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.
Washington—The democratic uprising in Egypt has brought into relief a gradual and little-noticed transformation in American politics. Over the last decade, ideological divisions over the role of democracy and human rights in American foreign policy have been scrambled. In the meantime, President Obama has restored foreign policy realism to the White House, giving a liberal gloss to what had traditionally been a conservative disposition.
One thing I think is overwhelmingly clear from the events today in Egypt: the American alliance with Hosni Mubarak is over. The alliance was justifiable on strategic grounds. Mubarak was a dictator, but he retained just enough of a mask of legitimacy to tip the American calculation in his favor.
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.
Cairo, Egypt—For years, analysts and journalists have described the Egyptian masses as apathetic and embattled. But, after the last five days, it’s impossible to say this anymore. Since January 25, protesters have taken to the streets in Egypt’s major cities, demanding an end to President Hosni Mubarak’s almost 30-year reign. Here is an explainer of the main actors in Egypt today and what they may be thinking. The protesters. Egyptian men and women of all ages and social classes are amassed in central squares in major cities, including Cairo, Alexandria, Mansoura, Suez, and Aswan.
Cairo, Egypt—The measures taken by the Egyptian regime over the last three days are not just targeting demonstrators; they are affecting everyone. Ahead of Friday’s post-prayers protest, the Egyptian government cut off every form of instant communication—namely, the Internet and cell phone service. The goal, it seemed, was not just to prevent people from organizing demonstrations or sharing their experiences with the outside world, but also to create an atmosphere of chaos and uncertainty.
After days of unrest, after declaring martial law in some of the country’s main cities, the authoritarian leader gave a much anticipated television speech. His tone was repentant. He promised change and reform. The people wanted democracy and he promised to bend to their wishes. For a long time, the United States had been advising him to open his political system—but had been seen publicly as his chief supporter. The U.S.
The contours and consequences of the uprising in Egypt—which, after decades in which Hosni Mubarak destroyed the civil society of his country and stifled the most elementary aspirations of his people, was perfectly inevitable—are still unclear. About the justice of the protestors’ anger there can be no doubt. But the politics of the revolt are murky.
An incredibly moving and encouraging story: On New Year’s Day, a devastating terrorist bombing at a Coptic church in Egypt killed 21 people and injured 79 others. Although the identity of the culprits was not known, it was assumed that they were Muslim extremists, intent on targeting those they saw as heretics. Religious tensions immediately rose in the country, and angry Copts stormed streets, battled with police, and even vandalized a nearby mosque.