Monday, January 31, 2011

Egypt 01 01 11:The riddle of the Sphinx


The current events in Egypt are creating a quagmire for the United States. They find  themselves  hostage to contradictory readings of the situation.  On one hand they certainly would prefer Mubarak to leave the scene, while being unable to push him off the cliff (as they did with the Shah), on the other hand, time is running out for an uprising that is still a composite of different discontents. If not supported in unambiguous terms, it will surely in no time be hijacked by a more extreme fringe of the  opposition. The foreseeable  regional consequences of such a drastic transformational twist give rise to alarm.
The west is stuck in a triangulation exercise which might be lethal and alienate the street which has been united against Mubarak, rather than being  driven by a single  ideology.
What is at stake is enormous, covering oil supply ,the peace process in the Middle East, the ownership of the canal and, last but not least, the interplay of regional powers such as Iran, Saudi Arabia or the likes of Hamas and Hezbollah. The silence of Israel is deafening. The clumsy analysis that comes out of Washington is totally unconvincing. The American answer ignores the Egyptian clamor (“Away with Mubarak”) and resorts to a tangential tactic (democracy), hence ignoring the cause and interjecting the effect. One cannot follow two opposite strategies without blurring the good with the undesirable.
The Egyptian armed forces are “made in USA” and for the time being they stick to keeping their distance. If this can last or if , on the contrary, engagement with or against the uprising are in the cards remain an unanswered riddle. The President, new Vice President and Prime Minister all come from the army ranks. Supposed  loyalty is to be handled with care and can become a dangerous bet. It is better to confront the short pain, avoid compromising  ideological credibility in the region, than to continue  giving a lukewarm support to an unreliable joker. The longer the wait, the more contagious the crisis might become. Already the containment looks porous. Jordan , Yemen, Lebanon are in the eye of the storm. Egypt’s turmoil might awaken the Sudanese conundrum.
I fully realize that it might look as unfair to burden the USA again with yet a new supplementary  problem, while the Europeans, the Russians, Chinese and other Arab States  take refuge in platonic banalities.  The fact is that Egypt is linked to ”cynical “ US  interests , more than any other country maybe. Washington is partially to blame for its past unconditional support of a regime that was internationally helpful but internally corrupt and rotten to the core.
The United States should distance itself from ownership of this unfolding crisis by means of fast international deliberation and commitment to universal human rights, before others take the lead and divert the events in a direction that can be catastrophic. Mubarak must be pushed to the exit in order to avoid  other “bouncers”, with a different agenda, taking on the job, clearing  the place, and replacing democracy with theology.
The Shiites don’t need a Sunni twin, neither should we stay idle if the Suez Canal were to become  a transit for Islamism rather than for trade.
We are running against time, while others are ready to run against the future. We must support the original aims  if we do not want this consensual revolution to be deprived of its primary message. The   latter is in urgent need of breathing space to stay alive.  Only Mubarak’s immediate demise might give it still room to remain what it was meant to be.

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