The Arab Spring’s tide of change hit a breakwater in Syria and has been on hold awaiting the resolution of the Syrian Civil War before continuing to wash across the Middle East after sweeping across North Africa. The world placed their attentions initially on Tunisia which experienced change so rapidly that many missed and only caught up when change then came to Egypt. In Egypt it took slightly longer to extract change which also required some external pressures of which the most pronounced was the support from President Obama in the White House went from hot to cold in supporting Mubarak. President Obama finally chose to support change, demand that Mubarak step down and warmed to the Muslim Brotherhood who promised they had no interest in taking power in Egypt. When that promise proved to be less than totally truthful President Obama and those in his Administration showed little concern and allied with elected Egyptian President Morsi and the Peace and Justice Party, the political wing of the Muslim Brotherhood. From there the Arab Spring set its sights on Libya which took a more determined effort from the United States and their NATO, mainly French and British, allies providing the rebel forces with air-cover in the form of a no-fly-zone over Libya and eventually even close air support for rebel offensive advances. After a relatively short Civil War, especially compared to Syria, the old dictatorial government of Gadhafi fell and was replaced with a weak government which controls little beyond the capital city of Tripoli with a mix of different rebel forces, tribal forces and strong clan factions controlling local areas each respecting the territories of the next. Some of these separate controlling factions have had episodic clashes and there are reports that al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups have set up training camps in some of the more remote areas of the Libyan Desert. From Libya the Arab Spring hit a breakwater in Syria where Bashir Assad refused to surrender his power and has proven he will go to whatever measures are required to remain in power. This has been the main attention of the world leaders for the two years that it has raged causing collateral deaths and destruction taking over one-hundred-thousand innocent civilian lives and sending millions of Syrians fleeing across the borders mostly into Turkey and Jordan where refugee camps are overflowing. With the Civil War in Syria garnering all the attentions of the media and the world leadership there has been little attention paid to Tunisia, Egypt or Libya and the state of affairs in each resultant from the changes there. That is about to change this weekend as the events in Egypt are about to explode.
First let us comment very briefly on Tunisia and Libya. Tunisia held election in which the Muslim Brotherhood gained a large number of the seats in the Parliament and has taken the lead in running the country. This has left those who desired a non-Islamic government uneasy and when the economy did not improve they resumed demonstrating. Since these demonstrations began they have slowly built and may soon reach the point where the government will either hold new elections or attempt to squash the demonstrations but thus far things have been somewhat contained. Libya has broken into separate tribally ruled areas which could be said to be loosely held together by a central but very weak government. The economy in Libya is no better or worse than it was under Gadhafi but the violence there has been sporadic and limited. Yemen also saw changes somewhat tied to the Arab Spring and the new government has not changed the situation which is one of complete instability. The Yemeni government controls the capital city and the central areas of the nation with terrorist groups fighting with the southern tribes for control of the south and Iranian backed Shiites also attempting to take over the government. As long as the fighting in Yemen remains out of Saudi Arabia nobody is paying that much attention to the sporadic violence within that unfortunate country.
Things in Egypt are of a different nature as Egypt was a relatively functional society with working infrastructure and an economy which was heavily reliant on tourism. Since the fall of Mubarak and the election of Peace and Justice Party Candidate Morsi as President with a Parliament heavily controlled by that same Peace and Justice Party along with the Salafist supported candidates, who are even more strident Islamists than the Muslim Brotherhood, the tourism industry upon which much of the Egyptian economy depended has almost completely disappeared having crushing effects on the Egyptian economy. Additionally there has been a complete loss of control over the Sinai Peninsula where lawlessness by Bedouins and other tribes have sabotaged the gas pipeline which used to supply natural gas to Israel and Jordan. Egypt has been trying to continue to provide services despite having to purchase a large percentage of the energy, food and other staples burning through any currency reserves Egypt had. The economic squeeze has caused mushrooming unemployment and rotating blackouts as insufficient electrical power remains available. This has led to increased unease and escalating violent demonstrations which have been broken up using tear gas and water cannons. The one year anniversary of the election of President Morsi is this weekend and the opposition has declared they intend to bring down his government. In a response to this challenge to the Muslim Brotherhood’s chosen President has brought out their supporters to back President Morsi and to use whatever force is necessary to put down the anti-Morsi demonstrations. The threats, counter-threats, and violent threats and rhetoric from both sides has risen to such an extreme that Egyptian Military commanders have issued a general warning that they will not tolerate violence by either side and will also not allow violence to be implemented against the demonstrators of either side by the police. The anti-Morsi demonstrators who refer to themselves as pro-democracy activists have applauded the Egyptian Military’s warning against overt violence by the police or the demonstrators. That is not surprising as they were the most likely to be the targets of the lion’s share of the violence which would be meted out.
The possibility of another revolution in Egypt being sparked by the demonstrations that will escalate to their crescendo this weekend is a distinct possibility. Egypt has virtually no functioning economic production and a crumbling infrastructure which has not been properly maintained since the start of the Arab Spring demonstrations will serve as a strong motivational factor. The probability that overt violence will be brought to bear this weekend to silence the anti-Morsi demonstrators is pretty much even odds. The likelihood that overt violence will be brought down on the anti-Morsi demonstrators in the near future is high. The odds that the Egyptian Military will need to intervene seems unavoidable and once they come out it will all depend on which side they deploy. If the Egyptian Military should come out and also demand that Morsi step down in order to hold new elections then we may be seeing an Egyptian Civil War that will make Syria look like a picnic. A Civil War in Egypt pitting the Military and pro-democracy youth on one side and the Muslim Brotherhood on the other side possibly with the Salafists assisting the Muslim Brotherhood should frighten any rational person. The guaranteed losers would be both the Coptic Christians and the Shiite Muslims, both of which are relatively small minorities and could be used by the Muslim Brotherhood to turn any confrontation into a religious war of Sunnis against the infidel powers. The one prediction which is very easy to make is that should there be such violence in Egypt, then President Obama will be right behind President Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood even if that requires President Obama to have to destroy the Egyptian Military to allow Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood to retain power. President Obama will go to any lengths in order to serve the ends of the Muslim Brotherhood and the Egyptian people had best understand this as it may be the deciding factor in any attempts to remove what is basically a Muslim Brotherhood Governance. There was a good reason that the previous governments in Egypt did not allow the Muslim Brotherhood to gain the slightest foothold within Egypt, they were preserving their ability to rule. Now that the Muslim Brotherhood has returned, nobody will rule Egypt for the foreseeable future without their approval, nobody.
Beyond the Cusp