Egyptian opposition protesters celebrate in Cairo's landmark Tahrir square after...

Egyptian opposition protesters celebrate in Cairo's landmark Tahrir square after Egypt's armed forces gave President Mohamed Morsi 48 hours to meet the demands of the people or it would intervene with a roadmap. (July 1, 2013) Credit: Getty Images

President Mohammed Morsi should do the right thing for Egypt simply because he has no real choice. He has no guns.

Military leaders said Monday that if Morsi didn't address the public's demands within 48 hours, the armed forces would impose its own road map for the nation's future. There have been sustained demonstrations by millions of protesters in cities all over that country. Morsi has only one viable option if he wants to stay in office. He has to present a credible plan to accommodate the legitimate demands for a more inclusive government beyond his core Islamist support, improved public security and economic reforms. He has to do it quickly -- and convince the Egyptian people that he will actually deliver.

This is a moment of truth for democracy in Egypt.

Morsi has made big mistakes since he was elected a year ago, starting with his claim of dictatorial powers until a constitution was put in place. That's not what the Egyptian people wanted to hear after ousting autocratic leader Hosni Mubarak in 2011 in a historic uprising. And Morsi's government has been inept in dealing with international organizations that would have helped him ease food and fuel shortages and heal Egypt's crippled economy. The United States needs a stable Middle East. That's the best way to keep the oil flowing, and to avoid radicalization of the sort that spawns terrorists. So President Barack Obama must make sure Morsi sees his situation clearly. He should publicly declare that the United States will withhold $1.5 billion in annual aid, unless Morsi immediately engages with opposition leaders to defuse the crisis. And behind the scenes, the United States, which still has close ties to Egypt's military, should make sure the generals stop short of a full takeover.

Protests and violence that would prematurely drive the nation's first elected president from office would only destabilize Egypt. The road toward democracy still lies ahead.

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