What is happening?!?
On Tuesday, Jan. 25th, thousands of Egyptians took to the streets to protest rampant unemployment, corruption, poverty, and autocratic rule of President Hosni Mubarak, who has been in power for 30 years.
On Thursday, Jan. 27th, the Egyptian government responded to the protesters by blocking Twitter, which was being used by citizens to organize protests.
Blocking Twitter enraged Egyptian citizens and brought with it increased national attention to the uprising. Over the course of the next two days, Egypt proceeded to block Facebook and cell service, while the much-hated riot police took to the streets, arresting and injuring hundreds with batons, tear gas and water cannons.
So what’s the big deal??
It’s a pretty big deal actually. Egypt has been a key ally for the United States in the Middle East since the 1970′s, and is currently the second highest recipient of U.S. foreign aid after Israel at $1.3 billion.
- U.S. policy in the Middle East has been to make allies with sometimes repressive regimes, however distasteful, because – like in Egypt’s case – they are at least stable. This policy is currently being called into question. A stable regime like Egypt can also be counted on to support key American interests in the region, which is part of why the U.S. provides them with substantial assistance.
- If another regime takes control, one not as lenient to American or Israeli interest as Egypt, this could spell big trouble for the region. The worst thing that can possibly happen for Israeli or the United States’ interests is for a regime like Ahmadinejad’s in Iran to come to power.
- Israel is extremely concerned about the situation in Egypt because President Hosni Mubarak has preserved the peace treaty between the two countries for 30 years. Israel considers the treaty a strategic asset, and it fears that a regime change in Egypt could put the peace agreement in danger. (VOA)
- The Muslim Brotherhood, a long opponent of the Mubarak regime and officially banned in Egypt, threw their weight behind the protestors. There are fears that given a power vacancy created by the removal of Mubarak, these forces could try to step in and take control. The BBC reported that new leaders – nationalist or Islamist, civilian or military – could emerge if the country is engulfed in chaos.
“Jimmy Carter will go down in American history as `the president who lost Iran,’ which during his term went from being a major strategic ally of the United States to being the revolutionary Islamic republic. Barack Obama will be remembered as the president who `lost’ Turkey, Lebanon and Egypt, and during whose tenure America’s alliances in the Middle East crumbled.” -Aluf Benn, New York Times.
If swift action is not taken, the latter part of this statement may be proven correct. It is important to stay involved and up to date with this situation. Much prayer is needed for the citizens of Egypt and the millions of Coptic Christians currently living in the region. You can read the official U.S. Department of State press release here.