This BBC News article provides updates to the latest situation in Libya. Pro-government forces are assaulting the city of Zawiya for the second day in a row in attempt to wrest its control away from the rebel forces. Forces loyal to Gaddafi have surrounded the city with tanks and armored vehicles; they are also shelling the city with artillery. Meanwhile in the port city of Ras Lanuf, rebel forces have defeated pro-government forces and taken control of the town. The fight for Libya continues. While the rebel forces control much of the major cities, Gaddifi and his loyal forces are still clearly in control of Tripoli. This revolution may come down to an all at war for Tripoli.
The people of Egypt are celebrating in the street as former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak announced his resignation. This BBC News article reports on this landmark event. On the 18th day of continuous protests, the people of Egypt have reached their goal. The authority of the country has been handed over to the Supreme Council for the Armed Forces. It is now up to the military to lead the nation to fair and free democratic elections.
“Our assessment is that the Egyptian government is stable and is looking for ways to respond to the legitimate needs and interests of the Egyptian people.” – Hillary Clinton
Just weeks after demanding reform from the leaders of the Arab World, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s guarded comment illustrates that a grassroots movement for regime change in Egypt may further complicate US foreign policy in the Middle East.
It goes without question that Egypt’s stability is vital to current US interests in the region–particularly as a key player in the United State’s unshakable commitment to the security of Israel, and as an ally in the ongoing global war on terror. Since the George W. Bush administration, there has been a shift in US foreign policy focus toward the promotion of democracy throughout the Middle East. That administration’s interventionist efforts in Iraq, coupled with simultaneous support for authoritarian regimes elsewhere in the region, have undoubtedly tainted any future US mission to directly influence such a transformation. President Barack Obama has continued the previous administration’s stance on supporting democracy in the Middle East, but his administration been careful in its diplomatic reaction to current events.
Now, we are witnessing a revolution in Tunisia that has reverberated throughout the Middle East in both conversation and action. The peoples of Egypt and–as of today–Yemen are protesting against their governments. How the United States responds is indicative of a precarious US balance of interests. Should the ideal dramatic change take place in Egypt and Mubarak’s regime crumble, what then becomes of Egypt as a long-standing ally in the aforementioned US interests? Will the balance of power shift in the region? Will the new leadership remain a partner to the United States? There are many tough questions US foreign policymakers will face in the wake of these events.
In Cairo, President Obama stated his belief in the willingness of peoples of the Arab and Muslim world to embrace democracy and human rights. In his 2010 National Security Strategy, Mr. Obama reiterated the US commitment to spread the values of democracy and freedom abroad: ”That is why we must always seek to improve these values not just when it is easy, but when it is hard.”
It is obvious that such values are being upheld by the legitimate movements of the peoples of Tunisia, Egypt, and Yemen. Perhaps the United States will choose promotion of democracy at the expense of regime stability in the region–no doubt a hard choice–but one being made across the Arab world.