Sunday, January 30, 2011

Leadership within the Arab Turmoil

It has been a busy January. Coptic Christians start off rioting to protest a shooting that spreads throughout Egypt. Tunisia's government collapses, protesters take to the streets in Lebanon and Yemen, and even the West Bank and Jordan are boiling. Where will this all lead?

I watched the Iranian revolution, while traveling in Europe in 1979, and was dismayed to see how the pro-democracy leaders were roughly pushed aside by the Revolutionary Guards who fought to install a theocracy of Ayatollas.

What will happen in Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen and Jordan? I'm afraid that one of two things are most likely. One will be the crushing of the opposition like last year's crushing of the polical opposition in Iran. Or, worse yet for the US and Israel, the installation of Muslim theocracies. These groups are ready opponents, with strong Iranian backing and are just waiting to rush in and fill the power vacuum left by their despotic predecessors. The Muslim Brotherhood's backing of  Mohamed ElBaradei smacks of polical expediency, designed to lend credibility to their cause. I've no doubt that, with Mr. ElBaradei at their head, they will win an election, then toss him aside to set up another Iranian-backed religious dictatorship.

Mr. ElBaradei is one of the few Egyptian leaders who seems to be keen about setting up a real democracy. I hope he lives up to his committment to not seek the leadership until an effective democratic process has time to take hold. He is smart enough to know that, due to Mubarek's repressions, the only opposition existent is the Muslim Brotherhood.

I doubt the ability of any Arab country to go against millenia of clan rivalries to set up a democratic country. We watched in the 1990's as the Philippines and Eastern Europe threw off their dictators and embraced democracy (except maybe Russia).  But it seems to be impossible for Arabs, Persians or Afghans to do anything similar. I am especially fearful that the Coptic Christians, who started this all, will be the first victims of a Muslim dictatorship that takes Mubarak's place. All eyes are on Mr. ElBaradei.


  1. That was one of my first worries. I fear religious extremists are lying low, just coasting on the edge of this wave and waiting for the chance to ride it to power.
    You said all eyes on ElBaradei. I heard someone else say all eyes on Egyptian military. It appears they may be like Pakistani military in that they have a big say in who has the power and how its dealt.

  2. Israeli media and government has more than expressed concern over the current status in two of our few allies in the Middle East. Fear over extremists has only been worsened by the fact that Hamas and Fatah have suddenly gone silent (not in attacks on Israel, but in opinions). These concerns are only worsened over their own status as an ally of the US given our response to Egypt's PM, an ally of the US for years.

    I hope it all works out positively, but only time will tell. Hopefully the ideals of the revolt don't mimic Iran.

  3. Mubarak may be in his eighties, he is by no means demented. He is not going to run away like Zine al-Abedine Ben Ali from Tunesia and why should he? Sure there are hundreds of thousands protesting in Egypt to get him out, but there are over 80 million! Egyptians. He is going to dit tight until the next elections, things would have cooled down by then and even if he claims now he will not run in the next elections, the voice of the people might make him switch his mind, all because he is called upon by the people of Egypt.

    Let's not forget that a big part of the protesters are people "running along" and another part of people just out for riots and looting.

    Mubarak still has the police AND military on his side. The changes made so far in his newly appointed cabinet consist of Military allies of him. He has still led Egypt to what it is now, including billions of aid from the US. Clever man Mubarak who will not be chased out of the country!

    And then what if he leaves, things will get better for the average Egyptian, don't think so! Worse case scenario for everyone would be the same result as we have seen in Iran where Muslim extremists take over and slowly change Egypt in in Muslim fundamentalist State.

    No I think he will stay in power, maybe not as president but behind the screens still pulling all the strings., and good on him. Let's also think here Egypt would have been without Mubarak in power for 30 years, would Egyptians been better off??


  4. There is a very powerful component to this Arab world movement: social network media (internet, facebook, e-mail, cell phones...)
    The power of new technology in the making of history is still to be assessed. We probably hardly saw the tip of the iceberg. Just imagine how everything would have unfolded in Cairo, without any cell phones or internet access. With a totally censored mass media, how many Egyptians would have known what is really happening in the Tahrir Square?
    Information is now instantly available to millions, and their average age is 22 (!). These are people free of fear, skepticism or prejudice... Revolution 2.0 in Egypt is the first of its kind and is most likely opening a new era in social changes... Free access to information on internet is the biggest enemy of dictatorships. This is just the beginning.

  5. Thanks for all your comments, folks. It has been interesting seeing how this has played out in the last few months. Mubarak is out, elections are in the wings, the border between Egypt and Gaza has opened, Libya is under attack, the Muslim brotherhood is splintering and protests have spread from Morocco to Yemen.