Jon B. Alterman

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The Egyptian revolution did not happen last winter. It is happening now. And it is not taking place in Tahrir Square, but in towns and villages throughout the country.

Although protests and violent military responses in central Cairo have seized world attention, they involve only a small fraction of Egyptians. Much more important are the millions who voted this month in a rolling election process that will continue into January, setting the stage for a negotiation between newly elected officials and Egypt’s military rulers over the country’s political future. We must focus our attention on its outcome and, perhaps counterintuitively, try to ensure an ambiguous result so that no side is left empty-handed.…  Seguir leyendo »

Hosni Mubarak's departure from power does little to address the fundamental issues that brought protesters to Cairo's Tahrir Square for the past 18 days. In fact, their protests were never about Mubarak but about a sclerotic political system and an economic system that was full of cronyism and corruption.

Mubarak sustained that system, but its backbone was always the Egyptian military. Mubarak nurtured the military, from which he came, and the military preserved him. Although the officers behind Egypt's 1952 revolution abandoned their uniforms long ago, Egypt's rulers have been generals in suits for decades.

The return of the uniforms to power does not inspire great optimism about Egypt's trajectory.…  Seguir leyendo »

The Bush administration thinks Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is bluffing. Its policy of cutting off most contacts with the Syrian government and tightening the screws of sanctions is meant to signal that the United States has superior strength and a superior will. At some point, the reasoning goes, the Syrians will realize that resistance is futile, and they will give up the charade of virulent opposition to U.S. policy in the Middle East. But a visit to Damascus early this month that included an hour-long discussion with Assad left me unconvinced that his regime can be scared straight.

The Syrian government may overestimate its centrality to Middle East politics and its diplomatic weight, but it knows how to stay in power.…  Seguir leyendo »