Allies Press U.S. to Go Slow on Egypt
By MARK LANDLER and HELENE COOPER
Israel, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates have each repeatedly pressed the United States not to cut loose Egypt’s president, Hosni Mubarak, too hastily, or to throw its weight behind the democracy movement in a way that could further destabilize the region, diplomats say. One Middle Eastern envoy said that on a single day, he spent 12 hours on the phone with American officials.
There is evidence that the pressure has paid off. On Saturday, just days after suggesting that it wanted immediate change, the administration said it would support an “orderly transition” managed by Vice President Omar Suleiman. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said that Mr. Mubarak’s immediate resignation might complicate, rather than clear,
“Everyone is taking a little breath,” said a diplomat from the region, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was discussing private conversations. “There’s a sense that we’re getting our message through.”
While each country has its own concerns, all worry that a sudden, chaotic change in
Middle East allies are only one of several constituencies the administration needs to reckon with as it responds to the turmoil in
Yet the allies cannot be ignored, officials said, since they, too, are vital to the
“I understand the concerns of everybody in the region,” Mrs. Clinton said Sunday. She said that she had spoken to King Abdullah II of
Administration officials said the tense mood in many of these countries had eased in recent days, as the
Still, on Tuesday, the administration stiffened its public message to Mr. Suleiman, with the White House spokesman, Robert Gibbs, saying that the Egyptian vice president “made some particularly unhelpful comments about
Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. conveyed that message in a call to Mr. Suleiman, the White House said, urging him to take specific steps toward democracy. The strong language from Mr. Gibbs followed some criticism of the administration from Egyptian protesters and their foreign supporters that its public statements had been contradictory and equivocal.
On Monday, a diverse group of American specialists on
Israeli officials, who have long viewed Mr. Mubarak and Mr. Suleiman as stabilizing influences in a dangerous region, have made clear to the administration that they support evolution rather than revolution in
Mr. Suleiman is a longstanding Egyptian contact for the Israelis, and as a 2008 cable made public by WikiLeaks showed, he has been the Israeli government’s preferred successor to Mr. Mubarak for several years.
“There is no question that
Arab leaders have similar concerns. Speaking to Mr. Obama on Sunday, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed of Abu Dhabi, the Emirates’ defense chief, emphasized the need for “stability” in
The Arab leaders all had the same message for the
“We have been adamant that forcing Mubarak out risks instability,” said one Arab official, speaking on the condition of anonymity because he was discussing private exchanges. In conversations with the Obama administration, Arab officials have raised the specter of the Muslim Brotherhood, which some say has begun to hijack the protests that began among largely secular young people in Egypt adept at using Facebook and Twitter.
One Arab diplomat likened the democracy movement to a train fueled by university students and human rights advocates.
“Eventually, those students will have to get off that train and go back to school, and the human rights people will have to go back to work, and you know who will be on the train when it finally rolls into the station?” the diplomat asked. “The Muslim Brotherhood.”
Mrs. Clinton said the best way for Arab countries to protect themselves was to begin addressing the grievances of their people. Noting that she warned about the need for reform in the Arab world in
Mr. Kerry, who has also talked to Arab leaders, said the crisis in
Scott Shane contributed reporting from Washington, and Ethan Bronner from
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