Will Egypt Have an Iran-Style Revolution?

Guy won the Nobel Prize and a bunch of other awards. So, he makes for a good figurehead.

Hey, Sirleaf-Johnson was a former World Bank technocrat, and she’s done a fine job for Liberia. Major international institutions don’t hire lightweights, and certainly aren’t led by them.

That’s why.

Because he’s the Egyptian version of Kerensky. A liberal internationalist popular among foreigners.

However, he has little support at home.

I’ll be genuinely shocked if he winds up in charge and if he does, I doubt his reign will be too long.

That said, while the Muslim Brotherhood used to be extremely radical, they’ve stopped being that way almost fifteen years ago.

Moreover, comparisons to Iran ignore several key factors.

Probably the most important ones are the the Mubarak government never attacked Islamic fundamentalism the way that the Shah’s did and the Muslim Brotherhood is dramatically different than the Shia radicals who supported Khomeini. While the Shah was not remotely as secular as many think, he never spent several decades trying to buy off the Shia fundamentalists buy giving them tremendous amounts of influence over the media and educational system as well as a number of Egyptian version’s of “blue laws”.

Moreover, there’s nothing in Sunni Islam like Khomeini’s belief in Velayat-e-faqih(loosely translated as rule of the Judges). Shia clerics have always been held in higher regard by the Shia because they’ve always been seen, until the Islamic revolution in Iran, as being independent of unpopular regimes while Sunni clerics were never as popular because they were seen as collaborating with the regimes. That’s part of the reason that the Sunni “clerics” associated with Sunni Islamic groups, such as the famous blind Sheikh or Sheikh Yassin of Hamas tend to be street preachers.

Moreover, Sunnis don’t have “Ayatollahs”, which are a modern invention and more comparable to Cardinals.

Khomeini came up with his concept of Velayat-e-faqih, which meant having the state ruled by the clerics, largely because of the influence not only Shia tradition but because of Plato’s The Republic. For those familiar with the Iranian government, the Guardians of the Islamic Revolution are the Iranian version of Plato’s “guardian class” and Iran’s “Supreme Leader” is the Iranian version of Plato’s “Philosopher King”.

The Muslim Brotherhood, by contrast, tend to be quietist Salafists(often called Wahhabists in the West), who’s goal is the make the society Islamic rather than having the government ruled by clerics or rulers who take orders from clerics.

That’s why the Sunni Islamic Republics are not ruled by clerics the way Iran is.

We do have options. We could offer somebody at the top of the Egyptian military a blank cheque, Israel-level insulation from international protest at whatever force he used to put down the rebellion and our full backing to seize power in a coup. We could decide the winner of a future election wasn’t acceptable and put the country under sanctions, encourage our other allies in the region to work against it or go to war with it like we did with Iran. There are plenty of things we can do. My point is though, in the long run how well do our actual methods to maintain control in the region work out for us?

Wahabbist government in Saudi Arabia is fairly strict, in some ways more so than the Iranian government of clerics.

They leave us, in theory at least, with a ‘friend’ in the region, and one willing to work with their neighbors and us. That gives us at least some level of control of the situation (it doesn’t hurt that Egypt is the recipient of the 2nd most monetary and military aid that the US gives out each year). We currently have zero control or influence with Iran. And I doubt their people are much better off, over all, than they were under the Shah. They certainly weren’t better off doing WWI style cannon fodder type charges against the Iraqis.

I’m not saying we should or would keep the current regime in charge (we are talking about an Obama administration, after all, not a Bush administration). But we need to exert whatever influence we can, as a superpower, to keep the entire situation from flying apart. I don’t THINK that it’s headed to total meltdown, and I don’t see any real commonality between Egypt and Iran for all the reasons already pointed out in this thread (the best was from Ibn Warraq, IMHO…that was quite a summary). You can bet that the Europeans won’t be just sitting on their hands either, nor any other power that has an interest in that region. The Israelis are probably watching VERY closely, since the outcome might have serious repercussions on the current state of peace between the two countries, and how they move forward in the future.


That’s dead on. The Brothers are bottom-up Islamists rather than top-down Islamists.

But it’s exerting our influence in the region that’s causing so much of the problem in the first place. The Iranians for instance. The regime derives much of its power from the fact that it’s opposing the Great Satan, and the GS plays up to its name. We have politicians singing songs about bombing Iran, which you can guarantee gets endlessly replayed on the Iranian version of Fox News. Because they had the temerity to overthrow our incredibly repressive dictator we’ve kept them under punitive sanctions for decades and prevented vast amounts of economic growth/prosperity which is the one thing that de-radicalises populations the most.

We’ve encouraged our allies in the region to start a war against them (those human wave charges were against an ememy funded and equipped by the GS). We’ve done an incredible amount to overthrow the regime and it still hasn’t worked. You could almost say it’s backfired, couldn’t you? We’re so hated there that even the opposition to the Iranian government want nothing to do with us. Democratic reformers in Iran or the Arab world don’t want to be associated with us because we stand for tyranny and despotism.

To the OP question: if they’d do, I’d be at least somewhat concerned about Egypt’s cultural and archaeological treasures. Remember the Taliban and the Budda in Pakistan? A couple of mummies have already been destroyed.

In Afghanistan the destruction of cultural artifacts was for ideological reasons while in Egypt it seems to be little more than mere vandalism which will end once order is restored.

This. Check back in 15 years and see how “democratic” Egypt is.

What’s the straight dope in Israel about this these days?

Not to interrupt a rant, but let’s look at the facts (as always):

-Did we institute sanctions for Iran simply changing its government? No, that’s fiction. We froze some assets and instituted import/export sanctions, *after Iran took hostages the American embassy hostage. * More to the point, after the hostages were released, the executive orders which established sanctions were rescinded.
-After Iran murdered 241 American military personnel at the Marine barracks in Beiruit, Iran was designated a sponsor of international terrorism, with resulting penalties under the US system of international relations and an eventual ban on the import of Iranian oil in 1987.

And so on.
While it serves Dick’s rant to claim that it was simply the US acting to punish Iran for overthrowing the Shah, that is, to put it charitably, absolutely fictional.

In any case, back to the OP: how the revolution will play out is anybody’s guess, especially once those is power, aint. Things in a post-revolutionary country are almost always notoriously dicey, and time will tell who does what. Qutb was one of the most influential members of the Egyptian MB, after all, and there’s nothing to say that they can’t return to his roots. Only that, for now, that seems unlikely as does their ascendancy in Egyptian politics as a whole.

After the invasion of Iran by Iraq, [one year after the revolution] the United States increased sanctions against Iran. In 1984, sanctions were approved that prohibit weapons sales and all U.S. assistance to Iran. The United States also opposed all loans to Iran from international financial institutions. In 1987, the United States further prohibited the importation and exportation of any goods or services from Iran.
[edit] Rafsanjani and Khatami governments

Main article: Iran and Libya Sanctions Act
The term of President Rafsanjani was marked by some of the toughest sanctions against Iran. In April 1995, President Bill Clinton issued a total embargo on U.S. dealings with Iran, prohibiting all commercial and financial transactions with Iran. Trade with the United States, which had been growing following the end of the Iran–Iraq War, ended abruptly. One exception is that U.S.-made goods can be supplied to Iran under certain circumstances as long as they are shipped to Iran from another country. This exception was a result of the original Executive Order restricting trade with Iran.
In 1996, the United States Congress passed the Iran–Libya Sanctions Act (ILSA). Under ILSA, all foreign companies that provide investments over $20 million for the development of petroleum resources in Iran will have imposed against them two out of seven possible penalties by the U.S.:[2]

Look, the bottom line is we did everything we possibly could to the Iranian regime to bring it down. Iran responded by helping terrorist groups who blew up a few of our soldiers and some other stuff. We shot one of their civilian airliners down. We encouraged and supported/financed a pan-Arab war against them. We’re infinitely more to blame for the whole situation than they are, starting when we overthrew a democratically elected secular Iranian government and installed our brutal dictator in 1953. So Iran fought back eventually after the revolution using terrorism. So what? They’re not allowed to defend themselves any way they can? We’re allowed to do everything we do and we’re the good guys but if somebody fights back against us then they’re an evil regime? From the perspective of the death toll of each country’s actions on the other since 1953, if Iran is an evil regime what does that make us?

Do they communicate these preferences through a handkerchief-code, or what?

And all of the vandals were found mysteriously strangled the next day. Except for the one who was eaten alive by scarab beetles.

I thought the Muslim Brotherhood had almost no popular support in Egypt. The only reason they’ve scored at all in elections is because they are the only allowed opposition (even though they’re officially banned). They have no support in the countryside and limited support in the urban areas. In a proper free and fair election with multiple parties they would come nowhere. All previous polls and elections are not true indicators - they were all held under a dictatorship.

Religious parties do well when they are the only allowed opposition, so people have rallied to the MB to some extent during the last two decades but that was only because they were the only cause to rally to other than the government. The dictatorship had to allow religious parties but could easily ban any non-religious opposition.

Muslim dictatorships find it easy to clamp down on secular democratic movements but harder to clamp down on religious groups. Religious groups do well under muslim dictatorships because the regime can’t ban religion because it’s so important in everyone’s lives. But get rid of the dictatorship and the religious groups fade into the background because they’re no longer the only dissenting voice.

There are several problems with this.

For starters, you’re doing nothing to rebut Finn’s claims that the sanctions were in response to the blowing up of the Marine barracks in Lebanon.

As your own source notes, the sanctions started in 1984, after the bombing which took place in 1983.

Frankly, you’d be better off simply challenging Finn’s contention that Iran blew up the Marines. Yes, there’s little doubt that they were blown up by Hezbollah(Party of God) or at least elements that became Hezbollah, but it’s certainly not clear that Hezbollah did this on the orders of either Iran or Syria(Hezbollah’s other sponsor).

Had the US had direct evidence that the bombing took place on the orders of the Iranian government, Ronald Reagan, who was hardly loathe to rattle sabers, would have taken far stricter action.

Anger at the US had nothing to do with Iran funding Hezbollah. Khomeini wanted to foment an Islamic revolution throughout the Middle East and he was especially popular amongst many Shia in the region. Hezbollah specifically was formed by people who inspired him and pledged it’s loyalty to him and swore allegiance to him and later to his successor Khamenei.

In short, regardless of the US actions during Iraq’s invasion of Iran, or even if Iraq never invaded Iran, Khomeini was going to be funding Hezbollah in Lebanon and similar groups in Iraq.

That was clearly an accident, if for no other reason than it did nothing to help the US and dramatically helped Iran.

I don’t know of any responsible commentator who thinks the US did that deliberately.

Can you name any?

“pan-Arab war”?

Iran was attacked by exactly one Arab nation. What makes you call it “pan-Arab”? Sure many Arab regimes supported Iraq’s invasion, but that wasn’t a result of it being the Arabs versus the Persians. The Sunni regimes did it because they were terrified of Iran inspiring revolts within their borders.

In fact Shia Arabs in Lebanon were huge supporters of Iran and the supposedly “secular” Syrian regime supported Iran, at least partly because Syria’s Aliwite ruling elite felt a certain amount of allegiance to fellow Shia and because Syria was closely allied with Hezbollah.

Anyway, Iraq didn’t attack Iran under the orders of the US. Iraq invaded Iran because Iranian-backed groups had just attempted to assassinate Tariq Aziz and because they were convinced that Iran was vulnerable since Iran had jailed so much of the Shah’s military, including IIRC, all of the Iranian Air Force’s fighter pilots.

It should be noted that Iran and Iraq had issues with each other long before the Iranian Revolution and the Shah and Saddam had both supported separatist groups in the others’ countries.

In short, Iraq was invading Iran regardless of whether the US supported it or not. As for the US supporting it, that was because Iran had taken hundreds of Americans hostages and was trying to destabilize a number of regimes that the US was allies with.

As I pointed out earlier Iran’s funding of Hezbollah had nothing to do with revenge upon the US or “fighting back” against the US. They were far more concerned with overthrowing both government backed by the US and ones that the US didn’t back.

A lot of Americans have real tendency to assume that most countries actions are in reaction to something done by the US, but that’s not nearly as true as many think.

Well, depending on how you define “direct”, we did.
It was determined via trial that “Hezbollah was formed under the auspices of the Iranian government, was completely reliant on Iran in 1983 and assisted Iranian Ministry of Information and Security agents in carrying out the operation.”

That was also the judgment of the intelligence community.

As for why we didn’t hit Iran…

Surely there are SOME Muslim fundamentalist terrorists living in Egypt. Surely they have links with the Muslim fundamentalist terrorist groups living outside Egypt. Surely they are looking at the events in Egypt with great interest. And surely their thought is that they should be able to use the unrest in Egypt to their advantage, which is to say, toward the goal of installing a fundamentalist Muslim theocracy in Egypt. Given that they are utterly ruthless in their techniques … after all, they are doing Allah’s will … surely they will have a real shot at succeeding. Think of all the revolutions that have been hijacked by small cadres of ruthless fanatics. Think it can’t happen in Egypt?