Published in the Globe and Mail, November 19, 2012
Slowly, painfully, fitfully, the new Middle East is emerging. Egypt is key to this, both in terms of its internal evolution and its response to regional events, such as the fighting in Gaza.
Egypt’s President Mohamed Morsi has many balls to juggle. His political base is Islamist, anti-Israel and anti-U.S. But Cairo depends on billions of dollars annually from the United States and the European Union, which want the Egypt-Israel peace treaty to survive. It is also likely that the still powerful Egyptian military has no interest in a return to the days of tension with Israel.
Moreover, although Mr. Morsi’s base is Islamist, it has many elements. I was in Cairo a few days ago. From my hotel room, I had a perfect view of Tahrir Square, where a demonstration of several thousand Salafists was taking place. These are the hard-line Islamists who believe in a government based on their own literal interpretation of the Koran. It was a noisy and angry affair. They were angry at Mr. Morsi for upholding and implementing a court decision to protect the property of the Coptic Christian minority from Salafist attempts to seize it….
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