Shatz: After Egypt

It is too early to say whether Egypt will make the transition to civilian rule and recover its sovereignty after 30 years as an American client state, much less whether it will ever recapture the regional leadership it enjoyed under Nasser. But it is not too early to speculate on the regional impact of Mubarak’s overthrow. As the Syrian philosopher Sadiq al-Azm has put it, ‘the regimes feel vulnerable now.’ The symptoms of this anxiety are plain to see: Mahmoud Abbas’s hasty cabinet reshuffle; the Algerian government’s mobilisation of 30,000 police officers to confront a few thousand protesters in central Algiers; the violent repression of the recent demonstrations in Iran, Libya and Bahrain. Saudi Arabia, which recommended that Mubarak crush the protests by force – and which offered to continue subsidising the army when the Obama administration briefly hinted that it might reconsider its aid package – is nervously watching developments in Cairo. So is Israel, though it has retreated into radio silence after failing to persuade Obama to continue propping up Mubarak. It’s not just the peace treaty that worries the Israeli government: The last thing it wants to see is a national, Egyptian-style campaign of non-violent resistance against the occupation, or indeed against the Jewish state’s ‘partner in peace’, the increasingly unpopular Palestinian Authority.

Issandr El Amrani

Issandr El Amrani is a Cairo-based writer and consultant. His reporting and commentary on the Middle East and North Africa has appeared in The Economist, London Review of Books, Financial Times, The National, The Guardian, Time and other publications. He also publishes one of the longest-running blog in the region, www.arabist.net.