by A. E. SOUAIAIA
It was a mistake for President Obama to call Husni Mubarak on the fourth day of the Egyptian revolt, after nearly 100 people have died, to advise him for anything else but to step down and let a transitional leadership prepare for fair, transparent, and pluralistic elections. Instead, his reaching out to Mubarak to push him to reform was seen by many Egyptians as an act of support of a dictator. To ask Mubarak for reform now is to give him a second lease on political life. Mubarak has had 28 years to reform. He has not. In fact the last sham elections he held consolidated his party’s rule and produced a parliament less pluralistic than the previous one.
Every day that passes with Mubarak being president, the US administration loses its goodwill capital with the Egyptian and Arab peoples. US administrations have sided with authoritarians for the sake of predictability and short term stability. These authoritarians have fed US policy makers the idea that US interests are necessarily tied to their regimes remaining in power. These regimes have contended that if they were to go, Islamists will turn their countries into another post 1979 Iran. What was left out, however, was the fact that the Iranian people were not and are not inherently anti-American; they were turned to anti-Americanism when the US administrations sided with the Shah and ignored the demands of the Iranian people. This and future US administrations should not repeat the same mistake.
The US support of Mubarak’s regime is well established. Now, the US administration has a chance to show that its commitment to peoples’ rights to freedom and self-determination are not and cannot be compromised. One way of doing this is to take the side of the people now, not when Mubarak falls.
According to Secretary Clinton, who spoke on CNN’s State of the Union today, the people she "want to see stay in power are Mubarak and his newly appointed Vice President." She hinted that she prefers that the current timeline is preserved: wait until this autumn's presidential elections to make change. This position is misguided and clearly rejected by the Egyptian people. The Egyptian people want constitutional reform, judicial reform, economic reform, and political reform; not merely changing the president. This parliament is not legitimate in the eyes of many Egyptians.
The question is no longer whether or not Mubarak and his regime will stays in power. As far as the Egyptian people are concerned, Mubarak is history. Today, opposition leaders, including the Muslim Brethren, which had 88 members in the outgoing parliament have agreed to designate Mohammed ElBaradei spokesperson and authorized him to put together a coalition government that will oversee the transition into democratic rule. The Obama administration could and should support this initiative in order to mitigate previous missteps.
* Professor Souaiaia, teaches classes in the department of Religious Studies, International Programs, and College of Law at the University of Iowa. Opinions expressed herein are the author’s, speaking on matters of public interest; not speaking for the University or any other organization with which he is affiliated.