Friday, February 11, 2011

Egypt: Mubarak Steps Down. Now What?

First, an update on where things stand as we head into the weekend:

Hosni Mubarak resigns - and Egypt celebrates a new dawn

When it finally came, the end was swift. After 18 days of mass protest, it took just over 30 seconds for Egypt's vice-president, Omar Suleiman, to announce that President Hosni Mubarak was standing down and handing power to the military.

But the demonstrators were giving little immediate thought to what military rule will mean, and there were few indications from the army as to if and when it intends to meet other demands

– including the dissolving of a discredited parliament elected in tainted elections, the lifting of the oppressive 30-year state of emergency, and the installation of a civilian-dominated interim administration.

Ahhh. Details. The military has taken over and no one seems to know exactly what that means.

For now, Egypt will be governed by a military council led by the defence minister, Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, who is not a known reformer.

We get some more information from this article:

'Egypt is Free' Chants Tahrir after Mubarak quits

The only problem is - no one knows what will come next.

An astonishing day in which hundreds of thousands marched on Mubarak's palaces in Cairo and Alexandria and besieged state TV was capped by the military effectively carrying out a coup at the pleas of protesters.

After Mubarak's fall, the military, which pledged to shepherd reforms for greater democracy, told the nation it would announce the next steps soon.

So now, the situation rests within the hands of the military, and no one can define what that means - even the military themselves according to this article.

Neighboring Israel watched with the crisis with unease, worried that their 1979 peace treaty could be in danger. It quickly demanded on Friday that post-Mubarak Egypt continue to adhere to it.

The lesson many took: If it could happen in only three weeks in Egypt, where Mubarak's lock on power appeared unshakable, it could happen anywhere. Only a month earlier, Tunisia's president was forced to step down in the face of protests.

And of course, Mohammed ElBaradei, who clearly has his sights set on the leadership role in Egypt is ecstatic:

"This is the greatest day of my life.", Nobel Peace laureate Mohammed ElBaradei, whose young supporters were among the organizers of the protest movement, told The Associated Press.
"The country has been liberated after decades of repression," he said adding that he expects a "beautiful" transition of power.

Back to the original question: Now what?

The question now turned to what happens next. Protesters on Friday had overtly pleaded for the army to oust Mubarak. The country is now ruled by the Armed Forces Supreme Council, consisting of the military's top generals and headed by Defense Minister Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi

Abdel-Rahman Samir, one of the protest organizers, said the movement would now open negotiations with the military over democratic reforms but vowed protests would continue to ensure change is carried out.

Now we can get past the MSM updates and move into deeper commentaries on where this is going, and of course our eyes are on the Muslim Brotherhood:

islamists welcome 'day of victory'

Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood says main goal of revolution achieved, Hamas demands change

A senior member of the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt's biggest opposition group, said Egyptians had achieved the main goal of their popular uprising after President Hosni Mubarak resigned on Friday.

Katatni said the Brotherhood awaits the next steps to be taken by the Higher Military Council, which has taken charge of the country's affairs after Mubarak's decision.

One thing is certain - the Muslim Brotherhood will - when the time is right, attempt a power grab. You can bet on that. And before the dust even settles in the region, we already see this comment (hint: its all about Israel, as usual):

"We call upon the new Egyptian leadership to take an immediate decision to lift the blockade of Gaza and open Rafah (border) crossing permanently to allow people's free movement and in order for the reconstruction process of Gaza to begin," said Abu Zuhri.

Hezbollah later congratulated the Egyptian people over its "historic victory," and Iran did the same, stressing that the Egyptian people achieved a "great victory."

And that leads to the next article:

Ex-Egypt envoy: Israel in trouble

Israel's former ambassador to Egypt was particularly pessimistic Friday after hearing of President Hosni Mubarak's dramatic resignation.

Israel, Mazel said, had many reasons for concern. "From a strategic point of view, Israel is now facing a hostile situation. It's over, there is no one left to lead the pragmatic, moderate state."

"The next stage is disbanding parliament, as the people won't accept a parliament based on fraud, and holding new elections. Naturally, the opposition will also want to run in these elections and will ask for a longer period of time to gain recognition. The Muslim Brotherhood will take action as well, of course."

Mazel also spoke about the meaning of military rule, which he believes Egypt is expected to experience in the coming years. "It's a whole new world, an unknown world. The army is responsible for the jurisdiction systems, and the military constitutional regime is completely different than civilian rule.

In other words, Egypt may be in a situation of "be careful what you ask may just get it".

"General Tantawi has been appointed chairman of the Higher Military Council, making him the 'de facto' temporary president. He is a well known person who never even thought about running for president. In any event, there is no longer a familiar legitimate governmental framework in Egypt."

"We may see a series of upheavals in the region now. Mubarak's downfall supports revolutionaries everywhere, from Yemen to Algeria. The question is whether such Middle East will be manageable. What if there are coups in Jordan, Morocco or Saudi Arabia? Only God knows who will take power

And according to Mubarak himself, we see the following:

Mubarak slammed U.S. in phone call with Israeli MK before resigning

Hosni Mubarak had harsh words for the United States and what he described as its misguided quest for democracy in the Middle East in a telephone call with an Israeli lawmaker a day before he quit as Egypt's president.

"He gave me a lesson in democracy and said: 'We see the democracy the United States spearheaded in Iran and with Hamas, in Gaza, and that's the fate of the Middle East,'" Ben-Eliezer said.

"'They may be talking about democracy but they don't know what they're talking about and the result will be extremism and radical Islam,'" he quoted Mubarak as saying.

U.S. support for pro-democracy elements in Iran has not led to regime change in the Islamic Republic, and Hamas, a group Washington considers to be a terrorist organization, won a 2006 Palestinian election promoted by the United States.

Hamas seized control of the Gaza Strip in 2007 after a coalition government it formed with Western-backed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas collapsed in a power struggle.

So we have a history in the region of similar "uprisings" that have ended up worsening the situation - with Gaza, Iran and Lebanon serving as three painful reminders of where these things can lead.

The main fear is expressed below:

Ben-Eliezer said Mubarak expanded in the telephone call on "what he expects will happen in the Middle East after his fall".

"He contended the snowball (of civil unrest) won't stop in Egypt and it wouldn't skip any Arab country in the Middle East and in the Gulf.

"He said 'I won't be surprised if in the future you see more extremism and radical Islam and more disturbances -- dramatic changes and upheavals," Ben-Eliezer added.

Last week, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned of an Iran-style Islamist revolution in Egypt should Mubarak's Muslim Brotherhood rivals eventually take over.

One thing is for sure: This whole situation in Egypt isn't ending - in fact, it is just beginning.

There is no telling what will happen next, especially with a military takeover of the country. Looking beyond the military, the key players appear to be the Muslim Brotherhood and their prop Mohammed ElBaradei. We should be watching their movements very closely in the coming weeks.


Anonymous said...

The Egyptian military has essentially been in power for the last 30 years and in fact it was under Mubarak's command when the military assassinated Anwar Sadat. What will become of the fragile peace agreement signed by Sadat? One has to consider the ripple effect of this current revolution and how THE peace agreement will be attained. Will the Damascus event unite the Arabs now that their greatest foe will be significantly diminished? Will it conclude with the signing of treaty? It will be quite interesting to see what unfolds in the coming days--and not just in Egypt, but in the EU as well.


Expected Imminently said...

What next?

Well the earth let out a deep groan as the Egyptian's cheered as Chilli suffered another big earthquakw followed by several, very strong, aftershocks!