What does this mean for Egypt, for the wider Arab region, and for Egyptian relations with the West? The Muslim Brotherhood has been around for about eight decades and it is experienced and practical, but it remains to be seen what it does once in power. In June 2011, the US had no choice but to open 'back-door' channels of communications with the Muslim Brotherhood, suspending its previous position that the group was terrorist. Much will depend on the Egyptian military's role in policy influence and on the ability of the West to permit Egypt under an Islamist regime to follow its own path and make accommodations accordingly without bending to demands that Egypt must remain an economic, political and military satellite.
In the 1980s, the public sector accounted for roughly half of industrial production and 90 percent of banking and insurance, occupying about 20 percent of the labor force; not at all unusual for an undeveloped or even a semi-developed economy. In the 1990s Egypt experienced a financial crisis when international banks refused to extend credit, largely because the state finances depended heavily on state enterprises; a position with which Western governments and IMF agreed. In the wave of neo-liberal policies that the US and IMF were promoting, Egypt agreed to go along the route of privatization.
After Mubarak fell, U.S. officials began asking questions about $70 billion of US taxpayer money going to Egypt for aid in past six decades and about a handful of people pocketing the money. However, because the US was itself behind the schemes to 'privatize and reform', it could not go public with what had taken place in Egypt under Mubarak, especially given that the regime was making just aboput every political and military concession to the US and to a lesser degree to Israel.
Some of the details of these scandalous exchanges were made public by Wikileaks on which the Washington Post then pursued its own investigation. Internal State Department memos (2006) indicate that the US was well aware that its own privatization program was the cause for even greater corruption in Egypt, but USAID continued the program without pause.
The fall of Mubarak was a celebrated event, even by the US, at least publicly, while privately, the US was demanding that the military must guarantee all treaties and obligations. In essence this entailed that Egypt can change faces but not policies, it can have elections but it cannot permit any change in the status quo ante. The military remained behind after Mubarak to make sure that the country stayed a dependency of the West, a nation of poor people with a hand full of millionaires linked to the state, a Muslim country with cordial relations to Israel and US.
Arab Spring for Egypt was not merely part of a regional - North Africa-Middle East - awakening, but it had its own historical causes, and it was more a continuation of the two-century long struggle of Egypt to achieve national sovereignty among nations.Whereas Ali and Nasser used the military to carry out their reforms and strengthen the state structure against foreign intervention, the rebels of Arab Spring are fighting against the military that has evolved into status quo guardian of domestic elites and foreign interests.
As we approach the end of 2011, unless a new regime takes power that genuinely represents the spirit of national sovereignty in the manner of Mehmet Ali and Gamal Abdel Nasser, Egypt will not have lasting social harmony. Trying to forge alliances with the various interest groups in Egypt, groups that have disparate interests will not be easy, but the catalyst to unity will be a strong commitment to national sovereignty and social justice.