Few relationships better demonstrate the limits of American power or the frustration conundrums of Realpolitikbetter than our alliance with Egypt.
It is one of our most reliable partners in the fight against Islamic terrorists, but its autocratic police state bred one of the best-known pro-terror organizations, the Muslim Brotherhood. Its treaty with Israel has helped to keep the lid on explosive relations between Israel and its Arab neighbors, but its sclerotic and corrupt regime frustrates its youthful population. That keeps the pot simmering.
Protests which erupted in Tunisia have now spread to other Middle Eastern police states, including Egypt. From The New York Times:
After days of protests in the Arab world that have toppled one president and shaken many others, demonstrators calling for the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak poured from mosques in Cairo after noon prayers on Friday, clashing with police who fired tear-gas and water-cannons, according to news reports and images broadcast on television.
Protests were also reported in the cities of Suez, Alexandria and several others, including Al Arish in northern Sinai.
According to The Associated Press, police doused one of the most prominent opposition figures, Mohammed ElBaradei, with a water-cannon and beat supporters who tried to shield him. Mr. ElBaradei, the former head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, returned to Cairo on Thursday, promising to join the largely leaderless protests that have so far been propelled by young people.
Earlier, Internet and cellphone connections were closed or restricted in Cairo, Alexandria and other places. Riot police took to the streets of Cairo before the Friday noon prayers that in many parts of the Islamic world have been a prelude to unrest as worshippers pour onto the streets.
The protests have underscored the blistering pace of events that have transformed the visage of the Arab world, particularly among regimes that have traditionally enjoyed the support of successive administrations in Washington.