Turmoil in Egypt By Daniel Pipes

eHezi Archives 10 Comments

Pipes_Daniel-photo First published by The Washington Times, February 1, 2011. Reprinted with express permission.

As Egypt's much-anticipated moment of crisis arrived and popular rebellions shook governments across the Middle East, Iran stands as never before at the center of the region. Its Islamist rulers are within sight of dominating the region. But revolutions are hard to pull off and I predict that Islamists will not achieve a Middle East-wide breakthrough and Tehran will not emerge as the key powerbroker. Some thoughts behind this conclusion:


Cairo's Tahrir Square-January 25, 2011 Part of a Middle Eastern cold war: 

 

Israel's peculiar situation: Israeli leaders are staying mum and its near-irrelevance underlines Iranian centrality. While Israel has much to fear from Iranian gains, these simultaneously highlight the Jewish state as an island of stability and the West's only reliable ally in the Middle East.

Lack of ideology: The sloganeering and conspiracy theories that dominate Middle Eastern discourse are largely absent from crowds gathered outside of government installations demanding an end to stagnation, arbitrariness, corruption, tyranny, and torture.

Military vs. mosque: Recent events confirm that the same two powers, the armed forces and the Islamists, dominate some 20 Middle Eastern countries: the military deploys raw power and Islamists offer a vision. Exceptions exist – a vibrant Left in Turkey, ethnic factions in Lebanon and Iraq, democracy in Israel, Islamist control in Iran – but this pattern widely holds.

Iraq: The most volatile country of the region, Iraq, has been conspicuously absent from the demonstrations because its population is not facing a decades-old autocracy.

A military putsch? Islamists wish to repeat their success in Iran by exploiting popular unrest to take power. Tunisia's experience bears close examination for a pattern that may be repeated elsewhere. The military leadership there apparently concluded that its strongman, Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, had become too high maintenance – especially with his wife's family's flamboyant corruption – to maintain in power, so it ousted him and, for good measure, put out an international arrest warrant for his and his family's arrest.

Suleiman_General Omar That done, nearly the entire remaining old guard remains in power, with the top military man, Chief of Staff Rachid Ammar, apparently having replaced Ben Ali as the country's powerbroker. The old guard hopes that tweaking the system, granting more civil and political rights, will suffice for it to hold on to power. If this gambit succeeds, the seeming revolution of mid-January will end up as a mere coup d'état.

This scenario could be repeated elsewhere, especially in Egypt, where soldiers have dominated the government since 1952 and intend to maintain their power against the Muslim Brethren they have suppressed since 1954. Strongman Hosni Mubarak's appointment of Omar Suleiman terminates the Mubarak family's dynastic pretensions and raises the prospect of Mr. Mubarak resigning in favor of direct military rule.

More broadly, I bet on the more-continuity-than-change model that has emerged so far in Tunisia. Heavy-handed rule will lighten somewhat in Egypt and elsewhere but the militaries will remain the ultimate powerbrokers.

U.S. policy: The U.S. government has a vital role helping Middle Eastern states transit from tyranny to political participation without Islamists hijacking the process. George W. Bush had the right idea in 2003 incalling for democracy but he ruined this effort by demanding instant results. Barack Obama initially reverted to the failed old policy of making nice with tyrants; now he is myopically siding with the Islamists against Mr. Mubarak. He should emulate Bush but do a better job, understanding that democratization is a decades-long process that requires the inculcation of counter-intuitive ideas about elections, freedom of speech, and the rule of law.

Mr. Pipes, director of the Middle East Forum and Taube distinguished visiting fellow at the Hoover Institution, lived in Egypt for three years.

 

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Comments 10

  1. well jack..you can’t stop history…you can just
    stand by and admire the egyptians who have now
    forced Mubarak to step down….elections to follow

  2. URGENT:
    Can one of you please get the following message to Egypt:
    Please do not destroy the pyramids.
    We will not rebuild them.
    Signed,
    The Jews

  3. And what are those signs in the square of Mubaracks face with a Star of David and what are those anti-American chants?If Mubarack goes the new government will end the Peace Accords, so why not neutralize the Islamic Brotherhood? Mubarack owes nothing to Obamas America, that has stabbed him in the back along with the NYTimes and the rest of the looney left media.The only good Democrat is a defeated Democrat.

  4. the turmoil in egypt is not about the support
    of Israel..Egypt has been at peace with Israel for
    over 30 years…they trade with each other and
    have full diplomatic relations..you haven’t seen
    one sign in the streets of cairo demanding anything
    of the Israeli’s inlcuding getting out of the west
    bank..this is a revolution of a people who understand
    that their government has oppressed them and deprived
    them of exactl what the Israeli’s and other democracies
    have..and that is the freedom to think say and make
    as much money as they are able to…the egyptian military has been fully supportive of the peace…but
    as in many other situations over the centuries once
    people get a taste of what freedom is like they want
    their share..the internet, twitter and facebook along
    with the ability to talk to relatives and friends
    who have left egypt and gone to other western nations
    reminds them daily that they lack the freedoms others
    have…this is not about Israel..its about freedom

  5. the turmoil in egypt is not about the support
    of Israel..Egypt has been at peace with Israel for
    over 30 years…they trade with each other and
    have full diplomatic relations..you haven’t seen
    one sign in the streets of cairo demanding anything
    of the Israeli’s inlcuding getting out of the west
    bank..this is a revolution of a people who understand
    that their government has oppressed them and deprived
    them of exactl what the Israeli’s and other democracies
    have..and that is the freedom to think say and make
    as much money as they are able to…the egyptian military has been fully supportive of the peace…but
    as in many other situations over the centuries once
    people get a taste of what freedom is like they want
    their share..the internet, twitter and facebook along
    with the ability to talk to relatives and friends
    who have left egypt and gone to other western nations
    reminds them daily that they lack the freedoms others
    have…this is not about Israel..its about freedom

  6. the turmoil in egypt is not about the support
    of Israel..Egypt has been at peace with Israel for
    over 30 years…they trade with each other and
    have full diplomatic relations..you haven’t seen
    one sign in the streets of cairo demanding anything
    of the Israeli’s inlcuding getting out of the west
    bank..this is a revolution of a people who understand
    that their government has oppressed them and deprived
    them of exactl what the Israeli’s and other democracies
    have..and that is the freedom to think say and make
    as much money as they are able to…the egyptian military has been fully supportive of the peace…but
    as in many other situations over the centuries once
    people get a taste of what freedom is like they want
    their share..the internet, twitter and facebook along
    with the ability to talk to relatives and friends
    who have left egypt and gone to other western nations
    reminds them daily that they lack the freedoms others
    have…this is not about Israel..its about freedom

  7. The turmoil in Egypt is all about the Mubarack governments support of Israel and America in return for financial aid.For his support of America and Israel he has had to go against the popular will of his own people and risk assasssination.The leftist Obama administration and the leftist media has betrayed the man labeled a moderate for the last twenty years or more and his government by calling for them to step down.The Obama administration has betrayed Egypt,Israel,Jordan and other nations by their support for the “democracy rioters”.Mubarack should rip up the Peace Accord and break off relations with the leftist controlled American government so his government will survive. The only good Democrat is a defeated Democrat.

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