Ikhwanweb :: The Muslim Brotherhood Official English Website

Tue109 2018

Last update19:14 PM GMT

Back to Homepage
Font Size : 12 point 14 point 16 point 18 point
:: Opinions > Other Opinions
The Autumn of Mubarak
The Autumn of Mubarak
Like most aging autocrats with declining legitimacy, Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak seeks to perpetuate the prevailing order. Today, the man who has ruled longer than almost any pharaoh is leaving no stone unturned in his quest to secure the longevity of the
Tuesday, September 2,2008 14:28
by Jeffrey Azarva AEI

Like most aging autocrats with declining legitimacy, Egypt"s Hosni Mubarak seeks to perpetuate the prevailing order. Today, the man who has ruled longer than almost any pharaoh is leaving no stone unturned in his quest to secure the longevity of the regime and a seamless transition of power. Determined to pass the baton to his son, Gamal, he has embarked on an unbridled campaign to crush dissent and consolidate autocratic rule.

 

But at what price? Coupled with an appeal to nationalist sentiments, Mubarak"s repression has stoked tensions that may destabilize the Arab-Israeli arena.

 

Examples abound. Just last year, members of his National Democratic party (NDP) advocated "trampling over" the Camp David Accords in response to Israeli excavations near the al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, claiming that "war with Israel is still ongoing." Following Israel"s 2006 war in Lebanon, Mubarak warned that no map can be imposed on the region, and NDP members of parliament voiced similar protests.

 

Such bluster is nothing new: Mubarak has long used the Arab-Israeli conflict as a release valve for popular discontent. In a bid to deflect attention from its domestic deficiencies, his regime has often used rhetoric to fan the anti-American and anti-Israeli flames.

 

Yet, for years, Mubarak has walked a tightrope, billing himself as a stalwart U.S. ally and secular dike against the rising tide of extremism. This balancing act has paid off. For maintaining nominal peace with Israel and strengthening strategic cooperation with the United States, his regime has been rewarded with approximately $2 billion annually, behind only Iraq and Israel as the largest recipient of U.S. foreign aid.

 

Now the sun is setting on his rule, and Mubarak is approaching the end of his high-wire performance. Indeed, as he digs in his heels rather than relax his grip on power, the assumptions that have long held Egypt to be an anchor of peace and stability could prove mistaken.

 

At home, economic problems are mounting. Abroad, Egypt"s influence is waning. And Mubarak has done little to pull the Arab world"s most populous country out of its paralysis. Instead, he is preoccupied with choreographing a succession that has deepened the country"s stagnation.

 

Take recent events: On July 23, Egypt"s independence day, security forces arrested and beat 14 Facebook activists who had congregated on a beach to sing patriotic songs and wave Egyptian flags. The charge? Attempting to "topple" the regime.

 

The accusation would have been comical had such tactics not become commonplace: The clampdown on activists whose weapons are keyboards and digital cameras is par for the course as Cairo retreats from its modest feints toward democratization. Once considered a testing ground for the Bush administration"s freedom agenda, Egypt has now abandoned even reform. Since Mubarak permitted Egypt"s first multi-candidate presidential election in September 2005, only to imprison his runner-up, he has cracked down with abandon.

 

It was not always so bad. In the 1990s, Mubarak reserved the brunt of his repressive energies for Islamist extremists. Later, high-profile critics who had the temerity to challenge him in elections, speculate about his health, or question the sanctity of U.S. aid were imprisoned, tortured, or harassed by the regime. Now, with that political opposition defanged, he has turned his sights even on anonymous critics who have broken taboos and crossed government red lines.

 

It seems a long time ago that President Bush, in his 2005 State of the Union address, exhorted Egypt "to show the way toward democracy in the Middle East." When, a month later, Mubarak announced the contested presidential election, there was even talk of an "Arab spring."

 

But Mubarak"s reelection and the subsequent success of Islamists in parliamentary elections gave his regime a pretext to renege on reform and once again remind Washington of Egypt"s indispensable role in the fight against al Qaeda. The Bush administration took the bait, and has refrained from playing hardball ever since.

 

Today, Mubarak brims with confidence. In the Middle East as elsewhere, autocrats like him do not see weakness as an invitation to compromise. Now assured it will outlive the Bush administration, his regime treats U.S. largesse as an entitlement and dismisses Washington"s demarches as "unacceptable interference" in Egyptian affairs. Still, if the Bush administration"s abandonment of its democracy project helps explain Mubarak"s rollback, it does not account for his retreat to something more ominous than the status quo ante.

 

The question of succession does. Since 2000, Gamal Mubarak, a former banker, has gone from a political neophyte to one of the most powerful officials in the NDP. But even as his father stacks the deck in his favor, Gamal"s ascent is not guaranteed. Egypt"s military, from which every post-1952 president has emerged, opposes civilian rule that could encroach on its domain.

 

Much depends on how the 80-year-old Mubarak makes his exit. Should he relinquish power when his current term ends in 2011, observers expect a smooth filial inheritance. But should Mubarak die or become incapacitated in office--and he has hinted at hanging on until the bitter end--Gamal"s perceived weakness might lead the military to thrust him aside. That in turn would anger even regime opponents, and thus would settle little.

 

Eliminating all opposition to Gamal has not bought the regime security. In the event of a contested succession, an Islamist takeover is unlikely, but Egypt"s continuing pro-Western orientation cannot be taken for granted. As a new U.S. administration prepares to enter office, it would do well to send Mubarak and the one-in-three Arabs he rules the message that U.S. aid cannot be taken for granted, either.

Jeffrey Azarva is a research fellow at AEI

 


Posted in Other Opinions  
Add Comment Send to Friend Print
Related Articles
Amr Hamzawi : Gamal Mubarak lacks legitimacy
After Gaddafi, Egypt Opposition Wants Gamal Mubarak To Follow Suit
Mubarak ’may seek another term’
Arab committee to lift Gaza siege appeals to Mubarak to open Rafah crossing
Mubarak hangs on
Mubarak visit clouded in secrecy :: What’s the Pharaoh doing in Pretoria?
Stomping of Mubarak Visage Prompts Charge in Clampdown on Media
Hisham Mubarak Law Center Criticizes Releasing Lawyers on Bail, Sparing Police Officers
Undermining Mubarak
Public March to Mubarak’s Palace Protesting Gas Exports to Israel
Mubarak’s own strike-free birthday gift
Egypt Opposition Increases Pressure on 80-Year old Mubarak
EGYPT: New Strike to Greet Mubarak
Egypt: Mubarak’s concessions lead to more resistance
Is Muslim Brotherhood Mubarak’s Real Fear
MENA: Abbas, Mubarak to meet on developments in Palestinian territories
Hunger Pains for Mubarak
Mahdi Akef: Muslim Brotherhood Rejects Gamal Mubarak as President
Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood leader slams President Mubarak’s son
A birthday present for Mubarak
Responses to “Mubarak hangs on”
Mubarak hangs on
Egyptian Local Poll: Mubarak’s Games
Egypt’s doctors take on Mubarak
Masri: Abbas-Olmert meeting meant to foil Mubarak’s call
Mubarak under pressure
Top CEIP Researcher: US Has no View over Mubarak’s Possible Successor
Bush’s Double-Talk Fits Mubarak’s Egypt
President Bush Meets with President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt
Give it a break, Mr Mubarak
Barak attacks Mubarak after Palestinian pilgrims crossed Rafah terminal
5 Rights Groups Urge Mubarak Reopen Sudanese Refugees Probe
Mubarak Curbs Dissent, Paves Way for Next President (Update1)
Roger Cohen: Viva Mubarak, Fuera Chavez!
Mubarak rejects foreign pressure
Mubarak’s Son Denies Succession Move
Egypt ruling party keeps Mubarak
US-Egyptian relations post-Mubarak: Plus ca change...
Egypt’s Mubarak too weak to travel; son Gamal being groomed
Egypt’s media defy Mubarak at their peril