Mohamed ElBaradei, the retired UN chief of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) who recently returned to Egypt to join the protests against Hosni Mubarak, has emerged as a strong contender to lead the Egyptian people under a unity government.
With the support of Egypt’s largest and best organised opposition group, the Muslim Brotherhood, coupled with his genteel manner, negotiating skills and experience and his willingness to be on the streets with the people, ElBaradei has shown himself to be the most popular of contenders for leadership of a genuinely popular revolution.
As IAEA chief during the George W. Bush era, ElBaradei succeeded in frustrating pro-war Western leaders especially during the lead-up to the Iraq war and then later as the US and Israel tried desperately to accuse Iran of having a nuclear weapons program.
Despite his popularity among the Egyptians and, indeed, among the Arab people generally, together with the respect he has also earned from many in the West, ElBaradei’s alliance with the Muslim Brotherhood will be troublesome for the Israeli and the US governments and their allies.
The Muslim Brotherhood is known to have strong sympathies with the Palestinians of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. In the event of gaining power, a new Egyptian government – especially one dominated by the Muslim Brotherhood – may open its borders to trade with the Gaza which will then make it easier to bring more arms in for the Gazans to defend themselves against Israeli oppression. Israel is unlikely to tolerate this and may well invade and occupy the Gaza Strip in order to prevent the Palestinians getting help from the Egyptians.
While ElBaradei is well known as a peace loving man, the real power in a future Egyptian government is likely to be with the Muslim Brotherhood which is not known for its patience with the right-wing Zionists of Israel.
The region is in turmoil at the moment and it is impossible to predict what will transpire. However, one thing is for sure; whatever happens, there will be tumultuous change.