According to The New York Times, the White House has finally begun to consider a plan to immediately replace Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. Hoping to avert a catastrophic Friday of Departure, U.S. and Egyptian officials are contemplating a transitional government headed by Omar Suleiman, the current Vice President, and backed by Mohamed Tantawi and Lt. Gen. Sami Enan, Egypt’s defense minister and chief of the Egyptian armed forces, respectively.
“What they’re asking cannot be done,” one senior Egyptian official said, citing clauses in the Egyptian Constitution that the speaker of Parliament would succeed the president. “That’s my technical answer. My political answer is they should mind their own business.”
Anthony H. Cordesman, an expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, called the arrangement Egypt's “most probable” scenario. But he said the administration had to proceed with extreme caution: “Everybody working this issue knows that this is a military extremely sensitive to outside pressure.”
Lost in the politicking, no one appears to mention the redundancy of replacing Mubarak with Suleiman, the president’s partner in crime to Egypt’s opposition. Such a course of action will end right where it started - and isn’t the point to end Egypt’s turmoil?
The foolishness of this plan only comes without surprise because it is every bit as out of touch as the rest of Washington’s response. Having defended Mubarak on Tuesday for realizing he must step down, President Barack Obama watched his Egyptian counterpart disappoint the masses in Tahrir Square, then sick plain-clothes policemen and contracted thugs on them. After the White House expressed “shock” on Wednesday, the same pro-government protesters earned themselves a new rebuke by assailing foreign journalists on Thursday.
U.S. officials insinuated that the government orchestrated both days of violence, then backed off from knowing “how far up the chain” it went.
As Mubarak feigned outrage, Suleiman went on state TV and announced, "We will look into the fact it was a conspiracy," then suspiciously added to protesters, "End your sit-in. Your demands have been answered." Although Suleiman says he won't use force to remove them, he doesn't have a choice with Al Jazeera hovering overhead.
Egyptian activists continue to fear a crackdown.
The Suleiman option is one more indication that Washington fails to realize the revolution’s magnitude, or else lacks the fortitude to make the right decisions. Vice President Joe Biden even spoke to Suleiman on Thursday, urging that, “credible, inclusive negotiations begin immediately in order for Egypt to transition to a democratic government that addresses the aspirations of the Egyptian people.”
"The president has said that now is the time to begin a peaceful, orderly and meaningful transition, with credible, inclusive negotiations," White House spokesman Tommy Vietor said Thursday night. "We have discussed with the Egyptians a variety of different ways to move that process forward, but all of those decisions must be made by the Egyptian people."Confusing conflict management for conflict resolution, the White House wouldn’t hand Egypt’s transition to Suleiman if it truly desired a free and peaceful outcome.
Rather, this move is a naked attempt to maintain continuation in Egypt’s government. Coming at the 11th hour, so close to the noon deadline that ticks down in Tahrir Square, the White House is engaging in change for change’s sake, not promising the real change preached so long ago by Obama. Mohamed Katatni, a senior Muslim Brotherhood member, did say they would accept dialogue with Suleiman "after Mubarak's departure, when he steps down," and some members of the opposition are reportedly considering Suleiman as a placeholder
Yet the majority acts as though they seek complete regime change.
Were the Friday of Departure to succeed in evicting Mubarak, organizers aren't likely to hesitate in planning a new day for Suleiman. The White House is assuming a high risk of time and energy in trying to install him - higher than allowing the democratic process to run its own course.