The Middle East Pandora’s Box
As the VP of Egypt announced the resignation of Hosni Mubarak, ending 29 years of his Presidency, one would have loved to be the fly on the wall of some of Middle East’s palaces. When Ben Ali left Tunisia after just 5 days of protests, no one took it seriously. The Middle East monarchs just shrugged it off as a old dictator losing interest and just wanting a way out. The ousted Tunisian President did not spend weeks keeping his people and the international community guessing, he did not wait for the White House phone calls, he just got his earnings together and left. He had no interest in holding on to the power, no interest in fighting his generals, he knew times have changed.
The rest of Middle East did not care, Tunisia is not really one of the inner circles of the Middle East. It did not have oil or enough Islamic terrorists to worry about, it was a small country with little regional power. So when on Jan 25 the revolt started in Cairo, everyone was a little surprise. People started to take sides. The King of Arabia, made an angry anti-protest remark on how some people had infiltrated a group in order to cause panic.
The Jordanian king fired his Prime Minister, the Algerian President decided to withdraw the emergency laws, the Yemeni dictator said he will step down in 2013 and in Iran people started to chatter. But Hosni stayed despite global pressure and Obama’s calls. As the uprising entered its third week, the Egyptian regime started direct negotiations with the army of giving up on some power and hoping for fatigue to set into the protestors. The regime tried every tactic in the book, sending out the police in plain clothes wielding weapons on a horse back.
The violent day resulted in many deaths and despite the bloodshed, the clamping down on international journalists, torturing protestors, shooting on unarmed and innocent young ones, curbing the internet and mobile services – the people seem to take it all in and still stayed the course. He must have thought that he could count on the Islamophobia west paranoid about the Muslim Brotherhood taking centre stage.
One of the key parts of the end was the continuous communication of the Muslim Brotherhood saying they had no interest in power. The Pharoah’s old game of playing to the American psyche of Islamic terror seem to go nowhere. The images of the cross and the Koran together was like the final nail in Mubarak’s coffin.
On 10th Feb, the world started to realize that Hosni was leaving. The Arab media was continuously reporting that he was leaving Cairo. Obama appeared confidently in Michigan stating that “History was being made”, echoed by what the CIA director earlier in the day had said to a Congressional hearing. People were ready for that historic message. By the evening, when Hosni started to speak on state TV, people already started to celebrate.
But as all dictators living in denial, Hosni shocked the world by saying he is not stepping down. He again underestimated the power of the people. That night on the streets of Cairo and in corridors of Washington, people were worried. What would happen ? Would Ayman Al Zawari step in with an attack playing into the hands of Hosni.
As Friday dawned – millions were out on Tahrir square, in Alexandria and other parts of Egypt. But as fate would have it, there was no violence. And by evening the Pharoah’s end was obvious. As a nervous and worried Vice President Solaiman announced that Mubarak had resigned, Egyptians world-wide celebrated what was once thought impossible.
The end of a dictator in the Middle East not by bombs or bullets, not by war or US pressure, but by true calling of the people. The proud Egyptians put aside their religious and sectarian differences against a common enemy. Allah had spoken.
The Morning After
Egypt enters what is perhaps the most challenging phase in the countries long and legendary existence. Democracy in the Middle East is not easy as it was in Eastern Europe. Eastern Europe had cold war as its friend, since that was why the Western powers found grounds for support.
But the same western powers are worried because they had been supporting the dictators all along. They were worried that democracy in the Middle East could lead to a rise of Islamic power, silencing moderates, ending the peace with Israel. The Iranian government perceived to be in the same situation 2 years ago is using this in its own spin. They are calling it the Islamic movement, as they are worried about ripple effects.
The Vice President Solaiman knows he will never win the elections no matter when it is held. Mohamed El Baredei knows that too. So while we wait for the next leader, the world may still do not know the answer to an important question. Do we really need democracy in the Middle East?