Why Egypt Matters

Why Egypt Matters

Published: Feb 9, 2011 at 11:55 am

By Chris Hill

Every form of media has been abuzz with the news out of Egypt. Whether they are peaceful demonstrations in pursuit of “freedom,” or riots in search of a strong man depends upon to whom you turn for news.

What is not in doubt is that President Muhammad Hosni Sayyid Mubarak is not going to be the head man in charge for much longer. What happens next is anybody’s guess. But something for which no guess work is required is the notion that the Sinai will, once again, shortly take center stage.

Israel returned the Sinai—fully 91 percent of the territory won by Israel during the Six Day war—to Egypt in the late 1970s in exchange for a promise of peace from then Egyptian President Anwar Sadat. After Sadat’s assassination, President Mubarak kept Egypt’s end of the bargain and, as recently as this week, deployed Egyptian troops to the Sinai. While that may seem counter-intuitive to peace, the Egyptian troops were there to prevent Hamas from opening a second front on Israel from where they could rain rockets down upon even more Israeli citizens.

The demonstrations in the streets of Cairo are becoming more and more violent as protestors clash with each other and police. What has been characterized by most of the media, both here and abroad, as a youth movement in search of political and social freedom has been suspiciously devoid of female participants. It appears to be overwhelmingly male, mostly young men, who are unemployed and uneducated.

While Egypt has been decidedly pro-business in recent years, this has had the dual effect of creating both a well-to-do, middle class who live like Westerners, and an underclass of men who have no jobs and, hence, no prospects for marriage or much of a future. The Egyptian regime, while becoming ever more tolerant and secular, had long maintained an iron fist on large segments of society. It is this disaffected class that has taken to the streets. There are many problems in Egypt: socioeconomics, democratic reform and, not the least, religious issues, which are mostly insoluble under Islamic strictures.

It is into this fray that the Muslim Brother-hood seems to be stepping, albeit without much public fanfare. Born in the late 1920s in Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood can be seen as the father of modern Al-Qaeda. It was in Egypt that Al Qaeda’s number two man, Ayman Muhammad Rabaie al-Zawahiri, joined and was eventually jailed with, the Muslim Brotherhood after An-war Sadat was assassinated by Lieutenant Khalid Islambouli, the leader of a Muslim Brotherhood cell. Members of the Muslim Brotherhood were rounded up after President Sadat’s assassination and were charged with plotting a complete over-throw of the existing order. This was mainly due to the Brotherhood’s complete repudiation of Egypt’s secular authority. Can we be sure that the demonstrations we are witnessing now will not lead to the same end as the banned Muslim Brotherhood’s public pronouncements? No, sadly, we cannot.

As a young private in the 7th Infantry Division (light) I remember American soldiers being deployed to the Sinai as Peace-keepers in 1987. It was the first time any of us had seen the “chocolate chip” DCUs and I remember it vividly. While we cannot be sure what the future holds for Egypt we can wager that it will be bad for both Israel and the United States.

That the movement in the street has public backing of both the Muslim Brotherhood and the rogue nation of Iran cannot be seen as anything but bad news, which leads me back to the title of this article. No matter who comes out on top in Egypt we can expect that Egyptian troops will withdraw from the Sinai, creating a vacuum into which Hamas will no doubt rush. If a United Nations (UN) sponsored peace-keeping mission does not materialize almost immediately, and UN sponsored peace-keeping missions do not materialize immediately, Israel will be forced to rush troops to the border to prevent jihadist rockets from falling on her citizens. Can American support be far behind? United States warriors have already served an average of five deployments in Iraq and/or Afghanistan. Opening another front, even a toothless UN style deployment, will simply be too much. In the end result, Egypt will rise or fall, but we must hope that democracy rules the day. An Islamic republic modeled after Turkey may be the best we can hope for, but anything else is just too dismal to contemplate.

Reprinted with permission from “Outside the Wire: Advocacy and Outreach for the Warrior Class”, a bi-monthly newsletter. For information and to comment contact Chris Hill, Executive Editor at chillfactor1068@gmail.com.