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The people’s rebellion in Egypt is the most daunting and dangerous foreign policy test of the Obama Presidency. And, it got a lot harder on Wednesday. Shocking violence by pro-Mubarak armed gangs against largely peaceful protesters in Cairo’s Tahrir Square raised the stakes both for an embattled Hosni Mubarak and for the U.S. government.
The attacks appear to be the first strike in a counter-offensive by Egyptian security forces to take back the streets of Cairo and reverse the momentum of the reformers who, until Wednesday, appeared on the verge of unseating Mubarak after thirty years in power. Watching the discipline and uniformity of the pro-Mubarak forces in Cairo on Wednesday led many around the world, myself included, to suspect that they were acting in concert with security forces or were part of the security establishment themselves. Whoever they were, they have turned this crisis in a new and more menacing direction.
Mubarak and his hard-line supporters may believe that they can regain authority and control in Cairo. But, it is more likely that their actions will lead to further protests, instability and violence. After Wednesday’s events, Mubarak should resign and ask a transitional government, backed by the Army, to lead the country towards reform and an eventual election.