February 5, 2011

Egypt : Some other Perspective.

Been thinking about Egypt a lot. This is a country I fell in love with in the past. I called it then "la magie des lieux" - the magic of places.

For me, Egypt represented many things. It represented history, civilization, culture, simplicity, and a certain wisdom...

The flip side was poverty, despair, struggle and human misery.

Some things in the Egyptian character (if one may call it that) I always appreciated...and other things I tremendously disliked. I suppose no love affair is perfect.

I can't claim to know Egypt very well, but I can safely say that I know it quite well. In any case, better than your (below)average Westerner who spends 99% of his/her time in Zamalek, working for an NGO and who will sit for hours pontificating about what is best for it. Landing with a blue print, a booklet and eating a couple of sandwiches of Falafel do not make you an expert.

And even though I am keeping a close eye on the latest events in Egypt, which I deem to be of great importance for the region, I still maintain that necessary skeptical distance. The proverbial grain of salt.

There are many levels to the story, many levels of understanding, that is.

On the one hand, there are genuine aspirations, demands, of let's assume the majority of the Egyptian people gathered in Tahrir Square - the Liberation Square. And from the looks of it, there is a stubborn regime refusing to immediately step down.

On the other hand, grosso modo put -- there is the actual Egyptian political opposition who is trying to make headways, inserting itself into the grass root movement and there is the United States of America.

Moving aside, taking some distance from the political brouhaha, there are some important points to note down :

Regardless of what one thinks of Hosni Mubarak -- and as an Iraqi who witnessed Gulf War 1 and 2, I don't have much good to say about him, in view of the overt Egyptian involvement in the occupation of Iraq --and Iraq will always remain a focal point of reference for me, and not including Iraq is missing the point.

Both Iraq and Egypt were considered Arab countries with "weight", with strategic, political, cultural, economic, social, intellectual...importance. And for many reasons : History, geography, learning, human resources, natural resources and a common struggle against British colonialism which culminated in Iraq with Abdel Karim Qassem and in Egypt with Gamal Abdel Nasser. These struggles for Independence were not without a price tag, both in human and material costs.

Hence for me, both countries represent the epicenters of the Arab world. One towards the Mashreq and the other towards the Maghreb. In other words Doors or as the West in its vulgar crass lingo calls it - windows of opportunities.

Bearing in mind the different levels mentioned above, ie. the orphaned grass root, the political opposition, and the United States (the Imperialistic replacement for the Old World), I can't help but notice the following :

- It is clear that at the popular (populace) level, the demands of the people are un-ambiguous. The demand for regime change is not open to debate. Do these 8M Egyptians as per the opposition claims - represent all of Egypt, all of its silent majority, is another story. But assuming that it does represent all of Egypt, where does that leave us ?

- Let's look now at the opposition parties - who constitutes them and who will be leading next?
The Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood is a key player, alongside some shady characters from the Wafd party and another even shadier character El-Baradei who greatly facilitated the task for the US in presenting its bogus charges for the occupation of Iraq.

- At the American level, we are witnessing a definite change of foreign strategy. I earnestly believe that the US has learned its lesson in Iraq (in toppling regimes) and has opted for an indirect approach capitalizing on mass grievances, enhancing, exacerbating popular demands, pleas, only to appear as some Savior of Reform and Democracy without the actual use of military force.
There is no doubt whatsoever, that both the US and the EU have washed their hands from Hosni Mubarak and his regime and are propping him up as some nasty dictator that needs to go NOW as per the statements of the US administration. In other words, the US is now dictating from afar, by using the mass protests, regime change in Egypt -- NOW.

- The reaction from the old regime is a recourse to some "reactive patriotism" with - We decide when we leave not you - the US. Hence, concessions have been made (regardless of how much you like or dislike Hosni Mubarak) - a stepping down in September, some promises of reforms, some public apologies, a reshuffling of his cabinet, presenting old members for trial on corruption charges, and the statement made by Mubarak himself : I am an Egyptian, I will die in Egypt...

- US interference under the guise of Democracy and Freedom led old schoolers like Fidel Castro and Chavez to side with the "Tyrant". They understood the plot. Experience has something to do with it.

Hence, the words that are circulating today, by the silent majority are - you have endured decades of Mubarak's rule, surely you can wait another 6 months until September, when he will step down.

The opposition, mainly the Muslim Brotherhood coupled with Al-Baradei echo the American administration mantra of - no, not in September but NOW.

From a regional perspective, Iran and to a much lesser degree Turkey, are hailing the Revolution against "Arab Tyranny". Iran in particular, issued several statements praising the End of Dictatorships in the Arab World.

Of course Iran is hardly well placed to do so, but seeing the delirium in the Arab street, it has no doubt scored a few extra points in its direction. And I do not exclude the very high possibility of the Muslim Brotherhood (who is in bed with Iran) to come out as the ultimately victorious ones. And by the way, that includes Tunisia...and all of that will be done in well calculated stages.

I also find it "interesting" that US foreign policy (forget the rhetoric) has clearly demonstrated the path it is to persevere in, namely :

- In Iraq -- the propping up of Iranian proxies under the guise of some democratically elected government.

- In Lebanon --the abandonment of the Saudi camp as represented by Hariri, in favor of some Hezbollah (Iran)take over.

- In Tunisia, a seemingly benevolent (alongside the Sarkozy French government) of a laissez faire approach to Tunisian domestic issues in the aftermath of Ben Ali's departure

- and now in Egypt, a similar stance vis à vis the "old dictator" and in favor of the opposition as mainly represented by the Muslim Brotherhood (always in bed with Iran) and Al-Baradei (the Iraq invasion facilitator and who incidentally has cordial relationships with the Islamic republic).

In one of my older posts, I spoke of a long American Iranian film. I believe that film is not about to end. I am expecting similar reproductions in Yemen and Libya, with the final scene in Saudi Arabia.

However, the axis of Evil -- Iraq, Syria, Iran -- shall remain relatively stable in the forthcoming future...I thought I'd mention that, just in case you need to divert your investments in Democracy.