Mubarak and his family left quietly for their personal compound in the Red Sea resort city of Sharm el-Sheikh, in essence a self-imposed exile within his own country. The former air force commander who has ruled Egypt with an iron hand for 30 years might have gotten out of Cairo with his dignity only badly bruised, but he couldn't hold on even to that. Mubarak formally quit today, an act of humiliation for a famously proud man.
A former Arab diplomat described the events of the past few weeks as "Facebook meets the Egyptian museum."Special Section: Anger in the Arab World
Over a period of several weeks in an ongoing demonstration that was, overall, a remarkably peaceful exercise given the size of the crowds in central Cairo, the message finally got to the top. In the final struggle between Mubarak and his people, the people won.Continue »
"This is an uphill climb for Afghanistan," said State Department spokesman Philip J. Crowley. In fact, there is no part of making good on the revelation in the New York Times that Afghanistan may be sitting on $1 trillion worth of mineral wealth that is going to be easy. For openers, Afghanistan is now a "hot" war zone and Taliban forces that oppose the U.S. and its allies cannot be expected to allow mineral extraction that would benefit Hamid Karzai's government - to the Taliban's detriment - to take place.Continue »
If only the flotilla had followed existing procedures Israeli officials claim its humanitarian aid could have been delivered to Gaza without a confrontation. If Israeli defense officials had better planned their military operation against the flotilla's ships perhaps the incident would have been largely ignored the world's media.
But of course those behind the operation had other plans including an overt effort the break a three year old naval blockade which Israel has imposed on Gaza. A senior State Department official told reporters "the leaders of the flotilla sought a confrontation and, unfortunately, got one."
Magnus Norell, a Sweden-based analyst writing for The Washington Institute for Near East Policy, notes the main organizer of the flotilla, the Turkish Humanitarian Relief Foundation (IHH), is "closely connected with Hamas and has a long history of advocating armed struggle, including terrorism, against Israel." Norell also cites ties between the IHH and al Qaeda although State Department officials say they cannot link the two organizations.
Even so, Israel was left to explain its handling of the operation which resulted in nine deaths. Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu, who had planned to be at the White House earlier this week had to return home to handle the crisis. Netanyahu took the offensive and, while offering an apology for the loss of life, said "This wasn't a love boat. This was a hate boat."
Drivers in Beirut soon will have something new to worry about when they look in their rear view mirrors. Those flashing lights and that distinctive sound could be, yes, a local cop riding a Harley Davidson motorcycle. No kidding. The Department of State proudly announced 20 new Harleys have been delivered to Lebanon's national police, known as the Internal Security Forces (ISF).
The Harleys come "outfitted with specialized police equipment including enhanced steering and braking capabilities," according to a news release announcing the gift - worth nearly $500,000 - from the American taxpayers. Oh, yes, flashing lights, sirens and mounted microphones and speakers are part of the package. Now all those drivers speeding along Beirut's famous corniche will have to be alert and hope they do not hear the squawk of "Kef ! Soff ala jamb!" Even an American tourist would understand that as "Stop! Pull over to the side!"
In presenting the gift to the Lebanese authorities, U.S. Ambassador Michele Sison said, "Today, we add another iconic American vehicle to the Lebanese arsenal." The Lebanese police vehicle fleet already includes 480 Dodge Chargers and 60 Ford Explorers. All this is part of a $104 million aid program to train and equip the ISF "to strengthen and build its professional capacity." If nothing else, Lebanon will have some of the most tricked-out cops in the Middle East.
They're off and running.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's high-profile diplomatic shock troops have now been named and are in place, flying hither and yon, chairing meetings and doing whatever else is necessary to start solving the biggest foreign policy headaches the Obama administration faces.
Ambassador Stephen Bosworth heads for meetings in Asia early next week with the North Korea portfolio passed to him by Ambassador Christopher Hill. Hill, slated to become ambassador to Iraq, has had two years of talking with the North Koreans under the so-called six-party framework but this week Clinton gave the job to Bosworth, a former ambassador to South Korea and currently the head of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University.
In his current position, Ambassador Hill has been the chief negotiator for the Bush Administration on North Korea.
Previously, Hill served as ambassador to Poland and South Korea, among other posts. He is a career foreign service officer who was a Peace Corps volunteer before becoming a member of the Foreign Service.
The official said the MOU is "an important contribution to getting a durable cease fire." Although it is worded in general language and short on specifics, the MOU does call for the sharing of intelligence, and it is designed to have the U.S. and Israel work with regional states to stop the flow of weapons into Gaza.
Politically, the senior official said, the hope is that this agreement will give the Israelis some assurance that Hamas will not be resupplied with weapons from Iran and other sources, and therefore it would be more likely to allow the re-opening of border crossings with Gaza.
The signing ceremony affords Rice a positive measure with which to conclude her four years as Secretary of State — and it may give Livni a political boost back home, where she is in a tight race to become Israel's next prime minister.
By CBS News State Department correspondent Charles Wolfson