Sunday, January 30, 2011

"Living on a Volcano:" Reflections on Arab Unrest

"We're Living on a Volcano," Israeli Security Experts Warn -Yaakov Lappin

Israeli security experts are casting an uneasy eye at the civil unrest spreading through the region as Yemen joined the list of Arab states experiencing unprecedented demonstrations, and Egypt braced for more civil unrest. "We need to understand that we are living on a volcano," said Maj.-Gen. Ya'acov Amidror, former head of the IDF's Research and Assessment Directorate. "We are on thick ice, but even that melts eventually."

Maj.-Gen. Giora Eiland, a former national security adviser, and a senior research fellow at Tel Aviv University's Institute for National Security Studies (INSS), said, "There's a reasonable chance that if a revolution takes place in Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood would rise to power. That would be bad not just for Israel but for all democracies." The true struggle in Egypt was not between "Mubarak and pro-democracy elements, but between Mubarak and the Muslim Brotherhood," Eiland said.

Shlomo Brom, director of the program on Israel-Palestinian relations at the INSS, said, "We can't forget that in Iran, at the end of the 1970s, the uprising against the shah was led by [pro-democracy] youths who took to the streets – but this was taken over by Islamists in the end."
(Jerusalem Post)

With Muslim Brotherhood Set to Join Egypt Protests, Religion’s Role May Grow
-Souad Mekhennet & Nicholas Kulish

The Muslim Brotherhood, the largest organized opposition group in Egypt, announced that it would take part in demonstrations, lending new strength to the protests.
(New York Times)

Egypt’s Leader Uses Old Tricks to Defy New Demands  -Mona El-Naggar & Michael Slackman

[T]he Egyptian government has responded to the unrest primarily as a security issue, largely ignoring, or dismissing, the core demands of those who have taken to the street. The Egyptian leadership, long accustomed to an apolitical and largely apathetic public, remains convinced that Egypt is going through the sort of convulsion it has experienced - and survived - before.
(New York Times)

Egyptian Protesters Feel World Has Passed Them By -Griff Witte

Every one of the tens of thousands of Egyptians who joined the unexpectedly massive demonstrations that have rattled Egyptian authorities and continue to threaten the 30-year rule of the once invincible President Hosni Mubarak had personal reasons for doing so. But for many it came down to a pervasive sense that the world has passed Egypt by, that money and power have become hopelessly entrenched in the hands of the few and that if the country is ever going to change, it has to do it now.

The protesters in Egypt have been largely middle class - lawyers, doctors, university students and professors. They have something to lose if this nation of 80 million descends into anarchy, but they also say they may not have much left if Egypt does not shift course.
(Washington Post)

Obama Administration Could Still Get It Right on Egypt -Jackson Diehl

The Obama administration's embrace of Mubarak, even as the strongman refused to allow the emergence of a moderate, middle-class-based, pro-democracy opposition, has helped bring the U.S.' most important Arab ally to the brink of revolution. The Obama administration assumed that the damage done to relations by George W. Bush's "freedom agenda" was a mistake that needed to be repaired. In fact, Bush's pushing for political liberalization was widely viewed, in Egypt and in the region, as the saving grace of an otherwise bad administration.

On Tuesday, when - disastrously - Secretary of State Clinton called Mubarak's government "stable" and claimed it was responding to "the legitimate needs and interests of the Egyptian people," hours later, riot police attacked the thousands of demonstrators who had gathered in Cairo's Tahrir Square. Rightly or wrongly, Egyptian opposition activists now say, Clinton and the U.S. are being blamed in popular opinion for that crackdown.

Egyptian opposition leader Saad Eddin Ibrahim told me that Mubarak should step down and be replaced by a transitional government, headed by opposition figure Mohamed ElBaradei and including representatives of all pro-democracy forces. That government could then spend six months to a year rewriting the constitution, allowing political parties to freely organize and preparing for genuinely democratic elections. Given time to establish themselves, secular forces backed by Egypt's growing middle class are likely to rise to the top in those elections - not the Islamists that Mubarak portrays as the only alternative. U.S. support for a peaceful transition from Mubarak's government to a new democracy could be decisive.
(Washington Post)

What Are the Protests in Egypt Really About? -Lee Smith

For all the excitement surrounding the demonstrations, it’s worth remembering that the nominally docile Egyptian masses take to the streets with some regularity. More to the point, it is an unfortunate fact of modern Egyptian history that its people are often susceptible to ideological politics. For instance, Nasser led the country to disaster and yet, compared to Sadat the peacemaker or Mubarak the stolid pharaoh who has kept the country stable, if static, it is Nasser who owns the affections of the Egyptian masses.
(Weekly Standard)

Arab Paper: Israel Is Now Dependent on Egyptian Protesters -Abd Al-Bari Atwan

The fire of protest has begun to lick at the edges of the moderate Arab regimes, one after the other, in a way that threatens these dictatorships, known for aligning themselves with America's foreign policy. Three countries are facing profound change that could topple their regimes, namely, Egypt, Yemen, and Lebanon. Each meets a strategic need of the U.S.: Egypt provides security for Israel, leads the Arab plans for normalization with Israel, and combats all forms of political and Islamic extremism that oppose its regime. Yemen is considered to be the cornerstone of America's war on al-Qaeda. Lebanon is considered to be the spearhead of the resistance camp and of Iran's geopolitical and military aspirations.

The state of stability and well-being that Israel has enjoyed for the past 30 years is now dependent upon the Egyptian protesters. Israel is surrounded: a "democratic" intifada armed with 40,000 missiles and with a martyrdom-seeking leadership [i.e., Hizbullah], a popular revolution with a 7,000-year history [i.e., the protesters in Egypt], a Palestinian Authority that has lost its authority, and a Jordanian government that is on the brink of collapse.
(Al-Quds Al-Arabi-UK-MEMRI)

Mubarak Will Have to Pay a Significant Price -Zvi Mazel

The mass demonstrations in Egypt were born in Tunisia. That display of people power unleashed years of pent-up resentment against the Mubarak regime. Even in Syria, the mighty Assad is worried now. His civil servants got an unexpected raise, and Facebook was shut down. In Jordan, protests have been taking place for weeks.

Tens, maybe hundreds of thousands of young protesters, with no leaders in sight, demonstrated in 15 cities in the last few days. They stood their ground and even used force against the police and the security forces. They called for the removal of the president and his family. And for the first time in history, portraits of the leader displayed in the streets were torn down. Until now, no one could criticize Mubarak. If this has changed, then everything has changed.

The Mubarak regime is based on a huge ruling party present in every village and every city, and on a disciplined army and security forces whose allegiance is not in doubt. They will do their utmost - which is considerable - to stop the protests.

But Mubarak will have to pay a price: He may need to take economic measures to alleviate some of the poverty, perhaps put an end to the emergency laws and organize credible, free democratic presidential elections. If he manages to weather this crisis, he and his regime will emerge weakened.
(Jerusalem Post)

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