In a briefing on Feb. 2, Satloff and former government officials
discussed Egypt's prospects and the role of its military, Middle East Newsline reported. They agreed that
the fall of the Mubarak regime was an "unimagined challenge."
Satloff said President Barack Obama's call for Mubarak to resign was
based on intelligence that senior Egyptian commanders would cooperate with
Washington. But he said Egypt's military appeared divided over the future of
"At the moment, the military is undergoing a tug-of-war for its soul,"
Satloff said. "Military leaders are in a bind, but they must decide which
route to take soon, because every day of inaction implicates them with the
regime. And for President Obama, every day that passes without change
further erodes an already weakened U.S. image."
Satloff said Mubarak still commands respect in the military. In January, the Egyptian president named leaders of the intelligence community,
army and air force as senior members of the regime in an effort to ensure
the loyalty of the military.
The Obama administration should continue U.S. economic and military aid
to Egypt in an effort to influence the military and other institutions,
Satloff said. But he added that such a decision must be reviewed should the
military join Mubarak in quelling opposition protests.
"The administration is correct to maintain its current posture,
continuing economic and military assistance to Egypt until it has greater
clarity on the ground," Satloff said. "A time may come, if the military
decides fully to side with Mubarak or shoot protesters, when Washington can
decide whether to suspend aid, but for now it should maintain the limited
leverage and influence it has."
Regardless, Satloff envisioned the end of Egypt as a U.S. pillar in the
Middle East. He said Egypt, regardless of its leader, could take years
until Cairo resumes a strategic relationship with Washington.
"Cairo's pillar status can be rejuvenated if the transition leads to a
new government that both has popular support and sees value in continued
strategic partnership with the United States — a difficult but not
impossible configuration," Satloff said. "But that will take a long time."