Tunisian And Egyptian Reprise: The Arab Spring That Wasn’t

UPDATE: The terrorist alert for southern Israel remains in effect.

The Egyptian military attacking Coptic Christians in Cairo last night

The Egyptian military attacking Coptic Christians in Cairo last night

All the promise that so many in the West saw in the Arab Spring seems to be fading rapidly into nothingness this morning. Of course, your humble servant never saw such promise to begin with and has blogged to that effect repeatedly over the course of the last few months.

Let’s first focus on Tunisia because that is where the Arab Spring supposedly began last January when the street vendor immolated himself to begin the revolution to oust Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. In two weeks, on October 23, Tunisia will have its first elections since Ben Ali’s exile.

And who is expected to win? The same party your humble servant predicted would win back in February, the Islamist Ennhaada party (see my February 26 blog). In a recent interview, Masoud Ramadani, an activist with the Tunisian Human Rights Union, lamented that no other party has a chance: “Many people are worried about the weight of Ennhaada. They seem to have a lot of money and they seem to be very well organized.”

For its part the Islamist Ennhaada is playing the “one story for the West” and “one story for the faithful” game. Last week its extremist radical leader Rashid Ghannouchi had this to say: “All the values of democracy and modernity are respected by Ennhaada. We are a party that can find a balance between modernity and Islam.”

Sure. And if you believe that, I know of some waterfront property for sale in the middle of the Sahara Desert.  Polls taken last week have the Islamists garnering three times the number of votes as their closest rival. Nevertheless, we had the ridiculous spectacle of President Obama still singing the praises of the Arab Spring and warmly embracing “Interim” Tunisian Prime Minister Caid Essebsi at the White House this past Friday–and promising increased American aid.

Now on to Egypt, that your humble servant happens to be looking at this very moment (I am writing this on the balcony of my hotel room in Eilat looking down the Red Sea at the Sinai Peninsula–more about that tomorrow).

Again, what was apparent to anyone paying attention back in February is even more strikingly apparent this morning: the Egyptian military never relinquished control over Egypt and that in fact what happened was an old-fashioned coup d’etat.  With Mubarak gone, General Tantawi is firmly in power (see my June 3 blog).

On October 1, the so-called demonstrators for democracy gathered again in Tahrir (Liberation) square to demand a more rapid transfer of power from military to civilian rule.   Their moniker for the event was “Friday to Reclaim the Revolution.” They began setting up tents and mouthing the usual chants.

They didn’t get very far. This time the Egyptian Army along with security forces swooped in and cleared the square immediately–pushing the protestors to side streets where many were arrested. After all, as you may remember back in February when Mubarak was thrown under the bus, Tantawi and the ruling military council enacted the Egyptian Emergency Law which extended police powers, suspended constitutional rights, and legalized censorship.

Unfortunately, the justification for military rule in Egypt has taken an even uglier turn with intense clashes between the Egyptian military and Coptic Christians last night which left more than 20 Copts dead.

Egyptian Prime Minister Essam Sharaf–himself a military appointee- ominously said this morning that the Coptic riots in Cairo were “an attempt to crumble the state. The striking hand must be severed.” Yes, you read that right, the tiny Copt minority in Egypt is attempting to ‘crumble the state.’

Welcome to the Arab Spring that wasn’t.


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