Friday, February 11, 2011

What’s behind the Egypt riots: Democracy or Islam?

By Naira Hayrumyan
ArmeniaNow correspondent

The revolutionary processes taking place in the Arab world and leading or threatening to lead to the resignations of governments and situations of chaos in the countries have become the subject of global debate. Can these processes be considered a democratic revolution, or is this rather the strengthening of Islamic organizations?

There is no unequivocal answer to this question, just as there is no answer to the questions of who stands behind these events, who is the leader of the movements and who will head the government of Egypt, Tunisia, Yemen, perhaps Algeria when the revolutions are completed.

Following Tunisia where the country’s longtime leader had to resign under the pressure of a popular uprising, Egypt has seen major riots in recent days turning its capital Cairo and other major cities into battlefields of the police and military with opposition protesters seeking the resignation of the country’s controversial president Hosni Mubarak. The riots have already resulted in dozens dead and hundreds injured on both sides as well as widespread looting that also targeted a world-famed history museum.

The influential Islamic organization “Muslim Brothers” joining the demonstrators in Egypt is indirect evidence that the power of radical Islamist organizations will be strengthened as a result of the revolutions that emerged under the slogan of fighting corruption, poverty, unemployment, and demanding the resignation of government.

This is what Israel warns against. Tel Aviv fears the Islamization of loyal Arab allies. General Aharon Ze’evi-Farkash, former head of the Israeli Military Intelligence Directorate (Aman), believes that “democratization in our region is Islamization.” The Egyptians are actively supporting the Islamists, taking timely advantage of the rapid impoverishment of the masses.

At the same time, sources at the Egyptian Embassy in Israel reported that in the event of an emergency escape of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, Israel would grant him asylum in its territory. Saudi authorities have refused to give asylum to the long-serving Egyptian leader should he flee, reports Russia’s radio Ekho Moskvy.

There is another version of what happened – the continuation of the Cold War: the departure of “Sovietism” from Africa and the Arab countries and active penetration there by the United States. Russian political analyst, director of the International Institute of the Newest States Alexey Martynov believes that in the Maghreb they still have a very good attitude towards Russia by force of the old Soviet memory, “which cannot but be a factor when the new wave of color revolutions raised by the United States leads (has already led to) rampant looting, chaos and a sharp strengthening of the most radical Islamic forces.”

Testimony to the American trace can also be found in the latest Wikileaks revelations, according to which, despite the fact that the U.S. has always officially supported Egyptian leader Mumarak, his overthrow by “popular uprising” has been planned since 2008. One of the classified U.S. diplomatic cables revealed by the whistle-blower website and dated December 30, 2008, describes a plan of toppling the Mubarak regime until the scheduled September 2011 elections.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called for Egypt’s “transition to democracy”. She said that Washington is for a democratic government to be formed in Egypt.

But who will lead Egypt - Muslims or liberals? Last week former head of the International Atomic Energy Agency and Nobel Prize winner Mohamed ElBaradei joined the Cairo protests. He has since become the figurehead leadership of the uprising (though not an initial apparent instigator) behind whom the opposition has rallied. In his address to the crowd in the main square of Cairo the Egyptian dissident announced “a new era” for Egypt.

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