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Political Opposition to Mubarak's Autocratic Regime Settles on Mohamed ElBaradei to Negotiate Egypt's Future

This move by Egyptian opposition groups potentially offers a peaceful path out of the crisis.

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But publicly and privately backing the opposition parties' call for negotiations would not, on the face of it, trigger any of the stated US objections. It is a very modest demand, totally consistent with previous US statements, which would not plausibly lead to "losing all leverage" with Mubarak; it would not create a "power vacuum"; it would not reasonably lead to a perception that the US was
"engineering" Mubarak's ouster. On the contrary: the US would be raising the profile of a particular proposal for negotiations as a way out of the crisis, and increasing pressure on the Egyptian government to respond to it.

No doubt some folks who subscribe to the "cooties" school of international diplomacy may object to any U.S. endorsement of a process that involves the Muslim Brotherhood. But refusing to support this reasonable, pragmatic, and moderate proposal, just because the Muslim Brotherhood also supports it, would be extremely short-sighted. The Brotherhood brings a lot to the table in its potential to help peacefully establish a consensus government that could supervise elections that the majority of Egyptians would see as legitimate.

And the fact that the Brotherhood is endorsing ElBaradei to negotiate with the Egyptian government on its behalf indicates a key thing that ElBaradei brings to the table: since his return to Egyptian politics, ElBaradei has established a relationship of trust with the Brotherhood. This is a key asset for ElBaradei, the Brotherhood, and all Egyptians going forward towards the establishment of free and fair elections and of a government that the majority of Egyptians will see
as legitimate.

The US should take advantage of this asset, and of this proposal for negotiations, and act decisively to forestall a bloody confrontation between protesters and forces loyal to Mubarak which could be significantly worse than what we have seen already, and for which the US would bear substantial responsibility.

Robert Naiman is the president of the board of directors for

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