What the US Can Do to Save Egypt

Monday, 31 Jan 2011 11:41 AM

By Tawfik Hamid

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Egypt has always been a strong ally of the United States. The country is now in a situation of near anarchy.

Doing nothing is not an option, but improper intervention by the United States could be destructive with extremely negative long-term consequences to its position in the Middle East, the proliferation of radical Islam, and the stability of the entire region.

Wise and well-calculated decisions and actions are essential to the solution of the current disaster in Egypt.

The United States has several options that can help to diffuse the situation in Egypt. These include:

1.Subtle and face-saving diplomatic pressure on President Mubarak to step down and leave his position as a president immediately as this is the important demand of the demonstrators. In this case the U.S. image will be improved in the eyes of the Egyptians and most of the Arab and Muslim world.

Discretely paving the way for Mubarak to step down now — irrespective of his eventual place in history is the only thing that can calm the political situation sufficiently so that a more sensible and long term solution may be engaged.

2. The United States must support a qualified, respected, secular military person to replace Mubarak — at least at this stage — to end the violence in the streets, protect against radical takeover, and lead the country toward a better future.

3. Avoid any attempt to completely remove the current regime as this can create a power struggle that may destroy the country. Instead, the United States should add its support to a new presidential office that includes an advisory council at the presidential level composed of the most respected persons from all facets of Egyptian society including the leaders of the opposition.

The role of this advisory board to the new president must be directed initially to tactical solutions of specific problems that face the society rather than dramatic changes in government policies. This advisory board must have a hot line to Washington as well, so that it is understood that we are available to give aid as requested.

This solution allows all Egyptian parties, including the opposition, to contribute to solving the problems of the country and can offer a new, fruitful and productive relationship between the president and the opposition.

4. Allow the government to pursue justice in dealing with the violent thugs who polluted the initial peaceful demonstrations and escalated the violence toward anarchy. Such interventions in the approaches of the government can cripple the police and the military as well.

In fact, if the government had started a curfew last Thursday night (instead of last Friday night) and used enough force to strongly enforce it, the country could have avoided the chaos that now exists as most of the problem started after the gathering of people in Friday Prayer in Mosques but was allowed to continue and gather momentum. (Note: this does not necessarily mean that the problem is religious in its origin as most people are mainly frustrated from corruption in the country that led to poverty and unacceptable levels of social injustice).

5. Work with the new president of Egypt, the broad-based advisory board from the opposition and other influential groups, and the Egyptian government officials to constitute proper anti-corruption measures.

The United States must use its influence and offer greater aid in return for thorough government reform and the start of a constructive process in the direction of long-term solutions for Egypt's problems.

6. The aim of the United States at this stage should be sufficient intervention to urgently re-establish stability in the country with the promise of a new relationship between the established government of Egypt and the opposition, so that all major political forces can coordinate specific reforms to benefit the country economically and return it to peace and prosperity.

A realignment of Egypt's political social and religious power base is needed to bring the end of chaos and the promise of stability and a better tomorrow.



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