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America’s Response to Egypt

“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.

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One Response

  1. CAIRO — Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice pledged to a group of democracy activists yesterday that the United States will continue applying pressure on Egypts government to meet its promises of reform.One good thing about having the president stand for election and ask for the consent of the governed is that there is a program Rice told a group of dissidents editors and professors.The session followed a breakfast with President Hosni Mubarak who according to his spokesman reiterated to Rice that Egypt will not bow to US efforts to cut off international aid to the Palestinian government now that the radical group Hamas controls its parliament. Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit had delivered that same message to Rice on Tuesday.Mubarak emphasized the importance of giving Hamas enough time to assess the current situation and define its positions according to the demands of President Mahmoud Abbas said presidential spokesman Suleiman Awad.Awad said US-Egyptian ties were strategic and deep but added Egypts decisions are made inside Egypt not in any other capital or place despite its interest in advice from its friends. Rice did not give details of what she and Mubarak discussed.Mubarak has pledged a variety of domestic reforms that have yet to come to pass.Several of the activists told Rice that Mubarak is setting up a false choice between his autocratic rule and the leader of Egypts Islamic political movement the Muslim Brotherhood.The activists did not agree however on how Rice should react to the Brotherhood which is banned in Egypt. The issue is how can we compete with them. Rice made a point of telling the group that she found at least one of the cartoon images of the Prophet Mohammed that have inflamed the Muslim world to be offensive personally. But she said the violent reaction to publication of the cartoons was wrong and in some cases manufactured. Egypt has been a focus of US efforts to bring greater democratic reform to the Middle East..

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