A Raw Salafist Power Play
We can – and certainly should – make it clear to the likes of Mohamed Morsi that we can make his job and his life a lot more difficult than the Salafists can.
It should be clear to almost everyone by now that the rampaging mob violence against American embassies and consulates in the Middle East and North Africa last week was not primarily motivated by a video uploaded to YouTube. Something offensive to Muslims (along with something offensive to just about everyone else in the world) is posted on the Internet several times every second, yet massive international uprisings against this thing or that thing break out only periodically.
Rather than a spontaneous outburst, what we saw last week was a raw play for political power by radical Salafists. We have seen things like this before, most notoriously in Tehran after the Iranian revolution.
On November 4, 1979, 52 American diplomats were taken hostage at the U.S. Embassy in Iran by young supporters of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini who belonged to the so-called Muslim Student Followers of the Imam's Line. Iran was not yet a theocracy. Khomeini had not consolidated power after the overthrow of the Shah's government; his Islamist faction still had to battle it out for control with Iran's liberals and leftists.
Khomeinei may not have orchestrated the takeover personally, but it was not long before he threw his full support behind it: he realized how popular the hostage-takers were -- Iranian anti-Americanism was at its apogee then -- while his proposal for a theocratic constitution was meeting stiff resistance from his internal enemies. By rallying the country around the cause of anti-Americanism he was able seriously to blunt criticism of the domestic agenda. All he had to do was tar his opponents as secretly pro-American. The deflection worked brilliantly.
The Salafists have just pulled a similar stunt in Egypt. They are more extreme and therefore less popular than the Muslim Brotherhood government. By ginning up an anti-American mob and forcing President Mohamed Morsi, himself a Brotherhood member, to send riot police after the demonstrators to protect the American Embassy, they were able to make him look like a tool of the West. When push came to shove, Morsi ended up siccing the cops on his fellow Egyptians to protect the interests of the hated "imperialists."
Walter Russell Mead bluntly put it this way: "Moderates who speak against violence or try to cool matters look like American puppets; this is the kind of issue the radicals love, and we can expect them to milk it for all it is worth."
Morsi did not condemn the attack on our embassy in Cairo—or attacks against us anywhere else—for two days. Nor did his police officers initially do a thing to stop belligerent rioters who tore down the American flag and replace with an Al Qaeda banner. Such things would have appeared "pro-American." Not until President Barack Obama supposedly yelled at him on the phone did Morsi do his job and order the authorities to do theirs.
Salafist preachers ginned up a similar mob in Tunisia, although this time the police responded at once and struggled to keep rioters out of the embassy. President Moncef Marzouki even sent hundreds of his own presidential guards to the embassy; unfortunately the walls were nevertheless breached by militants with Al Qaeda flags.
Salafist gangs have been running amok in Tunisia now for a year, and the police are already accustomed to battling it out with them in the streets. Unlike in Egypt where Salafists won 25 percent of the parliamentary vote, a huge majority of Tunisians finds this extremist faction repulsive, even terrifying. We shall have to wait to find out if attacking an American target instead of a local one has boosted the Salafists' popularity.
The terrorist attack against the American consulate in Benghazi, Libya, however, clearly backfired -- spectacularly. Protests broke out all over the country -- not against America or the anti-Mohammad video, but against terrorism. The Libyan government purged its security chiefs in Benghazi and has already arrested dozens of suspects.
Cairo is the place where the Salafist onslaught against us was hatched, and it is the place where it was carried out most effectively. As it is likely to happen again, the United States will have to do something about it. Members of Congress are publicly questioning whether the Egyptian government deserves any more aid. This question is an excellent start. There is nothing we can do to stop radical Islamists from framing the United States when they need a wedge issue, but we can -- and certainly should -- make it clear to the likes of Mohamed Morsi that we can make his job and his life a lot more difficult than the Salafists can.
Reader comments on this item
|The usual suspects [10 words]||Nikon||Sep 21, 2012 04:15|
Comment on this item
by Soeren Kern
"There is no territory more occupied than the body of a Palestinian woman, or a strip... severed by the violent imposition of the superstitions of Allah and the followers of Mohammed. We had better not even mention the situation of Palestinian homosexuals. This selective outrage by top progressives when it involves Israel is indeed anti-Semitism." — Alberto Moyano, Spanish newspaper editor.
"It is possible legitimately to criticize Israel. But it smells fishy when all of the blame is attributed to Israel, without even mentioning the small detail that a terrorist and jihadist group that rules Gaza has infringed on every conceivable humanitarian principle, by using civilians as human shields, and launching missiles from apartment blocks, while their leaders are living comfortable in Qatar, guests of a sheik." — Ángel Mas, Spanish analyst.
There has been virtually no public outcry whatsoever in Spain over the deaths of more than 160,000 people during three years of fighting in Syria; the decimation of ancient Christian communities at the hands of Islamists in Iraq; the kidnapping of 300 girls by Islamists in Nigeria; or the downing of a civilian passenger plane in Ukraine.
"The most anti-Semitic people are supposedly the most educated and well-informed." — Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs report on anti-Semitism in Spain.
by Alan M. Dershowitz
by Khaled Abu Toameh
There is growing concern in Ramallah, Cairo, Riyadh and Dubai that the U.S. Administration is working to prevent the collapse of Hamas.
"The Americans mistakenly think that moderate political Islam, which is represented by the Muslim Brotherhood, will be able to combat radical Islam. The Americans are trying to bring the Muslim Brotherhood back to the region." — Palestinian official, Ramallah.
The Iranians, with whom the U.S. is now negotiating on nuclear weapons -- amid fears in the Middle East that the U.S. will capitulate to Tehran's demands if it has not effectively capitulated to them already -- have now joined Qatar and Turkey in opposing any attempt to confiscate Hamas's weapons.
The Paris conference was actually a spit in the face to the anti-Hamas forces in the Arab world. By failing to invite the Palestinian Authority to the conference, Kerry indicated that he does not see any role for Abbas and his loyalists in a post-Hamas Gaza Strip.
by Amir Taheri
According to Küntzel, German leaders have at least two other reasons for helping Iran defy the United States. The first is German resentment of defeat in the Second World War followed by foreign occupation, led by the US. The second reason is that Iran is one of the few, if not the only country, where Germans have never been looked at as "war criminals" because of Hitler.
by Malcolm Lowe
Go to Nazareth and you can easily find the mini-mosque. It displays a large poster of Koran quotations denigrating Christianity and urging Christians to convert to Islam.
Overlooked is a fundamental difference between the two regimes. Israel is a state governed by the rule of law. The Palestinian Authority, like most other states in the region, is a personal dictatorship. Arafat started the fashion of simply disregarding the laws.
What is needed in Israel is a central policy unit with the brief of developing long-term policies both to integrate Israeli Christians and to engage with the great variety of Christians in foreign countries.