Pete Hoekstra, former chairman of the powerful House Intelligence Committee, tells Newsmax that Wednesday's military coup in Egypt "probably can't be any worse for America" than the Islamist government of President Mohammed Morsi.
"I think that's not a great barometer as to what success is. But in the past, the military has had very strong relationships with the U.S. and they continued to have that even during the time of the Morsi government," said Hoekstra in an exclusive interview.
But the Michigan Republican warned, "The last couple of years the prediction business has been very, very difficult."
He said the Obama administration in particular has been wrong more often than right in predicting what he described as outcomes of change.
"They stood on the sidelines when the Green Revolution was trying to take root in Iran. They supported the overthrow of Mubarak. They got that wrong. They supported the overthrow of [Moammar] Gadhafi, and Libya is still an open book as to exactly what's going to happen there," Hoekstra observed.
"And in Syria they're getting it very wrong. I mean, we're now starting to ship arms to the rebels, but the rebels just killed a Catholic priest because of the infiltration, and the significant part that al-Qaida-linked groups have played with the rebels," he explained.
Hoekstra — who is on the advisory board of LIGNET, a global intelligence and forecasting service based in Washington, D.C., — said the Egyptian military may serve as a stabilizing presence and a better friend to the United States.
"Their people train with our people," he asserted. "Some of their top military people visit the United States. They not only visit with our military people, but they also pay visits to Capitol Hill."
He said there are still a number of questions concerning the interim government that is being set up to take the place of Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood-backed government.
"We'll have to see exactly what happens now with the generals. How long are they going to be in control? When are they going to schedule an election and those types of things? What will happen is that the forces and the groups that are opposed to the Muslim Brotherhood, they're going to get a second chance."
During Egypt's last election cycle, these groups were not well-organized, according to Hoekstra.
"They were splintered and they created an environment where the Muslim Brotherhood could come in and win an election," he said. "I don't think that's going to happen a second time around. This now gives those forces of moderation — those forces who want a government that is more secular than religious — a second opportunity to organize for elections sometime not in the near term, but in the midterm. It might be 12 months. It might be 24 months."
But Hoekstra noted the Muslim Brotherhood had the opportunity to control the "most significant Muslim country" in the Middle East since Morsi's election a year ago, and may not be willing to relinquish power without a fight.
"Egypt was a real prize for them. They're not going to go away quietly," he predicted. "We're going to continue seeing this ... instability across the Middle East for an extended period of time. It's not only going to be Egypt."
He believes Libya and Syria will continue to be volatile for some time.
"The real question at this time is, how far will it expand? Will it expand to include Jordan? Will it expand to include Turkey?" he asked. "And those are probably the two next countries to look at — the most serious of which, from my perspective, would be Jordan."
Hoekstra said he disagreed with the decision by the Obama administration to encourage former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to cede power during the Arab Spring.
"Mubarak was not the great defender of democracy, but he brought stability into the region, and so I was concerned when Mubarak stepped aside," he said.
"The bottom line is, the future of Egypt is in the hands of the Egyptian people. It's not in the hands of the U.S.," Hoekstra said. "We may play a role in sending signals to the people in the street that a certain regime may or may not have our support."
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