These things have taken on extra gravity because this week, a number of additional distressing events has occurred regarding the Sunni-Shi’a conflict. One is in the city of Sidon in Lebanon, where a Sunni Salafi Sheikh by the name of Ahmed al-Asir declared that since the army in Lebanon is an organization under Hezbollah Shi’ite leadership (a true fact that everyone in Lebanon knows very well), he calls on all the soldiers in the army to desert. The Lebanese version of conscientious objection. In response, the army attacked the sheikh’s stronghold, and the ensuing clash resulted in the death of 17 soldiers and tens of the sheikh’s supporters. This event is another in the unending war between neighborhoods of the northern port city of Tripoli, because of the Sunni support of the rebels in Syria, and the Alawites support of Asad.
The second event occurred in London near Hyde Park, on Edgeware Road, which is the center of the Islamic scene in the capital of Britain. The Salafi preacher Anjem Choudary – whose words call to mind the speeches of bin Laden – led a demonstration of Sunnis against Asad and Hezbollah, which degenerated into fistfights and yelling back and forth between the Sunni demonstrators and the supporters of Asad and Shi’ite Hezbollah, many of whom are Iranian. This event shows how connected the expatriate communities are to the lands that they came from, and how willing they are to bring the customary Middle Eastern way of dealing with conflicts to Europe. In my opinion the government of Britain must construe the event very clearly: The Middle East is coming to the center of London, and if the authorities in Britain continue to ignore reality, then the phenomenon of mutual slaughter which is the usual way of dealing with religious and sectarian conflicts in the Middle East will spread to the United Kingdom. Have we forgotten the slaughter of the British soldier in London about a month ago?
And in Egypt the problems only get worse. Two weeks ago, Ethiopia announced that it is beginning work on the “Renaissance Dam”, on the Blue Nile, the main source of the Nile flowing from Ethiopia to South Sudan, to Sudan and then Egypt. If indeed the dam is built and Ethiopia stops the flow of water to these countries, this will be a death sentence for the residents of Egypt, because the Nile will become a stinking puddle of stagnant water, and the dangerous diseases of the intestines and eyes that are already problematic will become a catastrophic danger. Morsi related to this matter in his recent speeches, and the tone of his voice becomes strident whenever he talks about it, an indication of how distressful this matter is for Egypt. He threatens Ethiopia with expressions like “all options are on the table” as if he has the military option to deal with the dam. He claims that every drop of the Nile’s water is a matter of life and death, a real existential threat, and that Egypt will keep all options open in order to safeguard its “aquatic security”. The Egyptian in the street knows the bitter truth: Morsi has no way of forcing Ethiopia to allow the waters of the Nile to flow down river, and his threats are just empty bluffs.
But Morsi is also confronted with several internal legal problems. There is a lawsuit against him for escaping legal custody in January of 2011, when members of Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood broke into several prisons in Egypt and freed hundreds of detainees that Mubarak had imprisoned in order to put down the demonstrations against him. If Morsi fails in his legal battle, the court might declare that his candidacy was illegal and annul the results of the elections that brought him to the president’s seat. The Egyptian court can do this, since that is exactly what the legal system did when it dispersed the parliament for procedural reasons, when the Muslim Brotherhood had won almost half of the seats.
The second problem that Morsi is confronted with is a piece of information that is spreading all throughout Egypt, which is that the candidate who really won a majority of Egyptian votes in the elections for the presidency was not Morsi, but Shafiq, the competing candidate, but because of demands made by Barack Obama, the president of the United States, General Tantawi, then head of the Supreme Military Council, was pressured into falsifying the results of the elections in favor of the Muslim Brotherhood. This information has spread throughout Egypt, and many Egyptian citizens believe that it is true, since it fits very well with the conspiracy theory claiming that foreign forces are controlling Egypt for their own gain, and that this is the source of the country’s troubles. People believe this because it correlates with the belief that President Obama is energetically promoting the Muslim Brotherhood as the sort of Islam that the United States can live with. This is the reason that Obama met with the leadership of the Brotherhood during his visit in Cairo in June 2009 as a visitor of Mubarak (an event that was considered then like sticking a knife in the Egyptian president’s back), and this is the reason that Obama has surrounded himself with Muslim Brotherhood people who have become part of the White House staff (see here or here).