"Islamic governments have never and never will be established through peaceful solutions and cooperative councils. They are established as they always have been by pen and gun, by word and bullet, by tongue and teeth." Preamble to an Al Qaida Training Manual.
In 1979, the Shah of Iran was overthrown by a broad coalition including Marxists, nationalists, Islamists and leftists. These disparate elements were united only in their opposition to the monarchy and their belief that Iran would be a better nation once he was gone.
Once the Shah had fled the country, these groups began to struggle with the task of forming a new government and forging a new constitution. Islamists, lead by the Ayatollah Khomeini, recently returned from exile in France, exploited the confusion and chaos of the period to consolidate their power and to begin to drive the revolution in the direction of the creation of a true Islamic Republic.
As a new government began to take shape, Khomeini's followers barred members of non-Islamist groups from entry into newly established centers of power such as the Supreme Council of Revolution, the militant Committees, Revolutionary Guardian Corps, ministries and parliament. The Ayatollah declared the creation of a new Islamic state to be the only acceptable alternative. Groups that attempted to resist that Islamists were confronted, marginalized and ultimately destroyed. Parties were outlawed. Freedom of the press was eliminated. Within two years of the Shah's downfall, Iranian prisons were once again filled with political prisoners. Mass executions followed.
A revolution that had begun with the hope of creating a more just, more democratic Iran ended with that movement hijacked by radical Islamist militants. Iran went from the dictatorship of the Shah directly into the nightmare of the Islamic Republic.
Thirty-four years later we are still paying the price. Iran, once a key alley, remains an implacable foe.
And, now, it is all happening again.
On November 22, 2012, the President of Egypt, Mohamed Morsi, decreed that all of his actions and decrees were now beyond judicial review. Some months ago, the new Parliament elected after the fall of Hosni Mubarak was dissolved and all legislative power vested in Morsi. He thereby became, for the time being at least, both the chief executive and the legislature. Having now placed himself above the law and the power of the bench, Morsi has effectively become the absolute ruler of Egypt. Egypt may have gotten rid of one despot in the form of Mubarak, but it now has another in the person of Morsi.
Morsi has defended his actions by claiming that the judiciary is dominated by holdovers from the Mubarak regime and is actively working to sabotage the "Arab Spring" and the quest of the Egyptian people for greater freedom and representative government. He has claimed that he will submit himself once again to the rule of law and judicial review once he has succeeded in shepherding the "revolution" through this dangerous period and protecting it from its enemies.
Whether or not any of that is true is subject to debate. What is not subject to debate is that Morsi, as a member of the Muslim Brotherhood is dedicated to the creation of an Islamic state in Egypt. He is not a secular humanist. He is not interested in creating a liberal democratic regime in Egypt. He wants to impose a government based on a strict interpretation of Sharia law on the Egyptian people.
Morsi came to power on a platform calling explicitly for limits on the rights of women. He is fiercely anti-Israel. He has referred to Jews in official statements as the offspring of pigs and monkeys. He has stated repeatedly that Jerusalem belongs to the Arabs. He appears frequently at rallies at which there are public calls for "a million martyrs" to help drive the Jews from Israel and at which attendees declare proudly "We are all Hamas."
In a speech earlier this year at Cairo University, Morsi declared, "The Koran is our constitution, the Prophet is our leader, jihad is our path and death in the name of Allah is our goal."
In a televised campaign speech prior to his election as President, Morsi lead the crowd in a traditional Muslim Brotherhood call and response:
Morsi: "Jihad is our path."
Crowd: "Jihad is our path."
Morsi: "Death for the sake of Allah is our most lofty aspiration."
Crowd: "Death for the sake of Allah is our most lofty aspiration."
Morsi closed this speech by spelling out his goal as President in the most explicit terms. "The sharia, then the sharia and finally the sharia. This nation will enjoy blessing and revival only through the Islamic sharia."
What is equally as clear as Morsi's intent is the strategic significance of a takeover of Egypt by radical Islamic forces. This is not Afghanistan, which, for all the blood and treasure we have poured into it, is a poor, peripheral nation in South Asia. Egypt has a population of 85 million people. It is in many ways the most politically and culturally important nation in the Middle East. It has a massive military machine. It has been for decades key to preventing a new Arab-Israeli war. Transformed into a hostile, Islamic state it will just as likely to be the cause of renewed conflict.
The goals of Al Qaida and other Islamic extremist groups are often difficult to describe or to comprehend. They include the expulsion of American forces from the Middle East, and the destruction of the state of Israel. Perhaps most importantly, however, they include the reestablishment of the Caliphate.
As imagined by Al Qaida and other Sunni extremist groups, the Caliphate is a confused concept. In describing it, Islamic terrorists borrow bits and pieces from a variety of real Muslim empires, the Ummayids, the Ottomans, the Mamulukes. They then mix in healthy portions of fantasy and infuse the Caliphate with their own twisted interpretation of Islam, which bears virtually no resemblance to the faith actually practiced in any of the great Muslim empires.
What is clear, though, is this, the Caliphate Islamic extremists envision will be an Islamic super-state, which will dominate all of the Muslim nations of the Earth and will govern this immense area in strict accordance with the tenets of Sharia law. It will be an austere, foreboding place in which women remain covered and in their place and in which non-Muslims will have no home.
Osama Bin Laden devoted a great deal of time to the struggle for the creation of the Caliphate. For all that, however, he made almost no progress toward actually achieving the goal. Al Qaida found safe haven in fragmented lawless areas around the world. For a time, it even succeeded in establishing a symbiotic relationship with the mad Taliban government of Afghanistan. It never succeeded in posing a serious threat to any of governments of major Muslim nations.
That is about to change. For the first time since 1979 a major Muslim state is about to fall under the control of Islamic extremists. How exactly it will play out or how long it will take is, as of this writing, unclear. The final result is predictable. Egypt is about to become a radical Islamic Republic, and we are about to move one state closer to the creation of the Caliphate envisioned by Islamic extremists. Osama is dead. His dream is not.