from From the Potomac to the Euphrates and Middle East Program

"Why He Must Go Now"

February 8, 2011 11:05 am (EST)

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Opposition supporters wave flags and shout slogans during a huge rally in the opposition stronghold at Tahrir Square in Cairo on February 8, 2011 (Yannis Behrakis/Courtesy Reuters)

Hi everyone,

A friend of mine in Cairo, Hassan ElSawaf, wrote an excellent, sharply analytical piece, which I have posted below. He explains why President Mubarak must step down now, in order for there to be any kind of change in Egypt.

After twenty nine years under a tyrannical Mubarak regime, following another twenty nine under Nasser and Sadat, the Egyptian people finally decided they could take no more. Dictatorship, an anachronistic political concept, was no longer acceptable. Sensing the hostile and adamant mood of the brave young crowd, Mubarak reluctantly caved in and offered a series of meaningless compromises that culminated with a declaration of not seeking a sixth six-year term, a concession that would in different circumstances have been greeted with jubilation.

Only this time, it fell short.

In the bitter argument over when Mubarak must go lies a deep division among the ranks of many Egyptians getting fed up with the deadlock and the resulting economic paralysis. Even though no voices calling for Mubarak to remain in power can be heard any more, many feel that he must serve out his term and be allowed to oversee a ‘smooth’ transition of power and/or a ‘dignified exit’. Those calling for immediate departure are generally portrayed as impulsive and impatient, irresponsibly throwing their country into chaos; in other words, exactly what Mubarak himself is saying, what can be termed a conflict of interest.

It is painfully obvious that the ‘deferred departure’ scenario is no more than a ploy to weather the storm and stay on. There is, therefore a strong case to be made for immediate departure, not just of Mubarak, but of his entire regime. The case comprises of several arguments.

First, in the past few days many revelations have been made that seriously incriminate the Mubarak regime, especially his family and immediate entourage. Increasing media coverage of tens of billions of dollars of stolen money and fresh accusations of human rights violations by Mubarak are surfacing every day. Out of power, his self-defense abilities are drastically weakened. Observing Ben Ali and his vulnerability once he was thrown out is not exactly an incentive for Mubarak to follow suit and flee. More scandals are bound to emerge, the current ones being no more than the tip of the iceberg. His only hope to save himself and his family is to hide behind the dictator’s shield and depend on his henchmen for protection. If given more time in office he will never step down, but only attempt to tighten his grip.

Second, given his record of keeping his promises, the man can no longer be trusted. As a BBC correspondent recently pointed out, Mubarak has been promising to cancel the emergency law since he came to power. He has always been insisting that the security situation does not allow that to happen. To date the law is still firmly entrenched. There is no reason to believe that more time for Mubarak will serve anybody’s interests apart from those of Mubarak and his entourage: top brass military and security officers, parasitic businessmen and political supporters living off the corruption his regime has instilled.

Third, it is bizarre to talk of the need to worry about a ‘dignified exit’ for Mubarak at the expense of the dignity of eighty five million suffering Egyptians. If time is a dignity-providing factor, why should Mubarak come before his people when every extra day under his rule only makes his people more miserable.

Fourth, watching a meeting between Omar Suleiman, the newly appointed vice-strongman with the so-called representatives of the Egyptian opposition was a clear indication that there is no serious intention to let go of power, ever. The setting for the meeting was ominous, an enormous round table under huge chandeliers in a sumptuous official hall obviously used by the upper echelons of the Mubarak regime. Under the gazing eyes of a huge Mubarak photograph, confidently presided Mr Suleiman over the meeting on his luxurious leather chair, much larger than the chairs the opposition minions were offered. The scene was not one of equals meeting to find solutions; it was a familiar one of ruler and ruled. Arrogance and an authoritarian air exuded clearly from Suleiman, the so-called opposition parties watching meekly. What came out of the meeting was far from satisfying even the most basic demands of the protesters in Tahrir Square, merely an attempt by the regime to buy time and regroup.

From the masses gathered in the square must emerge a cohesive force, eligible to genuinely represent them. The delegation that unilaterally undertook the task of meeting with Suleiman is part of a wide conspiracy to deny the Egyptian people their chance for freedom. The members of that delegation represent no one but themselves and are merely a parasitic bunch of profiteers trying to ride the wave of change. The street mood, not just in Tahrir Square, but all over the country, clearly reflects the fervent desire of millions of Egyptians and millions more that have not joined the protests. For those who fear a religious regime to emerge from the movement, two things must be made clear. The first is that the chanting freedom-seeking crowds covered all walks of life including the Copts. Not once were any religious slurs uttered, not once were there any attempts to separate the sects. The second is that the delegation that met with Suleiman included some Islamist factions, which seriously undermines their ability to represent the protesters on the street. The only reason they pose a threat to gullible Western governments is that Mubarak’s scarecrow tactics have worked brilliantly. The only reason they have become a force to worry about is Mubarak’s brutal and tyrannical treatment of his people. It makes no sense to claim that with Mubarak gone they will pose a threat to the stability of the country when Mubarak is their only reason for existence. The far more likely outcome is that they will gradually fade into insignificance.

The people of Egypt have spoken. Any attempt to thwart the will of the people is an act of treason against the future of Egypt.

Egyptians are not an inferior species incapable of living under the sophisticated climate of ’Western’ democratic principles. Even if we end up with an Islamist government, it will be our government which the West has no right to impose on us. The only way to dilute Islamist power is to integrate the movement in the political arena. Turkey and Indonesia have both done that.

Do not further insult the Egyptian people by hesitating to tell them that you support them completely. Some foreign western governments have made shockingly derogatory statements inferring that Egypt needs time to move towards democracy. If they do not approve of the pace, they should say nothing. Their hesitation to offer unequivocal demands for Mubarak to go only gives traction to his determination to hang on.

If he does not go now, he never will.

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