"THE WEEKLY WRAP" with Diane W. Collins


World in Turmoil: As the United States Makes Progress at Home,
the Middle East Erupts

Sunday, January 30, 2011 - Video at 7 pm, Central

Archive: Publications, Weekly Wrap

 

The Weekly Wrap - Segment 1

World in Turmoil: As the United States Makes Progress at Home, the Middle East Erupts

Sunday, January 30, 2011

 

Welcome to the Weekly Wrap. I’m Diane Collins.

 

And what a week it’s been! Before turning our attention to the turmoil in Egypt, let’s take a look at what happened in Washington, DC this week.

 

Conservatives should be pleased with the progress that is being made by the Republican Party. The agenda set by the November 2nd elections is being implemented. Promises are being kept.

 

Following the repeal of the Health Care Reform Act in the House and legislation to begin developing a bipartisan replacement bill, Republicans continued their agenda to cut spending by passing H Res. 38, a bill to Reduce non-security spending to fiscal year 2008 levels or less. The vote was 256 to 125. The resolution caused President Obama some discomfort during his State of the Union address in that he proposed a spending freeze at current inflated 2010 levels. H Res. 38 showed Americans that Republicans have a greater commitment to spending restraint.


Additionally, HR 359, a program that came out of the “YouCut” web site developed by Majority Leader, Eric Cantor also passed. The legislation called for terminating taxpayer financing of presidential election campaigns and party conventions.The bill passed 239 to 160 and reportedly will save the American taxpayer $617 million.


Meanwhile, in the Senate Harry Reid was busy trying to pass Senate “rule changes” that would limit filibusters, eliminate “secret holds,” as well as change cloture votes and the way amendments may be brought to the floor. This could have posed problems for Republicans as they seek to bring the House passed repeal of the Health Care Reform to the Senate for a vote. But, Sen. Minority Leader, Mitch McConnell very deftly handled the situation. A series of five resolutions were introduced to which Harry Reid stated he and McConnell had agreed. Sen. McConnell corrected the statement, saying there was agreement “…on some of them, but not others.” In the end, only two with limited effect were accepted, S. Res. 28 which requires a Senator to publicly disclose intent to object to any measure or matter; and S. Res. 29 which permits the waiving of reading an amendment if the text and adequate notice are given.  Gratefully, innocuous.


President Obama’s State of the Union address took place on Tuesday, January 25th in the U.S. House Chamber at the Capitol in front of a joint session of Congress. Some juvenile PR silliness was made of Republicans and Democrats sitting together and the speech itself was flat. President Obama called for an end to oil subsidies, as he did last year while pushing the energy paradigm toward green innovation. The term “investment” was substituted for spending on infrastructure, education and technology... leaving us incredulous in the face of the deficit; and the president not surprisingly declared his support for "implement and improve" not "repeal and replace" of the Health Care Reform Act. It all came off looking like more of the same. Our moment-by-moment coverage of the State of the Union address is on our Twitter account with a breakdown of major points by page. If you have further interest, you can find more details there.

 

Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) offered the GOP response focusing his remarks on the economy and reducing the deficit. Looking very presidential, Congressman Ryan offered facts, without scare tactics; and solutions for grown ups. It’s my opinion the man has a future in 2012.

 

Also, this week some important committee meetings were held on the Hill. One hearing involved the House Budget Committee that Rep. Ryan chairs. This discussion centered on the fiscal consequences of the Health Care Law. According to the committee web site, “During the hearing Rick Foster, the Obama Administration’s own non-partisan actuary for Medicare, testified that the law’s much-touted savings were unlikely to materialize; that it would drive health care costs higher, not bend them down; and that the new spending entailed by the law would probably be much higher than originally projected.”

 

Meanwhile, the Senate Budget Committee was hearing testimony as well. Congressional Budget Office (CBO) Director Doug Elmendorf delivered the CBOs annual economic forecast for the federal government's 2011 fiscal year. The new estimate predicts the federal deficit will reach almost $1.5 trillion in 2011.


The Weekly Wrap - Segment 2

World in Turmoil: As the United States Makes Progress at Home, the Middle East Erupts

Sunday, January 30, 2011

But, the biggest story of the week began to take prominence on Friday with the turmoil in Egypt potentially fueled by social networking sites and recent events in Tunisia. Riots and violence in the streets of major Egyptian cities climaxed as protestors demanded Pres. Hosni Mubarak step down. In response, the Egyptian government shut down Internet and cell phone services. TrendMicro reports 97% of Internet traffic was eliminated in Egypt on Friday.


Mubarak’s secret police attempted to put down the demonstrations in Cario, Alexandria, and Suez but fighting broke out between the police and the protestors resulting in what is reported as multiple deaths and thousands injured. In Cario, the National Democratic Party Headquarters building was set on fire as protestors and police continued to battle. Late Friday night, Pres. Mubarak who has ruled Egypt for the past 30 years appeared, telling the people he would dismiss his cabinet and government and appoint a new government Saturday morning.


 Seeming to have no intention of stepping down, Mubarak painted himself as a "friend of the poor" saying, "I hear you. I know your grievances. I follow them daily." He went on to tell Egyptians he "takes the side of citizens to express their views." But, Mubarak also vowed to "safeguard the security" of the Egyptian people saying there was a fine line between "freedom and chaos,"... legitimate protest and riot. After the speech, protestors unappeased chanted, "Down with Mubarak, down with the regime," indicating they may not have viewed the cabinet and current government as the problem but Mubarak, himself. President Obama reserved his remarks, waiting until President Mubarak had addressed the Egyptian people. Walking necessarily a very tight line, President Obama supported stability in the region, but said reforms needed to take place. Listen.


Saturday morning protests continued in Egypt but the police had been removed from the streets. The military with whom the common people have an affinity, remained. But, it is reported approximately 1000 protestors surrounded and tried to force their way into the Interior Ministry Bldg which houses the secret police. Allegedly, they were fired upon by the police inside. Three deaths were reported from that incident. Other buildings attacked Saturday were the National Bank of Egypt and the State Television Station. The military has not fire on the people. It appears they view their job as protecting property and prevent looting.

  
During Saturday’s protests, Egyptian Television announced the cabinet had formally resigned and Omar Suleiman had been appointed by Mubarak as Vice President. Suleiman is closely aligned with Mubarak and served as the head of the Egyptian equivalent to our CIA. Some say he is well respected by the Egyptian people as a member of the military and has not been tainted by government corruption. Suleiman’s work with Palestine in maintaining peace with Israel has been instrumental. Yet others say his close ties to Mubarak will not work for the people… they call it " too little, too late."

 
The protestors continue to call for Mubarak’s resignation and he may be contemplating the inevitable. It could be Mubarka’s appointing Suleiman as Vice President represents an orderly way of stepping down. But for now, Mubarak is attempting to hold on perhaps through the end of his term in October when elections will be held. His choice for Prime Minister was Ahmad Shafiq, Air Chief of Staff who has been instructed to appoint a new cabinet. Earlier it was reported Mubarak’s wife and two sons have fled to London, however, Egyptian television has refuted the story.


The situation in Egypt is incredibly tenuous and incredibly important to the United States. We have long viewed Egypt as an ally in the Middle East. Egypt was the first to sign a peace accord with Israel and we depend upon them to help maintain the balance of power in the region. Unrest places the Egypt-Israel Peace Agreement and the Camp David Accord in question.


In addition, there are strong economic considerations. The Suez Canal which is controlled by Egypt allows water transportation between Europe and Asia without navigating around Africa. Not only oil but seven percent of the world’s products pass through the canal on some 35,000 ships every year. Approximately 2,700 of those are crude oil tankers. Egypt also maintains control of two crucial oil pipelines—the Suez Canal and Sumed Pipelines—which export oil from the Persian Gulf. It is estimated that over 3 million barrels of oil pass through these pipelines every day, and the country has the largest oil refinery sector on the African Continent, processing 975,000 barrels of crude oil per day.


Oil shot up 4$ per barrel on Friday with the turmoil in Egypt. That means gasoline goes up at the pump. It has always been my experience that with an increase in the price of gasoline, inflation follows. That’s not good news for a fragile economy.


The Obama administration has a very fine line to walk. President Mubarak has been in power for three decades becoming president of Egypt in 1981 after the assassination of Anwar El-Sadat. As mentioned, Egypt is a key ally and receives $1.5B annually in foreign aide from the US. Since Friday, more Americans have had to face the fact that foreign policy can be compromising. Sometimes there are no good choices. Many see Mubarak as a harsh dictator. The United States government has backed dictators in order to maintain stability in a region when there was no other choice.  But, American presidents and their cabinet members have voiced their desire to see a more democratic government in Egypt that reflects the will of the people. And, Americans will always support a peoples' right to rule themselves. However, even in this there is danger. Danger lurks in the fragility of new found freedom.


Many are referencing back to the 1979 deposing of Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi in Iran as well as the 2009 Iranian Presidential election and the Green Revolution. Déjà vu is not something we'd like to see. If Mubarak is deposed in Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood may attempt to bring about an Islamic fundamentalist regime overtaking what many believe is moderate Egyptian protestors looking for better economic conditions and more participation in their government. This would undo the balance of power in the region.


 What happens next depends upon the Egyptian military… it appears they are supporting the people and Mubarak as he makes the promised changes to his government. The military does not seem disposed to relinquishing power to radicals like the Muslim Brotherhood.  And as former Ambassador John Bolton has pointed out, it will be important for the military to differentiate between the peaceful protest of the common people desiring better economic conditions and more participation in their government; and the activities of more radical elements, like the Muslim Brotherhood. But it will also depend upon our response, as citizens of the United States to support responsible stability in the region and a transition to a more democratic government that advances the economic and self-governing aspirations of the Egyptian people.


See you next week.

 

 

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