There’s a new Pharoah in town

So let it be written.

Eyes on the ball, folks.  In strategic terms, the most important thing that has happened in the last 10 days is that Mohammed Morsi has assumed dictatorial powers in Egypt.  Courageous Egyptians are protesting that move, but Morsi has less compunction than Mubarak did, and we can expect the protests to be dealt with effectively.

So, those of us who said Morsi was an Islamist extremist who would quickly reestablish authoritarianism in Egypt – with a sharia flavor – were right.  Those who said Morsi was a moderate were wrong.

And his Napoleonic self-crowning event changes the calculus for Gaza and Hamas, among other things.  The universal interpretation of the ceasefire brokered by Egypt this week puts the responsibility for preventing attacks by Hamas against Israel squarely on the Morsi government.  (Not all analyses refer to “frantic” diplomacy on the part of the United States.)  Far from making Egypt anyone’s partner in repressing Hamas, this move effectively hands Hamas over to Morsi – and with Hamas, the Gaza Strip.

Hamas is a terrorist group whose independence of him is an inconvenience for Morsi.  Hamas is the finger of Iran in the Levantine “pie” situated on Morsi’s northeastern border.  Hamas lies between Morsi and Jerusalem.  Morsi is not going to “work with” Hamas; he is going to give Hamas the choice to work with him, or be rendered insignificant.

Hamas can be useful to Morsi, if that’s what its leaders choose to do.  There may or may not be a “break” with Iran; it would probably be better from Morsi’s perspective to keep Iran on a string with Hamas, and prevent a divergence of objectives – i.e., between Egypt and Iran – for as long as possible.

But do not be deceived.  Iran has just taken a big strategic hit from the terms of the Egyptian-brokered ceasefire.  Iran may still have Qods Force operatives in the area, but Morsi has established a veto over Iran’s activities there.  There may be a few more attempts by Hamas at independence from Morsi – although frankly, I doubt it – but the die is cast: what happens from now on will happen on Morsi’s timeline and his say-so.

That, at least, is what he intends.  He has been rather transparent in the last few days.  Immediately upon getting the ceasefire on terms advantageous for his intentions, he declared himself all-powerful in Egypt.  This was not a coincidence.  His pursuit of the ceasefire was part and parcel of his overall planning.  He was happy to accept the vaguest of commitments on Israel’s side, as long as the understanding was that Egypt would guarantee Hamas’s behavior.  That was the prize Morsi sought.

Now he has started clearing the way to make good use of that prize.  Morsi is on the move.  He is moving very quickly to consolidate power, and position Egypt as a force to be reckoned with in the “race to Jerusalem.”  No longer a sleepy, despotic backwater, Egypt is now ready to play on the same field as Iran and Turkey.  We can expect Morsi to play off Turkey and Iran, remaining on good terms with both as he will seek to do with the US and Europe.  It won’t be time for a “break” with anyone until Morsi has acquired an advantageous position for inducing the fall of Jerusalem – the denouement sought eagerly by the Muslim Brotherhood, and hollered about often by Morsi himself.

In the near future, Morsi may well be able to keep Hamas in check in Gaza, a condition that might make some Israelis and Americans complacent about the turn of events.  I think we’ll know in the next month whether Hamas and Iran will try to restore the status quo ante, by recovering strategic independence from Egypt.  If they wait longer than that, their opportunity will have passed them by.  My guess is that they won’t make the attempt, however, and that Morsi has established himself as a new fact of the geopolitical landscape.

This will not have the effect of making him more moderate or conventional.  It can be said, meanwhile, that his ascent could not have happened, and certainly not so quickly, without the assistance of the United States.  At each step along the way, the US could have shown the kinds of useful leadership that we simply have not shown since the beginning of the Arab Spring.

Part of having regional partnerships is caring what happens to your partners, and besides Israel, the US had longstanding ties with Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Bahrain, Tunisia, and Morocco, and newer but very productive relationships with Iraq, Qatar, UAE, and Oman.  Until Morsi was elected this summer, there was no inevitability about a despotic Islamist tendency from the Arab Spring.  If we date it to June 2009, however, with the Green Revolution in Iran, the Obama administration’s record of untimely passivity regarding both human rights and geopolitical outcomes goes back three and a half years.  Morsi now has no reason to suppose that American objections to his power grab will matter.

Saudi Arabia has a lot to think about.  The Middle East already sees that the Palestinian statehood bid is an outdated gambit.  The players are out of position: Fatah, with its US and European money and long ties to Saudi Arabia, is not the right scion of Islamism to have in charge of the West Bank.  Its whole enterprise is a relic of a different time.  Fatah, like Hamas, will have to adapt to the new reality.  But can the Saudis adapt?  And Jordan?

I don’t think Mahmoud Abbas wants to be Morsi’s boy.  But although Abbas’s patrons haven’t dropped him, their patronage suddenly matters a lot less.  This was inevitable when Obama was reelected; that it has happened so soon is the point of interest.  Benjamin Netanyahu may have been under pressure from the US when he accepted the ceasefire, and may have seen the need for a time-out to regroup.  But what they’re regrouping for on the other side of the fence is a game-changer.  Next time, it won’t be “Cast Lead Part II.”  There’s a new Pharoah in town, and he’s on the move.

J.E. Dyer’s articles have appeared at Hot Air, Commentary’s “contentions,Patheos, The Daily Caller, The Jewish Press, and The Weekly Standard online.

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32 thoughts on “There’s a new Pharoah in town”

  1. — ” So, those of us who said Morsi was an Islamist extremist who would quickly reestablish authoritarianism in Egypt – with a sharia flavor – were right. “–

    you’re not right as it ain’t established.

    someone says that he’s gonna kill you and then punches you in the eye don’t mean that he’s proven correct and that you’re dead, Kid.

    1. So, just to be clear fuster, you continue to dispute that it’s a proven, that Morsi is an Islamist extremist, who would quickly reestablish authoritarianism in Egypt?

      So, even though they repeatedly say they want to kill you, until someone does ‘kill you’… it’s not a ‘proved’ that they want to kill you?

        1. Almost clear enough fuster. So arbitrarily announcing that his decisions are not subject to dispute or even review by the judiciary… isn’t in your view ‘trying’ to establish authoritarianism?

          Please, put the crack pipe down and come back when your mind clears…

          1. sorry, GB… that really WASN’T clear enough. I garbled it.

            What I meant to say is that he IS trying, but hasn’t yet succeeded.

            (perhaps I should at least go clean my crack pipe.)

            1. OK, that’s better. I’m have to agree that as long as the protest’s continue, Morsi hasn’t fully succeeded. And I’ll also admit that if Morsi is forced to back down, IMO highly unlikely, that he’s either premature in this move and/or that the democracy movement is stronger than I had credited. Time will tell as always.

  2. Appreciate your analysis on this. The struggles and recurring failures of non-JudeoChristian cultures in moving from strongman rule to genuinely pluralistic governments on either the American or Parliamentary basis are staring the world in the face. Not something most of the world wants to own up to.

  3. “Those who said Morsi was a moderate were wrong.”
    As evidenced above, don’t expect the intellectual honesty to acknowledge that, even when ‘proven’.

    “Hamas is a terrorist group whose independence of him is an inconvenience for Morsi. Hamas is the finger of Iran in the Levantine “pie” situated on Morsi’s northeastern border. Hamas lies between Morsi and Jerusalem. Morsi is not going to “work with” Hamas; he is going to give Hamas the choice to work with him, or be rendered insignificant.”

    Just to be clear, Hamas’ ideological roots lie with the Muslim Brotherhood, not with Iran’s Shia mullahs. During Mubarak’s ‘reign’, Hamas turned to Iran for logistical support, which gave Iran significant influence with Hamas. Now that Morsi and the Brotherhood are establishing total control of Egypt, they naturally want to reestablish full influence over Hamas.

    Morsi would certainly prefer that Hamas work with him but Hamas’ cooperation is not of critical importance to his goals. Hamas can neither defeat Israel nor even play a decisive role in Israel’s destruction.

    I agree that Morsi does not want to alienate Iran. IMO, Egypt cannot defeat Israel by itself. He not only needs allies but needs to coordinate his attack upon Israel with Iran. From Morsi’s POV, the ideal scenario would have Iran striking Tel Aviv with a nuclear terrorist attack and Egypt immediately launching an invasion of Israel to deliver the coup de gras. Seizing Jerusalem, destroying what remains of Israel and declaring the formation of the Caliphate with Jerusalem as its capital.

    Complicating the lasting establishment of a new, nuclear armed Caliphate is the necessity of Iran and Turkey being included in the leadership of that Caliphate. The U.N. would act as a satisfactory template with a ‘rotating Caliph’ and a ‘security council’ of the major Muslim nations, with individual members of that council having veto power. Just as with Russia and China and the West, that format allows for ‘cooperation’ between ideologically opposed members. Shia and Sunni could easily emulate that format.

    1. If Palestinian statehood is an “outdated gambit” what’s that make the formation of a caliphate?

      1. The dream of forming a new Caliphate is a primary strategic goal for radical Islamists. Opticon has pointed out that the new meme in the ME is the rise of Islamist nation states. Morsi certainly subscribes to that vision as witness the Egyptian cleric who launched Morsi’s presidential bid saying so;

        1. Islamist nation-states and a re-established Caliphate are mutually exclusive. The Caliphate as it once existed was a universalist entity without geographical borders, the umma were its subjects no matter their physical location. Muslims face a dichotomy, embrace Islam or the nation-state. Naturally, the nation-state, even in its middle-eastern form, can’t allow any competition for sovereignty. Those that have taken over the individual Arab states, like Assad or Hussein and now Morsi, attempt to incorporate Islam into their ruling structure in a subservient role, especially earning the allegiance of fundamentalists with a steady diet of Jew hatred. This in no way indicates a pan-Arab movement on the part of individual governments, the rulers of which, and their subjects, are reluctant to give up their own privileges. Others can talk Caliphate all they want, its rebirth in any effective form is impossible.

          1. I assume it’s an updated notion of the Caliphate that they had in mind, taking account of, and catering to, those “outdated Western notions” of the nation-state/self-determination,, and utilizing the concept for their own benefit.

            Radical Islam works from within.

          2. Yes, prior Caliphates were universalist, with no internal borders but they did have external borders. As previously constructed, a Caliphate and nation states are mutually exclusive. The key concept is “as previously constructed”. There is no inherent reason however, why a new form of Caliphate with internal borders cannot be formed.

            Your argument that a nation-state in a middle-eastern form, couldn’t allow any competition for sovereignty and would attempt to incorporate Islam into their ruling structure in a subservient role ignores empirical evidence that disproves that assertion.

            Iran is a nation state with Islam firmly in charge.

            National sovereignty doesn’t preclude cooperation and allegiances among nation states, as NATO, among other examples, demonstrates. There’s no reason why an Islamist coalition of nation states cannot form an alliance using NATO and the UN (as previously mentioned) as a template for a new, modern formulation of a 21st century Caliphate.

            Ah, the old ‘its impossible’ declaration…

            1. Where were those external borders? Was there in fact an identifiable line between dar es salaam and dar al harb?

              A supra-national alliance of Arab states in the manner of NATO would hardly be a return to any form of caliphate and the fact that a coven of theocratic thugs runs Iran is no evidence of it. Perhaps you can call a modern alliance of Islamic states a caliphate, but since it wouldn’t resemble the historic caliphate, maybe a different term is required.

              1. The New and Improved Caliphate.
                Ready to explode on the scene. Improved taste and texture. Our thoughts are your thoughts. Leading the 21st Century home to the 7th. Join today and get a free decoder ring.

  4. The caliphate isn’t intended to have nation-state borders, but to set up the caliphate, you need armed nation-states. The most recently establised caliphate was the Ottoman version, which came into being through war between armed nation-states. Its history with Europe and much of Asia was one of recurring armed nation-state war.

    The nation-state is still the seat of armed power in the modern world. Today’s Islamists will be state-Islamists as long as they have to be. It is unwise in the extreme to discount the Islamist state as a wielder of power. The Islamist state IS the means by which eschatologically-minded Islamists see Jerusalem being conquered and the global caliphate established.

    1. it also ain’t too wise to treat the establishment of any new Caliphate as any more likely to occur than the likelihood that Israel will extend from the Med to the Gulf

      1. Keeping that head firmly planted where “the sun don’t shine’…

        Well I have to give you an ‘A’ for consistency but an ‘F’ for ‘perverse obstinacy’, otherwise known as pigheadedness.

      2. PS: rhetorical question; you really do favor that ‘slow boiling in the pot’ as your preferred manner of execution don’t you…

        By the time your denial collapses, it will be too late to jump from the pot. That is your perfect right of course, as “The first principle of freedom is the right to go to hell in your own handbasket.” R. Heinlein.

        It’s your insistence upon voting to hamstring the rest of us that troubles me.

        1. I guess I’m just perverse, but simply don’t see any way that they expand all the way and take over both sides of the Gulf……

          would be interesting if they did and ended the controversy as to whether it ‘s the “Persian Gulf” or “Arabian Gulf”….. Gulf of Abraham sounds good.

          1. [I] “simply don’t see any way that they expand all the way and take over both sides of the Gulf”

            Perhaps therein lies your difficulty, I’m not suggesting that Iran will take over Saudi Arabia. I’m suggesting that Islamic radicalism is going to take over both sides of the gulf and beyond.

            Consider what the Saudi regime can and does offer; continuation of the status quo. A persuasive argument for only a few. Jihadist radicals, realistically or not, offer empire, conquest, the chance for greatly increased status, and eventually, lots of virgins…

            They are offering, again realistically or not, the jihadist version of ‘manifest destiny’ a powerfully attractive vision for the young and the middle east is filled with the young, the poor and the uneducated.

            The ‘historical’ momentum is entirely with the jihadists.

                  1. Israel? Not only does Israel not have the desire, they also lack the capacity to take over either side of the gulf, much less both sides. This is nonsensical fuster. You might as well propose that Lithuania has designs on the gulf.

  5. On a more serious note; Egypt’s high court has surrendered to the brotherhood.

    Islamist protest shuts down Egypt’s top court

    “(Reuters) – Protests by Islamists allied to President Mohamed Mursi forced Egypt’s highest court to adjourn its work indefinitely on Sunday, intensifying a conflict between some of the country’s top judges and the head of state.

    The Supreme Constitutional Court said it would not convene until its judges could operate without “psychological and material pressure”, saying protesters had stopped the judges from reaching the building.”

    Just a very few steps left before Mursi and the Brotherhood turn Egypt into a Sunni version of Iran. Only a military coup has any chance to stop it, though even that would be problematic, as there’s no reason to think that the lower echelon’s of Egypt’s military are less Islamic and more secular than Egypt’s population. 84% of whom favor the death penalty for apostasy…

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