In America, the story amid all the recent tumult in the Middle East of Egypt’s people rising up to thrust Hosni Mubarak from power was broadly reported as a wonderful, feel-good story. Western romantics view the revolt as a garden-variety democratic uprising led by freedom-seekers yearning for modernity.
President Barack Obama described the scenes of jubilation many observed on television screens on February 11 this way: “We saw mothers and fathers carrying their children on their shoulders to show them what true freedom might look like. We saw a young Egyptian say, ‘For the first time in my life, I really count. My voice is heard. Even though I’m only one person, this is the way real democracy works.’ We saw protesters chant ‘Selmiyya, selmiyya’—‘We are peaceful’—again and again. We saw a military that would not fire bullets at the people they were sworn to protect. And we saw doctors and nurses rushing into the streets to care for those who were wounded, volunteers checking protesters to ensure that they were unarmed. We saw people of faith praying together and chanting—‘Muslims, Christians, We are one.’”
This, they say, is good for the Middle East. It’s good for America.
“What we’ve seen so far is positive,” President Obama insisted at a press conference a few days after Mubarak resigned. “I think history will end up recording that at every juncture in the situation in Egypt that we were on the right side of history” (emphasis mine throughout). He even claimed some of the credit for Mubarak’s expulsion, saying one reason for the “peaceful” transition was America’s consistent support for the anti-regime movement!
The mainstream view would have you see Egypt as a country hungry for freedom and peace after a generation of brutality under the boot heel of a dictator. But that view ignores several crucial facts both of history and of current reality in that country.
The reality is far different—and far more revealing about what to expect in Egypt and throughout the region in the time ahead.
After a terrorist organization with links to the Muslim Brotherhood assassinated Egyptian President Anwar Sadat in October 1981, a startled world watched with wonder. How will this sudden, unexpected jolt impact world events? Will Sadat’s relatively unknown successor continue the pursuit of peace in the Middle East?
What few people realized at the time was that Hosni Mubarak had been carefully groomed to follow in the steps of his predecessor.
Anwar Sadat recruited Mubarak to be his vice president in April 1975, two years after the general had won praise for drawing up a successful air campaign that was used against Israel during the Yom Kippur War.
“I need a vice president who will share with me state responsibilities at all levels,” Sadat told Mubarak. Then, as if sensing his newfound devotion to peace might endanger his life, Sadat intoned, “No one can foresee the future, and state secrets must not be known by one person alone.”
For the next six years, President Sadat gradually handed Mubarak the day-to-day responsibilities of running Egypt’s government. This allowed Sadat to focus more of his attention on foreign policy—in particular, the Middle East peace process.
That’s not to say Mubarak was left out of the loop when it came to foreign affairs. Whenever possible, during the countless discussions Sadat had with foreign dignitaries, Mubarak could be seen sitting nearby, quietly taking notes. When circumstances prevented him from attending high-level diplomatic meetings, he would be thoroughly briefed by the president himself.
“There was nothing he did or said that I did not know,” Mubarak related about Sadat. “I have learned a great deal from him.”
And when President Sadat paid with his life for his courageous stand against religious extremism and his commitment to making peace with Israel, Mubarak vowed to stay the course, however unpopular that might be in the Arab world. In response to the assassination, for example, Mubarak cracked down hard on the religious extremism. He arrested more than 350 radical Islamists for their involvement in the assassination plot.
At Sadat’s funeral, Mubarak boldly stated, “I declare that we will honor all international charters, treaties and commitments which Egypt has concluded. Our hands will not cease to push the wheel of peace in pursuance of the mission of a departed leader.”
During an exchange with a reporter from Israel, Mubarak advised him to go and tell the people of Israel, “Don’t worry.”
Two years earlier, Anwar Sadat became the first Arab leader to officially recognize the State of Israel. It was Sadat who made the historic peace pact with Israel. But it was Mubarak who honored that agreement and maintained the peace for three decades.
Is it any wonder why so many Israelis hold Hosni Mubarak in such high regard? Mubarak is the primary reason Israel has cut military spending and reduced its troop presence along the Egyptian border—even as Egypt’s militarily establishment has grown to be one of the strongest in the Arab world.
None of this is intended to whitewash Mubarak’s flaws. He did rule with an iron fist. His administration was corrupt. But he was not Saddam Hussein or Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. He never declared jihad against Israel or the United States. To the contrary—this strong man of Egypt honored Sadat’s promise and maintained a cold peace with the State of Israel for 30 years!
During that same time, Egypt has been America’s most important and strategically significant ally throughout the Arab world.
Yet, the moment Mubarak’s regime started to crumble, the Obama administration wasted little time in hanging him out to dry.
In fact, for several years now the United States has been actively working to undermine Mubarak’s authoritarian regime.
In early 2005, President George W. Bush said the United States would no longer “tolerate oppression for the sake of stability.” Later that year, in Cairo, then Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice explained how Bush’s freedom agenda applied to Egypt. “The Egyptian government must fulfill the promise it has made to its people—and to the entire world—by giving its citizens the freedom to choose,” Rice demanded.
So, under heavy pressure from the U.S., Mubarak loosened restraints on parliamentary elections. That ended up clearing the way for the Muslim Brotherhood to capture nearly 20 percent of the seats.
The following year, Bush’s freedom agenda was dealt another massive blow when free elections enabled Hamas to seize control of Gaza.
After that, the Bush administration wised up a bit. It stopped complaining about Mubarak’s authoritarianism and Egypt’s human rights violations and Mubarak, in turn, clamped down hard on the Muslim Brotherhood.
President Obama’s anti-colonial agenda has since breathed invigorating life into the Brotherhood. More than that, even, it has actively worked to empower and embolden the movement. In early 2009, for example, when President Mubarak was warning U.S. diplomats about the Iranian “cancer” that was spreading throughout the Middle East, President Obama was hosting meetings with the Muslim Brotherhood at the White House.
In June of 2009, when President Obama delivered his message to the Islamic world in front of a Cairo audience packed with members of the Brotherhood, he said Iran had every right to develop nuclear power.
A few days after the Cairo speech, tens of thousands of angry Iranians poured into the streets of Tehran demanding democratic freedoms after the mullahs had rigged the election in favor of Ahmadinejad. President Obama withstood heated criticism for not supporting a popular protest that was brutally crushed by an Islamic theocracy. He excused American neutrality by saying, “It’s not productive, given the history of U.S.-Iranian relations, to be seen as meddling.”
But with the pro-American government in Egypt, America started meddling at the first sign of trouble for Mubarak. When demonstrations exploded in Cairo, President Obama made it clear he sided with the anti-Mubarak protesters on the street. He demanded an immediate “orderly transition” of government.
At the same time, the White House foreign-policy experts decided to consider engaging the Muslim Brotherhood. White House spokesman Robert Gibbs told reporters on January 31 that Egypt’s new government “has to include a whole host of important nonsecular actors that give Egypt a strong chance to continue to be [a] stable and reliable partner.” It was the first time the Obama administration had publicly declared its support for the Muslim Brotherhood to play a role in a reformed Egyptian government.
Mubarak agreed not to seek reelection in September elections. President Obama responded by giving a public speech insisting that the transition “must begin now.”
“You don’t understand the Egyptian culture and what would happen if I step down now,” Mubarak responded in an interview with abc. He feared it would result in a chaotic scene that would enable the Muslim Brotherhood to grab hold of power.
Mubarak then defended his legacy by pointing to his loyal service as president of Egypt. And no matter what one thinks about the way he ruled, it is hard to dismiss the positive fruits of his reign. In the three decades Mubarak ruled over the Arab world’s most populous state—a nation in which most Egyptians have an unfavorable view of America and would welcome an Islamic influence over the government—Mubarak managed to suppress religious extremism domestically while advancing the interests of the U.S. abroad. During that same time, he maintained peace with Israel, just as he vowed to do after Sadat was murdered.
And for all this, the United States says thank you by casually tossing him aside in favor of a populist uprising that is already being hijacked by radical Islam.
This is a play-by-play repeat of what happened during the Islamic Revolution in 1979. As the Trumpet has been saying for nearly 20 years, this is leading to an Islamist Egypt.
In the days that followed Mubarak’s resignation, a massive wave of instability and violence swept across North Africa and the Middle East. Deadly clashes erupted in Iran, Libya, Yemen and Bahrain. In Lebanon, Hassan Nasrallah called on Hezbollah terrorists to prepare for invading the Galilee in northern Israel. In the Sinai Peninsula, Bedouin gangs emboldened by the chaos in Cairo escalated attacks against police forces, prompting Israel to call upon Egypt’s military to rein in the violence.
Iran sent two naval vessels through the Suez Canal. This “clear provocation,” to use the words of Israel’s foreign minister, raised fears in Jerusalem that Iran is maneuvering to capitalize on the instability in Egypt. Iran, by the way, hasn’t had a naval presence in the Mediterranean Sea since the Islamic Revolution toppled the shah’s regime in 1979.
Then there is Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, which views itself as the guardian of true Islam. Throughout the Egyptian crisis, the Brotherhood kept quiet as its Western apologists defended the movement, saying it was not extremist or violent and that there was no connection between the organization and Iran or al Qaeda or the Taliban, and so on. The Washington Post even said the Brotherhood received its inspiration from the ymca! And then there was the preposterous claim made by America’s director of national intelligence—that the Egyptian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood was “largely secular.”
Once Mubarak was out of the way, the Brotherhood’s true colors quickly resurfaced.
Four days after Mubarak’s resignation, Der Spiegel published an exposé on Yusuf al-Qaradawi, the “father figure” of the Muslim Brotherhood. Back in 2002, the Brotherhood asked Qaradawi to be its leader, but he turned down the offer because of its limitations. He wanted to concentrate instead on mobilizing a “United Muslim Nations.”
The charismatic Qaradawi, an Egyptian by birth, is one of the most popular Muslim clerics in the Middle East. He’s written at least 100 books and his weekly television program is viewed by 60 million Muslims on Al-Jazeera. He hates Jews and has asked Allah to kill “every last one” of them. In a sermon on Al-Jazeera tv in 2009, he said, “Throughout history, Allah has imposed upon the [Jews] people who would punish them for their corruption. The last punishment was carried out by Hitler. By means of all the things he did to them—even though they exaggerated this issue—he managed to put them in their place. This was divine punishment for them. Allah willing, the next time will be at the hand of the believers.”
Since 1981, Mubarak had banned Qaradawi from preaching in Egypt. During his exile, Qaradawi was based in Qatar. But just one week after Mubarak stepped down, Qaradawi made his triumphant return to Egypt. Incredibly, he received a military escort to Cairo’s Tahrir Square—the focal point of the anti-government uprising—in order to deliver a Friday prayer sermon.
President Obama told Fox News on February 6 that the United States shouldn’t worry about the Muslim Brotherhood. He said the Brotherhood doesn’t have a majority of support in Egypt. But this doesn’t square with a Pew Research Center poll conducted just last year. According to the survey, 95 percent of Egyptians want religion to play a larger role in politics, 84 percent favor the death penalty for people who abandon the Muslim faith, and 54 percent believe suicide bombings aimed at civilians can be justified!
The Obama administration and its allies in the media have it exactly backward. Egyptians are not seeking a Western-style democracy. They are revolting against it. They want an Islamic theocracy.
Mubarak understood this, which is why he wanted to stay in office long enough to have a hand in setting up Egypt’s new government. He reportedly said this on the eve of his resignation: “They may be talking about democracy, but … the result will be extremism and radical Islam.”
Sure enough, just seven days after Mubarak fled Cairo for Sharm el-Sheik, Egypt celebrated the homecoming of a wildly popular, radical extremist who prays for the extermination of Jews, approves of wife-beating and supports suicide bombings that target defenseless civilians.
It boggles the mind to think that just at the beginning of this year, Egypt was seen as a bastion of strength and stability in a region known for its restiveness and division.
It’s amazing how fast prophetic events are now unfolding in the Middle East.
The Perilous Pursuit of Peace
When Anwar Sadat signed a peace treaty with Israel in 1979, the Arab world was incensed. Egyptian Islamists began scheming to kill him and overthrow his government. When their plot was discovered in February 1981, Sadat ordered a crackdown that jailed over 1,500 people. But a jihadist cell within the military remained, and in October of that year, during a military parade, a passing truck unloaded its soldiers, who greeted their president with grenades and assault rifle fire. Sadat’s commitment to peace cost him his life.
Hosni Mubarak picked up Sadat’s mantle and took the same bold, unpopular stand for peace with Israel.
Herbert W. Armstrong knew where this was headed long before the Trumpet came along. He actually met with Mubarak on Nov. 21, 1981, just six weeks after Sadat’s assassination. During their 20-minute meeting, Mubarak reiterated his promise to finish what Sadat had started. “We want peace,” he said to Mr. Armstrong—“at least to live in a very peaceful atmosphere with all of our neighbors around us. And we are going to do our best in this direction. I’m going to do the maximum.”
Mr. Armstrong then praised Mubarak for his sincere attempt to continue where Sadat left off. “You’re setting a wonderful example,” Mr. Armstrong said. But he then explained how utterly incapable man is at making peace. Only by the intervention of God Himself, Mr. Armstrong continued, would there ever be lasting peace.
The Egyptian president actually agreed with Mr. Armstrong! Mubarak said, “I think peace will prevail sooner or later, whether we like it or we don’t like it.”
Yes indeed! Even in this age of man, we are often reminded of how human nature is generally hostile to what it takes to achieve any kind of peace. Anwar Sadat, for example, paid with his own blood for a peace agreement Mr. Armstrong knew would be short-lived.
This is why, one week after he met with Egypt’s new president in 1981, Mr. Armstrong wrote this in a letter to Plain Truth subscribers: “The new President Mubarak assured me he intends to continue President Sadat’s efforts for Middle East peace, and he may be sealing his own fate in so doing.”
For three decades, that man just about single-handedly held Egypt’s forces of religious extremism and anti-Israelism in check. Now—as Mr. Armstrong believed could well happen—those forces have driven him from office.
Time will soon show: Egypt, the Middle East, and the world are far more perilous for it. ▪