It has been a busy January. Coptic Christians start off rioting to protest a shooting that spreads throughout Egypt. Tunisia's government collapses, protesters take to the streets in Lebanon and Yemen, and even the West Bank and Jordan are boiling. Where will this all lead?
I watched the Iranian revolution, while traveling in Europe in 1979, and was dismayed to see how the pro-democracy leaders were roughly pushed aside by the Revolutionary Guards who fought to install a theocracy of Ayatollas.
What will happen in Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen and Jordan? I'm afraid that one of two things are most likely. One will be the crushing of the opposition like last year's crushing of the polical opposition in Iran. Or, worse yet for the US and Israel, the installation of Muslim theocracies. These groups are ready opponents, with strong Iranian backing and are just waiting to rush in and fill the power vacuum left by their despotic predecessors. The Muslim Brotherhood's backing of Mohamed ElBaradei smacks of polical expediency, designed to lend credibility to their cause. I've no doubt that, with Mr. ElBaradei at their head, they will win an election, then toss him aside to set up another Iranian-backed religious dictatorship.
Mr. ElBaradei is one of the few Egyptian leaders who seems to be keen about setting up a real democracy. I hope he lives up to his committment to not seek the leadership until an effective democratic process has time to take hold. He is smart enough to know that, due to Mubarek's repressions, the only opposition existent is the Muslim Brotherhood.
I doubt the ability of any Arab country to go against millenia of clan rivalries to set up a democratic country. We watched in the 1990's as the Philippines and Eastern Europe threw off their dictators and embraced democracy (except maybe Russia). But it seems to be impossible for Arabs, Persians or Afghans to do anything similar. I am especially fearful that the Coptic Christians, who started this all, will be the first victims of a Muslim dictatorship that takes Mubarak's place. All eyes are on Mr. ElBaradei.