It doesn’t take an unusually perceptive observer to guess the US subsidy to the Egyptian Army of US $1.3 billion each year for the last few years was not given without reason or condition. Up until the demise of the Mubarak government this substantial aid was given for the express purpose of having a moderating force to stop the escalation of violence between Israel and its unfriendly neighbours.
The catch is that only a virtual dictatorship supported and even one controlled by an Army whose existence depended on the US support could retain this uneasy peace. While the Muslim Brotherhood was clearly more moderate than the Salafist alternative, since all the writings of the Brotherhood leaders show an quiet but implacable opposition to Israel, and since a vast majority of both leading parties have articulated a wish to be clear of the Army control, the US will now be questioning if there is any further point to their continued military subsidy unless of course they can continue to manipulate continued control for the army. The alternative of committing to yet another expensive Middle East military adventure with very uncertain outcome is hardly the cause to take into the upcoming US elections.
Clearly Israel’s government is nervous. Why else would they now be building a substantial wall between Egypt and Israel? The Israeli people will not have been comforted by Morsi’s pre-election statement that it was time to restore relationships with Iran, and suggesting dismantling what was left of the Camp David peace accord and the mood of the people was probably captured when the best selling newspaper in Israel Yediot Aharnot announced the election result with the headline “Darkness in Egypt”. Former Israeli Defence minister Benjamin Ben Eliezer was probably speaking the mind of a number of leading politicians when he said “We must seek dialogue with the Islamists, and at the same time be prepared for war.”
Democracy in a country where a vast majority have indicated opposition to the existence of Israel was never going to be a happy US preferred choice for this uneasy relationship, and if the wishes of the majority are to be considered the fact that the preferred option of the Brotherhood version of Sharia law coupled with the fact that the majority of Brotherhood supporters are Sunni does not bode well for either the Shiite minority or the small but significant percentage of Coptic Christians who have already been attacked on a number of occasions.
Certainly there is much rejoicing and jubilation amongst the Morsi supporters at present with their claimed 52% win but with 48% of the population apparently supporting his more extreme opponent, a smooth transition is not guaranteed. Remember for example the Sunni minority in Iraq have made it very difficult for the Shiite majority – and a mere 12% Shiite Alawite minority currently hold a fairly bloody control in Syria.
The election joy is almost certainly premature. There will surely be an attempt by those who have so recently lost power and influence to claw back as much as possible. There is always a touch of “Yes Minister” in the real democracies and at present Field Marshal Mohammed Hussein Tantawi, Chairman of the Supreme Council, the Armed Forces and Defence is still firmly in control, remembering that his Council recently stripped the position of President of all effective rights and the Murshid or Guide of the Brotherhood, Mohammed Badie is still the controlling light of the Brotherhood in which the new President, Dr Mohammed Morsi is strictly a figurehead. Whether or not this will continue to be the case is a moot point. The crowds in Tahrir Square will certainly be enraged if the new president cannot represent them. Just for the record, I am going to predict that at least in the immediate future, the Army will continue to control the situation. Certainly Morsi will be allowed to head the National Defense Council, but by their current constitution a majority on that council will continue to be generals. The Body cartoon the other day in the NZ Herald had a gaunt mummy rising from its sarcophagus labelled “Old Egyptian Regime” , shaking off its bandages – and the mummy saying to the horrified onlookers: “All that time you thought I was was stuffed, I was really only being preserved.”