Parallel situations — albeit based on the very intense Sunni-Shia Islamist battle — are creating splits in Lebanon and increased Sunni Muslim antagonism against Hizballah and Iran generally because the latter back the current regime in Syria. Some time ago, Egypt also arrested a number of alleged Hizballah agents in Cairo, accusing that group of planning attacks on Egypt. (For more on the Sunni-Shia battle among Islamists see here.)
A couple of years ago I wrote an article saying that while the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood hated al-Qaeda and saw it as a competitor, the two groups had a lot of parallel ideas. Of course, they don’t agree on a strategy of direct attacks on the United States. The official Brotherhood website, partly misreading my point, wrote a very polite critique of my article trying to distance itself from al-Qaeda.
The response was restrained back then, since it was on the English-language propaganda site trying to convince the West that the Brotherhood was moderate. But when you are trying to put down the non-Islamist opposition and land an almost $6 billion IMF loan, it’s easy to throw out a few soothing words. Al-Qaeda attacks on Egypt and Israel make that game more difficult.
In Egypt now, there are four Islamist parties: the Brotherhood, Salafists willing to work with the Brotherhood, Salafists critical that the Brotherhood isn’t going fast enough, and “moderate” Islamists. Of course, all of them are pushing in the same direction and will cooperate much of the time. A lot of the debate is simply over how fast to convert Egypt into a radical, repressive Sharia state. But at least it makes their task harder.
All of these maneuvers are important and undercut the Islamist revolutionary movement. With Western policy being so confused, ineffective, and ignorant, the divisions among enemies may be the best thing going.