Though the Obama administration sounded a supportive note for the popular rebellion near its beginning — and later, when Mubarak’s ouster was a foregone conclusion — it has also issued nervous caveats, citing the dangers of rapid change and the merits of Mubarak’s intelligence chief, torturer Omar Suleiman. The reversal came on the back of pressure exerted by America’s other clients in the Arab world and Israeli leaders, who both dread the prospect of region-wide revolt.
Accompanied by a chorus of spineless pundits, America and its allies began mouthing the rationales of the dictator himself: stability is good; change is bad; horrors will befall us if the Muslim Brotherhood wins a share of power.
The hand-wringing of other Arab autocrats should not be discounted, but it is the potential disruption to the Egypt-Israel relationship that animates American concern. The Israelis have made known their fear that change in Egypt will leave them bereft of friends “in the neighborhood” — a serious predicament for a state founded, through ethnic cleansing, on top of the neighborhood.