American Middle East experts are divided on what the likely outcome would be should Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak be forced to relinquish power amid the anti-government protests that intensified Friday.
The fear for many American policymakers is that the Muslim Brotherhood would fill the void should Egypt’s authoritarian regime fall.
Jim Phillips, a senior research fellow of Middle Eastern Affairs at the Heritage Foundation, told The Daily Caller that while “the situation in Egypt is moving so fast that the outcome remains unclear,” the likely result of Mubarak’s fall would be a Muslim Brotherhood takeover.
According to Phillips, a Mubarak’s toppling would result in a period of chaos where the country’s political factions would engage in bitter infighting to gain control of the country. “The likely beneficiary will be the Muslim Brotherhood,” said Phillips, “the largest and best-organized opposition party.”
“Egypt has a much stronger Islamist movement that is likely to grow much stronger as the situation deteriorates,” he continued. “Over time, the Egyptian secular liberals, socialists, and pro-democracy moderates are likely to be squeezed out of power by Islamist radicals.”
But Scott Carpenter of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy told TheDC while a Muslim Brotherhood takeover is feared, it is an unlikely scenario, at least in the short term.
“The military would never let the Muslim Brotherhood come to power at this point,” said Carpenter.
He also said the best-case scenario would be for the military to appoint some kind of president that will promise to hold elections soon.
“But the question will be whether that will be enough to attenuate the protests in the streets,” said Carpenter.
Former CIA officer Bruce Riedel, currently serving as a senior fellow in foreign policy at the Brookings Institution, had a slightly different take, writing that Egypt could actually do worse than the Muslim Brotherhood.
“Many scholars of political Islam also judge the Brotherhood is the most reasonable face of Islamic politics in the Arab world today,” he wrote.
Riedel suggested that the organization renounced violence years ago.
Founded in the 1920s and initially involved with ridding Egypt of British influence, the Muslim Brotherhood has always had a contentious record in the country. Its ultimate goal is to create an Islamic state in Egypt.