If there was any doubt Egypt was radical, the latest news should lay those doubts to rest. Egyptian mobs stormed the Israeli embassy and the 86 diplomats there barely escaped with their lives. The USA was able to help negotiate their release, but I now wonder how long it will be before the US embassy faces down a mob of its own.
There’s no question that the people of Egypt hate Israel’s policies regarding Gaza and the West Bank. Whether or not Israel is in the right, the Egyptians hate ’em. The Turks, formerly strong friends of the Israelis, have now declared they’re going to escort flotillas into Gaza. Together, Egypt and Turkey are going to support Palestinian statehood in the UN. The USA has vowed to veto such a measure.
That’s where my fears mount. If the USA torpedoes Palestinian statehood, it sends a clear message to all the Arab protest movements that the USA is not on their side. Yes, the US support of Mubarak to almost the very end and continued US support of the Saudis and Bahrain’s monarchy are also clear messages, and this would be just one more. But it would be a big one. Palestinian statehood is a showdown vote: are you with them or are you against them? If against, then being their enemy makes a nation an enemy to all of Palestine’s friends. That’s when the mobs start looking at the US embassy as a target.
So what if the Egyptian Army tries to put down the mobs? I don’t think that’ll work. Egypt is radical, and will increase in radicalization as barriers crop up in its path. Think French Revolution: it went from constitutional monarchy in 1789 to dead king and Reign of Terror in 1792-94. These things won’t happen all at once, but the wheels are in motion for them to plow ahead.
And what if Egyptians start exporting their revolution in a serious manner? They’ve got a short sea route to Jeddah and their brand of Islam is Sunni, same as most of Saudi Arabia. They’re also Arab, making them much more in common with the Saudis than, say, the Iranians. What if the Egyptians chose to close down the Suez to tanker traffic? These are serious considerations, with very serious consequences.
The USA may choose to honor its commitments to Israel. Doing so, however, comes at a high price. We need to be aware of that and we need to understand that it could give us even more impetus to develop an energy policy that doesn’t depend upon imported oil.