Egypt – Where to Now?
The White House is negotiating with officials surrounding the Egyptian president concerning the plan to install a transitional government run by Suleiman, and supported by the Egyptian military.
The revolt has fatally undermined President Mubarak’s hopes for remaining in power. Egyptians have taken to the streets to demand change because of economic despair and political tyranny, not the regime’s close relationship with US. However, the US has tolerated and abetted Mubarak’s repressive rule for three decades because he has cooperated with US strategy on issues ranging from Israel to Iran.
With Mubarak out of the picture, Washington could be deprived of a key Arab ally.
The situation in Egypt is still dangerously fluid, and its outcome is difficult to predict. The duration and terms of the inevitable transition are unknown. The White House called for "an orderly transition" to "a democratic participatory government," and for Egypt’s US-funded security forces to refrain from violence against protesters. In this way, Mubarak is consigned to political oblivion. The US has learned that its chosen allies can come undone in a week and that their strategies are unpredictable.
If the political process is opened, ElBaradei is most likely to replace Mubarak. ElBaradei has already been endorsed as a presidential candidate by the country’s smaller secular parties and, importantly, by Egypt’s largest opposition party, the Muslim Brotherhood.
ElBaradei is a moderate and a democrat, and he is not opposed to Islamist parties and has publicly questioned the Obama Administration’s strategy on Iran’s nuclear program.
Wikileaks revealed that Washington was warned that it could expect a difficult transition after Mubarak. "Whoever Egypt’s next president is, he will inevitably be politically weaker than Mubarak," reads a remarkably prescient May 2007 cable from the US embassy in Cairo that was released late last year by WikiLeaks. "Among his first priorities will be to cement his position and build popular support. We can thus anticipate that the new president may sound an initial anti-American tone in his public rhetoric in an effort to prove his nationalist bona fides to the Egyptian street."
The cable also warns that any new President will have to bolster his support by reconciling with the banned Muslim Brotherhood. This is true now that Egyptians have demanded a say in the matter. The protest is not being fueled by anti-Americanism or radical Islamist sentiments; it’s a protest driven by the economic and political needs of Egyptians. Protestors have only showed hostility toward the US because of its longtime support for a tyrannical regime.
Egypt’s democracy movement doesn’t see the Muslim Brotherhood as a radical party. "The Muslim Brotherhood has nothing to do with the Iranian movement, has nothing to do with extremism as we have seen it in Afghanistan and other places," ElBaradei said over the weekend. He called the Brotherhood a conservative group that favors secular democracy and human rights and said that as an integral part of Egyptian society, it would have a place in any inclusive political process.
Israel remains a living example of how a people live in fear when they take what is not theirs and it is looking on aghast as its most important friend in the region tumbles while the US does little to save them. Israel can not count on Egypt’s continued cooperation in imposing an economic siege on Gaza, aiming at unseating the territory’s Hamas rulers.
The demonstrations show an Arab public looking to take charge of its own affairs, rather than have them determined by international power struggles. Even that, however, suggests turbulent times ahead for American Middle East policies that have little support on Egypt’s streets.