For years, Egypt has not been on the Middle East radar of most Americans despite the fact that Washington has been a longtime benefactor of the regime in Cairo. But Egypt, once the dominant force in the region, is at the heart of the news once again as President Hosni Mubarak struggles to cling to power in the face of unprecedented protests. The authoritarian leader has led Egypt since the assassination of Anwar Sadat in 1981. Even though Mubarak's government implemented elections in 2005, true political opposition has long been stifled under his rule. The Muslim Brotherhood, a popular Islamic political group, has largely been suppressed, and the police force is notoriously brutal on antigovernment opponents. Parliamentary elections last year were widely considered to be fraudulent, and many Egyptians saw in the sham the first signs of Mubarak paving the way for his son to take over laying the foundations of a family dynasty backed by a coterie of corrupt elites. Mubarak is now facing the most serious challenge to his decades-long rule from a populace brimming with years of pent-up rage and frustration.
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