Tuesday, March 02, 2010

El Baradei demands reforms in Egypt. He will not get them.

From TheMajlis.org (no relation to Iran's parliament) we get a summary of reforms former IAEA director Mohamed ElBaradei advocates to ensure that Egypt has free elections and that would also presumably pave the way for him to run as a candidate.
  • End the 30-year-old state of emergency;
  • Allow the Egyptian judiciary to oversee elections;
  • Allow local and international civil society organizations to monitor elections;
  • Grant equal media time to candidates;
  • Allow Egyptian expats to vote;
  • Remove the restrictions on presidential candidates, particularly independents;
  • Limit presidents to two terms;
  • Allow Egyptians to vote with only a national ID card.
It is important to understand that Hosni Mubarak is not accountable to ElBaradei. He is not accountable to Egypt's voters or to the people of Egypt in any form. Hosni Mubarak is accountable to the US President and the US Congress. Al Qaeda, I believe, makes a tactical error in attacking or threatening to attack US civilians, especially in the dramatically more strict post 2001 security environment. However, Al Qaeda is correct that demands for reform of Egypt are most effectively directed at the United States.

Of course the reforms ElBaradei requests will not be enacted in time for the next election, or in time to prevent Gamal Mubarak from succeeding his father. ElBaradei may be able to raise pressure on Mubarak and in a slow process marginally open Egypt's political system. From Egypt, ElBaradei can certainly not accomplish putting Egypt's foreign policy under popularly legitimate Egyptian control.

On a scale of ideological intensity, ElBaradei is closer to Bashar Assad than to Mao Zedong or Kemal Ataturk. An Egyptian revolution that would end Egypt's colonial relationship with the United States would require leaders who have an ideological reason to make the commitment and sacrifice necessary to confront the regime against overwhelming odds. That is not ElBaradei, nor unfortunately, any prominent Egyptian prospective leader that I'm aware of.

Egypt could be freed without a revolution, but that would require an appeal to the consciousness of the United States comparable to Gandhi's appeals to Britain, Martin Luther King's appeals to the Northern US states or Mandela's appeals to the United States. Violent or non-violent, a campaign to influence the United States would have to be consistent and sustained and it would have to be expressed in clear and preferably eloquent language. ElBaradei might be able to do that, but so far has not shown that he understands the need or is inclined to fill it.


Lysander said...

Being a bit paranoid, I'm inclined to believe that Baradei is used as somewhat of a lever or stick with which the US can use to beat Mubarak into line.

But I could be wrong and maybe Baradei is sincere about seeking Egyptian democracy. If so, then arousing more and more anger at the government is really the only option available. Appealing to the US is totally worthless because few American's believe that the US really influences Egypt. After all, Egypt is not a colony as India was. There are no US troops there. Nor are there local US governors.

Also, much of Mubarak's obedience comes from the fact that Egypt is economically crippled and horribly overpopulated. If it charts an independent course, it will not survive the economic sanctions and media attacks that Iran, or even Syria, can endure. Which puts a damper on any popular revolt in Egypt, since an Iran style 1979 revolution would be stamped out by the west if Mubarak can't handle it.

In the 1980's when there was a Soviet Union, Mubarak had quite a bit more room to maneuver.

DanielleD said...

Lysander, I think being skeptical of political figures is always a good thing. Not everyone thinks that Baradei will be able to make good on the hope he inspires: http://bit.ly/9P8Gl1

lidia said...

Arnold, have you read the last Stratfor piece about USA/Iran?


I think you could use it for dissection and I am looking forward to it.

(I found Stratfor odious, but they are a good indication of what is up in USA ruling circles)

Arnold Evans said...

Lidia: I was looking at the Stratfor article when you wrote that. I guess we think alike. Do you remember in October when Stratfor said that there would be a war in the very near future? Now Stratfor says there will be no war at all. It seems that basic elements of reality are reaching the US foreign policy community.

The latest article makes some mistakes, but I see it as a step forward from not too long ago.

Lysander: For now we disagree on how weak Egypt is fundamentally. It doesn't have a huge amount of oil, but it does have options outside of dependence on the United States. Aid from the US is a tiny proportion of its GNP. Enough to bribe Mubarak and make his family rich, but not enough to impact the lives of most Egyptians.

It is true that most Americans do not appreciate the amount of leverage the US holds over Egypt, but on the other hand, in 1970 most Americans did not realize how critical US support was for South Africa. It is different from India, but the US does make public interventions in Egyptian affairs and the financial transfers to Egypt are a matter of record.

The Israel lobby, of course, supports the US directing the Egyptian government on Israel's behalf and both supports and works to downplay the importance of these activities. But right now they are doing so against no opposition.

Even a statement from Baradei that the US should be aware of the harm it is doing to Egypt would not only be a step in the right direction, but it would probably be a more effective step than calling for reforms in Egypt among a population that has no leverage over Mubarak.

Once the discussion is even being had, that represents a huge loss compared to today for those that want the US/Egyptian relationship to quietly continue as it is.

Lysander said...

Thanx Arnold. I don't think Egypt depends economically on the few billion in aid it gets. However, if Mubarak's government is toppled by mass revolt, Egypt would be placed in the same isolated position of Gaza, or Iraq under sanctions. If Mubarak made a radical 180 degree shift, the same applies. It may be that Egypt could withstand such isolation, but I'm not sure anyone in government, or even the public, is willing to bet on it would want to bet on it.

Indeed, I suspect fear of such isolation and the economic catastrophe it would bring is another factor in discouraging any mass protest.

I agree however, that Mubarak could resist much more than he is currently doing.

b said...

A real democratic Egypt would be hostile to Israel. It can therefore not be allowed. ElBaradei will be a disappointment for his followers just as Mousavi turned out to be one.