This is a typical example of what happens when we run on intervention-type foreign policies. We get the middle of these fights. We`ve been in the middle of this for 30 years now. We`ve given Mubarak $60 billion. We`re responsible for a lot of the mess that is over there. ( US Representative Ron Paul, R-Lake Jackson said this on FOX News Channel`s Your World with Neil Cavuto.
As the unprecedented uprising in Egypt continues to rage, the US officials who are Mubarak’s main allies in the West, have felt an urge to break their silence and talk on the issue.
One of the first reactions to the situation came on January 25, from White House spokesman Robert Gibbs who urged “all parties” to refrain from violence and stated that “the United States is committed to working with Egypt and the Egyptian people” to pursue political, economic and social reforms, reassuring his country’s loyalty to the Egyptian government.
On the same day, the US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton also refrained from criticizing the government’s use of violence against the protestors and, similar to Gibbs, she called “all parties” to “exercise restraint”, adding “the Egyptian government is stable and is looking for ways to respond to the legitimate needs and interests of the Egyptian people.”
Vice President Joe Biden however showed more solidarity with the Egyptian regime in his interview with PBS NewsHour, supporting Mubarak’s grip on power and refusing to call him a dictator (considering he has been in power for three decades and has banned political parties among other dictatorial acts). When asked whether he thought it is time for Mubarak to stand aside and go, Biden said, not surprisingly, that he believed Mubarak should stay in power and should only move in another direction.
But the comments by US officials did not stop at this level. As the protests reached a peak, president Obama was also forced to speak out on the issue. Obama stated that he was “calling upon the Egyptian authorities to refrain from any violence against peaceful protesters”.
Nothing more than this, no sharp criticism despite the reported brutal crackdown of the government on the people. He also tried not to offend his most important ally in the region by urging the Egyptians to express themselves peacefully.
At the end of his speech, and after showing up some support for the Egyptians, Obama made it clear that his country will continue to work with the Egyptian government, closing his eyes to the main demand of the people of Egypt who want Mubarak out of power.
These vague and confused comments by the US officials on the uprising in Egypt clearly show the dilemma they are facing.
In an interview with CBS News, Richard Haas, who is the president of the US Council on Foreign Relations, described this dilemma pretty well. “The United States has to be very careful… If instability comes to Egypt, it will send shockwaves throughout the rest of the Arab world. It’s the first country to establish peace with Israel. It’s, indeed, the cornerstone of what peace there is in the Middle East. So if the United States is seen to pull the rug out from under this friend which, as you noted in the report, a friend for some three decades, it will raise major questions about American reliability. On the other hand, if we’re seen to give him an uncritical embrace, it could risk alienating the Egyptian people and some future government we may have to work with,” said Haas.
Moreover, he pointed to America’s main concern regarding the situation in Egypt stating that if it’s too late for pushing the Mubarak government in the direction of reform and if his government does not survive then the US must start working on “putting into place some alternative.” He emphasized that the last thing the US would want in Egypt is an “Islamist alternative”. He reminds the interviewer of what happened in Iran after its 1979 revolution and said, “The one thing we never want to have in Egypt is the sort of thing, say, we had in Iran three decades ago”.
Egyptians must be very careful: they should not let their uprising to be hijacked; they certainly do not want another Mubarak in power.