Monday, February 7, 2011

Protecting US interests in Egypt

The Obama administration's official position on the Egyptian uprising has been changing almost daily. Their immediate response was to back President Hosni Mubarak, to the dismay of the protesters. On January 27, VP Joseph Biden went so far as to insist that Mubarak was not a dictator. Then that position was reversed, President Obama himself abandoned Mubarak saying it would be better if the transition process began now and not in September. Today, February 7, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton warned against a hasty exit for Mubarak, saying that moving him could threaten the country's transition to democracy.

At the same time, all administration spokespersons insist that these decisions must be made by “The people of Egypt”, even though it appears that the United States is pushing Egypt in multiple directions according to the numbers and strength of the protesters in the Egyptian square.

The US ought to follow its own advice and stay out of the internal Egyptian crisis except as it affects basic US interests. It has massive clout with Egypt because of its $2 billion a year support of the Egyptian military and economy.

The US could protect its interests by insisting that it would support a new government if the following conditions were met: The 1979 peace agreement Israel would be continued. The Suez Canal would remain open to all shipments of oil regardless of origin. Egypt would continue to cooperate with the world community in the struggle to eliminate terrorism. Egypt would adhere to United Nations prohibitions against the use of torture.

The US would have a policy that met international norms and protected its vital interests The US would affect Egyptian foreign policy without intervening in local political combat. The path for cooperation between the two nations would be clear. The US would have a coherent policy based on its own needs not relying on the number of protesters in the Egyptian square. The uncertainty of US policy would be eliminated. The world’s only superpower should protect its interests without waiting to measure which way the wind was blowing.


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