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Understanding Egypt: The Biggest Loser: Middle East

Editor’s note: The Blaze is featuring some guest posts to help our readers gain a deeper understanding of the situation in Egypt. This post is by veteran journalist Bill Tucker.

Mubarak is gone. Egypt’s military remains and, for now, is in control. The question hanging like the sword of Damocles over Egypt and the region is, what happens next?

Uncertainty. The impact of unrest in Egypt though is being felt well beyond its borders.  It has created not only tension within the country but in many countries in the Middle East.  Israel is left to wonder what its fate will be as it ponders the loss of a peace treaty… the potential loss of its largest source of natural gas… and the possibility of finding itself even more isolated in the region.

Jordan and Bahrain, sensing the growing unrest, had already instituted some reforms in attempts to quell anger.  The ruling parties there must now be pondering whether more reforms might be necessary. Saudi Arabia walked a delicate line in declaring that Mubarak be treated with respect while being tossed from office by an angry populace.

A quick and easy list of potential losers in Middle East could include any and all of the countries above, with Tunisia, Yemen and Iraq included. However, Ilan Berman of the Foreign Policy Research Institute, a non-profit group focusing on the development of policies that advance U.S. national interests, sees a different list.

Iran is on Berman’s on the list of possible losers.  He notes that the protests in Egypt might only embolden the opposition within Iran. If so, among the biggest losers could be Iran’s current leadership.  It’s a fact not lost on Iran’s leadership. Their recent actions betray their nervousness.

The Islamic Republic News Agency carried warnings this past Wednesday from a senior commander of the Revolutionary Guard saying that the Guard, “ will strongly suppress any movement or action,” by the opposition. The next day, one of Iran’s most prominent opposition leaders, Mehdi Karroubi, was placed under house arrest.

Those actions are in stark contrast to the declaration by Iran’s Ayatollah Ahmad Katami.  The Ayatollah proclaimed the uprising in Egypt as an awakening of Islam.  On January 28 at Friday prayers, the Ayatollah said, "To those who do not see the realities, I clarify that an Islamic Middle East is being created based on Islam, religion, and democracy with prevailing religious principals."   Every action since that declaration has dealt with crushing any political opposition.

Another group on Berman’s list… the protestors in Egypt. His reasoning is found in history.   Iranian protestors who participated in the1979 overthrow of the Shah are not the ones who seized power. Berman sees a parallel between then and now in that the angry protestors in Egypt are united in their anger but not in knowing what they want.  And it is the group that knows what it wants that usually seizes power.  In 1979 it was the radical Islamists.  In Egypt, that group is the military.

According to Berman’s rough estimations, the military controls 40% of the economy. Maybe more importantly, the military controls the path to the Presidency. Mubarak came from the military. Before Mubarak there was Sadat and before him Nasser… all military men.

In terms of stability, that might bode well for the region. The army is already encouraging a return to normalcy; telling people to go back to work and their routines. It is the military that is pledging to honor the peace treaty with Israel.

The military holds the reins of power. It has never shown any signs of dropping those reins. The protestors have succeeded in getting rid of Mubarak but they haven’t succeeded in overthrowing the government.

Source List:

For Bill Tucker’s bio click here.

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