We are seeing US policymakers moving ever closer to suggesting that Hosni Mubarak must relinquish power in Egypt. John Kerry, chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, made that case today in the New York Times, calling on Mubarak to “accept that the stability of his country hinges on his willingness to step aside gracefully to make way for a new political structure.” Presumed Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney joined him. The voices who defend Mubarak, like Mike Huckabee, are increasingly becoming marginalized.
But it’s one thing for US officials to debate the future of Egypt. It’s quite another for a Muslim world leader to bow to reality. And that is what Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey did in a speech today.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan sided with the Egyptian protesters against their president in a televised speech on Tuesday in which he rebuked Hosni Mubarak and urged him to take a bold step before more blood is spilled.
“I am saying this clearly: You must be the first to take a step for Egypt’s peace, security and stability,” Erdogan said, addressing the Egyptian president during his speech before the Turkish parliament.
He spoke as hundreds of thousands of protesters gathered in Cairo’s Tahrir Square, demanding that Mubarak leave the government and even the country.
“In our world today, freedoms can no longer be postponed or ignored,” Erdogan said. “We hope that these incidents come to an end as soon as possible, without leading to great suffering, and that the people’s legitimate and sensible demands are met.”
According to a transcript of the speech, Erdogan told Mubarak directly to “listen to the people’s voice and their uttermost humane demands,” and “welcome the will of the nation for change without any hesitation.”
I don’t see any other Muslim leader willing to go that far. It was a careful statement, but one clearly aligned with the protesters over Mubarak. You wouldn’t see that, I don’t think, if Mubarak’s position were secure.
The Egyptian President will reportedly address the nation tonight and say he will not stand for re-election in September. That won’t appease the protesters, who want him to resign effective immediately. The people are far ahead of the politicians on this one, even the relatively bolder ones like Kerry, who called on Mubarak to do what he apparently will do tonight. But if you take that imbalance as a given, where Kerry has gone – and more important, where Erdogan has gone – is pretty remarkable.
UPDATE: The New York Times reports, via Al Jazeera English, that the Obama Administration has told Mubarak that he should not seek re-election.