Washington as spectator in Egypt (and even that’s too much)

Rupert Cornwell in the Independent on the well deserved sidelining of Washington during the glorious attempt to overthrow a dear US ally:

A CIA chief who publicly predicts the departure of Hosni Mubarak on the basis of “press reports”, and a White House that reacted in “disbelief” on Thursday to the Egyptian President’s decision to stay on – only to watch on television the next day as his vice-president announced that Mr Mubarak had indeed left office and the military was taking charge.

Nothing could more vividly underline what is self-evidently true but what both admirers and detractors of the US find hard to admit: that the world’s superpower has been a powerless spectator at the greatest and most momentous popular uprising in the modern history of the Middle East.

From the outset the US has been reacting to events – and not very consistently, first supporting Mr. Mubarak, then urging his swift departure, then calling for and orderly transition, before finally throwing its weight unequivocally behind the pro-democracy movement. Only at the end, it seems, was President Obama in the know, having been informed in advance yesterday morning that the Egyptian leader of 30 years was going.

In fact, by luck or judgement, the crisis has worked out more or less the way Washington probably wanted: the end of the ancien regime (or so it would seem today, for this Egyptian drama has repeatedly defied predictions) and the assumption of power by the military, with which the US has longstanding and close ties, and of which it is a key supplier.

Text and images ©2024 Antony Loewenstein. All rights reserved.

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