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Egypt: regime change? « Previous | |Next »
February 10, 2011

Three weeks after protests erupted in Egypt, anti-government demonstrators continue to press for President Hosni Mubarak to leave office and leave the country. Deaths due to the conflict are estimated at nearly 300 now, as Mubarak remains in power and thousands of angry citizens remain in the streets of Egypt.

The military regime, with Suleiman taking over from Mubarak as the head, is fighting to retain the power and privileges of the authoritarian rule of the old order and refuse to suspend the stifling Emergency Law. The old order is a military dictatorship:

Egyptprotests.jpg Goran Tomasevic, Reuters, protester +burning barricade, demonstration in Cairo January 28, 2011.

The pro-democracy revolt raises strategic considerations centred around Israel. The anchor of US policy in the Middle East is the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty, negotiated by Sadat in 1979, maintained by Mubarak, and supported by the military.

Washington can only consider its relationship to Egypt in terms of whether its political developments are good for Israel or not. Washington continues to define its own interests in the Middle East largely in terms of whether they are compatible with those of Israel. So we have arguments that Israeli and American foreign policies are and need to be identical based on shared opposition to international terrorism and other such "values" are fallacious and are based on constructs that are essentially false.

What Washington fails to consider is that Israel has become a United States national security liability.

Update
PBS NewsHour's Margaret Warner's interview with Egypt's Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit; Gheit basically tells the US that its expectations are out of line with political and time realities in Egypt.

It shows the political establishment in Egypt seems to be regaining its balance, pushing back and resisting pressure from those protesting in the street as well as the US government; pushing back against the assertive collective empathy created by multitudes fighting for the control of urban space. Tahrir Square is a liberated zone.

Update 2
Gastón Gordillo points out at his Space and Politics blog that:

What has coalesced as a powerful, unstoppable force on the streets of Egypt is resonance: the assertive collective empathy created by multitudes fighting for the control of space. This is why the Mubarak regime has desperately tried to shatter it. The state attempts to disrupt the internet, cell phones, Al Jazeera, and the work of the international media are all attempts to disable the technologies through which resonance propagates and expands. When these moves failed, the regime sent paramilitary units to attack the main source of resonance: the bodies of the multitude in Liberation Square in Cairo. The Egyptian Revolution became for several days a pitched battle fought with stones and Molotov cocktails over the control of its main node of resonance.

Gordillo adds that everybody feels the resonance reverberating from Egypt and is trying to make sense of it, to name it. But the words seem inadequate, partial, incomplete: enthusiasm, energy, passion, anger, contagion, electrifying, domino effect. These terms name features of resonance but miss its salience as a physical, affective, political force made up of living bodies.

Update 3
As the spectre of Islam continues to haunt the West consumed with its fears of an Islamic takeover in Egypt, Mubarak has announced that he will not be dictated to by foreigners, that he will continue to remain President until September, that he had delegated power to Suleiman, and he refused to immediately lift the emergency law.

Mubarak's speech is designed to provoke the multitude. A confrontation looms. People were expecting that Egypt would then move into a transitional period where there be a government of national unity, to carry on for a year to prepare for fair and free elections.

Mubarak is president in name only, after transferring all the powers of the presidency to his vice president Omar Suleiman. If Mubarak is a phantom authority, with the power shifting to Suleiman and the military, then the military is consolidating its power. The Egyptian military's goal is not to save Mubarak but to save the regime founded by Gamal Abdel Nasser.

Fareed Zakaria says in The Daily Star:

Egypt is not a personality-based regime, centered on Mubarak, despite reports of his wealth and efforts to establish his son as his successor. Since the officers’ coup in 1952, Egypt has been a dictatorship of, by and for the military....The military seems to have decided to sacrifice Mubarak but is trying to manage the process of change to ensure that it remains all-powerful. Egypt, remember, is still ruled by martial law and military courts.

The danger is that Egypt will become not Turkey--where the military as modernizers slowly relinquished power--- but Pakistan, a sham democracy with real power held in back rooms by generals. Is the military divided?

Update 4
Mubarak is deliberately pushing Egypt further into crisis. He is putting the army in a position where they will soon have to confront either the Egyptian people or the president and his presidential guard. In the current situation, after Mubarak's speech, the military faces three choices in the face of massive demonstrations in Cairo and other cities.

The first is to stand back, allow the crowds to swell and likely march to the presidential palace and perhaps enter the grounds. The second choice is to move troops and armor into position to block more demonstrators from entering Tahrir Square and keep those in the square in place. The third is to stage a coup and overthrow Mubarak.

Update 5
Mubarak has departed. The military pulled the plug. Egypt rejoices and celebrates. It was achieved without a wave of bloodshed. al-Jazeera's role was that of the voice of the Araba public. Will Switzerland freezing Mubarak's assets?

The democratic transformationbegins. Will the Army truly allow the emergence of a pluralistic, representative model government? Will the interim government have the savvy to present such a road map early enough to placate activists?

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 11:22 AM | | Comments (14)
Comments

Comments

It's not regime change" in Egypt; it is "regime adjustment." Regime adjustment is not what the pro-democratic protests in Egypt have been about. Omar Suleiman and his crew in the army-led new regime will have the ability to legally neutralize reforms as they are the ones in control of the political machine.

Drawing on Peter's theme, an observer will develop the process to its logical culmination, that "regime readjustment" is a euphemism or code for "tightening the screws".
Is a real sense I think the Egyptians are fighting our battles for us. The failure to move forward to democracy only makes outrown fredom more contingent. If its ok to deny Egyptians, how long before it is ok that we are denied, also and through through our acquiescence to the arbitrary tyranny that is covered by the blanket term, "Policy".

Washington is committed to ensuring that political changes in the Middle East did not threaten Israel and that any Egyptian government honours the treaty with Tel Aviv.

Paul asks: "...If its ok to deny Egyptians, how long before it is ok that we are denied..."

But there's no need, mate.

As long as we promote and support ruthless, authoritarian leaders over THERE, we are can go on consuming and amusing OURSELVES with relative ease. As long as we have strongmen strategically placed around the planet, our unsustainable lifestyle can continue.

As much as we (and the yanks) like to whine about the state of our homeland, we are nowhere near the levels of frustration and desperation seen in Egypt, Tunisia etc. We cannot REALLY understand their suffering. We cannot REALLY imagine their disenchantment.

Do don't worry, Paul. Our leaders will not openly oppress us. The have not need to use force to silence us. As long as we are absorbed with our "bread and circus" we will simply silence ourselves.

In short, what's happening over there... to a large part... is happening to keep us comfortable. We're not the ones paying the price.

Mubarak has just given a televised address in which he refuses to go before September--when there will be a transfer of power and democratic elections. The army had suggested that Mubarak would use the address to say that he would go, and that the protesters demands would be meant.

It's a " I fight on" speech from Mubarak. It won't go down well with the pro-democracy protesters. Mubarak has inflamed the situation. So Egypt continues to be ruled by old men with guns.

The military's position is an inbetween one. It defends the status quo but sees Mubarak as a liability. Paul Amar saysthat the military has used:

its sovereignty over huge tracks of desert and coastal property to develop shopping malls, gated cities and beach resorts, catering to rich and modest Egyptians, local and international consumers and tourists. Their position vis-à-vis the uprising is thus complicated. They hated the rapacious capitalists around Gamal Mubarak, who sold off national lands, assets and resources to US and European corporations. But the military also wants tourists, shoppers and investors to consume in their multi-billion dollar resorts and venues. The military identifies very strongly with representing and protecting “the people,” but also wants the people to go home and stop scaring away the tourists. The military will continue to mobilize this in-between position in interesting ways in the coming years.

The regime is making no moves to shift from an authoritarian regime to a democratic one.

Rami G. Khouri in The Daily Star says that we can identify four principal issues that have risen to the surface of the debate about what should happen next in the country. Two of them are bogus diversions, and the two others are critically and historically important.

The two bogus issues are fears about democratization because the Muslim Brotherhood might emerge stronger and perhaps even dominate the new government, and the concerns that a transition to democracy in Egypt might jeopardize the 30-year-old peace treaty with Israel and constitute a new threat to Israel.

The two really significant issues, in turn, related to who really represents the majority of demonstrating Egyptians and thus should negotiate the changes ahead with the Mubarak government and the armed forces that underpin it; and then, the practical changes that are needed for this historic revolt to result in tangible democratization rather than merely superficial and hollow adjustments.

He adds that the first two bogus issues are so troubling – especially in the United States, where these arguments are now commonplace – because they reflect the ugly view that democratization in the Arab world should only occur when it guarantees results that a priori meet with the approval of the Americans and the Israelis.

And in 2013...

With disillusioned and disenfranchised young Egyptians -sick of empty words- turning to the Islamic insurgency.... US President Palin respond sends in the Marines.

boo-yah!

the preliminary condition of the pro-democratic uprisings has been the global food price spike combined with entrenched unemployment and stagnation. It is a self-managing movement regulating itself--ie the multitude controlling the looters

You can usually tell when a country isnt functioning properly by the amount of people that have bad teeth.

Mubarak has gone. Egypt will be governed by a military council. Egypt rejoices. is Egypt on a path to democracy? Egypt has simply had a change in leadership, not a revolution dethroning a regime. For all practical purposes, Egypt is now under military rule.

the army that had kept Mubarak in power had lost confidence in him.

Ian Black in Egyptian army calls the shots as nation embarks on democratic transition in The Guardian says:

rule by the military can only be temporary. Mubarak's exit, the dissolution of what is seen as an illegitimate parliament dominated by the ruling party, key constitutional reforms and abolition of the hated emergency laws are all non-negotiable demands.

The question is: will the army be able or willing to lead the transition to real democracy and relinquish control?

Mubarak also ruled the state as the personal property of his family.They amassed a fortune.