And Riedel ends by again bringing up the issue of Israel, as if it is the reason for the turmoil and rebellion taking place in Egypt’s streets. Riedel knows, as he writes, that the MB fought Israel in 1948, “its Palestinian branch was the nucleus for Hamas, and the Brotherhood retains links to the rulers of Gaza.” Also, the MB is “fundamentally opposed to any Egyptian cooperation with Israel.” So what should the U.S. do — abandon the only democracy the Middle East and our most staunch ally for decades?
This, of course, is what we are now going to hear from the “realist” brigade, more and more in the coming days. Riedel implies that the U.S. should change its policy to Israel, but shies away from saying it overtly. For the time being, he only says the U.S. “should not be afraid of the Muslim Brotherhood” and that it is not “inevitably our enemy.”
Fortunately, there are saner voices who understand the threat posed by the MB. Among these is the former NYT columnist and former president of the Council on Foreign Relations, Leslie H. Gelb. As he points out, in what might be read as a direct retort to Riedel (and the Obama administration), while the protesters seem to be composed of many elements of the population, few really know who composes the crowds, and so far, judgments have been made on the interviews of a few people.
As for ElBaradei, Gelb notes he has little of a constituency within Egypt, and seems instead to be the chosen figure by American pundits and Obama administration advisors. As for the MB, Gelb warns, “they should give us great pause” and “would be calamitous for U.S. security.” Its defenders do not challenge that, but merely ignore the point, arguing that we can live with the Brotherhood. But in fact, Gelb says, it is a big deal. He writes:
The MB supports Hamas and other terrorist groups, makes friendly noises to Iranian dictators and torturers, would be uncertain landlords of the critical Suez Canal, and opposes the Egyptian-Israeli agreement of 1979, widely regarded as the foundation of peace in the Mideast. Above all, the MB would endanger counterterrorism efforts in the region and worldwide.
People like Riedel and those who echo him take the protestations of the MB at face value. Like Yasser Arafat, their spokesmen know well what to say to gullible Westerners who wish to be bamboozled into finding a reason to support them. They know how to make nice and to sound reasonable. As Gelb humorously notes by quoting what his mother would say to their words, “They would say that, wouldn’t they?” That does not mean we have to accept their claims at face value. One should judge them by their best friends — Hamas and Hezbollah.
To show them trust, to follow the would-be wisdom of Riedel or Richard Falk, is to give credibility to the group that, at present, is the only organized political opposition that is capable of taking power, emulating the route initiated by Lenin and the Bolsheviks in 1917, when they seized power and led to the collapse of the interim moderate socialist government in Russia. If the MB gains control, Gelb writes, “it’s going to be almost impossible for the people to take it back. Just look at Iran.”
Events are moving quickly, and things may take a great turn for the worse. Sudden collapse of the Mubarak regime and the coming to power of the MB in a coalition it dominates would be the worst result, and would threaten to turn the Middle East into chaos for a long time.
Only one thing is clear: Let us avoid counsel from those who urge us to accept the radical Islamists who appear in sheep’s clothing. Listening to the Richard Falks of our own day and age will assure the triumph of the worst possible outcome.