In a small reversal from comments earlier this week, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton urged for an end to violence in Egypt, though she made that statement about both the government and protesters.

As protests against the regime of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak raged for a fourth straight day, Clinton said the U.S. is “deeply concerned” about the use of violence against demonstrators, but called on both sides to “refrain from violence.”

Clinton said that the government needs to understand the people’s “deep grievances” against it, adding, “The Egyptian government needs to understand that violence will not make these grievances go away.” [...]

“We urge the Egyptian authorities to allow peaceful protests and to reverse the unprecedented steps it has taken to shut down communications,” Clinton said.

John Kerry, Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, made a similar statement, denouncing the government’s actions with tear gas and rubber bullets and Internet bans, but also encouraging the activists to “remember the lessons and legacy of peaceful protesters from Gandhi to Dr. King and to exercise their right to be heard in that tradition.”

The curtain was lifted on the likely fear on the part of the US government by CNBC’s Erin Burnett:

CNBC contributor Erin Burnett said Friday that oil prices would skyrocket if countries in the Middle East broke out from under the rule of brutal dictators.

Appearing on a Friday broadcast of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” Burnett said that the ongoing revolution in Egypt could threaten US interests in the region due to Egypt’s history as an ally on matters pertaining to Iran, Iraq and Afghanistan.

She added that as one of the most developed economies in the Middle East, it was surprising to see many of the society’s wealthiest individuals supporting regime change. Tens of thousands of protesters across the country have taken to the streets the last few days, demanding President Mubarak resign.

“One more thing,” Burnett remarked. “If this spreads, the United States could take a huge hit because democracy in a place like Saudi Arabia, you’ve talked about who might come in power, what that means for oil prices. They’re going to go stratospheric.”

“There’s no doubt about it,’ MSNBC host Joe Scarborough said. “No doubt about it!”

Good to see Burnett tell the truth for a second. Not one the elites wanted her to tell, presumably, but a truth nonetheless.

The best updates can be found on HuffPo and The Guardian. You can watch Al Jazeera’s live coverage as well. The military has been deployed, but protesters are so far cheering them. Government buildings in Cairo are on fire.

Marc Lynch says that the US needs to get out in front of this, fast.

This is about more than Egypt — it touches the United States’ entire position in the region. After weak early coverage, Al Jazeera has more than risen to the occasion today with graphic, riveting coverage of the fateful day. Al Jazeera and a few other media outlets have compensated for the Egyptian government’s remarkable shutdown of virtually the entire internet and mobile phone networks, and have thwarted the regime’s effort to impose an information blackout allowing its brutal methods to go unwitnessed. Al Jazeera has reclaimed ownership of a narrative which has long been the core of its DNA.

It will be a long time before anyone in the region forgets some of the scenes which aired today. And it will be a long time before anyone forgets what position the United States took on today’s events — whether it lived up to its rhetoric on Arab democracy, or whether it silently accedes to brutal repression by a friendly dictator. The administration needs to be careful, more so than analysts like me, but there’s no hiding from this now.

UPDATE: Justin Elliott takes a look at all the high-powered lobby shops who have worked for Egypt over the past several years, including the ubiquitous Podesta Group. Meanwhile, a former US Ambassador to Egypt Frank Wisner just got pwned on Al Jazeera English by an interviewer who insistently questioned American support for the Egyptian regime.

UPDATE II: Stephen Kinzer has a very good piece in Newsweek describing the fundamental problem in America’s foreign policy in the Muslim world, which caters to rulers and not the people. It only angers the citizenry and increases hatred and alienation against the West. Realpolitik and propping up autocrats ends up harming US national security.