Riots have been flaring in Egypt for days now. The reports are that 100 have been killed. We all know that number could be much higher, but that is the official number coming from the Egyptian government. The initial reports were that the protesters were average citizens looking for more reforms from the oppressive government.
Mubarak has been in power for about 3 decades. There is no doubt that he rules with an iron fist. Not unlike most governments in that part of the world. Dissent isn't acceptable and is punishable by jail. It is well-known that jail in that part of the world usually leads to torture. Human rights are not a big concern, to put it mildly.
Poverty runs rampant. The unemployment rate makes ours look like child's play. Most in this country don't have a clear understanding of how many live in other parts of the world. Some of this started over the price of bread. People have little money to spend on food, and even a small increase can mean the difference when it comes to feeding yourself and your family.
So far the protesters have not been burning the American or Israeli flags, which is normal thing during these uprisings. This is a sign that the protesters are just freedom fighters looking for more freedoms, more jobs, and a better life for their families. The problem is that The Muslim Brotherhood is standing by and waiting. The Egyptian people may very well get a different government, but it more than likely will not be what some of the people are hoping for. The Muslim Brotherhood is a organization that believes in returning all Muslim countries to true Sharia law. They also are looking to get back lands that they view as being taken away from Muslims, such as Spain.
The Egyptians banned The Muslim Brotherhood many years ago, but it is still very active. They do run for seats in the government as independents and are relatively successful. The organization has branches all over the Middle East, such as Iran, Kuwait, Syria, and The Palestinian Terrorities among many others throughout the Muslim world. Officially, they are against the use of violence and went as far as to condemn the 9/11 attacks. Although, al Qaeda leaders have been strongly influenced by the brotherhood. The book Milestones is used by jihadists across the world as guide. It was a major influence of Usama bin Laden. bin Laden has turned his back on the movement due to its stance of non-violent resistance, at least publicly anyway. Although, his #2, Ayman al Zawarhi is a product of the more violent offshoot, Egyptian Islamic Jihad, to the brotherhood while growing up in Egypt.
We may very well be seeing the redux of Iran when the Ayatollah came into power. The initial riots and movement were primarily young people looking to get more freedoms under the oppressive and corrupt Shah. The Shah was considered an ally of the western world and more precisely of the U.S. government. Not a good thing in the eyes of Islamic radicals. The fall of Iran happened in three stages; the first being well-meaning citizens looking to improve their everyday lives. The second was the fall of the Shah and a weak and disorganized democratically based government formed, and then fell to the more radical Islamics that are in power to this day. The radicals climbed into bed with many different groups, as none of the groups on their own were powerful enough to rid the country of the Shah. Once the Shah left they were able to consolidate power by using any brutal means at their disposal.
To gain some context on how these groups gain power we must understand a very simple fact. The Muslim Brotherhood and other groups just like them become the social services to the poor. The governments tend to be so corrupt that the needs of the people are for the most part ignored. If you are looking to feed your young children you will likely support the people who are helping you achieve that. You generally don't look at the motives, you just take the helping hand that has been offered to you.
The vacuum then gets filled by the groups whose intent is only to be the next oppressor. From the photos that are being shown there are currently women joining in on the demonstrations. If they are looking for additional freedoms and a better life, it is highly unlikely they will find it if the Muslim Brotherhood does indeed take over. The chances are they will be denied an education, no chance of voting in elections, but then again those elections will more than likely be rigged anyway.
The U.S. has no easy choice here. If they back Mubarak they will be seen as standing by an oppressor. If they back the protesters they may very well be handing one of the largest Muslim countries over to a radical group that views us as the Big Satan and Israel as the Little Satan. Egypt currently has a peace accord with the Israelis which has worked for a very long time now. The chances of the that staying in place if radicals take over is about nil. The Coptic Christians, who are about 10% of the current population, will also be in even more danger then they are currently experiencing. This is a native population that has survived the Muslim take over the country back in the 7th century.
What President Obama does over the next days and months are going to have long lasting effects. The Suez Canal is an important waterway that our economy depends on. About one third of the world's oil supply goes through it every year. If we have a government that views us as the Big Satan controlling it, heaven only knows the damage that can be caused to our economy through higher prices and controlled shortages.
The problem with the Middle East is that sometimes the oppressor is the best option, even though the citizens of that country don't see it that way. There are no easy or simple solutions to the problems that exist in the Middle East.