ANALYSIS: Egypt’s Spring turns chilly

The Slog’s prediction of trouble ahead is already being borne out

Nabil Al-araby

When the Arab dictator dominoes started falling earlier this year, The Slog was one of the first news sources to question whether this was really an unalloyed blessing. I have also maintained a consistent line that this many revolts don’t ‘just happen’ – and that the Russian Federation (apart from in Libya, where they shot themselves in the foot) has done very well out of the ‘Arab Spring’.

The truth is that a smallish but very active minority of Arab revolutionaries want Islamist doctrine, not democracy, to replace dictatorship; and the Russian strategy of driving up the oil price has been very successful. Those who doubt the role of Islamic extremists behind the scenes should take a look at what’s already changing in Egyptian foreign policy.

Like Recep Erdogan before them, the ‘new’ leaders of Egypt have moved swiftly towards rogue Islam: yesterday they confirmed a determination to thaw decades of frosty relations with Iran. And Iran said it had appointed an ambassador to Egypt for the first time since the two sides broke off diplomatic relations in the late 1970s.,

Officials at Egypt’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs in turn confirmed that new foreign minister Nabil Al-araby is considering a visit to the Gaza Strip— the area controlled by the militant Palestinian Islamist group Hamas – formerly shunned by the Mubarak regime. The new foreign minister Nabil Al-Araby has said that his country also would like to “turn over a new leaf with respect to Hezbollah in Lebanon”; and specifically in relation to the Ahmadinnejhad dictatorship, he added, “Iran is a state in the region, and we have had long-term historical ties with it over the different periods. We will turn over a new leaf with all states, including Iran.” Note the failure to mention Israel.

But disturbing rumours abound that CIA officials fear more than Egypt’s apparent determination to empower Iran and its regional clients Hamas and  Hezbollah: the prime concern is the betrayal of Western intelligence to rogue States….and perhaps even Russia.

This is far from fanciful. Egypt’s leaf-turning routine extended to Syria recenty, and the Syrian regime (itself in trouble) is a close ally of Iran. In early March, Egypt’s new intelligence chief, Murad Muwafi, chose Syria for his first foreign trip. A senior U.S. defense official observed,  “I wouldn’t say we’re worried—not yet. Concerned is probably a better word.” Worried would be better, my friend. The Israeli security agency Mossad is certainly very worried indeed.

“The fear is Muwafi will give the terrorists details of our defences,” an Israeli source said this morning, “Muwafi used to be the Governor of North Sinai. He would have much important information about our security layout in the region. Our information is that these are already in Syrian hands”.

Adding more anxiety to Western fears, retired Egyptian army general Mohammed Ali Bilal warned darkly, “We must be more independent now. We have a vision for what the relationship [with the U.S.] should look like after the revolution. This is a new era, and we must focus on the interests of Egypt.”

Nothing wrong with that. But Al Bilal, a close friend of Muwafi, failed to explain why cuddling up to madmen might be the best starting point for such a policy change. Although often denied by the fluffies who seem forever keen to damn Israel’s every move, it has been established beyond doubt over the last three years that both Hamas and the pro-Iranian Jihad Islami use experienced Al Q’eida fighters in the more dangerous attempts to breach the Gaza-Israeli border fence. These groups mount attacks on Israeli military patrols, and Hamas is also deeply involved in al Qaeda’s arms smuggling networks in Sinai, Egypt and Sudan….as of course are the Russians.

The Slog’s commitment to realpolitik and rejection of terrorist violence remains the same. Like most people who’ve been around the block a few times, I also reject blind naivety. Our Government and our liberal cadres are displaying both. These developments are yet another wake-up call to those desperate to believe that black is white.

Related Slogposts: Most Arabs probably want the same as us.