EGYPT: Q&A with USC legal expert Josh Lockman on impact of Mubarak ouster

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Josh Lockman is a lecturer in law at the USC Gould School of Law, where he teaches a course on U.S. foreign policy and international law. Lockman is also a fellow with the Truman National Security Project and a member of the Pacific Council on International Policy. He blogs for the Huffington Post and Foreign Policy Digest, and is researching the effect of the rise of Iran and Turkey on Israeli-Arab relations. He spoke Friday about the impact of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak’s resignation after 30 years in power.

Q: What does Mubarak’s departure mean for Egypt? For the region?

A: This is a historic, unprecedented day in the modern history of the Middle East. This is only the second time a people’s protest led to the fall of a dictator in the region. We could very well see protests like the one that was successful in Egypt spread to other countries, including Jordan, Yemen, Sudan -- and we’re seeing the potential for renewed protest in Iran. The green movement in Iran is planning some sort of major protest Monday, but it’s not certain that the regime in Iran will let that protest move forward. But the ripple effect is monumental.

Q: What will the impact be in Israel and Gaza?


A: In Gaza, where Hamas has supported the Muslim Brotherhood in the past, we’ll probably see cautious support, but Fatah has historically supported Mubarak. Both groups will probably be cautious, waiting to see what happens in coming weeks. A military takeover has been successfully accomplished, and it’s a military that has strong ties not only to the United States but to Israel and Saudi Arabia. The fears of Israel and other allies of an Islamist takeover will be assuaged, but it really depends on what comes next. Q: Do you think we will see Egypt become more stable in coming days and weeks?

A: As long as the United States puts tremendous pressure on the Egyptian military, particularly (Mohamed Hussein) Tantawi, (head of the Higher Military Council), to supervise real and meaningful negotiations with a number of opposition groups to transition to a new government in Egypt, progress will be achieved. The U.S. has a number of cards it can play.

Q: Does the military having control of the country during this transition pose a threat to democracy?

A: With the appropriate amount of pressure the Obama administration will place on military leaders in coming days and weeks, we can try to guarantee that the military doesn’t overstay their rule and will oversee what we hope will be an orderly transition. It remains a tremendous challenge going forward for the Obama administration and its allies in the region: how to stabilize the country during the transition.

Q: Some protesters are calling for Mubarak to stand trial, and Switzerland on Friday froze possible assets of his. Do you think Mubarak needs to be held accountable in order for the new government to gain legitimacy and move forward?

A: There will be a number of demands for investigations and oversight of the major corruption that occurred with Mubarak and the entire National Democratic Party, the NDP at large. In the meantime, whole elements of the NDP will be part of this civilian transition government. That happened in transitions in Mexico and Europe in the past. It’s likely we’ll see a tamping down on calls to go after Mubarak, because Mubarak allies in the transition government will make allowances for immunity.

Q: Do you think efforts to absolve Mubarak will succeed?

A: They may fail. They obviously have lost tremendous bargaining power. There’s a certain amount of uncertainty about how aggressive the new government will be in going after Mubarak and his cronies.

Q: What has the cost of unrest been for the Egyptian economy?

A: The cost to the Egyptian economy during the last 18 days has been staggering -- to the tune of potentially $300 million a day. It’s not clear even what’s left the country through NDP figures fleeing with gold. The hope now is that the economy will stabilize under the interim leadership.’

-- Molly Hennessy-Fiske