Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Deposing dictators is just the start of a Middle East transformation

Protest won't fade away in Egypt and Tunisia, whatever the old order and its allies in the US think

Soumaya Ghannoushi
The Guardian, Wednesday 16 February 2011

"........These developments serve as important indicators of what could lie ahead for Egypt, its heavyweight Arab sister, now that Mubarak has gone. The containment policy that has been pursued in Tunis is already under way in Cairo. There is a stubborn will, internal and external, to salvage a system that has failed to preserve its figurehead. That is precisely what Barack Obama means by "managed change", and what Cameron intends by "orderly transition". The US is seeking to avert the mistakes of 1979 – when it positioned itself in open confrontation with the Iranian masses – by using unusually reserved, non-provocative language. But beyond the rhetoric, its strategy consists in emptying change of its essence and confining it instead to a rearrangement of the existing power centres.

Reality may, however, turn out to be too complex for this strategy to succeed. The US could find itself powerless to control the rhythm and direction of events on the ground. Just as Tunisia's protest movement did not end with the ousting of Ben Ali, the millions who have filled Tahrir Square for over two weeks are unlikely to consider their mission accomplished with Mubarak's departure. The forces unleashed by revolution will not fade into the background overnight – but are set to occupy the centre stage of politics in Egypt, as in Tunisia, for the foreseeable future.

The attempt to contain events in these countries hinges on the hope that they are simply transient waves of anger that will recede with the passing of Ben Ali or Mubarak. The truth, however, is that what is under way are revolutions originating from society's depths: political earthquakes that will transform the entire region. What we are witnessing is nothing short of the birth of the new Middle East."

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