By Jay Holmes
This is in response to “mr blue,” who asked last Monday, “So what countries currently have the biggest impact in Egypt besides the Egyptians?”
First Mr. Blue, take a deep breath. Except in Las Vegas, blue is not a good color for people to be.
On paper the USA has the biggest impact, or at least the biggest potential impact. To what degree the USA decides to attempt to impact the political future in Egypt remains to be seen.
The real total is hard to know, but the USA is spending at least 2 billion US$ a year on or for Egypt. If nothing else, Mubarak proved that 2 billion doesn’t always get you much in that neighborhood. I say always because the potential is there. Although the USA is in a position to strongly influence events in Egypt, we do not know how far they will go or how successful they will be.
Right now Mubarak’s pals are still running the show in Egypt, and they have little reason to feel confident in any promises that this administration makes, but they do have every reason to fear a withdrawal of financing and military support. All of the USA’s potential impact will mean little unless wisdom and skill are brought to bear in attempting to influence events. In order to achieve a desired force vector, one must first know the starting position of the object to be moved, then one must know where one would like the object to end up. The western governments seem confused on both points. There is a general, vague agreement that nobody wants “Ayatollah 2″ in Egypt, but beyond that simple desire and the wish to have more oil every day, there has always been trouble refining long-term goals in the Mideast from the US, European Community or NATO points of view. It seems we just bounce from crisis to crisis, trying to figure out how to keep the oil flowing.
The other player attempting to create a sizeable impact in Egypt is, of course, Iran. Iran has the determination, the cash, and the manpower to make a big difference. They also lack the need to entertain any domestic or foreign arguments about anything like ethics. That sounds like a winning formula on the surface, but most Egyptians are as disgusted with Iran as the average westerner is. Iran’s skill at dealing through intermediaries is very limited. They call the shots with Hezbollah, and Syria is frightened of disagreeing with Iran, but beyond that small playground, the Iranian government is a drunken one-eyed bull in a china shop. I do not speak Persian, but I am wondering if there is a word for “subtle” in the Persian dictionary, or if the hash-heads and thugs calling the shots in Iran have outlawed that word in Iran. Iran keeps itself so busy trying to intimidate and abuse Iranians inside and outside of Iran that they have little time for establishing any positive initiatives anywhere. Iran is undoubtedly making every imaginable effort to take over the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, but the vast majority of Egyptians do not want a radical theocracy theater company running their country. Another factor for the Iranian government is that they are very busy this week trying to fend off Iranians.
Israel will work subtly and quietly and will at least be clear about their goals. Hilary is perhaps on the phone right now with them. I can imagine the conversation.
Hilary: “The situation is critical and your cooperation is essential.”
Israel: *suppresses a laugh* “Uhm, yea …uhm you’ll be the first to know if anything comes up. What do you guys know so far?”
Hilary: “Well naturally we know EVERYTHING…except maybe a few things…and a few other things…or anything about Egypt…but we’re, uh, working on it and, uhm, we’re trying our best to bring about a peaceful solution.”
Israel and Hilary simultaneously laugh out loud.
Israel: “Yea, us too. . . . Ok. I’ll call you if anything comes up. My mom is calling on the other line. . . . I gotta go.”
Then the next conversation on the Israeli side.
Mossad: “You didn’t tell her anything did you?”
Israeli foreign ministry: “What? Do I look like a lunatic? Just don’t attack any US spy ships and leave the diplomacy to us!”
Mossad: “I’ve told you a thousand times, we had nothing to do with that USS Liberty business. . . .”
Israeli Foreign minister: “Save that line of crap for the press!”
Mossad: “Alright, alright, nobody is attacking any US ships! I swear!”
The various powerful Mideast business elites will not be concerned by where Egypt ends up, but will concentrate on profiting from whatever the results are. The same can be said of most European and Western business magnates.