Correspondence: A very rare surprise for the west in the Middle EastFebruary 6th, 2011
The West has every right to be surprised, but not outraged, if Hosni Mubarak is forced from power in Egypt, writes Ryan Bachoo, a 21-year-old from Trinidad and Tobago
Browsing through news websites the other day, trying to understand every angle of the Egypt crisis, I noticed a comment on CBC News, which described the events in Egypt as “a social earthquake on the scale of Haiti.”
The images coming out of Cairo and Alexandria depict exactly this.
But having been covering politics for the past few years, I’ve come to understand that every action has an equal and opposite reaction.
Two things strike me as important.
Firstly, it is very unlikely that thousands of Egyptians woke up on the morning of 25 January and decided they had enough of Hosni Mubarak’s government. Secondly, the actions of the Egyptian people will have effects on other people around the globe.
I’ll focus though on the impact the protest is having on the relationships between Egypt and the West, the United Kingdom and to a greater extent, Europe and Israel.
It is becoming clearer that the West has had a strong hand in allowing the Egyptian people to come out shouting for democracy. Both US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton and British Prime Minister David Cameron have called for “an orderly transition of power.”
The West’s relationship with Egypt has always been relatively solid, but now a change to Egypt’s constitution isn’t even given a thought.
Politics can be a dirty business, and the West and its allies have often been the chief players in the game. Hosni Mubarak will certainly have understood that now.
It is still unknown what exactly triggered the apparent collapse in the relationship between Egypt and the West. Perhaps Wikileaks will reveal that mystery in the coming days.
The West however is now no longer in a strong position. In fact, now that constitutional reform is almost guaranteed, the US has more to reassess in its relationship with Egypt than its yearly aid spending.
After invading Iraq, former US President George W Bush said that his goal was to liberate the Iraqi people. It’s a wonder that Egypt never crossed his mind, despite making several stern statements lamenting the need for democratic reform in the Middle East.
The relationship with Egypt was important to America, at least up until 24 January. But now, unlike, Iraq and Afghanistan, the fate of Egypt ultimately rests in the hands of the Egyptian people, not America.
When change comes, and it will, foreign policies and relationships will also change in the Middle East.
When Tunisia’s President, Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, fled into exile last month, it triggered a domino effect around the Middle East. There is unrest in King Abdullah II’s Jordan and many are also bracing for revolution in Algeria, Yemen and Syria.
The ramifications for Israel are also stacking up by the day. Though they supported Hosni Mubarak, President Benjamin Netanyahu knows that Israel is but a small Middle Eastern country.
Iran too will have been looking at events over the last few weeks: An ousted Tunisian President; the takeover of Lebanon and expulsion of the pro-Western Prime Minister; protests in Yemen; the sacking of a cabinet in Jordan, and similar demonstrations planned in Syria.
Low wages? Economic woes? Poverty? Unemployment? Corruption? Police abuses? All these issues need to be addressed.
The West has every right to be surprised, but not outraged, if Hosni Mubarak goes.
For the West preaches democracy.