Posts Tagged ‘Cairo’
For the moment, I’m going to detach myself from my usual focus on domestic politics and venture abroad by succumbing to the media’s current “agenda setting” spotlight on Egypt, and dusting off those mental notebooks I saved from my undergraduate courses in U.S. foreign policy, African politics, and international human rights.
What started out as a relatively peaceful, yet vocal, resistance by the Egyptian people to President Hosni Mubarak has quickly descended into violent chaos resulting in as many as 300 fatalities and 3,000 injured protesters, according to the United Nations human rights office. Time magazine’s Vivienne Walt, currently based in Cairo, provides a detailed account of the clashes taking place at Tahrir Square, which includes this excerpt: As dusk fell, Molotov cocktails were thrown across the square, sparking fires in several places as street battles raged. A military helicopter circled overhead, while men below faced off with knives, bricks, pieces of metal and any other weapons they could find.
As the revolt against Mubarak and his allies descends further into violence, Senator John McCain expressed concern that Tahrir Square could become “another Tiananmen Square” unless the United States intervenes, as urged by Brent Budowsky of The Hill. Yet, here’s where things become extremely complicated in dealing with Egypt. On the one hand, Mubarak offered to step down by September, when the next elections are scheduled to take place; yet, the majority of the protesters are demanding that he step down immediately. Then, there’s the matter of the national constitution and whether or not the Egyptian people have enough time to rewrite it prior to September’s elections – and while Mubarak is still potentially in power or during an accommodating interim administration (such as the Muslim Brotherhood – though, again, the key word is accommodating). Beyond that, there’s the international impact, particularly throughout the Arab Peninsula, and the effect on the 1979 peace treaty with Israel. On the issue of Israel, Thomas Friedman lays out the dilemma facing Tel Aviv and the impact it could have on the already tumultuous relationship with Palestine.
In working to resolve the crisis in Egypt, I believe immediate responsibility falls squarely on the shoulders of Egypt’s Middle Eastern neighbors. They’re the closest in proximity, and they have the military and diplomatic resources needed to help stem the violence in the streets while negotiating the post-Mubarak transition with leaders of all parties involved. Israel should be a part of these negotiations; however, given the circumstances, they likely will not be welcome at the table. Thus, President Obama should be prepared to send Secretary of State Clinton to ensure that the stable relationship between Egypt and Israel does not completely disintegrate. Meanwhile, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon should be prepared to impose sanctions against Mubarak if he does not rein in his forces and put an end to the bloodshed in places such as Tahrir Square.
By no means am I an expert on international diplomacy, but it’s becoming clear that the Egyptian people will not be able to turn their country around on their own, and verbally reprimanding Mubarak will not deter him from holding onto his power (haven’t we already learned this from dealing with Ahmadinejad and Jong-Il?). The sooner Mubarak is dealt with forcefully, the sooner a transition – if imminent – can begin and bring at least some normalcy back to Egypt.