The Obama Administration Backs Away From Mubarak

by Pejman Yousefzadeh on January 30, 2011

For better, or for worse:

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has called for an “orderly transition” to democracy in Egypt, but warned there is a long way to go in the process.

“Democracy, human rights and economic reform are in the best interests of the Egyptian people,” she told ABC News.

“Any government that does not try to move in that direction cannot meet the legitimate interest of the people.”

[. . .]

Mrs Clinton took the rare step of appearing in back-to-back interviews on five US Sunday morning talk shows to address the situation in Egypt.

She was repeatedly asked to back, or oppose President Mubarak, but side-stepped every opportunity to do either, our correspondent says.

“We want to see an orderly transition so that no-one fills a void, that there not be a void, that there be a well thought-out plan that will bring about a democratic participatory government,” Mrs Clinton told the “Fox News Sunday” programme.

“We are trying to convey a message that is very clear,” Mrs Clinton told ABC News. “That we want to ensure that there is no violence and no provocation that results in violence… We want to see these reforms and a process of national dialogue begun so that the people of Egypt can see their legitimate concerns addressed.”

Asked if she thought Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak had taken the necessary steps so far to hold on, Mrs Clinton said: “It’s not a question of who retains power… It’s how are we going to respond to the legitimate needs and grievances expressed by the Egyptian people and chart a new path.

“Clearly, the path that has been followed has not been one that has created that democratic future, that economic opportunity that people in the peaceful protests are seeking.”

Absent a massive and brutal crackdown that utterly cows the protesters (and even that might not work at this stage), it seems that Mubarak is not long for this political world. The question of a replacement is becoming more and more urgent, as is the question of whether the Muslim Brotherhood, or other radical religious organizations will step into the breach and make Egypt into a theocracy.

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