In addition to facing opposition from remnants of the Mubarak era, President Mohamad Mursi of Egypt will face his greatest foreign policy challenges from the US, Israel, Saudi Arabia and Turkey. Ayman Ahmed explains why.
In the past, Egypt’s important role in the Muslim East (aka Middle East) was stymied because of its rulers’ subservience to imperialism and zionism. This may be changing amid renewed hopes.
There was a time, not so long ago, when Egypt and Jordan were the poster-countries of political reform and democratisation in the Middle East. In those days, parliamentary elections like those held in Jordan last month would have been hailed as massive progress and a model for all Arab states, especially as the country’s Islamic party lost considerable ground. And even Husni Mubarak, so long the US’s main ally in the Arab world, would have been gently chided for his persecution of opposition journalists, even if his treatment of the Ikhwan al-Muslimeen, Egypt’s main Islamic movement and most popular opposition party, was quietly ignored.
While 40 senior officials of the Ikhwan al-Muslimeen (Muslim Brotherhood) were being dragged through the Egyptian courts, four editors were recently fined and sentenced to a year’s imprisonment for defaming president Husni Mubarak and his son Gamal. That the action against the editors was as misconceived and miscalculated as the crackdown on the Ikhwan was demonstrated by the defiance of the editors and the escalation of press attacks on both Mubarak and Gamal.
The referendum on amendments to Egypt’s constitution on March 26 went almost exactly as expected by most independent observers. The turn-out was almost non-existent, as a result of an opposition boycott and widespread cynicism about the referendum.
It is a remarkable development that in a country like Egypt, ruled autocratically by a former military officer, members of the judiciary and strongly anti-regime Islamic activists find themselves on the same side in the war the dictator is waging to stay in power and pass it to his son.
What makes some pro-democracy movements popular in the West and others not so popular? Considering the emphasis that the Bush regime has placed on democratisation in the Muslim world as the solution for anti-Western anger among Muslims, one would expect that the eruption of popular protests against a one-party dictatorship led for nearly three decades by the same former military officer might be welcomed in Washington and gleefully publicised by the world’s media.
The two suicide bombings in Egypt on April 26 were the latest of a series of armed attacks in the country over the last two years. The coincide with demonstrations by thousands of Egyptians in central Cairo to protest against the prosecution of two senior judges who are known for their public criticism of the government's control of the judiciary.
Egypt, under president Husni Mubarak, receives the second largest amount of US foreign aid per annum after Israel, but unlike Israel pays a very high price for it. Not only does it openly and loyally back US foreign policy in the Middle East and the rest of the Muslim world, but it is also publicly committed to the US government's ‘war or terrorism', which is really an ill-disguised assault on Islamic activists and Islamic groups.
That president Husni Mubarak of Egypt has been planning for some time to ensure that he is succeeded by his 41-year-old son Jamal, when he eventually retires, has been clear enough to leave no one in any doubt. But recent local, regional and international events have caused him to throw caution to the winds and accelerate his plotting to ensure that Jamal will not face a credible challenge at the presidential elections in 2011.
There were a number of anti-Mubarak demonstrations in Cairo in the days following the presidential elections on September 7, as Egyptians realised that the much-vaunted elections had taken place and nothing had changed; in fact, that Hosni Mubarak and his supporters had consolidated their position by being able to claim a measure of democratic legitimacy for the president’s continuing authoritarian rule.
As the first presidential election since 1981 that can be contested by more than one candidate – at least in theory – approaches, president Mubarak, who has ruled Egypt for 24 years, is stepping up his already formidable rigging programme to secure re-election for his fifth term.
In a transparently doctored policy speech setting out the US government's vision for the Middle East, Condoleezza Rice, the US secretary of state, said in Cairo on June 20 that Washingtonwill no longer tolerate oppression in the region as it has done for 60 years. She stressed that democracy is "inevitable" and that "the fear of free choice can no longer justify the denial theory".
Judicial, media and student agencies are for the first time staging public protests against the autocratic rule of president Husni Mubarak to an extent that makes the recent challenges by political opposition groups, including the Ikhwan al-Muslimeen (Muslim Brotherhood), mild by comparison
President Husni Mubarak has turned one of the most powerful and influential Muslim countries into Uncle Sam's errand boy – humiliating Egypt, its people and Muslims at large in the process. The time is coming to be rid of him, his colleagues, collaborators and intended successors.
Given the size of its territory and population and the educational standards of its people, Egypt could be a power to reckon with and could, if it chose, play an effective and beneficial role in African, Arab and Muslim affairs. Instead, its government has chosen to serve the US’s interests, including the survival of Israel, the drastic limitation of Palestinian ambitions and the suppression of Islamic revivalism.
Mubarak has ordered the arrest of 94 Islamic activists and their appearance before a military tribunal, accusing them of plotting terrorism against American, Israeli, Russian and Balkan targets. According to Muntassir al-Ziyat, an Egyptian lawyer representing 87 of those appearing before the military tribunal...
President Husni Mubarak of Egypt has been fighting Islamic movements since coming to power in 1981. Exploiting Egypt’s influence in the Muslim world, he has been instrumental in the adoption of anti-terrorism conventions and resolutions by the Arab League, the Organisation of African Unity (OAU), and the General Assembly of the UN.
Throughout his rule, president Husni Mubarak has governed Egypt under an emergency decree, using his dictatorial powers to persecute the Islamic groups that have always constituted the most vocal opposition to his regime.
Throughout his long rule, Egypt’s president, Husni Mubarak, has paid lip-service to ‘traditional Islam’ and to ‘freedom of expression’, while in practice repressing Islamic activists. Even the Ikhwan al-Muslimeen, who cannot possibly be accused of being Islamic revolutionaries, are banned as a political party.