Kai Bird, at Slate, on Obama shadowing Carter’s decisions about Iran:
President Barack Obama has a “Shah problem” in Egypt. Recent events in Egypt recall the street protests of 1978 in Tehran when President Jimmy Carter had to decide whether to remain loyal to the Pahlavi regime, a long-standing American-backed dictatorship—or whether the time had come to abandon the Shah and support a popular uprising demanding human rights and democracy. Carter tried to have it both ways, modulating his support for the Shah, calling for political liberalization, and warning the Shah against the use of state violence against unarmed protesters. Obama seems to be following the same script, and the results may well turn out to be equally fraught with unintended consequences.
The [Muslim] Brotherhood is actually a much more moderate political force than Tehran’s Shi’ite clerics. But if and when it comes to power, it will not fail to remind the Egyptian people that it was billions of American military aid dollars that kept a bland, uncharismatic Mubarak in power for three decades.… Washington should clearly say it will support any regime that comes to power through legitimate elections—even if it is the Brotherhood.
… Change is coming to the Arab world. It can no longer be held back. So the pragmatist and not just the idealist in Obama would be wise to make it clear that he really is on the side of the protesters in the streets of Cairo. It is time to stop hedging our bets.
But this is what may create the hesitancy:
The end of the Mubarak era will also spell an end to Egypt’s cold peace with Israel. No post-Mubarak government, and certainly not one populated with Muslim Brotherhood members, will tolerate the continued blockade of their Hamas cousins in Gaza. Israel will thus be faced with additional strategic incentives to end its occupation of the West Bank, dismantle its settlements and quickly recognize a Palestinian state based largely on its 1967 borders. But as the recent leak of Palestinian-Israeli negotiating transcripts demonstrates, the detailed contours of a final settlement are all in place.