Analysis: What is the CIA doing in Egypt?
January 28, 2011 4 Comments
By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Every time there is a popular uprising anywhere in the Muslim world, the minds of American intelligence planners go immediately to 1979, when the Iranian Revolution tore down almost overnight one of Washington closest allies in the Middle East. By ignoring the immense unpopularity of the Shah’s brutal regime, and by limiting its Iranian contacts among the pro-Shah elites in the country, the CIA was caught completely in the dark as the Islamic revolution unfolded. Could the same be happening now in Egypt? Hopefully not, says The Washington Post’s veteran intelligence correspondent Jeff Stein. As in the case of Iran under the Shah, the US has stood by the 33-year dictatorship of Hosni Mubarak, choosing to abide by the simplistic dogma of ‘either secular repression or anti-American Islamism’. But, unlike 1970s Iran, one would hope that US intelligence agencies have been able to develop useful contacts across the fragmented but dynamic and energized Egyptian opposition community, says Stein, quoting former US Defense Intelligence Agency official Jeffrey White. It is unlikely that the CIA and other agencies have fully embraced persistent calls, such as those by Emile Nakhleh, former head of the CIA’s program on political Islam, to develop trustworthy contacts inside the Egyptian Islamic Brotherhood, as well as groups close to it, such as Hamas and Hezbollah. If such contacts have not already been developed, it is almost certain that US intelligence agencies are frantically trying to establish them right now, so they can at least provide moderately tolerable assessments of the unfolding situation on the ground. Anything past that would probably be unfeasible at the current stage, according to Stein’s analysis. As Richard K. Betts, an academic with close contacts with US intelligence agencies puts it, “the priority [right now] is collection and analysis about what’s going on”.