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.
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An Egyptian official told the New York Times that his government has “a serious issue with how the White House is spinning this.”Skip to next paragraph
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“There is a contradiction between calling on the transition to begin now, and the calls which President Mubarak himself has made for an orderly transition,” the official said Wednesday. “Mubarak’s primary responsibility is to ensure an orderly and peaceful transfer of power. We can’t do that if we have a vacuum of power.”
On Tuesday, before Mubarak had said he would not run for reelection, Senator John Kerry (D) of Massachusetts, who chairs the Foreign Relations Committee, wrote in a New York Times op-ed: “Egyptians have moved beyond his regime, and the best way to avoid unrest turning into upheaval is for President Mubarak to take himself and his family out of the equation.’’
And in a statement Wednesday, Senator John McCain (R) of Arizona said, “The rapidly deteriorating situation in Egypt leads me to the conclusion that President Mubarak needs to step down and relinquish power.”
“It is clear that the only institution in Egypt that can restore order is the army, but I fear that for it to do so on behalf of a government led by or involving President Mubarak would only escalate the violence and compromise the army’s legitimacy,” McCain said. “I urge President Mubarak to transfer power to a caretaker administration that includes members of Egypt’s military, government, civil society, and pro-democracy opposition, which can lead the country to free, fair, and internationally credible elections this year as part of a real transition to democracy.”
Regarding Wednesday’s street violence in Cairo and other Egyptian cities, administration officials could only say the White House “deplores and condemns the violence” while repeating its “strong call for restraint,"
"The administration's rhetoric has come a long way in the last week. They are seeing the realities of the situation," Michele Dunn, an Egypt expert at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and an informal White House adviser, told the Wall Street Journal. "But as typical with this administration, they are trying to be subtle, nuanced, soft spoken. That has its virtues, but it's not getting across to hundreds of thousands of demonstrators."