Monday, January 31, 2011

Post Egypt Uprising: Fox News on Islamageddon

Beck: Muslim coup in UK will follow revolution in Egypt

The Scrapbook team are at once amused and terrified by the increasingly fevered rants from Fox News firebrand Glenn Beck. In his latest prophecy, the reveals that if the Muslim Brotherhood seize power in Egypt, then a Muslim coup in the UK is inevitable.

While this turn of events would seem improbable to those with even a basic grasp of international politics, Beck is certain — once you get past his scattergun approach to grammar — that Islamageddon is nigh!

If the Muslim brotherhood takes Egypt, it destabilizes the entire Middle East. It sets the Middle East – if not immediately, within a reasonable period of time, sets the entire thing on fire …

As soon as anyone thinks that there is a shot, the Muslim radicals in Europe and in England rise up, once they [the Communists and the Muslims] start to work in concert, Europe is done.

His missive may be just the latest in a series of increasingly deranged right-wing pronouncements. Before you return the gas mask to the attic and take down the Anderson shelter, however, take a look at this historical LiveDesk map of the Middle East . It seems the Egyptians have, in Beck’s words, “set the entire thing on fire” and assumed control of Iraq!

Either that or the Fox News team have an embarrassingly poor grasp of foreign affairs.

We’ll let you decide which it is.

Role reversal - Israel a client to Turkey's army

Will Israel soon be a client of Turkey's army?

The Turkish army is not just an army. Via its pension fund, Oyak, it also controls civilian businesses worth billions of dollars. Now, the government is trying to curtail its economic might.

By Zvi Bar'el
Turkish army's Peacekeeping Force parade during the Victory Day celebrations in Ankara Pictures & Photos

With an annual budget of $12.2 billion, the Turkish army is one of the world's largest purchasers. One giant acquisition it is now about to make is for 109 helicopters worth some $4 billion, with an option for an additional 300 helicopters.

Two firms are competing for this juicy contract - the American aircraft corporation Sikorsky, which manufactures the Black Hawk helicopter, and the Italian firm Augusta Westland. Both are offering not only enticing prices but also other benefits.

Sikorsky, for example, is promising to give Turkey a contract to repair planes it has sold to Third World countries. It also agreed to buy 109 helicopters from Ankara that were manufactured in Turkey under license from Sikorsky; these will then be resold to other countries. Finally, it offered to build a regional support base for its Black Hawks in Turkey.

Will Israel, which in the past has repaired Turkish helicopters, become a client of Turkey if the Turks decide to buy the American helicopters? It would be an interesting role reversal. But Augusta Westland has also come up with a tempting proposal. It has promised to let Turkey participate in building its helicopters, so that it can become a helicopter manufacturer in its own right.

And while the Turkish army is busy mulling where to put its billions, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is busy clipping its wings. The defense budget is just one source of the army's income. It also has another important source: Oyak, the Armed Forces Pension Fund, which manages the military's pension funds and has become the largest commercial corporation in Turkey, with holdings of billions of dollars.

Best of both worlds

So far, Oyak has been able to enjoy the best of both worlds. As a corporation operating on the army's behalf, it enjoys special tax benefits and advantages in competing for government tenders. At the same time, it invests in civilian companies that provide goods and services completely unrelated to military or security equipment. Among others, it owns a cement company, iron manufactories and a plant that produces Renault vehicles.

The Renault Fluence cars that are sold in Israel are manufactured by Oyak Renault, so any vehicle of this kind bought in Israel puts money directly in the Turkish army's pockets. According to Turkish media reports, the company also plans to sell some 100,000 electric Fluences in Israel and Denmark over the next few years. Anyone wondering about the current state of relations between Israel and Turkey should note the volume of business that civilian companies owned by the Turkish army are doing with Israel.

Oyak owns some 60 companies of this kind, and until now, they have not been subject to oversight by the entity that supervises the activities of government offices and government companies. Thus on one hand, Oyak could say that since it runs civilian companies, it is not subject to government oversight. But on the other hand, it could demand the privileges offered to government companies.

The relationship between Turkey's army and the Turkish economy is structurally similar to that of the Revolutionary Guards in Iran: The latter also have an independent economic base comprised of manufacturing and service companies. In Turkey, this structure was established in 1961, after the military revolt.

The rationale was to supply retired soldiers and officers with a solid income in addition to their relatively small military pensions, and thus make it possible for them to enjoy a quality of life "appropriate to their social status." Career soldiers were required to contribute 10 percent of their salaries to the fund, and soldiers doing their compulsory service, who won't even receive a pension from it, had to contribute 5 percent.

But from a mere pension fund, it became an octopus with many tentacles. And now, the government has decided to rein it in.

Legislation adopted last week, which the army opposed, subjects Oyak to what is known as the oversight court. This institution is not a real court; rather, it resembles Israel's state comptroller. But its decisions cannot be appealed, and in that way, it resembles Israel's Supreme Court.

The oversight court reports to the Turkish parliament, where Erdogan's Justice and Development Party has a majority. Thus the party will now know what the pension fund is doing. In addition, all of Oyak's special privileges are being done away with, including the tax benefits and discounts on various government fees. The result is that Erdogan now has the army by its short hairs.

In effect, Erdogan adopted the conclusions of a study published by the Institute for Economic and Social Research in August 2010. The study recommended that the army be separated from its economic concerns for fear of conflicts of interests. But even more serious, according to the report's authors, is that the special benefits the fund offers its members, who are all military personnel, creates a privileged social status protected from the vicissitudes of the country's economy, and thus "constitutes an obstacle to democracy."

The report also warned that if Oyak continued to exist in its present format, it could harm Turkey's chances of joining the European Union, since it has a negative influence over the country's democratic processes. That is a good excuse for a government that in any case wants to reduce the army's influence on both society and the economy.

Despite the new law and the army's criticism of it, there is no need to feel sorry for the Turkish army's economic conglomerate. It will continue to produce cement and cars, market its products worldwide and enjoy huge profits. It will merely have slightly stiffer competition inside Turkey and be forced to pay somewhat higher corporate taxes.

And military personnel, upon retiring, will continue to benefit from a double pension - one from the government and one from Oyak, whose policy is to supply every career soldier "with an apartment and a car."

Israel now considering plan B on Egypt

Egypt riots are an intelligence chief's nightmare

Western intelligence in general and Israeli intelligence in particular did not foresee the scope of change in Egypt, which may require a reorganization of the IDF.

By Amos Harel

The events of the last few days in Egypt – apparently the most important regional development since the Islamic revolution in Iran and the Egyptian-Israeli peace deal of 1979 – are also an expression of the decision-makers' nightmare, the planners and intelligence agents in Israel.

While in other countries many are watching with satisfaction at what looks to be possibly the imminent toppling of a regime that denied its citizens their basic rights, the Israeli point of view is completely different.

egypt - Reuters - January 29 2011

The collapse of the old regime in Cairo, if it takes place, will have a massive effect, mainly negative, on Israel's position in the region. In the long run, it could put the peace treaties with Egypt and Jordan in danger, the largest strategic assets after the support of the United States.

The changes could even lead to changes in the IDF and cast a dark cloud over the economy.

Western intelligence in general and Israeli intelligence in particular did not foresee the scope of change in Egypt (the eventual descriptor "revolution" will apparently have to wait a little longer). Likewise, almost all of the media analysis and academic experts got it wrong.

In the possible scenarios that Israeli intelligence envisioned, they admittedly posited 2011 as a year of possible regime change – with a lot question marks – in Egypt and Saudi Arabia, but a popular uprising like this was completely unexpected.

More than this, in his first appearance at a meeting last Wednesday of the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee the new head of military intelligence Major General Aviv Kochavi said to member of Knesset, "There are currently no doubts about the stability of the regime in Egypt. The Muslim Brotherhood is not organized enough to take over, they haven't managed to consolidate their efforts in a significant direction."

If the Mubarak regime is toppled, the quiet coordination of security between Israel and Egypt will quickly be negatively affected. It will affect relations between Cairo's relationship with the Hamas government in the Gaza Strip, it will harm the international forces stationed in Sinai.

It will mean the refusal of Egypt to continue to allow the movement of Israeli ships carrying missiles through the Suez canal, which was permitted for the last two years, according to reports in the foreign press, in order to combat weapons smuggling from Sudan to Gaza. In the long run, Egypt's already-cold peace treaty with Israel will get even colder.

From the perspective of the IDF, the events are going to demand a complete reorganization. For the last 20 years, the IDF has not included a serious threat from Egypt in its operational plan.

In the last several decades, peace with Cairo has allowed the gradual thinning out of forces, the lowering of maximum age for reserve duty and the diversion of massive amounts of resources to social and economic projects.

The IDF military exercises focused on conflict with Hezbollah and Hamas, at most in collusion with Syria. No one prepared with any seriousness for a scenario in which an Egyptian division would enter Sinai, for example.

If the Egyptian regime falls in the end, a possibility that seemed unbelievable only two or three days ago, the riots could easily spill over to Jordan and threaten the Hashemite regime. On Israel's two long peaceful borders there will then prevail a completely different reality.

Sayyid Qutb and Milestones

In the wake of Egypt's new era and revival of hope, we re-look into the past and learn about history with open mind.

Sayyid Qutb
Sayyid Qutb

Qutb drew parallels between the Meccan pagan tribes who refused Muhammad's message and the modern dictators who lived luxuriously while the societies under them withered. To Qutb, a dictator like Nasser was a jahili tribal lord like those in Mecca. Where Muhammad had been persecuted and exiled by these tribes, Qutb experienced persecution at the hands of the Egyptian regime. As Muhammad had moved into a war of survival against the belligerent Meccan tribes, Qutb saw it fit to engage in war and revolution against the jahiliyyah of his own time:

Below article from Smithsonian magazine, February 2006.

A Lesson In Hate

How an Egyptian student came to study 1950s America and left determined to wage holy war

  • By David Von Drehle

Before Sayyid Qutb became a leading theorist of violent jihad, he was a little-known Egyptian writer sojourning in the United States, where he attended a small teachers college on the Great Plains. Greeley, Colorado, circa 1950 was the last place one might think to look for signs of American decadence. Its wide streets were dotted with churches, and there wasn’t a bar in the whole temperate town. But the courtly Qutb (COO-tub) saw things that others did not. He seethed at the brutishness of the people around him: the way they salted their watermelon and drank their tea unsweetened and watered their lawns. He found the muscular football players appalling and despaired of finding a barber who could give a proper haircut. As for the music: “The American’s enjoyment of jazz does not fully begin until he couples it with singing like crude screaming,” Qutb wrote when he returned to Egypt. “It is this music that the savage bushmen created to satisfy their primitive desires.”

Such grumbling by an unhappy crank would be almost comical but for one fact: a direct line of influence runs from Sayyid Qutb to Osama bin Laden, and to bin Laden’s Egyptian partner in terror, Ayman al-Zawahiri. From them, the line continues to another quietly seething Egyptian sojourning in the United States—the 9/11 hijacker Mohammed Atta. Qutb’s gripes about America require serious attention because they cast light on a question that has been nagging since the fall of the World Trade Center: Why do they hate us?

Born in 1906 in the northern Egyptian village of Musha and raised in a devout Muslim home, Qutb memorized the Koran as a boy. Later he moved to Cairo and found work as a teacher and writer. His novels made no great impression, but he earned a reputation as an astute literary critic. Qutb was among the first champions of Naguib Mahfouz, a young, modern novelist who, in 1988, would win the Nobel Prize in Literature. As Qutb matured, his mind took on a more political cast. Even by the standards of Egypt, those were chaotic, corrupt times: World War I had completed the destruction of the Ottoman Empire, and the Western powers were creating, with absolute colonial confidence, new maps and governments for the Middle East. For a proud man like Sayyid Qutb, the humiliation of his country at the hands of secular leaders and Western puppets was galling. His writing drew unfavorable attention from the Egyptian government, and by 1948, Mahfouz has said, Qutb’s friends in the Ministry of Education were sufficiently worried about his situation that they contrived to send him abroad to the safety of the United States.

Some biographical sketches suggest that Qutb arrived with a benign view of America, but if that’s true it didn’t last long. During a short stay in Washington, D.C., he witnessed the commotion surrounding an elevator accident and was stunned to hear other onlookers making a joke of the victim’s appearance. From this and a few offhand remarks in other settings, Qutb concluded that Americans suffered from “a drought of sentimental sympathy” and that “Americans intentionally deride what people in the Old World hold sacred.”

This became the lens through which Qutb read nearly every American encounter—a clash of New World versus Old. Qutb easily satisfied the requirements at the graduate school of the Colorado State College of Education (now known as the University of Northern Colorado) and devoted the rest of his time to his true interest—the American soul, if such a thing existed. “This great America: What is its worth in the scale of human values?” Qutb wondered. “And what does it add to the moral account of humanity?” His answer: nothing.

Still, Qutb’s contempt for America was not as simple as some people might now imagine. He did not recoil from political freedom and democracy, as, say, President Bush might expect from a jihadi theorist, nor did he complain about shades of imperial ambition in American foreign policy, as writers on the left might suppose. Regarding the excesses of American culture—vulgarity, materialism and promiscuity—Qutb expressed shock, but it rang a bit hollow. “The American girl is well acquainted with her body’s seductive capacity,” he wrote. “She knows seductiveness lies in the round breasts, the full buttocks, and in the shapely thighs, sleek legs and she shows all this and does not hide it.” These curvy jezebels pursued boys with “wide, strapping chest[s]” and “ox muscles,” Qutb added with disgust. Yet no matter how lascivious his adjectives, the fastidious, unmarried Egyptian could not convincingly portray the church dances and Look magazines he encountered in sleepy Greeley as constituting a genuine sexual “jungle.”

The core problem with the United States, for Qutb, was not something Americans did, but simply what America was—“the New spellbinding.” It was more than a land of pleasures without limit. In America, unlike in Egypt, dreams could come true. Qutb understood the danger this posed: America’s dazzle had the power to blind people to the real zenith of civilization, which for Qutb began with Muhammad in the seventh century and reached its apex in the Middle Ages, carried triumphantly by Muslim armies.

Qutb rejected the idea that “new” was also “improved.” The Enlightenment, the Industrial Age—modernity itself—were not progress. “The true value of every civilization...lies not in the tools man has invented or in how much power he wields,” Qutb wrote. “The value of civilizations lay in what universal truths and worldviews they have attained.” The modern obsession with science and invention was a moral regression to the primitive condition of the first toolmakers. Qutb’s America was bursting with raw energy and appetite, but utterly without higher virtues. In his eyes, its “interminable, incalculable expanses of virgin land” were settled by “groups of adventurers and groups of criminals” who lacked the time and reflection required for a civilized life. Qutb’s Americans “faced the uncharted forests, the tortuous mountain mazes, the fields of ice, the thundering hurricanes, and the beasts, serpents and vermin of the forest” in a struggle that left them numb to “faith in religion, faith in art and faith in spiritual values altogether.”

This portrait likely would have surprised the people of mid-century Greeley, had they somehow become aware of the unspoken opinions of their somewhat frosty neighbor. Theirs was a friendly town best known for the unpretentious college and for the cattle feedlots sprawling pungently on its outskirts. The founding of Greeley in the 1870s involved no ice fields, hurricanes or serpents. Instead, it began with a simple newspaper column written by Nathan Meeker, agricultural editor of the New York Tribune. On December 14, 1869, Meeker appealed to literate readers of high moral character to join him in building a utopian community by the South Platte River near the foot of the Rocky Mountains. More than 3,000 readers applied; from this list Meeker selected the 700 best qualified to realize his vision of a sober, godly, cooperative community. The town was dubbed Greeley in honor of Meeker’s boss at the Tribune, the quixotic publisher Horace Greeley, who died within weeks of his failed run for president in 1872, just as the project was gathering steam.

Poet and journalist Sara Lippincott was an early visitor to the frontier outpost, and later wrote about it under her pen name, Grace Greenwood. “You’ll die of dullness in less than five hours,” another traveler had warned her about Greeley. “There is nothing there but irrigation. Your host will invite you out to see him irrigate his potato-patch...there is not a billiard-saloon in the whole camp, nor a drink of whiskey to be had for love or money.” None of that made any difference to Qutb, who saw only what he already believed, and wrote not facts, but his own truth, in his 1951 essay, “The America I Have Seen.”

Sayyid Qutb cut short his stay in America and returned to Egypt in 1951 after the assassination of Hassan al-Banna, founder of the nationalist, religious and militant movement known as the Muslim Brotherhood. Over the next decade and a half, often writing from prison, Qutb refined a violent political theology from the raw anti-modernism of his American interlude. Virtually the entire modern world, Qutb theorized, is jahiliyya, that barbarous state that existed before Muhammad. Only the strict, unchanging law of the prophet can redeem this uncivilized condition. Nearly a millennium of history became, to the radicalized Qutb, an offense wrought by the violence of jahili “Crusaders” and the supposed perfidy of the Jews. And Muslim leaders allied with the West were no better than the Crusaders themselves. Therefore, Qutb called all true Muslims to jihad, or Holy War, against jahiliyya—which is to say, against modernity, which America so powerfully represents.

This philosophy led to Qutb’s execution in 1966. Proud to the end, he refused to accept the secular Egyptian leader Gamal Abdel Nasser’s offer of mercy in exchange for Qutb’s repudiation of his jihad. Nasser may have silenced a critic, but the martyrdom of Sayyid Qutb accelerated his movement. The same year the philosopher was hanged, according to journalist Lawrence Wright, the teenage al-Zawahiri formed his first violent cell, dedicated to the overthrow of the Egyptian government and the creation of an Islamist state. Meanwhile, Qutb’s brother Muhammad went into exile in Saudi Arabia, where he taught at King Abdul Aziz University. One of his students, an heir to the country’s largest construction fortune, was Osama bin Laden.

Others have taken Qutb’s ideas in less apocalyptic directions, so that M.A. Muqtedar Khan of the Brookings Institution can rank him alongside the Ayatollah Khomeini of Iran as “one of the major architects and ‘strategists’ of contemporary Islamic revival.” But the last paragraphs of Qutb’s American memoir suggest just how far outside normal discourse his mind was wont to stray. After noting the stupidity of his Greeley neighbors, who failed to understand his dry and cutting jokes, Qutb writes: “In summary, anything that requires a touch of elegance is not for the American, even haircuts! For there was not one instance in which I had a haircut there when I did not return home to even with my own hands what the barber had wrought.” This culminating example of inescapable barbarism led directly to his conclusion. “Humanity makes the gravest of errors and risks losing its account of morals, if it makes America its example.”

Turning a haircut into a matter of grave moral significance is the work of a fanatic. That’s the light ultimately cast by Qutb’s American experience on the question of why his disciples might hate us. Hating America for its haircuts cannot be distinguished from hating for no sane reason at all.