President Obama’s calls for a rapid transition to a new order in Egypt seemed eclipsed on Wednesday as a choreographed surge of thousands of people chanting support for the Egyptian leader, Hosni Mubarak, fought running battles with a larger number of antigovernment protesters in and around Cairo’s Tahrir Square.
The mayhem and chaos — with riders on horses and camels thundering through the central square — offered a complete contrast to the scenes only 24 hours earlier when hundreds of thousands of antigovernment protesters turned it into a place of jubilant celebration, believing that they were close to overthrowing a leader who has survived longer than any other in modern Egypt.
Perhaps Obama will realize soon that It’s Time To Earn that Nobel Peace Prize, but don’t hold your breath.
Bernard Lewis granted Jay Nordlinger an extremely rare telephone interview (I have spoken with Mr Lewis in the past and he usually does not grant interviews)
Lewis says, first of all, that “it’s too early to say anything definitive” — anything definitive about Egypt. He is too smart, too experienced to make many pronouncements while events are in flux. He says, “Things look a little better than they did” a couple of days ago. “But they could go badly wrong.”
“The immediate alternatives are not attractive.” What are those? “Continuation, in some modified form, of the present regime, or a takeover by the Muslim Brotherhood. Obviously, the former is better.”
Are we witnessing a democratic revolt? “I don’t know what ‘democratic’ would mean in this context. It is certainly a popular revolt.” Egyptians are suffering from both unfreedom and material want. (They usually go hand in hand.) “The economic situation in Egypt is very, very bad. A large percentage live below the poverty line.”
Here is something to bear in mind: “The fact that this regime,” the Mubarak regime, “has good relations with the United States and Israel only seems to discredit the idea of good relations with the United States and Israel.”
And here is a question of the hour: Is Egypt 2011 like Iran 1979? Lewis: “Yes, there are certain similarities. I hope we don’t repeat the same mistakes.” The Carter administration handled events in Iran “poorly.”
The Obama administration should ponder something, as should we all: “At the moment, the general perception, in much of the Middle East, is that the United States is an unreliable friend and a harmless enemy. I think we want to give the exact opposite impression”: one of being a reliable friend and a dangerous enemy. “That is the way to be perceived.”
IBS editorial points out that Egypt Means Real Trouble For Israel, while the Wall Street Journal has a symposium on Where Should Egypt Go From Here?
Protests in Egypt have rocked the country’s political order, and last night President Hosni Mubarak announced he would not run in the September presidential election. Four experts—Francis Fukuyama, Ryan Crocker, Maajid Nawaz and Amr Bargisi—weigh in on where Egypt should go from here.
Phyllis Chesler asks, Am I the Only One Troubled By Cairo Street Scenes? Indeed, Phyllis is not the only one – go read her article to see why.