In Uncertain Egypt, a Few Certainties

by Amir Taheri

On its first day without Hosni Mubarak, Egypt is full of uncertainties. However, let us deal with the certainties. The first is that the uprising against Mubarak brought together Egyptians from all walks of life and from all political and religious affinities. This was a genuinely popular and, at least in its first stages, spontaneous uprising inspired by what had happened in Tunisia, with its “Jasmine Revolution.”

This means a possible reversal of the historic pattern in which political and cultural trends originate in the eastern part of the “Arab world,” with Egypt as the center. This time, the trend came from Tunisia in the west, with its remarkable mix of Arab and European sensibilities.

However, it is clear to me that change in Tunisia was ultimately imposed by the army. In Egypt, on the other hand, the army tried to prop up Mubarak until the last minute. It was the popular uprising that forced Mubarak out. This means that we have just witnessed a genuinely historic moment: the first time an Arab despot has been forced out by a mass movement.

The second certainty is that the Obama administration discredited itself by praising Mubarak to the skies before trying to dictate his departure. That sorry exercise revealed the weakness of the United States while casting it as a fickle friend that might stab you in the back.

The third certainty is that radical anti-democratic forces are already preparing to ambush the new Egypt. The first move in that direction came from Syria last night when its official television station announced “the end of the Camp David peace” with Israel and urged the adoption of a new strategy to “face the Zionist foe.” Iran, though shaken by an Egyptian uprising that echoed its own pro-democracy movement in 2009, is developing a similar theme.

Amir Taheri is the author of The Persian Night: Iran under the Khomeinist Revolution.