Saturday, January 29, 2011

The Middle East: Updates and Commentaries

When we see breaking news such as the case with Egypt, I am equally interested in the recent news and well reasoned commentaries on the underlying basis of such news and what it all really means. Today we have both. There are some excellent commentaries being written on this situation in Egypt. First, recent updates:

Egypt's Regime on the Brink

President Hosni Mubarak's 30-year grip on power hung in the balance as protesters massed around Egypt and overpowered the police, prompting the army to deploy on the streets of the nation for the first time in 25 years.

His address appeared to only heighten the gulf between Mr. Mubarak and the tens of thousands of protesters who took part in Friday's planned "Day of Wrath" against what they characterized as the regime's oppression, stagnation and lack of opportunity.

The deployment of army tanks and troops across Egypt late Friday represented a critical point in the crisis. It was the army's first mobilization on the streets of the Arab world's most-populous nation since 1986.

"It means that the military is more in charge than Mubarak, and now there is a lot of uncertainty about who is in charge in Egypt and who is giving orders," said Issandr al-Amrani, a Cairo-based analyst and blogger.

The military's role in the country's future remained unclear. The army has historically been the seat of power in Egypt, with all Egyptian leaders for the past 60 years haling from its ranks.

It is beginning to crystallize - who the military actually supports, but it still isn't completely clear yet:

Some protesters appeared to welcome the troops, with chants of "the army are our brothers." A half-dozen armored personnel carriers rolled through downtown Cairo with protesters riding jubilantly on the roofs. After the army deployed at the foreign-affairs ministry and the besieged headquarters of state television, troops and protesters were seen chanting together: "We are Egyptians, we are brothers."

Analysts said the unrest in Cairo is almost certain to doom whatever prospects still existed of Mr. Mubarak handing power to his son Gamal, who many have believed for years was being groomed to rule...

Some of the most serious violence Friday was in Suez, where protesters seized weapons stored in a police station and asked the policemen inside to leave the building before they burned it down, according to the Associated Press. They also set ablaze about 20 police trucks parked nearby. Demonstrators exchanged fire with policemen, trying to stop them from storming another police station, and one protester was killed in the gun battle

Massive Cairo demonstrations; protesters vow to defy curfew

Al-Jazeera reported that the number of people killed in Egyptian protests was reported to be close to 90, with at least 23 deaths confirmed in Alexandria, and at least 27 confirmed in Suez, with a further 22 deaths in Cairo.

The sight of over 50,000 protesters pouring into Cairo's downtown Tahrir Square for a fifth day indicated Mubarak's words in a televised speech shortly after midnight had done little to cool the anger over Egypt's crushing poverty, unemployment and corruption.

In Suez, 1,000-2,000 protesters gathered and that the military was not confronting them, the news agency reported.

A military officer was quoted as saying that troops would "not fire a single bullet on Egyptians", regardless of where the orders to do so come from.


Below are some excellent reviews and commentary on this situation:

Iranian leaders hope for Islamic republic in Egypt

Iranian leaders expressed satisfaction with the anti-government protests in Egypt, with one leader saying he believes the protesters were inspired by the revolution in his country in 1979.

Western officials fear Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak will be replaced by a hardline cleric similar to the ayatollahs in Iran, like the Muslim Brotherhood opposition party, which also gave rise to Hamas.

Egypt Revolution? By Whom? For What?

You can’t judge a revolution by its theatrics. Something real has to happen, something beyond marching, chanting slogans, and making demands.

Revolutions end systems of rule and replace them with new ones. Is that happening now in the Middle East?

I think that the efforts by Hezbollah to take over Lebanon also constitute an attempt at revolutionary change, because it would turn the secular Lebanese system into an Islamic Republic.

All of which is a long way of saying that there’s a lot of tumult in the Middle East (and not only the Middle East; there were big demonstrations a few hours ago in Albania), a great perturbation in the Force, as Obiwan would say. Lots of fighting. Lots of factions. In Egypt, which is by far the most important of the Arab countries affected by the tumult, there are genuine democrats and also members of organizations (from the Muslim Brotherhood to Islamic Jihad, Hamas, et al.) who would transform Egypt from an authoritarian to a totalitarian regime.

At this point, he gets to the crux of the matter:

The key to many of these tumults — certainly not all, for example, Tunisia — is Iran.

My thoughts exactly.

It follows that the Iranians will — probably have already — mobilize their terror army against Mubarak, as against the Jordanian monarchy, and for the tyrants in Khartoum. They are good at manipulating Arabs (when’s the last time you saw a Persian suicide terrorist? They’re all Arabs manipulated by the Persians) and the Iranians’ religious proxies and self-starting fellow travelers and useful idiots in Sunniland will be calling for mass martyrdom. Nobody knows how this will play out. Not even the mullahs. Everyone’s in a big hurry, and lots of mistakes will be made.

And last but certainly not least, this comes in from Caroline Glick:

Column One: The pragmatic fantasy

On second thought - this commentary is just too important and insightful to bury here. It deserves its own, separate post. More to come.


Anonymous said...

I would love to hear your comments about the unrest in Egypt, Tunisa, Jordan and the tie to the Mediterranean Union which is the military part of the EU. It is my understanding this leg of the EU has 10 nations. It seems to be very ripe for something big, but not sure what.
As always, love to read your blog.

Scott said...

THE MED UNION was divided into a north half and a southern half over a year ago - and each "half" had a 5 member "representation". We all found that interesting.

The Med Union combines the EU into this union, and the military wing (which has recently evolved under Ashton) - really consists of the WEU countries - another 10 member group.

I don't think its accurate to say that the "military wing" of the EU is within the Med Union. I still see the old WEU as the strongest military force within the EU. But again, its become a little more complicated with Ashton's initiatives as she has formed several smaler military groups intended to maintain border control and issues such as that around the EU.

I think there is so much volatility and unrest right now, we just have to watch and see how things shake out. There is no telling. One thing is guaranteed - the radical Islamists will seize the opportunity each time. In Egypt we are hearing great stories about how the Muslim brotherhood and Christians are uniting in this struggle...That will be the case for a while, but as soon as the brotherhood gains power, the persecution will continue. That too is a guarantee.