UPDATE: Murbarak is Out: Now What?

Mubarak is gone.  The clean up  in Tahrir Square is over. But what’s next for Egypt and beyond?

Egypt’s military dissolved parliament and will run the country for six months or until elections are held.  It is suspending the constitution and will appointment a committee to propose changes in an amended constitution which the public will get to vote on.  The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces can issue new laws during the transition.

The military—who supported almost 40 years of authoritarian rule by Hosni Mubarak—wisely switched to support the people in the street rather than the palace. They are the now arbitrators of Egypt.

Hope and expectations are running high, and will be hard for the military both to resist and fulfill.   

In additional to constitutional change, the big question is who will run for President?  Corrosive infighting will start unless there is a consensus around a single figure like Mohamed ElBaradei or one unifying candidate. This is not the end, only the end of the beginning as Churchill would say.     

It’s now politics.  For the moment, there is strong desire to unify Egypt.  Fears that the Muslim Brotherhood will take change of the process seem unlikely.  In a fair election, most observers think they represent only about percent of the vote. But they will have a role. 

Egypt’s real problems are under and unemployment, the treatment of minorities, the left over elements of Mubarak’s National Party, the military’s status and the transition to a country where the rule of law prevails?

Implications for American foreign policy  

President’s Obama October 11th statement was right on target. He said the people have spoken.  Nothing less than genuine democracy is acceptable. The US, he said, will be a partner to Egypt and support a transfer to democracy.  The military protected the people, and importantly, Muslims and Christians acted together for change.  Harking back to Martin Luther King Jr., he highlighted that this was a historic moment and “cries out for freedom.”  Obama smartly tied Egypt’s democratic aspirations to those of America. 

Reports are that behind Obama’s rhetoric, there was and is a secret, full course press being undertaken by American diplomats and the U.S. military to reach out to their Egyptian counterparts and to encourage constructive change.

Just as upheaval in Tunisia sparked the uprising in Egypt, fighting is breaking out between solders supporting Southern Sudan region and the army of Sudan.  Unrest is happening or expected in Jordan, Algeria, and possibly Lebanon and Palestine.

But for the moment, America and Egypt are moving together to further democracy.  And hopefully, the White House is reexamining US national security policy in the region and beyond.  This is especially vital to building a strategy that ensures the long-term—not short-term security and stability of the region and especially helps move Israel towards policies that are in both its own security interests, those of its neighbors, and to achieve at last a peace a settlement with the Palestinians. The Egyptian military said they would honor past treaties, and now is the right time for Israel to move to make the compromises that will secure its safety and peace and give the Palestinians the viable state they deserve and want.   

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