‘Beyond the Arab Spring: Alliances, Ideologies and Stability in Egypt’


Professor Bahgat Korany

Professor of International Relations and Political Economy

American University in Cairo

6 – 7pm on Monday 28th January 2013

Committee Room 18, House of Commons, London, SW1A 0AA

To attend please RSVP to: dilan.raphiann@henryjacksonsociety.org

For more than two year, all eyes in the world have been on the Arab Spring – the tsunami of mass protests that has defined the region since its start. What is however often forgotten is that it is not a homogenous process but one that follows several distinct patterns. Furthermore, whilst having been triggered in Tunisia, its landscape is Egypt. As the Arab world’s most populous country, Egypt has always been influential in the Arab-speaking world and its fate will undoubtedly affect the progress of democracy in the region as a whole. The current President, Muhammad Morsi, has proved to be resilient in the face of opposition.  Since he took office in June, Mr Morsi has pushed through a controversial referendum to endorse a new constitution that has been met with increasing hostility. The mood on Egypt’s streets leading up to the coming general election – the seventh time since the revolution that Egyptians have been asked to vote in national polls – is said to be bitter and polarised. With the Islamists of the country losing their popularity, are their opponents strong enough to take over? Will Egypt see stability any time soon, and if so, who will be setting the agenda for the nation? By kind invitation of Mike Gapes MP, The Henry Jackson Society is pleased to invite you to a discussion with Professor Bahgat Korany, Professor of International Relations and Political Economy at the American University in Cairo. Professor Korany will be discussing the challenges facing Egypt today, its prospects for the future and the changing Middle East. Egypt’s present politics are shaped by what Professor Korany refers to as the three ‘M’s’: the Mosque, the Military and the (liberal-leftist) Masses. What kind of belief systems do these three share? How are they positioned in regard to facing the challenges of Egypt’s transition, and how will they interact in shaping the future of the region?

TIME: 6 – 7pm

DATE: Monday 28th January 2013

VENUE: Committee Room 18, House of Commons, London, SW1A 0AA

To attend please RSVP to: dilan.raphiann@henryjacksonsociety.org

Biography Bahgat Korany is Professor of International Relations and Political Economy at the American University in Cairo (AUC) and Director of the AUC Forum. He has been an elected member of Canada’s Royal Society since 1994 and has been a visiting professor at various universities, from Paris to Oxford. In addition to having published about 75 book chapters/articles in specialised periodicals from Revue Franciase de Sciences Politiques to World Politics, Korany has published twelve books in English, Arabic and French. His 2010 publication, The Changing Middle East, was noted by CNN as indicating the ‘Arab Spring’ a year before it happened. He is at present the Lead Author of the 10th Anniversary special volume of the UNDP’s Arab Human Development Report.



Mike Gapes MP

Welcome. I’m Mike Gapes, Member of Parliament for Guildford South. I am also a member of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee. Our committee was in Egypt last year, in fact, about ten months ago. We, amongst other things, met the leader of the Muslim Brotherhood who, at that time, as far as we were aware, was not going to be a candidate for the elections of president. We did meet people who were going to be candidates or putative candidates for president. As we know, President Morsi was elected and Amr Moussa and others were not elected. So, we now face a situation where, ten months on from the visit that we went on and several months on from the establishment of this new constitution and political process, we’ve seen today and yesterday serious violence. We have a crisis situation, and therefore this is a very well timed meeting to have a re-election expert, Professor Professor Bahgat Korany, who is Professor of International Relations and Political Economy at the American University in Cairo. He is an author of many publications, which I won’t list. He is a visiting professor at many universities. He is a real expert on the subject which he is going to talk about, which is ‘Beyond the Arab Spring: Alliances, Ideologies, and Stability in Egypt’. So, over to you.

Professor Bahgat Korany

Thank you for inviting me. It is a good occasion to see the Parliament after so many years when I came as a young student and as a tourist. This is a different mood. Yes, I am going to talk about the Arab Spring, which is a controversial term, very controversial, because obviously the term conjures up bright sunshine and budding flowers. What we have in the Middle East at present, especially Egypt, as you reminded us,  is very hard times indeed. The term Arab Spring is also simplistic. It covers different patterns in the various countries of the region. At least there are three patterns I would like you to keep in mind before coming to Egypt.  One: presidents who have fallen. They have been dismissed. Mubarak, certainly, in Egypt, Ben Ali in Tunisia, Ali Abdullah Saleh in Yemen, and of course Gaddafi in Libya. That is one distinct pattern.


And Assad in Syria.

Professor Bahgat Korany

He hasn’t fallen yet.

Syria brings us in fact to the second pattern, that is countries which have civil wars. Though Syria is certainly one,  Bahrain could develop into one . I obviously hope this does not happen as civil wars are a very destructive phenomenon for the present and the future, and not only politically. It  is estimated that Syria will take about 4 years and about $ 6 billion dollars to rehabilitate itself once this civil war ends.

The third pattern consists of countries which have seen the writing on the wall and attempt to pacify their people so that they don’t encourage mass protests and avoid the contagion of the Arab Spring. This 3rd pattern includes most of the Gulf countries, also Morocco, Jordan and even Algeria. Hence, they are trying to adapt and cope with the impact of the Arab Spring.

Despite reservations about the term’s optimistic and over-generalizing, I still prefer to use it because it is a convenient image of a milestone event. Also, the term ‘Arab Spring’ reflects re-birth, something new that is coming. We know that there is no birth without pains. As we say, no gain without pain. While we may wish that the pain gets better, that the suffering is less, I would say it goes with the term. The pain is similar in cases with all countries that have gone through transition, from Latin America to Eastern Europe and, if you go back in European history, you obviously see that in countries which went through revolutions, France, Italy, even in this country years back. Suffering has been an integral part of the process of revolutionary transformation .

Back to the region. Tunisia certainly triggered the Arab Spring, but Egypt is its landscape. I think there is a consensus that, because of its weight, if only demographic, that the future of the Arab Spring will be decided in Egypt. Demographically, for short, Egypt is  nine Tunisias and this is why Egypt will set the pace backward, or forward as I hope .

Focusing on Egypt, as I was asked to do, I want to raise, at the outset, a contradiction. On the face of it, the transition process after Jan.25th 2011 looks simple. As I’ll explain, there are three main political actors easily identifiable and which I call the ‘Three Ms’.

They are the mosque, representing the Islamists ; the military; and the masses, led by the  liberal- leftist youth. As I said, these three Ms are easy enough to identify. All of us agree on the importance of these three political actors. Unfortunately, the simplicity goes away when you talk about the dynamics of the process, or the interaction between these three political actors. This interaction is characterized by lots of improvisation, lots of inconsistency, lots and lots of what I call lack of political skill and of political intelligence. Hence, the process becomes messy and hard to decode. Even for somebody who is on the spot, sees people, and talks to them, most of the time. I think even for the political actors themselves, they cannot predict the mode and result of their interactions.

So let me give a few words about each of these two main elements, the political actors themselves and the dynamic political process . I’ll be brief and synthetic to leave time, as I was asked, for questions and answers afterwards. Remember that I am using short hand terms because each of these groups, except perhaps for the military, is a composition of many other groups and sub-groups. The Islamists themselves have 17 political parties, not to talk about the 65 other political parties that represent the liberal- left coalition. So, using really a lot of simplification in that, but if someone is interested we can come back to more details in the question period afterwards.

Let me start then with the first group, not because of their importance but because they have triggered the Arab Spring, the liberal leftist masses and especially the youth element. They are the ones, without any hesitation, who triggered the Arab Spring in Cairo two years ago on the 25th of January, 2011. In a sense they reflect an important characteristic of the situation in Egypt. Youth is the majority of the population. In fact, most of the Arab countries are very youthful societies. Those who are under 30 are between 55% – 60%. This age and social group has specific problems. They need employment, as someone has said, they are more educated but less employed. They also need to make  their own families , so lots of housing is needed. There are lots of social needs that need to be met almost immediately . Given the present level of Egypt’s resources, this is a problem.

These youth are also, what I call, the generation of Facebook and social media, which has played a huge impressive role in mobilising people and getting them onto the streets. There are lots of stories on this aspect , coming from direct experience in Tahrir and other squares in Cairo. Perhaps we’ll have time during the Q&A.

Second then, the military. Contrary to the youth, they have been part of the regime. They have been dominating Egyptian politics, for the last 60 years, i.e. since the army coup in 1952 and the rise of Nasserism.  All Egyptian presidents – until June 2012 – have come from the military. Actually, Morsi is the first civilian president to be elected. The military, even though they were a part of the regime, have refused to shoot the masses. Mubarak was the supreme commander and had ordered the army to go into the street after the collapse of the police and the feud with the Ministry of the Interior, but in the end the military refused to kill the people in the streets. As a result,  they were rewarded. For a year and a half SCAF, the Supreme Council of Armed Forces, was the new master of Egypt . The military became the new Mubarak, if you like. They took over the country, ran it, and many people thought that it was therefore good. However, they were sacked in August 2012 by the new president, Mr. Morsi, whom people actually thought would be a puppet of the military .  He  just sacked them surprisingly easily.

The mosque and specifically the Muslim Brotherhood, constitute the new masters in Egypt. And  if the military represented the ‘deep state’, they controlled the state, the mosque represented ‘deep society” . Given the important role of religion in Egypt since the Pharoahs , present-day Islamists capitalized on this deeply-rooted religious sentiment to control society. Islamist organizations such as the Moslem Brotherhood became so effective in mass mobilization and street politics that they could be threatening . There is a rumour, we’ll call it a rumour, that actually Morsi was not elected as president. The new guy who represented the military was the one elected, and the Military Council was told that if Morsi was not to be the president, there would be  a bloodbath in the streets of Egypt. This is a rumour, I have not seen any confirmation of this, but perhaps after some time we will see some documents and we can judge the veracity of such guesses. But the existence of the rumor itself says a lot about Islamists’ capacity for mass mobilization soon after the Jan. revolution.

They are the ones who dominated society, and were thus ready to use their social base to reach political power. Every political battle they went into since Mubarak’s fall, they have won. First, the constitutional amendment, one month after the departure of Mubarak, they campaigned for it and got 78% of the vote. The national assembly, again, they said that they would go only for 30% of membership and they ended by having about 70% back in 2011. In June 2012, the new president came from the Muslim Brotherhood. One month ago they, again, imposed their own constitutional draft, and got about 64%. So they are the new masters in Egypt – at least for the present.

As I said, easy enough to present you a mapping of the main political actors, when I come to the process, this is when I have difficulty. I try very hard, but the process itself is messy. It is confusing, inconsistent, improvised. I think I can help to decode the process  by mentioning  three factors accounting for its complexity and difficulty .

One, you have new actors, youth. They didn’t have much political experience before the January revolution. They were prevented from participating in open politics, in universities they were not allowed to form political parties or have what the old regime called political activities. After Jan. and the great impact they had, they now have the chance for full political participation. But they are young and need to learn the relevant political skills. But as with any process of learning, people are not sure of themselves and need time.

Second, old actors are in new roles, new situations. The Muslim Brotherhood has waited for 60 years, actually 80 years to take power but they were not prepared. They were good in the opposition, good as an underground organisation, but once they come into government and face up to the challenges of daily policy making, again they improvise, are inconsistent, zig-zag, and they make decisions at the highest level that they cancel the next day.

One of my students said to me just before I left Cairo: ‘You know sir, I am afraid to sleep.’

I said ‘Why?’

He said ‘Because I might miss something : there might be a decision, and it is cancelled a few hours after.’

He might have been exaggerating, but it is not wrong.

The third factor of difficulty is the shifting alliances of these groups. Before the election of Morsi, the youth were all for him, and against the military. In fact, they made him succeed against his rival candidate. Now, they lead the opposition against him. Within each of the groups also you have shifting alliances. Such as that between the Muslim Brotherhood on the one hand and the Salafis, the ultra-conservative Muslim elements.

In all fairness, we have to say that the context itself, that of transition, is not easy. We have a huge specialist literature in Political Science  about the dynamics of transition, from Eastern Europe, Latin America, Southern Europe, Portugal, Spain, Greece, to the extent that we have now a term for it, transitology. Two basic factors characterise that context of transition. Usually it is an intense and tense atmosphere and there is conflict, people are stressed out. Briefly , this transition context is dominated by two factors .

First , there is a gap between rising expectations and minimum satisfaction. People have waited for so long under authoritarian regimes just to breathe, to enjoy freedom, and they tend perhaps to exaggerate the idea that once the regime has fallen all problems will be solved immediately. Of course we know that this is not and could not be the case. In fact, in the transition context, problems increase because people are busy in protests and sit-ins, many factories are closing, and foreign investment won’t come. Egypt is suffering a lot, as is Tunisia, from a lack of tourism. Resources are dwindling and you have the widening gap between expectations and capacity to satisfy them. So, this is a very hard context for anybody, not only for people who are new to the job.

The second aspect of the transition is what I call mounting mistrust. People don’t know each other. They try to know each other. There are sometimes laws. It reminds me, for the older people among us, it reminds me very much of Frank Sinatra’s song Strangers in the Night. Except that the strangers in the night are not exchanging glances, they are exchanging blows, and sometimes under the belt. Sometimes there is a lot of conflict and a lot of disappointment, so this is not an easy context to get out of,  this bottleneck of transition.

What is important is achieving consensus in these tense situations of transition, despite differences in culture, geopolitics. The lesson learnt from the experieces of those that went through this phase is that you cannot get out of the bottleneck except by what the Latin Americans have called ‘pactos’, establishing a national pact. This is the idea of trying to establish a dialogue by bringing different political forces together to  try to  get out of this bottleneck situation. In fact, a short content analysis of the speeches of the leadership in both Tunisia and Egypt, shows the word dialogue or national dialogue is the one most repeated. There is no difference about objective; the difficulty is how to get that out, and work together rather than at cross purposes.

I have some data here, but I think I probably will stop because I see that my time is over. I await your questions and will try to provide answers.

Mike Gapes MP

Thank you very much. Ok, we’ve got half an hour. I will ask you, if you’re going to say anything please introduce yourself. It makes it easier for all of us if you have a particular organisation or designation. If not, just say who you are. If possible, can we have questions, not speeches? Though, I do accept that some questions may have a little preamble. OK, can I see who wishes to begin?

Question 1 – Jonathan Marks

Good evening. My name is Jonathan Marks. I am a businessman that does work across the Arab world. I have been in Egypt four times in the last year. Admittedly, I’ve only met middle class Egyptians, but both Muslim and Coptic, and they seem very depressed. They have often lambasted me, saying the West does not understand that there has not been a proper revolution yet in Egypt, it is still to come. There is a great deal of frustration. My question is, should the West, in trying to protect its own interests in the region, support the current government, sit back and do nothing, or follow what happened previously, which is to pour weapons into the military in order to keep the military onside? Thank you.

Professor Bahgat Korany

The feeling of ‘national depression’ is real. But I am, for one, still optimistic about the outcome. It is my view that people like you and most people in Egypt, see the  present difficulties . But many also believe that Egypt has to go through the transition process. For 30 years it has been suppressed. I call this bottleneck the pressure cooker. When you take the lid  off, there are a lot of things flying in the air. But the solution is not to go backwards. Many people say: ‘Let’s go back to the stability of Mubarak days.’ Even amongst some of the revolutionaries. I think to get out of  the bottleneck you have to go forward not backward, and pay the price. Is it a revolution? Though we have to wait for its results, yes, it is a revolution because it was a popular uprising . We have seen it there, the masses pouring into Tahrir square and other squares all over the big cities.  ‘Has it succeeded?’ The answer is  subjective and the revolution needs time to deserve its name. This is where we may differ. But Egypt is certainly going through a deep revolutionary process.

I think there is a revolutionary pride in Egypt, and finally it will be successful. In retrospect, I have many criticisms and now see that some issues could have been dealt with differently. My students, who were in the square day and night, sleeping there, I say to them ‘Guys, are you capable of assessing what you have done? You started something, are you sure that you have continued on the right track?’ Now, they are much more ready to listen. So, there is a much higher level of young people being realistic. They felt that with the fall of Mubarak, revolution has succeeded. But they realize now there is a long way ahead.

What can the West do? I think they shouldn’t do anything. I think this is an Egyptian, and Arab, issue and I think the most concerned people have to go through it, even if the suffering, sometimes, is unbearable. I feel it about traffic jams and electricity cuts. Daily life in Egypt and Tunisia is becoming harder and harder. My wife here is with me, and our daughter was trying to say to her ‘No, it is not the time to go to Egypt at present.’ Daily life is tough. You have to pay the price for what you can achieve later.

What the West can do is help economically and set things in the right direction. Not just pour money into the government and military elite, but look really at social needs. Issues like clean water, education, health are all issues where the outside can help –all in a new atmosphere of respect for human rights.

Question 2 – Davis Lewin

I wonder if you could comment? Correct me if I am wrong; while it seems that there may have been upheavals since revolution, right now it seems the situation Morsi is facing at the moment is a more serious upheaval, in terms of violence that he has to contain. What are your views on that?

If I may also ask a different question about the Muslim Brotherhood, are we underestimating where the Muslim Brotherhood would like to go in terms of its political aims ultimately and if so how far are the Egyptian people going to go if they really do decide to go down the Islamic route?

Professor Bahgat Korany

Actually, the two problems are related. One of the problems of the present situation is that people, and I am talking about different shades of opinion, people thought they had elected a president of all Egyptians. He was elected by less than 52%. Once he becomes a president he has of course to represent all shades of opinion. The source of mistrust is that people think he is representing his own group, and this is very serious. Other people feel excluded. To a great extent there are some indicators that show that allegiance counts more than expertise in choosing some ministers, governors, and top politicians. Worse still is that many people think the president is not the highest decision maker and does not practice the real powers that  the law gives him, that decisions are taken somewhere else in the political bureau of the Muslim Brotherhood, whose members are not elected.  As a result, despite all the big capital that the Muslim Brotherhood started with, their legitimacy is eroding very fast. I have just seen one survey yesterday where some people say that if elections were to take place at present, parliamentary elections, the Islamists, instead of keeping their 70% of the popular vote might have less than 50%. So they  could have only half the parliamentary seats if not a minority . That says a lot about the upheaval, and says a lot about the Muslim Brotherhood capacity to deliver on socio-political needs and keep people’s trust.

Where are they going to take Egypt further, if I understood properly? I think they are still working to ‘Islamise’ Egypt, and in that sense I think if they go in that direction they will lose more support.

Mike Gapes MP

I see several hands, so gentleman over here.

Question 3 – Paul Stibbard

Yes, I am Paul Stibbard. I am a specialist in Law with a particular interest in Islamic Law. With respect to the constitution, what extent do you think, as there has been quite a lot of controversy about it in the newspapers over the last few months, that the interests of the minority Copts and women, because there seems to have been a downgrading in the wording in relation to the rights of women, will be protected in the forthcoming period?

Professor Bahgat Korany

There is a controversy in describing the present state of affairs in Egypt, depending on whom you talk to. If you talk to somebody in the Muslim Brotherhood, they will tell you they have not changed much in the constitution. Article 2 for instance says that Sharia, Islamic Law, is the main source of legislation and has stayed without change. That is one answer. The claim is that they have respected the basic principles of the old Egyptian constitution. If, however, you look more thoroughly at some of the articles of the 234 draft, you actually see some references to Sharia in some other articles. Regarding the status of women and not so much the Copts, they reiterate that not much has changed from the old draft but strongly insist upon the respect of the family. Some of the human rights groups say that this is loaded. In some other articles, when they talk about society and children, they add the provision ‘As long as it doesn’t contravene Sharia.’

On the surface then, some of the changes seem innocent and in keeping with Egyptian tradition, but will allow for a lot of interpretation afterwards. One last footnote perhaps, and this is new in the Egyptian constitution’s new draft, is that it says that whenever there are differences about Sharia, Al-Azhar, the well-established Islamic university, would be consulted to decide, which has usually been perceived as tolerant but you never know who will be controlling and running this Al-Azhar in the future. The end-result is that you give a religious institution the right to decide lots of issues, which is different from earlier practices in which the supreme constitutional court was the one to decide. So from there I can see some time bombs on the way. In the text it looks innocent, but the textual generalities used and the possibility of interpretation by outside (religious) sources could orient the constitution in one direction rather than another.

Mike Gapes MP

Yes, to the back there.

Question 4 – Dina Rezk

Hello, my name is Dina Rezk. I am a PhD student at Cambridge University doing research on Egypt in the 60s and 70s and I wanted to ask your opinion on a theory that has been proposed by various parties. Now that we have an Islamic government in Egypt is that the long term prospect for the Copts is a need to form a more explicit political organisation as opposed to rely on the Pope, which is what was traditionally done to protect their interests. Do you foresee the Copts needing to require an independent and explicitly political organisation to defend and advance their interests in the future?

Professor Bahgat Korany

I will tell you what the factual situation is and then I will give you my opinion. The factual situation is that the Muslim Brotherhood has said ‘If Copts are worried about the application of Sharia, we will limit its application to Muslims.’ Copts will have the rules of their own church so that it is fair to everyone.

My opinion is against that, because instead of talking about Egyptian citizens, you are going to have to talk about people according to their religion. I might be wrong but this is my sense.

Commentator – Question 5

My question is: How will the Arab Spring in Egypt affect the peace treaty negotiations with Israel, if at all?

Professor Bahgat Korany

We can go by the official record. If you had asked me before Mr. Morsi had become president, I would have said ‘yes, there could be a problem there.’ But after his election, Morsi has gone on the record to say ‘I respect the treaties Egypt signed”, including of course with Israel . In fact his spokesperson gave a talk to the Egyptian press saying explicitly that theCamp David agreement is kept.

Question 5 – Commentator

Is it because of the tri-lateral trade agreement between the United States, Egypt, and Israel which protects the commercial aspects of exporting from Egypt to the U.S.?

Professor Bahgat Korany

You are right in one important aspect in that if you discuss Egyptian – Israel relations, you cannot discuss them as bi-lateral relations, they are tri-lateral.  Similarly  in  Egyptian – American relations Israel is involved. You’ve probably heard about a letter that Mr. Morsis sent to the Israeli president which was very much publicised because it was the Israelis who released the letter, not the Egyptians, and addressed Peres as Mr. President and ‘my dear friend’ and also talked about the historical relationship.  Why such woes about this letter? The fact that it was revealed by the Israelis not by the Egyptians caused people to start talking about the hypocrisy of the Muslim Brotherhood : being very much against the treaty when they were in the opposition and once  in power they accept it and establish good relations. All of this means that the commercial Quiz Agreement , involving also Jordan and the U.S. in addition to Egypt and Israel, will continue for the present.


I am happy about that.

Professor Bahgat Korany

I am just telling you the facts. I don’t have an opinion about that but I think they wouldn’t touch or open the issue for the moment.

Davis Lewin

In the interest of time, if we could take two questions. Lord Hylton, and we will come to the lady for sure.

Lord Hylton

My apologies for arriving late.  How do you assess the continued influence of the military given their large economic holdings of one kind or another, and would you also agree that there is a kind of balance of forces or power now between the military, Islamic opinion, and the more secular groups?

Davis Lewin

If we could take Lord [inaudible] as well, we will come to the lady for our next question.

Lord [inaudible]

Thank you. Many of us were encouraged by the constraint that the military showed during the early stages of the revolution, but what I take as the point you make is that the West shouldn’t do anything almost suggests that what is happening in Egypt is introspective and one fears that that cannot work. There was an impression that Egypt would have looked toward Turkey, which has, as you know, connections with the west but would still identify with that part of the world. Where has that relationship with Turkey gone?

Davis Lewin

Ok, so balance of power, Egypt and Turkey, and I am going to take the lady as well because I fear we may run out of time and I do want to get you in.

Question 6 – Rosa McDowell

Thank you. Rosa McDowell. I am a partner at a law firm called Collyer Bristow, but more importantly I was born of an Egyptian father and grew up in Egypt. My question, which is two-fold, is – how do you imagine that anything good can come of the fact that anybody intelligent and rich is leaving Egypt?

Professor Bahgat Korany

I am not rich but hopefully intelligent and  I have not left!


Question 6 – Commentator

My other question is when you have a situation where votes on the constitution are happening with loads of people exiting because they feel they want no say in what the new constitution looks like, how can that be properly democratic?

Davis Lewin

Ok, so balance of power, relationship with Turkey, and elites leaving and democratic questions.

Professor Bahgat Korany

I’ll do my best to answer.

Concerning the military, I for one, like many Egyptians, was surprised at the ease which President Morsi had in firing the military supreme council in Aug., two years after assuming the presidency. The military in Egypt is here to stay. As in many third world countries, they are the most organized basis of power. Actually, only yesterday, President Morsi announced a state of emergency and gave the military the power to go in the streets and apply it. This is very serious in my mind because you are dragging the military into domestic politics, but he can’t help it. Police forces are overpowered, and if you want to establish a minimum of law and order you need the only unifying force that is there.

I didn’t say that the West shouldn’t intervene. I suggest that the domestic political processes in Egypt, Tunisia, Syria remain the business of the people. They need to work for it, go through it. Intervention, I don’t think it is a good solution. We have seen the mess that is taking place in both Afghanistan and Iraq. I don’t want Egypt, Syria, Yemen and other countries to repeat the same process.

So what the West can do is certainly help economically and express where it stands as far as the respect of human rights is concerned. There shouldn’t be any concessions. Americans  have not done that with Obama.  Even after his speech in Cairo in 2009, the U.S. allowed itself to continue to be on the side of authoritarian regimes. I think this is where the West can help.


They don’t do it in Syria now.

Professor Bahgat Korany

Intelligence data, arms, and advisors are provided to the opposition. They are hesitant because they don’t know who comes after Assad. They are against the Assad regime  but they are ‘intervening’ on the side of the opposition..

Concerning Turkey, it is looked at as a model. There is a need for  a model out of the tense transition, and people are discussing different models open to Egypt, and I think the debate was raised by Tom Freedman of the New York Times, who said ‘If you want, Egypt could be India or Pakistan.’ Some Egyptians said: Why go so far? Will Egypt be Iran or Turkey?

I would add a fifth model, of Algeria, which is sort of an alliance between the military and some of the people in government. Turkey certainly, among the young in Egypt, is looked at as a country which has achieved huge economic progress and then found its way to reconcile Islamic rule with liberal democracy. Third aspect  for me about Turkey, is how to control the military and keep civilian control. I certainly would like to see more in that direction.

Remind me again of your question, after talking about the elites leaving?

Question 6 – Commentator

The question related to the democratic institution of the new constitution. As I understand it, there was a mass exodus when the vote was taken on the constitution. What was left was going to vote in one way.

Professor Bahgat Korany

You are absolutely right, and this is one of the depressing things. The first constitution after the revolution was supposed to be a happy thing, a moment of celebration. But it  was not. There was controversy and if we had time I could go on and on about the debates within the Constituent Assembly. Indeed, the approval of the document seems to have been rushed during the night in 17 hours and one third of the members of the Assembly have withdrawn in protest. So it is a defective process.

The constitution however, this is my opinion, has been approved by 64% of the population. I don’t think we should go back and start anew, because this is for me still the political will. The next battle is probably going to be over the modification of some of the articles of the constitution and adding some important clarifications about some articles. We can start from there.

Thank you.

Mike Gapes MP

I believe we have another meeting coming in to the room in about four minutes and if I open up to another question I fear we may run over. Can I thank the Henry Jackson Society for organising the meeting and thank you, Professor, for coming and giving us such a useful and enlightened and informative contribution? Obviously the situation in Egypt is very fluid and revolutionary situations are never straightforward. We only need to look back at the last 300 years in Europe to know that sometimes it takes years or even decades for revolutionary processes to sort themselves out. So, we will watch this space. Thank you all for coming.



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