Saturday, January 29, 2011

Mubarak Fires Parliament And Stays In Power

Day Four of the protests in Egypt. History is being made as we watch live streaming online and television.

President Hosni Mubarak has not succumbed to the demands of the protesters - that he leave. Instead, he announced that his Parliament would resign. As violence escalated, the military was out in force. Deaths have been reported and it is apparent the protesters are not backing down. Mubarak justified calling in the military.

"Violence will not solve the problems we face or realize the objectives we aspire to," he said. "I will not shy away from taking any decision that maintains the security of every Egyptian," he vowed.

It should be noted that the protesters were pleased to see the military, of whom they respect. It is the police that has been shooting protesters.

Egypt has been the largest opposition to an Iranian controlled Middle East. If the Muslim Brotherhood comprised of Sunni Arabs, takes advantage of any amount of a leadership vacuum, Egypt will be under Islamic jihadists. A Sunni power base would usher in a regime change sympathetic to Iran. It is a fine line that is to be walked. Support the dictator we have a 30 year relationship with yet stand with the protesters for a more democratic Egypt.

There is no history of democracy in the Arab world. There is no foundation on which to built democratic reform in Egypt. A dictator may fall, leadership may change, but to whom does the power go?

There is a rapid deployment force in place to rescue/evacuate embassy employees - in place after the need was demonstrated during the Iranian hostage days as the Shah of Iran was overthrown. Americans in Egypt are being told to stay indoors. The State Department - between Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's statements - is reviewing options and plans should evacuation become necessary.

Hillary Clinton is expressing contradictory statements - first support for Mubarak, then with the protesters - and she has to figure out a consistent message. With the escalation of violence and the police in the mix, the U.S. administration is reported to have been considering cutting support to Egypt. We currently send $1.5 billion in annual aid to Egypt.

Mubarak also defended the security forces' crackdown on protesters, saying he had given them instructions that the protesters be allowed to express their views. But, he said, acts of violence and vandalism left the security forces with no choice but to react top restore order.

He spoke minutes after the end of a day of protesters running rampant on the streets of Cairo, battling police with stones and firebombs, burning down the ruling party headquarters, and defying a night curfew enforced by a military deployment.

Is President Obama up to the challenge of walking a fine line here? Can he support Mubarak in his stated reform acceptance while standing with the people in the street?

Obama, describing a candid 30-minute telephone conversation he had with the Egyptian leader shortly after Mubarak's televised address, said protesters' "grievances have built up over time" because Mubarak has failed to address Egyptians' desire for more open government and improved economic opportunities.

Obama again called on the Egyptian government to show restraint in keeping order, and he also emphasized that demonstrators have a responsibility to protest peacefully.

Obama has a dismal record on the world stage. Hillary Clinton has made her share of blunders. We can only wait and watch.

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