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Sunday, January 30, 2011

Martin Indyk: Time for Mubarak to go

Martin Indyk, the director of the Foreign Policy Program at Brookings and a former US ambassador to both Israel and Egypt, says that it's time for Mubarak to go. Indyk will be appearing on a special edition of NBC's Meet the Press on Sunday, January 30, 2011.
Put simply, all of our interests in the Middle East — from promoting stability, to resolving the Arab-Israeli conflict, to ensuring the free-flow of oil at reasonable prices, to containing the influence of Iran and its radical Hamas and Hezbollah proxies — all of them will be much harder, if not impossible, to protect, if we lose Egypt.

But here's the horrible dilemma that President Obama now finds himself in. If he distances the United States from Mubarak, he risks toppling a critically important Arab ally which could generate a tsunami of instability that could shake the foundations of all of America's autocratic Arab allies across the region. Yet if he does not distance the U.S. from the Egyptian pharaoh, he risks alienating the Egyptian people, helping to open the way to a theocratic regime that would be fundamentally anti-American.

Fortunately, we know the consequences of being on the wrong side of history, because we have been living with them ever since the overthrow of the Shah of Iran in 1978 and his replacement by the anti-American ayatollahs. The Shah, like Mubarak, represented a strategic pillar, protecting U.S. interests in the critically important Persian Gulf. Jimmy Carter pressed the Shah to undertake political reforms and respect the human rights of his people, but then backed off for the sake of stability. Similarly, George W. Bush pressed Mubarak to open up political space for a moderate Egyptian opposition to emerge and then backed off after Hamas won the Palestinian elections.

At this point, facing by far the biggest foreign policy crisis of his presidency, Obama cannot afford to backtrack. Yesterday, he came out publicly on the side of the Egyptian people, insisting that Mubarak undertake significant reforms. But it is surely clear by now that the people will settle for nothing less than the removal of Mubarak. So Obama's options are narrowing. He will soon have to decide whether to tell Mubarak that the United States no longer supports him and that it's time for him to go.

Fortunately, Mubarak's appointment of Omar Suleiman, the head of Military Intelligence, as his vice president and successor, has made it more possible for Obama to pursue this option with less fear of the potential destabilizing consequences. The United States has a good deal of leverage on the Egyptian military because we have trained, equipped and paid for their armaments. They now hold the key to a positive resolution of this crisis. Mubarak may have appointed Suleiman to shore up military support for his presidency, but he is now dependent on the same military for his survival and they may be willing to abandon him to ensure their own.

That's the door on which Obama now needs to push. Suleiman needs to be encouraged to take over as Egypt's new president, order the military to prevent looting but not harm the demonstrators, and announce that he will only serve for six months until free and fair elections allow for a legitimate president to form a new government. If he can put this understanding in place, Obama then needs to call Mubarak and tell him gently but firmly that for the good of his country it's time for him to go.
I have my doubts that any of this will help. For example, who is going to guarantee to the Egyptians that Suleiman really will step down in six months? Mubarak also promised to step down many years ago, and look what happened? Suleiman represents the current regime even if his last name is not Mubarak.

The US has to do more. It has to seek out and back a non-Islamist alternate to Mubarak and then encourage Mubarak to resign and leave the country in the hands of the army until free and fair elections can be held. Then, it must back that non-Islamist alternative to the hilt. Otherwise, the US really will lose Egypt. And so will we.

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At 4:09 PM, Blogger Sunlight said...

Well said in your last paragraph. These leftists' behavior with regard to Iraq has to be the example. They spoke out against Iraq and voted for the war. Then they started to waffle and finally screamed in the street for the U.S. to leave the Iraqis to their slaughter, as these same people did regarding Southeast Asia. Now I would like to see people like Rep. Allen West and Sen. Marco Rubio stand up and say what Carl wrote in his last paragraph. It will be out of the frying pan and into the fire, which these leftists either refuse to recognize, or they just don't give a hoot about machete death. Maybe they consider it as a logical tool of "legitimate resistance". They need to read the cite below and realize that that is the baseline state. Anybody who has not read this publication is ignorant and brainwashed... I only found it last year. Even though I lived in Morocco while French people were having their throats slit in their beds, this book has changed my view of what the region has to overcome.
River War: Sudan 1898
by Winston Churchill
Read it! Or download a FREE audio version here:
And put it onto your iPod. Listen to all of the chapters 1 - 22!

At 4:54 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Maybe in hindsight we can say that revolutions that went bad could have been diverted into this positive channel or that had this bulwark been constructed or that breakwater placed just so--but maybe they are just easier to exploit by determined forces that are part of the society and not from the outside--and maybe even for them there are what-ifs, couldas and shouldas...


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