Obama Administration Backs Off Mubarak

by Daniel Foster

The L.A. Times reports that the Obama administration has “reconciled itself” to a gradual pace of reform in Egypt in the interest of maintaining regional stability. That strategy differs somewhat from the tone of President Obama and especially his soon-to-be-ex press secretary Robert Gibbs in previous weeks, when the administration seemed to be pushing for a swift transition. Since then, according to the Times, the administration . . .

. . . has dampened the sense of urgency and aligned itself with power-brokers such as new Vice President Omar Suleiman, who are urging a more stable, if much slower, move to real democracy. But U.S. officials privately acknowledged that there is no guarantee that Suleiman, a former intelligence chief closely aligned with the military, is committed to substantial reforms.

They have said that countries in the Middle East must be allowed to progress politically at their own speed. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said the U.S. supports democratic reforms across the region but acknowledges that “some countries will move at different paces.” In that vein, the administration now appears satisfied to have Mubarak remain as a figurehead as long as talks with the opposition continue. His resignation would trigger a constitutional requirement for elections in 60 days, and State Department officials warned that opposition parties may not be ready that quickly.

The Working Group on Egypt, a bipartisan group of scholars and former public officials, warned in a letter that the administration is being had:

. . . expressing fears that the White House might “acquiesce to an inadequate and possibly fraudulent transition process in Egypt.” “The process that is unfolding now has many of the attributes of a smoke screen. . . . Without significant changes, it will lead to preservation of the current regime in all but name and ensure radicalization and instability in the future.”

More here.