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Egyptian Power struggle: The Dilemma of the West

HUGO ODIOGOR
Egypt in a post Hosni Mubarak era is the dilemma of the West as the process of social change in the heart beat of the Arab world politics approaches an uncertain dénouement.

For the past eight days street protests have rocked the land of the Pharaohs, with foreigners fleeing the chaos in nthe country where riot police, soldiers and plain cloth security men working over time to prevent massive bloodletting.

Egyptian President Mubarak

Mubarak, 82, last week named his 74 year old intelligence chief Omar Suleiman,as the Vice President, a position he refused to fill in the past 30 years, a ploy which Political analysts say was to ensure that his son, Gamal emerged as President without opposition.

Loyalty of the army

Mubarak also sacked his cabinet and appointed Ahmed Shafiq, a former Commander of the Airforce as the prime Minister. This was seen as a move to retain the loyalty of the army. The protesters have defied the night curfew and are insisting that Mubarak must leave as well as end his plan to impose his 42 year old son Gamal on the country. They have continued to insist on regime change, which is dicey prostect for the West which has for over 30 years supported Mubarak who they consider to be a strategic ally in the hotbed of global politics.

United States president Barak Obama has  been urging the embattled Egyptian leader to hearken to the voice of his people but at the same time Washington wants the citizens to moderate their demands for social change, to avoid the situation getting out of hand
So far, the military, which has been a stabilising factor in the politics of the country, has continued to back Mubarak in order to avoid a  re_enactment of the Tunisian_type of regime change. The emergence of Mohammed El Baradie, the former United Nations Nuclear watchdog as the opportunistic leader of the opposition may provide the confidence and safe landing for both parties as he may be asked to head an interim government to mid wife the emergence of a people’s government.

Meanwhile the situation inside Egypt is such that both the West and the Arab countries are keenly watching of what becomes of the country where the Muslim Brother hood has over the years been the arrow head of a radical advocacy for power change along the tenets of Islamic ideology.

Tenets of Islamic ideology

The United States and United Kingdom have urged the ailing Mubarak to exercise restraint as he employs the tactics used by Iran to quell a similar protest that swept through the Persian nation in June last year. The riots is Egypt is being keenly watched round the world as the land of the Pharaohs is the largest Arab nation and holds the balance of power in the Middle East.

Other autocratic Ara leaders like Libya’s Muamar Gaddaffi who has been in power since 1968, the Sudanese President Omar Hassan El Bashir who came to power in I989.are keenly watching what is happening in the largest Arab nation and holds the balance of power in the Middle East.

The catalyst for the uprising has come from a combination of the events namely the riots in Tunisia and food price inflation that accelerated at a pace that an average Egyptian family could not absorb. This food price inflation is not Egypt specific, but is an unintended consequence from the economic recovery programmes in the West. The Egyptian masses have now formed grassroots leaders these include well educated, unemployed and desperate young people.

The greatest problem of the West is how to avoid the process of social change from being hijacked by the Muslim Brotherhood which has their members even in the military especially among the junior officers. It was members of this group that assassinated late president Anwar Sadat in 1981 for signing a peace deal with 1srael in 1979. The Brotherhood has been a thorn in the flesh of the Mubarak regime and he has been ruthless in dealing with them. Even Israel is uncomfortable with a process that will bring a fundamentalist regime in Egypt.

An Islamic republic in Egypt will provide serious security challenge in Southern Israel and with Iran threatening to hit the Jewish state out of existence, the  main supporter of Israel, the United States is more than a passive observer of the crisis in Egypt. Russia and China will have to do a strategic calculation of where to pitch their support in the event of things getting out of hand, the days ahead maybe be uncertain for the nation but for the Mubarack family, the end has come, unfortunately, in an unexpected manner.


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