A military government stubbornly clinging to power, and willing to use lethal force against unarmed protesters; bloggers held in prison for ‘insulting the military’; not a single woman appointed to the constitutional committee; Salafis receiving as much as 30 per cent of the vote for parliament: an uprising against a dictatorship seems to have taken a disconcertingly illiberal turn. No wonder the Tahrir vanguard has begun to ask what the uprising has achieved. No wonder some of them claim the revolution has been ‘hijacked’ by a counter-revolution of generals and Islamists whose aim is to prevent genuine civilian rule. It is a view shared by sympathetic foreign observers, who dreamed that what was happening in Tahrir Square was the birth of a liberal Egypt in which all the freedoms cherished in the West would be protected.
The [Egypt’s] military, much more than the Mubarak regime, is considered indispensable to American strategy in the Middle East. Its commitment to the peace treaty with Israel is what matters most, but the logistical support it gives to US forces in Afghanistan, its opposition to the spread of Iranian influence and the access it provides to US ships in the Suez are nearly as important.