Steven A. Cook

From the Potomac to the Euphrates

Cook examines developments in the Middle East and their resonance in Washington.

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Mubarak Still Rules

by Steven A. Cook
August 15, 2013

Protesters cheer with Egyptian flags and a banner of army chief Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi, seen between former presidents Gamal Abdel Nasser and Anwar Sadat, as they gather for a mass protest to support the army in front of the presidential palace in Cairo (Asmaa Waguih/Courtesy Reuters). Protesters cheer with Egyptian flags and a banner of army chief Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi, seen between former presidents Gamal Abdel Nasser and Anwar Sadat, as they gather for a mass protest to support the army in front of the presidential palace in Cairo (Asmaa Waguih/Courtesy Reuters).

This article was originally published here at ForeignPolicy.com on Wednesday, August 14, 2013. 

My friend, the late Hassan El Sawaf, was correct. When I spoke to him on the evening of February 11, 2011, he was exuberant. After years of a lonely and personal struggle against Hosni Mubarak’s rule, the dictator was suddenly gone. A new era had begun. The prospects for democracy had never seemed so bright.

Freedom cast Hassan in a new light: unburdened with the weight of Egypt, my normally serious and at times dour friend let himself laugh. Yet within 36 hours of Mubarak’s flight to Sharm el-Sheikh, Hassan’s mood had darkened with sudden disillusion. He distributed one of his many commentaries to a long list of friends and followers that read in part, “I believe a big conspiracy is being perpetrated against the people of Egypt…. [Egyptians] are convinced the interim government will really keep its promises and steer them peacefully to the democracy everyone so valiantly fought for. Egypt will remain a military dictatorship indefinitely. How I wish I am wrong.”

Back in those heady days, it was easy to discount Hassan’s missive as revolutionary hangover. This was the fear instilled in someone with an intuitive understanding of the cynicism of Egyptian politics. Yet if there is any question of Hassan’s prescience, today’s attack on the pro-Morsy sit-in at Rabaa al-Adawiya Mosque should put that to rest. Egypt is as far away from the revolutionary promise of Tahrir Square as it was in November 2010 when Mubarak staged perhaps the most fraudulent parliamentary election since they began in the late 1970s.

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