Will Egyptians Lose Their Revolution?

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Despite efforts to prove otherwise, the current political movement in Egypt is following a parallel political course seen in 1978-79 Iran.  From the optimism of the protesters to the hovering fundamentalist influences, the Egyptian people must demand that their movement and cries for freedom are heeded and not hijacked.  The Iranian people learned that the hard way.

Thirty years ago, the Iranian people poured into the streets demanding that their Shah be ousted. They did not have a viable alternative, and the absence of an organized opposition made for a facile takeover by an Islamic government.

Similar to Mubarak’s government, the United States had a friendly relationship with the Shah of Iran and his regime.  The people were liberal. Some women marched in tank tops and short skirts and others in headscarves.  Men and women protested together.  Jews, Christians, Zoroastrians, Bahais and Muslims stood by one another in demanding that a new democratic government replace the Shah.

Their demands were idealistic with no realistic manner in which to implement them.  Similar to the Egyptians, they were fed up, and the consensus was, there was no going back.  The Iranians could only go forward to see who would fill the political vacancy they had so quickly evacuated.

Iran had several competing opposition groups, but none were sufficiently organized or widely supported to compete with what was to come.  Their preoccupation with the dismissal of the Shah got in the way of their own political gains. The Constitutionalist Liberals, the National Front, Marxist groups such as the Tudeh Party of Iran and the Fedaian, and the most powerful guerrilla group, the People’s Mojahedeen, known today as the MEK (a leftist Islamist group) had been around for decades.  While they were influential in ousting the Shah, they lacked the leadership and political sophistication to actually replace him.

As the Shah departed Iran, the people rejoiced the possibility of freedom and democracy, but instead, Iran’s democratic movement and all other political parties were pushed aside by an organizational genius who was as scheming as he was shrewd: the Ayatollah Khomeini, who had a masterful plan for the Iranian people and the future of the country.

Khomeini quickly formed the Interim Government of Iran in 1979, also known as the Provisional Revolutionary Government, and by February, appointed Mehdi Bazargan as the interim Prime Minister. Bazargan was an obvious choice; a modern, well dressed, highly-educated engineer with good diplomacy skills.

Two days after Americans were taken hostage at the American Embassy, Bazargan and all members of his cabinet resigned Nov. 6, 1979, and Khomeini, seemingly happy about the resignation, handed power to the Revolutionary Council.

Two weeks ago, Mohsen Rezaii, Iran’s former Revolutionary Guard Commander called Bazargan’s appointment “the biggest trick pulled by the Imam Khomeini to hoodwink the Americans back in 1979.”

Given the similarities in movements, we hope that 30 years from now, a commander from the Muslim Brotherhood won’t claim the appointment of Mohamed ElBaradei, the informal Egyptian opposition leader, was a trick used to likewise dupe the Americans now.

The similarities between Bazargan and ElBaradei, coupled with comparisons that can be drawn between the Islamic Republic and the Muslim Brotherhood, are alarming, particularly since they can cost the Egyptians their movement and the future of their country.

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  • Boomer36

    Everything you said so well is true. But there may be another dimension to consider. Iran was already a world oil power under the Shah, and the so-called revolutionaries knew the money from the West and East would continue to flow in no matter what they did.

    Egypt is the opposite case today. Their oil production is dropping and is now equal to their consumption. They import almost half of their food. The Nile is running drier every year and upstream countries are planning to divert more of it. Their inflation rate is already 12%, while their income is decreasing per capita. Their population was 20 mil. in 1950 and is now 80 mil. so they have clearly peaked in providing for their population and are on the downslope.

    But the downslope is still a slope, and controllable. It is not yet a cliff. But since Egypt gets a major part of its income from the Suez Canal, even the mere threat of closure will force up their import costs from insurance alone. Tourism is next as a key revenue source. But it will be hard to convince panicked tourists today to plan another trip, especially if Islamists take over and half the population is hidden behind black burqas. Their revolution is being televised and trips will be cancelled for a long time.

    And if their museum is damaged, it will prove to the watching world that Egypt is willing to destroy its own ancient history. Tourism will stop. Cairo and Alexandria will dry up of business growth. Trucking and shipping could slow. Unemployment will skyrocket even more. Already trucks delivering gas are blocked or afraid to move. No food, gas, or hope will not lead to revolution, but devolution. The slope that the geriatric Mubarak is trying to control will become a cliff.

    Neither the MB or Iran will be able to do much. Egypt has a 1,000 U.S. tanks. What for? They should have been buying Harvesters and managing their irrigation and keeping people working. Where will Israel fit in? If the Egyptian "street" has any intellect, they'll see that external war or even threats against Israel are just red herrings – magic tricks to divert attention from their hunger. If they don't have that realization, their tanks will still run out of gas in the Sinai.

    The Suez canal, tourism, their ancient historical places, safe tourism, are their golden geese. And geese can fly very quickly.

    • Lillith66

      Wow excellently put..

      • CervenaVrana

        Boomer36. Excellent analysis. Might I add the following.

        How much will Iran be willing to invest in Egypt? Can they replace the $3 billion U.S. yearly investment? Or will the Russians be interested in challenging the Iranians influence in Iran? If Egypt is bankrolled by either of these countries the West is definitely in for a bumpy ride.

    • StephenD

      Very well said Boomer. Not being a very religious man, I was more than a little intrigued by what I read in Isaiah 19, which I suggest for one perspective. It seems like it is happening now. As you say, the river will dry up, as will opportunities for work…and Egypt will be given over to a cruel lord…for a time. Eventually they will come around but they will suffer.

  • okrahead

    Jimmy Carter pens open letter to Obama on Egypt crisis:

    From the desk of Greatest Ex-President Ever Jimmy Carter:

    To: President Barak Hussein Obama

    Dear President Obama,

    I know that this is a tough time for you right now, which is why I have decided to reach out to you with a helping hand. I realize you have not yet actually asked for my assistance, but I decided that must be because you are just too busy to get around to it. As a result I decided to make things easier for you and go ahead and give you the benefit of my great wisdom and experience as a world leader and peace maker. After all, we Nobel Prize winners have to stick together.

    So, Egypt is all in a mess. Well let me tell you, when it comes to the Middle East being a mess, I know all about it. First of all, look at this President Mubarak fellow. He really is just like the Shah of Iran. He spent years thinking that if he could just play up to the United States and act like our friend, then we would somehow be obligated to bail him out when he finally got into trouble. I have to tell you, that kind of thinking just really chafes my buns. I am sick and tired of all the little people in Egypt, South Korea, Israel, Colombia, Poland, Georgia and Great Britain thinking that we owe them anything. After all, if they can't manage their own affairs, why should we step in for them?

    Look at it this way. Sure the Muslim Brotherhood isn't perfect, but who are we to judge? After all, what country in the world is more racist, imperialist, self-righteous and greedy than the United States? So if the Muslim Brotherhood hates this country, then they must be on the right track. Believe me, I cannot begin to tell you how much hatred I've felt for this country since 1980. I since a lot of that same hate in you, and it makes me warm inside. So if the Muslim Brotherhood recognized the United States for the Great Satan it really is, and wants to throw Mubarak out for siding with the neo-cons and Jews who were running the place before you took over, why should we care? After all, they are only doing what's best for their own country… Read the rest here… http://beautifulletters-bls.blogspot.com/2011/01/

  • Sobh

    The author names several of Iranian groups who were active in the ouster of Shah, and cites their 'lack of leadership and political sophistication' for their failure. I think the author is ignoring the overwhelming support Ayatollah Khomeini had in the Iranian population. These groups, while active for decades, did not have broad support among Iranians. In fact, I believe that they had much more political sophistication and organization skills than Ayatollah Khomeini and his religious followers. But ultimately, the numbers ruled. It should be noted that the form of government (Islamic Republic), as well as the constitution were put to a country-wide referendum and won overwhelming support (and no historian has doubted the credibility of the results of the referendums). The Iranians simply chose what they wanted, and they will change it again if they want.

    The Egyptian people should have the full range of options at their disposal. The outcome, whether an Islamist or a secular regime, should be accepted by everyone who claims to be a supporter of democracy.

  • tanstaafl

    Evil always repeats itself.

  • Joey

    Sobh says "The outcome, whether an Islamist or a secular regime, should be accepted by everyone who claims to be a supporter of democracy."

    Except that a radical Islamic regime is the antithesis of democracy. They cannot exist together.

    • Taim

      Slavery was also an antithesis of democracy.

      Only White Male suffrage was also an antithesis of democracy.

      Yet you wouldn't argue that Americans should had been deprived of the right to democracy in those days.

      Btw, invading other countries is also the antithesis of democracy, which America practices to this day.

      • Viking

        Tell me, does a radical Islamic regime become more compatible with democracy because of former slavery? (Slavery, by the way, is something Muslim countries have practiced since the days of Muhammed and in contrast to the USA never apologized.)

        Democracy should not be as idiotic as in Iran in 1979, where democracy de facto was abolished by popular vote. Democracy must even use undemocratic means to preserve itself where the majority wants to abolish it. Karl Popper taught us that. Therefore, all non-democratic parties should be flat out banned – and that means especially all of those wanting to use the Koran as a book of law.

        Democracy isn't what Muslims need the most, it is enlightenment. For the most part, they are not even more civilized than a gang of cavemen. Just look at this:

        And you have the nerve to point your finger at the USA?

        • Taim

          The point is that when America was practising slavery and discrimination on racial and gender basis, it was still a "democracy". The society harbored such views, which seem so offensive to us to this day.

          Now here is a thought experiment – if there existed a greater, and more advanced power, at that time, and if it advocated abolishing of democracy in America because American society harboured such racist and discriminatory views, would you have supported such an idea?

          How about being told, "Americans need enlightenment, not democracy"?

          I think at this moment, Americans like you need humanity, rather than concern for radical Islam (as if there is no radical Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism, etc, radicals exist in all religions).

          Just correct your own foreign policies and agendas, nobody will bother you. It is more fitting to find your own faults and correct them, rather than pointing fingers at others. Charity begins at home. Enlighten yourself first, before enlightening others.

    • Sobh

      A radical Islamic regime is no more an antithesis of democracy than a repressive secular Saddam-like (or Shah or Ben-Ali or Mubarak blah blah) is. Every ideology can become radical; the U.S. has inflicted much more casualty to humanity than radical Islamists. That doesn't mean that the people of U.S. should be deprived of their right to, for example, vote for warmonger neocons. To put bounds on democracy is hypocritical for someone who claims that he/she supports democracy.

      Democracy cannot ignore the will of the majority, for if it does that, it's not a democracy anymore. You might call it a 'moderate' regime, but that's not democracy. If you believe that some ideologies should be banned from taking power, then at least don't pretend that you support democracy.

      • Taim

        Well put.

  • Taim

    It is up to Egyptians to decide who they want to rule over them.

    Two hundred years ago, America was a democracy which legalized slavery.

    A hundred years ago, America was a democracy which treated black people as less than human beings.

    Yet, you would certainly not agree that even with such racist and extreme views that the Americans harbored from the perspective of today, they should had been deprived the right to democracy.

    Even at this juncture, America chooses leaders like Bush who invade other countries and commit massive massacres. Yet you wouldn't agree if someone says Americans should be deprived of the right to elect their government and a "moderate", "liberal", not to mention "stable", government, which respects UN resolutions, International Court of Justice and sovereignty of other nations, should be imposed on its people.

    The argument is nonsense. Democracy is the best of the worse systems of government around, and all people alike want it. They deserve it.

    The plight and wishes of Egyptians people matter more than foreign policy concerns of America and Israel, countries which have questionable records and are involved in questionable activities to this day.

    • coyote3

      I thought liberty was, to a very large extent, determining who you want to represent you, not who you want to "rule over" you, but that is probably what will happen. Places like this would have been better off as colonies. This liberty and representative government stuff, ain't in 'em

  • coyote3

    First place, the United States of America is not a democracy. Never has been one. So, whether slavery was the antithesis of democracy or not is irrelevant.

  • coyote3

    Can't say this isn't almost worth, "journalist" (pc name for newspaper men, a bunch of historical drunks, whose main claim to fame was to read and write before most others could), being beaten. Tee Hee.By the way, that is what is called "violent discourse", not the discourse of the Tea Party. Got that distinction now?

  • PJG

    Call it what you want, Taim, and then look in the mirror.