What a dramatic change! During the Mubarak era, if Hosni Mubarak was harmed in any way, this would be damaging to national security. But now, it seemed as if failing to inflict the most harm on him would be damaging to national security! This is to say that a lenient court sentence would have led to violent tension, and in the worst of cases, the people might have returned to the streets to demonstrate in their millions.
Life imprisonment is far from a lenient sentence, especially considering the fact that the regime is still dominated by Mubarak's men. Nevertheless, once the life sentence was pronounced, waves of rage could be seen on the Egyptian streets, with many protestors heading towards the Egyptian revolution's traditional haven (Tahrir Square). If such demonstrations were sparked by a life sentence verdict, then what would the reaction have been if the outcome had only been a few years in jail? How would the people have reacted if the judge had declared Mubarak innocent?
In other words, Ahmadinejad wants to put forth the idea that Egyptian-Iranian differences are mere personality differences, rather than differences in interests and national security. He wants to suggest that had the former regime continued to remain in power, the opposition between the two countries would have continued in the same fashion. The Iranian President is trying to exploit Egypt’s rejection of its former regime in the interests of his own country, in a populist manner, whereby he wants to say to the Egyptians that Iran was wronged by Mubarak, just like you.
When I recently read that former President Hosni Mubarak's health has deteriorated considerably following the verdict - whereby he will have to spend the rest of his life in jail like any other prisoner - I remembered the days leading up to his decision to step down, when his friends in the Arab region offered to protect him from the anger of the Egyptian street. The most recent “declared” offer was that of a senior-level Emirati delegation, yet Mubarak refused the same destiny as his Tunisian counterpart Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. So, Mubarak became the first Arab leader to receive a life sentence, whilst Ben Ali became the first Arab leader to be expelled by a leaderless popular revolution.
It is striking given the tragic ends of Hosni Mubarak and other Arab leaders who were toppled by their own people’s revolutions, from Ben Ali to the tottering regime of Bashar al-Assad, that all these leaders had significant insights and sensors to warn them against any immediate danger. This helped them to consolidate their rule for long periods. However, such insights vanished over time and failed to outline a reasonable end to their political careers, or even their ordinary lives.
Following the tragic ends of Qaddafi and Mubarak, despite the substantial difference between them, it has been proven that all these Arab leaderships, in the depth of their hearts, believed that they had a divine right to rule, and that the relationship between them and their people was like that between parents and their children. This is one of the catastrophic consequences of a slanted media, as well as officials and advisors who never conveyed the people's true sufferings and their legitimate demands to their presidents, and who never urged rulers to lay the foundations of justice, or draw attention to the gravity of corruption that their aides and inner circles were committing. On the contrary, these inner circles embellished corruption, and in truth they paved the way for their leaders' tragic end.
Power bequeathal, for example, was one of the knives driven into Mubarak's political career that caused him to meet such a disgraceful destiny. Yet if you inspected Mubarak's aides during his era, you would find that the most loyal of his ministers and advisors, such as Ahmed Ezz, were the ones who actively promoted such practices in his eyes. On the contrary, those honorable patriots who acted to dissuade Mubarak from bequeathing power and warn him were deemed to have ulterior motives.
This also applies to the practice of vote rigging in parliamentary elections, which was the straw that broke Mubarak’s back. If you looked closely at some third world countries, you will find that there is an “Ahmed Ezz” in every country who seeks to dig the grave for the one who believes he is a close adherent.
Mubarak's end – whether we like it or not –may have blessed consequences for those prepared to learn lessons from history.
Dr. Hamad Al-Majid is a journalist and former member of the official Saudi National Organization for Human Rights. This article was first published in Asharq Al-Awsat on June 12, 2012