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U.S. Policy on Egypt Needs a Big Shift

Authors: Marc Lynch, and Steven A. Cook, Eni Enrico Mattei Senior Fellow for Middle East and Africa Studies
November 30, 2011
New York Times


Egyptians lined up this week to vote in the first Parliamentary elections since the fall of President Hosni Mubarak. The high turnout in a peaceful, orderly election contrasted sharply with the violence and chaos of the previous week, when hundreds of thousands returned to Tahrir Square after security forces killed at least 42 people and left 3,000 injured. But Washington should not be fooled by the peace that has returned to Egyptian streets. Even successful elections can not erase months of political mismanagement by the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (S.C.A.F.) or the bloodshed committed under its auspices.

The U.S. State Department condemned the violence in Tahrir, and has called on the S.C.A.F. to transfer power to civilians as soon as possible. That is a good start, but is not enough. Egypt's military rulers clearly believe that they have survived the political crisis, and have resisted calls for a more fundamental political change. The generals may prevail in the short term, as the numbers in Tahrir dwindle and Egyptians turn their attention back to the elections and political squabbles.

Still, the violence last week demonstrates that the S.C.A.F.'s leadership has created the conditions under which even small problems and challenges can spark massive instability. And it has shown that Washington's present approach to Egypt, which has placed a premium on private diplomacy at the expense of public pressure, must change.

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