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db: Gibbs: America Will Not Take Sides in Egypt


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Friend on Facebook recommended this article. (Not much there, though.)

The thing that I liked most about that article was the claim that the Muslim Brotherhood didn't start these protests, and is simply trying ti latch onto them.

I also like the idea that visionary's link hinted it, that things would settle down in Mubarik simply announced that he wasn't running for another term.

(I really like the idea of a peaceful transition of power. Maybe the US can offer a Golden Parachute? Part of our Dictator Protection Service?)

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Obama administration could still get it right on Egypt

By Jackson Diehl

Thursday, January 27, 2011; 8:00 PM

During her first visit to Egypt as secretary of state, in March 2009, Hillary Rodham Clinton was asked whether human rights violations by the Egyptian government that had been documented by the State Department would interfere with a visit to the White House by President Hosni Mubarak. It was a good question: Mubarak had not been to Washington in five years, thanks to his clashes with the Bush administration over his political repression.

"It is not in any way connected," Clinton replied. "I really consider President and Mrs. Mubarak to be friends of my family. So I hope to see him often here in Egypt and in the United States."

Thus began what may be remembered as one of the most shortsighted and wrongheaded policies the United States has ever pursued in the Middle East. Admittedly, the bar is high. But the Obama administration's embrace of Mubarak, even as the octogenarian strongman refused to allow the emergence of a moderate, middle-class-based, pro-democracy opposition, has helped bring the United States' most important Arab ally to the brink of revolution. Mass popular demonstrations have rocked the country since Tuesday; Friday, when millions of Egyptians will assemble in mosques, could be fateful.

The administration's miscalculation about Mubarak was threefold. First, it assumed that the damage done to relations by George W. Bush's "freedom agenda" was a mistake that needed to be repaired. In fact, Bush's pushing for political liberalization was widely viewed, in Egypt and in the region, as the saving grace of an otherwise bad administration.

Second, the Obama administration's Middle East experts concluded that there was no chance of serious reform - much less revolution - under Mubarak. So they plotted at playing a "long game" of slowly nurturing grass-roots movements and promoting civil society, in preparation for the day when Egypt might be ready for real reform. In this they badly underestimated the secular opposition that was rapidly growing in the blogosphere and that months ago began rallying behind former U.N. nuclear director Mohamed ElBaradei.

Third, as an emboldened Mubarak stepped up repression, staged a blatantly rigged parliamentary election in November and began laying the groundwork to present himself for "reelection" this year, the administration chose to mute its criticism. Bland, carefully balanced statements were issued by second- and third-level spokesmen, while Clinton and Obama - who regularly ripped Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu - remained silent.

That policy continued until Tuesday, when - disastrously - Clinton called Mubarak's government "stable" and claimed it was responding to "the legitimate needs and interests of the Egyptian people." Hours later, riot police attacked the thousands of demonstrators who had gathered in Cairo's Tahrir Square. Rightly or wrongly, Egyptian opposition activists now say, Clinton and the United States are being blamed in popular opinion for that crackdown. "She is seen as having given Mubarak the green light," one told me.

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Isn't Mubarak like 200 years old now?

The US would be wise to wait till the new Pharaoh takes office before we commit to anything

Is there an America-hating Ayatollah in charge of Iran, right now, because Carter stopped supporting the Shah? Or because the US did support the Shah, for decades?

Iran is sort of a unique situation because Khomeini was a unique person. If the US supported the Shah enough so that he could have outlasted Khomeini things might be different. Of course, if the US handed the Shah to Khomeini things could also be different. As far as I know the Muslim Brotherhood doesn't have a leader on the scale of Khomeini. So while Iran's revolution did stem from systemic problems that would have eventually lead to some drastic change, the manner of that change was greatly effected by one person's positions... in those cases the short term strategy may make sense. Here, it's probably best to go w/ the long term.

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****...Per WP breaking news.


Unrest in Egypt: President Mubarak dissolves Cabinet after night of protests

Thousands of demonstrators took to the streets of Egypt's major cities on Friday, prompting the government to deploy the army to keep the peace for the first time since unrest began Tuesday. Protesters are demanding an end to President Hosni Mubarak's 30-year-rule. Here are the latest developments as confirmed by CNN.

[updated 5:45 p.m. (0045 in Egypt)] Protesters in the streets of Cairo are calling for Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to leave, chanting in unison "we don't want him." The people in the streets represent all walks of life, from young people to families with children, CNN's Frederik Pleitgen reports.

[updated 5:31 p.m. (0031 in Egypt)] Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak says he has asked the government to resign so he can appoint a new government Saturday. He gave no indication that he would step down or leave the country.

[updated 5:27 p.m. (0027 in Egypt)] President Hosni Mubarak said he is "on the side of the people" and vowed to take steps to guarantee the rights and freedom of Egyptians, develop job opportunities and to "stand by the poor."

He said early Saturday he sees a fine line "between freedom and chaos" and that he would work to secure both freedom and security in Egypt.

"I assure you that I'm working for the people and giving freedom... as long as you're respecting the law," he said.

"I am absolutely on the side of the freedom of each citizen and at the same time I am on the side of the security of Egypt, and I would not let anything dangerous happen that would threaten the peace and the law and the future of the country."

[updated 5:16 p.m. (0016 in Egypt)] President Hosni Mubarak is expected to speak soon, state-run Nile TV reports. Mubarak has not made any public appearances today.

[updated 5:09 p.m. (0009 in Egypt)] It's just after midnight in Egypt and people are still milling about the streets in defiance of a government curfew, but activity has calmed, CNN's Frederik Pleitgen reports. Riot police appear to have withdrawn from the streets of Cairo and Alexandria after several hours of confrontation with protesters, and in their place the Egyptian Army has taken up presence, guarding government buildings.

State-run media reports that an "important statement" will be given later Friday in Egypt.

[updated 4:58 p.m. (2358 in Egypt)] Thirteen people have died and 75 were injured in Suez, Egypt, Nile TV reported Friday, citing medical sources.

---------- Post added January-28th-2011 at 06:10 PM ----------

I didn't see that before. Wow, some dumb comments by Clinton too.

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****...Per WP breaking news.

Yeah, that ain't gonna fly. Egyptians aren't rioting to get rid of the Education Minister. A lot have actually gone back into the streets at something like 2 in the morning to protest Mubarak's speech.

(By the way, Mubarak might be the youngest-looking 82-year-old I've ever seen.)

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****...Per WP breaking news.
After a day of protests, President Hosni Mubarak appeared on state television and announced that he will dismiss his government but that he plans to remain in office.

Remembering the story of the three letters.

Also wanted to say, about the Diehl piece that SHF posted:

First, it assumed that the damage done to relations by George W. Bush's "freedom agenda" was a mistake that needed to be repaired. In fact, Bush's pushing for political liberalization was widely viewed, in Egypt and in the region, as the saving grace of an otherwise bad administration.

My first observation is that the way that op-ed piece opened up, I strongly suspect that the author is one of those people who, if Obama were to sing "God Bless America", at the SOTU, would have complained about how he was trying to divert attention from his Muslim agenda.

My second observation is that I've never heard of this "freedom agenda".

That said, though, I have to say that my ignorance on this subject is monumental. Therefore, "I ain't heard of it" is a long way from "it ain't true".

Which then causes me to observe that if this is true, and not Republican revisionist history, and if W was really leaning on Egypt to become more democratic and more liberal, then I have to say that that's two things Bush did in office that I didn't hear about, at the time, but it sounds like he did a great job.

Yes, Larry is saying that it's possible that Bush did a better job of foreign policy in the Mideast than Obama did.

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There's lots of versions. Version I heard, Gorbachav is informed, when he's taking office, that apparantly Kruschev, before he left office, left three letters, written to his successor, in a sealed safe in the Kremlin. Gorby ignored it.

But then, the invasion of Afghanistan really started to stink. And he just couldn't figure a way out of things. He found himself thinking of how the old-style iron dictators would have handled things, and that reminded him about the three letters. He goes to the safe, removes the first one.

Comrade, The fact that you're reading this letter indicates that I'm likely dead, I've been replaced. And that things are very dark for the Soviet Union. Now, obviously, I cannot anticipate the exact nature of your problem, but I am an expert in the nature of Soviet Politics, so I can offer you this general advice:

Blame it all on me.

After all, I'm gone. Can't dispute you. And I promise you that the Politbureau will love the idea of blaming somebody besides themselves, too.

So he makes a speech. And he calls on the people of the nation to stand together, and together, we will solve this problem that we inherited. And things get better.

And then, there's Chernyobl. And things are dark. And he doesn't know what to do. And then, he remembers the letters. The first one worked pretty good. Maybe the old guy knew his stuff. He gets the second letter:

"Blame your subordinates".

And Gorbachav does that. He blames his Minister of Energy, and announces tha there's going to be a purge of the people who permitted this sloth to result in this catastrophe. And he asks his people to stand together, and together we'll pull through this. And things get better, and there is peace again.

Until some jerk forms a labor union of Polish shipyard workers. And they're strangling Soviet internation trade. And he can't figure out what to do. Until he thinks of the letters. He goes to the safe, and removes the third letter.

"Write three letters."

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Mr Mubarak, the French have been known to provide really, really nice villas on the Riviera to guys just like you. :)

Keep remembering some lines from Evita.

Then again we

could be foolish

not to quit while we're ahead.

For distance, lends enchantment, and that is why

all exiles are distinguished.

More important,

they're not dead.

I could find job satisfaction

in Paraguay.

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So I've been watching a lot of the cable news coverage on Egypt tonight.

Here's some things I picked up while watching.

It seems as if the police have been pretty much defeated throughout Egypt.

Apparently police stations have been sacked and burned all over the place.

Also police in most cases ended up losing the struggles against the protesters, running away, and changing into civilian clothes.

The military will be in charge of keeping the peace for the time being.

We'll see how they and the protesters act towards each other when things get tenser then they've been.

The people in Egypt are even more enraged by the announcement from Mubarak.

They don't really have a problem with the ministers, because those folks are new and outsiders and in some cases reformers.

Their problem is with Mubarak and they feel insulted from his half-hearted blame shifting.

Things may get much more intense tomorrow.

It was kind of confusing though as to whether or not the pundits think Mubarak will be around much longer.

Some people seemed to think he's losing power day by day, others said he would still be in power in 6 months.

Even the pundits who were really upset with Mubarak and his civil rights violations, are worried about others coming to power.

Specifically the Muslim Brotherhood was mentioned a lot on different channels.

Apparently they have a lot of connections and have a good chance of coming to power in a free election.

(Not sure if that's good or bad.)

I didn't hear anyone mention El Baradei, so I'm not sure how he ties into the future there.

Most everyone agreed that shutting down communications only made things worse by giving people less outlets for their anger.

---------- Post added January-28th-2011 at 09:27 PM ----------

After Mubarak, will Egypt face a void?


U.S. diplomatic cables sent from the Cairo embassy since 2006 and published by WikiLeaks have often been preoccupied with the succession. Five years ago, one cable observed that Mubarak's wife, Suzanne, was their son's "most ardent booster" but added: "The possibility that Gamal might succeed his father remains deeply unpopular on the street."

Most notably, the cable noted that "unlike his father, (Gamal) cannot take the military's support for granted," having never served as an officer.

Steven Cook of the Council on Foreign Relations -- who was in Cairo until Thursday -- says the protests mean "we can dismiss the possibility of Gamal Mubarak" succeeding his father. The Mubarak name is now tarnished beyond repair.

Elliott Abrams, also with the Council on Foreign Relations, agrees, posting on his blog that the protests "make it impossible that the son should succeed the father. Efforts to cram him into that position would give rise to public discontent far greater than we are seeing already."

Demonstrators in several cities in Egypt Friday tore down posters of Gamal Mubarak.

But if not the son, then who? A U.S. cable from Ambassador Margaret Scobey in 2009 lamented the lack of obvious contenders, saying Mubarak "has no single confidante or advisor who can truly speak for him, and he has prevented any of his main advisors from operating outside their strictly circumscribed spheres of power."

Thomas P. Barnett of forecasting group Wikistrat put it more colorfully: "Let me give you the four scariest words I can't pronounce in Arabic: Egypt after Hosni Mubarak."

The man at the center of a nascent opposition movement is Mohamed ElBaradei, Nobel laureate and former secretary general of the International Atomic Energy Agency. Last year, he returned to Cairo and formed the National Association for Change, entertaining even then that he might run for president. After a long career at the United Nations, ElBaradei is the consummate diplomat and negotiator, but some commentators ask whether he has the street instincts to deal with the rough and tumble of a volatile, fast-moving popular uprising.

Some Egyptian opposition activists have also been critical of ElBaradei's late arrival on the scene (he landed in Cairo Thursday evening and there were few supporters at the airport to greet him), and his frequent absences overseas since launching his group. On the other hand, he has won plaudits for boycotting last year's parliamentary election, which turned out to be tainted by widespread fraud. And Friday, he showed he was ready to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with protestors.

Another prominent Egyptian not currently associated with the government is Arab League Secretary-General Amer Moussa, a former Egyptian foreign minister. At the World Economic Forum in Davos on Thursday, he acknowledged that "the Arab citizen is angry, is frustrated. That is the point. So the name of the game is reform." But he has shown no public interest in being involved in the process and would have to give up his current post to return to the fray of Egyptian politics.

The most widespread opposition movement, through mosques, education and welfare programs, is the Muslim Brotherhood, which is officially banned but tolerated within strict limits. It is no surprise that leaders of the Brotherhood were among the first political figures to be detained.

But years of harassment and detention have hollowed out the Brotherhood as a political force. It has not been in the vanguard of these protests and the consensus among commentators is that the Egyptian military would not tolerate the Brotherhood in power.

In any event, says Barnett -- formerly a professor at the U.S. Navy War College -- events in Egypt and Tunisia show that the "Islamist narrative" to explain the woes of the Arab world is being challenged by a maturing and well-educated youth movement whose expectations of a better life have been dashed by economic stagnation and a stifling political atmosphere.

Amr Hamzawy, research director and senior associate at the Carnegie Middle East Center in Beirut, notes in an article for the Los Angeles Times: "While the Muslim Brotherhood youth and some of their leaders participated in the protests, there were no signs saying, "Islam is the solution." Egyptians have grown accustomed to the same political forces and opposition personalities in the streets, but this fundamentally changed."

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U.S. must choose sides in Egypt

Editor's note: Blake Hounshell is managing editor of Foreign Policy. Hounshell formerly lived in Cairo, where he worked for the Ibn Khaldun Center for Development Studies.

(CNN) -- This is the big one.

For years, Egyptian demonstrators raged against Hosni Mubarak's military regime, calling on their fellow citizens to take to the streets and oust the agents of their oppression. For years, earnest U.S. officials urged Mubarak to open up Egypt's political system, crack down on the grand and petty corruption that pervades Egyptian life and deliver economic progress to the masses. For years, analysts -- myself included -- dismissed the possibility of real change as long as Mubarak, now approaching his 83rd birthday and his third decade in power, still breathed.

It seems the Arab street had other plans.

Inspired by events in Tunisia, a smart, tech-savvy network of young activists seized upon January 25 -- a holiday ironically celebrating the country's police -- to organize mass rallies demanding Mubarak's ouster. The Egyptian interior minister dismissed them as "a bunch of incognizant, ineffective young people." Longtime Egypt watchers tried to keep their hopes low, expecting the same disappointing results as before.

Now, four days into an uprising in the Arab world's most populous country, the beating heart of its media culture, and the historical strategic leader of the region, it's no longer possible to argue that Egypt is a stable country.

The situation is changing rapidly, but what we know is this: The country is virtually cut off from the outside world. Egyptians from across the social and geographical spectrum -- from poor, jobless young men along the Suez Canal to upper-class women in posh Cairo suburbs to workers in the teeming Nile Delta -- are in an uproar.

The ruling National Democratic Party's headquarters has been set on fire. The army has sent troops and armored vehicles into the streets to enforce a curfew as defiant demonstrators torch police stations and vehicles.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, speaking slowly and carefully to avoid making a mistake at a sensitive moment, urged the Egyptian government Friday to allow its people to protest peacefully. But, she added, "We want to partner with the Egyptian people and their government" and called on Mubarak to make reforms. All week, the U.S. message has been largely consistent: Egypt is a key ally, both sides should refrain from violence and the government should respect the legitimate grievances of the Egyptian people.

We are long past the point where such milquetoast appeals to the good will of the Mubarak regime -- a system kept in power only by brute force and sheer inertia -- bear any resemblance to reality. If the Egyptian government wanted to embrace political change, what has it been doing for the last 30 years?

It's time for the United States to choose: Does it really support the democratic aspirations of the Arab world, or, when push comes to shove, will it tacitly side with the same autocrats it has been propping up for decades?

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What are the cons of going against Mubarak?

Seems to me, at 83, Mubarak can only go so much longer. Better to go with the eventual winners and get on their good side early. They don't seem like the Muslim Brotherhood type so far, despite the boogeyman the Egyptian authorities are pushing. So shouldn't we be supporting the people who are better than the people we definitely don't want in power?

Plus, world politics aside, it's the right thing to do.

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What are the cons of going against Mubarak?


Us willingly allow one of our supposedly closer allies to sink,the others might notice the worth of our commitment.

Letting him sink is one thing,cheering it is another

As to who will seize control if he falls?...ya better look to those already organized (it ain't the youngsters)

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What are the cons of going against Mubarak?


Us willingly allow one of our supposedly closer allies to sink,the others might notice the worth of our commitment.

Letting him sink is one thing,cheering it is another

As to who will seize control if he falls?...ya better look to those already organized (it ain't the youngsters)

The commitment should be contingent on what they do.

There's no point in being committed to them if they're only going to pretend to reform.

I think it sets a good example for the autocrats out there who think they can squeeze out reform over decades or just pay lip service.

As for who will take over, I don't think anyone can say yet.

Most of what I've heard seems to point to this being a fairly secular and freedom of speech based revolution.

I don't really see anyone protesting for more religion.

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Protesters head toward heart of Cairo as tanks stand by

Cairo, Egypt (CNN) -- Egyptian military tanks have surrounded Cairo's Tahrir Square, where hundreds of protesters gathered and the crowd was growing Saturday.

The atmosphere was tense as demonstrators continued chants of, "Down with Mubarak," hours after President Hosni Mubarak announced that he would remain in power but had asked the country's government to resign.

But demonstrators also chanted, "We are all Egyptians," and people gathered in the square were posing for pictures with tanks and shaking troops' hands.

Tahrir Square, located near many government buildings in the heart of downtown Cairo, has been a focal point for anti-government protests, which started Tuesday.

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