DEMOCRATIC REFORM IN EGYPT - AT WHAT PRICE?
BY: FERN SIDMAN
Seems like no one saw the genesis of a global Islamist insurrection on the political horizon. Not the talking heads on cable TV and certainly not those in the know at the State Department or the White House. If they did, they assumed a reticent posture concerning precisely what was percolating behind the scenes in Egypt.
Gaining inspiration from the most recent and highly successful grass roots revolution against the draconian regime in Tunisia, tens of thousands of Egyptians have taken to demonstrating in the streets of Cairo, Alexandria and Luxor over the last week to do the same. Fulminating over the abject poverty, rampant unemployment and thinly veiled government corruption that both permeates and cripples their lives, these young and tech savvy Egyptian activists have created an international stage in which to further their agenda of achieving democratic and political reforms in a country that has little familiarity of such lofty concepts.
Subsequent to the assassination of former Egyptian president Anwar Sadat in 1981, Hosni Mubarak was catapulted to power, and his imprimatur has been actualized by his autocratic and heavy handed governance of Egyptian society. Having ruled for 30 years without allowing for a change in national leadership through legitimate elections, it is little wonder that he is characterized as a despot and a cynical dictator. Further emboldening this megalomanical image are his feckless attempts at quelling the uprisings by terminating the use of the internet, cell phones and other modalities of transmitting news and data.
Having said that, let us also remember that Egypt is a key strategic player in US-Middle East relations and is being bankrolled to the tune of $1.5 billion annually in US military and economic aid. As such, Egypt, under the leadership of Mubarak has promulgated a pro-Western and pro-American stance and has maintained the long standing peace agreement with Israel, albeit a "cold" peace, made by his predecessor.
As complete anarchy and bedlam breaks loose in Egypt, as manifested in pervasive rioting, bellicose looting and indiscriminate acts of violence, we have learned that the burgeoning opposition has turned a deaf ear to any gestures by Mubarak to address the grievances of his people through radical changes in the composition of his government. Terrified of losing power, Mubarak is acting swiftly on US orders, but time is on the side of those who demand his complete ouster.
Let's make no mistake about it. What is happening here is a gargantuan development in the Middle East narrative and the perpetual imbroglio that has come to define this region of the world. Arguably, it can even be considered bigger than what occurred in 1979 when backers of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, with a push from Jimmy Carter, overthrew Iran's Shah Mohamed Reza Pahlavi in one of the most tragic and unfortunate international developments of the late 20th century. We, in the West, have been paying the price for it ever since. What is particularly outstanding in the midst of a revolution of this kind is the inevitable political vacuum that it creates, leaving a terrifying scenario in which radicalized Islamic elements are poised to seize power.
Leading the charge both in Iran in 1979 and in the Egypt of 2011 is the notorious Muslim Brotherhood which has been outlawed in Egypt. Yes, the very same organization that was responsible for assassinating Mubarak's predecessor, Anwar Sadat, charging him with the "ultimate sin" of making peace with Israel
It is they who have been subtlely orchestrating and fomenting unrest and managing the day-to-day particulars required for another radical Islamic victory. Working with the aid and encouragement of Teheran, the tentacles of this nihilistic theocratic movement stretch far and wide. As the leader of Jordan's powerful Muslim Brotherhood, Hammam Saeed, warned over the weekend, the unrest in Egypt will spread across the Mideast and Arabs will topple leaders allied with the United States.
The front man for the opposition in Egypt is none other than Mohammed ElBaradei; Nobel Laureate and former head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Fragments of the opposition group including the Muslim Brotherhood have grouped behind ElBaradei, who has often been thought of as a potential Egyptian leader should Mubarak lose power.
Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice-president of the Conference of Presidents of American Jewish Organizations said in a recent interview with Yeshiva World News that, "A myth is being created that ElBaradei is a human rights activist – he is a stooge of Iran". He added that, "When he was the head of the nuclear watchdog International Atomic Energy Agency, for which he got a Nobel Prize, he distorted reports…and covered for Iran. After he left, his successors said earlier reports were not accurate.” That speak volumes about ElBaradei's true allegiances.
Egypt is the most populous and important Arab country in the Middle East. For decades now it has been at relative peace with its neighbor, Israel. How long will that last if Mubarak is replaced with a Muslim Brotherhood leader? It is time for President Obama and Secretary Clinton to wake up and smell the putrid stench of Islamic radicalism and the existential dangers that it represents to the free world and Western civilization as we know it. The United States can ill afford an explosion of violence, revolution and instability through the Middle East and the Islamic world, but that appears to be just what is coming.