Obama washes hands off Mubarak

The US seems to have distanced itself from embattled Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak aligning itself completely with the protestors demanding political reform in a country considered the heart of a region teeming with long-ruling despots.
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Updated on Jan 31, 2011 12:40 AM IST
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Hindustan Times | ByYashwant Raj, Washington

The US seems to have distanced itself from embattled Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak aligning itself completely with the protestors demanding political reform in a country considered the heart of a region teeming with long-ruling despots. At a meeting President Barack Obama took of his national security team on Saturday, he made his position very clear: the protestors won't be allowed to be beaten back into their homes.

"He reiterated our focus on opposing violence and calling for restraint; supporting universal rights; and supporting concrete steps that advance political reform within Egypt," said the White House about Obama's message.In a strategy being constantly calibrated in turn with the situation on the ground, the US has continued to move away from Mubarak, a staunch ally of decades, as he seemingly clings to power in the face of mounting opposition.

It has not been easy for the US Martin S Indyk of the Brookings institution captured the dilemma nicely: if the US distanced itself from Mubarak, it might lead to a groundswell against its other autocratic Arab allies. If it didn't, it would antagonize the people. Indyk went on to argue that the second option was not an option at all if Iran could be taken as an example. The US sided with the Shah and lost the people completely. Distancing itself from the friendly despot appears to be the strategy of the day then. According to accounts emerging of the slow shift in the US response, it started out on Mubarak's side, calling his government stable and in control of the situation. "Our assessment is that the Egyptian Government is stable and is looking for ways to respond to the legitimate needs and interests of the Egyptians," said secretary of state Hillary Clinton January 25. The administration's stand has become sterner since then.

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