THE CRISIS IN LIBYA: A COMMENT
"Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi has ordered the Libyan air force to fire on military installations in Libya, according to what the BBC has characterized as a reliable source. Al Jazeera has suggested that air force fighters have opened fire on crowds of protesters.
Though the latter would be particularly draconian, the more important question is whether these signs reflect a split within the regime and Gadhafi using military force to crush opposition to his regime emerging from the military or other security forces. Similar reports the Libyan navy firing on targets onshore also are emerging, as well as reports that Gadhafi has given execution orders to soldiers who have refused to fire on Libyan protesters".
"Red Alert: Unrest and the Libyan Military," Stratfor. 21 February 2011, in www.stratfor.com.
The not very clear (to put it mildly) or transparent ongoing events in Libya in the past few days has (unfortunately) tabulated with some of my own earlier comments of what were to occur if any serious unrest did come to this North African country: that Colonel Qaddafi and his family clique would use all available forces at their command to put down any uprising. Being only in his late sixties and in apparent good health (or at least not 'ill health', `a la the now ousted rulers of both Egypt and Tunisia), the maverick Libyan leader has commenced doing, what Mubarak (perhaps) or Ben-Ali (more likely) would have done, if they were capable of doing so. Id est
, using massive force to regain control of the situation and drown the opposition in massive firepower. Of course, it is merely the beginning of an ongoing situation. Right now, as per Reuters, the Financial Times, the New York Times and the Arabic language Al-Arabiya, almost the entire eastern portion of the country is now in the hands of the opposition. With much of the armed forces in that sector having defected over to the opposition or gone into hiding. Whereas in Tripoli as of to-day (Wednesday) the regime has regained control of the situation after a day or two of oppositional activity 1
. At this point in time, with no power on the planet having the type of leverage that the United States had in the case of Egypt, and with the army no longer capable of acting as a unified and independent institution, there is a very good possibility that Libya as a nation-state might come apart in a sub-Sahara African style civil war. The fact is that Libya as nation-state (such as it is) only dates back to the mid-to-late 1950's under King Idris. In 1969, Idris was ousted in a coup d'etat by the then very young Colonel Qaddafi. Hence, the very revealing fact that the forty-one years of the colonel's regime makes up most of this wretched nation's history. And following the old adage of divida et impera
, Qaddafi, made sure that not only did Libya not have any of the ordinary institutions of civil society (rien
, zero, none), but even instruments of the regime such as the army were sub-divided into tribal and regional elements. Hence the great danger that the country might split apart into its pre-colonial elements. With the dis-order and violence that this might imply, on the North African coast, an hour or two from the Italian mainland. Or alternatively, again, `a la many examples of sub-Saharan African regime change, it could very well be, that within two to three days, additional elements of the army, and the security services, may desert and the entire regime may collapse. With Qaddafi making his political quietus
by committing suicide 2
. Certainly no one can deny that we truly are living in interesting times. 1
. Andrew England, "Defiant Gaddafi vows to fight to the death," The Financial Times
. 22 February 2011, in www.ft.com
; "Defiant Gaddafi vows to die as martyr, fight revolt," Reuters
. 22 February 2011, in www.reuters.com
; David Kirkpatrick & Kareem Fahim, "Qaddafi grip on capital tightens as revolt grows," The New York Times
. 22 February 2011, in www.nytimes.com; "Gruesome footage 'proves' Libya using heavy arms," Al-Arabiya
. 23 February 2011, in www.alarabiya.net
. On the modus operandi of Qadaffi's rule, see: Mohamid Hussein, "Libyan Crisis: what role do tribal loyalties play," BBC World Service
. 22 February 2011, in www.bbc.co.uk
. On the possibility that the regime may just very quickly collapse, within a day or two, see: "Gruesome footage 'proves' Libya using heavy arms, op cit. Where the now former Minister of the Interior predicted that the entire regime would quickly collapse and that Qaddafi would end matters by doing away with himself.
THE NEAR & MIDDLE EAST AFTER THE OVERTHROW OF MUBARAK: A COMMENT
The day after Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak was forced out, the joke in Cairo was that the long-time leader next door, the eccentric Muammer Gaddafi, had abolished Fridays.
Both Mr Mubarak and Tunisia’s Zein al-Abidine Ben Ali were ousted on a Friday and, curiously, they were swept away after delivering exactly three speeches, the last one on the day before their fall. Every new dawn, however, marks a threatening day for the Middle East’s remaining autocratic rulers.
In Libya, activists had called for a Thursday protest on an emotionally charged day – the anniversary of the killing of demonstrators in a February 2006 protest against a Danish cartoon depicting the Prophet Mohammed. But two days earlier, clashes between police and demonstrators erupted in Benghazi, Libya’s second city, and spread to nearby towns.
Colonel Gaddafi, in power since 1969 and with no desire to relinquish control, launched a brutal crackdown, leaving at least 24 people dead, according to New York-based Human Rights Watch.
No sooner had Egyptians celebrated their revolution than the protests in Yemen intensified, posing the most serious challenge to President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s 33-year rule; Algerians too were encouraged to step up demonstrations against the regime of President Abdelaziz Bouteflika.
In Iran, the opposition Green movement, whose revolt in 2009 had been the envy of Arab populations from Cairo to Riyadh, was suddenly reinvigorated, sending massed crowds on to the street on Monday to remind the Islamic regime of their existence.
It was in the small Gulf state of Bahrain, however, where the Shia majority ruled by a Sunni minority regime had been agitating long before Tunisia’s revolt erupted, that the new-found confidence of the Arab public appeared to erupt most powerfully this week.
Shia protesters took over the Pearl roundabout in the capital, Manama, to create their own mini Tahrir Square, the centre of Egypt’s revolt, in what Bahrain’s ruling Sunni al-Khalifa family might have seen as a challenge to its rule’s existence. Security forces attacked sleeping activists and fired on protesters, further enraging the Shia community.
Sadly, the Middle East’s autocratic rulers are still deaf to the message of Tunisia and Egypt, incapable of understanding that their survival depends not on the use of force but on swift political progress that gives the disgruntled public a share of power.
In the changing Middle East, Bahrain’s al-Khalifas cannot continue to rule through denial, ignoring that Shia grievances are the product of real discrimination. Col Gaddafi too cannot govern Libya under the pretence that it is a “people’s Jamahiriya".
Roula Khalaf,"Repression Sharpens Hunger for Change," The Financial Times. 18 February 2011, in www.ft.com.
"News travels fast in the modern era. It is possible that this long period of comatose politics in the Arab world might be coming to an end, not just because of what happened in Tunisia and Egypt, but because the situations in many individual countries were already so strained, if not unsustainable. There's a long history of tension in Algeria and of government ineptitude and rebellion in Yemen, and certainly clashes between the Sunni rulers and the largely Shiite population in Bahrain, just to take three examples. While the events in Tunisia and Egypt may be a catalyst for trouble, I don't think the difficulties originated with those dramatic events....We are going to go through at least briefly a period of anxiety and maneuvering and questioning. That's quite encouraging, because the region has been politically dormant for so long. I don't see any immediate threat to any other government".
Thomas W. Lippman,"A Politically 'Comatose' Mideast Awakens," The Council on Foreign Relations. 18 February 2011, in www.cfr.org.
Given the recent events in Libya, Yemen and especially Bahrain, it is not too surprising that most commentators in the Anglo-American monde, have sounded more like the bien-pensant
, Financial Times reporter, Roula Khalaf, than Thomas Lippman. However, a closer and informed look at the available evidence seems to indicate that it is Professor Lippman who has the best of the argument. If we look at the cases of say such countries as Syria, Persia, Sudan and to a lesser extent Algeria & Libya, we have regimes who are almost completely outside of the American-Western orbit (Algeria being half and half) and consequently, much more inclined to respond to protests by the population with brute force. Indeed, in the cases of Syria, Algeria and the Sudan, tens if not hundreds of thousands of people were killed at different times in the last thirty years. Each of these regimes has armed forces who are relatively independent of ties with the United States and thus not in the least unwilling to employ brute force in a very overt manner. Look for the same, if there are any disturbances in the future. Indeed, we have already seen a bit of this already in Algeria and Libya so far this year. In the case of other regimes in the region, such as Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and the Gulf states, here we have, legitimate monarchies, some with parliamentary bodies (of the 'irresponsible' variety), some not. With the exception of Jordan, all are relatively wealthy if not rich, and whose populace has not to any great extent suffered from any real mass protests or insurrections in the last twenty to thirty years. All (again except for Jordan) also have large expatriate populations who cannot by definition be interested in protesting existing political conditions in their host country. In these countries, with the exception possibly of Saudi Arabia, expect some type of modus viviendi
to tide over any serious protests. If need be of course these countries will also employ force if they perceive that order is in danger of getting out of country. In the case of some of the smaller Gulf states, Saudi Arabia may unilaterally send in troops to restore order if need be. The fact that the authorities in Bahrain were so quick to use overt and indeed bloody force seems to show that one lesson that the regimes in the region learned from what occurred in Tunisia and Egypt is that any endeavor to hold mass protests in the capital needs to be nipped in the bud. As per Bahrain, if need be by force. Look for more of the same, especially in Algeria, Libya, and Syria. Given the above referenced realities, I for one do not see anytime soon, any further overthrow of regimes in the region. With the possible exception of Libya, due to the fact that its long-time leader (since 1969) Muammar Al-Qaddafi, is if not elderly (at age 68), at least no longer young, and like his ex-confreres in Tunisia and Egypt, toying with some type of family succession. Something which one can imagine may not perhaps be viewed enthusiastically by sectors of the elite. Another exception would perhaps be Yemen, where the sure poverty and incompetence of the existing regime, may simply result in a complete collapse of all order `a la Somalia in the early 1990's. Which from the perspective of Western interest would be the worse outcome possible.
EGYPT WITHOUT MUBARAK: 'REVOLUTION' OR REGIME MUSICAL CHAIRS?
"What happened was not a revolution. The demonstrators never brought down Mubarak, let alone the regime. What happened was a military coup that used the cover of protests to force Mubarak out of office in order to preserve the regime. When it became clear Feb. 10 that Mubarak would not voluntarily step down, the military staged what amounted to a coup to force his resignation. Once he was forced out of office, the military took over the existing regime by creating a military council and taking control of critical ministries. The regime was always centered on the military. What happened on Feb. 11 was that the military took direct control....
We now face the question of whether the coup will turn into a revolution. The demonstrators demanded — and the military has agreed to hold — genuinely democratic elections and to stop repression. It is not clear that the new leaders mean what they have said or were simply saying it to get the crowds to go home. But there are deeper problems in the democratization of Egypt. First, Mubarak’s repression had wrecked civil society. The formation of coherent political parties able to find and run candidates will take a while. Second, the military is deeply enmeshed in running the country. Backing them out of that position, with the best will in the world, will require time. The military bought time Feb. 13, but it is not clear that six months is enough time, and it is not clear that, in the end, the military will want to leave the position it has held for more than half a century.
Of course, there is the feeling, as there was in 2009 with the Tehran demonstrations, that something unheard of has taken place, as U.S. President Barack Obama has implied. It is said to have something to do with Twitter and Facebook. We should recall that, in our time, genuine revolutions that destroyed regimes took place in 1989 and 1979, the latter even before there were PCs. Indeed, such revolutions go back to the 18th century. None of them required smartphones, and all of them were more thorough and profound than what has happened in Egypt so far. This revolution will not be “Twitterized.” The largest number of protesters arrived in Tahrir Square after the Internet was completely shut down.
The new government has promised to honor all foreign commitments, which obviously include the most controversial one in Egypt, the treaty with Israel. During the celebrations the evening of Feb. 11 and morning of Feb. 12, the two chants were about democracy and Palestine. While the regime committed itself to maintaining the treaty with Israel, the crowds in the square seemed to have other thoughts, not yet clearly defined. But then, it is not clear that the demonstrators in the square represent the wishes of 80 million Egyptians. For all the chatter about the Egyptian people demanding democracy, the fact is that hardly anyone participated in the demonstrations, relative to the number of Egyptians there are, and no one really knows how the Egyptian people would vote on this issue....
Therefore, we face this reality. The Egyptian regime is still there, still controlled by old generals. They are committed to the same foreign policy as the man they forced out of office. They have promised democracy, but it is not clear that they mean it. If they mean it, it is not clear how they would do it, certainly not in a timeframe of a few months. Indeed, this means that the crowds may re-emerge demanding more rapid democratization, depending on who organized the crowds in the first place and what their intentions are now.
It is not that nothing happened in Egypt, and it is not that it isn’t important. It is simply that what happened was not what the media portrayed but a much more complex process, most of it not viewable on TV. Certainly, there was nothing unprecedented in what was achieved or how it was achieved. It is not even clear what was achieved. Nor is it clear that anything that has happened changes Egyptian foreign or domestic policy. It is not even clear that those policies could be changed in practical terms regardless of intent.
The week began with an old soldier running Egypt. It ended with different old soldiers running Egypt with even more formal power than Mubarak had. This has caused worldwide shock and awe. We were killjoys in 2009, when we said the Iranian revolution wasn’t going anywhere. We do not want to be killjoys now, since everyone is so excited and happy. But we should point out that, in spite of the crowds, nothing much has really happened yet in Egypt. It doesn’t mean that it won’t, but it hasn’t yet.
An 82-year-old man has been thrown out of office, and his son will not be president. The constitution and parliament are gone and a military junta is in charge. The rest is speculation".
George Friedman, "Egypt: the distance Between Enthusiasm and Reality," Stratfor: Global Intelligence. 14 February 2011 in www.stratfor.com.
"For so long, the brilliance and creativity of Egypt's ancient civilization seemed to have been crushed under the heavy burden of a repressive Pharaohnic regime. All that changed today when the Egyptian people rose up and with a heave of collective will threw off the chains of bondage. Suddenly, unexpectedly, they reasserted the greatness of their nation as the leader of the Arab world, this time not in war and not in peacemaking, but in the promotion of freedom. The Middle East will never be the same again.
We have been surprised by so much in the past eighteen days since demonstrators first despatched the feared security police and then stood against the onslaught of the ruling party's thugs with their cavalry of donkeys and camels. We should therefore be humble about predicting the course of events from here. We are in uncharted waters.
Nevertheless, it is clear that the quiet arbiter of outcomes so far has been the Egyptian army. If the Egyptian people have earned our admiration for acting, the army deserves our admiration for not doing so. There they stood, ringing the people in the square and the Pharaoh in his palace, preventing a descent into chaos. At each stage in the crisis, when they had to decide between the square and the palace they chose the square. They ensured that the ranks of the demonstrators would swell by declaring that they would not open fire on them. They declared the people's demands "legitimate." They allowed them to gather day after day. Now they seem to have given Mubarak the final push.
This alliance between the people and their army, forged in the battle for freedom, bodes well for the future. For, as we have seen in Indonesia -- the world's largest muslim nation -- when the army steps back from the regime and sides with the people the transition to democracy can be orderly. Some fear that Mubarak's regime will now be replaced by military rule but that is hardly imaginable. Once the people have tasted freedom, and felt the power of their collective protest, they are hardly going to accept a new form of repressive rule. And once the army chose so decisively to stand above the fray in order to protect the nation rather than its rulers, it is hard to believe that they will decide now to suppress the people.
There is much for the West to celebrate in this development. The largest, most powerful, and most influential country in the Arab world has chosen democracy over authoritarianism. Just when some had begun to doubt the virtues of our political model as we stood in awe of the achievements of China's autocrats, the Egyptian people reminded us that there is still something great about a system that upholds the universal rights of man. Now we can all walk tall like the Egyptians!"
Ambassador [retired] Martin Indyk, "Egypt: A powerful Reminder of the Strength of Democracy", The Brookings Institute. Round Table: Around the Halls: a New Egypt," 11 February 2011, in www.Brookings.edu.
Judging from what one has come across in most of the Anglo-American press since the ouster of ex-President Mubarak last week, the caveats that have been expressed by Dr. Friedman of the American intelligence firm, Stratfor
, as well as certain regional experts, such as Ellis Goldberg, Kenneth Pollack and Marina Ottaway, have been outweighed by rank optimism `a la ex-Ambassador Martin Indyk 1
. As readers of this journal may recall, my own surmise in the first week of the crisis in Egypt was that there was a very good possibility of genuine democratization in Egypt, if Mubarak was forced from power without bloodshed. I also pointed out that there was an equal possibility that the military would `a la what took place in Burma and Algeria in 1989-1990, endeavor to prevent, by use of force if need be, free and fair elections. And would annul the same, if any such elections returned a candidate who was seen as unwilling to do the military's bidding, or abide by the military's regle de jeu
. At this point it is impossible to predict accurately which particular outcome is likely to occur. What perhaps may be a key variable however, in determining an outcome is the fact that in neither the Algerian or Burmese case, did the military (or indeed the regime at large) have close ties to the United States. And in the past twenty-five years or so, when American allies who have experienced the type of regime change and or popular uprising, that we have seen in Egypt recently, the pattern has been for those allies to indeed to undergo a genuine democratic transformation. In particular the cases of the Philippines (1986), South Korea (1987) and Indonesia (1998), come immediately to mind as instances where American pressure (albeit reluctant) on the military and on the regime to avoid widespread violence, has proven an important variable to a peaceful outcomes 2
. In the case of Egypt, given the evidence of American pressure on the military to avoid violence, that would seem to indicate that the military will reluctantly, and with certain built-in caveats and controls, both de jure
and de facto
,proceed with the democratization project. Perhaps modeling themselves along the lines of Turkey in the years after the military coup d'etat
of 1980. Where even after the military returned to the barracks in the mid-1980's, the political set-up in Turkey was such as to allow the military to exercise substantial influence from off-stage, as well as stage its 'silent coup'
of 1997, against a government which was perceived as too dangerously 'Islamist' in nature. As of today, with everything still undecided, my own surmise is that Egypt's military will indeed go down the path I have outlined above and not attempt to thwart directly the country's road towards political pluralism and some form of democracy. Albeit, assuming that none of the other political actors, both known (the Muslim Brotherhood) and unknown (Al-Ghad, the Wafd), tries to upset socio-economic status quo in the country. Or current Egyptian foreign policy (the alliance with the USA and peace with Israel). And most important of all, the military's institutional independence and autonomy. Only if these three apple carts are upset, do I see the military returning to some form of direct, authoritarian rule and terminating the country's experiment with democracy.1
. Ellis Goldberg, "Mubarakism without Mubarak: why Egypt's military will not embrace Democracy," Foreign Affairs
. 11 February 2011, in www.foreignaffairs.com; Kenneth Pollack, "Egypt: the End of the Beginning," The Brookings Institute
. 11 February 2011, in www.brookings.edu
; Marina Ottaway, "The Presidents Left, the Regimes are Still Here," The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
14 February 2011, in www.carnegieendowment.org
. For an analysis (abeit of the immediate variety) along these lines in the case of Egypt in the last month, see: Daniel L. Byman, "What Sways Armies' Allegiances in the Middle East?" The Brookings Institute
. 15 February 2011, in www.brookings.edu
EGYPTIAN FOREIGN POLICY IN A POST-MUBARAK ERA: A COMMENT
"If Egypt develops into a stable democracy, this can turn peace with Israel from an act of raison d’état into a reality based on common values. This would, of course, require a much more flexible approach from the Israeli government regarding negotiations with the Palestinians. Given a truly democratic development in Egypt, one can imagine successful internal pressure in Israel in that direction".
Shlomo Avnieri, "Egypt without a Pharaohs portends a storm," The Financial Times, 7 February 2011, in www.ft.com
"The temptation to try to cover up their all-too-obvious sins of corruption and mis-government by some dramatic performance satisying---although only temporarily---the emotions
of the mob has always been difficult for them to resist."
Sir Ralph Stevenson (British Ambassador in Cairo) to Herbert Morrison (British Foreign Secretary), 16 October 1951, in F.O. 371/90144/JE1051/365, PRO, Kew.
"In the following process we shall concentrate on the high politics of the politicians who mattered. Back-benchers and party opinion will appear off-stage as malignant or beneficent forces with unknown natures and unpredictable wills....Issues of substance, except about the party system, will be considered so far as solutions, or failure to provide solutions, affected the standing of the governments of politicians concerned. Europe, Russia, Ireland, India and the Empire will be treated in the way politicians treated them - as incidents in the history of what was taken to be the central domestic problem. This procedure will be followed because the first context in which high politics was played was the context in which politicians reacted to one another. The political system consisted of fifty or sixty politicians in conscious tension with one another."
Maurice Cowling, "Introduction: The Character of High Politics," in The Impact of Labour, 1920-1924: The Beginning of Modern British Politics.
With the upheaval in Cairo continuing for the third week running, there has been some comments in the Anglo-American press and public sphere about the possibilities of the future foreign policy of a post-Mubark Egypt. Much of this commentary, while cogent, and well informed, seems to be oblivious to the likely future political dynamics, of a post-Mubarak Egypt, especially one that features differing political parties and or groupings struggling for power with each other. Nota bene
: in such a situation the party to watch per se
is not merely the Muslim Brotherhood. It is all of the contending factions. Au fond
by virtue of the factum
(or likely factum), that it will be quite a long time before any Egyptian government resolves Egypt's socioeconomic problems, there will be enormous temptation, for all parties, especially those either out of power, or on the margins of power, to employ for political advantage, anti-American and anti-Israeli slogans and arguments. The fact of the rationality or not of such slogans are irrelevant in that particular context. What counts as that maitre of modern British political history, the late, great, Maurice Cowling shows is that above everything else, is whether or not such slogans give those who employ them a demonstrable political advantage over their more 'rational' and 'responsible' opponents, in or out of government. For instances from 20th century Egyptian history, one need only recall the long (and to the British maddening) political hysterics offered by the Wafd party in particular from 1919 to 1952. In which the overriding concerning of the party hierarchy was not the 'rationality' or not of any particular policy, but whether or not said policy paid political dividends vis-`a-vis their political opponents. Similarly, in the context of a possibly similar, 'revolutionary' era, that of Persia in 1979, the entire modus operandi
of the so-called 'hostage crisis', was dependent upon it serving as a means of completely undermining the 'moderate' elements in the post-Monarchical Persia, by the radicals around Ayatollah Khomeini. Something which the coup de tete
, which was the hostage crisis served admirably well indeed.
What one may ask can the West and the United States in particular do to steer Egyptian political tendencies, especially as they relate to foreign policy goals, along a moderate and sensible path? One is tempted to say: nothing much
. However, that would be a gross and inaccurate exaggeration. In point of fact, the Americans, without in any way overtly meddling or becoming close to any particular faction or group in post-Mubarak Egypt, can endeavor to offer as much economic and other material assistance as possible. Something which one presumes that the new government will welcome with open arms. Similarly, any friendly advice and persuasion that the United States government can offer to the Netanyahu government, to moderate its policies vis-`a-vis the Palestinians can only make the situation much less fraught and likely to become a political football. Otherwise the possibilities are not exactly the friendliest or the most optimistic in nature.
AMATEURISM ABROAD: AMERICAN DIPLOMACY AND THE EGYPTIAN CRISIS
"Even though Mr. Mubarak has balked, so far, at leaving now, officials from both governments are continuing talks about a plan in which Mr. Suleiman, backed by Lt. Gen. Sami Enan, chief of the Egyptian armed forces, and Field Marshal Mohamed Tantawi, the defense minister, would immediately begin a process of constitutional reform.
The proposal also calls for the transitional government to invite members from a broad range of opposition groups, including the banned Muslim Brotherhood, to begin work to open up the country’s electoral system in an effort to bring about free and fair elections in September, the officials said.
Senior administration officials said that the proposal was one of several options under discussion with high-level Egyptian officials around Mr. Mubarak in an effort to persuade the president to step down now.
They cautioned that the outcome depended on several factors, not least Egypt’s own constitutional protocols and the mood of the protesters on the streets of Cairo and other Egyptian cities.
Some officials said there was not yet any indication that either Mr. Suleiman or the Egyptian military was willing to abandon Mr. Mubarak.
Even as the Obama administration is coalescing around a Mubarak-must-go-now posture in private conversations with Egyptian officials, Mr. Mubarak himself remains determined to stay until the election in September, American and Egyptian officials said. His backers forcibly pushed back on Thursday against what they viewed as American interference in Egypt’s internal affairs.
“What they’re asking cannot be done,” one senior Egyptian official said, citing clauses in the Egyptian Constitution that bar the vice president from assuming power. Under the Constitution, the speaker of Parliament would succeed the president. “That’s my technical answer,” the official added. “My political answer is they should mind their own business....
A number of high-level American officials have reached out to the Egyptians in recent days. While administration officials would not offer details of the alternatives that were being discussed, they made it clear that their preferred outcome would be for Mr. Suleiman to take power as a transitional figure".
Helene Cooper & Mark Lander, "White House and Egypt discuss plan for Mubarak's Exit,"
The New York Times, 4 February 2011, in www.nytimes.com.
"History is written by the victors; and the Shah is not much in vogue today. Yet it hardly enhances our reputation for steadfastness to hear the chorus today against a leader whom eight Presidents of both parties proclaimed - rightly - a friend of our country and a pillar of stability in a turbulent and vital region."
Henry A. Kissinger, The White House Years. (1979), p. 1258.
The immediately leaked (if not in fact overtly broadcasted) American demarches and or ballons d'essai, on 'resolving' the Egyptian crisis, seems to be worse than useless. They have not moved the crisis to some positive resolution by any measure, and convey the fact to all American allies in the region that when matters reach a crisis point, the American government is not to be relied upon. Something which the recent ouster of the 14th of March coalition in Beirut only gives further evidence to. An event which has been seen in the region, as a 'victory' for Persia, Syria and its allies 1
. The fact that Tehran is viewing the current events in Egypt as more evidence that trends are flowing away from the USA and its local allies, and in its direction only will add more evidence to this perception 2
. In current circumstances the only way that such changes in governance which the American administration would like in Egypt, id est 'regime change', can only be undertaken by means of sub-rosa negotiations, in which the hand, nay indeed a finger-tip of American involvement cannot be ascertained. Otherwise any eventual successor to Mubarak, either General Suleiman or anyone else, will inevitably be viewed as being an American puppet. The very last thing that is needed in the current circumtances. Instead we have a sort of post-modern version of the tanks surrounding the Abiden Palance circa February 1942, except in this instance with no positive results so far. In short the diplomacy amateurishness. The very antithesis of what Sir Harold Nicolson once described as professional diplomacy:
"The British diplomatist, again is rightly impressed by the supreme importance of avoiding any indiscretion, any intemperate word or action, which may place his government in an embarrassing position 3."
. Jay Solomon, "Turmoil Heartens US Foes," The Wall Street Journal
. 4 February 2011, in www.wsj.com
. Monavar Khalaj, "Iran warns U.S. faces a severe policy defeat", The Financial Times
. 4 February 2011, in www.ft.com
; Haaretz Service, "Livni Warns Merkel: Regional Instability may be exploited by Iran," 4 February 2011, in www.haaretz.com
. Harold Nicolson, Diplomacy.
(1939), p. 143.
EGYPT ON THE BRINK: POSSIBLE SCENARIOS
"Egypt’s political crisis escalated on Wednesday as supporters of Hosni Mubarak, the embattled president, fought running battles with demonstrators calling for his immediate departure.
Sporadic gunfire echoed across Tahrir Square, the epicentre of nine days of protests against Mr Mubarak’s 30-year reign, as men hurled rocks at each other and fought with clubs and steel bars. At one stage, pro-Mubarak supporters on horses and camels galloped into the crowds brandishing whips, only to be dragged off their mounts and beaten.
According to state television, health ministry reports said three people had died and more than 600 had been injured.
The clashes erupted after thousands of people took to the streets in support of Mr Mubarak for the first time since the crisis began. The army – the only security force in the square on Wednesday – did little to intervene. It was not clear if the gunshots were from soldiers firing into the air or groups fighting for control of the square.
Clashes continued past midnight, with anti-Mubarak protesters concerned that violence against them might escalate. The protestors alleged police in civilian clothes were involved in the violence, but the interior ministry denied the claims.
Amnesty International called on the Egyptian authorities to protect the right to peaceful protest, saying the violence appeared to be orchestrated in part by the authorities to suppress continuing protests calling for political reform.
The human rights group also questioned why the army had not done more to prevent the clashes. “The fact that such violence is allowed to continue as the army stand there begs the question whether they have orders not to interfere,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui at Amnesty....
The violence will exacerbate concerns about the stability of the Arab world’s most populous state. The protests have forced businesses and banks to close and created a climate of fear and suspicion. Curfew hours were, however, reduced and an internet blackout lifted for the first time in days.
The US State Department condemned the violence. “These attacks are not only dangerous to Egypt; they are a direct threat to the aspirations of the Egyptian people. The use of violence to intimidate the Egyptian people must stop.”
Anti-Mubarak protesters continued to pour into Tahrir Square. Omar Suleiman, the new vice-president, called on both protesters and Mubarak supporters to leave the square, saying their messages had been received".
Heba Saleh, Andrew England, Michael Peel & Cara Mishkin, "Egypt divided by Violence," The Financial Times, 2 February 2011, in www.ft.com.
To-day's violence by pro-Mubarak elements in Cairo seems to indicate that while Mubarak's speech of yesterday in which he disclaims any intention of running for re-election in September, would indicate that the Egyptian President is on the way out, to-days violence I believe puts paid to that notion. At least in a very straightforward fashion. Going back to one of my prior posts, it would still appear that there are three possible scenarios that can be played out in Egypt in the next seven to eight months. They are: i) the entire, 'deep-state' regime, and not just Mubarak himself crumbles in short order. Say by the end of the current month if not sooner. With all of the elements associated with Egyptian state apparatus since 1952 being ousted. Something akin to what happened in Persia in 1978-1979. How likely is this to occur? As of to-day, especially with the violence instigated by Mubarak's supporters, it seems somewhat difficult to imagine. Especially, since the army appears to have quietly remained on the sidelines the whole while to-day. So unless, the army hierarchy loses control `a la St. Petersburg in 1917 or Baghdad circa 1958, I for one do not see any likelihood of a complete collapse of the existing regime. Merely at worse Mubarak being given an airplane ticket to London or Saudi Arabia in a week, two or three. Let us label this the 'Petersburg scenario'
. Of course with this scenario the end-result is utter chaos and something akin to perhaps civil war, between opposing elements (parts of the military versus say the extremist elements in the Muslim Brotherhood, et cetera). Once again, this is only likely to occur if the army command completely or almost completely loses control; ii) the second scenario involves the deep state apparatus, sans Mubarak, either now or by September, defusing the crisis, and engaging fraudulently in elections if there are any elections at all, and ensuring that the regime's own candidate wins. If state violence is needed for this purpose, then it is engaged in. The most pertinent examples are Algeria in 1989-1990 and Burma in the same time period. The violence that erupted to-day being of course quite likely to be employed again to arouse fears of chaos and instability by the general population. The end result being that the 'deep state' apparatus remains in power, with perhaps at best a few cosmetic changes. Let us label this the 'Algerian scenario'
. How likely is this scenario? I believe that it is quite likely, however no one at this time can tell of course; iii) the final scenario is the most optimistic one: Mubarak is forced to leave the country within a month. There is a transitional 'national-unity government' which remains in power until the constitution is amended and Presidential and parliamentary elections are held in September-October of this year. A 'moderate', non-Islamist, government gains power. Ties with the West are retained, if not quite as close as in prior years. The 'cold peace', with Israel remains in intact. How likely is this scenario? Well something akin to this did occur in Indonesia back in 1997-1999, which is also a majority-Muslim country, which at that point was emerging from the thirty-two years reign of General Suharto. Indonesia having experienced in the past (1965-1966), violence vastly greater than anything that we have seen even in Algeria, much less Egypt in the past. And as of to-day Indonesia is a pluralistic, democracy albeit with tensions and a certain degree of instability, but certainly nothing worse than what one sees in say India or even for that matter Mexico...We can label this the 'Indonesian scenario'
. It is this scenario of course that the West in general and the United States in particular hopes and indeed dreams for. And while this is indeed the best of all possible outcomes, I do have an inkling that one does indeed need to be something akin to Dr. Pangloss to really believe that anything of the sort will in fact occur. As Candide's author nicely puts it: "dans ce meilleur des mondes possibles...tout est au mieux
". At least in the short to medium-term for Egypt and its poor people.