If the Egyptian unrest was happening in a number of other Middle Eastern states, particularly Syria and Iran, a resulting revolution would likely lead to a better government than the one that had fallen. But that’s not so much the case in Egypt. There are pro-democracy forces there, but there are also very strong Islamist forces there, and while the latter don’t have the numbers of the former, they probably do have one quality that will enable them in the midst of the chaos: Ruthlessness.
That in mind, it’s very much worth keeping an eye on Mohamed ElBaradei. The former UN nuclear weapons cop is in Egypt, under house arrest, and setting himself up as the democratic opposition leader to counter Mubarak. But in an article attempting to make ElBaradei seem like a decent alternative to the current Egyptian ruler, Bruce Reidel discloses the following:
Egypt’s new opposition leader, former International Atomic Energy Agency head Mohamed ElBaradei, has formed a loose alliance with the Brotherhood because he knows it is the only opposition group that can mobilize masses of Egyptians, especially the poor. He says he can work with it to change Egypt. Many scholars of political Islam also judge the Brotherhood is the most reasonable face of Islamic politics in the Arab world today. Skeptics fear ElBaradei will be swept along by more radical forces.
ElBaradei is a radical himself to some extent. During his time with the International Atomic Energy Agency, he oftentimes served as an apologist for Iran’s nuclear program. He hasn’t shown himself to be a friend of the United States. The “loose alliance” he has established with the Muslim Brotherhood, the ideological grandfather to al Qaeda, is a mile-wide red flag that if he succeeds Mubarak, Egypt will probably fall out of alliance with the US and Israel and will likely fall into Iran’s orbit.
For their part, the mullahs are greeting the Egpytian unrest with open arms.
Update: Robert Gibbs, outgoing WH spokesman, is talking up ElBaradei in the press briefing, but stopped short of endorsing him as an alternative to Mubarak. This White House must tread very very carefully here. ElBaradei may be a “Nobel laureate” as Gibbs said, but that award was, like the Nobel given to Jimmy Carter three years earlier, largely a political award given to express disdain for George W. Bush and his wartime policies. The notion that ElBaradei did anything to make the world more peaceful is ludicrous.