Last Tuesday, UC Davis experts discussed terrorism, international relations, human rights and democracy in regards to the crisis in Egypt.
The rebellion in Egypt began over two weeks ago and was ignited by the uprising in Tunisia. After 18 days of protests, Hosni Mubarak resigned as president of Egypt on Friday and handed his power to the Egyptian military, which is on neutral grounds and receives funding from the U.S.
“The long term effects since … Mubarak came into the government have been restricted and dictatorial, and the economy has been stagnant,” said Scott Gartener, director of the International Relations department.
Gartener also said that Egypt has many educated people and with the resources of the country, Egypt was not going in a direction that the people thought they should.
In Gartener’s presentation, he highlighted the importance of the Camp David Accords. The Camp David Accords was an agreement that the U.S. mediated between Israel and Egypt to maintain peace. In exchange for their compliance, the U.S. gave both countries billions of dollars and military aid.
“The Camp David Accords clearly illustrates that there is tension which makes it unclear how we are going to move forward,” Gartener said.
The agreement depicts that the stability between Egypt and Israel has been a result of the mediation effort by the U.S. It is therefore critical that the U.S. stay involved with the post Mubarak regime, but it is difficult to predict what that role should be, Gartener said.
Keith Watenpaugh, professor of religious studies, spoke of human rights in regards to the rule of the Egyptian government.
In 1981, the assassination of the second Egyptian president by Islamic radicals triggered the country to suspend the constitution and create an emergency government. Since then, human rights abuses have become common practice in Egypt, before it was reserved for opponents of the regime – primarily members of the Muslim Brotherhood, Watenpaugh said.
“Many of the people demonstrating now would like to integrate respect for human rights into the Egypt of the future,” said Watenpaugh. “The culture of immunity which exists in Egypt around the violation of human rights is very difficult to dismantle even with the will to do so.”
David Biale, chair and professor of the History department, focused on the effects of the regime on Israel and the Middle East.
When the rebellion began, Israel immediately saw the movement as threatening to their peace with Egypt. Israel operates on the fact that they are the only democracy in the Middle East. The argument is that the opposition cannot be trusted and Israel must side with
Mubarak, Biale said.
“If there is a democratic revolution in Egypt, it is clear from public opinion that they want a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” said Biale. “That will exert pressure on both the Israelis and Palestinians to come to an agreement, so I think it will have a positive effect.”
Miroslav Ninic, professor of political science, discussed the implications of the regime changes on U.S. foreign policy – major concerns being terrorism, the flow of oil, Middle Eastern peace with Israel and the promotion of democracy.
“Middle East peace and security of Israel may become a little more complicated, because any Egyptian government will be likely to include members of the Muslim Brotherhood and other people who are not as benignly inclined toward Israel as Mubarak,” Ninic said.
Similarly, Ninic said that democracy is a messy question based on the type of values the Egyptian democracy chooses to uphold. Egypt may not uphold the dignity of basic human values that democracy is supposed to embody.
However, Egypt is not a major producer of oil and other political groups, such as the Muslim Brotherhood, have renounced violence. Thus, there is no conceivable concern for the flow of oil or terrorism, Ninic said.
Zeev Maoz, professor of political science, said that revolution spreads, but other Middle Eastern countries such as Jordan and Syria are taking preventative measures.
“Egypt is still considered the leader of the Arab world and what happens in Egypt will affect other members of Arab society,” said Moaz. “But if the Middle East is polarized between democracy and totalitarian government, you may see some sort of cold war.”
Moaz also said that if true democracy spreads to the Middle East, then it will lead to more stability and peace.
JASPREET BAHIA can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.