Egypt street violence: Few options for Obama administration
President Obama says an 'orderly transition' to a post-Mubarak government 'must begin now.' But the president of Egypt is digging in his heels, refusing to relinquish power any time soon.
As Egypt’s political crisis degenerated into violent clashes between pro-democracy protesters and those supportive of President Hosni Mubarak, the United States Wednesday did little more than reiterate its calls for a speedy transition to democracy.Skip to next paragraph
The Obama administration has already taken sides, expressing support for the “legitimate needs and grievances expressed by the Egyptian people,” as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton puts it. It’s promised – read “threatened” – a review of the $1.5 billion the US provides Egypt every year in foreign aid, most of that for military and other security programs. And President Obama has called for an “orderly transition” to a post-Mubarak government that “must begin now."
But the Egyptian president – whose one-man rule has lasted nearly 30 years – is digging in his heels, refusing to relinquish power until next September’s elections there.
In a tough statement, the Egyptian Foreign Ministry said foreign calls for a democratic transition to begin now were "rejected and aimed to incite the internal situation in Egypt."
"This appears to be a clear rebuff to the Obama administration and to the international community's efforts to try to help manage a peaceful transition from Mubarak to a new, democratic Egypt," Robert Danin, a former senior US official now at the Council on Foreign Relations, told the Reuters news agency.
While the administration is “planning for a full range of scenarios,” as White House spokesman Robert Gibbs put it Wednesday, it has yet to reveal what those plans might be other than to reiterate what Obama said after speaking with Mubarak Tuesday night.
“Events have moved enormously quickly in a very volatile region of the world,” Gibbs said. “That simply demands that we continue to watch and continue to ensure that we are taking the steps to communicate directly with all of the entities of their government about what we expect in terms of nonviolence, what the world expects in terms of nonviolence, and the steps that need to take place in order to see that transition.”
While Gibbs refused to be pinned down on any degree to which the administration may be ratcheting up the pressure on Mubarak to leave sooner rather than later, again and again he emphasized the importance of change “now” – pointing out that since Obama used that word Tuesday night, “now means yesterday.”