As Violence Grows In Egypt, U.S. Influence Shrinks The Obama administration is distancing itself further from Hosni Mubarak, a longtime U.S. ally. U.S. officials have been calling on the Egyptian government to rein in pro-Mubarak thugs, who have been battling with anti-government protesters and even going after foreign journalists. As the violence intensifies, the U.S. has found itself with little influence.
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As Violence Grows In Egypt, U.S. Influence Shrinks

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As Violence Grows In Egypt, U.S. Influence Shrinks

As Violence Grows In Egypt, U.S. Influence Shrinks

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  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Michele Norris.


But NPR's Michele Kelemen reports that, as the violence intensifies, American influence wanes.

MICHELE KELEMEN: President Obama has made clear he wants a transition in Egypt to begin now. The envoy he sent, though, returned after just a couple of meetings. And at a prayer breakfast this morning, the only thing President Obama said was, well, he's praying for a peaceful outcome.

BARACK OBAMA: And we pray that the violence in Egypt will end and that the rights and aspirations of the Egyptian people will be realized, and that a better day will dawn over Egypt and throughout the world.

KELEMEN: But much of this is out of U.S. hands, says Jon Alterman of the Center for Strategic and International Studies. The U.S. can continue to call for an end to violence and a credible reform process but for the moment, that is being managed by the Egyptian government.

JON ALTERMAN: The reality is that in that struggle to open up the Egyptian political process, the government of Egypt has tremendous tools at its disposal, as it's shown this week. And the international community really has rather few.

KELEMEN: It didn't have to be that way, says Robert Springborg, a professor at the Naval Postgraduate School. He thinks Mubarak outsmarted the Obama administration to ensure that the transition process remains in the hands of the Egyptian military.

ROBERT SPRINGBORG: He has to ensure a military succession, and that's what he's angling for and that's what we've accepted. We got caught up in a bit of a slinging match with Mubarak, but that's absolutely incidental to the fundamentals of the case at hand here.

KELEMEN: When the U.S. sent former Ambassador Frank Wisner to Cairo, he met with Mubarak and with Vice President Omar Suleiman. Springborg says Wisner should have also reached out publicly to opposition figures to signal the U.S. supports them.

SPRINGBORG: That option was rejected by the Obama administration, fearful of dealing with civilian political forces and falling back on its old friend, the military - which can deliver some foreign policy objectives. But it cannot deliver, over the long-term, stability in Egypt.

KELEMEN: While he argues the game is over and the U.S. missed its chance to see a more democratic Egypt emerge, protestors are vowing to stay on the streets. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton condemned violence against protestors and journalists, ahead of what could be even larger demonstrations tomorrow.

HILLARY CLINTON: There is a clear responsibility by the Egyptian government, including the army, to protect those threatened and to hold accountable those responsible for these attacks.

KELEMEN: However this drama plays out, the U.S. is not going to have as cozy a relationship as it has had with Egypt. And Alterman, with the Center for Strategic and International Studies, says U.S. officials realize that.

ALTERMAN: The government is doing a fairly good job planning, thinking through, understanding that this could be a pivotal moment. We don't know how it'll play out. But it could play out a number of ways and it's hard to imagine it won't be consequential, even if we don't have a lot of ability to control it or even a lot ability to shape it.

KELEMEN: Michele Kelemen, NPR News, Washington.

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