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Posted at 2:56 PM ET, 02/ 5/2011

So does Mubarak stay or go?

By Fred Hiatt

MUNICH --

So does Mubarak stay or go?

President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have said that the transition to democracy in Egypt must begin immediately, but they have been careful not to say whether that requires the rapid departure from office of President Hosni Mubarak. Demonstrators are demanding that he leave. Mubarak has said he won't run for reelection in September but won't step down before then.

Frank Wisner, the veteran diplomat whom Obama sent as personal emissary to Mubarak, provided his own view Saturday. Speaking by video link to a security conference here, Wisner said that Mubarak should "lead Egypt through a transition." The Egyptian constitution requires the president to be in place if the constitution is to be changed, as necessary, to permit fairer elections, Wisner said. "President Mubarak's role remains utterly critical in the days ahead.... It's his opportunity to shape his legacy."

Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch and a panelist at the conference, disagreed. Under the constitution, he said, Mubarak could delegate his authority to someone else to oversee the constitutional changes. "I don't accept at all that you need Mubarak to do this," he said.

Roth warned that the regime has yet to accept the necessity of real change. If the ruling party can get away with "a controlled transition" and cosmetic changes, it will, he said. Its recent arrests of human rights activists are an indicator of the indecision; in the event of a crackdown, there will be fewer observers to report to the world. He called for "ongoing pressure" on the regime and the positioning of international monitors in Tahrir Square to deter further violence.

Wisner and Roth didn't disagree on the desirable final outcome: genuine, fair elections, in a legal environment permitting free assembly and expression. The danger of Roth's approach, Wisner said in response, is that it would provoke more resistance from within the regime. The best way to promote change in the regime, Wisner said, is "to work with it and inside it."

On the other hand, the danger of endorsing Mubarak as overseer of the transition is that it puts the United States on the opposite side of the thousands of demonstrators who have brought Egypt to this point through their determined and peaceful rallies. They won't believe that, after 30 years of rigging elections, Mubarak is ready to change -- and they may well be correct.

After the meeting, Sen. John McCain added his own view. "Mubarak can't stay because he's the symbol of 30 years of repression," he said.

By Fred Hiatt  | February 5, 2011; 2:56 PM ET
Categories:  Hiatt  | Tags:  Fred Hiatt  
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Comments

I guess that, in the Beltway, at the WaPo, in Hiatt's mind, this is what passes as for a productive use of verbiage. But you could distill the whole mess into a single sentence: America's Beltway Caesars don't have any clear understanding of events in one of their more important client states.

Not that a minor detail like this would ever keep a self-appointed world changer like Freddie Hiatt from advocating further meddling. Freddie doesn't let trivialities like external reality get in the way of his schemes for a better world.

How's that great Iraq project of yours turned out, Freddie? When do we and ordinary Iraqis break even on the trillions flushed down that disaster?

Posted by: SGlover910 | February 5, 2011 3:48 PM | Report abuse


"Wisner and Roth didn't disagree on the desirable final outcome: genuine, fair elections, in a legal environment permitting free assembly and expression. The danger of Roth's approach, Wisner said in response, is that it would provoke more resistance from within the regime. The best way to promote change in the regime, Wisner said, is 'to work with it and inside it.'"


---


That's it, keep pretending that the plots and plans of the US are to be the determinant in Egypt as to whether Mubarak will stay or go. The US had its triumphalist era in the 90s; now the US is sidelined. The US arrogance nowadays is not merely obtuse; it is sad and more than a little bit pitiful.


Posted by: bloggersvilleusa | February 5, 2011 4:13 PM | Report abuse

The US is a non factor. Wisner needs to 'wisen' up. Egyptians are much smarter than you think. For 30 years they have been ruined by a puppet of the beltway mafia. They are not going to let another 30 years go by, 'change' (if you can call the last 2 years change) is not reserved for the US of A, it happens in other parts of the world too. Hang on and enjoy the ride in the mid east.

Posted by: joethefarmer | February 5, 2011 4:47 PM | Report abuse

Wisner is Mubarak's gay lover. You heard it here first.

Posted by: ExConservative | February 5, 2011 7:05 PM | Report abuse

HEY, WE ARE BOILING Over here!!!

PLEASE don`t BEGET our Enemity i`m one of the early Egyptian protestors and i Assure you that WESNER is tottaly Wrong
You are MAKING a BIG BIG Mistake just remove him and keep watching on guard of the rest of transition.
Muslim Brotherhood ISN`T going to head for presidency and they KNOW your fears they are just there for respect as a political party.
you can`t support him anymore TRUST me...
The Protestors won`t leave and you just give him the legitimacy to assault us!!
PLEASE anyone erading this don`t Beget our Enemity the eladers of this revolution are all of Elite computer and internet users they are not inexpressive and the wrath will be UPON the U.S!
Don`t make a step similar to Iraq!!
the people just want democracy!
just let them get it!! or we all do understand your cheap trick of calling for it but mainting dictators so you can live in peace!

Posted by: knightonastallion | February 5, 2011 8:43 PM | Report abuse

HEY, WE ARE BOILING Over here!!!

PLEASE don`t BEGET our Enemity i`m one of the early Egyptian protestors and i Assure you that WESNER is tottaly Wrong
You are MAKING a BIG BIG Mistake just remove him and keep watching on guard of the rest of transition.
Muslim Brotherhood ISN`T going to head for presidency and they KNOW your fears they are just there for respect as a political party.
you can`t support him anymore TRUST me...
The Protestors won`t leave and you just give him the legitimacy to assault us!!
PLEASE anyone reading this don`t Beget our Enemity the leaders of this revolution are all of Elite computer and internet users they are not inexpressive and the wrath will be UPON the U.S!
Don`t make a step similar to Iraq!!
the people just want democracy!
just let them get it!! or we all do understand your cheap trick of calling for it but mainting dictators so you can live in peace!

Listen to the Wise Maccain : "After the meeting, Sen. John McCain added his own view. "Mubarak can't stay because he's the symbol of 30 years of repression," he said"

Posted by: knightonastallion | February 5, 2011 8:45 PM | Report abuse

We will be judged in kind if we abandon our loyal yet flawed allies.

Posted by: carlbatey | February 5, 2011 10:26 PM | Report abuse

SGlover910 -- whoever that is -- got it 'jes about right' in his/her feb5th3:48PM comment.

freddie hiatt (batting 1000 - hasn't called any US foreign policy position, attempted intervention or subsequent outcome right yet) has the chutzpah (and AIPAC/neocon endorsement?) to call for another of those empty-headed pompous (and inevitably self-serving) 'steer a steady course' and 'don't cross any bridge until we come to it' (or find ourselves sinking under it -- as we are in Iraq) responses to the Egyptian situation.

what's really chewing on freddie's behind on this one -- could it be the slowly dawning realization that he and his neocon fellow-travellers and their far-rightwing Likud Israeli clients and sponsors (yearning for more 'lebensraum') may have spent this last decade creating conditions to bring forth an unmanageable self-destructive Golum in the mideast? well, tough bananas boys - eat 'em and weep; could say 'we told you so' -- many times -- as you promoted a very long string of questionably loyal US policies in mideast and elsewere; but it wouldn't do any more good this time than it did before, would it?)

good call SGlover910. since hiatt seems to like dumb platitudes, let's hear how he and the neocons plan to get Egyptian 'toothpaste back in the tube'? how about if the US (and others) try to cunningly create more and more apparent 'upheaval' in Cario -- and then advocate outside intervention to bring back 'stability'. oh yeah, let's try that one again -- sometime its just 'gotta' work, eh?

Posted by: ithejury | February 5, 2011 10:34 PM | Report abuse

We may have opinions, but it is NOT up to anyone in the US what the Egyptian people do. We are not their mom. We have very limited influence on the situation there, and it's very important to recognize that.

The one thing we have done that's been awesome is to have invested in training & good relationships with the Egyptian military. Thus far they have conducted themselves with a high degree of professionalism, and not fallen victim to being a tool of repression. Their interest in being moral & ethical defenders of their nation, rather than playing favorites with leaders who the people find odious, combined with good work on the part of the US military have precluded the sort of bloodshed that we're used to seeing in places like China.

Posted by: Nymous | February 5, 2011 11:54 PM | Report abuse

President Mubarak has not felt the pulse of the nation! Instead he has tried to ride rough shod over legitimate demands for democratic change. He has tried to suppress the true aspirations of the people who are crying for change and better economic conditions. Cosmetic change will not suffice: real democratic change is what Egyptians are clamouring for. Twelve days of massive street protests have brought the country to a standstill, economic ruin and to the edge of a precipice. But Mubarak is determined to soldier on! Bloodshed on the streets is a real possibility making it even more important for a speedy resolution.

Posted by: panchasenior82 | February 6, 2011 7:01 AM | Report abuse

Since when did Ken Roth and so-called Human Rights Watch care about human rights in Egypt or any Arab country? Mauritania enslaved 20% of people and Roth says nothing. Mubarak is a cruel dictator, but he is a better man than Roth.

Posted by: jbb34 | February 7, 2011 8:46 AM | Report abuse

Mabarak's theme song, by The Clash: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LZBPu7jJbJU

I agree with John McCain - Hosni's done.

Posted by: roblimo | February 7, 2011 12:00 PM | Report abuse

I'm disappointed to see that Mr. Mubarak is playing the diplomatic cards so much better than we are. It speaks to his years of experience as an autocrat in the jumbled world of the Middle East. Just think: in less than a week he turns a dire situation in which his thugs have failed to defeat the protesters and his army has only deployed to keep the peace (rather than repress the protests) and blown a hole in America's foreign policy by playing the Muslim Brotherhood card. "Oh, I can't leave office now - the Brotherhood would step into the vacuum. Let me stay in office while I oversee the changes in the Egyptian constitution that would make a free and fair election even possible. I promise I will leave office in September, or whenever the changes are done." In the interim, U.S. reputation with the people of Egypt falls through the floor and we lose the friendship of yet another ancient and honorable civilization. Way to go diplomats!

Posted by: PLMAnnapolis | February 7, 2011 12:27 PM | Report abuse

Speaking of "staying and going", Fred -- Andy Alexander's been "gone" for two weeks now. But nobody else has "come", have they.

When Debbie Howell left a few years ago, she was able to devote part of her last column to introducing Andy, her successor. Same thing happened when she herself came on board.

Seems like the WaPo had its act together back then. Now, it lets the contract run out without bothering to get a timely replacement, even though you knew the clock was ticking.

Yet here you sit, idling your time away at the keyboard writing triflin' tales that shed no new light, playing who's the boss alongside real journalists.

Not that you're dumb. You publish this in the print version like it's an editorial. But when we come here to comment -- aha! --all of a sudden it's a blog where the rules are different. We can't add our "Like" votes to specific comments, which enables you to conceal the widespread disdain in which you're held. Sly.

But now, suppose you go do your real job and GET OUR NEW OMBUDSMAN ONBOARD.

Posted by: laboo | February 7, 2011 1:12 PM | Report abuse

Obama willingness to embrace the Islamists will result in a Islamist Iranian stile of the ME.

Obama didn’t learn the lesson of "Tehran 1979," when a pro-Western dictator,the Shah,was overthrown by an alliance of reformists and Islamists.Shortly after the fall of the Shah,the Islamists smashed the reformists, establishing an anti-Western regime that sponsored anti liberal and democratic values using terrorism and radicalism throughout the world.

The demonstrations in Tunisia and Egypt undermined the foundations of much of Obama's approach to the Middle East.
Obama administration Middle East policy is lead by the motto "anything but Bush." It castigates Bush for being unrealistic regarding the promotion of democracy in the Arab world.

Bush's support for democratization led not to democracy but to the rise of Hamas Islamic terrorists- a branch of Muslim Brotherhood in Gaza.

Now Obama is repeating Bush's mistake in Egypt the leading strategic country in the Arab world.
Obama calls for the inclusion of "non-secular" groups in the new government.
Islamists anti-Western values and democratic government is deeply ideological and is not related to any American policy.

Obama willingness to abandon USA allies and embrace the Islamists will harm the standing of USA allies and strengthen anti-Western Islamists across the region

Posted by: mordechayariely | February 8, 2011 12:20 AM | Report abuse

Learn, think be careful!

"Tehran 1979" a pro-Western dictator,the Shah,was overthrown by an alliance of reformists and Islamists.After Shah fall,Islamists smashed the reformists,establishing anti-Western regime sponsoring anti liberal,democratic values using terror and radicalism worldwide.

Obama Middle East policy is "anything but Bush.It castigates Bush for being unrealistic regarding the promotion of democracy in the Arab world.

A:Obama policy outcomes:
*Lebanon takeover by Hisbula terror group sponsored by Iran
*Disappearance of Iranian anti Islamist opposition following the brutal crackdown of post election demonstrations
*Erdogen leads Turkey to partnership with Iran and pro Islamist groups
*Palestinian refusal to direct peace negotiations with Israel

Bush's support for democratization led the rise of Hamas Islamic terrorists-a branch of Muslim Brotherhood in Gaza.
B:Obama repeats Bush's mistake in Egypt,the leading country in Arab world.
Obama calls for the inclusion of "non-secular" groups in the new government.

Islamists anti-Western values and democraticy are ideological,not related to any American policy.
Obama abandon of USA allies,embracing the Islamists, harms the standing of USA allies and strengthen anti-Western Islamists worldwide

Posted by: mordechayariely | February 8, 2011 11:01 PM | Report abuse

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