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Egypt protests: US conservatives divided on how to view them

Egypt's street revolution represents a threat to the US and the capitalist system, some tea party icons say, while in the GOP establishment others see it as the spread of freedom to the Arab world.

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Others on the panel called for the US to suspend aid to Egypt – or at least use it to leverage more reform. The Obama administration is “maintaining a level of ambiguity so thick that ordinary Egyptians cannot discern whether we are on their side,” said Rep. Gary Ackerman (D) of New York, the top Democrat on the panel’s Middle East subcommittee. “We simply cannot afford to be seen in Egypt as being a bankroll to oppression.”

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Witness Elliot Abrams, senior fellow for Middle Eastern studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, told the panel: "The uprisings we've seen in Tunisia and Egypt are exciting proof that the thirst for freedom is indeed universal." Mr. Abrams, who led Bush's global democracy strategy, told the committee that Congress should not suspend aid to Egypt immediately, but should “tell the Egyptian military very clearly: We’re not going to pay for suppression of democracy in Egypt.”

Aid could be cut off any day, he added, if Egypt's military cracks down on protesters, as China did in the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre, or makes clear that its goal is “to maintain Mubarakism without Mubarak.”

Freshman Rep. Tim Griffin (R) of Arkansas questioned whether the Al Qaeda terrorist network could “hijack Egypt’s revolution.”

“Revolutions often start one way and wind up another,” says Kenneth Pollack, director of the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution in Washington. “We have to be aware of that.” That’s why the US has an interest in trying to prevent a revolution “made in the name of democracy from being hijacked by something much worse,” he wrote in an opinion essay in The Wall Street Journal, which Congressman Griffith cited as the source of his question.

EXCLUSIVE MONITOR PHOTOS: Egypt in turmoil (updated daily)

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