Erdogan's Cairo speech

Nicholas Noe's MideastWire blog has a translation up of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's speech, delivered on Turkey's NTV network last night. It's probably the most forceful and unequivocal statement on the situation in Egypt made by a foreign leader and is well worth a read. Here's an excerpt:

From here, I would like to make a very sincere suggestion to Egyptian President Mr. Husni Mubarak and caution him: We are human beings. We are mortal. We are not immortal. We will all die and be questioned for what we have done in our lives. As Muslims, we will all end up in two-cubic meter holes. We are all mortals. What is immortal is the legacy we leave behind; what is important is to be remembered with respect; it is to be remembered with benediction. We exist for the people. We fulfil our duties for our people. When the imam comes to us as we die, he will not address us as the president, as the head of state, as the prime minister, or as the minister. I am now talking to the trillionaires: the imam will not address you as trillionaires. He will address us all as simple men or women. What will come with you will only be the shroud. Nothing else. Therefore we must know the value of that shroud; we must listen to the voice of our conscience and to! the voice of our people; we must be ready either for our people’s prayers or for their malediction. Therefore, I say that you must listen, and we must listen, to the people’s outcry, to their extremely humanitarian demands. Meet the people’s desire for change with no hesitation.

I am saying this clearly: You must be the first to take a step for Egypt’s peace, security, and stability, without allowing exploiters, dirty circles, and circles that have dark scenarios over Egypt to take initiative. Take steps that will satisfy the people.

In our world today, freedoms can no longer be postponed or ignored.

As Noe notes, Erdogan's government has not always exactly lived up to the lofty democratic standards he puts forth, either in its internal politics or in its relations with countries like Iran. But still, Erdogan sees his government taking a regional leadership role, and I certainly suspect that his words will resonate with the crowds in Cairo far more strongly than Obama's measured statement.



The wave hits Yemen

While the main story today is obviously the fast-developing and increasingly violent chaos on the streets of Cairo, there's also a major development in Yemen. President Ali Abdullah Saleh, in power since 1978, has announced that he will step down at the end of his term in 2013. Recent amendments to the constitution would have allowed him to run for another two 10-year terms.

"I won't seek to extend my presidency for another term or have my son inherit it," Saleh told the parliament.

Saleh has earlier tried to defuse simmering tensions in Yemen by raising salaries for the army and by denying opponents' claims he plans to install his son as his successor.

Like Egypt and Tunisia before it, the offer has not placated the demonstrators on the streets of Sanaa, and a new mass protest has been called for Thursday.

While he has not always been the most stalwart of U.S. allies -- supporting Saddam Hussein's invasion of Kuwait, for instance -- Saleh has been publicly supportive of U.S. anti-terrorism efforts and has been a major recipient of U.S. aid since the 2000 USS Cole bombing. 

With Tunisia's Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali toppled, Mubarak and Saleh promising to step down, and Jordan's King Abdullah rearranging the deck chairs, the question now seems less whether the popular uprising in the Arab world will spread, than who's next. Keep an eye on Khartoum, where daily Internet-organized demonstrations have been held since Sunday. Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir, already weakened politically by the impending separation of the southern half of his country, has clamped down hard, arresting more than 100 of the demonstrators.