By Peter Probst
While former-Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak recently resigned in the face of two-week long protests from the Egyptian people, the ramifications from this dramatic event are just beginning to be felt. Following are some predictions on what we may expect in the region.
– Mubarak will shortly leave Sharm El Sheikh and find asylum in Saudi Arabia.
– The constitution will be quickly amended or re-written and a transition government formed. The three centers of power will be the Military, the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) and an inchoate group of parties representing the “democratic forces.” This will essentially be a “Kerensky Government.”
– The “democratic” parties will rapidly be marginalized, and the Brotherhood, together with sympathetic parties (essentially MB fronts), will form a working majority under Brotherhood discipline.
– The MB will use this time to reconstitute itself along its more militant/traditional lines. Those factions that we have assessed as “more moderate” will return to the fold (if they ever really left), and the Brotherhood will inexorably begin to push for the Islamization of Egyptian society – essentially “Salami tactics.”
– The key, as always, will be the military and how much they will tolerate. They will make a variety of accommodations with the MB, but when they feel the MB and allied Islamists have crossed their “Red Line,” they will be sorely disappointed with the outcome.
– I have no information as to the degree of MB penetration within the military establishment. However, I worry most about the junior officers, non-coms and enlisted. I suspect we have little information as to their true attitudes and allegiances. The Senior Officer Corps will seek to preserve their positions of power and privilege but will ultimately crumble. They will find their orders are no longer being obeyed, and like Mubarak, will be consigned to the dust bin of history.
– The Peace Treaty with Israel will not immediately be abrogated but constraints on Palestinian terrorists, such as their use of tunnels to supply Gaza, will not be enforced and then lifted.
– I think there is a good chance that within three years Egypt will be an Islamist state.
– Algeria may be next in the docket and I estimate events (like those in Cairo) will escalate and perhaps peak within a month. Essentially the same pattern. Algeria fought a long and extremely bloody war with the Islamists, and I believe current events have breathed new life into the movement.
– They will take heart and the most radical factions within Hamas will fully dominate– eliminating the accomodationists. (Another victory for Wikileaks.)
– Hamas and like groups will be emboldened, and as Egypt slips into Islamist hands, they will ratchet up a campaign against Israel – not only rocket attacks but fearsome attacks against Israeli interests and citizens in the region, Europe, Africa and the Americas.
The future here is less clear. The MB has lost considerable power in recent years, but I would not be surprised if there were a rapid reversal of fortune. And then, of course, there are the estimated 4.7 million Palestinian refugees in the Kingdom. From what I understand, the Security Services are excellent, and the King is loved and respected, trying desperately to stay ahead of the power curve. This many not be sufficient.
In 1982, Islamists in the city of Hama, led by the Muslim Brotherhood, fomented an uprising that was brutally repressed. Although there are no firm figures, an estimated 20,000 were killed. The Syrian government initially responded with air raids, followed by prolongued and incessant artillery assault, and then with brutal house-to-house fighting in which men, women, and children were dragged from their homes and indiscriminately murdered. It was a slaughter house. The city was leveled, and the backbone of the uprising was broken.
If the Brothers begin to move, I would put my money on a repeat. Hama II: 2011.
The GOP will curtail its support of our counter-terror campaigns. It will seek to mend fences with the variety of Islamist groups that ISI over the years has spawned, and the government will increase its militant stance against India. When you stop to consider the Pakistani nuclear arsenal in the hands of Islamists, it’s “Katie bar the door!”
Israel is between a rock and a hard place, particularly if Jordan goes the way of Egypt. A major issue will be the extent of real U.S. support, should Islamization and revolution sweep the region. There is a risk that we may seek to placate the Islamists at the expense of the Jewish state. A lot will depend on the new conservative Congress, but many in the Tea Party movement are also isolationist. It’s going to be tumultuous times for the region, our friends and allies. Our national security interests will be increasingly at risk and our resolve tested.
Iran will make hay, exploit the chaos, obtain its long sought nuclear capability much more rapidly than revised USG/Israeli estimates predict, and consolidate its position to become the dominant player in the region.
Peter Probst has over 30 years experience in combating terrorism with CIA and the Office of the Secretary of Defense. He is a frequently featured speaker at business forums and international security conferences, and has served as a consultant to Fortune 100 firms. He also co-authored a provocative major study,”Terror-2000,” that is widely credited seven years before 9/11 with predicting the attacks on the Pentagon and World Trade Center using hijacked passenger aircraft.