If you have an uneasy feeling that there is something suspicious about the overthrow of Mubarak in Egypt, you are not alone. The dictator has been ousted; yet the dictatorship structure remains intact. And presumably, it is in the process of preparing the ground for bringing “democracy” to Egypt. What adds to this suspicion is that the U.S. government and its Western allies, including the Western media, have not gone on a ranting rampage against what has taken place. There could only be one explanation for this: the U.S. and its allies seem to be quite content with the course events have followed in Egypt thus far, even though they are extremely apprehensive about what could happen next.
What has taken place so far can be explained by a bit of out-of- the-box thinking. The following analogy could help. If conditions are right for a devastating wildfire, and in your judgment the danger is almost certain, you have a better chance of surviving the inferno, or minimizing the potential damage, if you become pro-active. You get ahead of the game by starting a controlled burning. This would allow you to set the tempo for the fire. It will also give you some control: you can direct the path of the fire; you can even lower the intensity and temperature of the fire around the areas you want to protect.
The view that some form of controlled uprising was at work in the overthrow of Mubarak merits consideration. Mubarak was a widely resented figure in Egypt, and the fire of mass revolts against him and his U.S.-Israeli backed regime had been smoldering beneath the surface for a long time. Moreover, there was a high likelihood that the fire could start on its own at any moment, and develop into uncontrollable and devastating flames. Knowing this, the Empire’s fire marshals have been preparing for a controlled burning since 2007, if not much earlier.
The Empire made the decision to get ahead of the game and write its rules rather than sticking with Mubarak at all costs. By appearing to be on the side of the people when it could no longer keep Mubarak in power, the Empire also put itself in an excellent position to launch its new strategic plan for the Middle East.
There are reasons to believe that the youth uprising on January 25 and the ensuing few days were prepared and organized by individuals some of whom had received “democracy training” by the “democracy industry” in the U.S., in particular by Freedom House. This uprising started the mass revolt that led to Mubarak’s downfall. Its demands, slogans, and tempo in the first few days framed the scope and defined the parameters of the uprising. What was quite strange about the demonstrations was the absence of anti-Israeli, anti-U.S., and pro-Palestinian slogans and sentiments.
To suggest that the recent mass revolt in Egypt involved some form of uprising engineering is not to say that the Empire wanted to overthrow Mubarak. Rather, if it could no longer keep him in power, it wanted to ensure that the leadership of the uprising that would end up overthrowing him would not fall into the hands of groups or individuals with agendas inimical to the Empire’s interests. And if this could be managed successfully, the structures of dictatorship that protect the Empire’s interests (transnational economic elites and the military-commercial complex of the army) would not be threatened or smashed.
Moreover, this suggestion does not deny that Mubarak was overthrown by a mass uprising. Nor does it minimize the importance of the Egyptian people’s monumental achievement. It only makes the point that, by the time the workers and masses of ordinary Egyptians joined the uprising and thronged Tahrir Square, the scope, intensity, and parameters of the uprising had already been set in the first few days: the goal of uprising had been narrowed down to the overthrow of Mubarak; voices calling for a genuine revolution had been lost or sidelined; and the army had emerged as the savior of the country. The upshot was that the structures of dictatorship survived. This kept the Empire’s base of power intact, hence enabling it to launch its new strategic plan (plan B, if you will).
The New Imperial Plan for the Middle East
In the age of the Internet and satellite TV, it is becoming increasingly hard for the Empire to rely on old-style dictatorship systems in developing countries to protect its interests.
The Westernized, modern, and educated middle-classes around the world—especially the youth and those fluent in English—dominate blogs and the social media. In developing countries with old-style dictatorships (especially in the Middle East), these classes are particularly vociferous and have a constant presence on the social media and blogs. They constantly rant against old-style dictators in their respective countries, and cry out for freedom, democracy, and economic opportunities.
Thanks to the new media, modern middle-classes in developing countries have acquired a taste and envy for the consumer life styles of their counterparts in the West (especially in the U.S.). Moreover, they have attained consciousness of their class interests as a global class, which by and large, serves the interests of the transnational capitalist class. Through the social media, these classes are transforming themselves into a transnational class of their own.
In many respects, the present generation of the educated modern middle-classes in the developing countries is very different from earlier generations of the 1950s-1980s. Generally speaking, unlike their predecessors in previous decades who had a sense of affinity and solidarity with their indigenous working classes and the poor, the new generation seems to be apathetic, even hostile, to the plight and interests of the downtrodden in their countries.
The left-leaning middle-class intellectuals of the previous decades who sided with the poor, worked to preserve their indigenous cultures, and advocated anti-colonialism/anti-imperialism, have been replaced by a new breed of middle-class intellectuals who, in general, are decidedly right-wing and show no shame in flaunting their pro-imperialist views. Some of them despise the poor openly. The only thing that infuriates this new breed about dictatorships in their countries is the absence of individual freedoms and Western consumer life-styles, which they regard as their entitlements.
Advocacy of social justice and independence by the modern middle-class intellectuals in the developing countries is by and large a thing of past. The new generation, in general, lacks a revolutionary or progressive conscience, and eagerly longs to serve the transnational capitalist class in the hope of attaining Western consumer life-styles as compensation for their services.
Moreover, the new generation, especially the youth and those fluent in English, have mostly bought into the ideology of the American Dream, and more often than not, see the world through the prism of American interests. Not Lumumba or Che Guevara, nor Sartre, but Obama, Clinton, and Donald Trump are their idols. They love to live, study, or work in the West, especially in the U.S., and would use any opportunity to make it happen. Quite aware of the situation, the American “democracy industry” NGOs recruit the most vociferous and media-savvy among them to do the Empire’s bidding. Often, they are recruited as “civil society activists,” “human rights advocates,” “democracy activists,” and sometimes as “reporters without borders.”
A good example here is Freedom House’s “New Generation of Advocates” program which seeks “young civil society activists who are working for democracy, human rights and peaceful political change in the Middle East and North Africa”, and brings them to the U.S. for “professional training”. The recruits are brought to the U.S., or sometimes sent to Western Europe, through exchange programs that are either funded directly by the U.S. government (e.g., U.S. State Department, USAID, and USIA), or are offered by the globalist “democracy industry” NGOs, which in effect are front organizations for the Empire (e.g., the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), Freedom House, the International Republican Institute, and George Soros’ Open Society Institute.)
The new imperial plan for the Middle East capitalizes on the willingness of the modern middle-classes of the region to enthusiastically serve the international class of super-rich. They would gladly cooperate if they get some semblance of political power and some of what they think they are entitled to: individual rights and freedoms, and some opportunities in the neo-liberal economic environment to fulfill their consumerist dreams.
The plan seems to work in three stages. First, it fans the grievances of these classes and gives them moral support. It also recruits some of the most vociferous and media-savvy elements in these classes, and provides material resources and training to help them propagate their views. (This is the primary stage of the plan for countries with “rogue” or “unfriendly” regimes: Iran and Syria. This stage also applies to China, Venezuela, Belarus, and North Korea.) Second, it goads the recruits to use their training and propaganda power to narrow down the scope of the opposition’s democratic demands to a few simple points that are in-sync with the Empire’s global strategy: human rights, “free” elections, and a reformed (i.e., privatized) economy. The intention here is to drown out or marginalize the voices of those forces in the opposition which promote genuinely democratic and anti-globalist agendas. (This is the main focus of the plan in countries with dictators “friendly” to the Empire who are facing popular revolts: Egypt, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, etc.) Third, once the dictator is toppled, the plan utilizes the services of these classes to produce “friendly” regimes, and to cast an aura of democracy and legitimacy on them.
Now that Mubarak is gone, the plan in Egypt has entered its third stage. It is now focused on manipulating the current social-political milieu and engineering the upcoming elections, in order to ensure that pro-Western middle-class technocrats rise to positions of power. Integral to the plan are some insidious strategies and tactics that are designed to fragment, sideline, confound, co-opt, and corrupt organizations and individuals which/who represent the interests of working people. Stirring up inner-fighting, sectarian divisions, and religious tensions are also in the plan. This “peaceful transfer of power” would leave the real power in the hands of the Egyptian army and the transnational super-rich who control the wealth, while giving a piece of the pie and a stake in the system to the modern middle-classes.
If the plan ends up working as the Empire wishes, the lower middle-classes, the poor, and working people (constituting up to 90% of the population) would be left voiceless. They would become politically disheartened and disillusioned, and their lives would be reduced to constant struggles to get by—a scenario that would be very similar to the post-Soviet Eastern European countries, including Russia.
Will the Empire Succeed?
The Empire faces two problems in the way of executing its plan in Egypt: political Islam and labor unions with class-conscious rank and file members. Both of these obstacles were absent in “revolutions” of Eastern Europe, and this is why the plan succeeded there.
Whether the labor unions will manage to transform themselves into a strong political force and their platforms take up the interests of the working people, or be bought off and corrupted in the service of the Empire’s plan, remains to be seen. What is generally not known is that the Empire has already positioned itself to control Egyptian labor unions. The U.S. “democracy industry” NGOs such as the National Endowment for Democracy, AFL-CIO’s American Center for International Labor Solidarity, and the Center for International Private Enterprise are busy training and co-opting the Egyptian labor activists.
As far as political Islam is concerned, the Islamic Republic of Iran (IRI) is presenting itself as the Islamic state par excellence. Even though Egyptian middle-class intellectuals and some in the Muslim Brotherhood have repeatedly stated that they are not interested in the Iranian model, the largest majority of the Egyptian masses seem to think otherwise. The IRI does not take orders from Washington, and is vehemently anti-Israel and pro-Palestinian, both of which resonate with the overwhelming majority of the Egyptian people.
Moreover, notwithstanding its serious shortcomings in areas of social freedoms and individual rights, the IRI has managed to develop the country somewhat successfully, and has built a social-economic welfare system that provides assistance and services to the working people and the poor. And it has done all of this despite the Empire’s military encirclement, economic sanctions, and constant military threats. These successes make the IRI look even more attractive to the Egyptian masses. The propaganda machine of the Empire and its super-rich and middle-class allies are hard at work to sway Egyptians away from the Iranian option.
Much rides on whether the Empire will succeed in its continuing efforts to topple IRI or severely debilitate it. The Iranian modern middle-classes, though have legitimate grievances against the regime, in their efforts to call international attention to their grievances, in effect, are doing the Empire’s bidding. In this respect, they are no different than their counterparts in Egypt.
The chances of success for the Empire’s plan do not look very good. If all goes well for the Empire, Egypt and other Arab countries currently facing revolts might end up looking like caricatures of Turkey: pseudo-democracies embellished with some Islamic features, and islands of small prosperous middle classes floating in the ocean of impoverished populations. However, even if the plan works, these societies would end up having unstable regimes. Under the pressure from their populations, they might refuse to take orders from Washington now and then, and could gravitate toward the IRI, hence denying the Empire and Israel the reliable puppets they badly need.
If the plan fails, we can expect one or both of the following outcomes. In some countries, people might get hold of political power, and produce governments with popular agendas that would break free from the American-Israeli Bloc in the region, and go the way of Iran, even though not necessarily becoming Islamic republics. In others, we might see countries looking more like Iraq and Pakistan, even like Afghanistan. Both of these outcomes would have disastrous consequences for the Empire. In the first case, the so-called “Resistance Bloc” would grow beyond Iran, Syria, Hezbollah, and Hamas. In the second case, the Empire might deem it necessary to intervene with its NATO partners, and end up facing armed resistance, worldwide condemnation, and a massive drain on its resources. (There are indications that Libya is currently being set up for a possible military intervention.)
In the case of Iran, if the Empire succeeds in overthrowing or destabilizing the IRI—which seems unlikely at this point— we might witness a civil war between Westernized middle-classes and their pro-Empire supporters, on the one side, and the surviving IRI structures and elements united mostly with the working-class and the poor, on the other side. The greater danger for Iran would be the territorial disintegration of the country along its ethnic-regional lines. This could turn into a humanitarian tragedy far more devastating than the one the world witnessed in Yugoslavia in the1990s. Though the Empire has long dreamed of destroying the IRI, the coming true of its dream at this particular conjuncture could turn into a nightmare. The resulting instability in Iran could spread to Pakistan, Iraq, Turkey, the Republic of Azerbaijan, and the central Asian countries.
Lastly, if the IRI survives, the chances of success for the Empire’s plan would diminish considerably. The IRI is already positioning itself strategically to take advantage of the falling and failing regimes in the U.S.-Israeli Bloc. If the IRI survives, this would strengthen the Empire’s resolve to bomb it, an undertaking which would most likely backfire. The future in the Middle East looks grim for the Empire and Israel, and dangerous for the peoples of the region.
This article first appeared at Intifada: Voice of Palestine.