At this time, the biggest threat to the stability of the new government in Egypt is the persistence of the inherited burdensome bureaucracy and corruption, especially in the police and security services. In 2009, these services employed a total of 1.7 million people, including nearly 850,000 policemen and 400,000 officials in the dreaded State Security Investigations Service (SSI). Those organizations did not respect the freedoms and human dignity ideals they are now supposed to practice. They don't know how to respect those whom they did not respect before.
Under the Mubarak regime, the police and the SSI were responsible for unwarranted domestic surveillance, corruption, torture, and brutality. The regime used them to steal elections, limit freedom of expression, and repress the opposition. They were trained to defend the regime, as opposed to serving the population. The United States and Israel supported that regime and its practices. In response, the regime obediently carried out their instructions and implemented their designs for the Middle East rather than serve the interests of the Egyptian people.
The new power structure that resulted from the Arab Spring, and is based on the Moslem Brotherhood, publicly denounced the police and the Interior Ministry's despicable practices and forced some of the generals in those organizations to retire. Most of the old structure is still in place however. It will take time to fully dismantle it.
In Egypt, a mix of formerly powerful elites and ascendant new elites are scrambling to game the political structure to protect their interests by aligning them with those of the United States. As with all revolutions, to remain on a trajectory toward democracy requires continued popular pressure on all those with the capacity to hijack democratic aspirations. This suggests that street protests in Egypt are far from over. In the long term, this instability may pay off in the form of well-founded democracy. There are signs that the conservative Islamists and the seculars are talking to each other. A new economy based on a broad base is already in the offing.
On a more regional level, let us face the facts. The peace treaty between Egypt and Israel did not reflect the attitudes or desires of the Egyptian people when another Egyptian dictator, Anwar El-Sadat, signed it. It does not have the approval of the Egyptian people now. The great majority of Egyptians would like to see the treaty abrogated. The solution to the Israeli problems in the region lies elsewhere. The United States has to decide whether it wants to support democracy in Egypt per se or not. The present government in Egypt is its only available option. A re-tooled authoritarian bargain, as it was with Mubarak, is no longer available.
Thinking more broadly, it should be clear by now to US policy makers that through different mechanisms and paths, all Arab dictators (kings and strongmen) will fall, probably within the next 10 years. Once freed from dictatorships, Arab societies will go through a phase of instability that may be more or less violent and that could last for years. Some countries may well fall back into chaos and go back to other forms of authoritarian rule. Others will advance into democracies more easily. Egypt has already passed through the stages of going back to other forms of authoritarian regimes through Presidents Nasser, Sadat and Mubarak. Now is the time for Egypt to advance to a more democratic stage.
If the United States continues to put Israel's security before democracy and freedom in Egypt, it will risk its future ability to influence events and will end up with only Israel as its ally in the region. As many have already pointed out, Israel's future, without resolution of the Palestinian conflict, is very much in doubt. It is only a matter of time before Israel will drown in the Arab democratic sea, with or without US support.
As long as Egypt remains rocked with instability, it is not possible for the country to address its severe economic problems or play a major regional role. Egypt has been trying to play a regional role in brokering a deal between Hamas and Israel, advocating national reconciliation between Hamas and Fatah, engaging with Turkey and a cautiously approaching Iran. The highly touted differences between the Sunnis and Shia, much exaggerated in the West and supported by the corrupt Arab Kings and Emirs, are nothing but a mirage. The differences will disappear once the common enemy is established. As the Arab saying goes: "Me and my brother against my cousin and me and my cousin against the outsider'.
The West, including the United States, the Gulf States and Saudi Arabia are the most likely sources of economic assistance to Egypt. They are watching what Egypt does and are making sure that their interests are secure. The Gulf States and Saudi Arabia are interested in maintaining their undemocratic royal systems while the US is mostly interested in safeguarding Israel. There are frequent and relentless attempts by influential Zionist interests in the United States to nakedly poison the atmosphere between Egypt and America; mistakenly referring the US interests and those of Israel, as one and the same. They are also raising unsubstantiated worries about the Moslem Brotherhood and its unforeseen intentions.
Egypt has to tread very carefully in securing funds for its economic recovery while striving to restore its long lost place as a major player in the Middle East. The US, the West, and Israel, are not giving Egypt the time it needs to breathe and put its house in order. They are doing every thing they can to destabilize the entire Middle East and keep Egypt off balance.
No matter. It will take time but the Egyptians will do it again. They will prevail. In modern times, Arabs and Moslems are, in general, clueless when it comes to democracy and human rights. They have been politically suppressed for so long that they don't actually know what to do. Generally, they are split between two competing camps: those committed to true and pure Islam mainly because of lack of education and international exposure and those trying to amalgamate Islam with modernism including new constitutions, progressive roles for women and respect for human rights and dignity. No matter what, Islam will be part of the equation in the future in the same way Christianity is part of the equation in the West.
Previously banned opposition parties have now gained power, only to discover that they have become the government that the masses mistrust. Post-authoritarianism politics could enable public mistrust to morph more easily into popular mobilization. This is what is happening in Egypt now. From all that is going on, Egypt will emerge as a well-founded democracy.