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Egypt’s revolution and the upcoming struggles - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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The Egyptian President has finally stepped down as Head of the Republic, and with this, a primary goal of the revolution – which commenced on the 25th of January and lasted for 18 days – has been achieved.

With Mubarak’s exit, and with the army now presiding over affairs in the country, the real work towards achieving the revolution’s goals has begun. Mubarak’s resignation was no more than the tip of the iceberg, changing the nature of the regime is the primary and major goal. To this effect, we will begin to see tasks of a different kind:

The first task: to change the essence of the regime, so that it becomes a system reflecting the principles of freedom and democracy, and this can be considered the main objective of the revolution. This is an objective that will affect individuals as well as the ruling mechanisms – ranging from the powers granted to the President, and ending with the ruling party and how they operate, an issue that caused the Egyptian political arena to stagnate during the former regime. Other issues range from the social direction of the new system, to establishing a new economic apparatus that acts in the interest of the people, rather than the interests of businessmen, who have been tarnished by an overwhelming sense of systematic corruption. There is a need to reconsider the principle of capital interests interfering with government interests.

The second task: All the above issues should be stipulated clearly in the anticipated constitution. It will not be suffice to simply alter some articles in the constitution, but rather it must be comprehensively restructured, so that it serves as a new contract governing the relationship between the authority and the people. [The new constitution must include] provisions for free and fair elections, freedom of expression – in the press, media, and with regards to political activities, an independent judiciary, and the abolishment of the state of emergency.

Attaining these goals, which are the real objectives of the revolution, will not be easy. Objectively, a struggle will emerge between different ideas and trends. There will be some people who interpret “change” as a process of removing the key figures of the old regime, or charging and prosecuting a group of corrupt businessmen, yet they will not interpret this as an opportunity to restructure the entire regime.

As of now, the revolution will be confronted with a set of dilemmas concerning two issues: the nature of the relationship with the United States, and the nature of the relationship with Israel.

Regarding relations with America, a trend will emerge that advocates this relationship, and the necessity of maintaining it. In their defence, such people will focus on the economic interests (the 2 billion dollars which the US extends in aid to Egypt annually), and will lay emphasis on the armament and training of the Egyptian army. Dozens of Egyptian officers now receive their military training in America. For those who advocate such a trend, these two objectives necessitate a continuation of bilateral relations. On the contrary, an opposing school of thought will emerge, arguing that the Egyptian-American relationship has now transformed into a relationship of subordination. Egypt has been integrated into the American strategy (which incorporates Iraq, Palestine, Syria, Sudan and Israel) to an extent that now threatens the fundamental interests of Egyptian national security. This trend would seek to end such kind of relationships, and replace theme with state-to-state relations, whereby Egypt can once again restructure its foreign and Arab connections in line with its own interests, rather than orders it receives from the U.S. administration.

Regarding the relations with Israel, some will advocate the necessity of Egypt adhering to the Peace Agreement signed with Israel, due to the fact that it is an international convention, and because the decision to shift from a state of peace to a state of war is not an easy one. Furthermore, America’s economic and military weight in Egypt promotes the necessity to maintain existing relations with Israel. Yet others will argue that Egypt should handle this particular case in line with its own interests. The agreement signed with Israel stipulates that its articles may be reconsidered after every 15 years, and this date has passed twice without any form of review. There are numerous articles that could be reviewed. For example, the full sovereignty of the Sinai Peninsula should be transferred to Egypt, from a stage of [theoretical] acknowledgment, as it is currently, to a complete, tangible transfer. Egypt has a right to exist freely in Sinai, with regards to security, the army, the mobility of the people, construction work, and the cities and factories there. This all should be reconsidered before we discuss whether we should adhere to the agreement, or consider it obsolete.

This alternative opinion may also argue that Egypt’s interests necessitate that relations with Israel should be evaluated on the grounds of Israel’s policy towards Arabs, and the Palestinians in particular. Such a policy is characterized by aggression, a perpetual preparation for a state of war, and the rejection of any serious moves towards political settlement. Israel threatens Lebanon, Syria and Jordan, continues to occupy the West Bank, and seeks to annex Jerusalem. Therefore, Egypt should not form part of an alliance with Israel, in a manner that distances the former from the Arabs and its own interests, to the extent that happened during Mubarak’s rule.

It is certain that there are two contradictory opinions here, and this contradiction may provoke sensitive issues that will impact upon the Arab situation in general, and the Palestinian one in particular. Egypt used to perform a safeguarding role in the Arab arena, which it has relinquished now.

Here, we cannot ignore the international situation and its pressure, and in particular the pressure coming from Washington, which until this moment, has been well thought out and positive. With a bit of subtle manoeuvring, the U.S. adopted the call for President Mubarak’s resignation, and launched a verbal stance of support for the slogans of change raised by the Egyptian masses. However, in reality the U.S. administration supports the removal of certain figures from the Egyptian government, and seems responsive to some of the masses’ demands, but at the same time it is keen to maintain the essence of the regime, and keep U.S.-Egyptian relations intact. Certainly, this American manoeuvre will become clearer in the days to come, and everyone will anticipate the nature of the Egyptian response.

Everyone has praised the Egyptian people’s revolution, branding it as one of a kind in both Egyptian and international history. This is indeed true, for it was a popular revolution that erupted without leadership, without the influence of parties or individuals, and it was also peaceful, achieving its objective at considerable speed. If successful, it will change the balance of the international powers, through their relations with the Middle East region, incorporating Arabs, Iran and Turkey. This is because the Middle East region represents a key component in the international power struggle at present. It is for this reason that a struggle will occur within these powers, where different trends, positions, and opinions will be in a fierce and decisive conflict.

This is what will shape the essence of political action in Egypt in the days to come. The revolution was victorious, but it is yet to achieve all its objectives, in order to build freedom and democracy.

Bilal Hassen

Bilal Hassen is a renowned Palestinian writer and political analyst.

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