The Egyptian Revolt: Causes, a Shattered Myth, and Implications.

Mr. Al-Atiqi has graciously provided me with another analytical article regarding the Egyptian crisis- reviewbrain.

The Egyptian Revolt: Causes, a Shattered Myth, and Implications

An article by Suliman Al-Atiqi (MA, International Affairs)

Tunisia and Egypt have been reforming their economies and are the only non-oil dependent growing economies in the Arab world for the past decade. Economic reform has stimulated growth which in turn created rising expectations from a growing middle class. And a growing middle class translates into growing demands which the current regime cannot offer. So in many ways, this revolt was a cause of sound economic reform.  Unfortunately to Mubarak’s regime, the Tunisian upheaval has provided just the right impetus that has unleashed a seemingly irreversible yearning, that of true democratic reform.

The greatest shock to the Western world so far has been the unified voice of Egyptians claiming for one thing and one thing only, democracy. The current regime has quelled all secular opposition parties with an iron fist. On the other hand, it has given the Muslim Brotherhood a chance to make their presence felt, locally and regionally. They were used to show Western powers that the two options are either this dictatorial regime that is very much submissive to Western foreign policy, or the alternative, an Islamic-type regime—the West’s greatest nightmare. This policy, also practiced by Jordon, has provided Egypt an unconditional support from the West, making it the second top recipient of U.S. foreign aid after Israel. However this revolt has shattered this myth and has opened the third viable alternative, a democratic Egypt. This view was confirmed in an interview this week with former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, who stated “The chaos scenario is one that has been held out there to say that it is either Mubarak or a Islamist, Muslim Brotherhood and nothing in between. And the problem has been that the nothing in between is not true.”

It is uncertain what the final outcome will be of this revolt. But with Jamal (Mubarak’s son) resigning his role in Egypt’s leading party, the one thing we know for sure that we didn’t 2 weeks ago is that the Mubarak regime is over.  The United States is haunted by the memory of Iran where a dictator they supported was overthrown and replaced by a theocracy hostile to the West. For this reason, the question of a Muslim Brotherhood takeover has dominated the Western Media. However this will not be the case with Egypt for three main reasons. First, the Muslim Brotherhood though popular do not exceed a third of the Egyptian population, whereas with Iran, over half the population supported a theocracy led by Ayatollah Khomeini during their revolution. Second, the military is the most respected and powerful institution in Egypt and they would certainly not allow a Muslim Brotherhood takeover. Finally the Muslim brotherhood themselves have always been proponents of democracy. In fact, Ayman al-Zawahiri—the Alqaeda number two man—criticized the brotherhood for their support of democracy, something he sees as heretical.

The long term implications this event will leave Arab leaders with is how they cannot count on unconditional support by the U.S. no matter how submissive they are to its policy. Egypt has played a crucial role facilitating U.S. foreign policy in the region for the past three decades. It has taken a firm stand against a nuclear Iran; has been tough on Hamas and its smuggling operations along the border; and is playing a leading role in Mid East peace talks between the Israelis and Palestinians. However, in a matter of a few days, the United States has shown that it is not willing to stand by the current regime. When Obama addressed the Muslim world in Cairo in 2009, it was clear that relieving tensions between Muslims and the United States is a priority for his administration. Therefore Obama was quick to turn his back on Husni Mubarak if it meant not creating anymore anti-U.S. sentiments. Obama stated his message to Husni Mubarak loud and clear “An orderly transition must be meaningful, it must be peaceful, and it must begin now.” White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs put it more boldly ““now means yesterday.”

This will serve as a reminder to current Arab regimes that no matter how much support they provide the U.S., they cannot count on them in the face of domestic adversity.

For over three decades, the Arab world has not experienced a single regime change. In a 2 weeks period, the Tunisian President was overthrown; Yemeni President claimed that neither he nor his son will be running next election; King Abdullah of Jordan appointed a new Prime Minister vowing political reform; while Husni Mubarak’s days seem numbered. These developments have overturned three decades of political stagnation in the Arab world. The 1916 Arab revolt against the Ottomans shaped the history of the 20th century in the Arab world. What should now be clear is that 2011 will be remembered as the year that shaped the Arab world of the 21st century.


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3 responses to “The Egyptian Revolt: Causes, a Shattered Myth, and Implications.

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