The Arab Revolution A Nile Insurgency and Uncertain Egyptian Future

Protesters and police on the Nile Bridge in Cairo: "The people want to topple the regime."
Getty Images

Protesters and police on the Nile Bridge in Cairo: "The people want to topple the regime."

Part 4: Three Scenarios for Egypt's Future

Three possible scenarios loom for Egypt: a Burmese, a Turkish or an Iranian model. Whatever direction the country takes, Egypt's future will be critical for the region.

Whether the military assumes power in Cairo, as has been the case in Rangoon for decades, is unclear. Sami Annan, the army's chief of staff, and Defense Minister Mohammed Hussein Tantawi traveled to Washington at the beginning of the week. The military leadership is undoubtedly coordinating its next steps with the Pentagon, despite the fact that Washington threatened to freeze military aid to Cairo on Friday evening. Modern-day Egypt has a tradition of having presidents with military backgrounds. Gamel Abdal Nasser, Sadat and Mubarak, Egypt's three leaders since 1954, all had army backgrounds. And Defense Minister Tantawi, 75, is significantly more popular than intelligence chief Omar Suleiman, also frequently mentioned as a possible successor to Mubarak.

Despite the many differences between the two countries, some analysts believe that it is possible, even desirable, for Egypt to follow Turkey's path. The Turkish model espoused by the Justice and Development Party (AKP ) of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has inspired many Arab democrats. It is the only successful attempt to date to domesticate political Islam, an attempt that has succeeded both economically and in terms of foreign policy. Of course, to implement this model in Egypt the Muslim Brotherhood would have to follow the example of Turkey's Islamists, that is, to significantly modernize its image of humanity and more clearly distance itself from terror than it has done to date.

This is precisely what Leslie Gelb, a former US assistant secretary of state, predicts is unlikely to happen. He writes: "In rotten regimes that fall to street mobs, the historical pattern has been moderates followed by new dictators." Gelb believes that any effort to back away from Mubarak is dangerous and does not even rule out a Bolshevik or Iranian scenario in Egypt. In truth, he writes, officials in Washington "have no idea of exactly who these street protesters are, whether the protesters are simply a mob force incapable of organized political action and rule, or if more sinister groups hover in the shadows."

Little Enthusiasm in Israel

So far, the only clear loser of the events of past weeks is Israel. The Jewish state, which has become accustomed to the status quo, threatens to lose several potential partners for peace. For this reason, top politicians in the "only democracy in the Middle East," as Israel characterizes itself, have followed the events in the region with little enthusiasm. Their reactions have been sparse and in some cases icy.

Despite his policies of brutal suppression, Egypt's autocratic president has become Israel's favorite Arab politician. Mubarak has repeatedly offered his services as a mediator in the Palestinian conflict. Cables from the US embassy in Cairo made available by WikiLeaks indicate that Mubarak even has an excellent working relationship with Israel's hardliner prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, whom he calls "charming." The two leaders are on such good terms that Netanyahu even gave the Egyptian leader advance notice of his plans to attack the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip and offered him the option of governing the region himself after the attack -- an offer Mubarak politely rejected.

Israeli politicians sense that Egypt's next strong man will hardly be as cooperative. Indeed, the Israelis will sorely miss Mubarak.


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overthere55 01/30/2011
1. Is China Next?
What is China Afraid of?
BTraven 01/31/2011
It’s a pity that no politician has been capable of praising him out of the job. In Germany we call it “wegloben”. He is already 82 and has fulfilled every desire the States and Israel have had so far. He deserves a calm retirement.
citizenwhy 01/31/2011
3. So what is the goal?
Is the goal of the US and Israel to keep Mubarak in place, with his son as successor? Is this going to prevent or advance a Muslim Brotherhood takeover of the country? Is the only legitimate route to regime change in the Arab world a US invasion and occupation? Is the goal of the US and Israel to replace Mubarak but leave the government apparatus in place? Will this hinder or advance a Muslim Brotherhood takeover? Is Pakistan next? Or Saudi Arabia? Must Europe resentfully follow the lead of the US and Israel? Or strike an independent course? What does Russia want? Will Europe follow what Russia wants, in the hope of stable energy supplies?
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