By Mehdi Khan
With the overthrow of the dictatorship in Tunisia (and soon to be Egypt), the world is in apprehension as to who will take the reins of leadership. But in such a volatile part of the world, it is only natural for conflicts of interest, and only time will tell which group will come out on top. With Egypt being so close to the state of Israel, the Israeli government is watching the situation unfold very closely, meeting every few hours to discuss the situation. Meanwhile, Israeli embassy staff have been evacuated from Egypt amidst the turmoil.
Mubarak has historically been instrumental in pushing the Israeli agenda on his nation, playing a major role in supporting the humanitarian blockade of Gaza through the closing of the Rafah Border Crossing and through the construction of a steel wall along the Gaza-Egyptian border in order to stifle Palestinian smuggling tunnels. Due to Mubarak’s loyalty towards Israel and the United States, Vice President Joe Biden has come out against the pro-democracy movement saying to PBS Jim Lehrer that “Mubarak has been an ally of ours in a number of things. And he’s been very responsible on, relative to geopolitical interest in the region, the Middle East peace efforts; the actions Egypt has taken relative to normalizing relationship with – with Israel. … I would not refer to him as a dictator”. Moreover, rather than supporting the will of the people for democracy he has said that “the time has come for President Mubarak to begin to move in the direction that – to be more responsive to some… of the needs of the people out there.”
Recent Wikileaks revelations as reported by The Telegraph (see: Egypt protests: America’s secret backing for rebel leaders behind uprising dated January 29, 2011) and the Russia Today television network state that as far back as 2007 the United States was hosting key opposition leaders and pro-democracy activists from Egypt ain New York. This clearly shows that despite giving billions in military and economic aid to Hosni Mubarak’s regime, the United States did not keep all its eggs in one basket; knowing that the end of the 30 year dictatorship was inevitable. By not relying solely on Mubarak, the US and Israel have prepared for a new government that will still maintain Israeli interests in the region.
So the question remains, when the smoke clears what is the fate for Egypt’s leadership? If Mubarak does concede power and a national unity government is formed, many are eyeing Mohamed ElBaradei—the former Director General of the IAEA for this role. In his tenure as Director General, he maintained the status quo by pushing the US agenda on Iran while ignoring the secret nuclear program of Israel. He has had a close relationship with the West historically –he was an adjunct Professor at NYU School of Law, he is a part of the American Society of International Law, and like Mubarak’s son Gamal, his daughter also lives in London. A government under Elbaradei will in all likelihood maintain the status quo vis-à-vis Israel (just as it was when he was IAEA Director General) but introduce more reforms domestically.
Although there are definitely foreign interests at play in the Egyptian uprising, it is still a revolution of the people. The north African revolt has made one thing clear: dictatorships are not immutable. They are governments made by human beings that can be toppled if the masses stand together to demand their rights. The pangs of revolution may come once again to this volatile region if justice fails to be established. After being subdued for half a century under dictatorships, the people have finally woken from their slumber to demand their rights.