The Empire Dithers

Whilst the US will strive to ensure that a government friendly to imperialism and neocolonial interests will continue in Egypt, P. J. Crowley defined the stance of the US early after the beginning of the mass demonstrations in Tahrir Square and elsewhere in Egypt.

Crowley… on the 26/1:

‘We are monitoring the situation in Egypt closely. The United States supports the fundamental right of expression and assembly for all people. All parties should exercise restraint, and we call on the Egyptian authorities to handle these protests peacefully.

As Secretary Clinton said in Doha, people across the Middle East – like people everywhere – are seeking a chance to contribute and to have a role in the decisions that will shape their lives. We want to see reform occur, in Egypt and elsewhere, to create greater political, social, and economic opportunity consistent with people’s aspirations. The United States is a partner of Egypt and the Egyptian people in this process, which we believe should unfold in a peaceful atmosphere.

We have raised with governments in the region the need for reforms and greater openness and participation in order to respond to their people’s aspirations – and we will continue to do so.’

Initially the Israel FM said “We are closely monitoring the events, but we do not interfere in the internal affairs of a neighboring state.”

While in Haaretz:

‘Israel expects the Egyptian government to weather the protests roiling the country and to remain in power, an Israeli Cabinet minister said Thursday, providing Israel’s first official assessment of the crisis affecting its powerful southern neighbor.’

‘Eli Shaked, a former Israeli ambassador to Cairo, said it is in Israel’s interest for Mubarak’s regime to survive since the alternatives, ranging from an Islamic government to the secular opposition, would be far less friendly to the Jewish state.

“I am very much afraid that that they wouldn’t be as committed to peace with Israel, and that would be bad for Egypt, bad for Israel and bad for the U.S. and the West in general,” he said.’

Once Nutanyahoo determined a racist angle would be most powerful, off he went. (I really loathe quoting Judith Miller at Foxnews, but still)

‘Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke to Mubarak by phone early in the crisis, the Israeli press reported, assuring him of Israel’s continuing support. Netanyahu, breaking almost a week of silence about the mass protests and riots sweeping Egypt, on Monday warned Islamic extremists could well fill a political vacuum and threaten the peace between the two nations.

And we now have a divergence appearing in the US ranks, with ex-CIA special US envoy Wisner spouting a more Israel friendly line, to the annoyance of Crowley:

‘Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak must stay in power for the time being to steer changes needed for political transition, U.S. President Barack Obama’s special envoy for Egypt said on Saturday.

“We need to get a national consensus around the pre-conditions for the next step forward. The president must stay in office to steer those changes,” Frank Wisner told the Munich Security Conference.

State Department spokesman Philip Crowley said Wisner “didn’t coordinate” his comments with the administration, and he was not in officially representing the U.S. following his trip to Cairo ‘

Obama yesterday:

‘He said the United States can’t force anything on Mr. Mubarak, but said that “what we can do is we can say, the time is now for you to start making change in that country.”’

Is the US is having a bet each way? Certainly, they are certainly dithering.

If the US cut off military aid, would the army immediately side with the people whom they should be defending and not the regime?

It’s extremely dangerous imho for dissenters if either Mubarak or Suleiman or another of the NDP camp continue to lead until elections are held, as these strongmen thenwould have ample opportunity to crack down further. There would also be more potential for the forthcoming elections to remain sham or be delayed and for opposition parties to be repressed and banned once more. All for in the name of ‘stability and security’, of course.

Emboldened by concessions from the regime and admant upon Mubarak’s departure, the protestors remain in Tahrir Square for the week of resistance. Obama is realistic about the Muslim Brotherhood though does not demand Mubarak leave immediately. Hillary Clinton channels Crowley’s earlier statements about Wisner:

The US President yesterday described the Muslim Brotherhood as well organised with strains of anti-US ideology, but dismissed the group as just one faction. “They don’t have majority support in Egypt,” Mr Obama said.

Optimistic about Egypt’s future after days of turmoil, the President said he was confident the US could work with the country’s next government after elections. “What I want is a representative government in Egypt,” he told Fox News’s Bill O’Reilly. “I have confidence that if Egypt moves in an orderly transition process, we will have a government in Egypt that we can work with together as a partner.”

He stopped short of saying Mr Mubarak should quit immediately, as protesters demand, but insisted transition start now.

“Egypt is not going to go back to what it was,” he said. “The Egyptian people want freedom. They want free and fair elections. They want a representative government. They want a responsive government.”

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton rushed to distance the administration from comments by former US envoy to Egypt Frank Wisner, who delivered a message on Mr Obama’s behalf urging Mr Mubarak to step aside only a week ago.

Mr Wisner created confusion when he said Mr Mubarak’s leadership remained “utterly critical” during the transition and that he should remain in office until September. Mrs Clinton said Mr Wisner “does not speak for the American government. He does not reflect our policies, and we have been very clear from the beginning we wanted an orderly transition.”

From Israel, continued snorts of approbation bellow from the politeratti with Dore Gold comparing the US thrust to their reactions during the overthrow of the Shah.

“Massive demonstrations were being held in the streets of Tehran, calling for the ouster of the shah, who had been America’s key ally in the Persian Gulf.

“The White House did not know quite what to do: back the shah or seek his replacement,” he wrote, warning the Obama administration not to “repeat the errors” it made by failing to back an ally facing protests, in the name of democracy.

Related links

Obama envoy Wisner works for Egypt military, business lobbyists
Egypt: Tahrir Square’s Mini Utopia
Egypt’s new cabinet meets as protests continue
Report: German intelligence agents arrested in Cairo
The World Turned Upside Down
The Egyptian mirror
US special envoy to Egypt recalled due to ties with Mubarak regime

Palestine / Israel Links

Jerusalem set to approve contentious Jewish housing in Arab neighborhood
Ten Arrested in Dawn West Bank Invasions
Unlike Egyptians, Israelis support restricting expression
Faithless dedicated to BDS
Interview with Omar Barghouti and Hind Awwad from the Palestinians Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign
It will not happen to us
Palestinians want Bethlehem on UN heritage list
‘Turkey and Iran to triple bilateral trade despite nuclear sanctions’

6 Replies to “The Empire Dithers”

  1. Allies Press U.S. to Go Slow on Egypt

    Israel, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates have each repeatedly pressed the United States not to cut loose Egypt’s president, Hosni Mubarak, too hastily, or to throw its weight behind the democracy movement in a way that could further destabilize the region, diplomats say. One Middle Eastern envoy said that on a single day, he spent 12 hours on the phone with American officials.

    There is evidence that the pressure has paid off. On Saturday, just days after suggesting that it wanted immediate change, the administration said it would support an “orderly transition” managed by Vice President Omar Suleiman. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said that Mr. Mubarak’s immediate resignation might complicate, rather than clear, Egypt’s path to democracy, given the requirements of Egypt’s Constitution.

  2. Little daylight between Hillary and Wisner?

    Warning Against Hasty Exit for Mubarak

    Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton warned on Sunday that removing President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt too hastily could threaten the country’s transition to democracy.

    Her remarks were the Obama administration’s most explicit sign yet of its growing emphasis on averting instability in Egypt, even at the expense of the key demand from the Egyptian protest movement: Mr. Mubarak’s immediate removal.

    Citing the Egyptian Constitution, Mrs. Clinton said that if Mr. Mubarak stepped down now, Egypt would have to hold elections for a new president in 60 days — too little time for the government or the opposition to organize a credible vote.

    Her comments, made to reporters on the way home from a conference in Munich, echo what administration officials have said privately and some of what the White House’s temporary diplomatic emissary to Cairo, Frank G. Wisner, said publicly on Sunday: Mr. Mubarak is likely to remain in the picture, at least a while longer.

    Mrs. Clinton reiterated that Mr. Mubarak’s future was up to the Egyptian people and declined to discuss what role he should play between now and September, when Egypt is scheduled to hold an election in which he has said neither he nor his son Gamal will compete.

    But Mr. Mubarak’s resignation now would set off a chain of events, Mrs. Clinton said. Under the Constitution — a document she conceded not having thought about before this week — the speaker of Parliament would step in as a caretaker president, followed by quick elections.

    “Now the Egyptians are the ones who are having to grapple with the reality of what they must do,” she said, noting that opposition leaders, including Mohamed ElBaradei, had also talked about the need for time. “That’s not us saying it; that’s the Egyptians saying it,” Mrs. Clinton said.

    She made no mention of the desired outcome frequently discussed by protest leaders: that Mr. Mubarak would step down, the Constitution would be suspended for a transition that could take up to a year, the current Parliament would be unseated and then new elections would be held.

    For nearly two weeks, as the protests have raged in Cairo, the administration has struggled to square its ties to Mr. Mubarak, a stalwart ally for nearly three decades, with its desire not to be seen as abandoning the demonstrators, who are crying for the president’s immediate departure.

    That tension was laid bare in Munich when Mr. Wisner, whom the White House sent last week to ask Mr. Mubarak to announce he would not run for another term, told a high-level security conference that “President Mubarak’s role remains extremely critical in the days ahead.”

    While Mrs. Clinton said that Mr. Wisner “does not speak for the administration or the government,” she did not contradict much of his message. Indeed, in a 30-minute conversation, she emphasized the dangers of rushing headlong into a vote without rewriting the Constitution, engaging opposition groups or mastering the mechanics of elections, like how to compile voter rolls.

    Mrs. Clinton said she was less worried about Egypt’s being ready for the September elections, provided the government, working with opposition groups, amended the Constitution and repealed statutes like the emergency law, which gives it broad authority to suppress political dissent.

    “I think with a concerted effort, with the kind of timelines and concrete steps I’m calling for, it could be done,” she said. “As the enormity of the organizational challenge is confronted by responsible leaders of the protests and the opposition, they’re saying, ‘O.K., we’ve got work to do.’ ”

    The administration is in touch with opposition leaders, Mrs. Clinton said, and has expressed willingness to work with them to organize political parties. This international effort would include Britain, Germany and Turkey, where an Islamist party has successfully taken power — a possible template for Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, which said Sunday it would enter into talks with the government.

    Mrs. Clinton declined to say whether Mr. Mubarak should play any role in the transition, which is being managed by Vice President Omar Suleiman. But she suggested Mr. Mubarak had already marginalized himself.

    “He announced he wouldn’t run again; he announced his son wouldn’t run again. He announced he was resigning his position in the national party and his son was resigning his position in the national party,” she said.

    For Mrs. Clinton, the upheavals in Egypt, Tunisia, Jordan and Yemen are evidence of both common grievances across the Arab world and deep differences in the political makeup of each country.

    “It’s striking that in Tunisia, Ben Ali, who’d been in power so long, got out of town,” she said, referring to Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, the ousted president. “He didn’t have the depth of support within the institutions of his government that would have enabled him even to attempt to hang on, so he left.”

    Other Arab leaders, she said, believe they can ride out the unrest by taking steps to improve the lives of their people. King Abdullah II of Jordan and President Ali Abdullah Saleh of Yemen appeared to fit that description.

    Mrs. Clinton did not say in which category Mr. Mubarak fit.

  3. WikiLeaks: Israel’s secret hotline to the man tipped to replace Mubarak

    Mr Suleiman, who is widely tipped to take over from Hosni Mubarak as president, was named as Israel’s preferred candidate for the job after discussions with American officials in 2008.

    As a key figure working for Middle East peace, he once suggested that Israeli troops would be “welcome” to invade Egypt to stop weapons being smuggled to Hamas terrorists in neighbouring Gaza.

  4. Should Obama insist Mubarak leave?

    Whether America intervenes or not, our presidents and secretaries of state couch their decisions in language designed to play well domestically, and globally too, if possible. That language also shapes the policy debate in this country and the way Democrats and Republicans think and talk about intervention.

    When a U.S. government decides to play an active role in regime-change (and is willing to acknowledge doing so), it uses terms such as “standing with the people of country X against oppression and corruption”, “supporting democracy around the world”, “championing universal human rights,” “upholding the ideals of the founding fathers” or “being on the right side of history”.

    When a U.S. government decides not to intervene, it claims that “America cannot be the policeman of the world”, “it’s not our role to pick winners and losers”, “we should not interfere in the domestic affairs of another nation”, “we do not seek to impose our values on other people,” “we respect the rights of country X, as a sovereign state, to determine its own future,” or “that’s a matter for the Security Council.”

    We claim the moral high ground whether we take action or refrain from it. So far, in the current Egyptian crisis, President Obama, Secretary Clinton, and special envoy Frank Wisner have managed to demonstrate that American policy is susceptible to dramatic change from one day to the next, employing principled rhetoric to justify each new position.

  5. Biden, Suleiman consult on Egypt

    As a 15th day of demonstrations rocked Cairo Tuesday, Vice President Joe Biden talked with Egyptian Vice President Omar Suleiman, affirming U.S. support.

    Hundreds of thousands gathered in Tahrir Square Tuesday to press demands President Hosni Mubarak step aside.

    Biden told Suleiman the United States supports an orderly transition in Egypt and urged a “prompt, meaningful, peaceful and legitimate” change.

    “The vice president reaffirmed that the future of Egypt will be determined by the Egyptian people,” a White House readout on the conversation said. “The vice president took note of steps the government of Egypt has pledged to take in response to the opposition and urged the government to take immediate action to follow through on its commitments.”

    The two also discussed an immediate end to the arrest and harassment of reporters covering the uprising, an end to emergency law, greater participation by opposition members in a national dialogue and inviting the opposition to aid in the transition.

    “These steps, and a clear policy of no reprisals, are what the broad opposition is calling for and what the government is saying it is prepared to accept,” the readout said. “Vice President Biden expressed the belief that the demands of the broad opposition can be met through meaningful negotiations with the government.

    During the daily press briefing, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said the United States is not trying to impose any kind of solution on Egypt but he said remarks made by Suleiman Monday did not help the situation.

    “You know, yesterday I think the vice president — Vice President Suleiman made some particularly unhelpful comments about Egypt not being ready for democracy, about not seeing a lift of the emergency law,” Gibbs said. “And I don’t — I don’t think that in any way squares with what those seeking greater opportunity and freedom think is a timetable for progress.”

  6. U.S. handling of Egypt protests now alienating pretty much everyone

    The regime’s tactic “is to oscillate between brutality and apparent compromise — using the protesters as hostages,” said Robert Kagan of the Brookings Institution. “It’s a brilliant strategy of manipulation aimed both at Egyptians and Washington.”

    Arab awakening:

    Albeit dormant, the Arab ‘street’ was not totally immune to the effects of globalisation. Despite living in heavily censored states, young Arabs connected to the World Wide Web and discovered a means to challenge the status quo. Social media – a global phenomenon of Facebook, Twitter and blogging – pierced the tightly held information censorship bubbles of the Arab world, and enabled locals to air their frustrations in an open space.

    Popular Facebook pages were up a week earlier informing Egyptians of mass protests, a date was chosen, a Twitter hashtag was selected, and before you knew it, tens of thousands were in the streets.

    This is not to detract from the core elements of the protests. Indeed, like most revolutions, Egyptian grievances are found in poverty, unemployment, and a lack of freedoms. Social media and the internet, however, have provided Egyptians and Arabs with a means in which to communicate such grievances, exchange ideas, and aid in collective action.

    Omar Suleiman, “Egypt’s Torturer-in-Chief,” Tied to False Iraq WMD Tortured “Intel”

    “At least one person extraordinarily rendered by the CIA to Egypt — Egyptian-born Australian citizen Mamdouh Habib — was tortured by Suleiman himself. … A far more infamous torture case, in which Suleiman also is directly implicated, is that of Ibn al-Sheikh al-Libi. Unlike Habib, who was innocent of any ties to terror or militancy, al-Libi allegedly was a trainer at al-Khaldan camp in Afghanistan.

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