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Posted at 3:34 PM ET, 01/28/2011

White House hardens line on Egypt

By Greg Sargent

The White House has been struggling to strike a balance between showing support for a key ally, Hosni Mubarak, while also showing support for freedom and democracy, but now the White House seems to be coming down harder in support of the protestors.

At the press briefing just now, Robert Gibbs conspicuously declined to answer directly when asked if the President stands by Mubarak, saying only: "We're monitoring a very fluid situation."

Gibbs also repeatedly called on security personnel in Egypt to "refrain from violence," and insisted that the "legitimate grievences that have fested for quite some time in Egypt have to be addressed by the Egyptian government immediately." He repeated several times that the grievances are "legitimate."

"Violence is not the response," Gibbs added. He also seemed to put Egypt on notice with a threat regarding aid: "We will be reviewing our assistance posture based on events that take place in the coming days."

What's striking is how carefully Gibbs is sticking to several pre-crafted phrases, another sign that the White House is taking great care about what message it's sending to both sides of the conflict.

Meanwhile, I don't have anything to add to this, but please consider this an Egypt open thread.

UPDATE, 3: 41 p.m.: The split screen showing Gibbs calling for an end to violence, while images of violence continue to flow just to his right, is really quite striking.

By Greg Sargent  | January 28, 2011; 3:34 PM ET
Categories:  Foreign policy and national security  
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Comments

Translation: there is no oil at stake.

Posted by: shrink2 | January 28, 2011 3:47 PM | Report abuse

The Obama regime will be careful to weigh all the political ramifications before committing to any and all, hairy situations.

The Obamacats need to built up their political capital for the fight of their lives in 2012.

Obama is gearing up for re-election.

That is all he cares about now.

Posted by: battleground51 | January 28, 2011 4:05 PM | Report abuse

Excellent coverage here:

http://english.aljazeera.net/watch_now/

Posted by: sbj3 | January 28, 2011 4:08 PM | Report abuse

So sad these protesters are the English speaking educated, middle class. This is **not** about the (tiny, at most 500k member) Muslim Brotherhood, these are people who get it. This is a Twitter organized uprising. But just as in Iran, in the aftermath of this, they will be horrified that the West...just...watched...

The Bush/Obama foreign policy is a disaster.

Posted by: shrink2 | January 28, 2011 4:11 PM | Report abuse

Gibbs, "We will be reviewing our assistance posture based on events that take place in the coming days."

As I understand it the Egypt/Israeli Peace Accords determine the assistance to a great extent, so is Gibbs suggesting they will be abrogated by the U.S.?

Posted by: actuator | January 28, 2011 4:17 PM | Report abuse

"It's incredible, really. The president of the United States can't bring himself to talk about democracy in the Middle East. He can dance around it, use euphemisms, throw out words like "freedom" and "tolerance" and "non-violent" and especially "reform," but he can't say the one word that really matters: democracy.

"How did this happen? After all, in his famous 2009 Cairo speech to the Muslim world, Obama spoke the word loudly and clearly - at least once.

"... This was just rhetoric, however lofty, reflecting a moment when no one was rebelling against the undemocratic governments of our allies - at least not openly and in a manner that demanded international media coverage.

"Now it's for real.

"And "democracy" is scarcely to be heard on the lips of the president or his most senior officials.

"... There has been absolutely no call for real democracy.

"Rather, only "reform" has been suggested to the Egyptian government so that, in Obama's words, "people have mechanisms in order to express legitimate grievances".

http://english.aljazeera.net/indepth/opinion/2011/01/201112811331582261.html

Posted by: sbj3 | January 28, 2011 4:19 PM | Report abuse

Assistance to whom? A corrupt government? Or assistance to the country in the event of attack from without? We dare not assist any country in putting down an insurrection. What would shrink2 have us do? Send troops to another Muslim country to bring democracy? Making it clear we won't help put down internal insurrections and talking about cutting (misused) military aid is about all we can do.

Past time for Mubarak and his ilk to go, and the Saudis should looking at this very, very carefully.

Posted by: Mimikatz | January 28, 2011 4:23 PM | Report abuse

more from previous:

"Obama doesn't seem to understand that the US doesn't need to "take the fight" to al-Qaeda, or even fire a single shot, to score its greatest victory in the "war on terror". Supporting real democratisation will do more to downgrade al-Qaeda's capabilities than any number of military attacks. He had better gain this understanding quickly because in the next hours or days the Egypt's revolution will likely face its moment of truth. And right behind Egypt are Yemen, Jordan, Algeria, and who knows what other countries, all looking to free themselves of governments that the US and its European allies have uncritically supported for decades.

"If president Obama has the courage to support genuine democracy, even at the expense of immediate American policy interests, he could well go down in history as one of the heroes of the Middle East's Jasmine winter. If he chooses platitudes and the status quo, the harm to America's standing in the region will likely take decades to repair."

Posted by: sbj3 | January 28, 2011 4:24 PM | Report abuse

Last week, The Obamateur hosted a brutal dictatorship, which turned on its people with guns about 20 years ago-- Tiananmen Square.

Inspired by change in the Soviet Union, the people massed and demanded democracy. Military forces in Beijing were hesitant to fire: hesitant to kill.

So the dictatorship called reinforcements from the countryside which simply mowed over the democratic protesters-- and that was the end of the hoped-for "spring."

Last week, Obama celebrated that regime in the White House. A pianist, Lang Lang, played the number-one anti-American propaganda song in China. Isn’t that swell?

What will they play in Egypt now that Obama's Cairo address sparked this fire?

Posted by: KaddafiDelendaEst | January 28, 2011 4:25 PM | Report abuse

"As I understand it the Egypt/Israeli Peace Accords determine the assistance to a great extent, so is Gibbs suggesting they will be abrogated by the U.S.?"

This is a very important question and I believe the answer is, yes, the US is threatening/offering whatever now becomes the government of Egypt with billions of dollars.

Posted by: shrink2 | January 28, 2011 4:26 PM | Report abuse

VDH on NRO writes: “Everywhere… but Iraq”
http://www.nationalreview.com/corner/258268/everywhere-iraq-victor-davis-hanson

“No one quite knows all the causes of the unrest in Tunisia, now spreading to Egypt and elsewhere in the Middle East, or how this will all end, and whether this seemingly middle-class revolt dovetails to the 2009 demonstrations in Iran and the Cedar Revolution earlier in Lebanon. But while Islamists may eventually hijack the popular outrage against authoritarianism, both secular and Islamic, for now one thing is at least clear. There will probably be no such popular violent unrest in Iraq where an elected and popular government is legitimate and where violence comes from small numbers of anti-democratic forces seeking to impose an intolerant dictatorship of some sort.

“Given that those in and about the Obama administration have long dropped their old narratives about Iraq (“lost,” etc.), given that there are presently no popular complaints at home against our many-thousands still in the country (e.g., mysteriously no more movies like In the Valley of Elah, Redacted, Stop Loss, no more Camp Caseys in Texas, no more courtship of Michael Moore), and given that it has become one of Obama’s “greatest achievements,” surely someone in this administration can channel some sort of support for the dissidents in a way we did not in 2009 in Iran, by pointing to American support for the consensual and constitutional government in Iraq. Its free elections, complete control of its own fossil fuels, and open and unbridled media did not come out of the head of Zeus or because Saddam got tired of killing people.”

[Recall the climatic scene from “LOTR: Return of the King” when Sauron’s Ring melts in the crack of Mount Doom; Sauron’s tower crashes; and Middle Earth itself swallows up the enemy? That’s what we’re witnessing in the Middle East today as Islamo-autocratic power melts in the fires of Iraqi democratization. The Obamateur can now only watch in slow motion as Bush and Cheney are born triumpantly on eagles’ wings into history... The End]

Posted by: KaddafiDelendaEst | January 28, 2011 4:28 PM | Report abuse

It is refreshing to find history vindicating the Bush doctrine-- even as Obama emulates it in Iraq and Afghanistan.

So why isn't billionaire progressive George Soros financing any unhinged Leftist rent-a-mob rallies against ObaMao's summary execution of (un-Mirandized!) civilians by Reaper drone airstrikes in Pakistan?

Afterall, Obama's targeting tactics are clearly more Miranda-despising than Bush's post-9/11 moistening of KSM, et.al.

Obama's policy to use Reaper drones to target (un-Mirandized!) civilians has increased markedly without a peep. Get busy, Leftists.

Rev. Wright should burn a Koran every day until Obama either releases his birth certificate or ends his Reaper drone madness.

Rage against the machine, progressives!

Oh noes! More *Obama Doctrine* success:

Al-Qaeda Leader Admits Drone Strikes Wreak Havoc
http://www.cnsnews.com/news/article/al-qaida-leader-admits-facing-pressure-u

"A purported al-Qaida leader in Pakistan says the terror network is losing territory and fighters amid a U.S. drone strike campaign, according to an audio message monitored by a U.S. organization that tracks militant propaganda..."

*Miranda-despiser-in-Chief*

Posted by: KaddafiDelendaEst | January 28, 2011 4:31 PM | Report abuse

Speaking of unhinged insanity about Soros, this is good news for 2012 for Dems: David Brock is gearing up his outside group big time:

http://wapo.st/i6dkam

Posted by: Greg Sargent | January 28, 2011 4:32 PM | Report abuse

"What would shrink2 have us do? Send troops to another Muslim country to bring democracy?"

Stop kidding around, this is a serious situation.

Posted by: shrink2 | January 28, 2011 4:36 PM | Report abuse

Next Obama will try to tell China how to run their country.

These people knew that Bush had some bite to him. Obama is a pushover and no other country is going to listen to him

Posted by: ieklein | January 28, 2011 4:42 PM | Report abuse

KDE, There are significant examples in Afghanistan and Pakistan where popular/tribal unrest has been hijacked by well armed extremist islamist elements with the goal of installing a theocratic government. At least Egypt is not nuclear armed, but that has become the great dilemma for what we're to do in the Afghan/Pakistan situation.

Posted by: actuator | January 28, 2011 4:42 PM | Report abuse

@actuator: "There are significant examples in Afghanistan and Pakistan where popular/tribal unrest has been hijacked by well armed extremist islamist elements."

And if we just sit on the sidelines and don't even call for democracy doesn't our inaction make it more likely rather than less that those extremist elements will find a more willing audience among the protesters?

Posted by: sbj3 | January 28, 2011 4:47 PM | Report abuse

Translation: there is no oil at stake.

Posted by: shrink2 | January 28, 2011 3:47 PM | Report abuse

But there is. The Suez Canal is one of the key oil chokepoints.

I'm happy that the U.S. is keeping its mouth shut but I'm afraid the damage is already done. Either Mubarak brutally represses this insurrection or he falls and the question is how extreme the new government will be. My guess is we should stay out of that too but the possibilities are unnerving.

Posted by: wbgonne | January 28, 2011 4:50 PM | Report abuse

Monitoring the situation, I find Egyptians are intensely concerned with our, the American response. I sure hope our government is very supportive of the transition process. It is going to happen very fast and the military will be the government in the short term.

Posted by: shrink2 | January 28, 2011 4:51 PM | Report abuse

"The Suez Canal is one of the key oil chokepoints."

??

Posted by: shrink2 | January 28, 2011 4:53 PM | Report abuse

"At the press briefing just now, Robert Gibbs conspicuously declined to answer directly when asked if the President stands by Mubarak, saying only: "We're monitoring a very fluid situation.""

OMG, carter redux! God help the people of Egypt, for another shady, backstabbing, duplicitous, islamist-favoring leftist is at the helm of your supposed ally government, USA, and even more ominously with an even bigger ego and audacity to play w/ the fires of M.E. islamist passions.

Posted by: pouran-doukht | January 28, 2011 4:56 PM | Report abuse

I see that Aljazeera is now quotable.

Posted by: bernielatham | January 28, 2011 5:01 PM | Report abuse

@ pouran-doukh

You said it. The people of Egypt, utterly incapable of managing themselves and their own nation, clearly need America to come in and establish what's what for the good of those inferior types.

Posted by: bernielatham | January 28, 2011 5:07 PM | Report abuse

"We are human beings, we want the world to notice."

Posted by: shrink2 | January 28, 2011 5:07 PM | Report abuse

"These people knew that Bush had some bite to him."

"I looked into Putin's eyes and read his soul. I bit. Hook, line and sinker."
-Junior

Posted by: bsimon1 | January 28, 2011 5:08 PM | Report abuse

@bernie: Mark LeVine is a professor of history at UC Irvine and senior visiting researcher at the Centre for Middle Eastern Studies at Lund University in Sweden.

Posted by: sbj3 | January 28, 2011 5:09 PM | Report abuse

Shrink:

"The Suez Canal is a key transit point for oil and fuel shipments from the Persian Gulf to the Western Hemisphere, and a closure there would mean ships would have to travel around the southern tip of Africa instead, adding thousands of miles to their journeys, and likely tightening shipping capacity."

http://online.wsj.com/article/BT-CO-20110128-712551.html

Posted by: wbgonne | January 28, 2011 5:10 PM | Report abuse

bsimon, not to mention the shrub's partner in the war on terror (and also friend of Mullah Omar, Osam bin Laden...) our own military dictator, Hosni Mubarak.

Posted by: shrink2 | January 28, 2011 5:15 PM | Report abuse

Suez is only big enough for local traffic. Oil goes by supertanker nowadays. I'm guessing no oil heading to American goes through Suez. This isn't 1956, there is no Nasser and no matter who runs Egypt, they will need the canal money. This just isn't about oil.

Posted by: shrink2 | January 28, 2011 5:22 PM | Report abuse

@sbj- Yeah, I know. I was teasing.

Posted by: bernielatham | January 28, 2011 5:23 PM | Report abuse

Hosni Mubarak: "I have requested the government to step down today, and I will designate a new government tomorrow."

Hmmm, I don't think this guy gets it.

Posted by: shrink2 | January 28, 2011 5:30 PM | Report abuse

ooops, on #28, I meant Pervez Musharraf, obviously. I can't believe I made that mistake. I have ADD, but there is a big difference between those two, well, their names at least.

Posted by: shrink2 | January 28, 2011 5:38 PM | Report abuse

Please, not too much violence. The US wishes to support you.

Posted by: rolandberger | January 28, 2011 5:49 PM | Report abuse

Obviously, if Gibbs calls for the end to violence, the people on the street should listen to Obama immediately.


Why aren't they doing that???
______________________________

If Obama allows an Islamic government to take hold in Egypt, it will be an extremely serious mistake.


.

Posted by: RainForestRising | January 28, 2011 5:53 PM | Report abuse

TO: RainForestRising who wrote:
“If Obama allows an Islamic government to take hold in Egypt, it will be an extremely serious mistake.”

^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

We’re talking the Middle East, there’s nothing BUT Muslims there.

Posted by: lindalovejones | January 28, 2011 6:03 PM | Report abuse

bernieletham:

Stop w/ your condescending leftists know-it-all crap. As someone born and raised in the Middle East -- that is until carter came along and murdered my country -- I know all about sanctimonious leftist perfidy which pays lip service to liberty and human rights and support of oppressed and down-trodden and ALWAYS turns around and stabs the good guys in the back when they needed them most in their time of trouble -- YES, moral support counts where it counts! The leftists always have it backwards; alway wrong; always making a mess of it and then skipping out on accountability and moral conscience for the misery and ruin they caused.

Posted by: pouran-doukht | January 28, 2011 6:06 PM | Report abuse

Don't forget, Mubarak's dictator status derives from "emergency powers" that were granted 30 years ago. Well, so you see? He knew he would need them someday.

Still I'll bet his son is annoyed that dad didn't achieve the Dear Leader status that makes dynastic succession so popular with the masses.

Posted by: shrink2 | January 28, 2011 6:07 PM | Report abuse

Why does Obama refuse to call for a democratic Egyptian government?

Posted by: sbj3 | January 28, 2011 6:36 PM | Report abuse

sbj3: "And if we just sit on the sidelines and don't even call for democracy doesn't our inaction make it more likely rather than less that those extremist elements will find a more willing audience among the protesters?"

Oh yeah, I know! Sorta along the same IQ wave length of old jimmy carter, bless (NOT) his heart! For his support of human rights and democracy in Iran he called their turbaned devil-incarnate "a sort of a Persian saint"!

Posted by: pouran-doukht | January 28, 2011 6:44 PM | Report abuse

Right Wing nut jobs are now pretending that President Obama never went to Egypt in 2009, and openly called for the government to end their suppression of the will of the people.

Then we have another right wing idiot, who claims that Jimmy Carter was the one who caused the Iranian Revolution, when in fact it was President Eisenhower, A Republican, who send in the marines to Iran, to overthrow the elected government, and install the dictatorial rule of The Shah, which led to The Islamic Revolution.

Posted by: Liam-still | January 28, 2011 7:01 PM | Report abuse

Save the King, lose the people.

This has been U.S. policy for as long as I can remember; Noriega, Bautista, the Shah of Iran, et al.
We never learn.

One has only to say that they are against
al Queda and terrorists and they will receive billions of U.S. dollars which is, more often than not, stolen and passed to friends and family and another form terrorism, economic, lack of rights, lack of basic freedoms, lack of education, is used against them by their despotic leaders. It is of little surprise that so many of the world's people hate the U.S., they receive no benefits from their repressive governments.

And so it goes..........

Posted by: ronrod17509 | January 28, 2011 7:31 PM | Report abuse

liam-still --
speaking of idiots and fools, yes, what a shocker, another leftist reactionary maligning anyone that shakes up their preconceived notions!

I can understand why leftists always bring up the events of 1953 and the Shah and CIA, when attention is gathering on the events of 1979 and islamist mullahcracy, carter!!! It is a handy trick to shirk off responsibility for what happened in 1979 under carter/brzezinski's treachery. We here in USA, and all Iranians inside and outside Iran, are to this very day, paying with flesh and blood, for the monstrous perfidy of those two characters but, no, leftists always want to talk about the Shah and CIA and 1953. However, the problem is that even speaking of that era so long ago, they pretty much have camouflaged, distorted, and lied about the history and the context. First and foremost mossadegh was a Communist USSR surrogate and saboteur which could hardly be described as a "democrat" and/or "democratically elected" figure. It was indeed A GOOD THING that he was defeated and Iran SAVED FROM THE JAWS OF COMMUNIST SATELLITE STATEHOOD. But the bigger point is that the mullahs -- the same ones ruling today with the help of carter/brzeinski -- at that time were on the side of the Shah and the government, not Mossadegh and his small band of traitor backers . . . they NEVER TOOK UMBRAGE for the ouster of mossadegh. It is a ruse, a fiction of self-serving leftist imagination, that the mullahcracy has become what it is today because of what CIA did to strengthen the rule of the Shah in 1953. The mullahs at that time were relieved and ecstatic for being SAVED from COMMUNIST TAKEOVER OF IRAN. Of course the leftists and communist sympathizers were not, and with the help of useful idiots, and bored, spoiled, brainwashed, college students and the goading of leftist ideologues in the west, and machinations of carter/brzezinski (beyond the scope of this commentary to go into all that they did to sc%#w up Iran), they joined hands w/ islamists in 1979 and helped murder their country and their own future.

This is not in defense of Mubarak or his regime. What I don't trust is this weak vacillating ideologue leftist president at the helms when all hell is breaking loose in M.E. just as it did 31 long miserable years ago in Iran. Carter's legacy is bloody!

Posted by: pouran-doukht | January 28, 2011 7:48 PM | Report abuse

Forget the SPUTNIK moment; this is going to be obama's Bush moment; Free elections on the West Bank produced the Hamas as the ruling majority; not America's preferred choice; yes?

Posted by: Nobama11 | January 28, 2011 8:12 PM | Report abuse

Please name one incident in the last 24 months that this coward has been out front? he is so consumed with HOW HE WILL BE PERCEIVED THAT he can not make rational timely decisions for where our nation should be. hIS RISING SIGN HAS TO BE Gemini. Should I or should I not ;that is the question.

Posted by: Nobama11 | January 28, 2011 8:18 PM | Report abuse

Right Wing Chicken Hawks have selective memories.

Didn't President Reagan trade missiles for hostages with the government of Iran. That was not Jimmy Carter; that was your beloved Gipper, playing in his starring role as the great appeaser. He also ran away from Lebanon after Terrorists blew up hundreds of marines. Gee, no wonder Bin Laden got the message that if you punch the USA it will run away.

It was The Regan/Bush administration that propped up Saddam, and provide weapons and Intel to him, when he attacked Iran. They even sent the starter packs for biological and chemical weapons to him.

Tell us what are you calling for now. Do you want the USA to send in our Military to Egypt to quell the riots, or do you want us to send in the Military to oust Mubarek.

You have been doing a lot of whining on here, so now is you time to put up or shut up. Answer the question; Do you want the USA to invade Egypt now, and set the entire muslim world, and most of the non muslim world against us, like Bush did, with his stupid invasion of Iraq.

Posted by: Liam-still | January 28, 2011 8:37 PM | Report abuse

Nation building has been going on for decades; it usually does not last; the people of those countries should make the decisions and under heavy suppression it becomes impossible; enter America to free the people and allow them to reform a government that is less dictatorial than the past one. Our intentions are good[kinda like libs do here], but the end result sometimes is not what we planned.

Posted by: Nobama11 | January 28, 2011 8:44 PM | Report abuse

let's see ; how much oil is America receiving from the Iraqis for the 800 billion spent there? answer none. How much corrupt money did the UN bilk them for maybe 400 billion ; OIL FOR FOOD MY A--S.

Posted by: Nobama11 | January 28, 2011 8:47 PM | Report abuse

THERE IS ONE THING FOR SURE aMERICA HAS BECOME MORE FAVORABLE IN MUSLIM EYES WITH OUR NEW iSLAMIC LEADER. aLL of the anglo-christian partners have been cast aside and now we are leading the charge to convert America to sharia law; can he get it done before 2012?

Posted by: Nobama11 | January 28, 2011 8:52 PM | Report abuse

Afraid to answer the question I see. You have got nothing, except your hate mongering.

Get lost Arse Wipe!

Posted by: Liam-still | January 28, 2011 9:04 PM | Report abuse

Obama aka Jimmah Carter will in the end do nothing.

In the meantime, why don't we open up the areas for oil exploration that Obama closed?

Posted by: gfafblifr | January 28, 2011 9:19 PM | Report abuse

Egypt is teetering on anarchy and Obama is defending the Egyptians' "peaceful demonstrations". There is nothing peaceful about it. But political correctness demands to not call it anything else. Of course, when the Tea Party people peacefully march on Washington, it is bordering on anarchy in the minds of the liberals.

Posted by: Tommypie | January 28, 2011 11:06 PM | Report abuse

No, what's striking is how little this argument applies to Israel.

Posted by: pj_camp | January 29, 2011 12:43 AM | Report abuse

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