Egypt's Future, Ctd


John Hinderaker gets a bad feeling about the return of Sheik Yusuf al-Qaradawi, who had been exiled by Mubarak, and his negative comments about Jews and American forces in Iraq from the last couple of years. On Friday, al-Qaradawi spoke to a crowd of, reportedly, more than a million Egyptians in Tahrir Square:

One of the western media's favorite Egyptian rebels is Google executive Wael Ghonim. No surprise there: if you had to choose among radical clerics like al-Qaradawi, hooligans like those who assaulted Lara Logan, and a suave, Westernized Google exec, whom would you want to interview? Ghonim was present on Friday and intended to address the crowd, but he was barred from the platform by al-Qaradawi's security. He left the stage in distress, "his face hidden by an Egyptian flag."

Juan Cole defends him:

Yusuf Qaradawi, the 84-year-old preacher whose roots are in the old Muslim Brotherhood before the latter turned to parliamentary politics, is nevertheless no Ayatollah Khomeini. Qaradawi addressed thousands in Tahrir Square in Cairo on Friday. Qaradawi called for Muslims to fight the Taliban and al-Qaeda alongside US troops in 2001. On Friday he praised the Coptic Christian role in the Egyptian revolution and said that the age of sectarianism is dead. Qaradawi is a reactionary on many issues, but he is not a radical and there is no reason to think that either the Youth or Workers’ Movements that chased Hosni Mubarak out of the country is interested in having Qaradawi tell them what to do.

Jake Caldwell assesses Egypt's food security:

As the world’s largest importer of wheat, Egypt is acutely vulnerable to any surge in food prices. Wheat prices have risen 47 percent over the last year and other staples are rapidly approaching dangerously high levels.

Rapid population growth, widespread poverty, massive unemployment among the two-thirds of Egyptians under 30 that form part of the youth bulge, and spiraling inflation all make it difficult for families to keep pace with rising food costs. Egypt has spent $4 billion a year, or 1.8 percent of GDP, on its bread-subsidization program in an attempt to insulate the 40 percent of Egyptians living on less than $2 a day from inflation. And yet prices continue to rise.

Aaron Goldstein raises concerns about Iran's plans to send two naval ships across Egypt's Suez Canal:

As disturbing as this development is what is equally troubling is the fact that Egypt's new military government has given Iran's intentions its blessing. It thus marks the first time an Iranian ship has crossed the Suez since 1979, the year of the Iranian Revolution. Israel understandably considers Iran's intentions to be highly provocative as they could conceivably attack the Jewish State from the Suez.

Pouya Alimagham gleans lessons for Iran from Egypt's revolution:

[T]he opposition’s strategy should not be limited to street activity, as it was in the past, but expanded into a more comprehensive approach including strikes, encampments in Iran’s own Liberation Square and, most importantly, garnering the support of Iran’s armed forcesall of which were tactics vital to success in Egypt. ... The speed with which the dictatorships in Egypt and Tunisia fell stands in stark contrast to the Iranian government’s survival after the 2009 post-election turmoil – a critical point that needs to be considered when strategizing how to promote non-violent democratic change in Iran.

Exum worries about the police:

[W]e Americans paid -- and are paying -- a heavy price in Iraq and Afghanistan for the way in which the development of competent local police lags behind the development of the Army in both countries. In Cairo, at least, the police are rarely seen these days. The police officers you do see, usually directing traffic, never much respected anyway, have lost their ability to intimidate the people, who now periodically hurl abuse at them and who see themselves as having "defeated" the police during the demonstrations -- and not just in Tahrir Square but all over the countryside, where police stations burned from Upper Egypt to the Delta. But the Army trying to serve the functions of the police in preserving law and order is as awkward here as it is anywhere else. You need local police to preserve order, and though things in Cairo at the moment reflect a kind of good-natured anarchy, things might not stay that way if demonstrations continue and expectations remain unmet. (That having been said, Cairo has always been a city of neighborhoods, and locals in these neighborhoods usually do a damn fine job of preserving order on their own, thank you very much.)

Juan Cole shifts the emphasis of the revolutions:

Despite the importance of Facebook and Twitter as communication and networking tools, Labor unions and factory workers have been more important in the Arab uprisings than social media.

(Photo: Egyptian Prime Minister Ahmed Shafik meets with his British counterpart David Cameron  in Cairo on January 21, 2011, the first trip by a foreign leader to the Egyptian capital since the downfall of longtime president Hosni Mubarak. By Khaled Desouki/AFP/Getty Images.)