The Race for the Keys

Monday, January 31st, 2011

As the Mubarak regime goes into the last stages of existence, Richard Fernandez says, the race is on for the real treasures of a great state:

Not the relics of antiquity, valuable as these may be, but the intelligence assets of a government which for decades traded them in exchange for Western financial and political support. With the ultimate fate of the Egypt uncertain, and the final extent of Iran and the Muslim Brotherhood’s influence uncertain, the disposition of those assets will assume the utmost importance.

What happens next?

When a dictatorship falls and replaced by election, two large groups of people often find themselves making policy. The NGO-niks, who are largely well intention but inexperienced, and the stone killers of the long-term resistance.

The key dilemma facing any US administration is how to defend its interests within a system that it cannot control, because that is the definition of accepting an Egyptian democracy. The best course is probably to take whatever intel stuff you can under direct or trusted control and wait to see how it shakes out. At this point no one knows for sure.

The Army will remain a player simply because it has the guns. But since it may contain a substantial number of sympathizers belonging to this, or to that faction a lot is up for grabs. Historically the end of Great States is a goldrush time. The people who know where the good stuff is hidden do best.

And this is where preparation for a regime change pays off. The assets that are out there can be used in two ways, they can be evacuated or they can be used in the post-Mubarak play. Of course the other side will not be sitting idle and may in fact be doing a symmetrical thing.

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