Tonight President Mubarak of Egypt went on state TV to finally respond to the growing clamour from the Egyptian people demanding that he step down. If he thought that his statement that he would not stand at the next election would satisfy his people in the current revolutionary atmosphere then he has badly misjudged their mood. The risk now is that, while he clings to power using the need for "stability" as the excuse, his stance will merely fuel further instability in his country. It is a position which will almost certainly not defuse the current situation.
Egypt is now in the throws of a genuine peoples revolution and little but the actual departure of Mubarak will now satisfy his people as they continue to demand freedom. So far the US government has wished to be seen as not interfering in these developments in Egypt. While this position was to a degree understandable there is now a grave danger that the US stance is being rapidly overtaken by the momentum of history. The US government has so far confined its pressure on Mubarak to encouraging him to stand down from the future elections but this is a position that is no longer adequate to the situatiuon.
The time has now come for the US to be seen to clearly stand with the forces of democracy, freedom and change in Egypt. The only credible position now is for the US to make clear that it sees Mubarak as a leader withput legitimacy and for it to put its weight fully behind measures to create some form of interim national unity governement able to take Egypt forward to a new political settlement.
There are risks of course and the concern in the US will be the potential for a rising influence of Islamist groups in Egypt. But that risk is far outweighed by the risk that the US will be seen as betraying the Egyptian people if it fails to act to clearly to show support for their legitimate demands. The standing of the US could be significantly enhanced at this point if it was seen to throw it's full support behind the forces crying for real democracy. No observer of US foreign policy would bet on the US following this course of action sadly. It seems more likely that it will continue to try to hedge it's bets and that as a consequence it will further entrenche the view in the Middle East that the US has no real concern for the legitimate democractic demands of people in the Arab states.