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The U.S. is currently in a difficult position as the stability of the Mubarak regime is in its geopolitical interests. However, preserving the West’s strategic position requires siding against democratic change and it would reinforce the Brotherhood’s narrative that the U.S. supports dictatorships as part of an imperialistic agenda.
The Muslim Brotherhood leader in Jordan is making that argument right now, stating that “We tell the Americans, enough is enough” and that “Obama must understand that the people have woken up and are ready to unseat the tyrant leaders who remained in power because of U.S. backing.” Likewise, ElBaradei blames the U.S. for Mubarak’s “life support” and says that the U.S. is “losing credibility every day.” Secretary of State Clinton’s earlier description of Mubarak’s regime as “stable” and Vice President Biden’s remark that Mubarak is not a dictator and should not resign assists the Egyptian opposition in making these arguments.
Tawfik Hamid, a former member of Egyptian Islamic Jihad, says that the U.S. must now force Mubarak to resign because it is the “ONLY thing that can calm the political situation sufficiently [emphasis original]” and have him replaced by a secular military leader. Hamid argues that a new presidential advisory office that includes the opposition must be created that the U.S. can work with.
The Washington Post’s Jackson Diehl argues that the U.S. should support the replacement of Mubarak with a transitional government led by ElBaradei. He feels that if elections are held off for six months to a year while a new constitution is written, this would undermine the Brotherhood.
“Given time to establish themselves, secular forces backed by Egypt’s growing middle class are likely to rise to the top in those elections—not the Islamists that Mubarak portrays as the only alternative,” Diehl writes.
However, a poll last year shows strong support for an Islamist agenda. Over 80 percent support stoning adulterers; over three-fourths support whippings and the cutting off the hands of those that commit robbery; 84 percent favor the death penalty for apostates and 59 percent would vote for “Islamists” over “modernizers,” who would get only 27 percent of the vote. One-fifth express a favorable view of Al-Qaeda, 30 percent view Hezbollah favorably, and 49 percent view Hamas favorably.
The other problem with Diehl’s analysis is that the opposition coalition has not stated how long of a period there would be before elections. The Brotherhood would push for a minimal delay so its opponents could not organize effectively. ElBaradei has tried to ease concerns about his alliance with the Brotherhood by estimating they would only have the support of “maybe 20 percent of the Egyptian people.” This is unlikely given the results of the aforementioned poll, but even if it were true, the Brotherhood would still be in a position to have a significant say over the direction of the government.
The decision by the Brotherhood to rally behind ElBaradei is a trick to win power without bringing scrutiny that could derail its agenda. El-Baradei may not share the Brotherhood’s ideology, but his advent will empower the group and he will make Egypt an opponent of the U.S. and Israel and a friend to their enemies.
With Hezbollah taking over Lebanon and Mubarak likely on his way out in Egypt, the balance of power has shifted in favor of Iran and its Islamist allies. The pro-American Arab regimes may feel they have to cave to Iran after having lost their powerful Egyptian ally. The fall of the Mubarak regime may pave the way for a Middle East whose future is dictated from Tehran.
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