The Egyptian People's courageous struggle is more than the ouster of a hated dictator: it is a sweeping movement against an old, cruel order and has deep economic, social, political and international dimensions. The sudden revolutionary eruption in Egypt and the demand for real and substantive democracy, equality and independence from U.S. domination has stunned the leaders of the western imperialist powers. It was just a month ago that Washington and London thought that like a reserve army in their global competition of power with Russia and China against Iran, Palestine and Syria, they have Egypt, Tunisia, Yemen and Jordan on their side.
Now, the peoples of those countries have revealed that the imperialist calculations have been seriously erroneous. Just as with the Iranian revolution in 1979, the events in Cairo, Alexandria, and Suez have taken President Obama, Netanyahu of Israel, Sarkozy of France, London's Conservative Party - Prime Minister David Cameron – and Angela Merkel from the Christian Democratic Union, all defenders of capitalism and colonizers of other nations, by surprise.
As it becomes obvious to the powers in Washington, London, Paris, Berlin and Tel Aviv that the people of Egypt may not abandon the theater of struggle until Mubarak and his entire regime is brought down from the seats of power, the imperialists are trying to save the political and security structures that they helped to build for the last 30 years to serve the next, if there would be any government to their liking. The threats against the demonstrators in Tahrir (Liberation) Square, made by Omar Suleiman, the former head of Egypt's intelligence service and Mubarak's hand-picked replacement for the vice-presidency and one of Washington's boys, shows what might be in store for the people of Egypt who dare to challenge the old order and a U.S. puppet regime.
The U.S. ruling classes have not been able to digest the fact that the people of Egypt could not be intimidated by Mubarak-Suleiman threats, even when brutally beaten by the state's thugs or killed. There is no doubt that the selection of Omar Suleiman is an American narrative and the Egyptian patriotic forces are well-aware of it and elevated their demands from removal of the president to declaring that his anointed cabinet is unacceptable no matter how many times Obama and Hillary Clinton pontificate about the protestors' right to 'express their grievances'.
What apparently shocked the barons of power was that the opposition to Mubarak's rule came not only from the masses of people, but also from within the regime, particularly from the high ranking military officials who have been denied the chance to play their share in deciding who should succeed the despised president. Some in this top echelon of the military see in the current situation both threat and opportunity. If the protest continues on its trajectory and turns into a sustained revolutionary movement with mass character, then it becomes a threat to the entire system. However, if the protest movement exhausts its energy with lack of unity of purpose and strong organization, then it may fall prey to the ambitions of crafty, long ruling generals.
Under the latter condition, the class structure of the Egyptian society remains almost unchanged and as a country it will continue to be a hostage to the expansionist needs of the United States and its allies.
There are three possibilities before the country. First with some minor changes in the constitution and a shuffle of the administration, with or without Mubarak, the military regime stays put and essentially runs the country. The second alternative is that the movement is strong enough to bring about an early election in which Mohammed El Baradei, in coalition with the Muslim Brotherhood and some of the smaller opposition parliamentary parties, would run in genuine elections resulting in a civilian government and the Egyptian army stays neutral and non-partisan. The last possibility is that the army and the Egyptian paramilitary imposes a chaotic condition on the society, divides the opposition by giving small concessions to one or the other group with the purpose of maintaining the military regime and its connections with U.S. military strategy. On Sunday, February 6th Iranian lawmaker Parviz Sarvari, a member of the Parliament (Majlis) National Security and Foreign Policy Commission, said, "The U.S. seeks to derail the revolutionary movement of the Egyptian people and turn it into a limited and trivial reformist movement."
Poverty in Egypt
Egypt is ranked 119 out of 173 where 1 is the worst and 173 is the best, in terms of people living below the poverty line. Egypt imports its food and has the highest amount of wheat imported in the world. Also, 45% of Egypt's poor are illiterate. There is child substandard nutrition, lack of health care, and many students dropout from school in order to help support their family. Unemployment among college and university graduates is extremely high.
The Gross Domestic Product, (GDP) of Egypt, figured out on the basis of purchasing power parity (PPP) - comparing what a citizen can buy with a dollar in Egypt compared to a dollar of purchase by an American citizen - is about $500 Billion, which amounts to per capita income of only $6,100 and places Egypt among the poorer nations. But if the GDP is expressed as the amount of dollars earned then Egypt's per capita income shrinks further to a meager $2,600, which is not sufficient to pay the rent for an apartment in Cairo for a year.
Egypt is a class society and distribution of income between classes is sharply different. According to a survey of the population in 1995, 10% of the highest echelon of Egyptian society consumed 25% of Egypt's products and services. Highest 20% of the population uses 41% of the social production or national products. 10% at the bottom of society consumes only 4.4% of production and services. The lowest 20% of the population share of the GDP is 9.8%.
Simply put, the social system that exploits the masses as they grind down into ever more poverty has to establish a political dictatorship to suppress the population whose needs are not being met. The actions of Mubarak and his counter-revolutionary hired guns and para-militaries has brought the contradiction between these two forces into the open. The brutal assault on the peaceful, unarmed demonstrators sadly shows a weakness of the revolution, although incredibly brave and resistant. Now, the U.S. hopes that the coalition of opposition forces can be divided, and part of it either be bought off or discouraged into silence. However, the turn of events may prove contrary to the wishes of the dictators and their neo-liberal supporters in the U.S.
Militarization of Egypt
Egypt has more than 1.3 million armed troops – the 10th largest military in the world. The Interior Ministry employs 1.7 million people, which comprises the Army, Navy, Air Force and Air defense. The National Guard is 60,000 strong and is under control of the Ministry of Defense. In addition, there are nearly 400,000 paramilitary forces, known as the Central Security Forces (police, intelligence) that were used by Mubarak and Omar Suleiman to brutally assault the protestors, set fires to stores and buildings and run down people and press officials, all in an attempt to demoralize and defeat the opposition.
In the past, under Abdel Nasser, Egypt was considered the Pride of the Arab World. Today, under Mubarak it is considered a hub of the Israeli, American and Western Powers. Egyptians cannot be proud of the role of Egypt, which is used and abused by Israel and the U.S. Egypt carries out Israel’s foreign policy as regards the Palestinians, who are considered by the Arab masses as brothers. When President Obama speaks about the "close partnership" with Mubarak, he is referring to the militarization of Egypt and its integration into U.S. strategy of domination in Africa as evidenced by the $2 Billion given annually by Congress to keep Egypt's military on its side and make Egypt dependent on the U.S. and in league with Israel.
Characteristics of the Upheaval
One of the most important factors in the case of Egypt, dependent on foreign powers, is the stunted capitalist relations and the dependency of the country on the needs and demands of imperialism. Egypt is an underdeveloped capitalist economy in which a minority of the population has the monopoly of domestic and foreign trade in collaboration with foreign capital, pursuing the highest rates of profit in the shortest time. Foreign capital and the dependent domestic capitalist class has been enjoying the security provided by a large military and para-military police force. The gap between the majority of the Egyptian workers, small tradesmen and farmers and the parasitic capitalist class has widened to an irreconcilable gulf. The wealth of the nation is concentrated in the hands of a few, living in opulent gated communities, while every year greater and greater numbers of the people fall into desperate poverty, living on less than $2.00 a day. The corrupt ruling class in Egypt, headed by Hosni Mubarak and the National Democratic Party has brought repression, misery, unemployment, and poverty to millions - those who now stand shoulder to shoulder in Tahrir Square and march through the streets of Alexandria, Aswan, Suez, and in the Nile Delta cities of Mansoura and Sharqiya, demanding the ouster of this corrupt regime.
Egypt suffers from three interrelated maladies: 1) dictatorship; 2) deep gap between rich and the poor, and 3) dependence of the system on U.S. imperialism. In order to remove the three major obstacles on the way to healthy developments, the revolution must have a new democratic character, that is, establish a new economic and political order in which the masses of workers and farmers enjoy greater economic and political rights. This could be done by removing the impediments on the way of establishing independent labor unions and political parties of the working class. To remove the dependency on foreign powers, the weight of the military must be slashed and the capitalist class must be brought under the control of the institutions of working people.
The downfall of the Mubarak regime, undoubtedly, would give rise to new alliances among the countries with overwhelming Muslim populations. Any new government with even the slightest Muslim orientation would result in reducing Israel and Saudi Arabia's capacity of maneuver and agility on one hand and strengthen Turkey, Iran and Syria, not to mention Lebanon, on the other.
With regard to the outcome of the struggle in Egypt, the U.S. would like to be on the side of the winner with one critical condition – that the new government would embody some critical elements of the old, i.e. the intelligence and military apparatus and agree to maintain the major essential relations that were built between Cairo and the Pentagon throughout the 30 years of Mubarak’s reign. This means that the new government would agree to let the U.S. commercial and military ships pass through the Suez Canal on their way to the Persian Gulf (free passage!), continue to host the presence of U.S. military trainers of the Egyptian army and intelligence establishment, continue to work with the U.S. military in fighting the Islamist forces, continue working with the Israeli military and intelligence forces in undermining the presence of Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank and continue providing Israel with gas and oil from Egypt, etc. In other words, keep Egypt in the economic and military orbit of the U.S.
In the current period, the main impediment in the way of the U.S. dumping the old regime is the lack of resolution of these issues in the talks between the various spokesmen of the protest movement and Egypt's vice-president Omar Suleiman and his team of generals, with the U.S. State Department behind the scenes. The pro-Zionist U.S. congressmen and women would like to interpret the inevitable up-coming changes in Egypt's foreign policy and respect for the sovereignty of the Sinai Peninsula as an existential threat and national security issue for Israel. In other words, if Egypt exercises its right of sovereignty and guards its own territory, then Israel calls that a threat to its security. Or if Egypt abrogates the Camp David Accords, under which the Palestinians have lost more territory than gaining a country, Israel would announce this as an existential threat.
U.S. Congresspersons, instead of learning from their own experience and apologizing to the Nation of Egypt for their support of Cairo's dictatorship, they countlessly demonize Iran as the country that has shown the people of Egypt the way to emancipation. This method has also been used by the United States - to put the blame on Iran for what they themselves have been the architects of, in order to deflect from the real causes of the crisis.
No doubt, the secondary impact of U.S. loss of face in Egypt would give the liberation fighters in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan a new boost. If the U.S. administration were minimally rational, it would accelerate the troop withdrawals from those countries well before sustaining higher casualties.
The political crisis in the North African countries of Egypt and Tunisia are taking place exactly at a time that world capitalism is facing financial and economic crises also seen in the protests of workers and students in the European countries of Portugal, Greece, Spain, Ireland and Iceland. In all these countries the rates of unemployment have been unprecedented in decades. The waves of home foreclosures not only denies the workers in the western world a domicile, but in Egypt the crisis has forced tens of thousands of poverty-stricken families to live in the cemeteries on the periphery of the major cities.
Ardeshir Ommani, Doctoral Candidate, is an Iranian-born writer, political economist and president of the American Iranian Friendship Committee (AIFC) www.iranaifc.com in the USA. He can be reached at: Ardeshiromm@optonline.net
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