Friday, 28 January 2011

Curfew over Cairo

It might be a revolution taking place in Egypt, but it's caused excitement, fear and trepidation in different quarters.

Egypt matters as it is the most populous Arab state, and it is a close ally of the US (remember Obama's speech in Cairo?), so what happens there will set a trend for the whole region and could determine the direction of events for the next generation.

Protesters across the region (Algeria, Bahrain, Jordan, Lebanon, Yemen) are encouraged by the success of the Tunisian 'Jasmine Revolution', and many commentators are hinting at a 'domino effect' aided by pan-Arabic news and information sources including social networks like Twitter and news channels like Al Jazeera.

But amidst the enthusiasm for progressive change and an end to corruption there lurks concern about the potential for the protests to result not in a blossoming of democracy and free speech, but in increasing confrontation, violence and radicalisation of the forces involved.

It should be noted that the last period of concerted opposition protests against an Islamic autocrat resulted in a crackdown by the Shah of Persia's military against the protesters, which instilled a reactive surge in support for the Islamist movement under the figurehead of Ayatollah Khomeini.

Egypt has a comparable military and security infrastructure, having been used over several decades in dealing with fundamentalist terrorism (from the assasination of Sadat, to regular bombings of tourists at the historical monuments), but equally as a result of similar neo-liberal economic policies has seen the enrichment of a superclass with more to lose, but also the means to hang on.

Consequently the resistance of President Mubarak will be much greater than was possible or likely by Ben Ali in Tunisia and the test of the protesters to gain sufficient support will be that much sterner, therefore the likelihood that the anti-government movement will turn to more violent measures is increased.

Moreover it's worth remembering that Alexandria is the headquarters of the Muslim Brotherhood terrorist/political organisation, which has strong links to Tehran.

In the worst case a violent revolution could easily see Egypt break with the US, ally with Iran and result in another conflict over Israel, but one where nuclear weapons are held on both sides.

Additionally the effect on international trade (given the oil price instability caused as a knock-on from security issues surrounding the Suez canal) at a precarious moment for the global economy would necessitate major commitment by the developed nations to prevent major price rises and prevent collapse, let alone ensure a recovery.

So as darkness sleeps the future of the world certainly, if for one night, hangs precariously in the balance. Much will depend upon how Obama is able to mediate a peaceful transition.

But the episode also has implications for events closer to home. 2010/11 is turning into the year of protests of a generation, similar to 1989 or 1968 - how the protesters here choose their tactics will also determine their outcome, but not just in success or failure, in direction too.


Orbilia said...

Great minds think alike.... I've posted on the same subject today :-)

Oranjepan said...


I've just read your post - you should write more because you have a way of expressing yourself clearly and to the point which makes my ramblings sound like, well, ramblings.

Anyway, don't be afraid to leave your links - navigation on the net can be a nightmare!

It's here (and well worth it, too):

Orbilia said...

Thanks for the compliment and the tip :-)