Arab Leaders Feel U.S. Abandoned Egypt's Mubarak
RENEE MONTAGNE, Host:
NPR's Deborah Amos sends this report form Saudi Arabia's capital of Riyadh.
DEBORAH AMOS: Khalid Dakhil is a columnist for the influential Arabic newspaper Al-Hayat. A former political science professor with a Ph.D. from UCLA, he delivered his indictment of the Obama administration over coffee in a Riyadh hotel.
KHALID DAKHIL: Because what that administration is doing is just repugnant in the eyes of everyone in this region. A foreign country does not have the right to tell a president to go.
AMOS: Dakhil, and many Arabs across the region, were thrilled that Egyptians mounted a challenge to Mubarak without outside help.
DAKHIL: That's something for the people to do. But that's not for Obama to tell Hosni Mubarak.
AMOS: Do you think that it also angers the Saudi leadership?
DAKIL: I think it will anger everybody.
AMOS: In unusually blunt public remarks, Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah called Egypt's protestors infiltrators. Behind the scenes, says Tareq Masoud, a Middle East specialist at Harvard's Kennedy School, the Saudis are telling Mubarak to stay put.
TAREQ MASOUD: And they want to put their thumb on the scale in one direction, and which is for a kind of status quo policy - and so one of the things they are doing is putting pressure on Mr. Mubarak to not let go even though I'm sure Mubarak doesn't need any outside pressure for that. I think he's been very tenacious in holding on to his office.
AMOS: Michael Hanna, an analyst with the Century Foundation in New York, says the Obama administration must tell it straight to Arab allies. Speaking from Cairo, he said, this is an issue of legitimacy.
MICHAEL HANNA: This isn't just a bump in the road, but a fundamental change in how Egyptians conceive of their government, and they've made quite clear - many of them, millions of them in the street - that they now consider this government illegitimate.
AMOS: For now, says Tareq Masoud, Mubarak and the transitional government have managed to slow down the clock. There's a stalemate in Cairo, uncertainty in other Arab capitals. Washington's policy on the crisis, says Masoud, has angered long-time allies, and disappointed the protest generation.
MASOUD: You've lost elites in the region; you lost the governments of the region. And so I think, look, you're in a position now where you've got to pick a side if you want to salvage any of this.
AMOS: In the long term, says Masoud, salvaging Middle East alliances is not in doubt, because they are based on mutual interests. Arab governments are measuring the administration's reactions, to see how U.S. foreign policy has changed toward Egypt and towards them, says Khalid Dakhil.
DAKHIL: I think it's very good. It's very useful to have a good and close relationship with the United States, but that does not give the United States, the right to interfere.
AMOS: Do you think that Egypt will make Arab leaders, especially in the Gulf, rethink that relationship?
DAKHIL: It should, it should. From past examples, it doesn't seem likely.
AMOS: Deborah Amos, NPR News, Riyadh.
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