Kathryn Jean Lopez @ NRO:
Constitutional deliberations in Egypt (including a flight from the presidential palace in Cairo). Crackdowns in Syria. Rumors of worse to come. Barry Rubin, director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center, and author of books including The Muslim Brotherhood: The Organization and Policies of a Global Islamist Movement is here to weigh in.
KJL: Do you have anything remotely hopeful to say about the trajectory of the Arab Spring today?
BARRY RUBIN: Aha! Fishing for optimism. Okay. First, the anti-Islamist opposition in Egypt and Tunisia has coalesced. There’s hope for autonomy for a moderate Kurdish area in Syria. And more people in the West have woken up to the situation and the danger. That’s about it for optimism.
Seriously, in Tunisia there is a battle for power, and the Islamists face the possibility of constraints, even if only due to their own caution. There is little good to say in Egypt. For Syria, 2013 is probably going to be the year of a rebel victory, even though they might not control the entire country until 2014. So what kind of government is going to rule Syria? It’s an open question, but the Muslim Brotherhood is the best bet.
And the Obama administration, after reelection, has not changed any of its basic positions on these issues.
KJL: Should the U.S. have some bottom lines to try to influence the upcoming constitutional referendum in Egypt?
RUBIN: Shrug. The Constitution will pass. The U.S. government won’t say a word of criticism or do anything. Thus, the United States has no influence on the referendum. What will happen as the Brotherhood continues to intimidate the courts and the Egyptian president rules by decree? Will the White House seriously condition aid on the treatment of women and Christians?
KJL: Is there anything we or anyone else can do to help influence things in Egypt?
RUBIN: There’s a lot but nothing will be done. It’s a matter of the Obama Administration’s ideology and policies.
KJL: Is Syria going to use chemical weapons? The U.S. says we’ll take action if they do. What could that look like?
RUBIN: I think that the rebels will capture Aleppo within three to four months, and Damascus some time in 2013. Then the regime will retreat to the northwest, the world will recognize a rebel regime as ruling the country, and there will be a bloodbath. Expect the Obama administration to take little or no action.