Protests in Cairo are growing increasingly violent. These protests have been underreported by U.S. media, but they are very real and very important because Egypt is a key U.S. ally in the Middle East. Most analysts that I’ve heard from expect the Egyptian government to survive these protests, but this is still a very alarming story. Perhaps most alarming is that Obama took a few days before even responding to the riots, and his support for President (Dictator) Hosni Mubarak was tepid at best. The latest, from the AP via The Washington Times:
CAIRO (AP) — Egypt‘s capital was the scene of violent chaos Friday as tens of thousands of anti-government protesters stoned and confronted police, who fired back with rubber bullets and tear gas — a major escalation in the biggest challenge to President Hosni Mubarak‘s 30-year rule. Even a Nobel Peace laureate was soaked by water cannon and forced to take refuge in a mosque.
Groups of thousands of protesters, some chanting “out, out, out,” gathered at at least six venues in Cairo, a city of about 18 million people, and many of them were on the move marching toward major squares and across Nile bridges. There were smaller protests in Assiut south of Cairo and al-Arish in the Sinai peninsula. Regional television stations were reporting clashes between thousands of demonstrators and police in the Mediterranean port city of Alexandria and Minya south of Cairo.
Friday’s protest were by far the largest and most violent since they began Tuesday. Demonstrators are demanding 82-year-old Mubarak‘s ouster and venting their rage at years of government neglect of rampant poverty, unemployment and rising food prices. The protesters have said they are emboldened by the uprising in Tunisia, another north African Arab nation. Egypt is Washington’s closest Arab ally, but Mubarak may be losing U.S. support. The Obama administration has publicly counseled Mubarak to introduce reforms and refrain from using violence against the protesters.
President Barack Obama said Thursday the anti-government protests filling the streets show the frustrations of Egypt‘s citizens.
Obama’s response had been pretty weak, although I understand why he is hesitant to take such a strong stand. He doesn’t want to make it look like America is meddling in Egyptian affairs. Mubarak has not always been friendly to his people, but a new government could be even worse, if not for the people, but for Egypt’s current allies. We need Egypt to help us deal with Iran and the Israeli-Palestinian crap.
But at the same time, the Egyptian government’s response has been disturbing. Harsh crackdowns are not nice. Here’s a pretty disturbing video:
In a perfect world, governments would be nice to their people and be allied with the U.S. But that is not a reality, so sometimes the U.S. allies with some pretty rough regimes.