The United States is trapped in a political web in Egypt given its desire for stability in a regional ally, its support for democratic principles and its fear of the possible rise of an anti-U.S. Islamist government. Analysts argue that the United States’ position takes into consideration the fact that Egypt has supported Washington’s efforts to promote a wider Arab-Israeli peace.
“This is an important time for the government to demonstrate its responsibilities to the people of Egypt in recognizing their universal rights,” White House spokesman Robert Gibbs told reporters reiterating that the United States supported freedom of assembly and speech.
Clashes continued across Egypt between police and thousands of protesters in the cities of Cairo and Alexandria who defied a government ban on Wednesday to protest Mubarak’s 30-year-old rule.
Speaking at a news conference with the foreign minister of Jordan, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton delivered the message that Egypt’s government had to act now if it wanted to avert a similar outcome and urged it not to crack down on peaceful protests or disrupt the social networking sites that help organize and accelerate them.
“We believe strongly that the Egyptian government has an important opportunity at this moment in time to implement political, economic and social reforms to respond to the legitimate needs and interests of the Egyptian people,” Clinton said in a statement with Jordan’s Nasser Judeh at her side.
Clinton said the United States wants to see genuine change originating from the government rather than a dramatic overthrow as occurred in Tunisia.
Robert Danin of the Council on Foreign Relations think tank argues that the United States makes this demand aware of the fact that Egypt has supported Washington’s efforts to promote a wider Arab-Israeli peace.
“This is not a walking away from the alliance with Egypt in any way but, at the same time, putting the Egyptian government on notice that changes are going to have to come pretty quickly. The U.S doesn’t want to see the means adopted in Tunisia — which would necessitate the leadership to flee,” Danin said.
According to experts, U.S interests include its desire for stability in a regional ally, its support for democratic principles and its fear of the possible rise of an anti-U.S. Islamist government.
Shadi Hamid of the Brookings Institution argues that events in Tunisia had “called into question a basic premise of U.S. policy in the Middle East — that repressive regimes, however distasteful, are at least stable.”
“The U.S. has a limited amount of time to, first, reassess its Middle East policy and, then, reorient it to ride with, rather than against, the tide of Arab popular rule. It can begin distancing itself from Mubarak by stepping up public criticism of regime repression and deepening contacts with the … opposition – liberals, leftists, and, yes, Islamists alike. It is better to have leverage with opposition groups before they come to power than afterward,” Hamid wrote in an article published on theAtlantic.com.
Observers say the revolt in Tunisia continues to prompt questions about the stability of other authoritarian Arab governments and has depressed stock, bond and foreign exchange prices in parts of the region, especially in Egypt.