Things That Might Happen In The Mid East

by Daniel Russ on February 4, 2011

Hosni Mubarak

It might be a great thing for Israel or the US to have Mubarak removed. It won’t be an easy thing. After three bloody Israeli/Egyptian wars, he kept his own country out of war with Israel for 30 years. That peace brokered by Jimmie Carter in 1979 has been very fortuitous to the Mid East. Oil and natural gas flows freely through the Suez Canal and robust trade between Israel the US and Egypt has been profitable and peaceful. In the early photos emerging from the Internet blackout we saw two jets circling Cairo. F-16s it turns out. Yes, a lot hs changed since those days of the outright war with Israel. Israel relies on Egypt to help stem the flow of arms in underground tunnels into Gaza. The very fact that there has been peace has given us a gift in that the largest Arab country in the area hasn’t been fulcrum forcing up oil prices.

Now all that may change.

So you see a government in contention with US Mideast policy could mean the end of whatever Secretary Clinton’s plans were for Mid East peace. Right now Israel has a hard core hard-liner in place as Prime Minister and this guy is not going to want to see what the Arabs are demanding as change: a separate and fully independent Palestinian state. And the pressure on governments around the Mid East from Tunisia to Yemen to Lebanon to Egypt means more instability. Instability, by the way, is the state that Islamic radicals operate in the easiest. So while governments are being toppled, the worst are full of passionate intensity. Look at these moments for radicals to begin car bombs.

Things I think about for the Mid East.

1) First of all this is the French Revolution in Cairo and Alexandria. Mubarak is going down. What’s in question is how much blood will be shed. The revolution is empowered by co-revolutions going on around them. No one wants to blink first. Mubarak though will not leave unless – sorry to be cynical – and until we figure out how to secure our own oil and gas shipments and Israel gets free usage of the Suez Canal. The deals for his departure are being made right now.

2) US had been weakened by Mubarak. Mubarak had a horribly corrupt and repressive secret police and the Egyptians resent it. They also remember that the United States backed this guy for three decades.

F-16 Over Cairo

That sets us back a bit diplomatically. Obama is in a quandary yet he has to back away from Mubarak and let the people who are speaking in streets everyday have their day. The International Business Times reveals that released Wiki-Leaks cables revealed that the US was secretly playing both ends against the middle by supporting Mubarak’s opposition, hedging their bets, maybe even aware that an insurrection was fermenting.


3) Hezbollah might begin a war with Israel and it might unfold like this: Israel effectively retaliates, or hits back at the infrastructure that they didn’t already destroy five years ago. Lebanese Army strikes a deal with Israel to cooperate in a fight against Hezbollah.

4) Hamas gets a helping hand from the new sympathetic Egyptian government. More Kasam rockets into Israel.

5) Hezbollah and Hamas decide to strike together.

6) Israel falls behind in a conflict and we have to physically save them, troops equipment, etcetera. This way, they look like nothing but puppets of the US.

7) Egyptian government falls, no replacement can take hold so the military must take control. Street strife continues unabated. Yet restoring the Egyptian Internet is great news. It means that even the despots are vulnerable to their own kill switch.

8] Arab monarchs in Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Qatar, UAE are all looking over their shoulders and wondering what they would do if a local insurgency grew to open protests in the streets. I will bet you right now all of them are re-examining their escape plans for themselves and their families. The result may be civil conflicts across the Persian Gulf. Sometimes this results in new countries. At the end of the day the fight is between people who realize that they simply cannot lose and a regime that feels it better not fall. This is why Mubarak appears to be doubling down on the violence. If he falls, the other monarchs will panic.

9) I have written about the new nation hypothesis quote a bit and in the time since I started this blog there is already  a new nation about to be born on maps across the world. Sudan is also about to become North and South Sudan. The unchecked violence between the despotic north and the tribal south has worn everyone out. They would rather have a closer border and a split country than the violence visited upon them over the last decade. This trend will continue all throughout the Mid East.

10) There is no magical I Love Democracy fever paroxysm going on across the Arab world. I belief that regime change doesn’t always translate into a change of governance. There are probably more Arabs who are comfortable with a benign but strong monarch. Democracy in a nation split like Egypt would be carnival like.

11) Finally-this is an open sourced insurgency and the politically aligned Islamic conservatives and progressives are using open networks to communicate, empathize, learn, and execute these protests. In Egypt we are looking at the clash between grass roots protests and astro-turf protests. The rebellion is grass root, the Mubarak supporters showing up are paid for.

Of course I pray that some emperors for life get taken down and people get a chance to have some sort of representative government in place. Oh, just a little peace.

I will leave you with this piece by Scott Horton from Foreign Policy Online.

Time was when a dictator like Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak, watching his hold on power crumbling in the face of an uprising, had plenty of retirement options. Odds were he could find a quiet life in one of Europe’s posher watering holes: Mougins in the hills above Cannes, on the shores of Lake Geneva, or maybe a smart Belgravia townhouse. He generally had plenty of cash parked outside the country and often would take a last dip in the treasury on the way out the door. To be sure, he had to keep his wits about him to avoid anarchists and assassins, and he had to avoid too much obvious meddling in his homeland’s politics lest this jeopardize his host’s grant of asylum. But he could usually look forward to a peaceful and comfortable run for his waning days.

So why is Mubarak trying to squeeze a few more months out of his three-decade career in office and avowing his intentions to stay in Egypt rather than packing for the Riviera? It may be because exile isn’t what it used to be; over the last 30 years, things have gotten increasingly difficult for dictators in flight. Successor regimes launch criminal probes; major efforts are mounted to identify assets that may have been stripped or looted by the autocrat, or more commonly, members of his immediate family. I witnessed this process myself, twice being asked by newly installed governments in Central Eurasia to advise them on asset recovery measures focusing on the deposed former leader and his family.

More menacingly, human rights lawyers and international prosecutors may take a close look at the tools the deposed dictator used to stay in power: Did he torture? Did he authorize the shooting of adversaries? Did he cause his enemies to “disappear”? Was there a mass crackdown that resulted in dozens or hundreds of deaths? A trip to The Hague or another tribunal might be in his future. Slobodan Milosevic, who died while on trial there, and Charles Taylor, whose prosecution there is expected to wind up later this month, furnish examples that any decamping dictator would need to keep in mind.

The dictator may well proclaim his altruistic, patriotic motives, tout his service to the country, and insist on his intention to die on his native soil, as Mubarak did in his rambling non-concession speech on Feb. 1. But more likely than not, a frantic effort is under way behind the scenes to ensure that, if he leaves, he will not face the nightmare of criminal probes and battles over assets. A friendly government offering sanctuary may quickly conclude in the face of such a barrage that its old friend just isn’t worth the effort and the damage to reputation associated with sheltering him.

There’s no doubt that the endgame for Mubarak involves many of these concerns and backroom machinations. So, how can Mubarak protect himself if he eventually makes an escape from Cairo? He’s taking the usual steps now. Start with his decision to install foreign intelligence chief and CIA confidant Omar Suleiman as vice president and constitutional successor. (Mubarak himself came to the presidency through this route; he had been Anwar Sadat’s vice president.) This comes close to matching what in the Russian-speaking world is known as the “Putin option,” a reference to the exit strategy adopted by a teetering Boris Yeltsin: Fearing possible retribution from opposition figures, Yeltsin opted to surrender power through a transitional period to a wily senior player in the intelligence community. In exchange, Yeltsin is said to have extracted a firm commitment from Putin that the full machinery of the Russian state would be mustered to protect him. There would be no criminal probes or inquiries, and no cooperation with foreigners who undertook the same. Yeltsin would be free to live his final days shuttling between Moscow and the French Riviera. Putin scrupulously kept his end of the bargain.

Egyptian Protests


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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Eusebio Vandenburgh February 11, 2011 at 11:26 pm

Pres. Mubarak steps down, Jerry Sloan steps down, dictators everywhere are trembling.

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