The lessons of July 3, 2013
On July 3, 2013, the Middle East changed when Muhammad Morsi was removed from power in Egypt. Some countries in the region had become obvious power nests for the Muslim Brotherhood. In other countries, the Brotherhood was the real power despite remaining in the shadows.
Thus, four years after the Brotherhood was dealt a knockout blow in the entire MENA region, Islamists in Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Jordan and Yemen are enjoying a level of freedom much higher than that given to the Muslim Brotherhood in its original country, Egypt, before the “Arab spring.”
Let us imagine how this region would have looked if Morsi were still in power. All the countries mentioned above would have ended up in the hands of the local branches of the Brotherhood and would have turned into areas for chaos. In such a scenario, however, the centre of power would have been shared within the triangle of Egypt, Qatar and Turkey.
One of the logical results of this connection would have been the Muslim Brotherhood’s access to tremendous resources for the creation of a radical Sunni power axis. This would have become the perfect haven for al-Qaeda and other jihadist organisations.
The second power axis would have belonged to Shia political Islam. With the region falling deeper into the grip of political Islam, it would have become easy for the Iranian regime to convince Iranians and pro-Iranian militias that the Sunni axis had become a real danger to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s state.
The net result would have been the perfect conditions for putting Iran’s Shia crescent project in motion. The feverish race between two competing Islamist movements would have caused civil wars raging in one or two countries to engulf the entire Arab region.
Both Islamist axes agree on one thing: They hate the Gulf countries. The Gulf region is caught between two types of extremism. One is trying its utmost to turn the Gulf into its Shia backyard and the other is working tirelessly to seize power in the Gulf countries and place its fortunes at the service of its ideological project. If that happens, these fortunes will not be sufficient to spare the Gulf people the horrors of disunity. What better way to make that happen than causing the implosion of the Gulf house from the inside.
With the Muslim Brotherhood in control of the Gulf fortunes, terrorist organisations would have thrived and it is impossible to believe that the Islamic State (ISIS) would have shrunk. Turkey and Qatar at some point maintained excellent relations with ISIS and al-Qaeda. Imagine how those relations would have grown if the Muslim Brotherhood had survived the events of July 3, 2013.
In the aftermath of July 3, 2013, some branches of the Muslim Brotherhood chose to bend with the wind. This was the case of the Ennahda movement in Tunisia, the Justice and Development Party in Morocco and Jordan’s Muslim Brothers. They were pragmatic enough to choose political survival over ideology. Qatar, Turkey, Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood members in Libya, however, went for ideological extremism.
On July 3, 2013, the West changed its traditional views of political Islam. The Islamists were no longer the sole guarantors of stability in the region. They were no longer the only political force capable of stirring popular unrest. The Egyptian Army proved that state institutions were the only guarantors of stability in Egypt.
Before July 3, 2013, the West believed that it was possible to create moderate Islamist political parties, along the lines of the Christian political parties in Europe. Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union of Germany party, for example, took some liberal economic principles, mixed them with socialist concepts and social and family values and joined the historic movement of liberal democracies in Europe. That will not be the case with Islamist parties.
We are in the post-Muslim Brotherhood phase. It took the Brotherhood 90 years to achieve its objective of seizing power in Egypt. It will probably take half as long to get rid of it completely. The real problem, though, is the virus planted by the Muslim Brothers in the minds of millions of Arabs and Muslims. Uprooting it will require a much more potent and attractive idea.
Just as Egypt was the birthplace of extremist movements, it will, in time, be the barrier that will stop them. The mission requires time, finances and a real long-term project. It will be an arduous process that will span generations. In the end, the Muslim Brotherhood and what it stands for will be wiped out lest our current efforts be lost forever.