A wounded man reads a newspaper in Cairo, Egypt, Monday Jan. 31, 201. A coalition of opposition groups called for a million people to take to Cairo's streets Tuesday to ratchet up pressure for President Hosni Mubarak to leave. (AP Photo/Mohammed Abou Zaid) (AP)

Answers to basic "why" questions about Egypt

Why are protests happening now? Why is it taking longer than Tunisia? Why is the U.S. waffling?

Justin Spees
February 1, 2011 4:32AM (UTC)

The turmoil in Egypt, an integral American ally in the Middle East, threatens to throw the whole region into a tailspin. But why?

Why is this happening now?

  • Egypt’s recent election fraud is a fresh wound on a people who have had their basic rights to freedom violated for decades. (human rights watch)
  • Fringe and terrorist groups in the Middle East are becoming increasingly attractive to disenfranchised people, threatening the stability of governments that suppress the rights of their people. (Reuters)
  • The Tunisian revolution acted as a powder keg that set off a chain of dissent throughout the Arabic world. (Times of India)

Why has it been so much more difficult for protesters in Egypt to succeed than for Tunisians?

  • President Mubarak has allowed dissenting voices to exist, creating at least the illusion of freedom that Ben Ali did not. (IPS News)
  • The Egyptian military is strongly connected to the Egyptian government, giving it greater reason to see the government upheld. (Reuters)
  • U.S. support -- economic and military aid -- helps strengthen Mubarak's regime. (The Atlantic)

Why has the White House waffled on its stance toward the protests?

  • A concern facing Obama is that if he is too quick to condemn a friend, other Middle Eastern allies might worry about the strength of their ties to the U.S. (L.A. Times)
  • The U.S. has made its support of the demands of the protests clear, but struggles with condemning a close ally. (Newsweek)
  • The White House has begun acting as if Mubarak will not remain in power, and is cautious about its next step. (Politico)


Justin Spees

Justin Spees is an editorial fellow at Salon.

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