The Tragedy of the Christians in the Middle East

https://www.jns.org/opinion/the-tragedy-of-the-christians-in-the-middle-east/

The above is my article as it appeared in the Jewish News Syndicate, (JNS) an on Line periodical,

I think the article fills a void, in that the West mostly ignores the plight of the Christians in The Islamic East and the Christians of the East and those of the West must apportion much of the blame on themselves. In my church one often hears “God is love,” And pontification about the Sermon on the mount as abjuring violence. Of course …. but only an idiot, as apparently many Christian clerics are, would interpret that to mean one stands idly by as his family, home or country is attacked. It is a liberal invention to justify cowardice. It seems to be widespread in the Western ” “Christian” world.

 

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Newest Article on Russian Military Advisers in the East in Lima Charlie News

An article I worked a long time on with a great assist from my Swedish friend at LCN. John Sjoholm, Lima Charlie News World correspondent.

by

History’s superpowers have long employed military advisers around the world as extensions of a country’s power and influence. Russia has a wealth of experience when it comes to optimizing and maximizing the use of advisers. A prime example is the advisory operations of the former Soviet Union in Egypt.

I have long been particularly interested in the role of professional soldiers training foreign militaries of underdeveloped countries. I had two tours of duty in that capacity, in Egypt and Jordan. But I inherited my keen interest in what is generally referred to as security assistance from my father. As a professional Non-Commissioned Officer (NCO), my father served as an adviser to the Philippine Scouts prior to the second World War. In 1946, he was then deployed to Korea where he served in the Korean Military Advisory Group (KMAG) for 18 months. His many stories, as told to me, have well stood the test of time.

My father very much admired the Philippine Scouts, a force which fought as well as, or better than, the American units fighting against the Japanese in the battle for the Pacific. As he told their tale, he explained that these men did not need to be taught how to soldier. They were consummate professionals. Rather, my father’s contribution was technical assistance vis-a-vis signal communication. His experience during the war mirrored my own with the Jordanian forces in the 1970s. Back then, the Jordanian Army was a professional military, schooled by the British, yet it was in need of technical assistance. Today, the Jordanian military stands out as one of the best militaries in the Middle East, if not the best.

My father’s experience in Korea was far different. Korean soldiers were amongst the toughest in the world. I myself served with some in 1961-62 and saw firsthand the draconian punishment that the Korean command handed down towards recalcitrant troops. Yet, the American advisers in Korea during my father’s time, after having survived the horrors of the Second World War, held a reluctance in giving their all for a far away country that was mired in corruption and political fratricide. As my father related, the Korean soldier was inured to hardship and was a keen learner, but the officer corps was corrupt, incompetent and suffered from frequent turnover due to political infighting.

To some degree, this mirrors my experience in Egypt, 1981-1983. The Egyptian Army’s virtue was that it had soldiers inured to hardship, yet it consisted of a mostly self-indulgent officer corps. By and large, it had lost the fighting edge instilled in it by professional Egyptian officers and the hard-driving Soviet training mission to prepare for the Arab-Israeli War of 1973, more commonly referred to as the Yom Kippur War or Ramadan War. By the time I had arrived in Egypt in 1981, the general Egyptian way of soldiering was stuck in a bygone era of British colonial tradition, reminiscent of Winston Churchill’s classic “The River War: An Historical Account of the Reconquest of the Soudan” (1899). This entailed a slothful, materialistic minded officers corps, adhering to the adage that whoever sticks their neck out for anything gets it chopped off. The rule of the sage was to play it safe. I found the Egyptian Army to be demoralized and bereft of much-needed weaponry.

Yet, I knew even then that when Soviet and Warsaw Pact advisers had first arrived to Egypt in 1955, they found the Egyptian Army in even worse shape. While the Soviet training advisory mission was at first more of a political effort than military, after 1968 it had become a top military priority. It should be said, the Soviets did a remarkable job in rebuilding the Egyptian Army after its demoralizing defeat in the 1967 Six-Day War.

Despite their commendable service in Egypt, Soviet advisers were given very little recognition. The Russian military had long held the same lack of esteem for advisory jobs as the American army still does. It’s a simple fact, if your primary orientation in the military is in security assistance (i.e. advisory roles) you’ll have a hard time making flag officer. This was true for Russian officers in Egypt and Afghanistan, and it still holds true to this day.

This brings us to the purpose of this article.

While there are rooms full of books and materials about Russia’s involvement in the Middle East in terms of political, diplomatic, and arms assistance, there is very little about the efforts of the military adviser. Yet Russia, particularly, has a wealth of in-depth knowledge and experience when it comes to optimizing and maximizing the use of advisers in sensitive environments.

A prime example can be found in Russia’s extensive advisory operations in Egypt during the presidency of Gamal Abdel Nasser, prior to the expulsion of Russian military advisers from the country by President Anwar el‐Sadat beginning in 1972. The assistance Russia provided to Egypt in that era is similar in some respects to that given today to Syria’s Assad-led Damascus regime and its Syrian Arab Army (SAA).

[Russian military adviser trains Syrians in mine clearance operations (Image: Russian Defence Ministry)]
[Russian military adviser trains Syrians in mine clearance operations (Image: Russian Defence Ministry)]

The Military Adviser – An Historic Role

The world’s superpowers have historically employed military and political advisers as extensions of influence and power, often to achieve long-term goals. For instance, America has kept advisers in the Philippines since the Taft administration.

One of the earliest American advisers in the Philippines was Captain John “Black Jack” Pershing, famed for his involvement in the hunt for Pancho Villa and later as a commander of American forces in World War I. Ultimately, his work leading indigenous Philippine troops during the Philippine-American War (1899-1902) in their unending battle against Islamic insurgents would earn him his Brigadier General-title.

Another famed military adviser was one of General Douglas MacArthur’s aides in Manila. Future president Dwight D. “Ike” Eisenhower, then a middle-aged U.S. Army Major, sought to define and organize the U.S.-supported Philippine national army in the mid-1930s. A Herculean task that few dared, it no doubt honed his skills, which would soon be tested during the D-Day invasion in Europe.

From Latin America to the depths of Asia’s jungles, America has dispatched military advisers throughout the world. Often these advisers have succeeded in accomplishing the impossible. And as warfare continues to move towards more asymmetrical micro-conflicts against non-state actors, the military and political adviser has grown in importance. This is an aspect that the U.S. government has thankfully realized.

The U.S. Army recently deployed the first Security Force Assistance Brigade (SFAB) out of Ft. Bragg to Afghanistan in mid-2018. Its operation was a measurable success and upon its rotation completion, it was quickly decided that the 2nd SFAB would deploy to Afghanistan. The plan is to eventually create a six brigade force of soldiers specially trained to assist host countries to combine nation-building with assistance in military training of indigenous forces.

This is an innovation of some note, as the U.S. Army has seldom given much priority to the act of military assistance. This despite the fact that it’s one of the premier roles for the U.S. Army Special Forces, also known as the Green Berets, since the group’s inception in 1952.

The mission to train and assist is vague enough to allow virtually any type of training mission. Officially, the training program is modeled after the standard Infantry Combat brigade, leaving one to wonder what modifications and extensions could be made to encapsulate artillery, armor and other modern warfare tactics. At any rate, the most urgent issue for the SFABs will be the level and scope of the training they receive at the Military Training and Assistance Academy at Ft. Benning.

Will their training model include the cultural preparation needed? Will it require the seldom remembered but important study of lessons learned from other nations, not just the U.S.?

[Activation ceremony for the U.S. Army’s 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade (SFAB)(U.S. Army photo)]

The Unrecognized and Unsung Role of Russia’s Egyptian Advisers

No one knew, or knows till now
About the awful heat and scorching sands
How in the fiery Arabian desert
We suffered thirst and yearning.

We defended the Fellah’s home and life
But no one ever thanked us
No one but Allah knew
How it was there and what happened.

And there in the sands on the Suez canal
It was as any war is:
Fate did not spare my comrades
But commanded me to remember them.

And to my last day, I’ll recall them
Whose life they gave for the struggle
Let the [Afghans], my friend and heir,
Sing about their fate and his.

-Vassily Murzintsev, “No One Knew”

The act of supporting Egypt was not a painless one for the Soviets. In a published poem entitled “No One Knew”, found in the excellent book “The Soviet-Israeli War 1967-1973” (by Isabella Ginor and Gideon Remez), Soviet veteran Vassily Murzintsev laments his time in Egypt. The poem captures the vital, yet usually unrecognized role of the so-called Security Assistance, more commonly known as an adviser, professional.

Russia’s military intervention in Egypt was a mammoth effort to rebuild the Egyptian army after its demoralizing defeat in the 1967 Six-Day War. Russia’s involvement with the Egyptian military was all encompassing and essential. The Soviets would become instrumental in Egypt regaining the honor of its military. General Saad Shazly, the Egyptian Army Chief of Staff at the time, wrote in his monograph “Crossing the Suez” that this accomplishment would have been impossible without the assistance of the Soviet advisers.

Can we learn from Russia’s experience in Egypt?

[Soviet maps of the region in 1953 and 1967]
[Soviet maps of the region in 1953 and 1967]

Cultural Clash: Russian Advisers and their Egyptian Hosts

In examining Russia’s experience in Egypt, many of the same problems the United States experienced in Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan, and even Iran prior to the revolution, were similarly experienced by Russian advisers. With around 20,000 Russians in Egypt, friction was bound to occur.

Soviet advisers were at every level involved in every aspect of Egyptian planning, training and logistics. Many senior advisers even brought their families and they lived in tightly guarded compounds where access in and out was rigidly controlled. At times the Russian commander in Egypt prohibited Russian families from leaving the compounds at all.

Once let out, the bumptiousness of Russians – from an Egyptian standpoint – was often on display. In one instance while traveling in Egypt in 1968, my wife and I took a small ferry across the Nile along with a number of Russian women and men. The women wore short house dresses with short-sleeved blouses. When we reached the other side of the Nile, the Egyptian boatman, his face twisted in disgust, kept repeating the word “zift” — a colloquialism that denotes anything dirty or lowly.

After some probing, the boatman said that his primary problem wasn’t so much their attire, but that the women had copious amounts of hair under their arms. To Egyptians, who prefer their women to have hair only on their heads, this was a massive breach of accepted behavior. To the ultra-conservative Muslim fellah this was more than a breach of etiquette, it was blasphemous. Understanding these norms is essential to intercultural relations.

Another cause for friction involved the apparent frugality of the Soviets. Russians in Egypt were paid relatively well, and were often granted monetary bonuses. Yet, when they left the compounds, often in groups, merchants complained they spent very little money, that they were cheap. Many Russians had volunteered for Egyptian duty in order to buy cars upon their return to Russia. At that time, this was beyond the dreams of most Soviet citizens. It was widely known that the monetary incentive was far more attractive than the patriotic duty of opposing capitalism.

[President of Egypt Gamal Abdel Nasser greets First Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union Nikita Khrushchev (L) during his visit to the United Arab Republic in 1964. (Photo Vasily Yegorov / ITAR-TASS)]
[President of Egypt Gamal Abdel Nasser greets First Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union Nikita Khrushchev (L) during his visit to the United Arab Republic in 1964. (Photo Vasily Yegorov / ITAR-TASS)]

A favorite item for Russians returning home, however, was gold. At one time the Egyptian security services complained to then-Egyptian President Anwar Sadat that the Russians were depleting Egyptian stocks of gold. This vignette is symptomatic of the basic distrust, which characterized the Egyptian-Soviet relationship.General Saad Al Shazly probably expressed this tension best when he wrote:

“The Russians have many qualities, but concern for human feeling is not among them. They are brusque, harsh, frequently arrogant and unwilling to believe anyone has anything to teach them.”

Meanwhile, the Russians were highly critical of their Egyptian military hosts. Most irritating to Shazly was the condescending and preachy attitudes of Soviet officials. They often accused the Egyptians of failing to mobilize their people and seeking luxury instead of putting all their energies against Israel. They frequently asserted that the Egyptian army was largely composed of peasants, most of them poorly educated, and that officers were self-seeking, using their position for personal gain. The Russians also complained that the Egyptians did not know how to use Soviet weapons, and that the problem was low training standards of the Egyptians.

Despite some public acknowledgements of appreciation by the Egyptian embassy and Egyptian press, many sources, especially Israeli ones, described the eventual departure of Soviet advisers as a welcome relief to both Egyptians and Russians. Dan Asher in his book, “Egyptian Strategy for the Yom Kippur” wrote, “most Egyptian personnel loathed the Soviet’s self – righteous and heavy-handed involvement in all levels of the army.” A classmate of mine, Colonel Nicholas Krawciw, attached to a United Nations unit at the time, once recalled being invited to a party by Egyptian officers celebrating the departure of the Soviets.

The training of over 20,0000 Egyptians in Russia didn’t promote intercultural relations either, according to Colonel E.V. Badolato and the Egyptian writer, Mohammed Heikal. Social mixing between the Egyptians and Russians was almost non-existent. Nevertheless, in some aspects, the cultural hurdles were less for the Russians than Americans and other Western advisers.

[Soviet military advisers against the background of the Pyramid of Khafre and the Great Sphinx, 1972]
[Soviet military advisers against the background of the Pyramid of Khafre and the Great Sphinx, 1972]

Combat Training and a Tower of Babel

The Russian system was to instill in the trainee confidence and knowledge by using set-piece drills over and over. Generally speaking, trainees were never expected to exercise initiative or innovation but rather go through drills repeatedly until it was second nature. Basic soldier drills were emphasized, especially survival on the battlefield. If an Egyptian unit stopped for just a brief break, soldiers would immediately dig foxholes.

The Soviet training compared to Western training could be explained this way: in American training of small unit commanders the instructor would say, “This is the situation, as commander what are your actions?” In the Soviet system of training the instructor would say, “This is the situation, and this is what you should do. Now we will practice this until you get it right.”

Most of the training was “show and tell” in order to mitigate the language difficulties. Few Russians knew Arabic and fewer Egyptians knew Russian. The Cyrillic and Arabic writing systems are so difficult that translations were poorly done and often translations at general staff levels forced the Egyptians and Russians to use English.

The Russians also had immense problems with translators and interpreters qualified to work in the military field. In many cases, they were pulled out of language schools before they had completed their training creating a very disgruntled group. The translators were usually only half trained and were not at all happy being dumped in the desert when most were expecting some cushy foreign service posting.

There were often times when translators arrived without any tropical clothing or lodging arranged. Translator social media groups in the Glasnost period often complained about the shoddy treatment in Egypt at the hands of Soviet authorities. According to General Shazly, the Egyptians were often given no notice of the arrival of translators and had to produce clothing and living arrangements for the bewildered Soviet students in a matter of hours.

One of the facets of the Russian interface with Arabs, was that often Russians who spoke Arabic didn’t seem comfortable in their use of Arabic. Perhaps it was their fear of misspeaking creating a security breach. For instance, my counterpart, the Soviet assistant Army attaché in Jordan spoke modern standard Arabic quite well, but he continually asked the Jordanian officers if my Arabic was better than his. It was not, but the Jordanian officers would, just to “pull his chain” heap praise on my mixed Bedouin and Levantine Arabic. Like many KGB officers assigned to the Arab world, he had received two years of Arabic study. Yet the Arabic taught was of the modern standard variety, never used in normal Egyptian conversation.

Training the Trainers and Surviving Egypt

In both the Egyptian and Afghan interventions the Soviets had little time to train or acculturate their officers and troops. While staff work was excellent, it was largely modeled on Soviet intervention in Eastern bloc countries. As the dust settled it became clear that trainers had much to do to become competent at their jobs.

While advisers did do longer tours than American advisers in Iraq and Vietnam, usually about 18 months, and two years for senior officers, interpersonal skills were largely absent and they received no cultural training of any significance. The vast majority of officers knew nothing of Egypt and its people. What they were told was that Egypt, despite the so-called Nasser revolution, was still a “feudal state”.

While in Egypt the enemy was boredom and a lack of any diversions. Soviet troops, like most troops everywhere, were unimpressed with officially conducted tours of museums and historical tourist sites. Russian trainers worked hard and mostly learned on the job what they needed to know, but there was a lot of downtime. Examples include Ramadan, when training virtually shut down, and weeks of overwhelming heat which often limited training to a few hours a day.

Two major problems evident among the Russians in Afghanistan, vodka and drugs, were mostly absent in Egypt, but psychiatric problems were not. Junior officers and NCO’s found their spartan existence tough, and according to one of my fellow Egyptian instructors, a former Egyptian military psychiatrist, there were many cases of Russian soldiers and officers being sent home because of their inability to adjust to the environment.

Overall, the Russians were generally found to be dedicated instructors and stern masters. Despite the grumblings of senior Egyptian officers, President Nasser gave the Russian advisers carte blanche in training scenarios, all the while keeping a certain security distance between them. Nasser made it clear that the Russian instructors were the bosses and in time the Russians were even involved in promotions and assignments.

Russian advisers were intimately involved in the planning for the Ramadan War. Yet later, according to Yevgeny Primakov, former head of the Soviet Foreign Intelligence Service, President Sadat denied any Soviet involvement in the planning. As many sources attest, this is not true.

On an early official visit in 1978, with the U.S. Army Assistant Chief of Intelligence to Egypt, we were shown some of the minutely detailed and beautifully hand drawn cartographic depictions of the Suez Canal Israeli defensive positions and devices installed on the sand berms on the Israeli side. On many documents, in addition to Arabic text, I saw notes in Cyrillic. It should be added that the Russian skill in river crossing techniques was obvious in the Egyptian assault across the canal.

Commander-in-Chief of the USSR Air Force, Chief Air Marshal P.S. Kutakhov with the squadron pilots of the 135th air regiment, February 1972, Egypt.
[Commander-in-Chief of the USSR Air Force, Chief Air Marshal P.S. Kutakhov with the squadron pilots of the 135th air regiment, February 1972, Egypt.]

The Russian Equipment and Logistics System

The Russian logistics system and equipment tend to be better suited for third world recipients; for the most part, simpler to operate and maintain. The Russian “push” logistics system worked far better for the Egyptians than the U.S. “pull” system which depends on better educated and more mechanically inclined crewmen, as well as a systemic approach to logistics.

For instance, the common toolset, which, at that time was found in the American battalion maintenance, would be found at depot level in the Egyptian army. Egyptians were also incapable of battlefield recovery and getting damaged heavy weapons back into the battle. The Egyptian system, based on their level of training and education, was very single task oriented. For example, each tank crewman had specific jobs and the cross training required to do multiple tasks was not usually done.

The Russians reinforced their method of compartmentalized instruction. This seemingly inadequate training has to be understood within the context of the reality of the Egyptian educational level at the time and the general unfamiliarity with machinery. An example, the Egyptian army had to establish a driving school just to train drivers on the rudiments of driving wheeled vehicles.

Military logistics systems are culturally based. The Soviet/Russian system was predicated on a lesser degree of mechanical aptitude and education, which fitted into the Egyptian requirements and educational environment much better than the American systems. Many times in the interminable meetings with Egyptian officers I heard how much better American equipment was than its Russian counterpart, only to hear a few minutes later how “delicate” American equipment was compared to the Russian equipment.

No doubt this was true. For example, repair work on a tracked vehicle, which included pulling the engine out of the chassis, could be done at a U.S. battalion level. Yet, Egyptians did not have the expertise to use the required U.S. equipment (or perhaps the commanders did not want the responsibility). It had to be sent to the rear. In some cases, I felt this was simply a matter of certain officers maintaining their prerogatives and exercising the Arab military cultural tendency to hoard supplies and information.

Russian-Egyptian Cultural and Political Advantages

Despite the above, I do believe that at the time many similarities between Russian and Egyptian cultures existed. A general acceptance of authority, paranoia about military security, and living with few if any amenities are a few examples. The Egyptian soldier expected very little and received even less. Russian junior officers and NCO’s also had lower expectations.

The U.S. Department of Army Pamphlet, A Historical Study of Russian Combat Methods in WWII had described the Russian soldier as one who, “in addition to the simplicity which is revealed in his limited household needs and his primitive way of living, the Russian soldier has a close kinship with nature.” The forbearance of Russian advisers in Egypt suffering 120-degree temperatures, sleeping on the ground in cots just high enough to get them above the scorpions crawling around at night, were some of the privations endured by junior Soviet officers that bewildered Egyptian officers who themselves detested the desert.

Unless they were on exercises, most advisers retreated to their compounds in the evening, a policy acceptable to both the Egyptian and Russian security apparatuses. Personal relationships were abjured. In neither the Soviet army nor the Egyptian army were junior officers and NCO’s expected to exercise much initiative. In both militaries the NCO was simply a higher grade enlisted man and simply relayed and enforced orders. This made the training scenarios much easier for the Russians to conduct.

Renowned Sovietologist Walter Laqueur explained in his seminal studies of Russia in the Middle East that the Soviets came in with a relatively clean slate in regards to colonialism and attitude toward Israel. Western egregious political mistakes, such as the ill-fated Baghdad Pact, paved the way for Soviet involvement. Admiration among Arab intellectuals and military officers for the rapid Soviet industrialization and military prowess was also an important factor.

The large Muslim population of the USSR also enabled Russians to find enough compliant Muslims to present a “Muslim face” to the Arab World. Despite the earlier effort of the Stalinists to eradicate Islam in the USSR as incompatible with Marxism, according to American premier Middle East historian, Bernard Lewis, in consideration of geopolitical reasons, a great deal of intellectual outreach was expended to surface compatibility of Islam to communism.

[VIDEO: Russian advisers train Syrian troops – Zvezda]

Lessons Learned: A Look Forward

The Soviet experience in Egypt can be narrowed down to three salient lessons.

First, one cannot expect gratitude from even the most expensive and elaborate military assistance programs. Egyptian sources, other than Saad Shazly, scarcely mention the real impact of Russian assistance. Upon their departure, they also left behind a residue of ill-will.

Second, no long-term benefits accrued to the Russians. While Russia seems to be regenerating its relations with Egypt, both are very wary of political entanglements.

Third, and most importantly, the cultural component of the security assistance programs is vital. Despite the massive transfer of arms and equipment, along with the best professional efforts of competent Soviet officers, the constant friction between the two sides, especially at the top level, negated the Russian investment.

Some might say it has been quite a number of years since the last Soviet soldiers left Egypt, that times have changed. Yet it is well established that cultures change very slowly even as technologies surge ahead. The culture of societies, particularly the military subculture, changes almost imperceptibly and not always in a “progressive” sense.

An analysis of Russian military attempts to modernize and reform have been well captured in the book, “Military Reform and Militarism in Russia” by Aleksandr Golts. Attempts by a series of Russian Ministers of War, particularly Anatoliy Serdyukov, to institute reforms in the Russian armed forces were ultimately defeated by the colossal Russian military bureaucracy. As Golt wrote, “a Russian officer should stop being a minuscule cog in a huge military machine, deprived of the right to initiative, who acquires knowledge to the area relevant to him.”

Russia, under President Vladimir Putin, has apparently chosen a somewhat different path in Syria. Russia’s specialized forces, the Spetsnaz, have been engaged in combat alongside and sometimes commanding units of the pro-Assad regime forces. Rather than instituting the more formalized training that characterized the training of Egyptians and Afghans, it would seem that Russia has opted for a sort of on-the-job training offered by the ongoing conflict in Syria. Putin may not wish to face the issue of attriting young soldiers lives in another Afghanistan, an increasingly precious commodity in view of the rapidly declining Russian population. He has wisely chosen a sort of “hybrid warfare,” using irregular forces, mercenaries, clandestine methods, information and disinformation programs, at which the Russians have excelled for decades.

Professional military trainers require specialized education and personal attributes. Hopefully the American army creation of Security Force Assistance Brigades (SFAB) will develop the required attributes and knowledge. In establishing these units Americans have learned, somewhat belatedly, the unique requirements and roles of a military adviser. The SFAB should delve deeply into American Lessons learned, not just from Iraq or Afghanistan, but also from America’s training of Filipinos, Central American forces, Koreans, and irregular forces such as in the Burma Theater in World War II.

As important, while studying our own security assistance lessons learned, we should always ensure that we study those of other nations, particularly our rivals, and those of former enemies such as Nazi Germany and its training of European (non-German) Waffen SS units and the Muslim legions. In an article I wrote and published in 1999, I illustrated the failure of Western military advisers to institute lasting changes in the Arab military. Much of the failures can be attributed to futile attempts to re-create a military modeled on Western traditions and ethos.

History does not always repeat itself, and sometimes does in a modified and unrecognizable form. Charging ahead in a futurist fashion arrogantly assuming that technology and “new wave” doctrine will put us ahead of our adversaries is a recipe for disaster.

Colonel (Ret.) Norvell DeAtkine, for LIMA CHARLIE WORLD

[ Edited by John Sjoholm and Anthony A. LoPresti ]

U.S. Army Colonel (Ret.) Norvell DeAtkine spent nearly nine years of his 30-year military career in the Middle East as a military attache, student or political military officer. After retirement he taught for 18 years as the Middle East seminar director at the John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School. Following his retirement from the JFK Center, Colonel DeAtkine held positions with the Defense Intelligence Agency, Iraqi Intelligence Cell and Marine Corps Cultural and Language Center. He has written a number of articles for various periodicals on primarily Middle Eastern military topics.

SOURCES:

The following sources are most helpful in terms of Soviet advisory material: Russia and the Arabs, by Yevgeny Primakov; Foxbats over Dimona and The Soviet-Israeli War 1967-1973, by Isabella Ginor and Gideon Remez; The Egyptian Army in Popular Culture, by Dakia Said Mostafa; The Yom Kippur War, by Abraham Rabinovich (the later version); The Soviet Union and Egypt 1945-1955, by Rami Ginat; The Soviet Union and the Yom Kippur War, by Galia Golan; Armies of Sand, by Kenneth Pollack; The Soviet Union and the Middle East, by Walter Laqueur; Naval War College Review, “A Clash of Cultures: The Expulsion of the Soviet Military Advisors from Egypt”, by E.V. Badolato. – Author

Lima Charlie World provides global news, featuring insight & analysis by military veterans, intelligence professionals and foreign policy experts Worldwide.

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Review of “Europe’s Ghost” By Michael Radu

Michael Radu, Europe’s Ghost; Tolerance, Jihadism, and the Crisis in the West. Encounter Books, New York, 2009, ISBN -13:978-I-59403-262-2, 773 pp., $35.00.

Radu’s Bio is at https://www.fpri.org/contributor/michael-radu/

Nine years ago  I wrote a review (http://americandiplomacy.web.unc.edu/2010/10/europes-ghost/)  of a book of critical importance today. I wrote it in an online periodical “American Diplomacy, an excellent periodical managed by mostly retired Foreign Service  diplomats  and academics from Duke and University of North Carolina. I was able to publish a number of articles in this periodical primarily because my classmate, class of 59 at West Point,   was one of the editors, Jim Abrahamson  graduated number one academically in my class. He is (now afflicted by a debilitating illness) a towering intellectual giant who could see through the cant of the liberal Left, yet coexist with them….something I find increasingly hard to do. Jim coauthored a book well worth reading entitled Leadership: #Combat Leaders and Lessons. ( On Amazon., $11.95). 

The review follows;

“The late Michael Radu was one of a fast disappearing class of intellectuals who could rightly be referred to as a renaissance man. Fluent in several languages, an insightful analyst of contemporary cultural trends, his baleful outlook on contemporary European trends is a cautionary tale for Americans. It is a book not only about the dangers of unchecked and aggressive political Islam taking root in Western civilization, but also the erosion of a once proud and dynamic civilization, retreating into tepid, effete, secular society valuing little other than a comfortable day to day existence.

He describes in painstaking detail the catastrophic consequences of political correctness bordering on the theater of the absurd. He describes the welfare system of the European countries that allows Islamist terrorists to plot their acts of terror in leisure, supported by the state welfare system, not only for themselves but their families as well It is a Europe in which Christianity can be (and is) disparaged and ridiculed but similar attacks on Islam  are considered a racist hate crime. It is a Europe in which political asylum is granted a radical who was considered by Saudi authorities as a “religious extremist.” The reader is left to ponder the literal significance of accepting as a refugee someone considered too extreme by one of the most extreme religious states in the world.

Muslim immigration in France

Blocking the street s in Marseille. an Example of “in your face” provocation.

The late Shah of Iran frequently spoke of the ‘unholy alliance of the black and the red,” referring to the perverse symbiotic relationship between the left and the religious fanatics.  It is ironic but apparently lost on the cognoscenti of the Left that the first victims of a repressive Islamic regime will be them, as was the fate of the Iranian Leftists and communists who clamored for the return of Imam Khomeini from Paris to Iran. But the situation in Europe is not wholly different from the increasing problem of fitting Islamic values and beliefs into the secular American society.  We have yet to deal with the attendant problems of promoting free speech versus the   national security issues involved by easily inflamed Muslim communities- egged on of course by the   Muslim extremists who dominate the Islamic cyberspace, control many  mosques and intimidate much of the Muslim community. This issue surfaced spectacularly in the media frenzy surrounding the announced Qur’an burning in an obscure Florida church.

The author painstakingly details the path to radical Islamic jihadism by a number of convicted Muslim terrorists in Europe. Many were following a criminal path when recruited to “re-Islamization.”  As has been illustrated many times by analyses of terrorist’s backgrounds, socio-economic status was not a compelling factor, but origins are.  The socio-economic status of the Muslim Turks (many of whom are Kurds) is not significantly different from those of the North African and Pakistani immigrants but the overwhelming majority of the terrorists are from the latter group. Radu also takes issue with the “homegrown” theory of European radicalism; these terrorists act spontaneously in response to some perceived affront to Islam and have negligible links to world wide Islamic terror organizations. Radu disabuses the readers of the fallacy of this theory in reviewing the cases of the London Transport Bombers, would be bombers of German trains, and the murderer of the Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh. All the terrorists in these cases had links to terror organizations.

A particularly interesting segment of the book is a critical analysis of the work of Norwegian researcher Petter Nester who examined the social structure of Islamist cells in Europe. Nester concluded that  there are  four general types of cell members: the entrepreneur, the protégé, the misfit, and the drifter. He defines the first two categories as acting out of devout idealism, while the misfits join to deal with personal problems, and the drifter is influenced of social networks and friends with strong personalities. But Radu asks  why so many of the drifters, despite their lack of ideological commitment, would prepare to sacrifice themselves in suicide attacks. Radu believes the answer lies in two factors: the adherence to a version of Islam that gives unity to local and personal grievances, and secondly the strong conviction that only action and violence offer solutions.  As an Algerian radical in London put it “ Bin Laden’s skill as an ideologue is to transform particular grievances into a universal struggle.” In the case of the second reason, one might notice the similarity to the “purification of  violence” as advocated by the new left guru of the 60’s and 70’s Franz Fanon. In fact, in reading this book the picture of the  earlier terrorists as portrayed  by  Eric Hoffer in his masterpiece The True Believer is an exercise in understanding that all totalitarian belief systems, be they communist, fascist, or Islamist, have many similarities. As Hoffer wrote in 1951:

For men to plunge headlong into an undertaking of vast change, they must be intensely discontented yet not destitute, and they must have the feeling that by the possession of some potent doctrine, infallible leader or some new technique they have access to a source of irresistible power. They must also have an extravagant conception of the  prospects and potentialities of the future.

Another book I  bought long ago and have just begun reading is Anti -Americanism by Jean-Francois Revel. Most of it destroys the pseudo intellectual class of  European elite of both Right and Left, but primarily of the Left, who habitually use America as the whipping boy for all the many ills of “Old Europe.  But he also skerwers the attitude of Europe’s Left   those policies toward the Muslim immigrants has set them up for failure. As he writes;

…It goes without saying that genuine bilingualism is a blessing,  not a curse; but many young “Beurs” ( term for north Africans) who finish their their adolescence in Academic failure……don’t know Arabic any better than  French. Unable to participate in the societies to  which these languages are the keys, they are are culturally marginalized

Revel goes on to   say that  the French policies have resulted in a radicalized Muslim society that sees no future in being French and have lost touch with their own culture beyond sloganeering, e. g., cheering Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein. Revel makes the points succinctly  that French government  measures to assist Muslim integration by coddling their  demands and avoiding  any mention of Islamist  terrorism  (except the most blatant) have calamitously  failed. These French policies were designed to assist in integration of the Muslim community but have resulted in the opposite effect. Virtually parts of the big metropolis areas are lawless and a sort of made up Sharia is observed.

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Logo of the “peaceful” Muslim Brotherhood.

 

The primary fault i find with Revels book is that he is much too generous to the Americans. For instance he asserts that Americans will never accept socialism, but today we have a major political party that has been largely taken over by socialists, and our tepid policies toward illegal  immigrants have begun to mirror Europe’s. Our establishment elite in their defense of the premier terrorist  hatchery, the #Muslim Brotherhood is similar to the uneducated and willful blindness of European politicians.

 

 

 

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The Muslim Brotherhood and its Allies in the Leftist Press and Academia

 

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As i wrote in my previous post, the Trump proposal to designate the Muslim Brotherhood  (MB) ), a Terrorist Organization will probably not succeed because of legalistic hair splitting on meeting the archaic definitions of what constitutes a terrorist organization.  Nevertheless it is, in fact,  the premier terrorist movement in the world. As I explained in the previous post, it is a hatchery of the organizations we recognize as terroristic, including  Al; Qaida  and the Islamic State ( ISIS). The philosopher  king, Seyyed Qutb, of the MB movement and all the Islamic  organizations which  have evolved from it have absorbed the pseudo-intellectual patchwork, fragmented thinking’ and unbridled hatred which drove his writings. The founder of the MB, Hassan al Banna implemented Qutb’s Sunni Triumphalist rants into the basic doctrine of the  MB, And so it remains today despite its many rebranding and disinformation campaigns.

The outpouring of  support from the Washingtonian  elite and the Media criticizing Trumps suggestion is an indicator of the degree to which this insidious organization has infiltrated the Media and Academia. The arguments they present are spurious at best and deliberate lies in many cases. Why this support?

  1. The previous administrations including to some degree, George Bush’s, cratered to the advocates or sympathizers of the MB. In the Clinton and especially the Obama administrations the MB supporters were the ‘Go to” muslims on all issues involving the so called “Muslim Community.” Those Muslims, the vast majority of the US Muslims , do not accept the Muslim Brotherhood as their spokesman and mentors. With the incoming Trump administration, the MB supporters moved into academia,  many “think tanks,”  and the Media.They have once again become the “go  to”  people for Islamic issues.
  2. The Muslim Brotherhood  does not represent the community  of Islam, certainly not the Shi’a, Ahmadiya,  Alevi, Alawi  or even most of the Sunni. In Egypt a country of very conservatives Sunni Islamic values, the MB could never garner  more than about 20-25% of the population. In is  ironic that a radical movement like the MB, anti feminist, anti gay, anti Christian, and vociferously anti Jewish, could suddenly be seen as representative of the Western Muslim communities.
  3. They wormed their way into these positions in the same way the Communist party was able to do so previously in the Roosevelt administration, the  voice media, and journalism. by concealing their affiliations and the manipulation of useful fools….of which Academia and news media  is surfeit. As we now know the fellow travelers and useful  fools, though not large in numbers,  were  able to  influence American policies after the Yalta conference  and post war agreements
  4. As one  who has had to undergo many security investigations  as part of my positions  in intelligences and military analyist positions,  I remember the question asking if I were ever a member of the communist party, the Klu Klux Klan, the The Knights of the White  Camelia ( an offshoot of the KKK). I mention them because as a kid in Anniston Alabama, I watched them parade down the street on horseback  in full regalia. But to return to the point, do the investigative services ask those requesting a security clearance if they have ever been a member of the Muslim Brotherhood ? They should because it is a movement   antithetical  to every moral and civil value our Republic represents.
  5. Bassam Tibi in his book The Sharia State:Arab Spring and Democratization,has what I consider the correct approach to the Muslim Brotherhood. In essence he wrote that the Muslim Brotherhood should “be engaged but not empowered.” In this he means for instance,  that they not be banned from the market place of ideas, such as Christianity  has been in  most Western nations,  but they should not  promoted  by governments into positions of authority as the Washington elite have done.  They should not be given any security clearance nor even a public trust clearance.  Those elected congressional  representatives,  who clearly sympathize  with the Muslim Brotherhood. should not be allowed on any congressional committees  overseeing national security.
  6. Finally, because its presents an ugly, bigoted, exclusivist face of  political Islam  to  non Islamic population of the West, the MB  is truly the worst possible representative to  combat the supposed “Islamophobia”  ( if it actually exists). As a number of careful scholars have noted,  the MB seeks to isolate the Muslim communities from their Western neighbors, ensuring that they never develop a truly Western polity

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Muslim Brotherhood Tells Washington DC “We are in Charge Here”

Raymond Stock, A well known expert on Egyptian culture and politics, having lived there for 20 Years,  and translated many of Naguib Mafouz’s  novels into English, wrote,

“With an implacably anti-Western, anti-secular, anti Christian, antisemitic, anti -female,  Moslem supremacist ideology…. yet most of the world still sees its leaders ( Muslim Brotherhood) not as they are but as they wish them to be;  moderate,  liberal,  more interested in economic well-being than ho;ly war….but we have  no evidence they at all they have changed…..”

And I might add also  the Muslim Brotherhood  ( MB) is  equally ill-disposed  toward the Shi’a and any other Muslims not adhering to their strict criteria of what a Muslim should be.

Writing of the Muslim Brotherhood’s efforts to hide their true intentions, Johannes J. G. Jansen, an expert on Islamic terrorism and author of the book The Neglected Duty, The Creed of Sadat’s Assassins. “The Credulity and gullibility of many Western observers of Islam and the Middle East has guaranteed the success of such efforts as stealth.” as he wrote the Egyptians call it a mafrakha, a hatchery of violence. he goes on to write,  “Taking even a superficial look at the internal  Brotherhood publications should make the truth obvious.” Bassam Tibi ( The Sharia State: Arab Spring and Democratization,  in his excellent discussion of Islamism, chronicles the naivete of American political leaders such as President Obama and Sec State Clinton in assuming the Muslim Brotherhood was the wave of the future. As Tibi makes clear there can be no such thing as an “Islamic democracy.” The Qur’an is our constitution” is the primary premise.

As Cdr Youssef H. aboul Enein  write in his book ,Militant Islamist Ideology, Islamist radical ideology cannot be understood without understanding the writings of  Sayyid Qutb, who  basically laid the framework for the ideology of the Muslim Brotherhood organization and al Qaeda.  I’ve read both of his books in Englisb, Milestones and in the Shade of the Qur’an.).  Viciously  anti-American, based in part on an unhappy university study in Colorado, his diatribes against everything American have penetrated deeply into the Brotherhood ideology and operations.

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Apparently according to Seyyid Qutb’s memoirs  the girls at the small Colorado college he attended  couldn’t keep their hands off him.

With  characteristic  deception. duplicity, and a chameleon -like ability  to adapt to their surroundings in order to survive, have kept them always in a position of readiness to foment rebellion and strife. As their original leader and founder, Hassan al Banna exhorted his followers, “God is our goal/the Prophet our is our leader, /the Qur’an our constitution/Jihad is our way/ Death is our loftiest  wish/God is God. God Is great.”The Brotherhood, wherever it tries to gain ascendancy, leaves a path of violence and blood as in  Syria and Egypt.

Me at Trial pic

Me at Trial of Jihadist Sheikh abdul Rahman,  the blind sheikh, and 9 others, at the 1993 World trade Cneter bombing conspiracy trial. All were followers of the philosophy of Seyyed Qutb.

Dr Laurent Murawiec, an Islamic scholar of the highest reputation,  in his book, the Mind of Jihad laid out the violent history of the MB and their predilection for enticing violence, and sowing discord wherever they were. Bassam Tibi further explores the recruiting and building of the communist like structure of the MB party.  It many ways it is also similar to the Ba’ath party of Iraq.It is an organization that not only aspires to recreate a world in their dogmatic totalitarian image,  and not just the Muslim world.  As my fellow instructor at the JFK Special Warfare Center, Ali Mohamed,  ( The infamous “green Beret” Terrorist) often said, with great conviction, the world will only be peaceful when Islam  reigns supreme.  That is the motive of the Muslim Brotherhood.

As Tibi analyzes in great detail, the image of the new Muslim Brotherhood world is incompatible with Western democracy and a free society. It is a replica of Communism and fascism in its rawest form. Like all totalitarian ideologies,  it is like catnip to the intellectual elite who see themselves as the leadership  of a perfect state, unhindered by the bleatings of the hoi poloi.  But unlike the dimwits of the Islamic State, motivated more by a sick sadistic blood lust, they do not publicly butcher people for orgiastic entertainment. The  terrorize them in much more subtle ways. The Muslim Brotherhood will happily don their their three piece suits and even wear a tie to convince their clueless academic and  journalistic  audiences that they are just like the Rotarians down the  street.  (putting on a tie is especially tough because as you may have noticed the Islamists such as the Iranian regime officials and the Brotherhood members eschew ties because they are seen as a symbol of Christianity which deep in their hearts they abhor.)

But lo and behold,  after the White House announcement, the big guns, like the Brookings Institute, come out with their  predictable response. Branding the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organization is just unfathomable to these people, After all the Muslim Brotherhood do run hospitals,  feed the hungry, house the homeless, which in fact they do, because the authoritarian Middle East governments are corrupt, and do nothing for their people. This why the United States has been caring for Palestinian  refugees for decades while the Arab governments refuse to do so.

My response to the Good people of Brookings and the usual suspects,  is yes the Brotherhood does some good works, but  always with  an evil objective of  absolute power as their goal. With the immense amount of money the Brotherhood has,  and throws around, one must expect that various “Think Tanks” in Washington will find the Brotherhood  just a wonderful bunch of congenial democrats  (little d),

However when viewing the good works of the Brotherhood, it is well to keep in mind the case of Hitler and Germany. Hitler picked up a destitute, demoralized Germany  and led a Germany back to be the greatest power in Europe in just twenty years time. Communism under Stalin did the same in Russia. Totalitarian governments with charismatic leaders do that well.  But what a horrible price the people paid.

Of course, should the Muslim Brotherhood be designated a terrorist organization, (Not likely, The Wise Ones will intercede)  the elitists of the inner circle in Washington also foresee injustices committed against the Muslim communities of America  because it is the firm belief of these elites that middle Americans are only slightly above the savage level and must be controlled by the anointed class, and fed only the news they can digest. After all the average American. Being the dumb ass he is reputed to be in our nation’s capitol, would see every Muslim as a terrorist. Did that happen  after 9/11? No…… but they don’t want to hear that and the NYT and Washington Post won’t print it.

.More later

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One should remeber however

wish/ God is God. G God is Great.

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Three Cheers for the New Muscular U.S. State Department – HooWah

After years of servile bowing and seemingly paralyzed in the face of   Iranian Regime  provocations, the State Department, to my amazement, issued a tough posting on Facebook,  (excerpt at the end of post) correctly identifying the venal corrupt Iranian mullah theocracy.  After it was issued, and the the inevitable vociferous Iranian reaction and orchestrated Iraqi criticism, I expected a meek State department apology blaming the FB entry of some disgruntled  employee, but so far Sec State Pompeo has not allowed that to happen. I hope that gradually all the massive benefits that accrued to Iran  during the Obama administration are abolished, and Iran,  as the  premier sponsor of state sponsored  (State Dept statistics) terrorism in the world is whittled down to the diminutive stature  it deserves.

I know this contradicts most of all the Middle East gurus, who in guarding their credentials as “serious” analysts have to ensure they do not violate standing orders of the PC crowd. In order to get published in our increasingly strait jacketed elitist periodicals one must toe the line. One of the basic tenets of the new “approved analysis”  is that the Iran “nuclear  deal” has been a success. In negotiating with the US.,  the rug merchants of Persia agreed to set aside the more obvious aspects of their inevitable drive to nuclearization in exchange for  being allowed to do  pretty much whatever they wanted in the Middle East….but using conventional weapons!! This deal is very popular among the international set in Western Europe,  as well.  They have to maintain  their economic well being.  which is increasingly tied to despotic Middle Eastern regimes and their Russian pals.  The increasing  Muslim populations in Europe must be appeased as well, as the Europeans  continue to depopulate themselves and young migrant workers are needed to keep the furnaces burning.

The State Department followed up this with another tweet condemning Iran’s execution of two 17  year old boys, probably in line with their previous history, the boys were accused of homosexuality. It is a facet of the liberal racism that these things go mostly unreported in the Western press, or greeted with a shrug of shoulders. The liberal racism is based on the premise that the third world culture is just as good or better than Western,    and if they execute children. abuse women, drive minorities out of their homes…… well…. Who are we to tell them that is wrong?

I did a  review on William Burn;s book, Back Channel ”  as I read all the rave reviews and wanted to see what all the fuss was about. Overall it was mildly interesting, certainly nothing earth shattering, sprinkled with the usual anti-trumpisms, ( how else  can one get good reviews from the NY Times and Washington Post?),  but when I noticed how he gushed  over John Kerry, the SecState at the time, I turned green with nausea. John Kerry, the war hero ,who garnered three purple hearts without every spending a day in the hospital,  was sent home after only four months  in Vietnam, so he could run for Congress, and then, when crapping on Vietnam veterans became the rage, he suddenly went contrite before congress and accused his fellow soldiers  of rape, pillaging, and murder. My vocabulary is inadequate to fully describe  my thoughts about Kerry.

Moreover I noticed that  Ambassador Burns waxed rhapsodically over his part in the the “secret” Nuc Deal with Iran, ( Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action) and all the covert comings and goings to places like Oman to meet with Iranian negotiators, yet in the conclusion he admonishes future diplomats that they must deal with transparency.! You don’t want those Joe the Plumbers  screwing up those neat little deals to Secure Peace in Our Time.

So in the end I decided that Burns, who is acclaimed as an accomplished diplomat,  is like  too many of the Washington circle who have spent their careers in the Nation’s capitol or abroad.  They lose contact with middle America

Anyway I dumped the review. I was too biased at that point to write further.

Excepts of the Iraqi response and the US Embassy FB post is as follows.

The Iraqi Foreign Ministry acting as a “proxy” for the Mullahs of Tehran issues an antagonizing statement against the United States that read :“The deployment of a diplomatic mission in Iraq to publish statements targeting one of Iraq’s neighbors and its religious or political symbols is contrary to the principles of the Iraqi constitution and Iraqi foreign policy, particularly the principles of good neighborliness, the policy of exclusion from bias in external relations, and non-interference in the internal affairs of all countries .” The above was in response to the US embassy in Baghdad posting on its page on 
Facebook Poster of Khamenei with the following caption: “Corruption is rife in all parts of the #Iranian Regime, starting at the top. The possessions of the current supreme leader Ali #Khamenei alone are estimated at $200 billion, while many people languish in poverty because of the dire economic situation in #Iran”.

 

The Iraqi Government is acting on behalf of the rogue Iranian regime to defend a brutal dictator, the US therefore must have no illusions, the Government in Baghdad is not an ally and it must hold PM Adil Abdul Mahdi accountable.

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General Al Sisi: A Man for all Seasons

President abdel Fattah Al Sisi is back in the news again after some time of relative quiet, at least in the Western press. The one most commented on is the national referendum coming up in which Egyptians will  vote on a referendum which if passed with keep Al Sisi in power until  2032, at least. And of course it will pass. There is no doubt about that. To ensure that happens the Sate Security thugs are going around demanding shop keepers put up signs announcing their wholehearted support of the referendum. To add a bit of comic touch the shopkeepers have to pay the security thugs for the signs and putting them up. In Egypt one could say it is business as usual.

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President Abdel Fattah al Sisi

The increasingly authoritarian rule of General Al Sisi is being commented on  in most of the Western press,  and of course in some of the Middle East media, especially the  Muslim Brotherhood  news sources such  as al Jazeera and  tweets from  ex- pat headquarters of the Egyptian  Muslim Brotherhood, now stationed in Turkey. Al Sisi has also seemingly made a turn toward the Russians again, with weapons, port rights and other warm and fuzzy  deals. But who is this  General Al Sisi anyway? And who are his enemies?  After all the previous presidents of Egypt have not done well. Nasser died of a heart attack brought on by his massive failures in Yemen and the 1967 war, Sadat was assassinated, Mubarak went to prison, ( out now) and his successor Al Morsi has taken his place in prison. .

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New type of Russian imperialism. ruian dancers on Nile tourist boat

President al Sisi still seems to be a mystery to Western observers as to his basic motivations and beliefs. For instance one American periodical( The Middle East Quarterly) had dual articles, one proclaiming him  to be an ultra  Islamist  in sheep’s clothing https://www.meforum.org/57907/egypt-sisi-reformer.  and the other claiming him as a secular reformer.(https://www.meforum.org/57907/egypt-sisi-reformer

To be sure he has fooled a lot of people including the hapless ex President  Mohammed Morsi who, believing him to be the model of a devout conservative  Muslim, brought him in to serve as his top military commander, ousting the previous  commander  The Defense Minister Mohammed Hussein Tantawi,  an old and ineffective commander as well as an ineffective politician…. a dual hat that all top generals in the Egyptian army must be in order to survive the frequent purges and fratricide inside the top echelon of the Egyptian army.

Al Morsi and Erdogan

Ex president  Mohmmed Al Morsi with  Tayyip  Erdogan

 

Indeed when he came into that position many Western observers, based on a paper he wrote at the US Army War College, branded him some sort of Islamic radical.  I read it and would classify it as the same pedestrian boilerplate one reads every day in the Arab world. His wife and daughter were also observed  wearing the Hijab, (the hair covering) which seemed to cinch the description of Al Sisi as a closet Islamist. His 17 page thesis on democracy in the Middle East opined that one of the main obstacles to democracy in the Middle East is the existence of Israel, the reasoning being that since Israel is a Western type nation and all Arabs resent Israel, the Arabs do not want anything like Israel,,,,or something along those lines.  of course one wonders did he really write it?Doubtful but no matter.

al-sisi AWC paper

 

Al Sisi emerged from the SCAF ( the Supreme Council of Armed Forces), a body designed to rule the country after  President Al Morsi’s removal,  to the top slot despite being relative junior to many of the other twenty plus generals and officials on the SCAF. He was described as energetic, and somewhat charismatic, as opposed to the  ex president  Hosni Mubarak  (who spawned a thousand unflattering jokes) and the bumbling  Muslim brotherhood front man Ex President Mohammed Al Morsi, a graduate of Southern California University. He could could not put a coherent sentence together in English. ((perhaps a telling comment on California universities?). He was once caught on national  television scratching his testicles while conferring with a foreign dignitary.

As President,  Al Sisi has demonstrated he knows how to rule Egypt, with a combination of Islamic exhortations and public piety., along  with  a continuing crack down on the Muslim Brotherhood and opponents whom the ubiquitous security agencies deem dangerous, which could be almost anyone with a public voice who  evidences displeasure with al Sisi.

The previous President, Al Morsi,  was a proponent of the Muslim Brotherhood (MB ) and was its point man, The MB is the most dangerous opponent of al Sisi’s rule, something the security agencies fully understand. It has been driven underground and its leadership is now residing in the warm embrace of the MB’s newest big daddy, Erdogan’s Turkey.

AL Sisi’s most dangerous threat

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Hassan Al Banna Founder of the Muslim Brotherhood

  The Muslim brotherhood ( MB) has one very powerful attribute. It represents the beliefs and political orientation of many Egyptians, especially those of the middle or lower classes.   It also, by tradition, has had a very tight organization with a cellular structure enabling it to survive the vicissitudes or various anti- MB regimes. A second very critical advantage is that is has a certain wide Islamic world appeal, supplemented by some quarters in the West viewing it as  being a benign form of Islamism open to a sort of democracy. (A dangerous but politically correct form of ignorance.) This has enabled the MB to draw funding and support from across the globe. The Islamist doctrine has had many studies done in the West, most drawing a  politically correct distinction between those of the Salafist Jihadis orientation and the MB.  Despite the rather harsh and intolerant doctrine espoused by the founder,  Hassan al Banna , drawing on the hysterically anti-western diatribes of Sayyid Qutb. Nevertheless the three piece suits of its Western proponents apparently are reason enough for its apologists to extoll its virtues. Its violent history records a number  of attempted and accomplished assassinations of Government officials. The MB draws its main strength from the people with whom its has deep roots but these roots have not translated into coherent political action nor a unified direction of the party.   One of its main attractions to the poorer segments of society was its charities and relief organizations that were far more efficient that government services. For instance when buildings collapse, which is a common occurrence in Cairo, given the non existent building standards, their emergency crews arrive at the scene long before the government services and are more sympathetic to the travails of the people.

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Sayyid Qutb   originator of MB doctrine and beliefs  Hanged by Nasser

 

. At times it has cooperated with the authorities to crush communists and  leftist  organizations ,and is therefore mistrusted by the liberals, left wing and many intellectuals as being untrustworthy and archaic.. While it a tightly organized group it never speaks with one voice, confusing its supporters, providing ammunition for its enemies who can select the voice they choose to highlight. It does not however confuse the intelligence apparatus of Egypt, that despite some high visibility failures, are pretty well integrated into the MB networks. The MB’s  vacillating political directions, unclear Islamic doctrine, especially on minority rights, women’s rights, diffuse its potential power and give it an aura of a dinosaur in a modern world. Although patterned in structure in some respects like their arch enemy, the communists, they have never enjoyed the party discipline and have frequent personality splits which tend to degrade to overall effectiveness of the organization.Although the MB has a great record of being able to regenerate itself each crackdown,  each crackdown  removes dedicated members and requires an underground red building effort, which takes years.

The second most dangerous opponent of the Al Sisi regime is the various Jihadi organizations

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Sinai Egypt

 

.The basic strength of the Jihadi movement is the combination of dedicated religious beliefs, transcending love of life and at times a fanatical devotion to the cause. This supplemented by a leadership, that has been tried and tested and risen to the top by strength of personality, character and abilities. They have also the benefit of a sizable group of supporters and admirers throughout the Islamic world. There needs to be some distinction however in describing the Jihadis of the type that killed Sadat and those operating in the Sinai. A very good book to understand the origins of Al Qaeda and those Egyptians who established it is by Johannes .G. Jansen, The Neglected Duty: The Creed of Sadat’s Assassins, who killed Sadat not because of a peace pact with Israel as many Western experts would aver, but because Sadat had demonstrated that he was an apostate.The text which explained the  assassin’ s doctrine called Al _Faridah al – Gha’ibah ( The neglected duty) is exhaustively analyzed by the author.   The assassins of Sadat were urban, lower middle class, with some higher  education. On the other hand, the  Jihadis of the Sinai  are mostly tribal villagers, with some of the older Al Qaeda ans ISIS leadership, conducting a hybrid war of terror and guerrilla  warfare. As Jansen makes clear the Muslim brotherhood is a gateway to the Islamist extreme violence.after the carnage finding Sadat

Their main weaknesses of the Jihadis are their relatively small numbers and division into competitive organizations. The Wilayat Sinai, formerly the Ansar Bayt al Maqdis , which has since morphed into an affiliate of the ISIS,   has become the foremost terrorist insurgent group in the Sinai. Competing with them is the Sinai affiliate of the Al Qaeda organization which has always had a strong Egyptian component including the present leader Ayman  al- Zawahiri.   Added to these organizations are several smaller Islamist organizations, sometimes cooperating with each other, sometimes rivaling. . There is no doubt that the Al Qaeda and Wilayat Sinai organizations are perfectly capable of tactical cooperation at the local level, but their cooperation at a strategic level is doubtful. The tribal culture which predominates in the Sinai also impedes strong unity among the Jihadi groups as they have a tradition of shifting loyalties. Moreover Egyptian military  attacks that entail civilian casualties have intensified Sinai villagers antipathy to the Egyptian military have also proven counter-productive to the objectives of Jihadist groups. . Moreover,  Jihadi attacks on the military, which to a degree is a peoples army ( at least among  enlisted soldiers who are all draftees) is not  immensely popular either.

The unusually quick actions of the Army  in meeting the threat and the penetration of the terror groups (and confronting  terrorism with State terrorism) by the intelligence apparatus has been a critical  factor in the limited ability of the terror groups to widen their conflict to  Western Egypt.  (Read Hazem Kandils’ excvellent book, Soldiers,  Spies, and Statesmen.  The military was able to seal off the conflict in the Sinai and by systematic destruction of tunnel systems to limit volunteers from the Gaza strip reaching the beleaguered Jihadis in th Sinai.  The massive numbers of Egyptian troops making wide sweeps through the Sinai, inefficiently, but nevertheless effectively enough have kept the Jihadis off balance. The initial hope of the Jihadis that reinforcements might reach them via the western desert with Libya has proven to be unrealistic. Traversing one of the most forbidding deserts in the world is only possible with the assistance of local tribal Bedouin, who in the past have worked for the highest bidder, and cannot be relied upon. Overall the radical Islamists are somewhat disappointed by the lack of a massive public reaction against the re-institution of military rule. The radical Islamists have a tendency to over-inflate the popularity of their cause among the Egyptian people. Western and Arab media  antipathy toward the Al Sisi regime have contributed to this

The greatest strength and perhaps threat,  also , is the Military and security apparatus,

. The principal strength of Al Sisi’s  regime is simply that it controls an immense, if sometimes ponderously cumbersome military force, with a near monopoly on weaponry. As the central nerve system of an institution which still maintains a high reputation and prestige among the Egyptian people.  ( Read The Egyptian Military in Popular Culture by Dalia Said Mostafa. It maintains a centralized command and control system and at least outwardly presents a unified face to the public. While there may be differences of opinion within the military and security apparatus .  they all share a commonality in self –preservation and a nationalist ideology that complements their  conservative Islamic beliefs.   Its prestige, which suffered after the 1967 war, was restored by the canal crossing in the 1973 war. Its ability to coalesce rapidly and overthrow the Muslim Brotherhood regime of Mohammed Morsi also enhanced its reputation, particularly among the middle and upper classes and many in the higher circles of business as well. President Mubarak somewhat took the military for granted, and did not lavish attention and funding on them as the leadership expected. As a consequence when the anti Mubarak turmoil began the army sat back and waited for developments. When pressed the Army spokesmen also anwsered “we are with the People.

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Egyptian troops

The weaknesses of the Egyptian military are many, none fatal, but critical nonetheless. n The Suez crossing in 1973 was accomplished by a determined and relatively well trained  army,  embued with religious zealotry.  After that the proficiency declined as the officer corps once again became infected with the traditional culture of wasta and bakhsish.. Corruption and lack of transparency are deeply entrenched features of the Egyptian political environment and a military government always becomes infected sooner or later.

In a military vein the Egyptian army, as the main arbiter of power within the overall military institutions, is a powerful and pervasive organization. It is a cumbersome, inflexible instrument with a history of over-centralization, uneven military performance, and complex command environment meant to prevent coups rather than fight external wars.   Thanassis  Cambanis, in his book Once Upon a Revolution ,described it as a …”mediocre, military at best,bad at basics, such as training and organizing battalions and worse at everything else.” Domestically, it until the events following the ouster of Mubarak,  avoided domestic disturbances such as the low –intensity conflict against Islamist rebels in the early 1990’s. In that conflict most of the fighting was done by the Central Security Forces (CSF) and police. The CSF  generally accept the lower quality of the incoming recruits and are not useful for much more that confronting protesting college students. In fact the CSF should also be viewed as a counter weight to the regular army. This is a common feature of Arab military establishments, in which separate ground forces are created as counter weights to forestall coups.

The Egyptian forces are trained and doctrinally disposed to fight large massive conventional wars and not counter-insurgency. They have anti-terrorist units but their performance has been poor as evidenced by the aborted hostage rescue operation on Cyprus in 1978. Over the years there has been some improvement but they still have an inadequate level of proficiency. The operations in the Sinai have been very poorly executed, as detailed by Mohannad Sabry in his book, Sinai.  Quoting an Egyptian Colonel Khaled Okasha,  commenting on the Egyptian operations in the Sinai, he said, “the lack of training and development of the security and military institutions was more destructive than corruption.” The usual Egyptian army  operation in the Sinai  consists of wide sweeping search and destroy missions which basically come up empty handed……  despite glowing communiques. One of the basic problems is that the East of Suez urban Egyptians view of the Sinai Bedouin as ignorant nomads.

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Sinai villagers

The intelligence and Security apparatus is ubiquitous and omnipresent and  despite some glaring failures, such as the assassination of Sadat, they have a massive network of informers and have been mostly successful in maintaining the power of the “deep State.”

As mentioned, the security apparatus is a strength,  but paradoxically also a weakness in that its brutality and practice of swatting flies with a hammer have created a feeling of public loathing toward the intelligence and security agencies. To read how a decent Egyptian young man becomes Islamized read  The Yacoubian Building by Alaa Al Aswany and follow the story of Taha. The brutality of the security and intelligence apparatus has long been a feature of the successive Egyptian regimes. One only needs to read Naguib Mahfouz’s books in which he often referred to the State security agencies as “gangsters.” A very detailed history of the  notorious Egyptian intellignce and security apparatus is  found in the pages of

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Abdul Nasser. Still the latter day D Saladin to many Arabs

Under Nasser for a brief time, Egypt was the leader of the Arab world.  The famous circles of Nasser, the Arab, the Islamic and the Africa were to intersect in A Cairo.  Cairo was the Hollywood of the Arab world, the Nashville of popular music.  It was also the literary capitol of the Arab world.  Today,  most of the more popular Ramadan series are produced in Turkey and as Fouad Ajami observed in his n book In this Arab Time,    Egypt only published  375 books while Israel published 4000.  This decline has come about partly party because Nasser over- reached himself in Yemen and against Israel.   Also contributing to the decline, was Nasser’s  institution of socialism with “an Arab face,”  and the Islamic revival which has stagnated efforts to modernize.  The crass edifices of glittering pseudo  modernism is only a facade, and  Cairo is but a shadow of its former self.

Peter Mansfield in his masterful biography of Nasser ( Nasser’s Egypt) concluded that if Egypt  “emerges from social and economic  backwardness  the status of a developed nation.” then the 1952 revolution would be the seminal event of the 20th Century and if not Nasserism will leave as little impression as Italian Fascism.”

At this point it is manifestly obvious that, unfortunately, Nasserism contributed to the decline of Egypt not its development, and as result the Egyptians and President al Sisi   must simply live within this  inheritance. Al Sisi has his work cut out for him

 

 

 

 

 

 

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