The Eye of the Storm

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton traveled to the center of the storm yesterday—Egypt’s Tahrir Square. She’s in Cairo to meet with members of the new government formed after President Hosni Mubarak stepped aside. After touring the square, Clinton headed to a meeting with the new prime minister, Essam Sharaf. The secretary of state is also scheduled to sit down with officials in Tunisia.

In Pearl Square, the heart of demonstrations in Bahrain, police began forcibly pushing protestors out of the area, killing at least five and wounding hundreds. Clinton said today that she spoke to Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister about the situation (Riyadh sent forces to Bahrain to quell the protests without informing the United States), stressing that negotiation not violence is the way to solve problems in Bahrain.

Across the world, Japan is still struggling to get on top of its crisis. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner offered to help the Japanese Ministry of Finance and the Bank of Japan. No word on what that assistance would entail. And Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano told a panel yesterday that Washington constantly practices “scenarios that are worst-case scenarios” to prepare for similar kinds of crises. In fact Washington has a drill scheduled for May based on a major earthquake on the San Madrid fault, according to Napolitano.

Appearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee yesterday, General David Petraeus, the commander of forces in Afghanistan, sounded a familiar note. He said Taliban momentum has been “arrested in much of the country and reversed in a number of important areas” but that the progress is “fragile and reversible.” Petraeus still stands behind the president’s decision to begin pulling troops out in July.

Even though chaos continues in the Middle and Far East, White House spokesman Jay Carney said that President Obama’s trip to Brazil, Chile and El Salvador is going to press on as planned. The president is set to depart on Friday and is expected to concentrate on economic matters when he heads south. Carney put it plainly: “He is the president of the United States. There are major issues all the time that a president has to contend with.”