Can the U.S. aid Egypt’s transition?

Strategic interests place the U.S. firmly in the Middle East.

The Americans and Israelis are desperate to “distort the uprising of the Egyptian people” by downplaying the central role of Islam, said Hesam-al din Boroumand in Iran’s Kayhan. That role was apparent from the very beginning “in demonstrators’ chants of ‘Allah Akbar’ and the performing of Friday prayers” in Tahrir Square. Yet U.S. and Israeli media falsely reported that Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood said the revolt was not an Islamic revolution. Actually it “said no such thing.” It’s clear that the “child-killing officials in Tel Aviv” and their allies in Washington are frightened by the idea of an openly Islamic Arab state. But we know the truth: Muslims across the Middle East have finally been inspired by Iran’s 1979 Islamic Revolution, and now “they will not be silenced.”

Sorry, Iran, but Egypt’s revolution is “purely Egyptian,” said George Semaan in the London Al-Hayat. It is “too early to talk about a new Islamic Middle East,” just as it’s too early to say whether or how Egypt will change its relations with the U.S. or Israel. What’s clear is that the U.S. “cannot turn its back.” Strategic interests place the U.S. firmly in the Middle East, and the U.S. is bound to “find itself more and more involved” in Egypt’s transition. It’s going to be tricky. Washington’s experience building failed democracies in Afghanistan and Iraq “is not a model to be followed.” Instead, the U.S. will have to “take Egyptian nationalism into account” and focus on what the Egyptian people want.

Much has been made of American support for ousted dictator Hosni Mubarak, said Ali H. Aslan in Turkey’s Today’s Zaman. Many analysts see Mubarak’s defeat as a defeat for American influence. Yet only the “hard America” of leaders practicing realpolitik has suffered a setback. “The soft face of America”—the soul of the country, which cheers on democratic movements the world over and champions freedom of conscience—“is among the winners from the Egyptian revolution.” That America, which brought us the Internet and the social-media networks used by the demonstrators, now has the opportunity to help nurture civil society in Egypt.

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Let’s hope it does so, said Amr El-Zant in Egypt’s Al-Masry Al-Youm. The best way to prevent an Islamist takeover in Egypt is to reform it into “a more open society.” The Mubarak regime systematically weakened all secular opposition “in an effort to sell itself as the only alternative to Islamist domination.” So we simply don’t have the institutions—strong parties, nongovernmental organizations, community groups—that are needed to build a democracy. It would be all too easy for the transitional military government to continue the old regime’s repressive ways. That’s why the Obama administration needs to use its “leverage over the Egyptian military,” said Marwan Bishara in Qatar’s The U.S., which funds and arms the generals, can pressure them “to act as the true guardians of the revolution.”

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