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The turmoil in Egypt, assertion of Islamists Dr R Balashankar The Struggle for Egypt - From Nasser to Tahrir Square, Steven

A Cook, Oxford Un iversity Press, Pp 408(HB), $27.95. $img_titleEgypt has always held a strategic position in history because of its g eography. For the West, it is the gateway to Asia and for Asia it is the buffer to the West. Despite being part of the Islamic world, it has been a strong ally of the US, though during the cold war it was closer to the Soviet camp. The 2011 movement saw a strong demand for democracy and President Hosni Mubarak had to q uit after two decades of iron-hold on the politics of the country. The Struggle for Egypt - From Nasser to Tahrir Square by Steven A. Cook chronicl es the history of Egypt, touching upon all the political aspects that very much included the role played by America, Israel and the several Islamic countries in West Asia. Muslim Brotherhood, a movement that is being increasingly seen as radical was bo rn in Egypt. At one time, Anwar Sadat collaborated with the leaders of the Broth erhood. Sadat then was Second Lieutenant and later went on to become the Preside nt of Egypt. it is after his assassination that Hosni Mubarak took over. The ele ctions in Egypt after the 2011 Tahrir protests has seen the Islamic fundamentali sts gaining its strength. Egypt was ruled by monarchy till 1952, when a Free Officers coup dethroned the ki ng and he was sent in exile to Italy. Among the core group of eight officers, Lt . Col. Gamal Abdel Nasser stood first among equals. Nasser became President in 1956 and held the position till 1970, when he died. Almost the entire defence eq uipments were from the Soviet Union and the policies pursued by him were left or iented. Sadat made strategic partnership with America. But under Mubarak, the co untry took a definite turn towards the West. It sided with America in the Gulf War. Egypt was justly rewarded for its participation in the Gulf War. In the afte rmath of the conflict, the United States and Arab creditors wrote off or cancell ed $20 billion of Egyptian debt, and Washington convinced the Paris Club- an infor mal group of creditor countries to forgive $10 billion, or half, of what Cairo own ed to a group of European countries, the United States, Canada, and Japan. The b enefits of debt relief were immediate. Cairo was able to borrow more money on i nternational markets... Egypt s right-leaning caused a lot of discomfort in domestic politics. The Muslim Brotherhood, the Left and the Nasserist holdovers questioned the new found frien dship in terms of national sovereignty, pride and, importantly, Washington s specia l relationship with Israel. Combined with it, reports of personal corruption of M ubarak and his family were increasingly angering the public. Says Cook, Mubarak had transformed into a pharaoh. This transformation was reflected in the last dec ade of Mubarak s reign, during which economic reform became crony capitalism, poli tical change was fortifying the authoritarian system under the guise of reform, and presidential succession meant a potential inheritance of power. It was an er a of official arrogance and popular anger; it seemed that the fabric of Egyptian society was becoming irrevocably frayed. It burst out in 2011 when people took t o street and camped in Tahrir square demanding a regime change. Mubarak had to leave. He had no choice. He and his two sons have been charged wi th corruption and embezzlement. The elections held post Mubarak saw an increased political presence of Muslim Brotherhood. What next in Egypt? It is a question no one can answer with certainty. It is extraordinarily difficult to determine ho w the country will end up. There are only hints, albeit mixed ones--positive dev elopments about democratic change coinciding with ominous signs of authoritarian ism. For now, one thing is clear: the struggle for Egypt continues concludes Cook

. Written with a lot of understanding of the Egyptian people and their emotions, S teven Cook brings the readers up to date with contemporary Egypt, an ancient civ ilization that could play an important role in the Arab world. A leading expert on Arab and Turkish politics, Steven Cook is Hasib J. Sabbagh Senior Fellow at t he Council of Foreign Relations. (Oxford University Press, YMCA Library Building, 1, Jai Singh Road, New Delhi-110 001) http://organiser.org//Encyc/2012/8/13/-b-The-turmoil-in-Egypt,-assertion-of-Isla mists--b-.aspx?NB=&lang=4&m1=m8&m2=m8.24&p1=&p2=&p3=&p4=