Egyptians tests Tunisia's Twitter revolution

 

Thousands take to the streets to demand the resignation of Hosni Mubarak, but the battle may prove to be a lot tougher than they may think

 
 
 
 
January 25: Egyptian demonstrators pray in central Cairo during a protest to demand the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak and calling for reforms on January 25, 2011. Thousands of demonstrators took to the streets of Cairo, facing a massive police presence, to demand the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak in a protest inspired by Tunisia's popular uprising.
 

January 25: Egyptian demonstrators pray in central Cairo during a protest to demand the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak and calling for reforms on January 25, 2011. Thousands of demonstrators took to the streets of Cairo, facing a massive police presence, to demand the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak in a protest inspired by Tunisia's popular uprising.

Photograph by: MOHAMMED ABED, AFP/Getty Images

Tens of thousands of Egyptians rioted in the centre of Cairo on Tuesday in protests they hoped would blossom into a revolution germinated by the ouster of Tunisia's dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali earlier this month.

But Egypt's authoritarian ruler of 30 years, Hosni Mubarak, is usually careful enough to allow enough freedoms to stem outright revolt.

In addition, security forces in Cairo and Alexandria showed some restraint. They confronted the estimated 20,000 demonstrators with tear gas and water canons, though two demonstrators were killed by rubber bullets and a policeman died from a blow to the head.

It was a measure of the local uncertainty about the domino potential of the Tunisian revolution that Egypt's main opposition group, the outlawed radical Islamic Muslim Brotherhood, declined to officially participate.

But as night fell in Egypt, cellphones were buzzing with social network messages. A self-sustaining momentum may gather as it did in Tunisia. In an effort to prevent that, Egypt blocked access to Twitter Tuesday night.

While there have been minor demonstrations elsewhere in the Middle East such as Jordan, Algeria and Morocco, there are few reasons to think the Tunisian revolution can be easily emulated elsewhere.

As much as many people in North Africa and the Middle East might wish otherwise, their region is not like the old Soviet Empire in 1989 when all it took was a puff of wind on the streets to blow away the shrivelled leaves that Moscow's local despots had become.

While the Middle East and North Africa are overly populated with corrupt and thoroughly nasty authoritarian regimes, Tunisia was unusual. Ben Ali and his rapacious family were totally corrupt and totally authoritarian without any redeeming features or survival skills beyond brute force.

When the army chief of staff, Gen. Rachid Ammar, refused a month ago to order his troops to fire on demonstrators, the Ben Ali regime was over. There was nothing to do but load the gold bars onto flights to Saudi Arabia and Montreal while there was still time.

And despite the continuing protests in Tunis against the interim government, the post-revolution mood in Tunisia has been, for the Middle East, unusually civil.

But there is a political vacuum, and a foreseeable outcome is that Ammar will take power in the name of defending the revolution, just as Ben Ali took power in the name of democracy in 1987.

Perhaps the most significant factor mitigating a cascade of "colour" revolutions falling out from Tunisia is the pernicious influence of religion and sectarianism in the Middle East.

There was an example of this, also on Tuesday, when the Shiite Muslim terrorist surrogates of Iran and Syria, the Hezbollah organization in Lebanon, showed itself to be the country's pre-eminent political and military power. Hezbollah's members of the Lebanese parliament ensured the selection of billionaire businessman Najib Mikati as prime minister. This follows Hezbollah's abandonment of the unity government of Prime Minister and Sunni Muslim leader Saad Hariri.

Lebanon, with about 40 per cent Christians among its four million people, now seems destined at best, to be firmly aligned with the defiantly paranoid regimes in Tehran and Damascus or, even worse, regress into a primitive theocracy.

A similar lurch towards simplistic, puritanical Islam seems likely among Palestinians.

The remaining political authority of Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, as slender as it is, has been further eroded by the publication by the television network, Al-Jazeera, of more than 1,600 of his government's internal documents.

The papers are capable of nuanced interpretations, but appear to show the Palestinian Authority was prepared to give up almost all claims to East Jerusalem and abandon several vehemently defended positions on Palestinian rights in the West Bank and Gaza in the hopes of getting a deal with Israel.

The revelations, which Abbas and the Palestinian Authority deny are true, are a political gift for Hamas, the radical Islamic group which controls the Palestinian territory of Gaza and which is supported by Iran in its anti-Israeli terrorism.

The impotence of the Palestinian Authority has been evident for some years. But the exposure of its full extent as well as Israel's apparent disdain for its negotiating partners -- Israel rejected even the offer of almost total victory made by Abbas -- probably means the end of the American-led peace process restarted last year with much difficulty and arm-twisting.

The grim reality in the Middle East is that revolution means the coming to power of al-Qaida allies like the Islamic Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt or surrogates of the corrupt and degenerate Iranian ayatollahs, Hezbollah and Hamas.

jmanthorpe@vancouversun.com

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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January 25: Egyptian demonstrators pray in central Cairo during a protest to demand the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak and calling for reforms on January 25, 2011. Thousands of demonstrators took to the streets of Cairo, facing a massive police presence, to demand the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak in a protest inspired by Tunisia's popular uprising.
 

January 25: Egyptian demonstrators pray in central Cairo during a protest to demand the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak and calling for reforms on January 25, 2011. Thousands of demonstrators took to the streets of Cairo, facing a massive police presence, to demand the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak in a protest inspired by Tunisia's popular uprising.

Photograph by: MOHAMMED ABED, AFP/Getty Images

 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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