Over the last hundred years there have been similar situations when longtime, seemingly entrenched regimes were set upon by a myriad of disparate forces focused on immediate change. What can we expect to emerge in Cairo after Mubarak’s fall in light of historical patterns?
Analysis of the chaos in Egypt since January has consumed much of the talking head time on American television and yet almost none of these pundits has properly discussed the context of this process compared to the great revolutions of the twentieth century. How are these events similar to the Russian Revolution? How is the flow of these events mimicking the history of the ouster of the Shah?
One of the key leaders of the Iranian Revolution was Ali Khamenei and he was a close comrade of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. Khamenei has led Iran as the Supreme Leader since June 1989 and to date is the only person to hold this post other than Khomeini. In the Iranian government structure he is senior to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
On February 4, 2011 Ayatollah Khamenei gave a sermon on the situation in Egypt and there is much we can learn from his remarks.
Khamenei states that “The awakening of the Muslim Egyptian people is an Islamic liberation movement.”
He calls for the Islamic forces in Egypt to learn from what happened in Iran:
“We believe that the following experience could be beneficial to the current circumstances: First, the awakening of the peoples is, in fact, a war between two wills — the will of the people and the will of its enemies. Second, the enemy tries to sow despair about achieving your goals. Third, the enemy sends his well-equipped security forces against you in order to spread terror and chaos among the people. Do not fear them. You are stronger than those mercenaries.”
In his review of the situation Khamenei sees a populist struggle and at the same time blasts Mubarak and Anwar Sadat for their relationship with Israel and the U.S.:
“The great chasm between the Egyptian state and people has been revealed, a chasm formed following the Treaty of Shame of Camp David. The Egyptian people sacrificed their lives to help the Palestinians in 1967 and 1973, only to see, with their very eyes, their leaders hastening down the path of collaboration with and obedience to the U.S., to the point of turning Egypt into a loyal ally of the plundering Zionist enemy.”
Let’s just pause for a moment and set one thing straight. The truth is Egypt’s repeated attempts to drive Israel into the sea had little if anything to with the Palestinian Arabs. In reality it was comprised of one part pan-Arab nationalism and one part good old-fashioned anti-Semitism.
Now back to Khamenei. He warns of a possible Egyptian civil war, stating:
“The Egyptian army, which bears on its chest decorations from at least two wars with the Zionist enemy, is facing a great historic test today. The enemy wants to spur this army to oppress the masses. If this happens, God forbid, it would constitute an unbridgeable breach in the ranks of this proud army. The Zionist enemy, not the Egyptian people, should tremble in fear of the Egyptian army. There is no doubt that the members of the Egyptian army, which is part of the Egyptian people, will join the masses, Allah willing. Then this sweet experience will repeat itself in Egypt.”
So there is the question: What will eventually happen after the “masses” are successful in driving Mubarak out?
There should be little doubt that a Western-style liberal democracy will be just about the last thing that will materialize in Egypt. The actors (both foreign and domestic) who have orchestrated this all from the start are “in it to win it” in a way that the other participants simply cannot fathom.
Hamas, elements of the Muslim Brotherhood and other Iranian surrogates acting in Iran are behind the dusting off of the same playbook used by Ayatollah Khomeini and before him by the Bolsheviks.
The Islamists will use the other forces that are dedicated to the downfall of the government to make sure that regime change happens. After the revolution they will utilize the ensuing chaos to brutally purge these former allies from their midst. In the end these Iranian protégées will be the last intact faction left standing with the strength and the will to lead. This is what happened in both Russian and Iran.
Ken Pollack is the director of the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution and seems to understand this aspect of the events in Egypt. The February 3 “Meet the Press at Brookings” program featuring Pollack was broadcast on C-Span.
Pollack had this to say about Egypt:
“Revolutions are inherently unstable and unpredictable situations. Mohamed ElBaradei might be the leader that Egypt needs to transition to democracy, but, you know, there are a lot of historical examples that ought to make us very cautious. Alexander Kerensky, Mefty Bozergan — there have been lots of kind of good, moderate liberals who inserted into a revolutionary situation who were swept away. And one of the things we ought to think about when we think about both the Brotherhood and the situation of the opposition today is the Muslim Brotherhood — they’re the Mensheviks of the Egyptian revolution. The Bolsheviks of the Egyptian revolution are sitting in caves in Pakistan, and I think that Ayman al-Zawahiri, and Egyptian Islamic Jihad, which is a critical element of al-Qaeda, are probably right now, if they haven’t already done so, thinking this is our moment, this the revolution we have been trying to create for 30 years in Egypt, and my guess is that like Lenin through that sealed train through Germany in World War I, they are trying as hard as they can to get their people back to Egypt to stir up the situation, to seize this revolution from the moderates himself.” (See the entire transcript here.)
Think about what the Ayatollah said. Think about what Pollack said. And think about the foolish American pundits and politicians that are happy about the prospect of the end of Mubarak’s reign.
How can anyone who claims to be a patriot or a conservative be pleased to see Mubarak go if the end result is the creation of another sturdy spoke of the Axis of Evil–the creation of another enemy of the United States?