The indecent haste with which President Obama thrust Egypt’s president, Hosni Mubarak, aside may prove to have been one of the most fatal errors of the current US administration.
When Mubarak declared at the beginning of February this year that he would step down as president in September, Obama responded by stating that such a concession was not enough and that an “orderly transition must be meaningful, it must be peaceful, and it must begin now.”
Obama added: “He (Mubarak) needs to listen to what is being voiced by the Egyptian people, and make a judgement about the way forward that is orderly, but that is meaningful and serious.”
Symbolic gestures of reform by President Mubarak were perceived as insufficient by the U.S. Administration. At the time, Secretary of State Clinton said: “Words alone are not enough. There have to be actions…. There has to be a demonstrable commitment to the kind of reforms that we all know are needed and desired.”
Three months later, some people are wondering whether it was prudent to take such a forceful stand against Mubarak in the mistaken belief that this would bring democracy to Egypt and in the vain hope of currying favour with the Egyptian people. Just 20% of Egyptians hold a favourable opinion of the United States.
Furthermore, The Wall Street Journal reports that “Amr Moussa, the 74-year-old outgoing head of the Arab League, said (that) the former regime’s attempts to resolve the Palestinian-Israeli conflict had ‘led nowhere’ and that Egypt now needs policies that ‘reflect the consensus of the people.’
“Mr. Moussa, in an interview with The Wall Street Journal, also described a political landscape in which the Muslim Brotherhood, outlawed under Mr. Mubarak, is dominant. It is inevitable, he said, that parliamentary elections in September will usher in a legislature led by a bloc of Islamists, with the Brotherhood at the forefront.”
Not only has the U.S. Administration’s patchy response to uprisings in countries such as Egypt, Libya and Syria left some Arab despots, including those in Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, wondering whether America can be trusted as an ally, but it has also contributed to a political process in Egypt that could lead to the formation of a government that is not only already cultivating relations with Hamas but is also critical of the peace accord that President Sadat signed with Israel over thirty years ago.