Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Disclaimer: The Parliamentary Library does not warrant or accept liability for the accuracy or usefulness of the transcripts. These are copied directly from the broadcaster's website.
David Schenker on Egypt uprising. -

View in ParlViewView other Segments

Analyst and author David Schenker is a senior fellow and director of the Arab Politics Program at
the Washington Institute. Schenker joins the program to discuss events unfolding in Egypt.


TRACY BOWDEN, PRESENTER: Monitoring events in Egypt from America is analyst and author David
Schenker, a senior fellow and director of the Arab politics program at the Washington Institute and
a former adviser to the Pentagon on Middle East military and political affairs.

I spoke to him earlier today from Washington.

David Schenker, is there a sense that the US administration is really scrambling to find the right
line, the right approach to take with this Egyptian situation?

DAVID SCHENKER, THE WASHINGTON INSTITUTE: Well Washington is essentially walk the razor's edge.
They don't wanna go too far and demand that Hosni Mubarak leave office and then find, lo and
behold, that he manages to retain power or that a successor regime led by close associates of
Mubarak remains in power. At the same time, they don't wanna distance themselves from this
democratic - remarkable democratic opposition movement that's looking for fundamental human
freedoms after 30 years of dictatorship. So it's a tough line to hoe.

TRACY BOWDEN: Is there a concern that if Hosni Mubarak goes, there are still no guarantees that the
next regime will be any better than the last?

DAVID SCHENKER: Well that's true. There's a lot of confidence that the military is gonna hold
things together to keep things essentially stable in this state. But nobody knows what the
long-term prospects are if free and fair elections take place in Egypt. We believe that the Muslim
Brotherhood has a 30 per cent or more residual support in Egypt. We also know that the opposition
has - the secular opposition has been decimated over the years and has a tendency to really - I
think for infighting and to eat one's own. So it's unclear that this divided, secular opposition
would ultimately prevail and I think a lotta people are concerned about the prospect of Muslim
Brotherhood taking power eventually, a group whose senior leaders are on record as saying they
would end the peace treaty with Israel, and even the secular opposition led by people like Mohamed
El-Baradei, one of the few things they agree on is that they would end all Egyptian natural gas
exports to Israel.

TRACY BOWDEN: Do you think it's any clearer who is driving or leading these protests, because it
seems there are a number of different groups.

DAVID SCHENKER: Yeah, well, the remarkable thing about it, I think from the very start, was this is
not being fuelled primarily by the Islamists, by the Muslim Brotherhood. Certainly they have taken
a part in this. But there is a whole group of longstanding Egyptian liberals who have long been
brutalised and repressed by the Government who have now come out in recent years. There's an
organisation called the April 6th Group, which is named after a date of protest that they had some
two years ago where they brought a whole bunch of team into Cairo to protest against Government
misrule. They're very active. You have this coalition that has rallied about the murder of an
Egyptian youth, (inaudible), who was beaten by Egyptian police and they've gathered quite a
following on Facebook. There's a whole bunch of people who support Mohamed El-Baradei. There are
people who support El Ghad, whose leader Ayman Nour ran against Hosni Mubarak in the 2005
presidential elections. So this is a disparate community of Egyptian liberals and Islamists who are
out on the streets demanding change. This demand for change has been at fever pitch in recent
years, because of the nature of the corrupt, you know, rapacious, you know, incompetent and brutal
government of Egypt.

TRACY BOWDEN: How do you see this playing out? Is it a case of not if, but when the President goes,
and how dangerous and precarious is this situation at the moment?

DAVID SCHENKER: Well the Army has been I think quite disciplined. They've not tried to repress
these demonstrations. They're out there protecting key government installations like the Ministry
of the Interior. If you have a million people come out in the coming days in Cairo, I think that
may be more tenuous. Certainly on the ground people are trying to convince the Army, which is a
conscript army made up of the people of Egypt to change sides, to go against Mubarak. Nobody knows
really how the Army is going to come down. It's quite possible that they'll take the Tunisia route,
where the Army essentially told Ben Ali in Tunisia that they were no longer gonna defend him, that
they would not open fire on the crowds and essentially told him to go. It's quite possible in
Egypt. But we have to remember the Army, the most respected and now the most powerful remaining
institution in the country, has vested interests with the regime. They may not need Hosni Mubarak,
but I think they feel very comfortable with somebody like General Suleiman, the former - now the
Vice President of Egypt and one-time head of the Egyptian intelligence. They feel very comfortable
with the Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq, who was the former head of the Air Force and Minister of
Civil Aviation. They don't want this regime, I don't think, to go - to disappear entirely. But it's
too early to say how it's gonna play out. It's a remarkably dynamic period of time.

TRACY BOWDEN: David Schenker, thanks for that analysis.

DAVID SCHENKER: My pleasure.