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Generational Dynamics Web Log for 3-Feb-2011
3-Feb-11 News -- Violence between protester factions kills three in Egypt

Web Log - February, 2011

3-Feb-11 News -- Violence between protester factions kills three in Egypt

Russia building its navy for a challenge to China

Violence between protester factions kills three in Egypt

As we described yesterday, no sooner had Egypt's president Hosni Mubarak finished his speech on Tuesday evening vowing to step down in September, then pro-Mubarak and anti-Mubarak protesters started throwing sticks and rocks at each other.

The factional violence increased substantially through the day on Wednesday, according to LA Times. Rocks, sticks and Molotov cocktails were used, as well as occasional gunfire. At one point, pro-Mubarak protesters joined the fray riding atop camels from the tourist attractions at the Pyramids of Giza. By the end of the day, three people had been killed.

Where did the pro-Mubarak protesters come from?

Reporters from CNN questioned a number of pro-Mubarak protesters and found that many of them had been paid or ordered by the Mubarak government to go out and oppose the anti-Mubarak protesters.

On the other hand, there are many civil servants whose jobs depend on a continuing Mubarak government, and they also participated in the confrontations with the anti-Mubarak protesters.

From the point of view of Generational Dynamics, what's important here is that there is no sign that the pro- and anti-Mubarak protesters are split along some ethnic or religious fault line.

Without that kind of fault line fueling the violence, it appears that it's a political disagreement that got out of control, and I would expect the violence to fizzle within a couple of weeks.

The situation is far more dangerous in countries which do have ethnic and religous fault lines, as the youth rebellion "contagion" spreads. In war-torn Yemen, President Ali Abdullah Saleh was forced to announce that he would step down, according to VOA. After weeks of street protests in Jordan, King Abdullah II was forced to sack his cabinet and call for a new government, although the King himself remains popular, according to CS Monitor. And in Gaza, Hamas leaders are concerned that young Palestinians will turn against Hamas, just as young Egyptians have turned against Mubarak, according to Haaretz.

In my report two days ago, "31-Jan-11 News -- Millions riot in Egypt as the West fears a Muslim Brotherhood victory," I explained in detail why it appears likely that a Muslim Brotherhood political victory in Egypt would not result in more than cosmetic changes to the Israeli peace treaty and relations with America.

Several web site readers wrote to me to point out that the Muslim Brotherhood web site says different things on the Arabic and English language pages (and there's also a BigPeace article on this subject).

However, the argument that I made has nothing to do with Brotherhood's stated policies. It was based on Egypt's own self-interest, and the attitudes and behavior of the young generation. From what I've seen, all of these factors indicate the conclusion that a Brotherhood involvement in Egypt's politics will not mean a change in policies towards Israel.

A special commentary by Jamestown Foundation puts the question very succintly: "If the MB were to join a democratically elected government, which Brotherhood would appear: the moderate organization of recent times or the extremist movement of the past?"

These are all very serious concerns. However, I would say that people should not underestimate the importance of the generational factor, which is highly significant in this case.

The vast majority of Egyptians are under age 30. That means that the vast majority of Egyptians have known only an Egypt that was at peace with Israel, and have known only a Muslim Brotherhood that was non-violent. There is absolutely nothing, in my opinion, that could convince the young protesters, whether pro- or anti-Mubarak, to suddenly abrogate the peace treaty with Israel, or support a violent Muslim Brotherhood.

Going back to the Muslim Brotherhood web site, it's true that the web page in Arabic is much more bellicose towards Israel than the English language page. The implication is that the Arabic page is the "true" policy, while the English page is the "deceptive" page, because it targets a Western audience.

First, I would point out that there's no such distinction in al-Qaeda's web sites. Everything coming from al-Qaeda, whether in Arabic or English, reads "Death to America." Nor is there any such distinction made by the administration in Iran.

So my response to the Brotherhood situation is that the evidence on the ground in Egypt supports the conclusion that it's the Brotherhood's English page that represents the "true" policy, while the Arabic page, targeted to a broad anti-American Arabian audience, is the one that's deceptive.

I'm guided by what I'm hearing from the kids who are rioting in Egypt. If suddenly they change direction and start saying "Death to America," then I would have to change my conclusion. But right now, the evidence supports my conclusion that the Brotherhood would remain at peace with Israel.

The Jamestown Foundation article referenced above points out the following:

"The Brotherhood and al-Qaeda are political enemies. Al-Qaeda has not been a factor in any of the MB’s actions during the recent days of anger across the Egyptian landscape. Ayman al-Zawahiri wrote a bitter book covering 60 years of history of the MB, entitled The Bitter Harvest, containing over 200 pages of vitriolic attack on the Brotherhood. The Brotherhood regularly publishes anti-al-Qaeda articles on its official website. The MB General Guide signed a statement after 9/11 that condemned “in the strongest terms and sorrow, these events, which are against all human and Islamic values” (Quds al-Arabi, London, September 14, 2001, in Arabic). The Arabic word translated as “events” in the statement is very weak and the MB placed its signature among many. Nevertheless, the organization went on the record against attacks on innocents. One of the characteristics of the Brotherhood in Egypt that most infuriates al-Qaeda is its willingness to participate in the democratic process. In a slight nod toward political reform by President Mubarak, 2005 marked the first time Egyptians could vote for more than one candidate. In the election for parliament, MB members running as independents captured approximately one-fifth of the seats (88 out of 444). Banned as a political party, the Brotherhood was the only opposition party to be organized in every region of Egypt."

So anyone who uses the Brotherhood web site as evidence of something should also consider that the Brotherhood web site is harshly critical of al-Qaeda, and particularly condemns attacks on innocent victims.

I would be forced to reexamine and possibly change some of my conclusions if either of the following two things happened: The young protesters suddenly started shouting "Death to Israel"; or there was evidence that the pro- and anti-Mubarak protesters were split along ethnic or religious lines.

As things stand today, my conclusions remain the same: The violence most likely will fizzle in a few days, or at most a few weeks; and a Muslim Brotherhood political victory will not cause more than cosmetic changes to the peace treaty with Israel.

Additional links

Russia is increasing its naval forces, and is reorienting its naval priorities to the Asia-Pacific Region, with a new emphasis on meeting the challenge posed by China’s naval buildup. Jamestown Foundation

South Asia's biggest air show will be held in India next week. About 350 official and trade delegations from 30 countries including Australia, Britain, France, Germany, Russia, Germany and the United States will participate in the five-day event. However, China, Pakistan and Iran have not been invited. AFP

Can a computer do your job? Many experts make the simple complicated, because they fear that they could be replaced by a computer. Falkenblog

Al Gore blames cold weather and snow on "man-made global warming." The Hill

Women consider men who eat meat to be more manly, according to research at University of British Columbia. Vegetarian men are seen as wimps and less macho than meat-eaters, even by vegetarian women. Daily Mail

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 3-Feb-11 News -- Violence between protester factions kills three in Egypt thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (3-Feb-2011) Permanent Link
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