Monday, January 31, 2011

On the banks of the Nile

I haven’t written anything on the situation in Egypt because I have no more foresight than any of the other guessers out there. I will say that I’m not extraordinarily optimistic. I don’t see Mohamed El-Baradei as being an able, confidence-inspiring alternative (my recollection is that he considerably underestimated Iranian nuclear capabilities when he was Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency - he has been called an Iranian tool by some - and is just generally a specimen of international bureaucrat who probably lacks the acumen to navigate the tricky, and frequently violent, waters of Middle Eastern politics).

What about the Muslim Brotherhood? They’ve been around since the 1920s and have a strong social network, although they’ve never coalesced as a political party. If you believe the Brookings Institution, meh, they’re nothing to really worry about (pardon me while I laugh sardonically). Whether this Islamist outfit could overcome resistance by Egypt’s sizable (though not majority) secularist population remains to be seen.

I welcome reader observations and opinions. What do you think is going on? How do you think it will all fall out?

Update: More from Stacy on the the Muslim Brotherhood.


JeffS said...

It's hard to say. Egypt, for all that it's an "Arab nation" (whatever that means), is more westernized than other Middle Eastern nations.

On the other hand, Iran is no doubt salivating at the chance of having an Islamic fundamentalist government running Egypt, and is likely pulling out all the stops.

We'll have to wait and see.

The one thing that I'm sure of: Obama won't lift a finger to help, even (especially?) if it looks like the Islamists are taking over there.

Yojimbo said...

I'm scared to death that the whole region is starting to unwind and there is not one adult in sight. We have a bunch of petulant little brats on this side of the water and a bunch of green leaders in Europe with only Merkel of Germany showing any leadership skills. I don't like the fact that this administration seems so sanguine at the prospect of all of the pro-American leadership in the region getting the boot.

My opinion is this guy is gone in the next few days and some weak government will be put in place which will last for a few months before the Muslim Brotherhood comes in to fill the void. Only strong organizations fill vacuums and they are the only strong organization in town, so to speak. This group will probably support them because they are naive enough to think that they are the Arab version of the Peace Corps or something. They will then be shocked when these guys drop the hammer over there.

That was my opinion. My opinion and five bucks will be just enough to get that five buck coffee from that famous vendor.

What I do know is this. Japan is up strong. Korea and Australia are up solid. Hong Kong is up and China is flat. The stock index futures have a very positive build and are screaming to the upside. If this continues we will be up strong at the opening tomorrow. So much for the Fallus Gigantus Friday with those hysterical calls of $200 oil. You couldn't get $200 oil out of this even if they closed the Suez. You are only going to get that price if they close the Strait of Hormuz or Nigeria falls. That's what I know.

mojo said...

Lotta dead people, any way it goes. ElBaradi? Don't make me laugh. Hard-Nose Hosni could barely keep it together for the last decade, even with some smart, tough and utterly ruthless vizers and lotsa sugar from unka sammie. I think what finally got him was the whole dynastic succession thing with Mubarak fils. That did not sit well.

Israel is justifiably nervous, ditto the Sauds, Iran and Syria, plus thei Hizbullie buds, all on the prod and all it will take is one tiny spark.

JeffS said...

Having read Stacy's dispatch, I'm still unsure as to the outcome. Commenter "Joe" claims to have lived and worked in Egypt, and isn't terribly worried.

On the other hand, there are a whole of foaming-at-the-mouth crazies over there, just looking for an excuse to kill infidels. God knows there's plenty of hardware for the job. This could turn into a Egyptian civil war, and a bloody one at that.

So I'll just add this to my earlier comment: If things go south, there will be no half-measures. Things will likely go bad quickly.

I won't define "bad", because in the Middle East, there is no such thing as digging a hole too deep.

bruce said...

Christian Copts are 10 or up to 20 per cent of the population of Egypt, it is said. Not an insignificant amount.

Mostly garbage scavengers, they can't be pushed any lower, and can't be eliminated outright.

Things may get more messy but not worse than Mubarak, because any solution has to include some concession to the Copts.

Yojimbo said...

They've been solutioning Copts at a fairly brisk pace lately as part of their Christian Urban Renewal Barrage.

JorgXMcKie said...

I suspect that Westerners, even living in Egypt, fail to understand 'religion' at any realistic level. That's probably because too many Westerners have only weak associations with religion themselves and tend to believe that "Believers" don't really mean it.

I suspect that many Egyptian Muslims are more "religious" than Westerners think, and the MB will have quite a lot of traction.


bruce said...

Yojimbo, Wretchard had some good comments of the bite-back effect of anti-Copt 'urban renewal':

And this uprising now may itself be a street response to recent oppression of the Copts. They're certainly out in it, and Islamic extremists on the street are being shouted down ('We are all Egyptians!'). Islamists were all but running Egypt under Mubarak anyway. I'm not saying things will get better, but they could. I doubt it will be worse.

I think Wretchard lives just a couple towns away from me. I must try and meet him, I agree with what he says, and can see what he sees.

bruce said...

*Urgent clarification: I doubt things could get worse for Egyptians. But Christians and Muslims in Egypt could agree on things which would be much worse for the rest of us, such as if they start a war with Israel...

See why I never got that job as policy adviser?