Clinton Dials it Up a Notch

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On CNN and Fox today the Secretary of State took the U.S. position on the situation in Egypt a tonal step further, calling for an “orderly transition”, suggesting that the administration is beginning to view embattled President Hosni Mubarak’s days as numbered. She was careful in both appearances not to take sides explicitly, saying the U.S. stands with all Egyptians.

U.S. statements are unlikely to have much affect on the immediate situation. “There’s not a lot of opportunity for the United States to influence events,” says Jon Alternman, director of Middle East programs at CSIS, and a former State and NSC official. “The protesters don’t care about the U.S., and at a time of maximum peril for the government, [the Egyptian leadership is] not looking for outside advice or arm-chair quarterbacking.”

But it is becoming increasingly hard to see how Mubarak can survive the end of the year: elections are slated for next September and at this point he probably can’t win or steal the vote. The U.S. will have a better chance of influencing a slow handover of power over the next six to nine months than trying to drive fast changing events on the ground. Clinton’s statements suggest that’s the developing American strategy.