The uprising in Egypt was so quick after that maybe US and other western allies never realised it could become a bone in their throat, which they could neither swallow nor spit out. Their reluctance in turning their guns towards Hosni Mubarak show what sort of agony and pain they must be going through. What a nightmare it could be for Obama and his foreign policy and national security team. The outcome of Egypt is visible right in front of them, if Hosni Mubarak leaves like Zine El Abidine Ben Ali (read Muslim Brotherhood) will come at the front. Today one of the main Islamist leaders returned after 21 years to jubilant crowds pouring in to greet him at Tunis airport. What a spectacle it could for Washington and its friends. Like a fortune teller history is laying out all its options in front of it to let is take the right decisions this time.
But America and all the rest of free world have an issue, sort of an optional disease “national interest” (it’s not only America, but in Pakistan and many other countries opportunists catch this virus occasionally). This disease makes them do some stupid things that normally go against their general policies and rhetoric too. In Egypt the same disease has caught up the West. They are in a dilemma and not been able to take a decisive step to abandon Mubarak or support those who are out there on the street openly. So they are doing some tongue twisting, Mubarak should do this, but Mubarak should work on reforms , etc. What I am failing to understand is that why they don’t utter the magical words that “Mubarak just start listening to your people and act”. Mubarak and his western allies very well know what protestors want.
Their reluctance is depriving them of any leverage they would have on any leader in the world especially in the region in future. If Mubarak departs from the scene how would US and its allied face the disgruntled new actors? A revisit to Iran where US knew Reza Shah’s departure and knew what was coming but didn’t managed to get any sort of leverage over Khomeini because it was too late for them to change boats. It is same here, US know Mubarak is dead meat but cannot extend support to others who are notably the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamist groups so it works on proxy. A proxy reminds me of how Musharraf departed and new actors came in Pakistan, providing US greatest leverage they could dream of.
Mubarak is a sweetheart of all, the best man they could dream of to rule the biggest Arab country in the region. Loved by Israel, trusted by west and US and accepted by Saudi Arabia. He kept the promises and managed to provide stability when everything was going crazy. WikiLeaks revealed that Mubarak was instrumental in brokering a ceasefire between Israelis and Hamas. Mubarak also helped Israel in curtailing Hamas by policing the smuggling routes, a key arms supply channel for militants in Gaza. Acting more like a balancing act to Iran’s influence in the region. It was evident from the two conferences held during Israel’s war on Gaza, one lead by Egypt supported by Saudis with Mahmoud Abbas another by Amir of Qatar in Doha participated by Ismail Haniyeh. From that point I could presume why Mubarak cannot stand Aljazeera and Aljazeera being too aggressive about Mubarak.
Mubarak has paranoia about Islamist and he fully understands West’s paranoia too. Especially after Afghanistan and 9/11 Mubarak knew his best card on the table is to keep the Islamist ghost alive, just like Musharraf did with Taliban in tribal areas. You kill them one by one but you finish them off because with there lives is your life. Wikileaks confirm these assumptions that Mubarak used this card wisely and used it to curtail Islamists as well as reforms in his own country. He fooled himself and the West and is finally going to pay the price for it very soon. Hi favourite example in scaring west is none other than the example of Shah of Iran, whose reforms cost him his power and US its biggest ally, Iran.
I strongly disagree with a lot of people who say that Muslim brotherhood were not taking part in protests or were staying away. I think it is a bluff and completely wrong assertion, during my stay in Cairo I saw the sort of organisation, which only a movement could bring, there was no leader but yet people knew what they are supposed to do and what they should be doing. If I accept the fact that Muslim Brotherhood is one of the strongest opposition parties in Egypt who have majority support in Egypt than how come without their consent their members come on the street? If they distance themselves from these protests the number of people should not be what I saw on the streets of Egypt. Another proof in my view is that on Sunday the protesters grew double and it was the same day Muslim Brotherhood came out in support of El Baradei.
The sense of organisation and ideology I saw reminds of Jama’at Islami though not exactly the same as Muslim Brotherhood, but it is more or less on the same line. Jama’at Islami in Pakistan has strayed away from the basic ideology of Maududi and became corrupt and surrogate of dictators and opportunists for money, while Muslim Brotherhood had kept their focus on their ideology. But what’s missing in Egypt is someone who could draw people, in some observers words a political opportunist, because there is no one on the ground. The protestors more or less kept their focus on demands rather than their allegiance and that is what I believe makes Tunisia and Egypt’s uprising different from many others. With El Baradei in picture now, I think the West is thinking but it might not be as easy as it seems from the outset to endorse him.
There is saying that nothing grows under big trees, it is the same case about Mubarak or Bin Ali, whose prolonged reins deprived the nations of potential leaders. This is what was echoed to me throughout my conversations with young Egyptians, who were telling me they need their voice, their identity. They don’t want to be recognised by Mubarak anymore they want to be recognised by who they are. I believe it is not only Mubarak but all those supported him throughout his 30 years regime. These are the same culprits who always turned a blind eye towards lack of reforms prolonged rule.
With a free hand from all sides, everyone’s friend and ally Hosni Mubarak ignored reforms, as they would have quickly eroded his reign and his friends’ in west stake in a crucial regional power. The question now is for America and that is big question, if it has learned the lesson from Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Tunisia and Egypt. Why it has to always make blunders on a global scale before the learning the right way? Why it decides too late about the fact that the policy it speaks openly is the policy it should follow on the ground? Why bloodshed, wars, coups, uprisings or revolutions are the only way to tell America that its policy is failed.
But on the other hand, I would like to remind that an opportunist is an opportunist. Have you ever noticed that there is always a Cory Aquino, Vaclav Havel, Megawati Sukarnoputri, Zardari and now El Baradei who comes in handy when an autocracy is crumbling. The policy of dependency always proves to be dangerous, as real leaders are real because they come through a process and have their roots in the ground. Egypt and Tunisia have started a journey it is too early to call it a revolution because the seeds of change are sown and it takes time for a tree to grow. The growth will not come in the shape of planted or introduced leadership but by encouraging and facilitating real grass root level democracy.
For Tunisians the real change is just beginning which might bring a revolution. For Egyptians it is time to tread carefully because it would be too bad to move from one puppet to another. The real revolution would always be from within the masses that believe in themselves and their ability to bring change. Until then the struggle will continue and faces will keep changing.