We have experienced plenty of arrogance and a failure to understand Egypt over the past 10 days on the part of experts and commentators, both in Israel and abroad, who terminated Mubarak and his regime with their very words. The Obama Administration joined this assessment, until it realized its mistake.
The moment it became clear that Egypt’s immense defense establishment – millions of soldiers, police officers and security personnel – is standing by Mubarak and his officers, the matter was decided. The moment government institutions in Cairo were kept in the army’s hands, it didn’t matter how many protestors gathered at Tahrir Square, because this is how Egypt is ruled: From the radio and television building, from the Interior Ministry, from the government palaces, and from the Central Bank.
Egypt doesn’t like disorder. It is a vast civilization, which for 5,000 years now had been ruled as a formidable power pyramid; its domestic genetic code stresses “social order” and revulsion in the face of anarchy, and at the end of the day the regime managed to regain its legitimacy. With a great degree of accuracy, the regime portrayed itself as the obstacle in the face of chaos, Hezbollah or al-Qaeda terror, or violent political Islam.
Machiavelli wrote that there is nothing scarier than an impassioned crowd without a leader, but also noted that there is nothing weaker. And indeed, the masses who gathered at the squares had no leader. Baradei is a Western joke, as he knows nobody in Egypt and mostly in its corridors of power. He lived in Europe for most of his life.
The other candidates are insignificant as well. Preacher Yusuf Qaradawi lives far away in exile and the only leadership that remains is the almost primitive incitement of al-Jazeera; many people in the Middle East already understand that this is no news channel, but rather, a propaganda tool on behalf of the Muslim Brotherhood and its regional proxies. Al-Jazeera is already watched with reservations in the Mideast.
Egypt is not the Palestinians or Tunisia. As long as the protestors there have no real power, the regime remains undefeated. Yet other regimes in the region aren’t so powerful. The first state that should be worried is the Khomeinist Iran, because we already saw the buds of rebellion against the regime a year and a half ago. However, the regimes in Syria, Saudi Arabia and Jordan are also in the sights of political Islam, and these states lack the vast Egyptian tradition of repression and government power.
Political Islam groups are watching developments and feeling a sense of success. Should the regime in Jordan fall, and this is no longer illogical, or should this happen in Syria or in Saudi Arabia, the Islamists will be the big winners. Under the guise of “democracy” these states may fall into the hands of extremist religious zealots. This is also the reason Hamas doesn’t bother to topple Mahmoud Abbas’ Palestinian Authority at this time: It hopes that Obama will give Abbas a state, and then Hamas would be able to take over. Should it take over Judea and Samaria now, there will be no state.
And so, under a green veneer of democracy and stability, political Islam is waiting on the sidelines. Tunisia’s Islamic leader, Rashid Al-Ghannoushi, returned after the revolution and is already preparing his party to win the democratic elections in the country. He may not run for office, yet his Islamic revival party is an organized power that awaits its turn. Europe, which lauded the “democratic” revolution in Tunisia, will be surprised by the result, which will materialize right on Europe’s doorstep.
Had Mubarak listened to Obama, he would have been in exile in Dubai by now. Fortunately for Mubarak, he did not listen, and survived. And this is the main problem now: There is no master of the house in the Middle East. The Obama Administration is either absent or doesn’t get it, and accordingly, we are seeing the grave results. Not everyone is as powerful as Mubarak and his regime, and quite a few Arab elements may pay the price of American amateurism.
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