Post-Springtime Egypt and U.S. Policy

By Geoffrey Cook, TMO

Berkeley—Jan. 24th—With the new crisis in Egypt emerging, (former), Egyptian Ambassador to the United States, Nabil Fahmy, visit to the Berkeley campus to talk “informally” and to field questions late last month on  the situation in his homeland was most fortuitous at this instance.

He did represent the Mubarak government, but resigned in 2006, for, as he diplomatically demurred,  because he deemed Cairo had to “get its house together.”

Mr. Fahmy clearly stated, despite the recent regional Revolts, the United States will remain a permanent player in the Middle East. 

He asked could the Arab “Spring” have happened without a long, hot summer.  It could not have developed over short time!  Presently, not surprisingly, all wish to be engaged as stakeholders.

Contrary to “vulgar” opinion, the Ambassador surmised that satellite television informed and influenced the outcome more than social media. 

(Tough, in actuality, it was through both the new Medias which overcame the Mubarak-controlled national outlets as the sole source of information; and, therefore, the “insurgents” were able to dominate the propaganda-impetus of the unfolding events). 

Many complained at that heady time, when Hosni Mubarak’s regime was overthrown, that the Islamists were not legitimate.  (This question has come to the forefront again as you read this “page.”)   

Fifty-six percent of the Egyptian demographics are under the age of thirty whereas the ruling elite before the Revolt was elderly.  22% of the population, also, is still below the poverty-line.  Although the economy was growing, unemployment was high.  While development has been impressive, Egypt is unacceptably poor.  There has been an overlapping of the public sector with the economy.  Whether this has contributed to high inflation, it is undeniable that there was a faltering financial condition despite the growth, but the Revolution has only made the fiscal crisis worse.

(Because of the instability which the “Spring” engendered – Egypt depends upon foreign tourism, which is scarce now due to the political instability, for a hefty portion of its foreign capital reserves come from that sector — which helps explain the current unrest against the Morsi Administration.  To succeed, the President has to now establish societal and financial security for which much of the Egyptian populace has little patience to wait.).  

(By Fahmy’s comments, your author believes the cliché is proven that, ultimately, in a revolutionary situation, the economy is more of an impetus than religion.  If the Brotherhood is to succeed they have to restructure government to equitably distribute the wealth within their Commonweal.  Of course, religion can influence economy – especially in Islam where many traditional practices can inform the non-Muslim world, too.)  Fahmy poses the query of what will the (religio-economic) ideology of the Egyptian State be in the future.

Even though Parliamentary elections will be held this spring, there is a danger that a public (social) bankruptcy will fall head-long into a financial insolvency. 

The SCAF (Supreme Council of the Armed Forces) have ordered their forces back into the barracks, but they probably will not stay there.

Nabil acknowledges that the present President won the election fairly, but he opines that his government does not know how to govern.  Having devolved from the elites to the Islamists, a transitional environment has, thus, evolved, also.

Ultimately the (past) envoy to Washington is still optimistic, but less so than two years previous.  For he says, “Elections are not a science…”  He does not believe the forthcoming Parliamentary elections this spring will reflect the Revolution.  “It is impossible to ignore…[the] Islamists…they are part of the system.”  Succinctly, the whole Middle East elevates the position of religion. 

Therefore, Nabil Fahmy does not predict an unexpected ultimate triumph of secularism.

Egypt comes to the Party system late, and there are grave political inequalities between the  affluent and needy.  “Egypt is so complex…but what is different today is a [new] liberalism.”
During his “interrogation,” “America should look at [our changing emergent relationship]as a long-term investment.”

On a question of concord, Fahmy stated that ”Democracy is a messy business…” 

Further, “Egypt had a Revolution without a leader; so, the Brotherhood was brought in.”

He advocates a strong Parliament with a strong opposition.  “If Egyptians fear for their civil liberties [again]…SCAF will intervene.”

“Egypt is demonstrating to their neighbors [especially Israel] it will honor their agreements [Treaties]” – (although there has been a problem in controlling [their] Sinai territory against a group of al-Quaeda-styled insurgents which the Army has had to lethally engage there.  This unrest has arisen with the loosening of the Center’s control of their regional peripheries on that Peninsula with the civil unrest especially in Alexandria and Cairo.  Further, recent riots in the three major provincial cities on the border near Israel, and the tribal (“al ’Qaeda”) unrest in the hinterlands of that primordial wasteland, explain the concerns, at the same time, of those very same neighbors.)


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