Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Moderates in Egypt ?

Egyptian "Moderates"

The situation in Egypt remains murky as Vice President Omar Suleiman talks with opposition leaders about what comes next. FPIF contributor Islam Qasem, in Three Possible Scenarios for Egypt, sketches out the trajectories: Mubarak rides out the storm, he resigns but leaves the regime intact, or there's a more-or-less clean sweep. The last alternative, which the protestors are demanding, will be the most interesting: "Egyptian society will have to endure a hard period of transition, during which lessons will have to be learned in political compromise, pragmatism, and consensus," he writes. "At the same time, Islamists of all stripes and colors will be emboldened."
The Obama administration has largely echoed the current Egyptian leadership's calls for "orderly transition." As FPIF contributors Asli Bali and Aziz Rana explain in The Fake Moderation of America's Moderate Mideast Allies, the frame of "order versus chaos" is a false one, for the protestors have been the orderly party in the conflict. Meanwhile, "the regime that Western leaders have lauded for decades as a beacon of moderation has unleashed its salaried, plainclothes security personnel to loot its own cities, set fire to its streets, and attack unarmed protesters with Molotov cocktails, knives, U.S.-supplied tear gas canisters, and live ammunition. The new Vice President Suleiman now promises to employ the same security services to arrest those the regime chooses to blame for the disorder and violence it has wrought."
In light of its wishy-washy response to the protests in Egypt and earlier in Tunisia, the United States should rethink its whole approach to democracy promotion. "The lesson of Tunis, Sanaa, and Cairo is that democracy rhetoric is more than a strategy for the assertion of American dominance," writes FPIF contributor Abena Ampofoa Asare in Regime Change Redux. "On the contrary, it is a language that fuses moral and political power into a radical claim that every human being deserves a voice in the decisions that affect their daily lives. The United States tried to promote democracy through the barrel of a gun. It's time now for Washington to support democracy in the Middle East by pressing its authoritarian allies to put their guns away."

Finally, in an interview with FPIF, Middle East expert and blogger extraordinaire Juan Cole talks about the jailed Islamists in Egypt. In contrast to extremist Sayeed Qutb, one of the intellectual progenitors of al-Qaeda who spent several years in Egyptian jail before his ultimate execution, "the people jailed in Egypt in the 1990s tended to be reflective about what happened to them, about whether they were right about shooting down innocent tourists," Cole said. "The Islamic group Gama'a Islamiya actually broke with the blind sheikh Omar Abdel-Rahman, and the leadership in prison started to issue repentance pamphlets. These are short chapbooks in which they reinterpret their own history and the Qur'an. They argue, at least on a practical basis, for a non-violent strategy. The leadership of the movement was announcing themselves as peaceful activists henceforth."
Don't forget to visit our Focal Points blog, which is buzzing with information and insight on Egypt and the uprising's implications for U.S. policy toward the Middle East.
From Foreign Policy in Focus.
Note. Last year the Obama Administration, and Secretary Hillary Clinton, held out for a "moderate" resolution to the Honduran Coup.  In the end, the old guard stayed in power and the elected President was dismissed. 
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