The Future of Egypt

Katie Couric interviews Dr. Richard Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations, a non-partisan think tank, on Egypt's future.

Couric: Richard, it seems the military is saying all the right things but what concrete steps need to happen.

Dr. Haass: It took 18 days to get rid of President Mubarak; it's going to take more than 18 days to get it right. They have to open up the political space, develop political parties, let them do what you do in a democracy. They've got to get the economy going. They've got to write a new constitution. They've got to build something with checks and balances that will basically make sure this thing works if and when it gets back on the rails.

Couric: And the people have to be patient because all these things take time.

Dr. Haass: It's almost the Goldilocks challenge. These reforms need to go fast enough that people don't get impatient. Getting the speed right, the pacing right is extraordinarily difficult.

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Couric: Meanwhile, the Obama administration has to continue a delicate balancing act. It has to kind of gently guide the process without being too heavy handed because there's a lot of Anti-American sentiment in Egypt.

Dr. Haass: We want to get rid of the word "must." We want to advise and suggest. We should help them. They're going to need help writing a new constitution, they're going to need help politically. They're certainly going need help economically. But we have to be very careful in the substance of what we do.

Couric: And how destabilizing is this for other countries in the region and could it reignite protests in Iran, for example?

Dr. Haass: It depends. In Iraq, for example, we learned when things went badly it gave democracy a bad name. It scared people around the region. I think there's going to be a lot of watching, a lot of wait and seeing. And depending on how things unfold in Egypt it could have all different sorts of reactions.

Couric: What does this mean for Israel? How nervous is that country?

Dr. Haas: The Israelis said they wanted democracy in the Middle East, so now they might have a little taste of it and it makes them nervous because the government, the Mubarak government was pro-Israel, they're the ones who kept the peace. But the people of Egypt are often quite critical of Israel because they're very sympathetic to the Palestinians. So my hunch is we're entering a prolonged period where there's not going to be progress between Israel and its neighbors.

Couric: Finally what about concerns, Richard, that a group like the Muslim Brotherhood or another organization hostile to the United States will step in and fill the power vacuum? They've been very low profile. Do they have a lot of political power?

Dr. Haass: They have been lying low. They're the most organized group that probably represents something like a quarter of Egyptian people. It's the reason now you need to get the economy back into gear. It's the reason you've got to create space for other political parties. It's the reason you've got to design a constitution so a group like the Muslim Brotherhood, even if it could get 25 percent or 30 percent of the vote can't control the politics, can't control the government. That's why safeguards, checks and balances, the sort of stuff we in America have written into our political system, it's something the Egyptians will need to build into theirs.