Saturday, February 5, 2011

Egypt's teapot boils

US president Barack Obama is cautiously pushing Egypt's president Hosni Mubarak to quietly leave the scene. But the old 'pharaon' is not having any of it. Power is shifting to his recently appointment vice president Omar Suleiman, his old intelligence chief. Suleiman is a choice acceptable to the US, UK, the Saudis, and Israel. He is a well known and well read book.
Today two news items set knees knocking. One appeared in the weekend edition of the 'Financial Times of London' reports Wikileaks' release of US diplomatic cables on the Egyptian military. Like their Tunisian cousins, they are revealing about an army purposely 'riven by factionalism'. The wily old sphinx, Mubarak, set up fire walls which favoured him but no one else, thereby keeping the generals eyeing each other so that no one but 'al Rais' [Mubuark] remains not 'primus inter pares' but supreme in command and obedience.
The army will assure Egypt's transition towards a new future of sorts, yet the seeds of rivalry and discontent are deeply sown and will flower under the joggling for power and position among the senior and junior officer class.
The other news release, out of New York by Fox News, is a banner headline of an assassination attempt on Suleiman's life. It failed but his two bodyguards perished.
Fox sticks by its guns, saying the story is true and confirmed by the White House which won't comment. A German diplomat named as the source of the rumour, back tracked on the story's truth, saying the evidence was too sketchy to back it up.
Even if the 'assassination attempt' is not true, it makes one aware that the Egyptian street hasn't the arms and access to Suleiman. So if the bullet had his name on it, the assassin may very well come from the vice president's military caste.
Is it too early to speculate on 'un reglement de comptes' among the constellation of army factions who would welcome the opportunity to take Mubarak's place? Perhaps.
[The conspiracy theorist will seek the plotters among Hamas or Al Qaeda or the Muslim Brotherhood or Iran or any 57 varieties of Islamist extremists, no doubt.]
And, yes, there is a third item: the blowing up of the gas line supplying Syria, Jordan, and Israel with Egyptian gas. No name is yet pinned to who did this act. Consider the consequences, relatively speaking, of a break in energy supplies to these countries. Think of Russia's interruption of gas supplies to eastern and western Europe! and what that meant.
Any which way we look at Egypt, the future is fraught with uncertainty and the army will try to write the narrative of the country's future: it may be a blood soaked tapestry or it may be woven with dull threads, the more especially since Mubarak's 30year hold on power, he has deliberately weakend it so that no one could become his rival. A more probable scenario will include a marriage of the military for stability and a growing and thriving business class who will favour social improvement for Egypt's growing huddled masses.
Ask the Sybil what the future holds! She will say nothing. So the Egyptian teapot continues to become more agitated and hotter...

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