Saturday, January 29, 2011

Upheaval in Egypt

Egyptian protest leaflet: "The police and the people against repression"

Robert Fisk, a reporter who actually knows a lot about Egypt and the rest of the Middle East reports on the current unrest and pro-democracy protests there in Egypt's day of reckoning The Independent 01/28/2011:

The barren, horrible truth, however, is that save for its brutal police force and its ominously docile army – which, by the way, does not look favourably upon Mubarak's son Gamal – the government is powerless. This is revolution by Twitter and revolution by Facebook, and technology long ago took away the dismal rules of censorship.

Mubarak's men seem to have lost all sense of initiative. Their party newspapers are filled with self-delusion, pushing the massive demonstrations to the foot of front pages as if this will keep the crowds from the streets – as if, indeed, by belittling the story, the demonstrations never happened.

But you don't need to read the papers to see what has gone wrong. The filth and the slums, the open sewers and the corruption of every government official, the bulging prisons, the laughable elections, the whole vast, sclerotic edifice of power has at last brought Egyptians on to their streets.
In general, Fisk is not sanguine about democracy coming to the Arab world any time soon, as he explains in The brutal truth about Tunisia The Independent 01/17/2011.

Helena Cobban in Obama's know-nothings discuss Egypt Just World News 01/28/2011 makes an important point: the US government is short of expertise on the Arab world. Commenting on a news photo of President Obama conferring with his advisers on Egypt, she writes:

What is notable is the absence of anyone in the group who has any serious knowledge about either Egypt or the broader region. ...

So now, in the Oval Office, we have the blind leading the blind and the blind advising the blind. No Chas Freeman, no Bill Quandt, no Rob Malley... (The list of those excluded on ideological grounds is pretty long, too.) No-one, in short, who can integrate into the advice the President desperately needs to hear any real understanding of how the peoples of the region think and how the regional system actually works. God save us all from their self-inflicted ignorance.
Von Gil Yaron reports on Israel's concern at the possible fall of Egyptian President Mubarak in Reaktion auf Unruhen: Israel hält Ägyptens Diktator die Treue Spiegel Online 27.01/2011. (English version of 28.01.2011: Concerns about the Muslim Brotherhood: Israel Fears Regime Change in Egypt) Israel has had peaceful relations with Egypt since the Sadat-Begin agreements of 1979. A more democratic regime in Egypt would almost certainly be more anti-Israel. Especially one headed by the Islamist group, the Muslim Brotherhood.

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