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Q&A on Developments in Egypt - Professor Stephen Zunes at MSNBC

These days it seems like suddenly everyone who gets in front of the camera is presenting him-/herself as an expert on Egypt -- its history, its domestic politics, its people -- and is offering "expert" analysis about what the current developments mean and what will likely come next.  Some of these people are, indeed, real experts, but many more are late-to-the-issue pundits serving up opinions and predictions that are based on a flimsy grasp of what is going on, the players, and the issues involved.

For those who are looking for a political primer and some educated insights into what is happening, why it is happening, and what is likely to come next, I recommend this Q&A interview with Professor Stephen Zunes, professor of politics and chair of Middle Eastern Studies at the University of San Francisco, posted on MSNBC.

One point to take special note of is Prof. Zunes' analysis of the Muslim Brotherhood -- its role in the current protests and its probable role in a post-Mubarak Egypt (notable because his analysis runs counter to much of the popular, and often uninformed, wisdom on this subject):

Q: What role do you believe the Muslim Brotherhood is playing in the Egypt protests and does that organization enjoy broad support among the Egyptian people?

A: The demonstrations are led primarily by young people who are not only anti-regime, but find the aging leadership of the Muslim Brotherhood as out of touch with their day-to-day realities as the government. There seems little support for the more extreme Islamists either. The Brotherhood's refusal to endorse the protests until after they started and were clearly gaining support was clearly opportunistic and doesn't help their standing.

Prof. Zunes has this to say about a post-Mubarak democratic government's likely position regarding the U.S.:

Q: With the U.S. support of Mubarak, how can they expect anyone that replaces him to be friendly to the U.S? It seems like the U.S. once again has provided an excuse to an Islamic state to hate them.

A: While I don't expect a post-Mubarak government to be fanatically anti-American or dominated by Islamist radicals, there is understandable disappointment among most Egyptians at the longstanding support from Washington of the Mubarak dictatorship. A democratic Egyptian government would likely be somewhat more independent from the U.S. and the IMF, but not overtly hostile.

...And on the question of such a government's approach to Israel:

Q: Is the safety of Israel at risk if the government is toppled, and what would happen to the world's oil supply's ability to make it thru the Suez Canal?

A: The people of Egypt want social and economic justice and would not be inclined to get in a war with Israel or risk a confrontation with the international community around oil supplies. These protests are about domestic issues, about freedom and justice. While there is certainly broad sympathy for the Palestinian cause, they have more pressing matters at home to deal with.

and here:

Q: Would whatever type of regime that arises from this keep similar relations that Israel and Egypt currently have, or could this lead to a step back?

A: I would guess that a democratic Egyptian government might be more outspokenly critical of certain Israeli policies, but I don't think there's any realistic chance of breaking off the peace treaty or anything like that.