On Saturday, a day after the resignation of Egypt's longtime leader Hosni Mubarak, Obama phoned world leaders, reaffirming his support for the people of Egypt whose 18 days of protests led to Mubarak's ouster. Obama pledged U.S. assistance and financial support as Egypt moves toward free and fair elections, the White House said.
Egypt's military is now running the country following Mubarak's resignation. Its pledges Saturday to follow the international treaties the Mubarak government entered into were lauded not only in the U.S., but also in Israel, where leaders were concerned the turmoil in Egypt could threaten the peace accord between the two countries. Egypt's military strongly supports the peace deal, not in small part because it guarantees U.S. aid for the armed forces, currently running at $1.3 billion a year.
Meantime, Obama administration officials were still sorting through the frenetic final hours leading up to Mubarak's resignation Friday. U.S. officials had expected Mubarak to step down a day earlier, but were caught off guard when Mubarak instead issued a rambling statement on Egyptian state television in which he vowed to stay in office, but transfer authority to Vice President Omar Suleiman.
U.S. assumptions were based on contacts Thursday with several Egyptian officials who said Mubarak planned to make a dramatic statement later that day, and hinted that he would resign, a senior Obama administration official said. That included a call between Vice President Joe Biden and Suleiman that set high expectations for what Mubarak would say.
Obama was briefed on these developments as he traveled to Michigan to deliver a speech on wireless Internet access. Anticipating substantial developments out of Cairo, aides decided to insert a brief statement at the top of Obama's remarks to place him squarely on the side of the crowds calling for Mubarak's ouster.
"What is absolutely clear is that we are witnessing history unfold," Obama said Thursday. "It's a moment of transformation that's taking place because the people of Egypt are calling for change."
Even as Obama spoke, there were signs that Mubarak might not resign. The administration official said guidance from Egyptian sources was not consistent, and there was confusion in Egypt's government.
The official spoke on the condition of anonymity in order to speak about internal administration matters.
Now, U.S. officials are closely monitoring other hot spots in the Middle East that could become the next focal points for protests after last month's popular uprising in Tunisia and Mubarak's resignation. Obama spoke to Saturday to King Abdullah II of Jordan, who has taken some steps toward reform following demonstrations in his country.
In conversations as well with British Prime Minister David Cameron and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the White House said Obama stressed that he believed democracy would bring more, not less, stability to the region.