ELEANOR HALL: Michael Rubin is a Middle East analyst at the American Enterprise Institute who served as a political advisor to the Bush administration on Iraq from 2003 to 2004.
He says the US administration should have been pressuring the Egyptian President to leave the country immediately and that Mr Mubarak's statement today is only likely to inflame the situation.
MICHAEL RUBIN: Ultimately I do think it's going to make things worse, the people aren't going to stand around while Hosni Mubarak hangs on until September. Basically because they don't trust him, they've seen how he and his forces have manipulated the process before. At the same time Mohammad Al Baradei is a bit weak.
ELEANOR HALL: There are already reports of clashes between pro and anti-Mubarak forces and that shots were fired in Alexandria. What is the risk that we could not see a return to bloodshed on the streets?
MICHAEL RUBIN: If it looks like there will be a return to bloodshed I suspect that what we're going to see is the army step in and handle the transition until the September 2011 elections.
ELEANOR HALL: Yes, how critical is the role of the army now? Because yesterday it made that critical statement backing the protestors, but should we expect that backing to continue now that the President Mubarak has said, at least, that he won't run at the next election?
MICHAEL RUBIN: I do think that ultimately the army will side with the protesters for two reasons. First of all while Hosni Mubarak came from the army he antagonised the army by trying to force his son, force the army to accept his son as his successor.
And the other reason is because of the conscription problem inside Egypt. Many Egyptians don't particularly like being conscripted into the army and ultimately many of the soldiers in the streets will sympathise with the people who are their friends and neighbours.
ELEANOR HALL: Mr Mubarak didn't appear to make any reference to his son in his address, how do you think the US administration will be reacting to this statement by the President?
MICHAEL RUBIN: The US administration seems to have wanted to Hosni Mubarak to make the statement he made.
The problem is again it's too little too late, the big challenge now will be managing the transition. The longer Hosni Mubarak stays in Cairo the more difficult it will be to have a manageable transition.
ELEANOR HALL: The Obama administration sent an envoy this week to Cairo, former ambassador Frank Wisner, what sort of role can he play?
MICHAEL RUBIN: Well certainly Frank Wisner has a reputation of being a very close friend and supporter of Hosni Mubarak. If President Obama needed to give Hosni Mubarak bad news, perhaps Wisner is the best person to give it.
However we don't know what was said behind closed doors and if President Obama thought he could thread the needle by getting Mubarak to agree not to stand again in elections but to remain in Cairo, that's a fool's game.
ELEANOR HALL: Do you think that the US administration should now come out unequivocally and call for Mubarak to leave office?
MICHAEL RUBIN: Yes, I think the US Government should call for a transitional government, a technocratic government, to handle the country until the September 2011 elections and I think it behoves the international community to ensure that for the first time the elections in Egypt will be full, free and transparent.
ELEANOR HALL: Well President Mubarak made clear in his statement that while he won't stand he wants to maintain a role in shaping the election process. How much could he still control the political outcome?
MICHAEL RUBIN: Look, if he can't control a block or two away from him I don't think he's going to be able to control anything. And frankly it's really difficult to base security on octogenarian dictators.
This caught the Obama administration by surprise and certainly what the Obama administration fears is that if they're seen to withdraw support from Hosni Mubarak that that could actually catalyse protests in other states as populations in repressive Arab states figure out that the Americans aren't going to be so friendly to their former patrons.
ELEANOR HALL: Well we are, of course, already seeing that. There was news this morning that Jordan's king has responded to mass protests in his country by sacking his government. How should the US be reacting to this development?
MICHAEL RUBIN: Well in Jordan, this is the big question that people really need to be discussing right now. The question is: what is the lesson that's going to be learned by many of these autocratic regimes? Is it going to be more reform, which seems to be the lesson that King Abdullah in Jordan is learning, or is it going to be a really much harsher crack down, which I'm afraid is going to be the Syrian response to the protests which are called in that state?
Right now the Obama administration has really got to plan on its next steps. This is going faster than the Obama administration ever thought it could and so the Obama administration needs not only to be in damage control mode but to figure out how to leverage the opposition and how to leverage the transitions in these states so that we get the best possible outcome both for freedom and democracy in these countries, but also for Western interests.
ELEANOR HALL: Isn't there a danger here of the US being seen to be meddling in things like the Egyptian democratic process, particularly given the shadow of Iraq?
MICHAEL RUBIN: Well I think that President Obama has been very careful both here in and Iran not to be seen as meddling. But sometimes it's impossible to be neutral.
In Iran last year the protesters were chanting 'Obama you're either with us or against us' and the longer that President Obama seeks to be silent the more likely it is that people in Egypt, for example, are going to see him as backing dictators.
When we come to elections in September 2011 what we need to ensure is that these elections are well designed and that there is a credible criteria for participation. We shouldn't repeat what happened in Palestine and in Lebanon where we allowed militias to claim a democratic mantle. That we need to have rules and regulations for what constitutes a legitimate political party and then let the political parties run free and fair.
ELEANOR HALL: You wouldn't advocate though would you, that Muslim Brotherhood candidates be blocked from participating in the elections?
MICHAEL RUBIN: What I would ad.., what I would… No, not necessarily. If the Muslim Brotherhood wants to compete in the elections they need to one, eschew violence and, two, they need to agree to uphold the Egyptian constitution.
The danger right now will be that with a messy and lengthy transition the Muslim Brotherhood will pick nationalist fights which will enable them to reach beyond their natural constituency.
ELEANOR HALL: Do you think it would be preferable if the elections were earlier?
MICHAEL RUBIN: No I think it will take some time to organise. The problem right now is that the Muslim Brotherhood is the most organised opposition group in Egypt. We need to give time for the liberal oppositionists to get organised.
ELEANOR HALL: Michael Rubin, thanks very much for joining us.
MICHAEL RUBIN: Thank you for having me.
ELEANOR HALL: That's Middle East specialist Dr Michael Rubin from the American Enterprise Institute speaking to me earlier from Washington.