Friday, February 11, 2011

Timeline of US Flip-Flopping

Nice summary at Al Jazeera (2/10/2010):

January 25 - Day 1

Protests begin in Egypt on the day Barack Obama, the US president, gives State of the Union address to Congress.

Obama did not mention Egypt but did refer to protests in Tunisia, saying the US "supports the democratic aspirations of all people".

Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state, gave the first high-level US response to the Egypt protests, saying: "Our assessment is that the Egyptian government is stable and is looking for ways to respond to the legitimate needs and interests of the Egyptian people."

January 26 - Day 2

Obama did not mention Egypt in prepared remarks during a visit to Wisconsin, as Egyptian police fought with thousands of people who defied a government ban to protest.

Richard Gibbs, the White House spokesman, said "Egypt is a strong ally" when asked whether the US still backed Mubarak.

Clinton urged Egyptian authorities to not prevent peaceful protests and not block communications.

anuary 27 - Day 3

As protests spread, Joe Biden, the US vice president, calls Mubarak an ally on Middle East peace efforts, saying: "I would not refer to him as a dictator".

Obama, in a YouTube interview, says reform "is absolutely critical for the long-term well-being of Egypt".

January 28 - Day 4

The White House, in the strongest US reaction so far, said the country would review its $1.5bn in aid to Egypt.

"We will be reviewing our assistance posture based on events that take place in the coming days," Gibbs says.

Officials later said no such review was currently planned.

Obama spoke with Mubarak after the Egyptian president, in a televised statement, called for a national dialogue to avoid chaos.

Obama said he urged Mubarak to undertake sweeping reforms "to meet the aspirations of the Egyptian people".

January 29 - Day 5

Obama met his national security team on Egypt, as Mubarak dissolved his government and picked intelligence chief Omar Suleiman as vice president.

PJ Crowley, the US state department spokesman, tweeted that the Egyptian leader "can't reshuffle the deck and then stand pat".

January 30 - Day 6

Clinton, on television talk shows, dodges questions about whether Mubarak should resign but brings the term "orderly transition" into the official US message for the first time.

"We want to see an orderly transition so that no one fills a void, that there not be a void, that there be a well thought out plan that will bring about a democratic participatory government," Clinton tells Fox News Sunday.

January 31 - Day 7

Obama dispatched Frank Wisner, a former US ambassador to Egypt, to tell Mubarak privately that he must prepare for an "orderly transition" of power.

Publicly, the White House continues to call for democratic reforms but would not be drawn on Mubarak's fate. Gibbs said: "We're not picking between those on the street and those in the government."

February 1 - Day 8

The state department orders the departure from Egypt of nonessential US government personnel and their families.

Obama made a statement that he spoke with Mubarak after the Egyptian leader pledged not to seek re-election.

He said he told Mubarak that "an orderly transition must be meaningful, it must be peaceful and it must begin now".

February 2 - Day 9

The White House condemned the violence in Egypt and said it was concerned about attacks on peaceful demonstrators, following the bloodiest day of protests.

US officials were vague on whether Obama's call for an immediate transition of power meant the Washington wanted Mubarak to step down before the September elections.

February 3 - Day 10

The US condemned attacks on journalists. Obama told the US National Prayer Breakfast he is praying "that a better day will dawn over Egypt".

Republican senator John McCain suggests the US should consider suspending aid to Egypt's military.

The US Senate passes a bipartisan resolution calling on Mubarak to transfer power to an inclusive caretaker government.

Clinton calls on the Egyptian government and opposition "to begin immediately serious negotiations on a peaceful and orderly transition".

February 4 - Day 11

The White House called for "concrete steps" toward an orderly transition but again stopped short of demanding Mubarak's immediate resignation.

"Having made that psychological break, that decision that he will not be running again, I think the most important thing for him to ask himself ... is how do we make the transition effective, lasting and legitimate," Obama said.

"And my hope is ... that he will end up making the right decision."

February 5 - Day 12

Clinton said the US backs a transition process led by Suleiman, and that it must be given time to mature.

"The principles are very clear, the operational details are very challenging," she told a security conference in Munich, adding that radical elements may try to derail the process.

Wisner said it is "critical" that Mubarak stay in power for the time being to manage the transition.

"We need to get a national consensus around the preconditions for the next step forward. The president must stay in office to steer those changes," Wisner said.

The state department and White House quickly disavowed his comments, saying Wisner spoke in a private capacity.

February 6 - Day 13

Obama said Egypt "is not going to go back to what it was" and tells Fox News he is confident an orderly transition will produce a government that will remain a US partner.

Clinton said Mubarak had responded seriously to US calls for constitutional change, chiefly through his pledge not to run for president again.

She said she will not "prejudge" a bid by the Muslim Brotherhood to enter Egypt's political process.

February 7 - Day 14

"Obviously, Egypt has to negotiate a path and they're making progress," Obama said.

Crowley, acknowledging doubts about the credibility of the transition process, said: "Our advice would be: test the seriousness of the government and those who are participating to see if it can deliver."

Gibbs said: "The United States doesn't pick leaders of other countries."

February 8 - Day 15

Biden spoke to his Egyptian counterpart by telephone, setting out steps that the country must take in the face of unrelenting protests against Mubarak.

Biden spoke to Suleiman, stressing US support "for an orderly transition in Egypt that is prompt, meaningful, peaceful, and legitimate".

Washington set out four steps the Egyptian government must take, including an end to harassment of protesters and journalists and the immediate repeal of an emergency law allowing detention without charge.

Robert Gates, the US defence secretary, said Egypt's military had behaved in "an exemplary fashion" by standing largely on the sidelines during the demonstrations.

February 9 - Day 16

In a sharp escalation of rhetoric, the US government said that Cairo had failed to reach even the "minimum threshold" for reforms in Egypt.

Gibbs said "The [Egyptian] government has not taken the necessary steps that the people of Egypt need to see. That's why more and more people come out to register their grievances."

"What you see happening on the streets of Cairo is not all that surprising when you see the lack of steps that their government has taken to meet their concerns."

Gibbs also criticised the steps taken by Suleiman who is tasked with coming up with a transition plan for Mubarak.

"The process for his transition does not appear to be in line with the people of Egypt. We believe that more has to be done," said Gibbs.

Ahmed Abul Gheit, Egypt's foreign minister, lashed out at the White House for imposiing it's "will" on its Arab ally.

February 10 - Day 17

Noting that he's watching "history unfold" Obama says that he's still hoping for an "orderly and genuine" transiton.

He did not, however, comment directly on reports that Mubarak might be stepping down.

It's way above Obama's "pay grade". About the only one thing I've found to be less unpleasant coming out of his administration these days is his mouthpiece, Robert Gibbs. The smirk seems to have been mostly wiped off his face since the Egyptian uprising started. He started to speak with some substance, unlike his phony-sounding boss. Alas, he is to depart soon, just when he finally gets it right.


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