Washington’s Coup D’état in Egypt

As political upheaval has intensified across the Arab World and the Egyptian people have persisted in their demands for the immediate removal of President Hosni Mubarak, Washington has marshaled its formidable resources to counter this Arab popular uprising. 

While many experts doubt Washington’s ability to contain the Arabs’ march to claim their dignity and liberty, Washington‘s extraordinary capacity to create a breathing room for Arab authoritarian regimes must not be discounted.

Policy makers in Washington have long understood the depth of the Arab people’s anger toward their dictators and have concluded that the current upheaval, if not controlled, could inaugurate a new era of Arab masses openly defying and seeking to unseat Arab totalitarianism. Washington also feels uncomfortable with the possibility of the emergence of grassroots governments in the region. Therefore, in its general approach to the Arab World, Washington places considerable priority on the renewal of the authoritarian regimes.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was clear when she stated, “recent events in Egypt and certainly in that broader region — remind us all how crucial it is to have top-notch leadership on the ground and how quickly the ground can shift under our feet." Experts argue that the Obama administration has reached a conclusion that the mass revolt must be countered swiftly and effectively before it gets out of hand. The starting point in ending the populace upheaval is to contain the Egyptian popular revolt.

The Israeli government has warned Washington and other European governments that if action is not taken to support the Egyptian regime, things will not be good in the region. A senior officer quoted in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz (January 31, 2011) stated, "The Americans and the Europeans are being pulled along by public opinion and aren't considering their genuine interests. . .Even if they are critical of Mubarak they have to make their friends feel that they're not alone. Jordan and Saudi Arabia see the reactions in the West, how everyone is abandoning Mubarak, and this will have very serious implications."

This Israeli’s blunt public message is aimed at reenergizing the hawkish in the administration, especially Vice President Biden and Secretary Clinton, and to urge them to clearly and unapologetically show their solidarity with the Arab dictators and disregard public opinion. Indeed, the message provides the needed moral support to Biden and Clinton to lead the way in showing their disapproval of the Arab youth revolt.

Along with Israeli pressures, neoconservatives have made a powerful argument that the quick removal of Mubarak from power is a concession to unfriendly forces and that Washington must make sure that any change has to be gradual and that it will not endanger Egypt’s commitment to Israeli security.

Leslie H. Gelb, a neoconservative elder and a close confidant of Vice President Biden, has proposed three policy directives (The Daily Beast, January 29, 2011): position the army to do what is necessary there, including use minimum necessary force; use American influence privately to guide Mubarak toward a power transition; and that Washington must tell Egyptians that it will take years to fix their mountain of problems and the best course would be a coalition government with Mubarak as president for as short a period as possible, followed by elections supervised by the United Nations. 

The Obama administration has considered Gelb’s policy propositions. In addition, it has invited members of the Working Group on Egypt (New York Times, Feb. 2, 2011), a group led by prominent neoconservatives Elliot Abram and Robert Kagan, to support Washington’s action in Egypt.
Initially, the administration asked Mubarak to form a new government with the hope that this would defuse the situation. Mubarak named a new cabinet under the leadership of a trusted military officer, Ahmed Shafik, and appointed Omer Suleiman, his intelligence chief, as vice president. Both men, for years, have developed close working relations with Washington and Tel Aviv.

Their appointment, however, has fueled popular resentment and electrified the public which has called for an immediate end to the Mubarak regime and the dismissal of both Shafik and Suleiman.
Working around the clock, the Obama administration has subtly attempted to deal with the uprising in Egypt without antagonizing the world’s public opinion. The Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Mike Mullen maintains communication with his Egyptian counterpart General Sami Enan and Obama has sent Frank G. Wisner Jr., a close friend of Mubarak and top Egyptian officers, to devise a working plan, possibly, along Gelb’s propositions. 

Mubarak has appeared to go along with Wisner’s instruction and announced that he will not run for reelection in September. Nevertheless, he has made it clear that he will not step down or leave Egypt. The populace is dismayed and believes that the Obama administration has betrayed them. While Mubarak has unleashed his forces against protesters and opponents, many critics argue that both Mubarak and top security and military brass should not use force without a nod from Washington. 

Washington insiders point out that the administration’s policy toward current Arab uprisings has been primarily orchestrated by Joe Biden and other neoconservatives. Biden has an emotional attachment to the events developing in the region and views them strictly from an Israeli perspective. He once declared, “I am a Zionist. . . You don't have to be a Jew to be a Zionist." This commitment was also a motivational factor in his writing of a draft proposal to authorize the 2003 invasion of Iraq. In fact, he and Gelb wrote a plan to divide Iraq. The plan, however, was turned down by President Bush. 

Since the government in Egypt has applied force to suppress the peaceful uprising, Washington is searching for a government that is able to maintain the regime’s commitment to its treaty with Israel, follows Washington’s design for the region, and deepens Egyptian market integration in the global economy. Washington, too, seeks to instill a military officer, preferably Omer Suleiman, to replace Mubarak without undertaking any profound reform of the Egyptian political and economic system as demanded by the revolt. 

Indeed, current events in the Arab World and especially in Egypt, demonstrate that policymakers in Washington are committed to preserving totalitarianism in the region. Likewise, it validates the claim that Washington behaves as though the fate and future of the region is not the responsibility of the people in that region. This policy is morally corrupt, incites and strengthens extremism, and will eventually tarnish America’s image on the globe stage. 

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