It will be said that the United States will always be blamed, no matter what it does, and that it will be considered a party to conspiracy, regardless of any steps it actually. This may be true, yet it does not negate the necessity of correcting policies and pursuing different tracks. There are today in the Arab region several points of view on what is the US policy towards the protesters in Egypt and towards President Hosni Mubarak. One point of view claims that the Obama Administration rushed to evade the crisis and abandon Mubarak, thereby strengthening its longstanding reputation of being untrustworthy and of using friends then discarding them when they have become useless or when they are weak – as usual. Some of those who are of this opinion believe that the United States abandons its allies after formulating alternative policies. In such a case, the alternative policy would be, according to them, to encourage Islamist political parties to attain power in several Arab countries, purposely. Why? Because surrounding Israel with Arab countries that have religious regimes would justify two of Israel’s goals: first the goal of turning Israel into a purely “Jewish state” devoid of non-Jews, with all that this would require in terms of policies, measures, forced expulsions and so forth; and second, surrounding Israel with what it considers Muslim extremism in Egypt, Lebanon and Jordan- and perhaps Syria if necessary- would “free” Israel of the process of making peace and the pressure it entails. In fact, it would justify any measures it might need to take, either to fulfill its dream of turning Jordan into the “alternative homeland” for the Palestinians, or to carry out military operations through the Lebanese arena, where Hezbollah’s missiles are and where Iran sought to have its own military base.
The other point of view is based on the theory of making use of supporting the passion of the youth and promoting clinging to the principles of democracy and freedom of expression while the military apparatus in both countries discuss means of containing the uprising. Such means could include merely rehabilitating the role of the army so that it may retain control of the country following the political reform measures imposed by the youth revolution – which has so far led to doing away with plans of the Egyptian President handing down power to his son Gamal Mubarak, as well as aborting Hosni Mubarak’s run for President. Such means might also include taking stronger measures such as a military coup with all that it would require in terms of making use of military authority to take control of the country.
It is so far unclear whether the army will chose to be the Regime’s army or the State’s army. There is the scent of division of opinion and hesitancy among the ranks of the army, but it is not a scent of disintegration, sectarian division or loss of the ability to take control.
Clearly everyone agrees that Hosni Mubarak should leave, even Mubarak himself, who declared his desire to finish his term in September, so as to be the caretaker of the transitional process towards a new Egypt, with constitutional amendments and a respectable exit for him from power. The disagreement is over the timing, manner and conditions of leaving, and the army’s opinion in this respect is decisive.
The Youth Revolution is right to oppose Hosni Mubarak’s clinging to power and insistence on handing it down to his son, alongside the widespread corruption in the ranks close to power. The youth is right in demanding freedom, democracy, livelihood, job opportunities and the right to protest and express one’s opinion. Moreover, the Youth Revolution has been quite the opposite of what Iran’s leaders and Hezbollah have tried to portray as one basically echoing the Iranian revolution. Indeed, it has not carried the slogan of “enmity towards America” as they have, and has not positioned itself as calling for bringing down the peace treaty with Israel. In fact, there is resentment among the ranks of the protesters towards the statements made by both Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah, who tried to politicize the youth revolution in a way that had never occurred to those protesting.
Clearly there is confusion and incoherence among the ranks of the protesters, as there is also division over how to bid Hosni Mubarak farewell. Many admit that there is much he has given Egypt, and that, had it not been for the economic openness and reforms he introduced, he would not have exposed himself to becoming so fragile, and would have perhaps remained shielded by his rejection of reform, and therefore remained in power – just like others who have shielded themselves with refusing reform in order to prevent democracy.
For these reasons, it is not necessary for the youth revolution to make the exile Mubarak as the sole slogan of the revolution. Rather, it would be better for it if his leaving was just part of the revolution’s goals – not a goal in and of itself. There is therefore enough space for creative formulas that would allow Mubarak to gradually leave power, according to a fixed timetable, yet in effect before the end of his term in office, even if the date is in theory that of his term limit. There is dire need for a mechanism for the transition process, one that would be based on real, not symbolic, participation of opposition leaders – the youth among them in addition to the Muslim Brotherhood and other serious political parties.
And of course, the means are available to Hosni Mubarak to protect Egypt from slipping into a military confrontation between the army and the people, most importantly the means of listening. Indeed, the President has heard from Tahrir Square and from other cities that his people are ready to bid him farewell. He is better off making his departure from power a farewell for him, even if the people of Egypt end up divided between those who remember his achievements and those who only remember the corruption. Indeed, if he truly takes the initiative of launching a serious transition, it could change his path to leaving power from a humiliating exile to a farewell with some appreciation.
The Obama Administration has a role to play in such a conclusion, if it would only think strategically and use its influence with high-ranking leaders in the Egyptian army with whom it has deep relations. Nevertheless, Washington must not look like it is interfering either in a peaceful or armed military coup. There is talk of the possibility that the military institution contains the people’s revolution in order to adopt or appease it after which there would be regime- that is de facto guaranteed by the army- albeit with a broadened political system in which all political parties would participate A regime that would end political seclusion and open a new chapter of reform. Then the army would have opted to be the State’s army, not the regime’s army. If only it would!