The New York Times reports the Obama national security team met for two hours Saturday and the President has yet to call for the removal of Mubarak. This meeting followed the appointment by Mubarak of his despised intelligence chief Suleiman to the long vacant post of Vice President.
What are we to conclude?
That despite Obama’s call for reform the day before, Mubarak’s appointment met with the quiet approval of Obama. In other words, Suleiman is Obama’s response to the uprising. After all, Obama’s team defends the President’s refusal in his remarks Friday to call for the ouster of Mubarak because they wanted “leverage” over the regime.
So either they have no leverage in which case they should at least get the political good will of calling for Mubarak’s ouster, or Suleiman’s appointment was the result of the exercise of their leverage. Since they did not call for Mubarak to go in the wake of the naming of the regime’s leading torturer as Vice President, the US clearly thinks this is a step forward!
Tellingly, PJ Crowley of the State Department said, Suleiman “is someone that we know well and have worked closely with.” Indeed. The New Yorker’s Jane Mayer writes that Suleiman was a key figure in coordinating the rendition of suspected terrorists to Egypt by the CIA where they were tortured, about which, US Ambassador to Egypt Edward Walker said, Suleiman “was not squeamish.” Jake Tapper reviewed some of the Wikileaks cables that mention Suleiman and it is clear the US views him as a bulwark against their bogeyman, Muslim fundamentalism.
But the real fear is that the Egyptian uprising will open up a whole new era of democratic political life from Gibraltar to the Caucuses. Established state powers like the US, Russia and China are not interested in that kind of new era. The floodgates are leaking and they are nervous. They should be because a democratic movement that sweeps through the this troubled Arab crescent will not stop at the border of China or Russia, and may actually impact US political culture as well.