by Patrick Appel

Ambinder chronicles the Obama administration's thought process and evolving position on Egypt:

What does the U.S. want?

Principally, an ally in the region that will not further destabilize the Arab-Israeli peace process, that will not complicate dealings with Iran, that will not (significantly) threaten Saudi Arabia's intra-Arab political aspirations while simultaneously containing them. The reality by late last week, as Obama and his advisers came to conclude, was that Egypt 2.0 would be a reforming Egypt as well. The sooner Mubarak understood this, the better. And of course, given that the protesters focused so cleanly on Mubarak as the source of their discontent, he would have to go. But Obama insisted that his team not call for regime change. For one thing, though protesters might suddenly experience a flood of positive feeling toward the United States, given the general level of anti-U.S. hostility inside the country, at least as assessed by intelligence reports, any government seen as being endorsed by the U.S. would risk legitimacy in the long-run.

"We recognize that the bar on the street is set at a place we could never possibly reach," the administration official said. "They want the U.S. to declare Mubarak needs to leave now. We're not in the business of regime change."

"As the president said in Cairo, Bush's freedom agenda has turned into a proxy for regime change, like getting rid of some leaders and replacing them with leaders more friendly to the U.S.," the official said. "The president believes that for these reforms to be real and lasting, these reforms need to be indigenous and lasting and pushed by the people."