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An Iran-style outcome for Egypt? Why there are key differences.

The timing of Egyptian President Mubarak's exit could be crucial to bolstering moderate voices, analysts say. The Army has told protesters to return to 'normal life,' but the protests show little sign of abating.

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“The United States does not oppose the aspirations of the Egyptian people, but a single misstep could reverse this perception overnight,” says Columbia University history professor Richard Bulliet, in an analysis for Agence Global.

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Washington’s reluctance to embrace a post-Mubarak Egypt reflects gratitude for his past support of American policies ... [b]ut even more a fear that the Muslim Brotherhood will somehow emerge as the dominant force in a new Egypt,” says Mr. Bulliet. “Yet it was precisely America’s decision to cushion the shah’s fall and defy popular demands that he be held responsible for his autocratic rule that led to the debacle of the Iranian hostage crisis,” in which 52 US diplomats were held for 444 days from 1979 to 1981.

Descent into Islamic militancy?

Such analysis has done little to ease more alarmist views that Mubarak’s regime – even without the 82-year-old autocrat at the helm – is all that stands between Egypt and a dangerous and destabilizing descent into Islamic militancy.

Collapse of the regime could be “the biggest disaster for the region and Western interests since the Iranian revolution,” writes Barry Rubin, director of the Israel-based Global Research in International Affairs Center, in a Monitor opinion piece.

Fall of the Mubarak government would be a “tremendous defeat” for the US that “could reignite the Arab-Israeli conflict and cost tens of thousands of lives,” suggested Mr. Rubin, the author of several books on the region.

Rubin paints the Muslim Brotherhood as radicals ready to pounce and do away with Egypt’s cold peace with Israel.

“Why does the Brotherhood not engage in violence in Egypt?” asks Rubin. “The answer is not that it is moderate, but that it has felt the time was not ripe.”

Experts on Egyptian politics say that such views exaggerate the abilities and the intentions of the Muslim Brotherhood today. The group has been struggling – like all of Egypt’s fractured opposition groups – to keep up with the fast-paced protests on the street.

“The voices making comparisons with [Iran in] 1979 have failed to understand the seeds of the Islamic revolution, nor do they seem to recognize that today’s Egyptian uprising is a nonideological movement,” says Geneive Abdo, director of the Iran program at the National Security Network and The Century Foundation in Washington, in an analysis for Foreign Policy magazine.

“I have been surprised at just how minimal a role the Brotherhood has played so far – not only in the street movement, but in the consciousness of the young people in Tahrir Square,” writes Ms. Abdo, who has authored books on Iran and on Islam in Egypt, and lived for years in Cairo and Tehran.

“It is clear the new Egypt in the post-Mubarak era will be self-determined, more anti-American and closer to its Arab and Muslim neighbors. And this will happen whether or not the Muslim Brotherhood takes the driver’s seat in a new government,” Abdo adds.

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