Egypt Protests Continue: Oh What a Tangled Web We Weave… *updated with statement from Secretary of State Clinton*
Update: Secretary of State Clinton has just released a statement:
Here is a live feed from Al Jazeera of what is going on on the streets in real time- it’s incredible.
An interesting article over at Time online:
The language coming out of the Obama Administration has verged on the bizarre as Egypt lurched into another political showdown in the streets on Friday — the latest demonstration saw thousands of anti-government protesters clash with police in Cairo, who fired rubber bullets into the crowds and used tear gas and water cannons on them. President Hosni Mubarak is hailed by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and her spokesman, P.J. Crowley, as an “anchor of stability” providing vital assistance to U.S. regional goals, yet the protests demanding his ouster are soothingly described as “an opportunity” for the regime to demonstrate that it is able to respond to the demands of its citizenry by means other than guns, batons and prison cells.
“Our assessment is that the Egyptian government is stable and is looking for ways to respond to the legitimate needs and interests of the Egyptian people,” Secretary Clinton said earlier this week, adding that the government “has an important opportunity at this moment in time to implement political, economic and social reforms.” She urged the regime to refrain from blocking peaceful protest or shutting off communications networks — pleas that appear to have been ignored going into Friday as the government shut down Internet and SMS communication and arrested activists ahead of the demonstrations planned for after Friday prayers. It’s been reported by the AP that the police also used water cannons against Egypt’s pro-democracy leader Mohamed ElBaradei and his supporters. The wire service wrote that a soaking wet ElBaradei was trapped inside a mosque nearly an hour after him and his supporters were water cannoned. Hundreds of riot police laid siege to the mosque, firing tear gas in the streets surrounding it so no one could leave. The tear gas canisters set several cars ablaze outside the mosque.
Reform is not necessarily the same as democracy, however, and after 30 years under the same President, those who are taking to the streets want regime change rather than the kindlier, gentler Mubarak the U.S. would appear to prefer. The Obama Administration’s dilemma over how to respond to Egypt’s democracy movement became a little more acute on Thursday when the country’s largest opposition party, the banned Muslim Brotherhood, declared its intention to openly participate in Friday’s protests. Years of operating in conditions of twilight legality have given the Brotherhood an unrivaled organizational network — its members expect to be arrested and roughed up by the regime — and it is widely viewed as by far the most popular party in the opposition. That’s a problem for the U.S., given its singular allergy to Islamist parties in the Arab world, particularly those that challenge its longtime allies.
Explaining why the U.S. continues to support Mubarak, the State Department’s Crowley on Thursday told al-Jazeera that “Egypt is an anchor of stability in the Middle East … It’s made its own peace with Israel and is pursuing normal relations with Israel. We think that’s important; we think that’s a model that the region should adopt.”
The problem for Washington is that Arab electorates are unlikely to agree. The democratically elected Iraqi government, for example, despite its dependence on U.S. support, has stated its refusal to normalize relations with Israel. A democratic Egypt, whether led by the Muslim Brotherhood or any other opposition party, is unlikely to go to war with Israel given the vast imbalance in military capability, but they’re even less likely to accept normal ties given the present condition of the Palestinians. And the most secular liberal activists in Egypt reject with contempt the argument that regional stability can come at the expense of their right to choose their government.
Read more: http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,2044902,00.html#ixzz1CLWJp1rj
UPDATE II: The Egyptian military is now involved and nobel laureate Mohamed el Baradei has reportedly been detained.
UPDATE III: The State Dept. just canceled their daily press briefing and told the press about the cancellation 9 minutes after it was scheduled to start. Hmmm…is that a coincidence or could it be that the administration needs more time to formulate a response to the deteriorating situation in Egypt? Or am I reading too much into that last minute cancellation?