Brookings Institution scholar Kenneth Pollack offers a cautionary note about who will be running Egypt after President Hosni Mubarak steps down. Even revolutions that succeed "often follow paths that no one foresaw – not their targets, not their protagonists, not the partisans on any side," he writes in the Wall Street Journal. "The Frenchmen who stormed the Bastille never foresaw the Terror. The Russians who stormed the Winter Palace never imagined Stalin's purges, the Gulag or the Great Famine. Most Iranians never meant to build a theocracy."
It is an "open question" as to whether eight months is sufficient time to prepare for Egyptian elections, writes Pollack, who served as a senior National Security Council official in the Clinton Administration.
But "advancing that timetable would be incredibly reckless," he writes. "It would be disastrous if the [Muslim] Brotherhood got to pick the next president of Egypt simply because it was the only organized party when elections were held."
No one should doubt that al-Qaida's number two official, Ayman Zawahiri, and his cohorts "were probably jubilant" when they learned that the revolution had begun. "They were likely also frustrated that they were not there to hijack it and lead it toward the radical Islamist state they seek. Zawahiri is probably doing whatever he can to play catch-up – to dispatch his supporters to Egypt to take control of the revolution," according to Pollack.
Equally pleased to see Egyptians rise up against Mubarak is the Iranian regime, which sees a key U.S. ally being eliminated and seeing "opportunity in chaos and violence, believing that anything that disrupts the region's American-backed status quo works to their advantage."
That chaos could lead to an Egyptian government that is more closely aligned with Iran than America. That's not what the protestors in Tahrir Square had in mind. "All of this," Pollack writes, "gives Iran and al Qaeda common interests that may drive them toward tacit cooperation – with the goal of fomenting a modern Bolshevik Revolution. Those who start revolutions are rarely those who end up in charge when the smoke clears and the barricades come down. And it's why the U.S., as Egypt's friend and ally, must try to prevent a revolution made in the name of democracy from being hijacked by something much worse."