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US State Department response to Egypt uprisings, then and now

Spot the difference.

By Staff writer / July 3, 2013

Remember when?

AP

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Amid unprecedented protests that had begun three days before, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak gave a defiant speech that complained of foreign hands seeking to sow chaos in the country and undermine what he considered to be his own legitimacy as leader.

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Staff writer

Dan Murphy is a staff writer for the Monitor's international desk, focused on the Middle East. Murphy, who has reported from Iraq, Afghanistan, Egypt, and more than a dozen other countries, writes and edits Backchannels. The focus? War and international relations, leaning toward things Middle East.

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The tone deaf appeal enraged protesters and in hindsight removed what little hope he had at that point of hanging on to power. As the protests unfolded the US slowly distanced itself from Mr. Mubarak. On Jan. 27, Vice President Joe Biden had insisted that Mubarak wasn't a dictator and that he should remain in power. Two days earlier, on Jan. 25, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had declared Egypt and its government "stable."

But after Mubarak's speech, the US adopted a new tone. Then State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley took to twitter the next day. "The Egyptian government can’t reshuffle the deck and then stand pat. President Mubarak’s words pledging reform must be followed by action."

On Jan. 30, Ms. Clinton said:

"We have made very clear that the concrete steps for democratic and economic reform that President Mubarak mentioned in his speech have to be acted on... there has to be a commitment by whoever is in the government that they will engage in a national dialogue with the people of Egypt, with the aim at taking actions that will meet the legitimate grievances of the Egyptian people for more participation... this is a very serious time for Egypt, and we are going to do all that we can to support an orderly transition."

Then on Feb. 10, Mubarak delivered another defiant speech, infuriating protesters again. The US complained that Mubarak had not taken any concrete "reform" steps. On Feb. 11, he stepped down.

Yesterday, Egypt President Mohamed Morsi delivered a speech in which he dismissed the throngs of protesters as being manipulated by foreign hands seeking to sow chaos in Egypt, and referred repeatedly to what he regards as his legitimacy as the leader of Egypt. His remarks infuriated protesters, who continue to be out in force in Cairo and other cities.

Today State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said, "We feel there was an absence of significant specific steps in Morsi's statement. He must do more to be truly responsive to the concerns of the Eygptian people.... We're on the side of the Egyptian people. We have been in touch with all sides – the opposition, with the government, with the military – and we will continue to be. But to alleviate any concerns or assumptions, we are not – we have not taken sides.

Sound familiar?

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