Between the Lines

The Christian Science Monitor says that "at his third YouTube forum, President Obama spoke for the first time about the anti-government protests in Egypt, and finally gave a detailed answer to legalizing marijuana." Before he addressed the issue of legalizing marijuana the President said:

“I’ve always said to him that making sure that they are moving forward on reform – political reform, economic reform – is absolutely critical to the long-term well-being of Egypt,” Obama said. “And you can see these pent-up frustrations that are being displayed on the streets.

Obama prefaced his remarks by noting Egypt’s role as a US ally, and its peace with Israel, but then used the YouTube forum to offer some encouragement to the youth-driven uprising that began this week against Mubarak’s nearly 30 years of rule. He stressed the importance of free speech, including access to social networking tools.

“That, I think, is no less true in the Arab world than it is here in the United States,” Obama said. By speaking up, the president added weight to the comments of other administration officials, including Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, whose statements have grown increasingly sympathetic to the protesters with each day.

The Jerusalem Post believed that the unrest was part of a wave that was sweeping the region, surprising everyone and even the Muslim Brotherhood was holding back and looking for an opportunity to act.

Even in Syria, the mighty Assad is worried now. His civil servants got an unexpected raise, and Facebook was shut down. In Jordan, the protests have been taking place for weeks now. Foreign workers in Dubai have demonstrated over the pittance they are paid; 70 of them were jailed for their pains. ...

Col. Gaddafi, who initially berated the Tunisians for getting rid of Ben Ali, quickly reconsidered and changed his tune to one of congratulation. The king of Bahrain wants to convene an urgent summit of Arab rulers. ...

The Muslim Brotherhood allowed just a token few of its leaders to participate and told its supporters to demonstrate if they so wished. It is known that Egyptian security services expressly warned the Brotherhood throughout the country not to call on followers to take part, but such warnings have never much deterred the Brotherhood, whose aim is to encourage chaos to topple and replace the regime. What probably happened is that the Brotherhood, which has its own agenda, came to the conclusion that now was not the time for a direct confrontation....

What is more surprising is that the Coptic church asked the faithful not to demonstrate, but to come to church to pray for Egypt – again in a bid to avoid confrontation with the regime. Nevertheless, several associations of young Copts did call on their members to join in the demonstrations.

Subsequent events showed how wrong the opposition parties had been. Tens, maybe hundreds of thousands of young protesters, with no leaders in sight, demonstrated in 15 cities in the last few days. They stood their ground and even used force against the police and the security forces. They knew what they wanted and it wasn’t just food and work.

They called for the removal of the president and his family.

“Go away Mubarak,” their makeshift signs urged.

And for the first time in history, portraits of the leader displayed in the streets were torn down.

... Will ElBaradei galvanize these forces? ...

The Obama administration was slow to support the Jasmine revolution. Indeed the president waited until it had succeeded to signify his approval. But it has cautiously asked the Egyptian government to respect freedom of speech and legitimate protest.

In spite of everything the whole region is in a race, but in the general direction of democracy. Things are up for grabs and the administration is trying to play catchup after running for two years in the opposite direction. That is, if it knows how.


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