The president has found his fall guy, his collective fall guy, for his failure to see that several sort-of U.S. allies were in terrible trouble: The intelligence community, we are now told, was to blame. But the truth is that, if anyone is at fault for misreading the Arab world, it is Barack Obama himself. Not that many other presidents and their administrations have seen these realities clearly. (John Foster Dulles, secretary of state to Dwight Eisenhower, believed he could transform the Egypt of Gamal Abdel Nasser from a Soviet satrap into a pro-Western republic.
When the Iranian Revolution overthrew the Shah in 1979, years of “peaceful” U.S. nuclear cooperation with the Persian dictator suddenly seemed like they had been a bad idea. In part as a result of this early assistance, Tehran is on the road to producing a bomb’s worth of weapons-grade uranium in roughly a year or less. And with protests upending governments in Egypt, Tunisia, and the rest of the Middle East, this sequence is on the cusp of repeating itself to produce a nuclear domino effect.
For almost two weeks, the world’s eyes, ears, and hearts have been focused on Egypt, where protestors have amassed to demand an end to President Hosni Mubarak’s dictatorial regime. TNR has been covering the events closely, gathering some of the best commentary and on-the-ground reporting on this history-making event.
As I strode up the streets towards my apartment in Cairo’s Dokki neighborhood last Sunday evening, a posse of teenagers approached. One was packing a clip into his pistol. Another carried a sword over his shoulder. Two others followed clutching wooden clubs. Trailing a few feet behind, a couple of ten-year-olds carried broomsticks. It felt like something out of a William Golding novel, but they were, in fact, trying to protect me.
There are two ways to think about the impact upon Israel of the collapse, fast or slow, but inexorable, of the Mubarak regime in Egypt. The first is to be concerned for Israel. The second is to be concerned about Israel. Until the peace treaty with Egypt was concluded in 1979, it was said about Israel, and rightly, that it was surrounded by “confrontation states.” The accord with Egypt, followed by the accord with Jordan, destroyed the monolithic character of the security threat to Israel.
If you go to the website of the U.S.
Cairo, Egypt—It is getting harder and harder to report from Egypt. I’ve lived here for more than two years, and although Egypt has a reputation for oppressing the country’s domestic media, it doesn’t usually crack down on foreigners. Now, that has changed.
Cairo, Egypt—Egypt’s economy has by all accounts ground to a halt as a result of curfews, travel restrictions, and communications blackouts. Here in Cairo, the effects are readily apparent: Reduced delivery of goods and a shortage of wheat have shuttered subsidized bread-distribution points, reducing the quantity of bread available and generating long, angry breadlines snaking down the city’s alleyways. “I’ve been waiting here for two hours,” one man in a military-run breadline told me.
As mass protests sweep through Cairo and Hosni Mubarak teeters, some U.S. observers have turned almost reflexively to the analogy of Iran and the Shah in 1979. “Just look at Iran,” Leslie Gelb wrote earlier this week: If the Muslim Brotherhood takes control in Egypt, which Gelb believes may be at hand, “it’s going to be almost impossible for the people to take it back.” At times of unexpected but momentous political change in distant countries, we grasp onto political analogies to help get our bearings. Even if we know they are imperfect, we can’t resist their tempting suggestiveness.
As an American in Egypt, I’ve always been asked about my government’s support for President Mubarak. My usual response is to say, “We don’t control everything our government does, just like in Egypt. I am here to write about your country so people in my country and in my government can read it.” Prior to this week, most people thanked me and the buck stopped there. But as this country’s social order upends itself, I’ve noticed a marked shift in the way people here react to authority.