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Egypt Protests Continue: Oh What a Tangled Web We Weave… *updated with statement from Secretary of State Clinton*

January 28, 2011

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.

[snip]

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.

[snip]

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?
****

18 Comments leave one →
  1. GeorgeS permalink
    January 28, 2011 12:25 pm

    Thanks for the link to the Time article I hadn’t seen that.

  2. Veronica permalink
    January 28, 2011 2:07 pm

    The US is damed if they do and Damed if they dont in this situation. Lets hope all works out for the most peace and prosperity for Egypt and for the world.

  3. discourseincsharpminor permalink
    January 28, 2011 3:12 pm

    Sometimes staying in the middle does more harm than good. With the media crackdown and the involvement of the military, I think a line has been crossed and it’s time we speak more forcefully. If we don’t Egyptian might grow to resent us for being all talk and little action.

    • rachel permalink
      January 28, 2011 3:23 pm

      Even if we talk more harshly it’s still talk. As far as the state dept breifing I thought it was weird that they would have a second. I think the white house probably told them to cancel it.

      • January 28, 2011 3:33 pm

        Well, not to split hairs but even though Secretary Clinton spoke to the press usually PJ Crowley always does a press briefing with the press pool later in the day, irrespective of what else is going on and it was scheduled for 2pm today and then it was cancelled after 2pm. The WH may very well have told them to cancel it but I think – although I don’t know this for sure- that they didn’t want Crowley going before the revved up press corp for questions and answers until the WH foreign policy team met to figure out what the heck they are going to say at this point.

        I watched the video of Secretary Clinton’s statement as it was played on CNN but she didn’t take press questions I don’t think. I’m not being critical by the way- I don’t blame them for wanting to really get on top of this because stuff is happening so quickly.

        The livestream of what is going on is incredible- I put the link in the post- you can watch everything in real time, it’s amazing.

  4. January 28, 2011 3:44 pm

    I read this on The Guardian’s website. It is Israeli government’s first response:

    Time magazine talks to “a minister in the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu,” and reports that Israel appears to be backing the Mubarak regime:

    With a deep investment in the status quo, Israel is watching what a senior official calls “an earthquake in the Middle East” with growing concern. The official says the Jewish state has faith in the security apparatus of its most formidable Arab neighbor, Egypt, to suppress the street demonstrations that threaten the dictatorial rule of President Hosni Mubarak. The harder question is what comes next.

    But this was the most eye-catching quote from the unidentified minister:

    “I’m not sure the time is right for the Arab region to go through the democratic process.”

    • January 28, 2011 4:04 pm

      I am not surprised at all that that is Israel’s response and the big issue that no one will mention out loud is how we helped to prop up a repressive dictatorship for so long in large part because it was willing to play nice with Israel. Of course Israel isn’t the only reason for our longstanding support of the Egyptian regime- Mubarak served as a willing check on Islamic fundamentalism in the region (in return for huge amounts of US cash and weapons).

      When PJ Crowley and Joe Biden spoke about the importance of Egypt to the US they mainly stressed it’s role as an ally of Israel,which is pretty telling.

      The big problem for the US and Israel is it demonstrates a glaring hypocrisy regarding who we think is worthy of democracy and freedom and who isn’t.

  5. Carolyn-Rodham permalink
    January 28, 2011 6:13 pm

    If the Egyptian military abandons Mubarek (big if), and if the Muslim Brotherhood gains political control, BiBi and the Likud will be wishing they’d accepted the PA’s VERY generous terms a few years back, instead of scuttling the whole peace process.

  6. Carolyn-Rodham permalink
    January 28, 2011 6:25 pm

    Wow, live feed is fascinating. Mubarek addressing country right now.

    • January 28, 2011 6:37 pm

      Just watched his address on Al Jazeera. Mubarak is not stepping down yet. The man is in his 80s. What does he want? To serve until he dies and then have his unqualified son step in I suppose. And our tax dollars fund his suppression of the people.

      Claims that Egypt would fall into fundamentalist hands are fear-mongering with no firm basis. elBaradei is no fundamentalist, and he could very well be in a position of power in a new government. I wish the Army would desert Mubarak. Then it would be over…

      • stacyx permalink*
        January 28, 2011 6:45 pm

        That speech seemed geared towards the ruling elite, not the Arab street out protesting and I think that was a huge mistake- that’s part of the problem to begin with- the entrenched economic class system and intractable poverty while a small percentage of elites live like kings- I saw both sides of it when I was in Cairo. Mubarak just doesn’t get it. Or he does get it and he just doesn’t care.

        • discourseincsharpminor permalink
          January 28, 2011 8:38 pm

          I’m not sure how many average Egyptians can get ahold of American media right now so it doesn’t surprise me if he was speaking to those within the power structure.

          As far as Mubarak goes, I think knows what the problems are and might well feel bad for the “little people” as it were, but he has a very comfortable way of life being among those that live like kings and so do many other powerful figures and he does not want that jeopardized. As the years have gone on, the situation has gotten worse and more volatile and he has become increasingly iron fisted in his defense of this broken system. I won’t go as far as to say he doesn’t care. I will say he most likely is now afraid not just for an alteration of his cozy lifestyle, but for his life at this point.

          • stacyx permalink*
            January 28, 2011 8:45 pm

            Sorry I wasn’t clear above, I was referring to Mubarak’s speech, not Obama’s.

            It’s kind if embarrassing that the tear gas canisters being used against the protesters say “made in USA.”

            • discourseincsharpminor permalink
              January 28, 2011 10:43 pm

              Great. Heck of an export. I don’t know why we put so much into their military and so little into civilian assistance.

          • January 29, 2011 8:03 am

            Mubarak has stockpiled enough money that he could live very comfortably in Saudi Arabia. And nobody is going to kill him if he agrees to leave.

            I think it’s pride, stubbornness, a desire to avoid humiliation. He probably realizes his son is not going to be able to rule after him now, but he doesn’t want the people to run him out of Egypt.

            Mubarak wants everything on his terms. And his most powerful enabler (USA) is encouraging him to stay – based on Biden’s interview, Gibbs, the State Dept., etc. Our government only uses the word “reform”, not “democracy” for Egypt’s future. The US wants Egypt’s dictatorial rule with “reform”. Sad but true.

    • stacyx permalink*
      January 28, 2011 6:43 pm

      That Al Jazeera live feed is the best coverage of anything I’ve seen yet. I had it on and was listening to it most of the day at the office. Al Jazeera really puts our media to shame in coverage of these events, I have to hand it to them they’ve done a great job. I wish my cable company offered the al jazeera English tv station.

  7. suez canal permalink
    January 29, 2011 2:14 am

    SUPPORT EGYPT PROTESTS
    HELP MOHAMED EL BARADEI

    When the new Egypt is born again and the corrupt government is overthrown, Egypt needs to BAN the UNITED STATES and its allies from using the SUEZ CANAL.

    Wikileaks showed the corruption of the United States behind hurting many governments like Egypt. America supported President Hosni Mubarak and his tyranny. Their corruption helped the abuses in Egypt.

    I ask my fellow Egyptians to ban America and its allies like the Saudi Arabia until they turn against America as well.

    The Suez Canal can help break the evil hold of the United States.

    BOYCOTT THE UNITED STATES NOW!!!!!!

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