The Muslim Brotherhood ascends
From Tunisia to Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood is emerging as the winner of the Arab Spring. There are differences, of course, between the parties that make up this network taking over the Sunni world. The Brotherhood in Tunisia, for example, is far more liberal than its counterpart in Egypt and certainly nothing like its counterpart in Syria, which has been radicalized due to decades of oppression and the current “jihad” against the Bashar al-Assad regime.
The fact, however, is that there is increasing cross-border solidarity between the parties and movements that fit into this mold as a result of the vast network that has existed for years and is now coming into its own. Neither can Turkey under the Justice and Development Party (AKP) be considered apart from this.
As matters stand, Turkish sympathies under the AKP lie very visibly with Sunni Hamas, for example, and less with the Shiite Lebanese Hezbollah, and with the Sunnis in Syria as opposed to the remaining portion of the population made up of Alawites and Christians.
It is also noteworthy that Turkey is far more active where the oppression is against Sunni elements, even if they happen to be as far away as Myanmar, than it is, for example, with the fate of oppressed Shiite elements, say in Bahrain or Saudi Arabia.
The irony for Western Islamophobes is that the establishment in the West, and most notably the United States, is also siding with the Sunni regimes of the Middle East, regardless of terrorism from radical Sunni elements such as al-Qaeda or the Taliban.
The military hardware Washington supplies to the Sunni regimes of the Gulf, despite their undemocratic nature and disrespect for human rights, is a case in point. Saudi Arabia and Qatar today are no more than U.S. satellites, and Turkey is also very much within the American fold in this respect.
One can assume that the next stage will see Washington and the various entities going under the banner of the muslim Brotherhood arriving at a modus vivendi as they discover overlapping interests. One overlapping interest has already emerged due to the ongoing cold war in the Middle East along sectarian lines.
It is noteworthy that U.S.-armed Saudi Arabia represents one pole in this cold war while Iran, Washington’s nemesis, represents the other. Recent developments leading to strains between Ankara and Tehran, on the other hand, show where Turkey fits in as far this divide is concerned. The performance by Egypt’s recently elected president, Mohamed Morsi, in Tehran last week, during the Non-Aligned Movement summit, has also reinforced the Sunni side of the equation. Washington initially disapproved of Morsi’s visit, fearing that it would provide grist to the mill of anti-American radical Islamists.
Morsi’s castigation in Tehran of the al-Assad regime must nevertheless have come as a pleasant surprise for U.S. officials, especially because it shocked and embarrassed the host nation Iran, which remains a key ally of the al-Assad regime.
Many in the West must now be wondering what the consolidation of power by the Islamic Brotherhood across the Middle East and North Africa will mean in the long run. The simple fact is that these parties have to also face the economic and political realities that any government which is accountable to the people, whose economic and social welfare it has a responsibility toward, has to face.
After all, people in the Middle East rose up mainly against political oppression and economic deprivation. Then there are the political realities that govern the world and from which no muslim Brotherhood party in government is exempt. These include things like the national interest, security and various strategic considerations along political and economic lines.
For example, the American-educated Morsi will be visiting Washington soon where he will undoubtedly have to be pragmatic due to such realities given Egypt’s continuing financial dependence on the U.S. and the need to maintain peace with Israel.
In fact, all of the key established regimes in the region that fit into the Sunni muslim Brotherhood mold are dependent on their ties with the West, a fact they cannot overlook.
This does not alter the fact, however, that the Muslim Brotherhood is emerging as the real winner of the Arab Spring.