James M. Lindsay

The Water's Edge

Lindsay analyzes the politics shaping U.S. foreign policy and the sustainability of American power.

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ElBaradei’s New Tune

by James M. Lindsay
February 1, 2011

Mohamed ElBaradei speaks to protesters at Tahrir Square in Cairo

Mohamed ElBaradei speaks to protesters at Tahrir Square in Cairo. (Asmaa Waguih/courtesy Reuters)

Helene Cooper and Scott Shane have a piece in today’s New York Times noting that Egyptian opposition leader Mohamed ElBaradei has changed his tune on the United States and Barack Obama.

Compare what ElBaradei said upon learning that Obama won the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize:

I could not have thought of any other person–today–that is more deserving of the Nobel Peace Prize than Barack Obama…He is committed to restoring moral decency into our lives, into our relations with each other, as individuals, as nations…He has done in nine months what many people would take a generation to do.

With his dismissal of the administration’s call this past weekend for Mubarak to implement reforms as a “farce.”

The American government cannot ask the Egyptian people to believe that a dictator who has been in power for thirty years will be the one to implement democracy.

The change in tone is hardly surprising. Whatever ElBaradei’s true feelings about the United States and U.S. policy–and I have no insight on that question–no Egyptian opposition leader is going to say kind things about the White House these days. America simply isn’t popular in Egypt. Pew Research Center puts America’s favorability rating in Egypt at around 17 percent, one of the worst showings of the twenty-one countries they polled.

Remember, politicians can be on a losing side of an issue. They can’t afford to be on the wrong side.

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