author of a new book says the next U.S. president will need to pay close
attention to the volatile political situation in Egypt, one of America's
strongest and most important allies in the Middle East. The author believes U.S. policymakers now
face a difficult choice: continuing to support the iron-fisted rule of Egypt's
current president and his likely hand-picked successor, or backing a beleaguered
democratic opposition that some believe could open the door to Islamic
his new book, The Last Pharaoh: Mubarak and the Uncertain Future of
Egypt in the Volatile Mid East, Egyptian-American writer Aladdin
Elaasar offers the next American president his
blunt assessment of Egypt's near-term outlook.
Elaasar believes President Hosni Mubarak, America's "strong
man" in Egypt and the recipient of billions of dollars in U.S. military
and development aid, is losing his grip on power after 26 years of autocratic
author believes there are many signs that time is running out for Mubarak, who
succeeded President Anwar Sadat after the 1981 assassination and who won a
controversial multi-party election to a six-year term in 2005. Elaasar says
Egypt's severe economic problems are just one sign that Mubarak's grip on power
is loosening. "There is about 37%
unemployment in Egypt," Elaasar notes. "There is about 2% to 5% of
the people who monopolize the economy and these people are elites around
Mubarak and his party. And there is at least 40% of the people in Egypt who
live under the poverty line. So there are a lot of indications of social
ailments and illnesses and we need to pay attention to that."
cites the Mubarak government's well-documented use of repression and
police-state tactics to intimidate or silence its political opponents. Those
tactics earned Mubarak strong rebukes from the U.S. and other countries
following the 2005 presidential election, which critics claim was massively
rigged to ensure a Mubarak victory. And
Elaasar sees a rising tide of popular frustration and dissatisfaction with
Mubarak that encompasses labor unions, teachers, lawyers, judges and youth
throughout the country.
says the situation in Egypt today reminds him of Iran just before the 1979
overthrow of the Shah by Islamic fundamentalists. "Mubarak reminds me of
the last days of the Shah," the author says. "He was living a life of
extravagance and surrounded by his elites.
He was so oppressive. And that
paved the way for the extreme right to come in. And we know the rest of the
In The Last Pharaoh, Elaasar writes that the next American president can expect one of
several difficult scenarios to unfold in Egypt in the months ahead. "The Mubarak regime is preparing itself
for the next step," the author explains, "which is making his son,
Gamal Mubarak, to be the next president of Egypt. But the other scenario that
can play out is that there are other political powers, so it could be the
extreme religious right that can take over, or things can get out of control
because of the poverty level and the suffering of the Egyptian people, so the
people in the street can do something when things reach a very desperate
Alaadin Elaasar urges the next American president to shift U.S. policies on
Egypt toward strategies that promote democracy in the country.
really need to make sure that there would be democracy and change,"
Elaasar warns, "because if this does not start, people reach the extent of
desperateness. And then desperateness
breathes out all kinds of violence and all kinds of extremism that opens the
door for extremists to jump in and pretend they have the solution."
author says the worst-case scenario in Egypt would be a military coup, which
would turn Egypt into what he describes as a "God-knows-what" regime.
belief in the imminent collapse of the Mubarak government is not shared by the
former U.S Ambassador to Egypt, Nicholas Veliotis, who served under U.S.
President Jimmy Carter. Ambassador Veliotis says he hopes the Mubarak
government will respond to the Egyptian people's powerful yearnings for
democracy. But whether it does or not, Veliotis does not expect the Mubarak
regime to go the way of the Shah of Iran. "I personally do not see
anything happening like what happened in Iran," he says. "I believe
there are broader institutions in Egypt. They were not in Iran. We are not
dealing with a pre-Iranian revolution situation. If you ask my view, I think
the successor, whoever it is, should be a civilian. Egypt is far beyond the
time when it needs another general to come in."
veteran American diplomat believes the political scenarios facing Egypt today are
neither as stark nor as limited as those described by Alaadin Elaasar in his
new book, The Last Pharoah.
With the support of the U.S. and the international community, Veliotis
says, Egyptians might not have to choose between the Mubarak regime or the
fundamentalist Muslim Brotherhood, but could instead pursue a middle path
toward a peaceful, stable democracy.
the fate of the Mubarak regime, author Alaadin Elaasar believes significant
change in Egypt's government will have profound effects on the region, and on
U.S. interests in the Middle East. For that reason, he believes, the next U.S.
President will need to follow developments in this Arab nation with a watchful
and wary eye.