The Tunisians have unleashed a genie -- the power of the people. Inspired by their action, people all over the region are revolting against their oppressive regimes.
The Western powers find themselves walking a tight rope. It is their patronage and support that has made the continued existence of these autocratic regimes possible. They are the client states of the US. Their rulers have been befriended and feted by the West.
Now the US and its Western allies are in a delicate situation. They cannot be seen to be against the people demanding democracy. And yet, they know that if the people are left to choose for themselves, there might be anti-US governments put in place. We are beginning to see them hedging. Even as the masses in Egypt were demanding the ouster of Mubarak, Joe Biden, US Vice President, interviewed by Jim Lehrer on PBS, said, " Egyptians have the right to protest. Many are middle class folks, with legitimate concerns. But we should not refer to Mubarak as a dictator. It's not time for him to go. He has been a key ally of the U.S. and Israel, in the "Middle East peace process' and the War on Terror".The U.S. should encourage those protesting and Mubarak to talk. Everyone should avoid violence." (emphasis mine).
One hopes that these revolutionary actions give to the people the
government they need and deserve and it does not turn out to be a case of getting something worse than what they had.
It is encouraging to see that among the slogans shouted by the crowds were: ""The crescent and the cross are against killing and torture"; "Muslims and Christians, we're all demanding change." Clearly, at least a section of the crowd on the streets was appalled by the bombings in Alexandria over the holidays, in which 21 Copts were killed and 97 were wounded as they came out of a church on New Year's Day. But whether these slogans herald an upsurge of national solidarity and a proclamation of interfaith harmony or are just a feeling voiced by a few, remains to be seen.
Already various parties are vying to put themselves in a leadership position. Nobel Peace laureate Mohamed El Baradei, the former head of the U.N. nuclear watchdog agency, rushed back to Egypt two days after the protests had started and, on Sunday, in Tahrir Square, took up a bullhorn, addressed the thousands of protesters gathered there and called for Mubarak to resign.
He has a following among young secular democracy activists but is dismissed as an expatriate long removed from Egypt's problems.
The outlawed Muslim Brotherhood, after lying low when the protests first erupted, is slowly moving towards a more prominent role.
Hundreds of protesters, men and women, performing prayers on the streets, indicates a strong Muslim Brotherhood presence.
The situation is very fluid at this point. The only thing certain is that all are united in wanting Mobarak to leave. Once he is gone, who will be in charge of the country? That remains a big question mark at the moment.