The prestigious and, since its formation less than a year ago, consistently ahead-of-the-curve Working Group on Egypt, co-chaired by Michele Dunne of Carnegie and Robert Kagan of Brookings, has just issued a new statement late Saturday. The Group includes Middle East and foreign policy experts ranging from Elliott Abrams of the Council of Foreign Relations and Ellen Bork of the Foreign Policy Initiative to Tom Malinowski of Human Rights Watch and Brian Katulis of the Center for American Progress. Its members have been warning for months that the situation in Egypt is unstable, and they’ve been urging the U.S. government to take a more active role in planning for a post-Mubarak Egypt. They’re now calling for a suspension of aid to Egypt until the Egyptian government commits to free and fair elections and the transfer of power to a legitimate government.

Here’s the statement:

Statement of the Working Group on Egypt, Saturday January 29, 2011 Amidst the turmoil in Egypt, it is important for the U.S. to remain focused on the interests of the Egyptian people as well as the legitimacy and stability of the Egyptian government. Only free and fair elections provide the prospect for a peaceful transfer of power to a government recognized as legitimate by the Egyptian people.  We urge the Obama administration to pursue these fundamental objectives in the coming days and press the Egyptian government to:   -- call for free and fair elections for president and for parliament to be held as soon as possible. -- amend the Egyptian Constitution to allow opposition candidates to register to run for the presidency. -- immediately lift the state of emergency, release political prisoners, and allow for freedom of media and assembly -- allow domestic election monitors to operate throughout the country, without fear of arrest or violence. -- immediately invite international monitors to enter the country and monitor the process leading to elections, reporting on the government's compliance with these measures to the international community -- publicly declare that Mr. Mubarak will agree not to run for re-election. We further recommend that the Obama administration suspend all economic and military assistance to Egypt until the government accepts and implements these measures.

For what it’s worth, I’m in complete agreement. The fact is that Mubarak is now part of the problem, not part of the solution. His attempt to hang on to power is now an obstacle to stability in Egypt, to say nothing of considerations of freedom for the Egyptian people and the long-term interests of the United States. Surely, I would say, it’s time for the U.S. government to take an active role (much but not all of it behind the scenes), working with the army and civil and political organizations to bring about a South Korea/Philippines/Chile-like transition in Egypt, from an American-supported dictatorship to an American-supported and popularly legitimate liberal democracy.