Will Egypt follow the ‘Chinese example’?
Had a chat today with someone who worked in Whitehall for many years at a senior level looking at the Middle East.
I pass on what he had to say, conscious that I have no expertise whatsoever in this area but because his views struck me as very interesting and, as I watch pictures from Cairo now and Premier Suleiman on TV talking about “infiltrators” and “foreigners” and “a complete plot”, it looks particularly interesting.
Mubarak will, without doubt, follow the Chinese example, my contact said. By that, he said, he meant that after a few days of watching the demonstrators do their stuff, the clampdown comes. Ringleaders are rounded up and an air of menace is spread.
Chinese connections with Egypt are extensive but, as my contact put it, “they wouldn’t need a phone call explaining how it works, they’ve swallowed the book.”
They will also have been watching Tehran’s past disturbances and how they were put down. The army and police in Egypt are important career avenues for people from poorer backgrounds with no connections to exploit. Most of these individuals will feel they have much at stake. “Doesn’t mean they’ll succeed,” my old Whitehall hand said, “but they will try.”