Clinton: Omar Suleiman should lead transition; Wisner: Mubarak “must stay in office” during a power transition
Posted by Joshua on Saturday, February 5th, 2011
Frank Wisner: ‘This is an ideal moment for Mubarak to show the way forward.’ Egypt’s President Hosni Mubarak “must stay in office” during a power transition, a US special envoy says. Frank Wisner was speaking as protesters kept up their demands for Mr Mubarak to step down immediately.
Mr Mubarak has pledged to quit in September. Earlier, he replaced the entire politburo of his ruling party, including his son Gamal.
President Barack Obama has urged Mr Mubarak to “make the right decision” and to begin the transition “now”.
The US state department has refused to comment on Mr Wisner’s remarks, in which he also hailed the Egyptian ruling party resignations.
Financial Times reports:
Hillary Clinton, US secretary of state, has indicated that Omar Suleiman, the Egyptian Vice President, should be given the opportunity to manage a peaceful transition of power in Cairo, stressing that Washington wants to see the move to a new political system achieved in as “orderly” a manner as possible.
AMBASSADOR ISCHINGER: Thank you. Madam Secretary, before you conclude our session, let me inform our participants that we just received a report that there has been an attempt on the life of the vice president of Egypt, with apparently several people killed, which underlines the severity of the situation, as it evolves. We will keep you posted as — the news coming in, I’m sure, over the next several minutes or so.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I think that news report certainly brings into sharp relief the challenges that we are facing as we navigate through this period……
But there are forces at work in any society, and particularly one that is facing these kinds of challenges, that will try to derail or overtake the process to pursue their own specific agenda, which is why I think it’s important to support the transition process announced by the Egyptian Government, actually headed by now Vice President Omar Suleiman, who was the target of the attack that Wolfgang apparently just learned of, and that it be a transparent, inclusive process to set forth concrete steps that people who are engaged in it and looking at it can believe is moving forward the outcomes that will permit an orderly establishment of the elections that are scheduled for September…..
There is a great economic pressure building up inside Egypt. In addition to the news that Wolfgang shared, there is also reports of one of the major pipelines being sabotaged. There are a lot of actions that are out of anyone’s control in any position of responsibility in leadership inside Egypt and outside Egypt. And part of what we have to do is to send a consistent message supporting the orderly transition that has begun, urging that it be not only transparent and sincere, but very concrete, so that the Egyptian people and those of us on the outside can measure the progress that is being made……
“This is not about trying to open up Egypt to the Muslim Brotherhood,” one senior administration official told me. “The Muslim Brotherhood is the opposite of democracy. They want to use the democratic process, exploit the democratic process, for their own ends. We have zero enthusiasm for the Muslim Brotherhood. We want a secular Egypt, a democratic Egypt.”
Mr. Natan Sharansky says that in a 2007 meeting in Prague, President Bush told him that the U.S. supports Mr. Mubarak—to the tune of nearly $2 billion in annual aid—because if it didn’t, the Brotherhood would take over Egypt. (From the WSJ)
Egypt Officials Seek to Nudge Mubarak Out
By DAVID D. KIRKPATRICK and DAVID E. SANGER, February 5, 2011, New York Times
CAIRO — As Egypt’s protest entered its 12th day on Saturday, President Hosni Mubarak appeared increasingly isolated after hundreds of thousands of protesters returned to Tahrir Square on Friday and the Obama administration and some members of the Egyptian military and civilian elite pursued plans to nudge him from power.
The country’s newly named vice president, Omar Suleiman, and other top military leaders were discussing steps to limit Mr. Mubarak’s decision-making authority and possibly remove him from the presidential palace in Cairo — though not to strip him of his presidency immediately, Egyptian and American officials said. A transitional government headed by Mr. Suleiman would then negotiate with opposition figures to amend Egypt’s Constitution and begin a process of democratic changes. ….
In the opening stages of what promises to be a protracted round of negotiations, the diplomat Mohamed ElBaradei said in a news conference at his home near Cairo that opposition lawyers were preparing an interim Constitution. He said the opposition was calling on Mr. Mubarak to turn over power to a council of two to five members who would run the country until elections within a year.
Only one member would come from the military, Mr. ElBaradei said, adding that the armed forces’ most important task now was to “protect Egypt’s transition period in a smooth manner.”
“We have no interest in retribution,” he said. “Mubarak must leave in dignity and save his country.”
Mohamed el-Beltagui, a leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, the outlawed Islamist group that had been the major opposition in Egypt until the secular youth revolt, said that the organization would not run a candidate in any election to succeed Mr. Mubarak as president.
He said his members wanted to rebut Mr. Mubarak’s argument to the West that his iron-fisted rule was a crucial bulwark against Islamic extremism. “It is not a retreat,” he said in an interview at the group’s informal headquarters in the square. “It is to take away the scare tactics that Hosni Mubarak uses to deceive the people here and abroad that he should stay in power.” ..
The Special US Envoy, Amb Wisner has just said Mubarak needs to stay in power to oversee the transition, repeating Mubarak’s own mantra of 60 years of service, need for stability …etc.
Crisis in Egypt Tests U.S. Ties With Israel
Diplomats worry about a regional realignment in which Israel would be left feeling more isolated and its enemies emboldened.
Obama administration officials have been on the telephone almost daily with their Israeli counterparts urging them to “please chill out,” in the words of one senior administration official, as President Obama has raced to respond to the rapidly unfolding events. …
Israeli government officials started out urging the Obama administration to back Mr. Mubarak, administration officials said, and were initially angry at Mr. Obama for publicly calling on the Egyptian leader to agree to a transition.
“The Israelis are saying, après Mubarak, le deluge,” said Daniel Levy, a former Israeli peace negotiator. And that, in turn, Mr. Levy said, “gets to the core of what is the American interest in this. It’s Israel. It’s not worry about whether the Egyptians are going to close down the Suez Canal, or even the narrower terror issue. It really can be distilled down to one thing, and that’s Israel.” …
Supporters of Israel in the United States have been focusing on playing up the dangers they see as inherent in a democratic Egyptian government that contains, or is led by, elements of the now-banned Muslim Brotherhood, which opposes Egypt’s 1979 peace treaty with Israel.
In an e-mail on Friday to reporters and editors, Josh Block, a former spokesman for AIPAC, the influential Jewish-American lobbying organization, suggested “questions to ask the Muslim Brotherhood & Their Allies.”
The first question on Mr. Block’s list: “Can the Muslim Brotherhood participate in a government where Egypt continues to fulfill Egypt’s obligations to Israel under the Camp David Accords?”
Obama officials say that the United States cannot rule out the possibility of engagement with the Muslim Brotherhood — the largest opposition group in Egypt — at the same time that it is espousing support for a democratic Egypt.
“… few destinations appear to be as important to potential 2012 Republican presidential field these days as Israel. Former Arkansas governor and Fox News host Mike Huckabee has spent the past week in Israel, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney was there last month, Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour left Friday for a five-day trip, andSarah Palin has indicated she has plans to go later this year. The trips offer potential candidates a chance to boost their standing with the Jewish and evangelical voters in the U.S….”
Time: Syria Is Not Egypt, but Might It One Day Be Tunisia?
Egypt’s President Hosni Mubarak has yet to answer his people’s demands to step down, but echoes of that call are reverberating around the region. In a frantic effort to stave off the potentially destabilizing protests that already ushered out the …
Syria weathers Mideast unrest for now; ‘Days of Rage’ fail to come off
February 5, 2011
DAMASCUS, Syria (AP) — Syria’s president recently boasted that his country, one of the Arab world’s most stifling regimes, is immune to the upheaval roiling other Arab countries. He was proven right — at least for the time being.
A weeklong online campaign failed to galvanize the kinds of mass protests that have rocked Tunisia and Egypt in recent weeks. In fact, no one showed up Friday and Saturday for what were to be “days of rage” against the Syrian president’s iron-fisted rule.
By Saturday afternoon, the number of plainclothes security agents stationed protectively in key areas of the old city of the capital, Damascus, had begun to dwindle.
“The only rage in Syria yesterday was the rage of nature,” wrote Syrian journalist Ziad Haidar, in reference to a cold spell and heavy rain lashing the country….
A major difference is that Assad — unlike leaders in Egypt, Tunisia, Yemen and Jordan — is not allied with the United States, so he is spared the accusation that he caters to American demands….
Although he keeps a tight lid on any form of political dissent, he is seen by many Arabs as one of the few leaders in the region willing to stand up to Israel.
His backing for Palestinian and Lebanese militant groups opposed to the Jewish state, as well as his opposition to the U.S. invasion of Iraq, appears to have helped him maintain a level of popular support.
Israel’s continued occupation of Syria’s strategic Golan Heights also stokes nationalist sentiment, said Darwish. “This gives credibility to the Syrian leadership which is seen as fighting a legitimate cause.”
Syria, a predominantly Sunni country ruled by minority Alawites, closely controls the media and routinely jails critics of the regime. Facebook and other social networking sites are officially banned, although many Syrians still manage to access them through proxy servers.
Most of the Facebook groups that called for protests are believed to have been created by Syrians abroad — which could help explain why the planned protests fell flat.
Organizers also spoke of intimidation….
Syria Is Not Egypt, but Might It One Day Be Tunisia?
By By Aryn Baker / Beirut, Time
But don’t expect the successor of the 47-year-old regime, which he inherited from his father in 2000, to be packing his bags anytime soon. Syria may suffer the same political alienation, economic dislocation and corruption that plagues most of the region’s regimes, but its government also holds a unique position that sets it apart from the others: that of a pariah state. Assad’s Syria is the only country in the Arab world that is not beholden to Western influence or support.(See TIME’s exclusive pictures of the turmoil in Egypt.)
In a recent interview with the Wall Street Journal, Assad exhibited a remarkable degree of schadenfreude while describing the differences between Syria and Egypt. Egypt, he said, is supported financially by the United States, while international sanctions, he hinted, keep his government true to the anti-Americanism of the Arab street. “You have to be very closely linked to the beliefs of the people,” he said. “When there is divergence between your policy and the people’s beliefs and interests, [it] creates disturbance.” It was an oblique jab at Mubarak’s pro-Israel stance, one that has made him very unpopular both at home and elsewhere in the Middle East.
But if an unpopular foreign policy were enough to topple a regime, triumphant protestors would be picking through the rubble of collapsed governments from Algeria to Pakistan. “There are two components that make a people rebel against a ruling party,” says Omar Nashabe, a long-time Syria watcher and correspondent for the Beirut-based Arabic daily Al-Ahkbar. The first, he says, is socio-economic, and has to do with basic rights and the services of the government. The second is political and ideological. “Mubarak failed on both levels. His government failed to provide for the people. And instead of working in the true interests of Egyptians, he was serving the true interests of the United States. That made him lose credibility.” Syrians may be afflicted by poverty that stalks 14% of its population combined with an estimated 20% unemployment rate, but Assad still has his credibility, according to Nashabe.
That may be true, at least for the time being. But playing to popular sentiments won’t keep Assad immune from the massive changes sweeping the region, says Nadim Houry, Human Rights Watch’s researcher for Syria and Lebanon. “If the lesson Assad takes from Egypt is that it’s all about foreign policy, he is learning the wrong one.”
….The U.S. has no such leverage over Syria, which has been subjected to sanctions since 2004, when it was accused of supporting terrorism, destabilizing Iraq, and meddling in Lebanon (Charges Assad routinely denies). Sanctions have also had the unintended consequence of limiting in Syria the presence of the foreign democracy-promotion organizations that were instrumental in fomenting political organization and awareness in Egypt over the past several years. And while computer-savvy elites can circumvent the official ban on Facebook via proxy servers, a significant number of supporters for the protest “to end the state of emergency in Syria and end corruption” on Syria’s “Day of Rage Feb 4 and 5,” will be protesting in cities outside of Syria.
On Wednesday evening a small group of dissidents did manage to gather for a candlelight vigil in support of the activists in Egypt’s Tahrir square, but they were quickly attacked by a mob of what they assumed were plain-clothes police. When the main organizer, Suheir Atassi, went to the local police station to file a complaint, she was slapped and accused of being a “germ” and an agent of foreign powers, according to Human Rights Watch. In Aleppo, another protest organizer, Gassan Najar, was beaten and arrested, according to Syrian democracy activists. (See how Egyptians are improvising security as lawlessness grows.)
Syria has been under a continuous State of Emergency since 1963. Among other restrictions this limits the freedom assembly and speech, and any political opposition to the ruling Baath party is forbidden. But other limitations have been loosened under Assad, and there is now a fledgling independent media and the beginnings of economic reform. The government has encouraged cultural development and tourism. In many ways it could be said that Assad was attempting to drive Syria down the same path as Tunisia. … Assad seemed confident that new political and economic reforms, though slow, would eventually give the Syrian people what they want in a way that would not provoke chaos. “Today is better than six years ago,” he said. “But it is not the optimal situation. We still have a long way to go because it is a process. To be realistic, we have to wait for the next generation to bring this reform.”
That was last week. These days, he might want to consider speeding things up a little. “If Assad looks down on the roofs of Damascus or Aleppo,” says Nashabe, “he will see all the satellite dishes capturing the pictures of people taking to the streets of Cairo and Alexandria and calling for freedom, calling for the stepping down of a dictatorship, calling for freedom from the predations of secret police and oppression of the media.” He adds, “I think Assad is smart enough to push forward the reforms that he has already started in a very practical way.” If not, Syria may yet be the next name entered in the Mad-Libs blank for “Threatened Arab Regime.”
Ribal al-Asad, who is the cousin of the Syrian president, has launched a fierce attack on Syrian President Bashar al-Asad.
He said that the high prices of food, the spread of corruption, the lack of personal freedom, and the deterioration of the economic situation in Syria – all have made life for the people very difficult. He added that the rise in budget deficit, lack of water, declining oil production, and the rise in unemployment rates led to a decline in the society to the lowest rates, and this is the result of a large effort by the head of the authority in restricting the political and economic freedoms.
US: Conspiracy charges filed against Muslim students
If convicted, UC Irvine students who disrupted Israeli ambassador’s speech face anything from probation and community service to six months in jail. DA: We must decide whether we are a country of laws or a country of anarchy
02.05.11, 08:28 / Israel News
A group of Muslim students accused of disrupting a speech by Israeli ambassador Michael Oren at the University of California, Irvine, were charged Friday with misdemeanor conspiracy counts, ending speculation about what would come from their actions nearly a year ago.
The 11 students each face one count of misdemeanor conspiracy to disturb a meeting and one count of misdemeanor disturbance of a meeting, the Orange County district attorney’s office said. If convicted, they could face anything from probation and community service to six months in jail.
Natural gas supply to Israel cut off after blast at Egyptian terminal
JERUSALEM — Egypt temporarily suspended its natural gas supply to Israel as a security precaution after an explosion at a terminal in the northern Sinai Peninsula, Israel radio said Saturday.
(By Janine Zacharia, The Washington Post)
Omar Amiralay, né en 1944, est mort des suite d’une crise cardiaque à son domicile dans la capitale syrienne. Amiralay était connu notamment pour ses films documentaires exprimant pour la plupart des points de vue sévères sur le pouvoir en Syrie et dans le monde arabe. Le cinéaste avait signé le 30 janvier à Damas avec d’autres militants un communiqué saluant les mouvements de contestation en Tunisie et en Egypte. Son film “Déluge au pays du Baas” en 2003, produit par la chaîne franco-allemande ARTE, avait reçu le prix du meilleur court métrage de la biennale du cinéma arabe de l’institut du monde arabe à Paris.