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Cairo 2011 is not Tehran of 1979

Author: Geneive Abdo
February 1, 2011

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In this "Foreign Policy" article, journalist Geneive Abdo discusses why the latest uprisings in Egypt are not a replica of those in 1979 Iran.

From London to Washington, and as far as Tehran, the question is being asked: Will Egypt of 2011 become the Iran of 1979? Some leading figures in Tehran, as well as Iranian state-run media, are trying to cast Egypt as another country caught up, as is Lebanon, in the region's tilt  toward the Islamist orbit. "I herewith proclaim to those (Western leaders) who still do not want to see the realities that the political axis of the new Middle East will soon be Islamic," Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami, a hard-line cleric, said last week at Friday prayers. He also applauded what he called an end to "Western-backed dictators in the Arab world." Meanwhile, a few European leaders are already sounding the alarm that Egypt's venerable Muslim Brotherhood, which dates back to the 1920s, could fill the vacuum left by the collapse of the Mubarak regime. British Foreign Secretary William Hague told reporters it was not up to foreigners to run Egypt, but "certainly we would not want to see a government based on the Muslim Brotherhood."

And in Washington, some neoconservatives -- the very same circle that not long ago was calling for regime change in Iran based on their reading of the will of the people -- are now backpedaling and advising President Obama to tread lightly, so as not to create an opening in Egypt for an Islamist state to emerge from more than a week of mass popular protest. Some Israelis are also making the same recommendation out of fear that Egypt will go the way of Iran. "...Israelis, have been overtaken by fear: The fear of democracy. Not here, in neighboring countries," Sever Plocker, an Israeli commentator, wrote in the daily Yediot Ahronot. "It is as though we never prayed for our Arab neighbors to become liberal democracies."

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