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Q&A on Egypt's Post-Mubarak Future

Steven A. Cook

  • Country: The United States
  • Title: Senior Fellow, Council on Foreign Relations
  • Education: Vassar College, Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, University of Pennsylvania
  • Books: Ruling But Not Governing: The Military and Political Development in Egypt, Algeria, and Turkey (2007)

In "The U.S.-Egyptian Breakup," CFR Senior Fellow for Middle Eastern Studies Steven A. Cook argues that the decades-long relationship between Hosni Mubarak's Egypt and the United States ran like "a live wire" through Egypt's popular opposition movement. As such, any new Egyptian government in Cairo is sure to have a more distant and perhaps more fraught relationship with Washington. With the Mubarak era reaching a dramatic end last week, what comes next for the Egyptian people -- and for their country's ties with the United States?

George Sanderson: With attention now shifting to Bahrain, Libya, and elsewhere, what crucial, unanswered questions are in danger of being ignored in Egypt? In other words, Hosni Mubarak may be gone, but how much have the protesters actually achieved?

Steven A. Cook: That's a very good question. Egyptians and foreign observers have taken to calling recent events in Egypt a "revolution," but technically speaking it isn't -- at least not yet. Mubarak is gone, but his military remains in charge of the country, the proposed constitutional changes are limited, and much of the security apparatus and even the once-ruling National Democratic Party remain strong (at least outside of Cairo and Alexandria).

Now, the constitutional committee has sought to go beyond the five constitutional amendments and the deletion of one article to which the military is (and Mubarak was) committed. The committee has now put eight amendments on the table, including an explicit reference to writing a new constitution.

It's important to remember that transitions to democracy are fraught and that revolutions rarely end the way that the people on the barricades hoped they would.

Samuel Levy: Does the transitional council in Egypt appear committed to achieving genuine reform, or is it merely hoping to quietly hold on to power until the world's gaze shifts elsewhere?

Steven A. Cook: There is reason to be wary of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces. First, all these guys are Mubarak's officers. He promoted them and

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