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U.S. Backing Away From Egypt’s Regime

Popular anti-government revolts convulse Israel’s neighbors

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Cairo tonight.(Khaled Desouki/AFP/Getty Images)

Are we watching the end of the 30-plus-year reign of Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak? He has called in the army as protests raged for their fourth straight day; Internet has been shut off; tear gas and rubber bullets have been employed, at the least; Mohamed ElBaradei, one opposition leader, has reportedly been placed under house arrest. There are dispatches aplenty: One I’d particularly recommend is on The New Yorker’s Website.

Most remarkably of all: The United States might be … siding with the protestors. White House press secretary Robert Gibbs called for an end to violence and the lifting of the Internet ban. Secretary of State Clinton insisted that “leaders need to respond” to their peoples’ calls for democracy; Sen. John Kerry, who chairs the Foreign Relations Committee, went further, explicitly calling for free and fair elections. On top of that, the Obama administration is publicly threatening to reconsider the $1.5 billion in annual U.S. military aid Egypt receives, which, as I noted earlier today, was actually the initial result of Egypt’s becoming the first Arab country to make peace with Israel.

Tunisia’s Jasmine Revolution came first, but the unrest in Egypt is a bigger deal because the Arab and even broader Muslim world has long taken its cues first and foremost from Egypt. In addition to Tunisia and Egypt, there is of course the unstable situation in Lebanon; protests in Yemen; and, today, much more placid yet very real marching for regime change in Jordan.

I just named three of the four countries that border Israel, and the two Arab states that recognize it. It is no wonder that the mood in Israel is cautiousness, the sense that these revolts represent “an earthquake,” and some concern over these regimes’ toppling—even if, broadly speaking, one watching this must greatly sympathize with the masses of young people who have known nothing but authoritarianism, agitating for democratic government. One wants to think that a democracy such as Israel would be sympathetic, but one cannot blame the country for worrying that arguably hovering in the background of the Egyptian protests is the Muslim Brotherhood, the powerful Islamist party, which is not at the protests’ forefront—yet, and maybe not ever (similarly aligned groups are most definitely poised to benefit from unrest in Yemen and likely to benefit from Tunisia’s regime change). Bruce Riedel, who wrote about Al Qaeda yesterday in Tablet Magazine, argues today that even should the Muslim Brotherhood—whose Palestinian branch is Hamas—rise to lead the protests, it should not be a cause of overmuch concern. But Israel is not likely to agree with Riedel’s analysis.

Truthfully, anyone who says they know what is going to happen next—whether Mubarak’s regime will maintain power or not, and in what form; what character the Egyptian revolt will take on—is lying. So sit tight, keep watching the news, and—if I may editorialize for a moment—cheer on, for now, the courageous youth of Egypt.

Egypt Calls In Army as Protestors Rage [NYT]
U.S. Calls for Egypt to Respond to Its People [WSJ]
U.S. to Review Aid to Egypt, WH Spokesman Says [WP]
The Taking of Kasr Al Nil [New Yorker]
Don’t Fear Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood [Daily Beast]
Earlier: Lebanese Power Broker Supports Hezbollah

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Frayed Knot says:

Although I sympathize with the desire of the Egyptian people to throw off the shackles of dictatorship and have a government that is ostensibly representative of the people, I have a bad feeling that should Mubarak fall, this will not bode well for the Middle East.

The Brotherhood aside, Egyptians have been fed a steady diet of anti-Semitism and anti-Israelism that has been either tacitly accepted and sometimes explicitly promoted by the Mubarak regime. A new government that actually represents the virulent anti-Israel sentiments of its people may not be so inclined to help contain Hamas, and may in fact decide that the $2 billion/year payoff it receives from the US isn’t worth it to maintain the peace.

I hope I’m wrong, but these revolutions may end up leading to a major war in the Middle East. I hope the upper echelons of the IDF are burning the midnight oil preparing for such a thing.

Old Guy says:

Before encouraging democracy in Egypt I would urge the US to consider the a scenario where a popularly elected strongly anti-western Jihadist Egyptian government has control of the suez canal.

How’s this for a game-changer. Sources in Egypt and West: US secretly backed protest is the headline in Debka, an Israel on-line intelligence journal. The article reports that Persistent claims were heard Saturday, Jan. 29 in various Egyptian and informed western circles that the popular uprising against president Hosni Mubarak, still going strong on its fifth day, was secretly prepared three years ago in Washington during the Bush administration.
The London Daily Telegraph headlined a story Saturday, apparently confirming confidential US documents released by WikiLeaks, which claimed that since 2008, the American government had secretly backed leading figures behind the uprising for “regime change.”

If so, does this not qualify as yet another confirmation that the US diplomatic corps is rather “strategy-challenged”? The report describes the Bush Administration having brought to the US a “pro-democracy student leader” for training, then returned him to Egypt where, apparently, he acted as catalyst for revolt. Except Bush apparently retained no control over the loose canon, and so the revolt broke out at the best time for the “revolutionaries,” but the worst time for the region and America’s position in the region. Egypt followed Tunisia and is inspiring a chain reaction throughout America’s Defense Umbrella, Jordan, Yemen and reports as well that the Saudis are also seeing disturbances.

So, keeping count, Bush overthrew Iraq: score one for Iran; Lebanon fell to Hezbollah: another for Iran; Hamas to Iran; Turkey seeing the writing on the wall re US losing it, independent and leaning towards Iran, Syria, Hamas and Hezbollah.

If Egypt falls the most likely inheritor, as with the Iranian revolution, will be the Islamists, in this case the Moslem Brotherhood. And if Egypt falls, is Saudia next? So the oil and the Canal and the Straits go to the Islamists.

Was Obama in the loop? Has he the understanding (not yet demonstrated) to make a difference? And Whither Israel?

Jordan says:

Haaretz argues that the consequences for Israel of regime change in Egypt could be pretty bad:

I am also worried about the possible development in the Middle East. This seems to be more of a struggle for economic prosperity rather than democracy which may later result in the accusations of the Western world if this prosperity is not finally achieved.

Obama is being accused of incompetence in dealing with Egypt, and he appears to be so, but Bush started the fire. The Daily Telegraph yesterday headlined Bush recruiting an Egyptian student leader to spark “regime change.” He reportedly had the support of the Moslem Brotherhood, among others, to achieve this?

Probably the “student” was not the spark that set Cairo ablaze; Tunisia is the obvious inspiration. But what this demonstrates is that US just doesn’t get it. You can’t plant revolutionaries amidst despotic allies and expect the change to conform to your dream. Bush toppled Sadam and replaced him with a “democratic” regime in Iraq. A complete misunderstanding of ethnicity and religion and resulting in Iraq still unstable, and allying with Iran!

Bush insisted on Palestinian election five years later, that still unarmed Hamas should participate. When Hamas won, apparently unexpected by Bush, he initiated a coup against Hamas and Hamastan in Gaza was the result.

And who does the US believe will emerge in Egypt should “democracy” defeat the despot: the Moslem Brotherhood. And then the entire Arab Middle East (including the tiny state, Israel, will be sandwiched between radical Islamic states.

And the icing on the cake of US diplomacy is that, with Israel as the front line, having defeated Russian ambitions in the 1960’s, who is backing Iran today? An American defeat in the region means a Russian victory: control of oil; Europe in a vise.

Island America will be just that, isolated geographically by oceans; a shrinking player on the world stage. And more vulnerable as a result.

At least one Jewish voice says loudly and clearly, withough qualification: long live free and democratic Egypt and Tunisia. I am deeply moved by the courage and conviction of the individuals involved. I am equally struck by how, increasingly, what is good for the rest of the world (human rights, democratization, etc.) is somehow bad for Israel. Makes you wonder…

How is it that just anyone can create a blog and get as popular as this Its not like youve said something incredibly impressive more like youve painted a pretty picture through an issue that you know nothing about I dont want to sound mean right here But do you actually think that you can get away with adding some fairly pictures and not actually say something

I imagined your post was cool and will pay a visit to frequently

I’ve said that least 4726050 times. The problem this like that is they are just too compilcated for the average bird, if you know what I mean

I get read your own article. It’s genuinely helpful. We will be able to benefit a great deal from this. Fluent composing style plus vivid text make usa readers take pleasure in reading. I will probably share your own opinions having my buddies.

“economic prosperity rather than democracy” true


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U.S. Backing Away From Egypt’s Regime

Popular anti-government revolts convulse Israel’s neighbors

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