Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Egyptian Revolution

A year or so a go I read the excellent book "Inside Egypt: The Land of the Pharaohs on the Brink of Revolution", by John R. Bradley who lived in Egypt for a few years during the last decade. Not only does the book provide an excellent historical perspective into modern Egypt, it is filled with the authors personal stories, based on encounters with tourists, students and officials.

The picture Bradley paints is that of mass discontent with the corruption, censorship and torture, which dominate Mubarak's autocratic regime. The discontent is most severe among Egypt's youth. Much like Tunisia's youth, young Egyptians find that despite of investment into education and hard work, good jobs are hard to come by and apartments are almost unaffordable. Unless of course you are well connected.

While a lot of people are quick to point out to the 'Muslim Brotherhood', this is not necessarily the only source of opposition. While their strength cannot be ignored, they have been often used by the Mubarak regime as a counter balance to demands of westerners to see more democracy. Much of their popularity stems from the fact that they are visibly opposing the regime, while handing out 'candy' via their charitable activities.

The true source of discontent is a lot more similar to that which drove Tunisians to topple their regime of some 54 years, which was ran by a president who just eclipsed his 30th year in office. The parallels cannot be ignored...

Many Egyptians have a much more pragmatic view of Islam. Their historical flirts with Shi'ism has left them many traditions that are actively opposed by the dominant Sunni clergy, as well as by the radical Islamist brotherhood. I do not see the Brotherhood becoming popular with the same people that are on the streets right now.

As the name of the book suggests, a revolution is forthcoming. Even if Mubarak's Mukhabarat (Egypt infamous state security) is able to bust the current round of discontent, it's only a question of time until this happens again. Perhaps under Mubarak's successor...

While the current events are going on, much of the world is sitting on the fence somewhat nervously. The Americans are not in a position to defend Mubarak, but rather to hope that somehow the situation resolves itself (Obama's Favourite pastime). Mubarak has been a very reliable ally to the US and much of American geopolitical strategy in the Middle East relies on his very person. What if a new flavour of Egyptian nationalism, or worse Radical Islam wins the day? This will not be good for the Americans (nor to anyone else for that matter).

As for my much beloved native land, Israel, it's a lose lose situation I am afraid. While the Mubarak administration and a few very high ranking officials have been very helpful as of recent, and the countries have a formal peace agreement, the state media is full of rampant Antisemitism and pure disdain for anything remotely connected to Israel. Any replacement regime is likely to be unfriendly.

While a small number of Israeli officials and businessmen have a direct stake in Mubarak staying in power, most Israelis don't particularly care for him. Any Egyptian government will do if it keeps the peace and maintains the border quite, while abiding by the peace treaty... Everything on top of that is considered a bonus.


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