tv Washington Week PBS February 5, 2011 2:00am-2:30am PST
gwen: tumult and transformation -- that's how the president described the week in egypt. tumult, yes. but transformation? not just yet. we explain why tonight on "washington week." what began as a peaceful protest turned violent this week, and now the clock is ticking. as the u.s. ramped up pressure on hosni mubarak. >> suppression is not going to work, engaging in violence is not going to work, attempting to shut down information flow is not going to work. the only thing that will work is moving a orderly transition process that begins right now. gwen: and the egyptian leader
resists, saying his departure would result in chaos. but chaos is already evidence in the streets of cairo. as egypt's slow-motion political collapse shakes the arab world, we explore the challenges with james kitfield of "national journal," martha raddatz of abc news, david sanger of "the new york times," and nancy youssef of mcclatchy newspapers. >> award-winning reporting and analysis, covering history as it happens. live from our nation's capital, this is "washington week with gwen ifill" produced in association with "national journal." corporate funding for "washington week" is provided by -- >> this rock has never stood still. since 1875 we've been there for
our clients through good times and bad. when their needs changed, we were there to meet them. through the years from insurance to investment management, from real estate to retirement solutions, we've developed new ideas for the financial challenge as head. this rock has never stood still. and that's one thing that will never change. prudential. >> corporate funding is also provided by boeing, norfolk southern. additional funding is provided by the annenberg foundation, the corporation for public broadcast,and by contributions to pbs stations from viewers like you. thank you. once again, live from washington, moderator gwen ifill. gwen: good evening. days of rage. nights of protest. and no matter how hard the u.s. tries, egyptian president hosni
mubarak refuses to relinquish power. it's possible to trace the evolution of this administration's relationship with its old ally to the recent past, cairo in 2009 >> government of the people and by the -- and by the people sets a single stad -- standard for all who would hold power. up must minute tane your power through consent, not coercion. gwen: at the time the president's words were not meant for egypt alone, but everything changed this week as u.s. officials worked around the clock to recalibrate our relationship with mubarak. at first, there were words of cautious support. >> our sense is that the p egyptian government is stable. >> i would not lever to him as a dictator. gwen: then, after clashes,
stern scoldings. >> what i indicated tonight to hosni mubarak is my belief that an orderly transition muste be meaningful, must be peaceful and must begin now. >> we condemn in the strongest terms attacks on journalists. gwen: tonight much still hangs in the balance. why has this be so sensitive, martha? >> perhaps because the administration didn't want to be seen as just reacting, saying oh, today we'll say this, but in many ways it was that. it was happening so rapidly. you look at that speech from 2009 and i say perhaps president obama had something to do with it. perhaps he didn't. perhaps the spark was lit in tunisia. this is about economics in so many ways. about people not having jobs, people not having food, people seeing prices rise and mubarak still in power and that's why i
think the administration in some respects, really you can understand what was happening here because it was happening so rapidly. gwen: the president began making phone calls, he spoke to mubarak twice, the secretary of defense, the chairman of the joint chiefs, they've all been on the phone burning up the wires, yet they haven't gotten the desired outcome apparently. well, they've gotten one, that the egyptian military doesn't turn the guns on the protesters and take the dictator's side. that's really the trump card. they've got the military to reply a sort of rmp role so far. they relaxed that last night. yesterday we saw a lot of violence. today was a much better day. they were on the street, very visible. that's one of the key roles. -- roams. and interesting to me they rm seem to have aligned themselves with the progress isks in egypt.
that's a tension we always see in u.s. policy in the middle east and traditionally it goes to stability. this time they're take the risk and saying we're for democratic change, and bill pidto way, mubarak, it would be nice if you could leave. gwen: they seemed to take the risk only when they didn't feel they had much of a choice. the risk was taken for them. >> that's right. and the problem in egypt is what next? how far do you push mubarak when it's not clear who his successor would be? part of that is because mubarak designed it that way. in the arm r, excuse me, everyone president has come out since 1952 and even in the political process he made opponents fight one another in an effort to hold onto power. so the question becomes when do you push mubarak out and how do you shape a successful transition so it doesn't lead to more instability?
talking to my family there, they say we all want mubarak out but what next? ing gwen: david, the president today at his white house, it was not a softening of his language but he was almost speaking to the s -- psyche of hosni mubarak when he talked about his legacy. >> once the president himself announced that he was not going to be running again and hins -- since his term is up real actively shortly, the key question he should be asking himself is how do i leave a legacy behind in which egypt is able to get through this troormtive period and my hope is that he will end up making the right decision. gwen: i suspected -- suspect the protesters in the street, david, don't think it's swift, his promise to leave office in december. but still, when we hear one world leader talking to another
about legacy, we're talk by the end, not the beginning. >> well, they've hit the point in the white house where they recognize that this is the end. but the end may be playing out over a week or months. the big difference over a week ago is they've come to a recognition that this isn't a sprint they're running with the egyptians, it's a marathonon and the result is that they're not entirely sure that they want to push mubarak to ultimate resignation until it's clear what the next result was, for all the reasons nancy laid out. i've begun to hear other scenarios spin out which we're reporting in tomorrow's paper. one possibility is that rather than resign immediately, which would bring the leader of parliament in, which is not necessarily the best outcome, the thought is make hosni mubarak goes avenue -- off to his resort house and does a bit
of gardening. gwen: the rehort option? >> the resort option. the other is that president mubarak every year goes to germany for some medical treat metropolitan and there's the thought that this may be getting time to do that. gwen: and stay in office? >> it's not only face saving, it's space creating because what they would like to do at this point is get him out of the political center so that vice president sull i aman -- suleiman, the former intelligence chief, and others can begin to get into this dialogue with the people on. street and with mohammed elbaradei and ooments gwen: i want to ask, i'm also curious, there were a lot of efforts made to try to head this off. the envoy they sent used to be great good friends with hosni mubarak and was supposed to
talk him into leaving. was that mission just a complete failure? >> well, he's not gone yet, is he? >> well, but shortly after that, he announced he would not run. these things move so fast that we sort of pocket that and say it's no big deal but within 24 hours he announced that neither he nor his son would be in the line of of skefplgts that's pretty dramatic. -- succession. that's pretty dramatic. the last time was in 2005 when george w. bush pushed for elections in the territories and that's the cautionary tale they want to make sure doesn't play out, that muslim extremists come to dominate, like hamas. >> and hosni mubarak it was
said today is basically not sleeping, will say one day i'm not leaving, it had create chaos, and then next mip says i'm done, i'm done, nobody appreciates me here. >> and i want to address this idea that islamists would take over. there is a very p important distinction between egypt and the other middle east states. egypt needs the western world. the others do not the egypt does not have oil. they depend on tourich. so anyone that takes over will have to keep that in mind just for egypt ags economy to survive in the post-mubarak period. so going forward that's a very important factor in who will come out and the balancing act that person will have to do. it's also important in the future relationship egypt will have with israel. egypt cannot ignore the western world going forward. gwen: i want to talk about the transition. you're right, we fonte -- don't
know where mubarak is from day to day. is there a plan for some kind of transition or some ideas? is that what's really happening behind the scenes where people are thinking what about this guy or that guy or that group? >> well, "plan" would be a strong word because first of all it's moving so fast. second, we've heard president obama say in public so many times and i'm told says in private to his own staff, look, this isn't about us, we can't be imposing who the next leader is. every time the united states has gone in this -- to do that in the middle east or other places it hasn't worked out so well. iran in the 1950's. and in cairo in 2009 the president admitted that was a mistake when the united states basically ran a coup. at the same time there are models out there that are the
opposite of what james pointed out in those previous elections that are worthwhile and one is south korea. a country that was run by a authoritarian generals for 40 years, finally there ways slow transition to democracy. generals ran in the first few elections and won and then over time civilians gone -- began to win. now, different culture, different economic growth gwen: in fact, that was part of what mubarak said, our culture is different, they won't accept this. you wonder whether these things are transferable. >> i was just going to say again, the smlt key. the model they look at it turkey, which is closer to home for egypt, another big, powerful i didn't in that region where the military is the guarantor of the secular democracy, run by islamists in an overwhelmingly muslim
country. they're talking about getting all the voices in the room and cobble together something that gets you to september. >> and the military wants to be, wants to be seen as a respected organization, a respected institution because they are. that's what you saw on the streets this week too. the military stayed back for a while. on friday and, today clearly they separated the sides and the violence went down but the middle -- military is acting in its own interests as well. they want a smooth transition. >> the defense minister wandered into the middle of at that require -- tahir square today. that was a remarkable moment. gwen: the people on the horses and camels with the whips were not the military, they were the police. that's important to talk about because what we saw was mubarak try to counter in his own way. we don't know who exactly those
people are but it is very fair to say some of them were brought there by the mubarak government. they massed for hours and moved almost in unison at 2:15 p.m. those were some of them riding the camels from the pyramids but there also may be people we don't know in the population who want mubarak to stape at least until september or lead a transition. interestingly, it backfired against the mubarak regime because what mubarak is trying to say was the choice is between chaos and me, civily. then he brings into the street and says see, you need me. and people didn't fall to it. they said you can't bring the chaos and say you're the face of civility. gwen: let's do some comparisons. how is what is happening in egypt different than what we sue in tunisia, yemen, jordan? >> there are some very simple
things here. in tunisia they wanted their authoritarian president out and they got him out. in yemen it's not so much about the president. even though the president made a preemptive strike saying he wouldn't run in 2013. but again, it's about poverty and saying we need things. yemen in particular and jordan, there were protests today but yemen in particular, they're very concerned about it because just like egypt and just like tunisia, you just don't know what's going to change that dynamic instantly. >> i've gone back and tried to talk to a couple american officials about what they think triggered events in tunisia and several said they thought wiki leaks had more to do tw than we know. i was thinking about this because there were cables that were published in the "new york times" and we didn't even look at tunisia. it didn't strike us that that
would be that vital, but those cables ended up make it clear to the tunisians that everybody in the world about the swimming pools and caviar temperature president's palace and that embarrassment factor -- >> the public humiliation. you would think they would have that in emon -- yemen too because president was said to say i'll cover for you, these drone strikes and missile strikes i'll say -- that doesn't appear though for -- >> no, it doesn't. it's hart -- sort of hard to blame people and say -- >> but if you looked at yemen, they are worried about jordan, tunisia, egypt, poor countries with big youth bulges. the oil states, they have enough wealth to spread around and buy happiness.
and saudi arabia with their place in the islamic world. but if you're a poor country, had an autocratic rule for a long time, and this is spreading, i think you are feeling it today. gwen: you wrote today about the devil's bargain we've cut with a lot of these allies. we haven't looked the other way exactly but baufpblets pressures, they were alleys of ours in wars and other things, we have kind of not weighed in. >> that's another kind of unsettling similarity is that both -- most of the countries we're talking about are fairly aslinald with us on the -- a lined with us on the war on terror. if this thing spreads and it looks like it's a real liability to be aligned with the united states, it's not good for us. >> that whole region could change so dramatically in how everything is done over there. >> i think it already has because what tunisia did was
break down that barricade of fear. it was a patina that hung over the middle east. peel had been frustrated for decades, generations in some cases and it's still astonishing how quickly tunisia's president left. you alk -- talk to egyptians now and they can't believe it, "we're not afraid now, we can't believe it, we're being heard." gwen: and if you're israel? >> if you're israel you worry about a couple things. first, the egyptians had been as close to an arab al lie as they're going to get. they had deep relations with the intelligence service. and of course the peace treaty which others were supposed to follow didn't work out that way. the second thing israel is quite concerned about of siran and you know, these other arab states in addition to all the other things on the list have either stood up to ar -- or allowed a containment effort
against iran. and if they go democratic it's not at all clear that that alliance with the west and with the u.s. against iran and with israel is going to hold up. in fact, it probably won't. gwen: let's talk a little bit before we run out of time about the human rights aspects here because there have been questions raised about the human rights records of egypt and others in the region for years and we have not really spoken to it. this week when with -- they started kidnapping and beating and shoving around journalists, we started hearing sharp words from the president and secretary of state. how much of that is driving some of the stepped-up involvement on the part of the u.s.? had >> well, i think it's important to note that the western journalists who were arrested, their egyptian translaters were beaten and told me -- they were not with the mubarak regime, that they were going against the state. that's an important distinction
to be made. at the -- we talk about how this started. one way was on facebook, the images of people coming to tahrir square and then the egyptian government feels the western press is agitating their people. so after they failed toll sway people on wednesday, this quazz another effort to get them on board and it kind of reinforced and exposed the thuggish ways the mubarak regime operates. they'll say one thing and do something else. >> it's also in public. all in public. writing a story this week and saying the u.s. is concerned about intelligence gathering and concern that maybe p the new government won't help us get the intelligence, how do they get some of that intelligence? some of than they torture people. that's never done out in public. these beatings of the
reporters, ant -- and there is a story in taved's paper this week about two reporters who witnessed all this. >> there are always elements of an egyptian leadership that was cool to the new world. they didn't think what happened to tunisia would come to them. secondly, when was the last time up saw wall to wall coverage of something going on not in the streets of cairo? gwen: or any foreign country. >> right. but to be watching 24/7 what's happening and to see the boys with the clubs with the nails sticking out -- gwen: in fact this is not the first time we've seen protests in the center of cairo. a couple years other, and it didn't come to this point but certainly we should not have been caught completely flat-footed by this. >> you know, we talk about the
devil's bargain, we support these auto kraatz who have terrible human rights records but have done our bidding in other things, but it created a double standard. we were hated throughout the region because we propped these guys up. as condy rice said, we always chose stability over democracy. well, it's chosen itself now. stability is offer the table so why not align ourselves with something closer to our own values? >> and the clip up heard from secretary of state clinton was just 10 days ago where she thought the status quo was stable. by the time you got to this week, stability meant mubarak moving off the scene. >> david raised an important point worth discussing, which is that because this came out through information, i think one of the things we have to watch for going forward is if the mubarak regime holds on, or
suleiman holds on, who is 0 to say they won't crack down on the next group going forward? a personal fear i have is that things will get hard r -- harder for egyptians in learns of -- in terms of learning about things. this was an information war and in -- if the egyptian government feels like they lost it, and if the old remnants hold on, there say very real possibility they'll tighten cr0789 gwen: well, we're fg 0 keep a close eye on this. we'll be watching. thank you, everybody. we got through as much as we could, but if you like we are hungry for more, check out our "washington week" webcast extra where wole pick up where we left off here. you can find us at pbs.org. keep up on taily developments from egypt and around the world
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