Hassan Haidar
Dar Al-Hayat (Opinion)
July 7, 2011 - 12:00am

There are two Arab regimes that failed to convince their people to maintain the same method of governance throughout decades with the pretexts they presented, despite the voluntary or obligatory change that affected their role in the face of Israel, after this role marked the way they presented themselves domestically and abroad.

The first is the Egyptian regime which collapsed and whose symbols are being tried in court, while the base on which it relied throughout decades (i.e. the army) is still resisting change and trying to maintain its influence, even if on part of the decision. As for the second, it is the Syrian regime which is on the brink of collapsing but is also resisting with fire and steel, and threatening its oppositionists with civil war, division and the worst scenarios. The common denominator between the two was the move from the confrontation with Israel toward official or implicit truce with it, without this change being accompanied by any transformation at the level of the internal functions.

Egypt chose peace but did not respect its conditions by coming up with a new internal role for the regime based on the allocation of the revenues in a just way - after the biggest share used to go to the war effort – and by granting a wide margin of freedoms and fighting poverty and corruption. As for Syria, it maintained a state of war in form and at the level of its slogans, but became committed to truce on the ground. Indeed, it kept perceiving itself as being in a “rejectionist” position which – based on its own conception – required the containment of the domestic arena, the prevention of any opposition or accountability and the placement of growth and the living conditions at the bottom of the list of priorities.

Al-Sadat agreed to engage in a peace process with Israel and sealed a treaty with it – under US auspices – to lower the defense budget and promote market economy in exchange for yearly foreign aid amounting to billions. Then came Hosni Mubarak following the podium incident to uphold Egypt’s commitment to the treaty and to exceptional relations with Washington.

And although peace changed Egypt’s face, the aid, capitals and investments started flowing in and the services and tourism sectors boomed. In the meantime, the army became a massive production apparatus while it continued to care for and protect the regime, in parallel with the massive expansion witnessed at the level of the security apparatuses and the police. However, this situation did not change much for the Egyptian people and tens of millions among them kept living in need.

At the same time, the American and Western pressures that accompanied the aid were increasing, to get the regime to allow opposition parties and independent media outlets. These pressures escalated following the American invasion of Iraq and in light of George Bush’s wish to see a “different” Middle East. Mubarak’s regime was subjected to pressures at times and showed rejectionism at others, thus granting freedoms in some areas and preventing them in others, allowing the opposition to enter parliament in 1987, only to disband it later on. In the meantime, corruption flourished, along with poverty, which usually accompanies any massive population increase. This caused the detonation of the confrontation between the regime and its citizens more than once, although the disgruntlement reached its peak when the third generation of Egyptians who were born in light of peace took to the streets and toppled the regime.

In Syria, whose demonstrating youth know nothing of “the state of war” except for its blunt repercussions on their daily lives, the “conflict” with Israel – despite the unannounced “peace” – became a permanent burden with the continuation of the allocation of a major part of the budget to defense, security and its apparatuses. In parallel, economy continued to suffer from isolation and backwardness. The Syrians became the hostages of their regime’s alleged slogans and nationalistic outbidding, while their suffering was enhanced by corruption, partisan and familial nepotism and the sustainment of the emergency law as a sword brandished against freedoms. And all those who even considered asking questions such as: “Why should we bear all this poverty and oppression if we are not fighting anyone?” probably received the regime’s only answer with the arrival of tanks to their homes.


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