Mr. Katulis said, for example, the State Department’s Internet freedom initiative could be helpful in opening up Egyptian society. But he also said he has seen Foreign Service officers resistant to too much change in traditional U.S. policy of supporting Egypt and keeping relatively quiet about domestic repression. Egypt is, after Israel, the second-largest recipient of U.S. aid. It receives more than $1.5 billion annually.
The Obama administration ended support for a small fund operated by the U.S. Embassy in Cairo that supported groups promoting Egyptian democracy and that bypassed any clearance from the Egyptian government.
The Council on Foreign Relations‘ Mr. Cook said he supports some pressure from the U.S. government on Egypt to move toward democracy. But he also warned that a competitive election after the death of Mr. Mubarak could force the candidates to compete to be more anti-Israel. That could possibly damage the peace treaty between the two countries. “You don’t want a situation where you force candidates to cater to extremists,” he said.
“Egypt has kept the peace deal with Israel through the wars with Lebanon and through intifadas,” Mr. Kramer said. “They sometimes pull the ambassador; they sometimes send him back. This is not a feature of Hosni Mubarak. This reflects the Egyptian state interest and is very likely to outlast Mubarak.”