In a move that simultaneously caught the world by surprise and yet indicated the
regime’s strategy, Hosni Mubarak announced his resignation as Egypt’s president
less than 24 hours after refusing to resign.
The most likely possibility
in this truly bizarre series of events is that Defense Minister Muhammad Tantawi
and the army high command did not fully agree with Vice President Omar
Suleiman’s plan to tough it out and try to preserve the regime. The army thus
removed the regime. The revolutionaries had been very careful to express their
respect for the military. The generals then figured it was easier to make them
the winning side rather than engage in confrontation.
none of this matters for the future. And to paraphrase Egypt’s greatest
novelist, Naguib Mahfouz, there are a lot more memories coming.
Mubarak is gone. The first point is that while this is huge in psychological
terms, it is less important in strategic terms. Either health or the end of his
term in September would have taken the 82-year-old out of office soon
The real news is the army’s statement that the entire regime will
The immediate effect was to set off celebrations throughout
Egypt. On one hand, this benefits the regime, which has now removed its most
On the other hand, since the revolutionary movement can
take credit for Mubarak’s fall, it is going to be seen as gathering
WHAT WILL happen now? The military’s first communique gave
several ideas: 1. a)“End the state of emergency as soon as the current
circumstances are over.”
In other words, once the turmoil ends, there
will be a great deal more freedom.
This cleverly gives an incentive for
people to stop demonstrating and go back to work.
b) “Decide on the
appeals against elections and consequent measures.”
The last elections
were unfair, and the military will decide whether they were stolen. If so, new
parliamentary elections could be offered.
c)“Conduct needed legislative
amendments and conduct free and fair presidential elections in light of the
approved constitutional amendments.”
This implies that the constitution
will be amended before elections. One change will probably be that the Muslim
Brotherhood becomes legal.
2. “The armed forces are committed to
sponsoring the legitimate demands of the people and achieving them by following
on the implementation of these procedures in the defined time frames with all
accuracy and seriousness, and until the peaceful transfer of authority toward a
free democratic community that the people aspire to is complete.”
implies the end of the 60-yearold regime, and a total victory for the
revolution. Of course, the army might have some tricks up its sleeve.
The armed forces emphasize there will be no security pursuit of the honest
people who refused the corruption and demanded reforms, and warns against
touching the security and safety of the nation and the people. It emphasizes the
need for regular work in state facilities and return to normal life to preserve
the interests and possessions of our great people.” In other words, no one will
be prosecuted for his actions during the revolution.
HERE ARE the issues
• Will the army dissolve parliament and hold new parliamentary
• How will the regime amend the constitution?
• According to the
existing constitution, there must be an election within 60 days. Is this going
• Will the demonstrations die down now that Mubarak is gone or will
the pressure be kept up?
• Who will run for president? The Muslim Brotherhood
will not run by itself but will support Mohamed ElBaradei.
opposition will there be to him, if any? Given the short time available, would
anyone be able to organize a party except for the ElBaradei-Brotherhood
coalition? If that last point is true, we have to go back to all our previous
discussion regarding Egypt’s future. For if ElBaradei is going to be president,
the army doesn’t object and his main ally is the Muslim Brotherhood, the next
government is likely to be a coalition that gives it an important (but not
necessarily prominent) role.
There will be much cheering, but one should
remember the following: • ElBaradei is totally untested, and has no prior
political or governing experience.
• His views are relatively radical, as
will be his colleagues’ on foreign policy.
There is an interesting
question about how grateful he would be to US President Barack Obama, to whom
perhaps he will feel he partly owes his position.
That might be a
• Note that Obama said the US would do everything
possible to help a democratic Egypt. Is he going to propose an international aid
consortium or raise current levels of US aid? Given the economic situation, that
is hard to believe.
• It will be interesting to watch the reactions of
Iran and of Arab governments to the new regime, if there’s going to be one. Will
Iran and Syria be enthusiastic – which would be the smarter move – or reserved,
viewing ElBaradei as an American puppet? The Saudis and Jordanians will be
nervous, wondering whether ElBaradei will support regime change in their
countries. The Jordanians have an additional concern, since their main opponent
at home is the Jordanian Muslim Brotherhood, ally of one of ElBaradei’s main
• What will the new regime do on the Egypt-Gaza Strip border?
One might speculate that it will open the border – a tremendously popular move –
and insist to the US that the Egyptian army will keep out weapons. I don’t
Hamas, too, will be celebrating. In a sense, Hamas will
have the ability to create a major regional crisis by attacking Israel, since it
can presume a degree of Egyptian support.
• As for Israel, it will seek
normal relations with the new government. How will ElBaradei treat the peace
treaty? Under tremendous American pressure, he will see no need to tear it up
For a time, at least, the Brotherhood will agree to just let it
be a dead letter.
• How will the current gas sales be treated? Perhaps
they will just continue, or perhaps the line will be conveniently sabotaged just
enough so that no more gas will be sold.
THE PRESIDENTIAL election is
apparently going to happen before parliamentary elections. This puts the
pressure on anyone who wants to play a big role in Egypt’s future to come up
with a candidate. Will there be an “old regime” or radical nationalist
competitor to ElBaradei and his reform-Islamist coalition? The principal threat
is not a Muslim Brotherhood takeover and an Islamist state, but a radical Egypt
in international terms. And the next presidential election is not the end of
history. The problem is not just to create a democratic Egypt, but to sustain
it.The writer is director of the Global Research in International
Affairs Center and editor of
Middle East Review of International Affairs Journal
and Turkish Studies. He blogs at www.rubinreports.blogspot.com.