal).

It's high time that the US get over itself - and its self-assigned prerogative to dictate whether governments with Islamist parties are to be considered "legitimate" or not, usually according to whether or not they are "friendly" to Israel.

Actually, the hypocrisy in all this is ridiculous. Consider the following:

  • Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood has been around since 1928, when it was established under the leadership of a school-teacher, Hasan al-Banna.  As happens with all such organizations, its ideology and positions have evolved over time, but in recent decades its mainstream has abjured violence (though not in resistance to foreign occupation) and has attempted to work peacefully within the framework of Egypt's flawed, corrupt political system, from which, of course, it has been mostly shut out.  But now, with the winds of democracy picking up in Egypt (something that the US says that it's all for, on principle), the possibility looms that the Muslim Brotherhood might gain representation in a new government - and US and Israeli commentators are enraged, or terrified, because they are "bad Muslims."
  • Iraq's Shiite "fundamentalist" Dawa and ISCI (Islamic Supreme Council in Iraq) parties have not been around nearly as long, but like the Muslim Brotherhood, they hope to see the eventual development of a state governed in accordance with sharia. Their more conservative elements - like those in the MB - espouse restrictions on women that many in the US find abhorrent.  But in contrast to the "outlawed" - and vilified - MB, the US embraces both Dawa and ISCI as central players in the newly "democratic" Iraq.  Indeed, Iraq's prime minister, Nuri al-Maliki, has been a leading member of Dawa for many years, as has been his predecessor (and still a major political figure), Ibrahim al-Jaafari. 
  • Moreover, Iraq's parliament includes a substantial delegation from the (likewise) Shiite fundamentalist party led by Muqtada al-Sadr, himself the scion of a leading clerical family. (His father and his uncle were extremely influential religious leaders in the era of Saddam's Baathist regime, with strong ties to Iran's Shiite leaders, whom the US reviles.) And a central plank in the Sadrist party's platform, as it were, is resistance to the US occupation in Iraq (and, for that matter, to Israel and Zionism); indeed, Muqtada's Mahdi Army militia undoubtedly accounted for the deaths of dozens of US soldiers in the Baghdad area during the "Surge" and also rose up in a nasty insurrection against US troops in Najaf in 2004.  Prime Minister al-Maliki's current ruling coalition counts on the support of the Sadrists.
  •  Finally, a red-line that the Iraqi government will not come near, much less cross, is recognizing the legitimacy of the state of Israel.  You will likely not see, for quite a long time, an Israeli embassy in Baghdad, or an Iraqi embassy in Tel Aviv.

Now, the US admittedly has bones it would love to pick with the Sadrists - but the fact of the matter is that, beginning with George W. Bush and up to this day, the US has pointed to Iraq - with a government led by - not simply seating at the table - a conservative Islamist party with another conservative, Islamist, explicitly anti-US and anti-Israel party at its side - as a shining example of a new Middle Eastern democracy.

The hypocrisy is truly breath-taking.

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