Washington and Mubarak's downfall

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LISA MULLINS: Here in the United States President Obama has reacted to President Mubarak's resignation. Speaking at the White House earlier today he said that Mubarak's departure marks the beginning, not the end of a transition to power in Tahrir. The President also praised the protesters in Egypt.

BARACK OBAMA: Egyptians have inspired us, and they've done so by putting the lie to the idea that justice is best gained through violence. For in Egypt, it was the moral force of nonviolence ,not terrorism, not mindless killing ,but nonviolence, moral force that bent the arc of history toward justice once more. And while the sights and sounds that we heard were entirely Egyptian, we can't help but hear the echoes of history ,echoes from Germans tearing down a wall, Indonesian students taking to the streets, Gandhi leading his people down the path of justice. As Martin Luther King said in celebrating the birth of a new nation in Ghana while trying to perfect his own, ââ?¬Å?There is something in the soul that cries out for freedom.ââ?¬  Those were the cries that came from Tahrir Square, and the entire world has taken note.

Mullins: President Obama speaking this afternoon in Washington DC. Mouin Rabbani is a contributing editor of the Washington-based quarterly Middle East report. He is now in Amman, Jordan. President Obama says the entire world has taken note. How many Jordanians have taken note both of the events in Egypt and the response in Washington?

MOUIN RABBANI: Well, I think this is a political earthquake not only in Jordan but across the region. I mean we first have the overthrow of the tyrant in Tunisia, Ben Ali, which seems to have had an effect on Egypt. But Egypt is the center, the very heart and soul of the Arab world. And you know when Cairo sneezes the entire Arab world catches a cold so to speak. And so I think we will now be seeing ripple effects and an impact of this throughout the region, not least but it seems likely that Egypt is once again going to resume a leading role in their own politics. Regarding President Obama's comments, I have to say they're somewhat ironic. It's not so much what he said that was objection of all, but what he didn't say. The reason he had to wait so long to be inspired by the Egyptian people is because Washington is so very, very deeply implicated into turning Egypt into a second grade banana republic that no longer even has bananas. You know, the current state of Egypt simply cannot be understood without the primary role Washington has played in sustaining the autocracy that was the Mubarak regime, the police state that he established, the complete arbitrariness with which the regime has treated its own people over the past several decades. So one would have thought that perhaps a little contrition was in order, but unfortunately there was none of that.

MULLINS: Yeah, I think that's probably a very arguable point. Rather people think that there should be contrition in order. I wonder in terms of leaders though, as you mentioned in the region, who among them might be looking perhaps to the administration for support, and who is most fearful that the wave of protests won't stop with Tunisia and Egypt?

RABBANI: I don't think it will stop with Tunisia and Egypt. And I think, and to one extent or another leaders across the region now are shaking in their boot. If you compare for example after Ben Ali was put on a plane and sent abroad there were attempts to celebrate across the Arab world. In many cases the government and the police forces intervened to [xx] some of the early demonstrations. What we've seen today, there was I think with the exception of Yemen and Algeria no attempt to prevent such demonstrations. People realize now that there is a wave going over the Arab world that one attempts to stops it at their own peril. And better to I think from the point of view of the regime, better to hope that if this wave leaves as little damages as possible then to have your bones broken by trying to prevent it.

MULLINS: Thank you very much Mouin Rabbani. I'm hoping to talk to you again. Mouin Rabbani, contributing editor of the Washington-based quarterly Middle East report. We've been covering the news from Egypt from a number of angles, inside Egypt, around the globe as well. All of our coverage and the latest from our partners at the BBC you can find that at theworld.org/Egypt. This P R I, Public Radio International.