Archive for category US response
As somebody said on the BBC’s Newsnight, ‘Tunisia was small fry—Egypt is the largest country in the Middle East, and if Egypt changes, the whole Arab world changes’.
I’m an economist, not a Middle East specialist. My only qualification is that I once lived in the Middle East and am passionate about its future. The implications of radical change in Egypt truly are momentous. The corrupt family dynasties that have plundered the Arab world for the better part of two generations—in Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen, Syria, Morocco, Algeria—are coming to an end. Tunisia’s Ben Ali is gone and Egypt’s Mubarak is on his way out. If Mubarak goes, it can only be a matter of time for the other despots.
Will Mubarak go? The answer must surely be ‘yes’. The Americans (and their Israeli clients), knowing that a bloodbath in Egypt will merely hasten the dismemberment of their regional alliances, have worked feverishly to devise a backup plan. The plan is simple. If the 83-year old Mubarak goes, the army must take charge.
Washington spends serious money on Cairo: some $1.3bn a year. That is why General Tantawi, head of the army, has recently been briefed in the USA. That is why Ahmed Shafiq, a former air force commander, has been named Prime Minister while Mubarak’s intelligence chief and long-time collaborator, Omar Suleiman, has been made vice-president. The planned succession is clear.
Will it work? While the demonstrators’ main demand may be for the old man to leave on the next plane, few of them will be fooled into believing that the ageing Suleiman would be an acceptable replacement. In the words of Robert Fisk:
How this elderly apparatchik might be expected to deal with the anger and joy of liberation of 80 million Egyptians is beyond imagination. When I told the demonstrators on the tank around me the news of Suleiman’s appointment, they burst into laughter.
The other big question is of course what happens in Israel if the new Arab revolution takes hold. Time Magazine quotes Benjamin Netanyahu as saying: ‘I’m not sure the time is right for the Arab region to go through the democratic process.’ Doubtless, though, anybody in Israel foolish enough to be talking of intervention would be silenced by Washington; such an intervention—whether in Egypt or elsewhere—would merely hasten what the Israeli right surely must see as a looming catastrophe.
Let us be clear. In the long term the success of the Arab revolution means the end of Israel’s role as a client state. Once the Israelis are no longer useful, the Americans will drop them, leaving them to abandon Zionism and negotiate a single-state solution with the Palestinians as best they can.
And of course, the Arab revolution opens up other doors too. Will the Shia majority in Iraq continue to tolerate the US bases? And what of Iran? Will the Iranian demonstrators, once so loudly celebrated by the Western news media, return to the streets to oust the clownish Ahmajinedad and his geriatric theocracy? And if so, would this raise new hope for the triumph of popular secular democracy in the region—in contrast to the Western-backed sham that has blocked the region’s progress for so many years.
The answer to such questions—so critical to the Arab world in particular and the wider Muslim world—-are still unknown. But the possibility of, and space for, change has been re-opened. In Cairo and other Egyptian cities, young people are once again forging their own destiny. We in Europe must stand with them.
* This piece was originally published on the ‘Social Europe’ website. See http://www.social-europe.eu/2011/01/all-change-in-egypt-2/