Egypt: What Next?
The popular uprising in Egypt has now attracted the attention of the whole world. Media outlets around the globe are not just reporting the facts but attempting to shape global perceptions on the possible outcome. As an example the BBC has described ElBaradei as: “Leading Egyptian opposition figure Mohamed ElBaradei has joined thousands of protesters in Cairo….” The BBC has already given him the honour of leading the opposition, when he has only been in the country since 27th January 2010.
The question on everyone’s lips is what will happen next in Egypt? What follows are the major players and their current stated positions:
Until the uprising the most likely candidate that was to succeed the president was Hosni Mubarak’s son Gamal Mubarak. He had visited the US on a number of occasions and met the leading figures of the US Congress including Senator John Kerry, the Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee as well as Howard Peerman, the Chairman of the House of Representative’s Committee on International Affairs. The US and Egypt’s ruling party had created the conditions to facilitate Gamal Mubarak’s ascension as the next president to succeed his father. However the current uprising has scuppered this plan as any individual linked to the ruling faction has been on the receiving end of protests. It is no wonder Gamal Mubarak abandoned the country.
Europe has for long attempted to gain a foothold in Egypt and was openly supporting Ayman Nour Chairman of the El Ghad party. The Europeans intensely demanded Ayman Nour’s release when he was arrested for demanding amendments to the Egyptian constitution. They demanded he be released and objected to his detention right from the first day of his arrest and had even maintained contact with him during his detention. Reuters reported in February 2007: “Edward MacMillan Scott, the head of the European Parliament and its special envoy for its “Democratic and Human Rights” tried yesterday to meet Ayman Nour but was prevented from seeing him though he was made to wait for an hour and a half. MacMillan Scott called on the European Union to take a more firm and stronger view towards the Egyptian regime and pointed to the fact that the regime had violated Ayman Nour’s liberties.”
Mohamed ElBaradei has also returned to Egypt on the 27th January 2011 and has gained much coverage in European media. ElBaradei until 1997 when he became Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) served as the Permanent Missions of Egypt to the UN in New York and in Geneva, in charge of political, legal, and arms control issues. ElBaradei a staunch secularist has spent considerable time outside of Egypt and has for long called for reform in Egypt. As a weapons inspector ElBaradei fell foul of the Bush administration and criticised the US regime for not allowing weapons inspections to continue when the US was building its case against Iraq. The US has for long criticised ElBaradei regarding Iran’s nuclear programme and even spied on him. ElBaradi has supported Obama since he came to power, however his biggest challenge is that he is largely unknown in the country.
The Muslim Brotherhood have kept a low profile in the demonstrations, they have endorsed them but refrained from urging its members to attend. Helmi Gazzar, the head of the Muslim Brotherhood’s district party office in northern Cairo told the Wall Street Journal that this strategy “reflects the organization’s strategy that their religious goals need to be put on the back burner to achieve democracy, what we want is what the people want; right now we should have a completely different regime. We should have freedom and free elections.” He went on to say “we respect Mr. Baradei he has the most potential to achieve this.”
The question is why has the largest group in Egypt not taken the lead against Mubarak when the opportunity has presented itself?
This is because the Brotherhood has had simmering tensions since the outlawed groups members sat in Parliament as independent lawmakers, and US officials frequently meet with these parliamentarians. Events reached fever pitch when a draft political manifesto was published in 2007 in which the organization called for a religious guidance counsel to be set up in Egypt to approve all laws passed by the country’s civilian institutions. In an interview with the daily Al-Masri Al-Youm, Muslim Brotherhood Supreme Guide Mohamed Mehdi Akef explained that “The council would be a consultative body that would present its opinions to state institutions; these opinions would in turn be subject to approval by parliament.” Elements disagreed within the Brotherhood on this clear Haraam and ever since rifts have exacerbated between the group and as a result the group has been unable to move as collective in a unified direction.
The last remaining player and probably the most important is the Egyptian military. Hosni Mubarak has only remained in power as he gained the loyalty of the army, however with an inevitable stand-off with the people just a matter of time, the side the army takes will in all likelihood determine the future of Egypt. As some from the army have joined the protests, the army has since the discussion of Hosni Mubarak’s succession grown in clout. The Egyptian Chief of Staff Lt.Gen. Sami Annan was in Washington on January 24th 2011 heading a high ranking military delegation as the demonstrations gathered momentum. Defence Minister Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, who was named deputy prime minister while remaining chief of the defence ministry and overseeing the president’s first line of defence as head of the Republican Guard with Lt.Gen. Sami Annan appear to be managing this transition from behind the scenes.
The Egyptian regime appears to be constructing a transition that appeases the US. Omar Suleiman was appointed vice-president by Mubarak. Since 1993 Suleiman has headed the feared Egyptian general intelligence service. In that capacity, he was the CIA’s point man in Egypt for renditions—the covert program in which the CIA snatched terror suspects from around the world and returned them to Egypt and elsewhere for interrogation under brutal circumstances.
Both Defence Minister Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi and Lt. Gen. Sami Annan have been closely liaising with the US – US Department of Defence spokesman Geoff Morrell confirmed that US Defence Secretary Robert Gates spoke with Tantawi and then with Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak on January 30th 2011. A spokesman for US Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen said Mullen spoke with Lt. Gen. Sami Annan the same day. All this shows the Egyptian army has been working closely with the US and the US has signalled that it is putting its faith in these military leaders.
As Hosni Mubarak gave his televised address that he would not run as a candidate in the presidential elections in September, Mubarak didn’t mention this was after his meeting with US special envoy Frank Wisner, who is said to have told Mubarak its time to go. The reality is the US with the Egyptian army has ensured an orderly transition and will now ensure a regime emerges that will protect US interests. The US has played a direct role in the future of the country, Obama confirmed this when he said it was not his country’s right to dictate the path for Egypt, but that any transition must include opposition voices and lead to free and fair elections.
The call for change in Egypt has led many to take to the streets in the hope that the Mubarak regime is overthrown and replaced with a just system. However many of those involved in leading such protests either have no clear direction on what to do once Mubarak is overthrown, they either have their own corrupt ambitions and some are even continuing with appeasing foreign powers. None of the groups are calling for the uprooting of the system, but rather most of them are jockeying for position once Mubarak is overthrown. There is a real possibility the sincere intensions of the Ummah will be hijacked by foreign powers who want a mere change of faces with the same underlying corrupt system that protects their interests.
All of this shows us Real change is only with the complete abolishment of the system in Egypt and its replacement with an alternative, the Khilafah.