In the wake of the ongoing revolution in Egypt, the author takes a geopolitical tour of the Middle East. In order to know where democracy will appear next, one must examine the roots of conflict in this troubled region.
Map by George Cassutto
Used with Permission
Egypt: The Tipping Point
In Egypt, the most visible protests by a nation’s people calling for democratic reforms in a generation may have its desired result. Egyptian strongman Hosni Mubarak told his people today that he would not seek re-election in September of this year. While the protesters are still calling for his immediate ouster, the groundswell of popular sentiment against this thirty-year old authoritarian regime seems to have brought about fundamental political changes in the largest moderate Muslim nation in the Middle East, among which may include a national unity government, constitutional reforms, and the establishment of a secular democracy in the face of religious extremism that is so often seen elsewhere in the region.
So far, the United States, in the person or persons of the Obama administration, has carefully walked the diplomatic tightrope by embracing the goals of the revolution without alienating the current leadership, which has been a faithful ally and stalwart against Islamic jihadism indigenous to nations where the United States imposed democracy externally, namely Iraq and Afghanistan. President Obama and secretary of State Clinton have counseled the Mubarak government that it can no longer be an effective player in the light of popular opposition evident in the streets of Cairo and in other major cities across Egypt. In a face-saving move, Mubarak installed a new vice president, replaced his entire cabinet, and finally, informed his nation that he will not step down immediately, but he will not seek re-election after thirty years of single party rule as president. Elections are scheduled for September of 2011. It will be at that time that the people will have their opportunity to replace the president as well as the parliament, which is dominated by the National Democratic Party. Mubarak’s party captured 95% of the parliament’s seats on an election that was widely seen as rigged.
Jordan: Constitutional Monarchy Strives to Survive
Political change in Egypt comes on the heels of what is being called the “Jasmine” revolution in Tunisia and in Algeria. Dictators, monarchs, and autocrats across the region are getting nervous as popular uprisings continue to sweep across the region. Following the example of the Egyptian people, protests in Jordan have motivated King Abdullah to remove his entire government and to ask a high-ranking military officer to appoint a new cabinet. Jordan is also a US ally and a moderate Muslim nation that has cooperated in the fight against Islamic extremism, formerly known during the Bush years as “the war on terror.”