No bets on Egypt’s future

By Arun Kumar, IANS
Monday, February 7, 2011

WASHINGTON - US President Barack Obama believes Egypt has changed for ever and a former secretary of state thinks the Mubarak era is over, but no one is taking any bets yet on Egypt’s future or how it would affect the US.

Interviewed on Fox News, Obama suggested Sunday that Egypt is not going to go back to the way it was before pro-democracy protests roiled the country, and played down prospects that the opposition Muslim Brotherhood would take a major role in a new government.

But his Secretary of State Hillary Clinton also warned Sunday that removing President Hosni Mubarak “too hastily could threaten the country’s transition to democracy”.

While the Washington Post noted that Obama officials, “in interviews, described a diplomatic blitz that targeted scores of Egyptian government and military officials” touted some progress on the Egyptian crisis, media accounts generally cast the administration as following a cautious course in the midst of a very challenging diplomatic environment.

The CBS, for one, reported that the White House has been “scrambling to stay ahead of what analysts call a geopolitical earthquake that could forever change the region”.

The New York Times suggested: “The question of whether Mubarak will yield power willingly - and how and under what timetable he might do so - are driving the Obama administration’s national security team to assess and reassess their strategy in dealing with him.”

Former secretary of state Madeleine Albright, noting that the “Mubarak Era” is over, told CNN that while the US “cannot micromanage the process” it must make clear that an “inclusive democratic, peaceful, and rapid” democratic solution is important.

While she talked about a graceful exit for Mubarak, Egyptian Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq told CNN that Mubarak must be allowed “to continue his period until the end of September” as a “lot of points must be covered before he leaves.”

John Negroponte, former deputy secretary of state and a former intelligence chief under the Bush administration, also thought “this is going to take time.”

“These transitions always do, and there’s things never happen as quickly as people would hope them to,” he told CNN.

Edward Walker, former US ambassador to Egypt, suggested Mubarak needs to go out with honour as “we don’t want to just see him discredited and all of his past accomplishments thrown down the drain such as sustaining the peace of Israel”.

But neither Negroponte nor Walker thought that a changeover in Egypt was a threat to Israel and they felt that the peace treaty between the two of them would still exist.

(Arun Kumar can be contacted at

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