Saturday, January 29, 2011
Friday morning, I wrote that the end result of the Egyptian revolt would depend on which way the army jumped - and predicted that we would know within 48 hours.
The army has decided to let Mubarak fall.I suspected as much after I heard President Obama's statement essentially cutting Mubarak loose Friday afternoon.
The army is deployed in the riot areas, but has taken great care not to fire on the protesters or attack them in any way. Instead, they have formed cordons around some of Egypt's more important government,infrastructural and cultural buildings and some of the areas where the country's elites live, while allowing widespread looting and chaos as long as the protesters stay outside the military cordons. The only aid they have given the police was in the early hours of the army's deployment in places the army wanted to secure, liked the famed Egyptian Museum where mobs had broken through police lines and threatened to steal or destroy the artifacts there. Outside the cordons, it's chaos, and this is likely a deliberate strategy on the part of the army in order to let the protests run out of steam as the new regime takes control.
Today, Egypt's President Mubarak accepted the resignations of his entire cabinet and appointed General Omar Suleiman, the tough minded former head of Egypt's intelligence services as his new vice president, and General Ahmed Shafik as his new Prime Minister. What's happened is that the army has informed President Mubarak that he no longer has their support. Mubarak will be leaving the country in a day or so, most likely to Dubai, where many of Egypt's wealthy elite connected to the regime have already fled.
The army has positioned itself either to put one of its own in power as the new strongman or more likely, has made a deal with the Muslim Brotherhood to preserve its prerogatives in a new Islamist republic. This is the exact same devil's bargain the Iranian military made with Khomeini in 1979.
Suleiman and Shafik are likely just caretakers until the new regime takes over.
One likely figure whom might surface is Mohamed ElBaradei, the former head of the IAEA.
During his time as head of the IAEA, ElBaradei repeatedly ignored evidence on Iran's illegal nuclear program, and when it became too obvious,ElBaradi put his weight behind trying to prevent any UN sanctions against the Iranian regime. He continues to dismiss the threat of a nuclear armed Iran, citing the discredited 2007 US National Intelligence Estimate claiming Iran abandoned its nuclear weapons program in 2003 as accurate.
Aside from being pro-Iranian, ElBaradei is also close to the Muslim Brotherhood. He consistently defends the terrorist organization that is the parent group of Hamas, al-Qaeda, Hizb-al-Tahrir and other salafist groups, saying the West has to 'stop demonizing them'.
Indeed, I notice a number of foreign policy 'experts' echoing exactly those sentiments over the last few days. The abysmal stupidity expressed by that view is almost beyond belief.
That, of course, is likely ElBaradei's appeal to the Muslim Brotherhood, and its why they've desinated him to be a front man and negotiate with the army on their behalf. As a former UN functionary, ElBaradei might have just enough credibility with gullible westerners to get them accept the new Islamist regime..at least for a while. And El Baradi is also the sort of figurehead who can be pushed out of the way easily when it's time, the way Bakhtiar and later Bazargan were in Iran.
Whether ElBaradei ends up heading the new government or not, the immediate consequences of a takeover of this sort as serious.
Just as in Iran, the Egyptian military has substantial stocks of US weapons that were given to the regime as part of the peace treaty with Israel, and Egypt has been receiving around $2 billion a year in US aid. Its air force has close to 300 F-16s and the Abrams M1a1 tank is produced in Egypt under US license for use by the Egyptian Army. The peace treaty between Israel and Egypt will undoubtedly be voided fairly soon and those new US weapons are very likely to be turned against Israel and the West, with the new Islamist regime making common cause with Hamas and perhaps Iran.
And both the Muslim Brotherhood and Iran are crowing that US client states throughout the Arab world will soon be toppled as Islamist regimes take over.
Winds of change are blowing, there is an historical shift underway in the Middle East , and the West had better take notice.