Thursday, February 10, 2011

Mubarak Says He's Not resigning

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By Barry Rubin

Early in this crisis, one of the most wise people on Egypt in the entire world told me the following joke:

Aide: "Do you want to say good-bye to the Egyptian people?"
Mubarak: "Why? Are they going somewhere?"

As I told you, the regime was not going to give up and reports of its death were greatly exaggerated. [But the army changed sides and removed the regime from power.]

This is a huge lesson in political culture. It also shows just how bad the media coverage has been! Mubarak is not resigning. He said that he was managing the "reform" process;  appointing a committee to study constitutional changes; deciding when there would be elections and would "consider" changing the emergency law.

He basically said: I am an Arab warrior, not a community organizer. That speech should be required reading for anyone who wants to understand the Middle East.

As I told you  this is not over yet. There has been no revolution so far. [And in the end there was a coup] The protesters are going to freak out. Obama gave this jaunty statement of victory applauding Mubarak's resignation, extolling Egypt's new democracy, and claiming it was his doing.
In saying he won't accept outside advice, Mubarak took a direct slap at Obama. Can you imagine the expression on Obama's face as he watched the speech after being told by his intelligence that Mubarak resigned? After he made a speech about how the youth had forced change? If I had to summarize it I'd say:  Mubarak to Obama: Drop Dead!

BUT Obama endorsed the speech and was bragging about how he was the man who deserved credit for pushing Mubarak out. I believe he didn't know what was going to happen. And if he spoke that way knowing what Mubarak would say, I can only tell you that things in the White House are even worse than I've been saying.
Mubarak speaks of what he is going to do. He could not say this if the army wasn't behind him. They did not press him to quit. He kept saying I will do this and I will do that. Some are misreading this as stepping down and turning over power to his vice-president. That isn't what he said: he is "delegating" power. He's still the Man.

If you think I'm being excessively enthusiastic about a dictator refusing to step down and give way to democracy, my reaction is in large part the entirely fascinating lesson we have been given in how Middle East politics works.

So what is Mubarak going to do? He's going to look into the problem. He has appointed a constitutional committee. The committee will investigate amendments and reforms. And when he's ready there will be an election. I can see the faces of the demonstrators and the Brotherhood as they watch this. There could be violence.

At most, he is becoming a figurehead but is still president. He proposes a dialogue that will go on for months and when the dialogue is through the regime will determine what to do.

He said violence would not be tolerated. Perhaps the army is ready for a show of force? Note he said that any changes would have to take into account the possibility of terrorism, in other words they would still be tough.

I've never seen anything like this Egypt crisis to demonstrate how ignorant the Western experts are about the Middle East.

When the general who announced that there would be a dramatic announcement said, "This ends tonight," he was referring to the disorders and demonstrations, not to Mubarak.

Remember the most important sentence of the crisis: When Mubarak said that Obama doesn't understand Egyptian (Arab) culture. Mubarak believes that you don't yield ground or they cut your head off. You show you are tough and they back down.

That is the mentality we are seeing. There may be an outbreak of violence right now. But don't think the army didn't know that and must have some plan to deal with it. Because this was the equivalent of  Gary Cooper, Charles Bronson, or Clint Eastwood saying, "You want it? Come and get it!"

Before this is over, there's going to be a lot of blood in the streets of Cairo.


It's now clear how the Obama Administration is spinning it: They won, Mubarak has left office for all practical purposes even though he remains president.

This shows another big miscalculation about the Middle East. Everyone in the region will have the following analysis:

The regime won. Since it controls the "reform process" it will do whatever it wants and end up with the real power. The opposition is boiling with anger. And since Obama is claiming credit for this situation--which they and others will see as a "trick"--it will increase anti-Americanism. The word will be: Obama saved the regime and stole democracy from the Egyptians. [But the only one the regime couldn't defeat was its own army.]

In Washington they are gloating, not realizing what the impact of their "clever maneuver" will be in the long run. I wouldn't be surprised if before this is over there will be attacks on American facilities and people in Egypt.

Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. His latest books are The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley), and The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan). The GLORIA Center's site is and of his blog, Rubin Reports,

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