2012 has been a difficult year in the Middle East in many, painfully familiar ways: descent into civil war in Syria, political polarization and frustration in Egypt, unrepentant repression in Bahrain, war in Gaza, the U.S. Ambassador's death in Libya, stalemate and backsliding in many other countries in the region. But it's been a great year for the Middle East Channel!
The Muslim Brotherhood resolved months of speculation this weekend by announcing its intention of nominating Deputy Supreme Guide Khairet al-Shater for Egypt's presidential election. It may not seem so surprising for a country's largest political force and the largest parliamentary faction to field a Presidential candidate. But it was. The announcement sent an earthquake through Cairo's already wildly careening political scene. I'm happy to admit that I was taken by surprise.
What was the Brotherhood thinking? The nomination of Shater seems to have been a response to threats and opportunities a rapidly changing political arena, rather than the hatching of a long-term plan. But many Egyptians would disagree, seeing it instead as the culmination of a long-hatching conspiracy with the SCAF. I think it will reveal itself to be a strategic blunder which has placed the Brotherhood in a no-win situation. But clearly they had their reasons for making such an uncharacteristically bold move. How will it affect the endlessly turbulent and contentious Egyptian political transition? And could Khairat al-Shater really replace Hosni Mubarak as the president of Egypt?
Marc Lynch is associate professor of political science and international affairs at George Washington University.