A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Friday, January 28, 2011

Who Won the Battle of Cairo? Some Scenarios

Who won today's running confrontations? Clearly, the demonstrators believe they did. Clearly too, the police and Central Security Forces lost. The Army had to enter Cairo for the first time since 1986, and downtown for the first time since 1977. Exactly what the current dynamic is isn't clear, because no one knows if the Army will be used against the demonstrators. It apparently did little to protect the NDP headquarters, taking up positions at the Foreign Ministry and the Radio/TV building, both close by. Mubarak's decision to hang tough means we need to watch a bit more.

At this point I can think of several scenarios by which this could play out:

Scenario One: Confrontations Ease, but Continue. Saturday is a work day. People may be unwilling to confront the Army, as opposed to the hated police. Mubarak hangs tough, demonstrations persist. This has often been the Egyptian model in the past. But the simmering pot has boiled over, and it's going to be hard to take it off a boil.

Scenario Two: The Tunisian Model: The Confrontations Escalate, the Army Won't Fire on Demonstrators; Mubarak Goes. The Tunisian scenario, in other words. Should this happen, then the Middle East may be repeating Eastern Europe in 1989. Tunisia was Poland, but Egypt would be the fall of the Berlin Wall.

Scenario Three: The Tienanmen Model: The Confrontations Escalate; The Army and/or the Police Do a Tienanmen. Blood in the streets; an uncertain future. A poke in the eye for Obama. The opposition could radicalize.

Scenario Four: The Russian (1917 or 1991) Model: The Conscript Army Refuses to Shoot Their Contemporaries. A variant of number two. The rank and file of the Army, the regime's last line of defense, changes sides rather than shoot their brothers and sisters down.

Scenario Five: The Officer Corps Says No, It's Time for You to Go. Another variant of Number Two. The Egyptian bargain, established by Sadat and continued by Mubarak, gave the Army huge economic perks (including manufacturing of appliances, not just weapons, and control over certain imports) in exchange for staying out of politics while backing up the regime. As Mubarak seems less and less viable, the Army Officer Corps might calculate that the only way to maintain the system is to put the Captain over the side.

Scenario Six: Mubarak Recognizes Reality. This is the Only if You're on Drugs Model: Mubarak goes on TV, says, "Hey, I'm 83 and ailing and after 30 years you need a change. Nobody wants my boring son, so we'll just let you figure out what comes next." I wish.

1 comment:

nada said...

Thanks for this concise overview. I am going with Mubareck resigns because I am an indefatigable dreamer.