As we watch the Egyptian revolution unfold half-way across the world, George Washington’s words come to mind:
It is yet to be decided, whether the Revolution must ultimately be considered as a blessing or a curse: a blessing or a curse, not to the present age alone, for with our fate will the destiny of unborn millions be involved.
Nothing can be taken for granted with revolution—and nothing is certain about Egypt’s future.
In the wake of Mubarak’s departure, CNN characterized Egypt’s revolution as “people from every walk of life…united in a common cause…to reclaim their dignity, control of their lives and the right to determine their government.” Many hoped, and even expected, that an educated and proactive populace would damper the influence the Muslim Brotherhood. Unfortunately, this extremist group—which worries everyone except Jimmy Carter—has established a working relationship with the Egyptian military and appears to be gaining influence.
Recently, the New York Times shared “growing evidence” of the Brotherhood’s influence over the outcome of Egypt’s referendum. Blitzing TV networks and distributing propaganda, the Brotherhood encouraged Egyptians to vote for a quick election scheduled in September, thus giving newer parties less time to organize. If the Muslim Brotherhood is the only effective and well-established political party five months from now, Egyptians will be left with few electoral options and their revolution may be endangered.
As September approaches, we hope that the Egyptian people will refuse to be lured into the excesses of popular passion, which could endanger the safety of ethnic and religious minorities, including Egypt’s substantial Christian population. Exhibiting this vigilance in his timeless Federalist #51, Madison observed: “If a majority be united by a common interest, the rights of the minority will be insecure.” We must moreover hope that the military can find inspiration in the actions of then-General George Washington and relinquish power when a government is elected. As Thomas Sowell argues, whether or not they follow a model of successful democratic revolution largely depends on whether “the preconditions for freedom and democracy” exist.
Amidst these uncertainties, it is helpful to remember that this isn’t the first time Americans have watched an overseas revolution. Alexander Hamilton, in 1794, grappled with the nature of the French Revolution and whether a man like Robespierre was “predominant in influence as in iniquity.” Ten years later, Latin American nations sought U.S. aid as they fought for independence. President Monroe eventually recognized the new republics for the same reason Washington left the French revolutionaries to their own devices: prudence. While Latin American nations successfully transitioned into working democracies, France fell from anarchy into tyranny. Mubarak’s departure is only the beginning, and the ultimate influence of the Muslim Brotherhood is yet to be seen. Time will reveal the true character of this revolution.
Michael Sobolik is currently a member of the Young Leaders Program at the Heritage Foundation.
In post-revolutionary Egypt, where hope and confusion collide in the daily struggle to build a new nation, religion has emerged as a powerful political force, following an uprising that was based on secular ideals. The Muslim Brotherhood, an Islamist group once banned by the state, is at the forefront, transformed into a tacit partner with the military government that many fear will thwart fundamental changes.
It is also clear that the young, educated secular activists who initially propelled the nonideological revolution are no longer the driving political force…
It’s hard to believe, but that’s a direct quote from a New York Times story, Muslim Brotherhood a Rising Force in a New Egypt. We will forgive the writer for treating this as news. After all, he only reads the New York Times.
For decades under former President Hosni Mubarak, Egypt was one of the countries often cited by the International Labor Organization (ILO) as restricting or denying workers’ freedom to join a union. This week, the ILO praised the new Egyptian leaders for taking the first steps towards recognizing that basic human right.
ILO Director General Juan Somavia said:
The recognition of the rights of all trade unions to be registered and conduct freely their legitimate activities opens the door for a new era where the right to freedom of association will be fully respected in law and in practice.
The right of all workers and employers in Egypt to form and join organizations that are independent and genuinely representative is a major step in the revolutionary changes taking place in Egypt.
Egypt’s “Leaderless Revolution” and Presidentialism: A Toxic Combination
American- or French-style presidentialism flows organically from a revolutionary context in which the leader of a national liberal movement – Washington or Bolivar, De Gaulle or Walesa – has emerged during a lengthy period of struggle against an authoritarian regime. By the time the movement has gained power, the leader’s selection as president seems the obvious choice to symbolize the achievement of the People over its oppressors. The key question is whether the leader is willing to “constitutionalize his charisma,” and use his reservoir of popular support to stabilize the constitutional regime. If not, a charismatic dictatorship is the likely outcome.
But this dynamic is beside the point when it comes to a “leaderless” revolution of the Egyptian type, where the authoritarian regime successfully represses the opposition, and then suddenly collapses without providing the movement with time for its own leadership to emerge. Under this scenario, a parliamentary system provides a far more promising constitutional transition to democracy than its presidential counterpart. The presidential form requires the revolutionaries to anoint a single leader prematurely — thereby preempting a desirable period of democratic contestation, in which rival leaders compete for power. In contrast, a parliamentary system allows a number of political parties to project a number of different leaders onto the stage under conditions of relative equality, allowing them to present a set of competing options in a series of coalition governments.
The case for parliamentarianism is especially compelling in Egypt, since the Mubarak regime was selectively repressive – crushing secular dissent but allowing the Moslem Brotherhood to survive as the only organized opposition group. I develop my argument further in an essay I’ve just published in Foreign Policy magazine.
ComparativeConstitutions blogs about them, including about this item (also reported here): “modification of Article 75 to guarantee that Egypt’s president cannot be married to a non-Egyptian.”
ComparativeConstitutions blogs about them, including about this item (also reported here): “modification of Article 75 to guarantee that Egypt’s president cannot be married to a non-Egyptian.”
Has there been, as we have all been told, a ‘revolution’ in Egypt? For Semana of Colombia, columnist Antonio Caballero writes that the only thing which has changed is the person leading Egypt’s 60-year-old military government, and he cites as evidence the apparent satisfaction of President Barack Obama.
For Semana, columnist Antonio Caballero writes in part:
“Televisions around the world have shown Egyptian demonstrators dancing in Cairo’s Tahrir Square because the military had taken power. But that didn’t just happen now. They have held power – at least – since General Muhammad Naguib overturned the frivolous King Faruq in a 1952 military coup. Then Colonel Gamal Abdel Nasser, in turn, overthrew General Naguib in 1953. Nasser died in 1970, and control was inherited by his vice president, Anwar Sadat, an Army general. After Sadat was assassinated eleven years later, his successor was an Air Force general, Hosni Mubarak. Now that Mubarak has retired, the reins of power have been handed to a field marshal, Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, who is head of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (composed of five generals). At 75, he spent 20 years as defense minister and is a pillar of the regime – the military regime that has ruled Egypt not for 30 years, as the press is telling us, but for close to 60 years. It has transformed Egypt into what it is today: a miserable, corrupt and oppressed country, where only the military caste thrives, fueled by corruption and armed by governments of the United States.
“And this is what the global press calls a “revolution”? Perhaps it is, but only in a strictly astronomical sense: a complete revolution is, for example, when the Earth circumnavigates the sun in a year, only to return to where it was before. … The most eloquent proof that nothing has changed in Egypt is the satisfaction shown by the president of the United States, Barack Obama.”
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In a featured article at Human Events this morning, I discuss the rising of Sheikh Qaradawi in Egypt:
Last Friday one of the biggest crowds of the entire Egyptian revolution thronged to Cairo’s Tahrir Square to hear Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, one of the most influential Muslim clerics in the world—who on Monday called for the murder of Libya’s Gaddafi. The enthusiastic reception Qaradawi received, along with the barring of secular liberal Wael Ghonim from the same stage, were ominous signs that genuine democracy is not in the offing in Egypt .
With the Muslim Brotherhood almost certain to play a substantial role in the next Egyptian government, the 84-year-old Qaradawi, whom Der Spiegel described last week as “the father figure of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood,” looks to become more powerful than ever. Freedom-lovers should not be pleased: Although Qaradawi has been praised by Saudi-funded Islamic scholar John Esposito as a champion of a “reformist interpretation of Islam and its relationship to democracy, pluralism, and human rights,” numerous statements he has made demonstrate that he is anything but a “reformist” or a genuine champion of “democracy, pluralism, and human rights,” and he is, in fact, positively Hitlerian in his Jew hatred and bloodlust.
During the uprising against the Mubarak regime, a Muslim website published a chapter from Qaradawi’s book Laws of Jihad, including this passage: “One of the forms of jihad in Islam is jihad against evil and corruption within [the Islamic lands]. This jihad is crucial in order to protect society from collapse, disintegration, and perdition—for Muslim society has unique characteristics, and if these are lost, forgotten or destroyed, there will be no Muslim society.”
In 2002, the Muslim Brotherhood asked him to take over as their leader, but he refused, probably because he saw the position as too small for him: Qaradawi’s renown is not limited to Egypt or even to the Middle East. He is an international figure, reaching 60 million Muslims weekly through his Al-Jazeera TV show, “Sharia and Life,” and touching countless more through his 120 published books (including his very popular Sharia manual, Al-Halal Wal Haram Fil Islam, that is, The Lawful and the Prohibited in Islam), his website IslamOnline.com (which publishes many of his fatwas), and his positions as president of the International Association of Muslim Scholars and the European Council for Fatwa and Research….
Egypt’s Young People ‘Assault the Heavens’: La Jornada, Mexico
What can we expect from the uprisings that have suddenly erupted in Muslim lands? Highlighting the confusion over Egypt, La Jornada columnist Jose Steinsleger, who appears to be a confounded, left-wing revolutionary from Latin America, writes that whatever the risk that their dreams may be thwarted – he sides with the young people who have faced down a tyrant.
For Mexico’s La Jornada, columnist Jose Steinsleger writes in part:
Do we have a “pre-revolutionary” situation in Egypt? Anarchists oppose an “authoritarian” solution; socialists celebrate the democratic flavor of the uprising; communists consider whether conditions “are ripe”; Trotskyites agitate for “the program”; nationalists invoke the dignity of past glories; liberals and conservatives review the pages of The Leopard; and the religious dream of an “Islamic rebirth.”
I confess to being perplexed. What unexpected consequences will follow events that have earned, simultaneously, the salute of Obama, Fidel and Ahmadinejad, of the European Union and Palestinian Hamas, Google executives and the old hippies of Paris in 1968, of Islamophobic intellectuals and fiery Lebanese warriors of Hezbullah?
Hunger plus poverty = revolution? Could it be that the Internet and mobile phones guarantee the triumph of insurrection? In Iran (2009) they didn’t amount to much. And I doubt that Mubarak was less repressive than the ayatollahs.
These analogies hardly allow us to predict potential developments. In any case, in 1953, the people of Egypt entrusted the revolutionary process to a group of nationalist military leaders. And in 1979, the powerful, pro-imperialist army of the Shah of Iran was paralyzed by a pacific political movement, which carried a no-less potent religious identity.
In Cairo it was different. Suspicious of “providential leaders,” ideologies, parties and political movements, Egypt’s youth pacifically toppled the tyrant. But then they delegated the process of “transitioning to democracy” to General Mohamed Tantawi, head of the Army and Pentagon favorite.
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Maidhc Ó Cathail: THE JUNK BOND “TEFLON GUY” BEHIND EGYPT’S NONVIOLENT REVOLUTION
Maidhc Ó Cathail
On February 9, Al Jazeera aired an episode in its People and Power series entitled “Egypt: Seeds of Change.” The programme offers a revealing behind the scenes look at a core group of activists from the April 6 Youth Movement who played a crucial role in Egypt’s nonviolent revolution.
“This is not a spontaneous uprising,” reporter Elizabeth Jones stressed. “The revolution has been in the making for three years.” The key to its success, we learn, was the instruction April 6 leaders received from veterans of groups like Otpor, the student movement that brought down Serbian president Slododan Milosevic.
Srdja Popovic, a leader of that revolution, we are told, “shared his firsthand experience with April 6.” Mohamed Adel, one of the April 6 leaders, describes his training in Serbia in the tactics of nonviolent resistance, including “how to organise and get people out on the streets.” He brought back videos and teaching aids to help train the other leaders, who are shown “directing the uprising from the start.”
Since the ouster of Milosevic in 2000, Popovic has been busy spreading the gospel of nonviolent warfare. In 2003, he founded the Centre for Applied Nonviolent Action and Strategies (CANVAS) in Belgrade. By spring 2010, the globe-trotting Serb reportedly had “five revolutions already under his belt.” In a Mother Jones puff piece, Nicholas Schmidle writes: “CANVAS got off to an impressive start, training the pro-democracy campaigners in Georgia, Ukraine, and Lebanon who went on to lead the Rose, Orange, and Cedar revolutions, respectively.”
But who funds it all? Schmidle, a fellow at the Soros-linked New America Foundation, cites Popovic: “CANVAS is ‘100 percent independent from any government’ and funded entirely by private donors.” Yet an LA Times profile of Nini Gogiberidze, a Georgian employee of CANVAS, says the group is funded in part by the near-governmental organisation Freedom House. “Gogiberidze,” the Times adds, “is among Georgia’s ‘velvet’ revolutionaries, a group of Western and local activists who make up a robust pro-democracy corps in this Caucasus country—so much of it funded by American philanthropist George Soros that one analyst calls the nation Sorosistan.”
CANVAS works closely with the International Center for Nonviolent Conflict (ICNC), with which it has shared a number of staff members—including Dr. Stephen Zunes, who has collaborated with CANVAS in training Egyptian activists. Founded in 2002, the ICNC is funded entirely by Peter Ackerman, its founding chair. Ackerman, who chaired the board of Freedom House from September 2005 until January 2009, also indirectly funds CANVAS.
Ackerman’s wealth derives mainly from his time at Drexel Burnham Lambert, the Wall Street investment bank that was forced into bankruptcy in February 1990 due to its involvement in illegal activities in the junk bond market. As special projects aide to junk bond king Michael Milken, Ackerman cleaned up. In 1988 alone, he took home a salary of $ 165 million for his critical role in financing Kohlberg Kravis Roberts’s $ 26 billion leveraged buyout of RJR Nabisco. But four months before Drexel collapsed into bankruptcy, Ackerman “beat a fortuitously timed retreat” to the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London. While the “king” was sentenced to 10 years for securities fraud, “the highest-paid of all of Michael R. Milken’s minions” emerged as “the big winner” with a fortune of approximately $ 500 million—prompting one of his former colleagues to complain: “Peter Ackerman is a real Teflon guy.”
Having successfully escaped “the stench of Drexel,” Ackerman completed what BusinessWeek called “an improbable transformation from junk-bond promoter back to scholar.” Prior to his financial exploits, he had written his doctoral thesis under the guidance of Gene Sharp, the Harvard academic whose theories of nonviolent struggle had inspired the velvet revolutionaries. In fact, while he was still working for Milken, Ackerman had been funding Sharp’s Albert Einstein Institution. According to the Wall Street Journal, “A large part of ICNC’s and Canvas’s theoretical arsenal is drawn from Mr. Sharp’s writings.”
As part of his own contribution to worldwide revolution, Ackerman has helped produce two documentaries on nonviolent conflict and even a regime change video game. His film on Otpor’s toppling of Milosevic played a crucial role in the success of Georgia’s Rose Revolution, which brought George Soros protégé Mikheil Saakashvili to the presidency in 2004. Every Saturday for months, a Soros-backed TV network broadcast “Bringing Down a Dictator.” As one activist told the Washington Post, “Most important was the film. All the demonstrators knew the tactics of the revolution in Belgrade by heart because they showed [the film]…. Everyone knew what to do.”
At one point in the Al Jazeera programme, Ahmed Maher, “the main instigator of this revolution,” reveals his group’s close collaboration with Mohamed ElBaradei, the former IAEA chief, who flew back to Cairo on January 27. “From the beginning,” he said, “the April 6 Youth Movement has been allied with the groups that cooperated with ElBaradei when he returned to Egypt.” Up to his opportune return, ElBaradei and Peter Ackerman’s wife, Joanne Leedom-Ackerman, had both been board members of the Soros-financed International Crisis Group.
And for those who believe that Israel is genuinely worried about the prospect of “democratic change” south of the border, Ackerman’s participation in a roundtable discussion entitled “The Challenge of Radical Islam” at the 2008 Herzliya Conference with Uzi Landau—Ariel Sharon’s Minister of Internal Security and current member of the Knesset for Avigdor Lieberman’s Yisrael Beiteinu—should give them pause for thought.
Maidhc Ó Cathail writes extensively on U.S. foreign policy and the Middle East.
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A female journalist was sexually and brutally assaulted by a gang of 200 Egyptians in Tahir Square. What does the terrible personal tragedy of Lara Logan tell us about “modern” Egypt and more broadly about the Arab culture?
The most remarkable thing about the incident is that this was not the making of an infuriated and frustrated crowd, but of liberated, relieved and jubilant men who had just gotten rid of their dictator. How did they choose to usher their newly born democracy? Sexually assault an infidel, preferably blond.
One need not look far and deep to understand a culture. Just look at basic behaviors. How people debate each other, how they mourn, how they drive and, yes, how they celebrate.
Think about the jubilant Germans after the fall of the Berlin Wall, or South Africans when Nelson Mandela was released from prison, or Brazilians when they learned their country is next to host the Olympic Games. Think about yourself when your candidate won the elections or when your favorite team won the Super Bowl. How did you rejoice? Singing? Clapping? Dancing? Hugging a stranger? Opening a bottle of Champagne? Anybody who spent some time in the Middle East is familiar with Arab celebratory practices. Shooting in the air, slaughtering a goat, frantically chanting Allah is great. Hardly acts of peace.
It gets worse. As Logan was repeatedly sexually assaulted the thugs yelled “Jew! Jew!” Logan is not Jewish and is far from being pro-Israel in her coverage. But the frantic crowd in Tahir was not able to put aside their deeply engrained anti-Semitism even during what is possibly the happiest moment in their lives. So burning was their hatred for the Jews that they grabbed the closest Jew looking bystander and unleashed their wrath at her.
There is a deeper psychological explanation here. For decades, Arab rulers made sure to feed anti-Israel sentiment to divert public anger from their own wrongdoing to the Jews. This blame-the-Jew-for-every-trouble tactic created a classical conditioning: if you can’t take it out on the regime, go for the Jews. When the regime suddenly collapsed so did the paradigm of unconscious redirection of feelings from the regime to the Jews. At that moment the only way the square mob knew how to resolve this confusion was by resorting to violent anti-Semitism.
It gets even worse. Logan was part of a crew. Many of her colleagues were beaten up, as were dozens of journalists from other networks. But she was the only one that was sexually assaulted. These things happen in a culture that considers un-chaperoned women prey. But if this is how a woman is treated what does this say about the role of women in new Egypt?
Some may be nodding their heads and telling themselves that this repugnant act is the act of a few and is not reflective of the great Arab culture. Just like all acts of violence by Arabs seen in recent years have been the work of a deranged few. But this we are told is a revolution led by a Google employee, followed by an army of millions of “modern” Facebook and Twitter users, not savage rapists. Let’s hope our multicultis are right this time because to me the Logan affair is reflective of what this widely celebrated new Arab democracy might turn out to be: a computer literate cult of violence, anti-Semitism and misogyny.
Logan is a brave journalist who never shied away from putting herself in harm’s way for a good story. In the horror she endured in Cairo may be a deep message for all of us: Culture is destiny, and if the Logan incident is even mildly reflective of Egypt’s culture, it is not only Egypt’s destiny that we should all be concerned about, it is also our own.
If developments in Egypt have gone as well as one could hope for, future prospects remain unclear. The exciting part is over, now come the worries.
Let’s start with three pieces of good news: Hosni Mubarak, Egypt’s strongman who appeared on the brink of fomenting disaster, fortunately resigned. The Islamists, who would push Egypt in the direction of Iran, had little role in recent events and remain distant from power. And the military, which has ruled Egypt from behind-the-scenes since 1952, is the institution best equipped to adapt the government to the protestors’ demands.
Egypt’s Mubarak and Tunisia’s Ben Ali, sharing good times.
Now, for the problems. The military itself represents the lesser problem. In charge for six decades, it has made a mess of things. Tarek Osman, an Egyptian writer, eloquently demonstrates in a new book, Egypt on the Brink: From Nasser to Mubarak (Yale University Press) how precipitously Egypt’s standing has declined. Whatever index one chooses, from standard of living to soft-power influence, Egypt today lags behind its monarchical predecessor. Osman contrasts the worldly Cairo of the 1950s to the “crowded, classic third-world city” of today. He also despairs how the country “that was a beacon of tranquility … has turned into the Middle East’s most productive breeding ground of aggression.”
The Muslim Brotherhood represents the larger problem. Founded in 1928, the world’s leading Islamist organization has long avoided confrontation with the government and shies from revealing its ambition to carry out an Islamic revolution in Egypt. Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad articulated this hope for it when he claimed that due to developments in Egypt, “a new Middle East is emerging without the Zionist regime and U.S. interference.” In a bitter appraisal, Mubarak himself focused on this same danger: “We see the democracy the United States spearheaded in Iran and with Hamas, in Gaza, and that’s the fate of the Middle East … extremism and radical Islam.”
Cover of “Egypt on the Brink: From Nasser to Mubarak” by Tarek Osman.
For its part, the U.S. administration naively expressed no such concerns. Barack Obama downplayed the threat of the Muslim Brotherhood, calling it but “one faction in Egypt,” while his director of national intelligence, James Clapper, actually praised the brotherhood as “a very heterogeneous group, largely secular, which has eschewed violence” and pursues “a betterment of the political order in Egypt.”
This nonsense points to a U.S. policy in deep disarray. In June 2009, during a would-be revolution against a hostile regime in Iran, the Obama administration stayed mum, hoping thereby to win Tehran’s good will. But with Mubarak, a friendly dictator under assault, it effectively adopted George W. Bush’s impatient “freedom agenda” and supported the opposition. Obama seemingly encourages street demonstrators only against our side.
American pressure, steady and gradual, recognizing that the democratization process implies a vast transformation of society and requires not months but decades, is needed to open the system.
What next for Egypt, and will the Muslim Brotherhood take over?
Something remarkable, unpredictable and unprecedented took place in recent weeks on Egyptian streets. A leaderless mass movement galvanized large numbers of ordinary citizens, as in Tunisia days earlier. It did not rage against foreigners, scapegoat minority Egyptians, nor endorse a radical ideology; instead, it demanded accountability, liberty, and prosperity. Reports reaching me from Cairo suggest a historic turn toward patriotism, inclusion, secularism, and personal responsibility.
For confirmation, consider two polls: A 2008 study by Lisa Blaydes and Drew Linzer found 60 percent of Egyptians hold Islamist views. But a Pechter Middle East Poll last week found only 15 percent of Cairenes and Alexandrians “approve” of the Muslim Brotherhood and about 1 percent support a brotherhood president of Egypt. Another indicator of this seismic change: the brotherhood, in retreat, has played down its political ambitions, with Yusuf al-Qaradawi going to far as to declare that preserving Egyptians’ freedom has more importance than implementing Islamic law.
No one can say at this early date where this revolution in attitudes came from or where it leads, but it is today’s happy reality. The military leadership now bears the weighty responsibility of shepherding it to fruition. Three men in particular bear close watching, Vice President Omar Suleiman, Defense Minister Mohammed Hussein Tantawi, and Chief of Staff Sami Hafez Enan. We shall soon see whether the military leadership has learned and matured, and if it realizes that continuing to pursue its selfish interests will lead to further decay.
What is the Real Meaning of Egypt’s Revolution? (Guest Voice)
What is the Real Meaning of Egypt’s Revolution?
By Barry Rubin
“The People Toppled the Government,” is al-Ahram’s headline, and the general interpretation of the Egyptian revolution around the world. That’s true but only partly true. Mubarak’s pedestal was shaken by the people but he was pushed off it by the army and the establishment.
Let’s remember something that nobody wants to hear right now. The revolution in Egypt succeeded because the army didn’t want President Husni Mubarak any more. When people say things like: The army wouldn’t shoot down its own people. Why? It has done so before.
In normal times the army would have been content to let Mubarak rule until he died, despite being very unhappy with his behavior. He had been declining as a leader due to his age; had refused to name a vice-president, step down, or prepare seriously for succession; and he was trying to foist his son, Gamal, on them who was not a military man and was inadequate for the job.
When the demonstrations began and built up the army had a choice: do nothing or fight for Mubarak. Those with grievances-and everyone in Egypt has lots of grievances-seeing that nobody would stop them, poured into the streets. Hence, a people’s revolution. Something similar happened in Tunisia, though the civil society base for democracy-and chances for success-are far higher there.
Now, what happens in Algeria or Syria, for example? These other countries do not face this special situation like that in Egypt and the security forces do not hesitate to break up demonstrations. People do not want to be killed or beaten, so they don’t come into the streets.
Is that a jaundiced or cynical view? No, that’s how politics in authoritarian states works.
From this, we can draw conclusions:
First, it is possible that Arab politics have been transformed forever by people power. But it is equally or more possible that this is a matter of one uprising, one revolution, one time.
Second, conclusions that the usual rules of Middle East politics have disappeared is greatly exaggerated. If you think that democracy cannot lead to violent Islamists taking power, consider the Muslim-majority country in the region with the longest tradition of democracy: Lebanon, where Hizballah and its allies now run things. Consider Algeria, where free elections (you can blame it on the military if you want) led to a bloody civil war. Think about Turkey where, though the regime still operates basically by democratic norms, the noose is tightening (though there it may well not be irreversible).
Third, without stinting the courage and efforts of the urban, middle-class, young, Facebook crowd, the Muslim Brotherhood had more to do with this event than Western observers realize. It was in close touch with the Facebook crowd and knew what was going on at every moment. It was not caught by surprise but simply held back to avoid committing itself to a devastating defeat that would end in harsh repression. The first thing the government forces did when the events started was to round up the usual suspects, that is Brotherhood leaders.
Finally, history has not ended in the Middle East. The Muslim Brotherhood will continue to maneuver patiently for power. The military will set limits and implement them. All the radical dictatorships and movements that hate America,the West, Israel, and real democracy are still working all-out (and far more cleverly than their Western opponents) around the clock.
If one side is sophisticated and realistic while the other engages in fantasies, who do you expect to win? And those roles are precisely the opposite of what Western hubris thinks.
Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. His latest books are The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), with Walter Laqueur (Viking-Penguin); the paperback edition of The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan); A Chronological History of Terrorism, with Judy Colp Rubin, (Sharpe); and The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley). You can read and subscribe to his blog at http://www.rubinreports.blogspot.com.?????
The Muslim Brotherhood is invited to help Egypt “cleanse” the new constitution. A dreadful report. The Brotherhood was banned for good reasons and a violent history. The violence is now done by the groups they front for. It’s just that simple. The Brotherhood is duping the world by presenting a respectable face of Islam to the world. The bottom line is, they are Koranic hardliners. Not good news for the Egyptian people. The Brotherhood has announced they will now form an “official political party,” and “civilian rulers” will be a part of the deal. The Wall Street Journal quotes to MB members, a younger one wanting democratic philosophy and the older wanting to “continue to raise the banner of jihad” against the Jews.
The first meeting to revise constitution was held today. The New York Times says Military Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi said “he hoped to yield control to CIVILIAN RULERS in six months. Whether Tantawi actually used the word “rulers” or not, I don’t know. There are no quotation marks. The same article says that a Coptic Christian judge will be a part of the panel and long with three experts in constitutional law.
Sobhi Saleh, a legal expert and a member of the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood, said the panel’s intention was to “cleanse” the current constitution to remove all restrictions on freedoms, including the right to form political parties, so that a democratic government can be formed and a “full constitution” can be drawn up afterward.
Saleh’s appointment to the committee suggests that the military may be willing to legitimize the Brotherhood, nearly six decades after it was banned. He said the panel was convening for the first time with the military on Tuesday.
From the Ikhwanweb (Muslim Brotherhood) website: (This is confusing, because if the MB has been banned for six decades, this says they were a part of the 2005 MP parliamentary bloc, continuing through 2008, at least)
[speaking of the Tunisian man who burned himself in protest, and Egyptians trying to do the same]
Sobhi Saleh, assistant secretary of the 2005 MB parliamentary bloc and member of the People’s Parliament, stated that these actions are simple responses by the citizens and an expression of the despair of the people in having no real Parliament that represents them, and cares for their needs and rights. He pointed out that the current forged parliament will increase the pains of the people, which the former MB and opposition MPs in the 2005 parliament were trying to alleviate.
The question is, which Muslim Brotherhood will be doing the cleansing?
Moaz Abdel Karim, an affable 29-year-old who was among a handful of young activists who plotted the recent protests here, is the newest face of the Muslim Brotherhood. His political views on women’s rights, religious freedom and political pluralism mesh with Western democratic values. He is focused on the fight for democracy and human rights in Egypt.
A different face of the Brotherhood is that of Mohamed Badi, 66-year-old veterinarian from the Brotherhood’s conservative wing who has been the group’s Supreme Guide since last January. He recently pledged the Brotherhood would “continue to raise the banner of jihad” against the Jews, which he called the group’s “first and foremost enemies.” He has railed against American imperialism, and calls for the establishment of an Islamic state.
I am reminded that Ayaan Hirsi Ali was once a member of the Muslim Brotherhood. What happens to the 29-year-old’s philosophy as the Brotherhood’s political capital rises?
Shockwaves from Egypt’s Successful Protest Whip Across Middle East
The shockwaves from last week’s successful demonstrations in Egypt that toppled a longtime autocrat are now whipping across the Middle East. Where it ends, no on really knows — but don’t expect some of these governments to sit back and let what happened to Egypt happen to them:
Egypt’s uprising has sent powerful shockwaves across the Middle East , with two deaths reported in street clashes in Iran and Bahrain and violent demonstrations in Yemen, as further protests and strikes erupted across Egypt.
Thousands of Iranians defied a government ban and volleys of teargas to join a rally in Azadi Square in the centre of Tehran. The protests were the biggest since those that erupted after the disputed 2009 presidential elections.
Mir Hossein Mousavi, leader of the Iranian Green movement, was placed under house arrest, as was Mehdi Karroubi, another prominent opposition figure. Protest rallies were also held in Isfahan and Shiraz.
Iran’s Islamic regime has hailed the uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia, though neither involved organised activity by Islamist opposition movements. Both protests were led by young people seeking political freedoms and an end to autocracy – just like many Iranian demonstrators.
Large numbers of police and security forces, wearing riot gear and many mounted on motorbikes, were stationed around Tehran’s main squares. Mobile phone connections were down in the area of the protests.
Unrest in the Gulf island state of Bahrain on a “day of rage” organised by activists using Twitter and Facebook appeared to be similarly inspired by events in Cairo and Tunis but rooted in local factors, especially anger at discrimination against the Shia majority by the Sunni al-Khalifa dynasty.
And Washington is acknowledging what’s going on — particularly in Iran. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is reminding Iran — and the world — that it was all in favor of demostrations in favor of democracy last week. But not this week, when there are demonstrations in its own country:
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Monday that Tehran’s crackdown on demonstrators, after it had praised the popular uprising in Egypt, shows the “hypocrisy” of the Iranian government. Clinton said steps by the Egyptian military thus far to manage a democratic transition are reassuring.
U.S. officials have made no secret of their irritation over the Iranian government’s suppression of dissent, while claiming credit for popular foment in Egypt and elsewhere in the region.
Clinton’s comments after a meeting at the U.S. Capitol with House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner were the most pointed so far.
Emerging after a budget discussion with the new House leader, Clinton said the United States “clearly and directly” supports the aspirations of the protesters in Iran, who were violently dispersed on Monday by security forces in Tehran.
She said the United States stood for political change in Egypt and wants the same for Iran. Clinton stressed the irony of the Iranian government’s crackdown at home, while paying lip service to the rights of protestors elsewhere.
“What we see happening in Iran today is a testament to the courage of the Iranian people and an indictment of the hypocrisy of the Iranian regime – a regime, which over the last three weeks has constantly hailed what went on in Egypt. And now, when given the opportunity to afford their people the same rights as they called for on behalf of the Egyptian people, [Iran’s leaders] once again illustrate their true nature,” she said.
And, indeed, Iran’s actions do have a strong odor of dictatorship. Such as this:
Iranian police Monday blocked access to the house of opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi and cut his telephone lines to prevent him attending a rally in support of Arab revolts, his website said.
“Security forces have sent police vans and vehicles to the alley where the house of Mr. Mir Hossein Mousavi and his wife Zahra Rahnavard is located” in Tehran, Kaleme.com reported.
“From today the police have blocked the alley where their house is located…There is no possibility of coming and going” to the house, it said.
The report said all telephone lines at the house, including the mobile phone connections of Mousavi and his wife, have been severed.
Kaleme.com said the latest “illegal and restrictive measures and pressures were adopted to prevent Mousavi from taking part in a rally in support of the people of Tunisia and Egypt.”
Mousavi and fellow opposition leader Mehdi Karroubi had sought permission from Iran’s interior ministry to hold a rally on Monday to express their solidarity with uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt.
Iran has backed the Arab uprisings but the interior ministry refused to permit the opposition rally as officials believe it is a ploy to stage fresh anti-government demonstrations as seen in 2009 after the disputed re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.