U.S. Senator John McCain said he believes it’s “almost inevitable” that Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak will step down.
Speaking in an interview on Bloomberg Television, McCain said U.S. options are limited at the moment in how to approach the crisis in Egypt. He warned that uprisings could spread in other parts of the Middle East.
“It’s almost inevitable that President Mubarak will step down,” said McCain, a Republican of Arizona. “If he doesn’t,” the violence “will escalate.”
President Barack Obama has said Mubarak should support a transition to a new regime as soon as possible. Mubarak has said he won’t stand for re-election in September.
McCain, the senior Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, said the Egyptian army would be pivotal in determining the country’s future. “The army has to play the lead role,” he said.
McCain said he doesn’t see Mohamed ElBaradei, an opposition leader and the former United Nations nuclear chief, as a future leader of Egypt.
“I don’t think he has that kind of influence,” McCain said of ElBaradei, a Nobel laureate.
In any case, the U.S. shouldn’t hope for ElBaradei to become the main leader of the opposition, he said.
ElBaradei an ‘Enemy’
“He is an enemy of the United States in many ways,” McCain said.
In 2005, the U.S. initially opposed ElBaradei’s bid for a third term to head the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency. The Bush administration clashed with ElBaradei before the March 2003 Iraq invasion over allegations regarding Iraqi weapons of mass destruction and over Iran’s nuclear program.
The Bush administration refused to share intelligence with the IAEA, recruited possible replacements for ElBaradei and even eavesdropped on his conversations, the Washington Post reported in 2005.
McCain said the civil unrest that has spread throughout the Middle East may next come to a head in Yemen.
“The virus is spreading and it depends on how each of these governments handles this renewed universality of desire for human rights and freedom and democracy,” he said.
The Middle East protests and continuing military commitments in Afghanistan and Iraq are reasons for the U.S. to resist newly elected Republicans’ calls for significant cuts in defense spending, McCain said.
“There are a number of new members who want deeper cuts than frankly I would want,” he said.
Still, he said the budgets for some defense systems should be better contained.
“Cost overruns have been obscene” on Lockheed Martin Corp.’s F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, he said. “I’m very worried about our allies who committed to buying this thing, who may be beginning to have second thoughts.”
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