Will the Egyptian sphinx smile or cry?

The Egyptian street protests are now in their 7th day and there seems to be no logical end to it. With a protest of this magnitude, fuelled by pent up frustration, media coverage and unprecented coordination of people across cities, you would expected either a total suppression by the regime or a victory for the people. Instead, you see Mubarak ordering the Police to take charge of the situation without firing live ammunition.( some media reports have indicated that live rounds were indeed used). The police fail to take the streets back and then the army is deployed on the same rules. Witness here the spectacle of soldiers chatting with people almost as if they were on a day’s picnic. Why, one would ask, is there no move on the part of any of the belligerents to end this? As always, the answer has to be found in within a web, we call, foreign affairs. Big Brother USA has a vested interest in maintaining a status quo in Egypt, partly for strategic reasons (The Suez falling into wrong hands???) as well as in ensuring Israel’s military balance in the region remains unchallenged. Another could be a need to prop up monarchies/autocracies across a region which produces some much of world oil and in turn control them by manipulating regional rivalries. Egypt could be the breath that brings down the whole house of cards.The US has not publicly denounced Mubarak nor has it supported it. Sending a former ambassador, Frank G Wisner, as a private citizen is also a non- committal stance. Mubarak has tried to play his own set of moves, reshuffling a cabinet, creating a line of sucession outside the family, and raising the spectre of anarchy if he were to fall. All of which leads us to the third part of the web. The Egytian Army has been the backbone on which a post- King Farouk era was forged. It has been well regarded by the common man as a defender of its sovereignity.(How much of that is true or a myth depends on your interpretation of the Yom Kippur War). the army is also the fountain of power from which the pharoahs, ancient and contemporary derive their legitimacy to rule, unlike the monarchies which obtain the right to rule from divine grace. The army by its actions wants to present a Iron fist clad in a velvet glove as they walk a line between the people and Mubarak. Some reports have even gone to suggest that Mubarak is now being told what to do by the army. But why does the Army want to retain power?  An entity that recieves over 1% of the country’s GDP as foreign aid from the US would not want to rock the boat, even if it needs to sacrifice some old pharaohs. Nor does it want to be subject to a greater power than its own after almost 50years of indirect rule.What do the protesters want? Nothing more than Mubarak quitting. No future plans are being discussed. The opposition groups are in opposition to each other and cannot unite. All one hears is the cacophony of ‘Go Mubarak!!!. Perhaps, the Army might graciously ask Mubarak to leave and with an estimated 20billion in , the Sphinx might attempt a wry smile as he savours life in the midst of plenty. For the people with their immediate need met, they might look forward to another sphinx ruling for 30 more years.

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