1.3. The Military

The Army remains neutral, and the thoughts of the military high command remain impenetrable. The army, which is the protector of legitimacy, is trapped between the people who created a new revolutionary legitimacy but do not have a formal command on the army yet, and a commanding authority that lost its legitimacy. The neutrality of the army can be attributed to various factors.

First, the military wants to protect the image of the armed forces as the security valve in Egypt. The Egyptian military is highly regarded due to its embodiment of the national glory at several historical junctures: resisting the British occupation in 1881, the revolution in 1952, and the war with Israel in 1973.

Second, the army fears an interference that might lead to a blood path in a pitched battle against the people.

Third, Mubarak has been assiduous in courting military circles and is close to the top brass. He has deftly utilized the American military aid to underpin the army. Therefore, the odds the military prodding Mubarak into exile is small.

Finally, the military does not want to take sides to lose its prominent position as a referee, which would allow it to participate in shaping any future arrangements.

1.4. International Powers

International powers attentively follow the events, but are not clear whether to fret about it or to embrace it. The United States and the West so far have adopted a cautious approach, and are dodging taking sides to avoid alienating whoever may emerge in power. On one hand, they do not want to be seen as complicit in supporting a dictatorial regime, even though democracy promotion was only upheld rhetorically due to the exigencies of pursuing strategic interests. On the other hand, the United States and the West do not want to explicitly support the calls for Mubarak’s ouster as the stakes are high.

First, there is the fear that Egypt would turn into an anti-Western bastion. Egypt is pivotal and serves as an anchor for other friendly and allied regimes in the region. Any radical change in this formula will not allow the West to pursue its interests unencumbered.

Second, the fear of an Egypt that is hostile to Israel. Egypt is considered the linchpin to peace in the Middle East, and its peace treaty remains the main bulwark against a war between Israel and the Arab world. Egypt is also the key interlocutor in the peace process. Mubarak inherited and scrupulously upheld the peace treaty. The new policy makers, however, might consider rescinding the peace accord.

Third, the fear of a domino effect in the volatile region. As the Middle East is metamorphosing, the spill over effect could shake the entire region.

Fourth, to bend to the new winds could open up the floodgates, as it could be perceived an open invitation for others in the region.

Fifth, the fear that other regimes in the region will be disenchanted if the United States and the West fail to back their long time ally.

Sixth, the fear that Islamists, with anti-Western sentiments, could lead Egypt to take positions unfavorable to Western interests.

Seventh, the fear that continued instability, and any possible escalation, could disrupt oil supply causing a shortage and a price shock.

Eighth, the fear that the new president’s priority will be to cement his position and build popular support, by sounding an initial anti-Western tone in his public rhetoric in an effort to prove his nationalist bona fides.

Finally, the fear that anti-Western regional players are celebrating at the travails of their fiercest antagonist, and that their position could be bolstered by a more supportive Egypt.

2. Out of the Deadlock?

Mubarak may limp along for a little while longer, but no one is betting he will be there for the long haul. His legitimacy is utterly depleted. The fig leaf covering his regime has finally fallen, for the ugly naked truth to be revealed. Egypt will be out of the current deadlock when all parties concerned come to the realization that Mubarak is becoming a burden on everyone. A burden on his country and his people who gave him a sufficient chance, a burden on the military as he puts them in a predicament with the people, and a burden on the international community that will realize that the current deadlock, caused by an obstinate president unwilling to step down, enhances the uncertainty in Egypt and the entire region.