Monday, January 19, 2009

The Last Pharaoh of Egypt: Hosny Mubarak

Egypt has held a special place in the hearts and the imagination of poets, writers, and ordinary folks who admire its rich history and glorious past. It has a special place in minds and hearts of Arabs, Moslems, Jews, and Christians, where Egypt was mentioned as a holy place in their holy books. Yet, in spite of having one of the most glorious heritages, Egyptians remain nowadays very pessimistic about the future of their country. Their future seems to be very bleak and uncertain. Contrary to public belief that the Pharaonic era in Egyptian history had ended thousands of years ago, the Egyptians do still have fresh memories of their pharaohs. The 80 years old President Mubarak of Egypt has been in power since 1981 and was elected for six more years in 2005. Concerns about Mubarak’s health draw much greater attention to the question of who will next rule the nation of Egypt? Succession plan for Mubarak’s son Gamal is already in place.

Visible signs of discord between the United States and Egypt over a wide array of issues have appeared in recent years. Today, the bilateral relationship has eroded over Egypt’s cold peace with Israel, to dealings with terrorist supporting states on its borders. Equally alarming is the rise of anti-American and Anti-Semitic conspiracy theories in Egypt’s state media and society. Haunted by the memories of the overnight fall of the Shah of Iran to the Ayatollahs, U.S. policymakers fear a similar event in Egypt. Once thought to be a strong U.S. ally, the Shah, lost his grip over power to the zealous clergy sabotaging every effort for peace and stability in the region. Marcos and Suharto, two old dictators considered strong U.S. allies, as well, fell to the angry mobs in the Philippines and Indonesia.
President Obama is likely to find himself facing an unbelievably bad choice in the largest Arab country. Would America intervene militarily to preserve Gamal’s faltering rule? Or would America throw up its hands writing Tel Aviv a blank check, and hope that a twenty-first-century Masada can hold out in a Middle East where Iran has the bomb? Is Africa where Al-Qaeda hides its money, guns, recruits, training camps—and its future? Africa would be the last great stand in this Long War, where all those impossibly straight borders will inevitably be made squiggly again by globalization's cultural reformatting process. Now this fight heads south...and yes, the Long War could be even uglier there.

If that scenario is not frightening enough, there are few others that are even scarier. A scenario where an ambitious general would stage another coup, turning Egypt into a God -knows-what regime. Would that general ally himself with Muslim radical groups like the Muslim Brothers, Hamas, or Hezbollah? Would Egypt witness another Khomeini-style revolution? Considering the alarming rising poverty figures in Egypt and the disparities between the classes, could Egypt be overrun by an angry and hungry mob, French Revolution style? Egypt would then erupt into lawlessness, chaos, or perhaps civil war with the dissolving of the central government, its head figures and its upper class, already preparing for such a turn of events. If the Muslim Brotherhood were to achieve power in Egypt, Israel's demise would once again become the overt unifying principle for governments in the region. The difference this time? It still may be America and the West that would have to intervene.

Whatever the scenario would be, spillover from what could occur in Egypt in the near future would impact many nations. With Hamas taking control in the Palestinian territories, Hezbollah in Southern Lebanon - backed by the Baathists in Damascus and the Mullahs in Tehran, who would all agree on one thing: hatred for America and wiping the state of Israel off the map; the uncertaininty and anxiety grows among people of the region. For that, Western observers are keeping tabs on the situation in Egypt, fearing a domino effect in case of a trigger event occurring in Egypt.

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