Stephen Zunes : Egypt
There has been a major shift within the Obama administration over the weekend regarding its policy toward Egypt. President Obama appears to have finally realized that reform within the regime, as the administration had been advocating until Sunday, will not placate the Egyptian people. The administration has yet to issue an explicit call for the authoritarian President Hosni Mubarak to step down, at least in public. However, yesterday, for the first time, Secretary of State Clinton and other officials began calling for “an orderly transition” to democracy.
Washington’s continued support for the Egyptian dictatorship in the face of massive pro-democracy protests is yet another sign that both Congress and the Obama administration remain out of touch with the growing demands for freedom in the Arab world. Just last month, Obama and the then-Democratic-controlled Congress approved an additional $1.3 billion in security assistance to help prop up Hosni Mubarak’s repressive regime.
The November 28 Egyptian parliamentary elections were a farce. The vast majority of Egyptians boycotted the charade. But even those who did try to vote witnessed massive ballot-stuffing, vote-buying, intimidation, multiple voting in pro-government precincts, interminable delays in pro-opposition precincts, and mass arrests of opposition supporters.
President Barack Obama’s speech in Cairo to the Muslim world marked a welcome departure from the Bush administration’s confrontational approach. Yet many Arabs and Muslims have expressed frustration that he failed to use this opportunity to call on the autocratic Saudi and Egyptian leaders with whom he had visited on his Middle Eastern trip to end their repression and open up their corrupt and tightly controlled political systems….
The devastating bombings which struck the Egyptian city of Sharm al-Sheik on July 24 underscore both the extent of the threat from Islamist terrorists and the failure of the United States and its allies to effectively deal with it.