Hezbollah’s Success Hurts Egypt’s Mubarak
Egypt’s president, already at odds with his people as popular support among Egyptians for Islamist radicalism grows, was thrown an “unwelcome surprise” by Hezbollah’s success against Israel earlier this summer, according to the Jamestown Foundation’s Global Terrorism Analysis (September 6).
The Muslim Brotherhood, a long-time radical Islamist group based in Egypt that has enjoyed resurging support in recent years, was among the supporters that staged public demonstrations supporting Hezbollah’s campaign against Israel. In Egyptian mosques, worshipers heard sermons with messages like “God give victory to Hezbollah, and inflict defeat on the Jews.”
At the beginning of the Israeli-Hezbollah war, Mubarak was one of several Arab leaders who condemned Hezbollah’s actions. Author Andrew McGregor noted, however, that as the chorus of popular support grew larger and more passionate, Mubarak backed off: “As the battle in Lebanon continued, the government’s attitude toward Hezbollah, deeply at odds with popular opinion, began to change. Hezbollah was recognized as an integral part of the Lebanese social and political structure and the victim of a ‘disproportionate response’ by Israel. By early August, Mubarak was denouncing Israel’s ‘deluded’ actions in Lebanon and the ‘failed’ Middle East policies of the United States” (ibid.).
McGregor characterized the support among Egyptians for the Lebanese-based, Iran-supported terrorist group this way: “Popular Egyptian support for Hezbollah would be a given, except for the traditional Sunni scorn for Shiite Islam. … [B]ut Arab nationalism is also a potent force in Egypt, and the stubborn resistance offered by Hezbollah’s small Shiite guerrilla force gained support from large parts of the population.”
The Muslim Brotherhood’s solidarity with Hezbollah was clear from the beginning of the conflict, with its leader, Muhammad Mahdi Akef, announcing that it was “prepared to recruit and send 10,000 members to combat Israel, hearkening back to 1947-48 when guerrilla formations of Egyptian Muslim Brothers fought in the front lines against Israel.”
But perhaps the most chilling revelation in the Jamestown Foundation report was this: “Akef suggested that the Arab leaders [such as Mubarak] were bigger threats to the Arab world than Israel, and that the Brotherhood had only refrained from killing them because they were Muslims” (emphasis ours).
How long will such “restraint” last, if such radicals consider their secularist Arab leader such an obstacle to radical Islamist goals? Egyptian politics have been rocked before when similar sentiments exploded into violent actions.
Despite being an officially banned organization, the Muslim Brotherhood made notable gains in Egypt’s parliament in the last election and is now the largest opposition bloc in the legislature. Clearly Mubarak feels its hot breath on his neck.
For many years the Trumpet has voiced its expectation that Egypt will end up allying itself with the radical Shiite crescent led by Iran, which sponsors Hezbollah. For this alliance to take place would require an end to the “moderate” politics of Mubarak.
Continue to watch Egypt for more evidence of radicalization, and for an event—perhaps even violent—that marks the end of the present era of relative stability in Egyptian politics and the beginning of a new era, decidedly more extreme.