Is Egypt about to erupt in a full-blown revolution that could lead to the fall of President Hosni Mubarak’s regime? Might Jordan’s government be next?
One thing’s for certain: No one predicted the demonstrations in Egypt would grow so big so fast. Momentum for the protests is growing. A Facebook page promoting the democracy protests grew from 20,000 members on Wednesday to 80,000 on Thursday. The government then reportedly shut down Facebook, and disrupted Internet service in parts of the country. Twitter has been blocked. Police are beating protesters. As of Friday, more than 1,000 Egyptians have been arrested for demonstrating. Now an overnight curfew has been imposed and the Egyptian army has been deployed to urban centers.
One key factor fueling events: economics. Egyptians have been suffering double-digit inflation — averaging between 10 percent and 14 percent — and soaring food prices in recent years. Reports Reuters: “The Food and Agriculture Organization, a body of the United Nations, said on January 5 that food prices hit a ‘record high’ in December 2010, topping 2008 levels when riots shook Egypt as well as other countries.”
Most Egyptians are already dirt poor. Skyrocketing food prices are causing them to fear they may not be able to feed their families. This is creating a “perfect storm” of anger against the Mubarak regime — it’s corrupt, authoritarian, anti–human rights, and resistant to all positive economic and political reform. It’s been bad for the 30 years Mubarak has been in power, since the assassination of Pres. Anwar Sadat, the bold reformer. But now Egyptians are being pushed over the brink.
Calls for Mubarak to step down are growing. “Mohamed ElBaradei, the former head of the U.N. nuclear watchdog turned Egyptian reform campaigner, said he expected big demonstrations across Egypt on Friday, and that it was time for President Hosni Mubarak to go,” reported Reuters. “ElBaradei, 68, left Vienna, where he lives, for Cairo on Thursday to join a growing wave of protests against Mubarak inspired by Tunisia’s overthrow of their authoritarian president. He told Reuters he would not lead the street rallies, but that his role was ‘to manage the change politically.’” On Friday, however, ElBaradei was placed under house arrest in Egypt.
In my 2009 non-fiction book Inside The Revolution, I described Mubarak as a “classic Resister.” While nominally a Sunni Muslim, he’s not an Islamic radical. He’s not a revolutionary of any kind. To the contrary, he doesn’t want real change of any kind. He just wants to retain power, keep things stable, keep wealth and power for himself, and pass the keys to the kingdom on to his son Gamal. But such resistance to positive change is inflaming the “rank-and-file,” everyday Egyptians who feel increasingly desperate and see others in the region (Tunisians, Iraqis, and the people of southern Sudan) changing their governments and having more of a say in affairs of state. Egyptians are yearning for something better, and now they’ve taken to the streets in hopes of getting it.
Meanwhile, protests have mounted in recent days in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. There, too, economics is playing a critical role. Reports the AP: “The economy saw a record deficit of $2 billion this year, inflation rising … to 6.1 percent just last month and rampant unemployment and poverty — estimated at 12 and 25 percent respectively. ‘The government buys cars and spends lavishly on its parties and travel, while many Jordanians are jobless or can barely put food on their tables to feed their hungry children,’ said civil servant Mahmoud Thiabat, 31, a father of three who earns $395 a month.”
In Egypt, I don’t see the protests being driven initially or primarily by the Muslim Brotherhood (which started in Egypt in the 1920s) or by other radical Muslim groups, though the Islamists are certainly trying to take advantage. This would be a nightmare scenario we must pray never happens. We don’t want this to be another Iranian Revolution where an Islamic-radical madman takes over. If Mubarak falls, we want to see a group of pro-democracy, pro-free market, serious reformers come to power.
In Jordan, there is a very high risk that Islamic radicals would take over the regime. As I write in Inside The Revolution, “It is precisely because the Jordanians have made such progress [with positive political and economic reforms in the past two decades] that I am worried by the Radicals’ determination to launch a jihad there, seize the capital, and create a new anti-Israel, anti-Western base for Iran and al Qaeda. Therefore, I often pray for Jordan’s peace, prosperity and continued progress. I pray for King Abdullah’s health and safety, and I pray that the Lord would grant him the wisdom to know how best to move forward in such challenging times.”
On top of all this, the Iranian-backed Hezbollah terror movement has just toppled the government in Lebanon. Iran’s leaders are convinced their so-called messiah known as the Twelfth Imam is coming to earth at any moment, and feverishly trying to build nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles to help usher in a new messianic age and an Islamic caliphate.
Unfortunately, the Obama administration doesn’t get it. “Our assessment is that the Egyptian government is stable and is looking for ways to respond to the legitimate needs and interests of the Egyptian people,” said Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Is she kidding? The Mubarak regime is not stable. It is an authoritarian, corrupt, anti–human rights, anti–free speech regime. The Egyptian people deserve better. They deserve freedom and democracy and free markets. Perhaps the greatest democracy in the world should be backing them.